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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Joni Still Has Spark

Typically frank new interview with Joni Mitchell in major magazine in her native Canada.  Her four-disc (plus paintings) retrospective coming up.  One excerpt:

Q: You’ve stated in your liner notes that the Grammys look like a porn convention. Many people consider BeyoncĂ© to be subversive.

I once found the whole pimp-ho underbelly very interesting too. I’m not afraid or critical of that scene—I find it very colourful. But when it rises to the top and you find a five-year-old saying, “Plant it here, bitch,” we’ve got a problem. America loves to glorify its criminals. It’s not good for children.

Q: Sinead O’Connor wrote an open letter to Miley Cyrus pleading she not allow the music industry to make a prostitute out of her.

Right on. That’s what it’s become: “show us your tits!” I also got buried at Geffen Records because of it. Girls were being harassed and [executives] told me, “Your music doesn’t make me feel young and happy.” Whitesnake was their lead act and when the company got sold for the fourth time, I called the owner and said, “My name is Joni Mitchell, I am an artist on your label, did you know that?” He said, “No.” I said, “Of course you didn’t because you haven’t made a dime so the people buying from you don’t know either, so give me back my masters.” Well, he wouldn’t.

Thanks (and No Thanks)

Next week's New Yorker cover by Bruce McCall skewers Washington pro football team...

Razing McCain

Jimmy Carter responds to John McCain charge that Carter was truly bad but Obama even worse.  Jimmy accurately calls McCain a "warmonger."


Nice to see Dave Grohl finally get to New Orleans on his HBO musical road trip last night for the best hour in the series so far (though not enough Prof. Longhair).  Much of story revolved around my beloved Preservation Hall, including cutting a song there.  Here are two of my photos from the site.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fess Up!

Dave Grohl's HBO road series finally reaches New Orleans tonight, just as a major Kick Starter campaign kicks off for a new doc--see below.  And then, for now, it doesn't get any better than to be in New Orleans with Allen Toussaint talkin' Fess.

Roll Over, Beethoven: Latest on Our New Film and Book!

November Update:  The DVD for our film finally available via Amazon, just $19.95, and just in time for the holidays!    And, of course, our companion updated book and ebook still a great choice, order via Amazon. Meanwhile, screenings have continued, from Santa Barbara to Berlin!

Earlier: The NPR "All Things Considered"  segment on the film was terrific.  Listen to it here.  Naturally we are now getting fresh requests for dozens of screenings across the USA.  And here's Bill Moyers' recent segment on the film on PBS--he even presents the entire  trailer!

Also surging: the tie-in book that I wrote  with director Kerry Candaele, now updated in print and e-book  editions:  Journeys With Beethoven: Following the Ninth, published by Sinclair Books. It's just $3.99 for the e-book and $9.99 for print.

Screenings of Following the Ninth (which I co-produced) continue.  Due to popular demand, a 2nd screening is coming Feb. 19 in Nyack after the sold-out first screening and flash mob.

Reviews of film include very positive review from New York Times:  "Thrilling... all the film’s segments are smartly assembled and gracefully paced. Oh, and the score’s pretty good, too." From the Village Voice  "A majestic sonic travelogue... that rarest of films: a documentary as ineffable and transformative in its reach as it sets out to be."Another good review at Film Journal: "Stirring documentary."  Hollywood Reporter: "Persuasive feel-good movie doc.... offers enough spirit-lifting moments to prove its thesis and leave viewers inspired!"

The film follows the Ninth Symphony and its enormous cultural and political influence around the world.  So we travel from Chile during the Pinochet years, to China's Tiananmen Square uprising,  to Japan (for the annual mass singing of the "Ode to Joy") and to Germany with Leonard Bernstein for the fall of the Wall, plus Billy Bragg re-writing the "Ode to Joy"--and playing it for the Queen.

You can write me at:    And here's Kerry's terrific trailer:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mike Nichols, R.I.P.

I'm old enough to remember Mike purely as TV stand-up act with Elaine May.  Then see Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff in the theater in '66.  And on to Silkwood and etc.  He ended up living just a few miles down 9W from us and we'd see him in Piermont now and then.  Yes, I forgive him for making a hash of Catch-22.   Partly because of underrated gems such as Charlie Wilson's War.  One of several great scenes. 

A Dylan Sitcom?

Sadly, wildly, this seems all too true:  Larry Charles, director of first "Borat" film and Larry David collaborator, discusses for first time details of writing a sitcom for HBO with Bob Dylan, plus incredible pitch meeting that Bob sort of attended--in black gunfighters outfit while Larry dressed in his PJs.  And more. And they sold the idea.

Band in the Run

TIME magazine has put up a gallery of most of its covers featuring music folks over the many decades and it serves to remind that these fellows were the first American band to make the cover.  I saw them live in Buffalo a week later.  And some selections from the new Complete Basement Tapes lp.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

AP Posts Cosby Interview

The news service interviewed Bill Cosby a couple of weeks ago and didn't post the whole interview until now, which includes Cosby no comments on rape allegations but then his strong plea to not even air the no comments.

If You Think Lincoln's Speech at Gettysburg Was Short

I'm always amused when I look back at the rather restrained press coverage of Lincoln's Gettysburg address at this time of year--it happened on this date in 1863.  The NYT, for example, focused on other speakers and the weather, and after reprinting all of the key speeches, including Lincoln's, added only this comment:

"Three cheers were then given for the President and the Governors of the States. After the delivery of the addresses, the dirge and the benediction closed the exercises, and the immense assemblage separated at about 4 o'clock."   It then explained that the president soon return to D.C. by train while many others were stuck in humble lodgings in Gettysburg. 

My Photos of the Day

Just a reminder that I now have a sister blog here, for my photographs (from around the world), with a new one launched every morning.  Visit here. 

Wag Are the World

Maybe the White House will get on this to rally support for new war in Syria.  From the great "Wag the Dog."

From Mick & Keith to...Stan & Ollie?

Laurel & Hardy hoof it to one of my favorite (relatively) obscure Stones' songs,  orchestrated version of "Out of Time."

Recalling "Bloody Sunday"

Something happened to remind me that one of my favorite movies since 2000 is Paul Greengrass's early film Bloody Sunday.  James Nesbitt got an Oscar nomination and yes, the U2 song closes the film.  I followed the official inquiry and legal cases--which the film sparked--ad read the excellent book by (and chatted with) witness Don Mullen, and more.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

When You're 64

It's happening all around me and today's b-day boy is Graham Parker, who I hung out a bit during his first months of breakthrough in New York.  Here from back then.  Best band across the ocean at that time. 

And Howe

Keith Olbermann tribute to one of my childhood heroes, who is on his deathbed.  Yes, the Babe Ruth of hockey.   Gordie played long enough to play with his two sons.  Below that, his final goal, at age 52--assist to his son.  I can relate a bit:  I've lived long enough to enjoy having my daughter and son-in-law as chief collaborators on my next book, set in Berlin.

More Cowbell? Me and Dylan, Now and Then

The hoopla over the Complete Basement Tapes release (I was among the first to cover it here), makes me reflect on my first rock concert, 49 years ago--yes, ouch--this month.

Many other concerts naturally followed, from Blind Faith to U2 and beyond, many while I served as senior editor at the legendary Crawdaddy. But that first concert remains vivid, and historic, as it was one stop on what many consider the most significant (and craziest) tour ever—Bob Dylan’s first full road trip after going electric.

In 1965, still in high school, I was a huge Dylan fan—I can honestly say that it was his “protest” phase that made me turn left. He had only recently picked up the electric guitar at Newport and hit the top with “Like a Rolling Stone.” I took a really bold step: ordering a pair of tickets for a Dylan show at Kleinhan’s Music Hall in Buffalo in early November. Even more amazing: this would be my first rock concert.

That wasn’t anything to be ashamed of back then. Only a few kids I knew had ever been to shows, usually girls who drove up to Toronto for the Beach Boys. Few bands came to Buffalo, only twenty miles away but another world, with a thick knot of highways and byways to navigate and a then-huge downtown.

I didn’t know what to expect from the concert. This was long before the “rock press” appeared, wire service tour reports were virtually unheard of, and the net, of course, did not exist. No sets lists posted online. All I’d heard was that the show opened acoustic and then went electric—and was causing disturbances everywhere. No idea who was in the backing band.

A Buffalo paper (I still have the clipping) ran a three-paragraph story, with the last two amounting to this: “He has performed at the Lincoln Center and Town Hall, and has made a series of personal appearances in England. Dylan’s music has dropped most of its original overtones of the wandering troubadour. His beat is sharper and heavier and the words are more complex.” This was the state of “rock journalism” back then.

Somehow we made it to the hall. Immediately I was thrown into the freakiest crowd I’d ever encountered, although “freaky” was not yet in the lingo. Most seemed to be from the University of Buffalo, at the time one of the most politically active campuses in the East. Numerous kids had long bushy hair, like Dylan, far scruffier and wilder looking than the British invasion band members. Many girls had devilishly long, straight hair. Some wore political buttons. A few antiwar protesters shouted slogans outside. It was exciting and, for me, exotic.

I still have a stub so I know that my girlfriend and I were in row J of the left-center balcony. Dylan came out alone, with just a stool next to him. It held a change of harmonica, a glass of water and, evidently, some pills that he dipped into from time to time. He’d already been associated with “drugs,” whatever that meant, and I wondered if he was popping illegal substances or just fighting a cold.

The first set was all one could have wished, although I can’t say for sure which songs he played, except that it was weighted toward the newer non-electric ones such as “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” I specifically remember that he played “Desolation Row,” which I loved and which went on forever—not a bad thing in this case. Okay, no controversy so far.
After intermission, spent largely staring at the odd menagerie of counterculture precursors, I settled back in my seat, nervous, no doubt, about the coming reaction. And a large part of the crowd, it turned out, had brought their “A” game. A band came out with Bob—actually The Band, as it turned out, although they were then known as The Hawks (that’s Robbie Robertson on the left and Levon on the right in the photo above, and see here for cool photo of Levon with Band members in 1964). They immediately started playing “fucking loud,” as Dylan famously ordered them when heckled in Great Britain on the same tour.

No idea what the first tune was, but I do know what happened between songs: heckling, pointed cries of “We want Dylan” (the folk one, that is) and “Put down the guitar!”—and the ringing of a cow bell somewhere down the balcony!

Dylan plunged ahead, with more noisy protest, and the cowbell, after the song’s final note. And so it went, although I recall that the cowbell slackened after awhile. Beyond “Like A Rolling Stone” and “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” I can’t say for certainty what they played. Since I’d never been to a rock show before, I had no idea what other bands sounded like live, if the sound system was always this crappy, if performers rarely or always spoke to the audience, and how much of an encore, if any, could one expect.But I had to start somewhere, and this was it.

A few weeks later, the heckling and cowbells got too much for Levon Helm, and he left the tour—to work on an oil rig. He was absent when the troupe famously went on to England and were heckled there, too.

Several months later, Dylan released Blonde on Blonde and then stopped touring—after his motorcycle accident, which some still suggest was faked to give him an excuse to give up the rigors, and controversy, of the road. Levon returned, took part in a few of the Basement Tapes sessions, then stayed on as The Hawks became (briefly) The Crackers and then The Band. And after they played their Last Waltz about a decade later—see “Don’t Do It” from that gig—Levon kept on drumming, acting (Coal Miner’s Daughter, among others), singing and rambling.

Or, as the highlight of that 1969 concert in Buffalo, captured below a few months later, put it: “Slippin’ and Slidin.”


Great collection of photos of naked flashmobs--actually, art project by Spencer Tunick-- from around the world.  Good luck on reading the text and captions though....Still, I favor the equally amazing Beethoven "Ode to Joy" flash mobs around the world.

Now We Take Berlin

Further update:  And it looks like we have our first foreign rights sale.  Meanwhile, thrilled to be working closely with my daughter on this, as she and husband already hard at work as (paid) researchers in Berlin.  My next trip there: January.  And I hear tremendous interest from A-list screenwriters on movie.

Update Thursday:  Publishers Weekly covers the book (and movie) deal tonight.   NYT, ABC, CBS,  and a few dozen others picked up the AP story today.

Update Wednesday:  And now another wild week, since we did things backwards--my book proposal sold to the movies first, for Paul Greengrass film, and only now comes the major book deal.  Here's the Associated Press story now, with the great Rachel Klayman at Crown to edit. 

Friday: Big news today for yours truly, as my proposal for my next book The Tunnels was purchased by great upstart company FilmNation for a major film directed by one of my film heroes, Paul Greengrass.  Just up at Variety.

Quite flattered by interest over past 10 days from several leading studios and A-list directors but very happy to be with Greengrass--I was one of early boosters of his Bloody Sunday back in 2002, and since--and producer Mark Gordon (who did Saving Private Ryan and so many others).  Amazing story of  young folks in the West who at unfathomable risk dug tunnels under the Berlin Wall in 1962 to bring out family and lovers and others--and now a wonderful chance to tell it on the page and on the screen.  The Variety description includes the key angle of CBS and NBC financing two key tunnels--but omits what happened then:  JFK at the White House trying to suppress the two network specials as nuclear tensions rose.

Special thanks to Brian Siberell and Michelle Weiner at CAA and my literary agent Gary Morris at the David Black Agency.  Yowza.  And great chance to work with my daughter, who lives in Berlin about a mile from the former path of the Wall.   My photo above of some of those who died trying to get over or under or around the Wall, at the Memorial on Bernauer Strausse (remnant of the Wall behind them).