Archive for the ‘bob dylan’ Category

It’s my Beat summer; I’m wading through Howl, On the Road, Junky, Naked Lunch, The Dharma Bums, I Celebrate Myself – The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg and Angel Headed Hipster, a Kerouac biography.

It all started from simple curiosity. I’d read about William Burroughs for almost thirty years. I had always been fascinated by how this product of the Ivy League, a son of money and privilege managed to attract scandal and notoriety to both himself and his literature. I had decided that it had come time to actually read William Burroughs. I put a reserve on Naked Lunch at the library and while I waited I started through a dogeared copy of a City Lights edition of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems I’d rediscovered on a shelf down in my basement.

I’m glad I started with Howl. To me, it is the hub of the wheel from which all the spokes radiate. I’m not much of a poetry reader, but I could catch the jazz feel of these goofy arrhythmic riffs shuffling and scatting like a Coltrane tenor sax solo riding on top of an Elvin Jones cool rumble. Since April, I’ve been through Howl about twelve times and I like the feel as much as I like the stream-of-consciousness ramble, its weird juxtapositions and its implied, ambiguous, murky interpretations.

The library called soon enough. Naked Lunch was a tough read for me. I couldn’t keep things straight from paragraph to paragraph, much less from page to page, much less from chapter to chapter. I found myself re-reading and then re-reading again to no effect. I was almost convinced that the emperor had no clothes until I remembered that Ginsberg had edited Naked Lunch. Then I started to recognize the juxtapositions and the stream-of-consciousness ramblings that I’d seen a few weeks earlier. I stopped trying to ‘understand it’ and started trying to just ‘get it’ and ‘feel it’. The surprise for me was how different Burroughs’s more-or-less traditionally structured Junky was from the wildly rambling and pointedly provocative and offensive Naked Lunch.

Ginsberg not only edited Naked Lunch, he tirelessly promoted the novel to any number of publishers for years. Despite Ginsberg’s carefully cultivated persona of an ethereal counter-culture free spirit, prior to writing and publishing full time he earned his living as a market researcher, an advertising copywriter and was a UPI stringer reporter for several years. He absolutely understood advertising, understood relentless self-promotion and understood how to exploit a news media hungry for scandal and lurid sensationalism. Ginsberg practically invented the the popular picture of the dirty, stoned, wine-soaked poetry spouting hipster beatnik and could always be counted upon to offer up wild stories of decadent “flaming youth” to any journalist willing to listen.

From the perspective of 65 years the Beats can look positively reactionary and even a bit, well, square. Kerouac was an honorably discharged veteran and Ginsberg served in the Merchant Marine. I never got a sense of the virulent anti-Americanism that metastasized a decade later in the writing of Abby Hoffman or Malcolm X and never a sense of the crazy-stoned psychotic acid ranting of Ken Kesey and the Pranksters. With the exception of Neil Cassidy’s serial pathological irresponsibility, On the Road centers on Kerouac’s travels to either find work or to deal with various requests to help family members. For me On the Road is a celebration of personal freedom and individuality placed inside a narrative framework built with railroads, long haul trucks, highways and jazz rhythms. I think that at its heart On the Road is a novel of great patriotism and profound love for America and beat (beatific) Americans.

Ginsberg encouraged the press to think of Kerouac as the “King of the Beatniks”. Kerouac never forgave him for that, and I can’t say I blame him. Kerouac was a scholar/athlete from Columbia University and the product of a solid middle-class Catholic family in Massachusetts. Kerouac thought of himself as a serious writer and a serious artist; he found the celebrity and notoriety from his association with the beats (a celebrity and notoriety relentlessly encouraged by Ginsberg) to be a great distraction to his work and and an insult to his privacy. It was disheartening to watch Kerouac as he aged changing from the Young Turk into an angry, bloated and ill-tempered middle-aged creep until the alcohol killed him at 47.

Heres a great story from I Celebrate Myself – The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg:

“During all this turmoil, Allen had managed to pick up another permanent house guest, Harry Smith. Harry was broke and alcoholic himself, and stayed with Allen because he had nowhere else to go. While lodging with Allen “for just a few days”, Harry had been hit by a car, fracturing his knee and relegating him to crutches. Asking the felled old man to leave would have been unkind, even though Harry was cantankerous and nearly impossible to live with. He was a genius when it came to anthropology, ethnographic music, and filmmaking, but also a true curmudgeon and as irritable as anyone Allen knew. He ensconced himself in the tine guest room next to the kitchen, where he made paintings with his own shit and saved his urine, a la Howard Hughes, in old milk containers that accumulated on the floor. Rosenthal’s job was becoming something more than the secretarial position he had signed on for almost a decade earlier; now he was the housemother and caretaker for group of increasingly eccentric people. The only way to accomplish any work and keep from going crazy himself was to move the office from Allen’s apartment, so Bob began looking for outside space.

“In late March, Dylan made a rare visit to Allen in the middle of the night. They discussed possible titles for Dylan’s next album, and Allen showed him some of the photographs he’d been taking, including photos of Harry Smith and nude pictures of a handsome young man, Patrick Warner. Dylan was curious to know if Patrick was Allen’s new boyfriend, but Allen sadly answered, “No, just a friend.” Dylan was impressed with Allen’s talent as a photographer and was anxious to meet Harry Smith, who had put together the influential Anthology of American Folk Music for Folkways in 1952, a seminal project that had sparked Dylan’s initial interest in folk music. Since Harry was in the next room, Allen asked him to come out and meet Dylan, but an unimpressed Smith slammed the door in his face.”

Bill Morgan, I Celebrate Myself – The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg (New York: Viking Press, 2006), 586-587

…and here’s Bob, Allen Ginsberg and Bob Neuwirth down in the basement mixin’ up the medicine…


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I spent the last weekend in the Allegheny National Forest way up over there in north-central Pennsylvania. I had a great time.

I had gone over to count bats. We mid-western cavers have watched entire bat populations disappear over the last few years due to “white nose syndrome” – a fungus pathogen killing bat populations as they hibernate. No one is really certain where white nose comes from or how it migrates from bat colony to bat colony. There is considerable speculation that the fungus is spread by cavers with contaminated gear or clothing. I bleach my equipment after I get home now and so do most of the rest of the grotto members. Another likely explanation for the spread of white nose is that bats are contaminating themselves as they mate, but it is all speculation at this point. In any case it is a bad business and the Cleveland Grotto is conducting bat survey work for several research organizations “doing the science”.

Our grotto Conservancy Chair Eric Topeke asked me to drive over to the Allegheny National Forest and count whatever bats I could find in the mouth of a certain small cave known to be a bat hibernaculum. Eric had GPS coordinates and a description of where the cave was located. The directions involved parking at the very end of a ANF logging access road, finding an abandoned railroad right-of-way and hiking through old growth forest to see if I could find the cave located in the side of a small sinkhole.

Eric’s directions also noted that black bear were reported to “be active” in the area off the logging road and that anyone walking in the area should be very cautious and should carry at the very least “a stout walking stick” as “protection”. Well I decided I would be cautious and I decided to carry “protection” but I decided I sure as heck wasn’t going to be using any walking stick to attempt to reason with a Pennsylvania black bear.

It occurred to me on the drive east that morning that I was rolling along in a jeep full of caving gear, camping equipment, guns, a fiddle and a five string open-back banjo. I was ready for just about anything the Allegheny National Forest could throw at me. With a certain amount of self-satisfaction, for at least a few hours, I thought of myself as probably the most well prepared man in North America.

I found the Minister Creek campground located off Pennsylvania SR (I am not making this up) 666 and I set up camp. Then I headed for the cave.

I found the end of the logging road and I found the abandoned railroad right-of-way. I loaded my 12 gauge pump with some deer slugs. I cradled the shotgun in my arms the way I used to when I hunted with my brother and my dad and set off down the trail to the right. Besides bear, Eric’s directions also noted that wildcats were “active” in the area. I had previously had some experience with Pennsylvania timber rattlers and between bears, cats and rattlers I had lots of opportunity to reflect on my position on the food chain (“dinner”) as I made my way through the wood.

I never could find the sinkhole. I’m dead certain that I must have been within 30 yards of it (and probably closer). And I never saw any bear. Or wildcats. Or timber rattlers. It’s probably just as well. I’ve never been a big game (deer) hunter – I don’t think I have it in me. I actually had to go and buy a box of slugs to take with me. On the other hand, I didn’t see any bats either, dead or alive. I waited till it began to dim a bit – I didn’t want to wait too long as I wasn’t real sure of where I was and I wanted to make sure I could get back to the jeep and back to camp before it got too dark – but didn’t see any bats in the air.

I made it back to the jeep, unloaded the shotgun and packed it away in its case. I headed back to my campsite.

The campground was beautiful. I had pitched my tent within feet of winding, bubbling Minister Creek inside a heavily wooded and secluded site. The campground was located on the Minister Creek Trail hiking loop and I got to say “howjado” to any number of day hikers as they drifted past my campsite when they began and ended the trail. I am going to make plans to head back to Minister Creek later this summer or early this fall to hike the loop myself and camp and enjoy the campsite over a couple of days.

The new/old banjo got a pretty good workout too. I’ve been spending a lot of time on Needle Case and Pretty Little Dog. My banjo is an open-back frailer and does not have a tone ring in it. It is not a loud instrument and I have been trying to teach myself to frail with a pretty light touch. As a result I have been concerned that I am not getting as much sound out of the instrument as I would like. I am learning that there is a technique to getting as much sound as I can out of the banjo without beating it to death. It has its own voice and I will have to adjust myself to that while I try to remember to hold the instrument correctly and frail “firmly and confidently” but without trying to force a volume or a type of tone.

I’m working through Salt Fork/Salt Creek/Salt River (what is the right name for that tune, anyway?) now. I’m playing it out of a G modal tuning and I’m getting it all by ear – no tab. I’m kind of surprised that I am beginning to be able to “hear” the tunes with my fingers enough that I am able find them on a fingerboard. Progress!!

Onward! Upward! Excelsior!

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Just when you think it can’t possibly get any worse in the American political landscape along comes a rough beast slouching toward Conneaut, Ohio; Conneaut City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a proud resident of Cuyahoga County (practically next door to Ashtabula) where we have learned to shrug our shoulders at the antics of our own wildly corrupt, arrogant and retarded political class. We have determined over time that ‘corrupt, arrogant and retarded’ is a ‘lifestyle choice’.

No, we here in Cuyahoga are no pikers in that regard, I assure you. In fact, I would put our corrupt, arrogant and retarded politicians up against your corrupt, arrogant and retarded politicians at any time and at any place.

I can almost certainly say that in any such contest our corrupt, arrogant and retarded politicians would leave your corrupt, arrogant and retarded politicians in the dust, binding their wounds, crying for their mothers and otherwise turning tail from the radiant corruption, the epic arrogance and massive retardation embodied by Cuyahoga’s elected representatives.

I say this without boasting.

working man reading socialist newspaper

Or at least that’s what I used to think until I read the Ashtabula Star Beacon earlier this week. It seems that Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. had some concern over a local blog posted by Ms. Katie Schwartz.

It seems Ms. Schwartz had the temerity to publish ‘information concerning City offices, fees and other City government information…without the express (sic) written permission of the City.’ In his hubris Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. demanded that Ms. Schwartz immediately ‘cease and desist’ publishing any and all material related to Conneaut city government and under threat of court order remove any and all material related to Conneaut city government from her site.

Evidently, no one in Conneaut, or anywhere else for that matter, was ever going to publish anything regarding Conneaut city government without the ‘permission’ of the city’s political class. Presumably public information would hereafter be communicated in hushed and reverential tones only by certain officialy annointed individuals and only then after some sort of vetting process held deep within the dark bowels of the Conneaut Star Chamber.

That is, at least, if Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. was going to have anything to say about it.

According to the Star-Beacon article, it didn’t take long after Katie Schwartz posted her blog until Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. corralled lick-spittle thug Council President James Jones, lap-dog stooge Councilman-at-Large Chris Castrilla and lackey idiot Ward 4 Councilman Tony Julio to join him in attempting to crush Schwartz’s web site under the hobnailed heels of their collective jackboots.

The site is still active. The site and all its archived posts are there for anyone to read.

The site is pleasant, conversational and full of a charming, straight forward, mid-western boosterism. Nowhere does Ms. Schwartz stoop to calling Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. ‘an arrogant little snot’, ‘a martinet’, a ‘neo-Stalinist’ or ‘The Pig’. Nowhere does she suggest that Conneaut, Ohio or even the entire world would be better off if only Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. would crawl back into his dirty little worm hole and leave everyone else alone. She never describes Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. as ‘silly’, ‘puffed-up’, desperate’, ‘clawwing’ or even ‘laughable’. She never once declares that Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. is ‘just another stupid asshole’. Not once.

Because she doesn’t have to.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. goose-stepping around his office in full SS regalia, grasping his riding crop and monocle, stomping his foot, shaking both fists, flailing his arms and screaming ‘But-but-but…she does NOT have my PERMISSION!’. Imagine Jones, Castrilla and Julio standing in a circle holding tire chains, and ball bats and with stupid, vacant smirks across their jowly faces pointing to Schaumleffel and muttering ‘yeah, what he said…’.

men and women of america - the militant

I think Schaumleffel and his goons are suggesting that the open exchange of public information is an idea which is probably too abstract for most of Conneaut’s huddled masses. It only follows that spirited public debate among free citizens in a free society will almost certainly lead to contention, ill will and possibly even (shudder) speech privilege abuse.

I think that Schaumleffel and his thugs are suggesting that the Little People frankly need to speak only when spoken to and otherwise keep their eyes lowered and their mouths shut in deference to their betters. The Little People frankly do not know what their best interests are and must never be trusted to use either words or ideas.

Far better that Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. and his brown shirted bullies take that gate keeping responsibility to themselves.

And anyway, aren’t the complexities, subtleties and nuance of city government best left to the great architects, the giants of public administration, the great and selfless Philosopher Kings such as are Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr., Council President James Jones, Councilman-at-Large Chris Castrilla and Ward 4 Councilman Tony Julio?

It’s for Conneaut’s own good, after all.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The current and continuing 20 year depression here in the rust-belt is not an economic failure; it is a failure of our political class who lined their own pockets and consolidated raw political power rather than advocate for the citizens upon whom they fed. Like a grotesquely bloated, insatiable and ultimately fatal parasite feeding on a sallow and wasting patient, our politicians grew corpulent and morbidly obese while willfully and systematically starving their constituencies.

Think Jabba the Hutt gurgling ‘I’ll teach them what it means to offend the Empire. Send me Solo and the Wookie…and then send me Kathie Schwartz’.

Which brings us back to our first question: what would Woody do?

What indeed.

this machine kills facists

Woody was no stranger to thugs, bullies and goons. Woody’s autobiography Bound for Glory is one tale following another of individuals betrayed by their institutions and left to fend for themselves in the face of desperate circumstances. Bound for Glory is that one simple story repeated in variation again and again.

Woody wrote of the worst of times and the worst of people in 1913 Massacre, Dead or Alive, All You Fascists, Don’t Kill My Baby and Son, Hangknot, Slipknot, Pretty Boy Floyd, The Outlaw and hundreds of other songs.

I imagine that Woody would shrug with a familiar ‘seen it all before’ attitude, pick up his six string and begin to document with simple melody and rhythm the names, places and details of each affront, each insult and each abuse. Woody would build a picture of each and every insufferable fat-head, each self-important Kommissar and each of the creepy sycophants with whom they surround themselves.

And in each song Woody would let those people speak in their own voice and he would let them strut and preen and posture and stomp in their own gait through their own stories of petty insult, intrigue, greed and malfeasance.

And he would let them tell their own story without editorializing, without adding any artificial emphasis on their insolence and venality and criminality and stupidity.

Because he wouldn’t have to.

And then Woody would move on to the next song. And the next. And the next. Because it would be just one simple song repeated in variation again and again.

Here’s hoping that Katie Schwartz tells Conneaut, Ohio City Manager Robert Schaumleffel Jr. and the rest of his bully boys to take their ‘cease and desist order’ and go straight to hell.

Because THAT’S exactly what Woody would do.

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Over the last few years, we have all witnessed the decline of the music business, highlighted by finger-pointing and blame directed against record companies, artists, internet file sharing and any other theories for which a case could be made.
from The Huffington Post
by John Mellencamp

We’ve read and heard about the “good old days” and how things used to be. People remember when music existed as an art that motivated social movements. Artists and their music flourished in back alleys, taverns and barns until, in some cases, a popular groundswell propelled it far and wide. These days, that possibility no longer seems to exist. After 35 years as an artist in the recording business, I feel somehow compelled, not inspired, to stand up for our fellow artists and tell that side of the story as I perceive it. Had the industry not been decimated by a lack of vision caused by corporate bean counters obsessed with the bottom line, musicians would have been able to stick with creating music rather than trying to market it as well.

john mellencamp with vintage 0000 martin (?)

john mellencamp with vintage 0000 martin (?)

During the late 80s and early 90s the industry underwent a transformation and restructured, catalyzed by three distinct factors. Record companies no longer viewed themselves as conduits for music, but as functions of the manipulations of Wall Street. Companies were acquired, conglomerated, bought and sold; public stock offerings ensued, shareholders met. At this very same time, new Nielsen monitoring systems — BDS (Broadcast Data Systems) and SoundScan were employed to document record sales and radio airplay. Prior to 1991, the Billboard charts were done by manual research; radio stations and record stores across the country were polled to determine what was on their playlists and what the big sellers were. Thus, giving Oklahoma City, for example, an equivalent voice to Chicago’s in terms of potential impact on the music scene. BDS keeps track of gross impressions through an encoded system that counts the number of plays or “spins” that a song receives. That number is, thereafter, multiplied by the number of potential listeners. SoundScan was put in place at retail centers to track sales by monitoring scanned barcodes of units crossing the counter. A formula was devised whereby the charts were based 20% on the SoundScan number and 80% on BDS results. The system had changed from one that measured popularity to one that was driven by population.

Record companies soon discovered that because of BDS, they only needed to concentrate on about 12 radio stations; there was no longer a business rationale for working secondary markets that were soon forgotten — despite the fact that these were the very places where rock and roll was born and thrived. Why pay attention to Louisville — worth a comparatively few potential listeners — when the same one spin in New York, Los Angeles or Atlanta, etc., was worth so many more potential listeners? All of a sudden there were #1 records that few of us had ever heard of. At the time we asked ourselves, “Am I out of touch?” We didn’t realize that this was the start of change that would grow to kill, if not the whole of the music business, then most certainly, the record companies.

Reagan’s much-vaunted trickle-down theory said that wealth tricked down to the masses from the elite at the top. Now we’ve found out that this is patently untrue — the current economic collapse reflects this self-serving folly. The same holds for music. It doesn’t trickle down; it percolates up from the artists, from word of mouth, from the streets and rises up to the general populace. Constrained by the workings of SoundScan/BDS, music now came from the top and was rammed down people’s throats.

Early in my career, I wrote and recorded a song called “I Need A Lover” that was only played on just one radio station in Washington, DC the first week it came out. Through much work from local radio reps at the record company, the song ended up on thousands of radio stations. Sing the chorus of “I Need A Lover.” It’s not the best song I ever wrote nor did it achieve more than much more than being a mid-chart hit, but nevertheless, you can sing that chorus. Now sing the chorus of even one Mariah Carey song. Nothing against Mariah, she’s a brilliantly gifted vocalist, but the point here is the way that the songs were built — mine from the ground up, hers from the top down.

john mellencamp with good looking vintage dove.

john mellencamp with good looking vintage dove.

By 1997, consumers, now long uninvolved, grew passive, radio stations had to change formats. Creative artistry and the artists, themselves, were now of secondary importance, taking a back seat to Wall Street as the record companies were going public. The artists were being sold out by the record companies and forced to figuratively kiss the asses of their corporate overlords at the time these record companies went public. In essence, the artists were no longer the primary concern; only keeping their stockholders fat and happy and “making the quarterly numbers” mattered; the music was an afterthought.

Long-tenured employees of these companies were sacrificed in the name of profitability and the culture of greed was burned into the brains of even the most serious music lovers. It seemed that paying attention sales, who had the #1 record from one week to next, and who fell or rose on the charts was all that validated music.

One of my best friends in life was Timothy White who had been the editor of Crawdaddy, then Rolling Stone and, finally, Billboard. As a music critic, he championed singers, songwriters and musicians of all stripes. He was a music lover, beloved in the industry and by artists. Timothy, as many of you know, died suddenly, at the age of 50, waiting for an elevator at Billboard’s office in New York. Artists including Don Henley, Brian Wilson, Sheryl Crow, James Taylor, Jimmy Buffett, Roger Waters, Sting and me thought so much of him that two sold-out concerts — one in Boston and one at Madison Square Garden — were produced to raise money to support his widow, Judy, and family that includes their autistic son. Each of you, who care enough to read this, should ask yourself if people would be there to celebrate your life so lovingly as this.

In the early 90s, Tim started talking to me about the new service called SoundScan. Then the editor of Billboard, he was leery about the whole idea, realizing its potential to turn the record business upside down. He was pressured by his boss, publisher Howard Lander, who had warned that if Billboard didn’t buy into SoundScan, its competitor, Hits, would become the premier music industry trade magazine. I remember performing at a City of Hope benefit dinner in 1996 where he and I argued with Howard on the pitfalls of SoundScan and BDS and how there would be consequences that would not be good for the music business once it was embraced. It was a very unpleasant evening.

Let’s pause here to note that the record business has always been known for its colorful characters like Colonel Tom Parker, Ahmet Ertegun, John Hammond, etc. The most important thing is that different artists were able to express themselves in ways that were uniquely original, expressing their hopes and disappointments. That kind of artistic diversity and the embrace of eccentricity made the recording business great. It also made the record business horrifying in some ways. Look at what happened at Stax Records where financial finagling and skullduggery brought a great enterprise to a screeching halt that ended so many brilliant careers.

During the time of the upheaval wrought by SoundScan, BDS and the “Wall Streeting” of the industry, country music seized the opportunity and tacitly claimed the traditional music business. Country has come to dominate the heartland of America, a landscape abandoned or ignored by the gatekeepers of rock and pop. Great new country music stars came from seemingly nowhere to grow to tremendous popularity; think Garth Brooks.

While all this was going on, technology, just as it always does, progressed. That which, by all rights, should have had a positive impact for all of us — better sound quality, accessibility, and portability — is now being blamed for many of the ills that beset the music business. The captains of the industry it seemed, proved themselves incapable of having a broader, more long-range view of what this new technology offered. The music business is very complicated in itself so it’s understandable that these additional elements were not dealt with coherently in light of the distractions that abound. Not understanding the possibilities, they ignorantly turned it into a nightmarish situation. The nightmare is the fact that they simply didn’t know how to make it work for us.

The CD, it should be noted, was born out of greed. It was devised to prop up record sales on the expectation of people replenishing their record collections with CDs of albums they had already purchased. They used to call this “planned obsolesce” in the car business. Sound quality was supposed to be one of the big selling points for CDs but, as we know, it wasn’t very good at all. It was just another con, a get-rich-quick scheme, a monumental hoax perpetrated on the music consuming public.

john mellencamp

john mellencamp

These days, some people suggest that it is up to the artist to create avenues to sell the music of his own creation. In today’s environment, is it realistic to expect someone to be a songwriter, recording artist, record company and the P.T. Barnum, so to speak, of his own career? Of course not. I’ve always found it amusing that a few people who have never made a record or written a song seem to know so much more about what an artist should be doing than the artist himself. If these pundits know so much, I’d suggest that make their own records and just leave us out of it. Nora Guthrie, Woody’s daughter, once told me a story about a reception she was at where Bob Dylan was in attendance. The business people there were quietly commenting on how unsociable Dylan seemed to them, not what they imagined an encounter with Dylan would be like. When that observation about Dylan’s behavior and disposition were mentioned to Nora, the response was very profound. She said that Bob Dylan was not put on this earth to participate in cocktail chatter with strangers. Bob Dylan’s purpose in life is to write great songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are A’ Changin’.” This sort of sums it all up for me. The artist is here to give the listener the opportunity to dream, a very profound and special gift even if he’s minimally successful. If the artist only entertains you for three and a half minutes, it’s something for which thanks should be given. Consider how enriched all of our lives are made by songs from “Like A Rolling Stone,” a masterpiece, to “The Monster Mash,” a trifle by comparison.

Now that the carnage in this industry is so deep you can hardly wade through it, it’s open season for criticizing artists, present company included, for making a misstep or trying to create new opportunities to reach an audience, i.e., Springsteen releasing an album at Wal-Mart and, yes, we all know what Wal-Mart is about. The old rules and constraints that had governed what was once considered a legitimate artist are no longer valid. When you think about it, you must conclude that there really is no legitimate business; there is no game left.

Sadly, these days, it’s really a matter of “every man for himself.” In terms of possibilities, we are but an echo of what we once were. Of course, the artist does not want to “sell out to The Man.” Left with no real choice except that business model of greed and the bean counting mentality that Reagan propagated and the country embraced, there is only “The Man” to deal with. There is no street for the music to rise up from. There is no time for the music to develop in a natural way that we can all embrace when it ripens and matures. That’s why the general public doesn’t really care. It’s not that the people don’t still love music; of course they do. It’s just the way it is presented to them that ignores their humanity.

If we have any hope for survival of the music that we all love, compassion must replace name-calling, fairness must replace greed and we need to come together as a musical community and try to understand each other’s problems. I once suggested to Don Henley, many years ago after I had left Polygram, that we should form an artist-driven record label, much like Charlie Chaplin did with the movies when he, more than 90 years ago, joined forces with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks to form United Artists. Don’s response was correct. He said that trying to get artists and business people together to work for the common good of everyone involved is akin to herding cats. When all is said and done, unfortunately, it’s not really about the music or the artist. It’s about you and your perception of yourself and how you think things ought to be. And we all know that this very rarely intersects with what actually is. Just because you think this is how it should be only makes it just that: what you think; it doesn’t make it true. So let’s try to put our best foot forward and remember that anyone can stand in the back of a dark hall and yell obscenities but if you want a better world it starts with you and the things you say and do.

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Malibu residents say wind-borne odors from a portable toilet at the singer’s compound are making them ill.
from The Los Angeles Times
by Bob Pool

How sweet is life when you live next to a celebrity in Malibu?

Outside Bob Dylan’s house, the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

That’s what some of the singer-songwriter’s neighbors are charging in an increasingly odoriferous dispute over a portable toilet at his sprawling ocean view estate on Point Dume.

Residents contend that the nighttime sea breeze sends a noxious odor from a portable toilet on Dylan’s property wafting into their homes. The stench has made members of one family ill and forced them to abandon their bedrooms on warm nights, they say.

 Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times - A chemical services truck leaves Bob Dylan’s property after emptying a portable toilet hidden behind a storage container in this picture.

Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times - A chemical services truck leaves Bob Dylan’s property after emptying a portable toilet hidden behind a storage container in this picture.

For more than six months, Dylan, 67, has ignored their complaints and their pleas to remove the outhouse, the downwind neighbors say.

“It’s a scandal — ‘Mr. Civil Rights’ is killing our civil rights,” said David Emminger, whose home is directly behind the toilet — which is apparently intended for use by employees of the entertainer best known for his 1960s-era protest songs.

Emminger and his wife have installed five industrial-sized fans in their frontyard in an attempt to blow the odor back at Dylan. They say the fans are no match for the ocean breeze that sweeps across the singer’s land, however.

Dylan, who has lived in a compound next to Bluewater Road for more than two decades, did not respond to inquiries about the toilet. Neither did his New York-based attorney.

Malibu officials said they are investigating the complaint. As a result, they are unable to discuss the issue, they said.

But Dylan’s neighbors who contend their patience has run out have plenty to say about the odor.

“It started in September. I’d go into the frontyard and get nauseous,” said Cindy Emminger, 42. “I couldn’t figure out at first where the smell was coming from.”

Her 8-year-old son, David Jr., was sickened by the stench. Then she became ill too.

“We both have allergies and are sensitive to chemicals,” she said. “I finally noticed that they had moved the porta-potty directly in front of my front door.”

By some accounts, the city’s response has been sluggish.

In January, one inspector reported that a city code enforcement officer was turned away by Dylan’s security staff and told that he was trespassing. “He said they were going to sue the city,” the inspector said.

Guards who staff a security shack near the edge of Dylan’s compound around the clock are among those who utilize the toilet, neighbors say.

The guardhouse has been the source of controversy in the past. In 1989, when Dylan sought a permit to build it, Los Angeles County building and safety inspectors discovered it was not accessible to the handicapped.

According to county records, the singer bypassed accessibility requirements by promising, in writing, that he “would not hire any handicapped persons” to work in it.

Malibu City Manager Jim Thorsen denied Emminger’s charge that officials allow celebrities to “dictate terms” to the city.

“There’s no truth in that whatsoever. Everybody, in our opinion, is a high-profile person. We have to treat everybody by what the code says. It’s not a matter of clout or of money. We treat everybody exactly the same,” Thorsen said.

Although Malibu’s municipal laws apparently do not directly address the issue of the permanent use of a portable toilet, one code section states that temporary structures connected to authorized construction projects must be removed upon completion of the project.

Another prohibits objectionable odor “in excess of what is normally found in the neighborhood.”

“I drove by one time and couldn’t locate the porta-potty or smell anything. I called the rental company on her behalf to find out what chemicals they use and forwarded that information to her,” Thorsen said.

“It’s worse when it’s misty outside at night. We turn on the five fans, but it still gets inside our house. We’re not even using the upstairs now. We sleep downstairs,” she said.

bob.pool @latimes.com

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from Telegraph.co.uk

It was in January nearly half a century ago that Bob Dylan arrived in New York. Nigel Richardson sees the district that helped to forge ‘the original vagabond’.

We stand on the spot and Terre Grilli holds up a photocopy to compare the scene with the present day. “One thing I notice are the trees,” she says. “There are no trees on the block in ’63.” And in place of the blue VW campervan parked on the left is an SUV with blacked-out windows.


Bob Dylan - New York - January 1961 Photo: GETTY

It was a snowy day in February, 1963, in the heart of Greenwich Village, New York City. The photographer, Don Hunstein, set up on West 4th Street and shot plum down Jones Street as Bob Dylan and his then girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, walked up the middle of Jones towards the camera. Bob thrust his hands deep in his jeans pockets, Suze clung on to his arm – and the result is one of rock music’s most famous album covers.

The photograph on the front of Dylan’s second LP, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, encapsulates a remarkable time and place. For a period nearly half a century ago this grid of streets, barely a couple of square miles in total, generated a buzz of creative energy that forged Dylan’s artistic sensibility. “The air was bitter cold, always below zero, but the fire in my mind was never out,” he recalls in his memoir, Chronicles.

Greenwich Village – or just The Village – is a different place today and Dylan went west long ago. But the architectural mixture of classic tenements and grander, Federal-style townhouses is largely intact. And the spirit of the “original vagabond” who fetched up here in January 1961, and whose words and music shaped new ways of looking at the modern world, still clings to its fire escapes, backstreet cobbles and more outré street characters.

Terre Grilli, a 52-year-old folk music enthusiast, runs guided tours aimed at invoking that spirit. The tours are arranged privately and are pretty laid-back, very much in the freewheelin’ spirit of those Village days of the Sixties. “It’s kind of a labour of love,” she said. “We don’t advertise. It’s for fans.”

We meet on Hudson St at West 11th, across the street from the White Horse Tavern. This old longshoremen’s dive (the Hudson River is just three blocks west) has an impeccable bohemian pedigree: in the 1950s Dylan Thomas, as well as having his name filched by a young kid in Minnesota called Robert Zimmerman, drank his last at the bar before dying a few days later; Norman Mailer supposedly conceived the radical Village Voice newspaper here; and it was a Beat poet hangout. It was also where Dylan listened to the Clancy Brothers singing “rousing rebel songs that would lift the roof”.

The White Horse is still gratifyingly grungy, its walls covered in pictures and mementos of Dylan Thomas. A couple of doors up, a shop sells Dolce & Gabbana handbags for many hundreds of dollars, while an estate agent’s window on the other side of Hudson St advertises a one-bedroom flat – sorry, “stunning pre-war condo” – for well over a million. The cheap rents and edginess that made the Village a magnet for chancers and dreamers like Dylan disappeared long ago.

It was his former lover, Joan Baez, who called him a vagabond. The word captures the way in which he just turned up in “the city that would come to shape my destiny” with a readymade back catalogue of tall stories about himself and, in his own assessment, a mind that “was strong like a trap”.

“You would come to town and try to establish yourself and sleep on floors,” says Terre, leading me round to one of his crash pads, in Perry St. “You had no money for an apartment.” At 129 Perry – dingy brick, green fire escape – he slept on the floor of Carla Rotolo, Suze’s elder sister. Here, as well as meeting Suze, he would plunder Carla’s extensive folk record collection for ideas for his first album. “Carla really big-sistered Bob,” says Terre.

The folk singer Dave Van Ronk, whom Dylan described as “king of the street”, lived several blocks north-east on Waverly Place. Terre indicates number 190, a grey tenement building with a bright orange door. “Bob has talked about staying on the couch here,” she says. “Tom Paxton used to come by. And who’s observing all this?” Terre jerks her thumb over her shoulder. “Behind us at 191 lived [the journalist] Bob Shelton. “He was responsible for the New York Times review that catapulted Bob’s career.” She opens her ringbinder and flicks to a copy of the review, of a set Bob played at the famous venue Gerde’s Folk City, in September 1961 (“20-year-old singer is bright new face,” runs the headline).

Gerde’s no longer exists, but plenty of venues from those days do, many of them “basket houses” where performers passed round a hat. Principal among them is Cafe Wha? on Macdougal St, which Dylan sought out when he arrived in New York. Here, to an audience of “lunch-hour secretaries, sailors and tourists” he played harmonica for Freddy Neil, who later wrote Everybody’s Talkin’, popularised in the film Midnight Cowboy.

“You have to remember, the whole of Macdougal was lined with coffeehouses,” says Terre. At 116, in the basement, was The Gaslight, now a lounge bar called Alibi. “Hard to believe but this was a premier place to play,” she says. The Gaslight didn’t have a drinks licence, so after and in between sets they would all pile next door to the Kettle of Fish. The bar is now called the Esperanto Cafe. The hipster geeks sitting at its window tables with their skinny lattes and mint-thin laptops look the same age, 21, as Bob would have been when, in the sweaty basement next door, he first performed A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.

Terre’s tour is exhaustive and fascinating – the former Commons coffeehouse in Minetta St where he wrote Blowin’ in the Wind; the former residential Hotel Earle where he lived for a while and which Joan Baez, in her bittersweet love song about Dylan, Diamonds and Rust, refers to as “that crummy hotel over Washington Square”; the magical spot on West 4th where he freewheeled with Suze Rotolo in the snow.

Twelve months after that album cover was shot, Dylan had found fame and broke up with Suze, who inspired Tomorrow Is a Long Time. Those halcyon coffeehouse days were over.

He has left no tangible mark on the Village – no plaques, statues or stores selling memorabilia – but that’s in keeping with the man. “Everything was always new, always changing,” he wrote in Chronicles. “It was never the same crowd upon the streets.”

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“Nobody ever taught you how to live out on the street, but now you’re gonna have to get used to it…”

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