Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Dylan Calling

The wife turned to me excitedly in the car yesterday and exclaimed, “Oh, here’s something I forgot to tell you!”

“Oh?” I said.

“Yes! Guess what song Bob covered last night in London?”

“Bob,” of course, always means Bob Dylan in our house.

“Want to give me a clue? Or would it give it away?”

“Well,” the wife said, “let’s see…it made me ecstatic…he was playing London…”

“He covered a Costello song…”


Understand we had already seen him cover Brown Sugar, so Bob is capable of coming out of left field from time to time.

“Umm…not a Kinks song or a Paul Weller song…”


“You better just tell me.”

There was a pause.

London Calling.”

My jaw dropped.

“Oh, get out of here, he did London Calling! No way!”

“Remember he said his son played it all the time and he liked it?”

“Yeah, but…London Calling? Can you hear it?”

“I’ve been trying, but I can’t! People are already putting up mp3’s of it, though. I’ll have to get someone to download it to disc for me.”

I’m still trying to imagine this performance. “Loooondon Caaalling! To the faaaaraway toooowns!”

What's next? Blitzkrieg Bop? Genie In A Bottle?

From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.

Mr. Dylan also opened one of his recent London shows with the Link Wray classic Rumble, in honor of the great guitarist who passed away on November 5th due to heart failure.

Unbelievably, Wray, revered for the muscular and manic guitar stylings that were his trademark and that have arguably influenced everyone who came after him, had just completed a US tour this summer at the age of 76.

There’s been much activity surrounding the upcoming 25th “anniversary” of John Lennon’s murder and today sees the release of 2 more Lennon discs that have been subjected to the remastered-with-extra-tracks treatment.

These new versions of Walls And Bridges and the double set Some Time In New York City are unremarkable, except for the fact that a great deal has actually been subtracted from one of them this time.

If you were around at the time (and, god knows, you shouldn’t admit it if you were), you may remember that the Lennons dropped in on the Mothers of Invention as they were recording the live show that saw release as Fillmore East - June 1971. Quickly throwing some material together, John tore into Well (Baby, Please Don’t Go), he and Yoko engaged in some call-and-response with the Mothers (Jamrag), improvised a song whose only lyric was Scumbag, and then John and Yoko ended the evening by themselves with Au, an improvised feedback and vocal duet.

John had hoped that the entire Mothers/J&Y show would be released as a double set, but various Beatle legalities made that impossible. The Mothers LP appeared alone, while listeners waited until the release of Some Time to hear the second half of the show. This second disc, called Live Jam, also included a live set by a sort of Plastic Ono Supergroup recorded at the Lyceum. Its inner sleeve also reproduced the artwork from the Mothers release, only with amusingly scrawled corrections from Lennon and Ono.

The new Some Time adds single tracks Happy Xmas and Listen, The Snow Is Falling, but the Live Jam tracks are now represented only by the Lyceum set and John’s version of Well from the Mothers show. The entire Jamrag/Scumbag/Au sequence is now gone, resulting in a newly slimmed, single CD.

Yoko Ono, who’s always been painfully aware of the public response to the experiments she and John enjoyed creating, had this to say about her decision to pare down the disc:

"I decided that the Fillmore performance should end without going into the long avant-garde improvisation. I wanted John to have the last voice on the album, spreading his childhood over us. If you miss the 'freak out' part...just put a microphone to the many battlefields in the world. You will hear everything - children crying, guys shouting, and the occasional silence created by the dead."

(Thanks to Pitchfork)


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