Dreaming On Bob Dylan’s Mythic ‘Basement Tapes’

Bob Dylan photographed by Elliott Landy.

Finally, the Holy Grail is here!

By Michael Goldberg

Bob Dylan and The Band
The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 (Six-CD set)
Columbia Records

Note: Because the Basement Tapes are, for me, about a time long in the past, and a place that no longer exists, and the feeling of wonder I still had as a teenager back in 1970 when I first heard some of the Basement songs, I have taken an unconventional approach to this review, mixing fact and fiction, thoughts about the actual music with seemingly unrelated text about young love.

It was time to split the city. The Summer of Love was a bust. They were selling “Love Burgers” on Haight Street. If you’re too young to know, Haight Street in San Francisco was a kind of ground zero for the ‘60s counterculture in 1966. But it wasn’t 1966 anymore, and things had changed. A creepy-crawly vibe would soon turn all the colors black.

***

May of 1970, me and my chick in the back of that Ford pickup with all the camping gear. We’re heading for Big Sur. A bunch of us in five vehicles, maybe six. This was a long time ago. I was 16 and so was Sarah. We make a couple of stops along the way; the last one is to get gas and ‘cause some of us need to use the can. It isn’t a town, isn’t a full block same as you find in a town or a city. It’s some beater houses and a motel and the Texaco. What it is, is a no-name, one of those places you drive through to get from here to there.

Only reason I even get out of that pickup is ‘cause of the Coke machine.

***

The Basement Tapes are a myth. They’re one of those stories that serious music fans, the type of fan that most people would call a collector, and others might call crazy, get lost in. As the myth has been told and retold since the late ‘60s, Bob Dylan, then one of the greatest, if not the greatest, rock stars in the world, had a motorcycle accident.

After recovering from his accident in the seclusion of an 11-room house in upstate New York, Dylan called up his band, a handful of musicians who had been known as The Hawks when they backed Canadian rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins, and they joined him, soon renting houses not far from where Dylan was residing, one of which came to be known as Big Pink.

Over the summer, in the basement of Big Pink, they recorded over 100 tracks, including some new Bob Dylan compositions that remain some of his best. When it was all over, Dylan moved on, heading to Nashville to record John Wesley Harding, an album of all new songs, none of which had been recorded in the basement.

As for what eventually became known as the Basement Tapes, acetates were made of 14 songs and sent out to artists with the hopes they’d be covered. The tapes with the rest of the songs were shelved.

Eventually the bootleggers got their hands on those 14 songs, and soon we, the serious, obsessed Dylan fans, heard them too. And as word spread that there were more recordings, many more recordings, we lusted for them the way collectors of ‘78s lust after original pressings of Skip James records, or those of Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thomas.

And so, for the serious Dylan fan, for us nuts, those tapes became the Holy Grail.

***

It’s one of those ancient curved-corners all-red Vendo Coke machines. The V-81a. Filled with cool-ass bottles of Coke. Warhol’s “Green Coca-Cola Bottles” kinda cool-ass bottles.

Ever seen that Warhol deal? Homage to Duchamp, Warhol’s bottles. Warhol was heavy into Coke. Said Coke symbolized the egalitarian nature of American consumerism. Said it didn’t matter if you were Liz Taylor or a bum, a Coke was a Coke, and no amount of money could get you a better one than the one the bum on the corner was drinking. ‘Course what Warhol didn’t say was Liz Taylor could afford to get her cavities filled. The bum gonna end up with a mouth full of rotten.

I guess that’s what America’s all about. The phony-ass everyone’s equal trip. Authentic real, there’s a hierarchy. Fortune or fame, enough of either can put you up on your high horse, up on the steeple with all the pretty people. Warhol was wrong, Coke tastes a whole lot different if you’re drinking it out on the veranda of some place in Beverly Hills, than in the fucking gutter.

***

On July 29, 1966, Bob Dylan, who as a kid idolized James Dean, had an accident while rising a 500cc Triumph Tiger 100 motorcycle on a road near his manager’s house in West Sugerties, not far from Woodstock, New York. Dylan was on break from a grueling world tour during which fans of his folk music booed his new rock ‘n’ roll sound. One of ‘em called him Judas.

“I was on the road for almost five years,” Dylan told Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner during a 1969 interview, looking back to that fateful day, the day of the motorcycle accident. “It wore me down. I was on drugs, a lot of things. A lot of things just to keep going, you know? And I don’t want to live that way anymore, And uh… I’m just waiting for a better time – you know what I mean?

Wenner asks a follow-up question.

“Well,” Dylan says. “I’d like to slow down the pace a little.”

Dylan did slow the pace. “I thought that I was just gonna get up and go back to doing what I was doing before…,” Dylan told Wenner. “But I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Dylan’s crazy schedule of touring and recording – he cut three of the best rock albums ever made, in 15 months! – was over. Instead he holed up with his family at the Byrdcliffe house, known as Hi Lo Ha, having replaced hectic New York with a pastoral scene. Working with filmmaker Howard Alk, Dylan completed a documentary, “Eat The Document,” using footage D. A. Pennebaker shot of the 1966 tour. The film was commissioned for the ABC television series Stage ’66, but was rejected by ABC and has never been officially released, although a bootleg version circulates, and periodically shows up online.

Still in upstate New York, at some point in early 1967 Dylan and some members of The Hawks began a series of informal music sessions in what was referred to as the “Red Room,” a sitting room at Hi Lo Ha that was no longer painted red, if ever it was. The music they began making was recorded on a reel-to-reel tape recorder – one that took seven inch reels of quarter-inch tape — by Garth Hudson, one of the musicians who was also participating in the sessions along with Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel. Later they would be joined by Levon Helm.

The genesis of the sessions may have been pressure Albert Grossman exerted on Dylan to come up with more songs, songs for other artists to cover. Grossman owned half of Dylan’s publishing, so it was in Grossman’s financial interest to get more songs out of Dylan while he was still a big star.

Dylan told Jann Wenner, “No, they weren’t demos for myself, they were demos of the songs. I was being PUSHED again … into coming up with some songs. You know how those things go.”

Still, whatever the outside pressure, what happened when the tape was rolling was enjoyable, both for the musicians and for Dylan.

“The Basement Tapes refers to the basement there at Big Pink, obviously, but it also refers to a process, a homemade process,” Robbie Robertson was quoted as saying in Sid Griffin’s book about the Basement Tapes, “Million Dollar Bash.” That quote also appears in the liner notes Griffin wrote for The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11, the 6-CD set which will be released on November 4, 2014.

“So some things we recorded at Bob’s house, some things we recorded at Rick’s house…we were here and there, so what it really means is ‘homemade’ as opposed to a single location in a formal studio.”

Talking about the sessions to Jann Wenner, Dylan said just moments after he talked about being “PUSHED” to demo new songs, “They were just fun to do. That’s all. They were a kick to do. Fact, I’d do it all again. You know, that’s really the way to do a recording—in a peaceful, relaxed setting—in somebody’s basement. With the windows open … and a dog lying on the floor.”

Read the rest of this column at Rhythms magazine.

Photo by Elliott Landy

“900 Miles From My Home”:

“Tupelo”:

“Yea! Heavy and a Bottle of Bread”:

“Ain’t No More Cane (Take 2)”:

“Dress It Up, Better Have It All”:

“Lo and Behold!”:

“Odds & Ends”:

“Don’t Ya Tell Henry”:

here.

And hear more of the Basement songs at NPR.

[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book in a recent issue. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]

Musician David Monterey Does Dylan at “The Dylan-Kerouac Connection”

I got the call at 5:03, two hours before the event I was doing with singer/guitarist Johnny Harper was to begin. I was in my car, had just gotten on the freeway, and was heading to San Francisco.

Johnny was sick; he wasn’t going to make it.

The plan had been for me to read excerpts from my essay, “Bob Dylan’s Beat Visions,” and interspersed between those excerpts, Johnny would perform relevant Dylan Songs including “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” and “Visions of Johanna.” My essay was recently published in the book “Kerouac On Record” (Bloomsbury). In it I delve into just how much the Beat Generation writers including Jack Kerouac influenced Dylan’s 1960’s songwriting. (A lot!) The show was divided into two sets, each lasting about 45 minutes. Key to making it work were Johnny’s musical performances — it’s one thing to read for, say, 20 minutes, but if you plan to read for 45 minutes, you better have some great music to break it up. But Johnny was sick. Those musical performances weren’t going to happen.

So what was I going to do?

First thought: We’ll just have to cancel. Second thought: But no, people are already on their way to The Beat Museum on Broadway. It would be a lot of people. Johnny and I had been on KPFA previewing the show. I’d promoted it on Facebook and blogged about. The Dylan news site, Expecting Rain, had included it in their Thursday night news.

And then it hit me. My longtime friend, singer/songwriter/guitarist David Monterey, was planning to attend. It was long shot but maybe Dave would bring his guitar and play some of the key Dylan songs.


David Monterey with guitar (left) and Michael Goldberg with guitar (right) out at the beach in West Marin in the late Sixties.

Dave and I have been friends since elementary school. As I recall, he turned me on to Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. As teenagers we used to play Dylan songs on our guitars. Dave is as much a Dylan fan as I am (and as you likely know, I am obsessed with Dylan). Dave is a great singer and songwriter, and he currently leads the excellent Bay Area Americana band, the String Rays; he’s released numerous albums (both group and solo) and he’s a total pro. If anyone was going to fill in singing Dylan on less than two hours notice, it would be Dave.

I pulled off at the Gilman exit, parked by the side of the road, and got Dave on the phone. He hadn’t left the house yet. Whew! After a few seconds of silence, after he digested my request, he asked me which songs. Cool. He was in!

The Beat Museum is an incredible place. The ground floor has a huge book store (I bought a copy of the late Tom Clark’s Kerouac bio), as well as used vinyl for sale and many cool posters. Throughout the place are Beat items for viewing only including various first editions of classic Beat books, and one of Allen Ginsberg’s typewriters. The museum is located close to City Lights, Ferlinghetti’s legendary bookstore and not far from that classic Beat hangout, Caffe Trieste.

The performance space and the main museum area is upstairs, and up there it was cool to see, in a glass case, a plaid jacket that Jack Kerouac used to wear.

As it got close to 7 pm, folks started arriving — soon nearly every seat was filled.

The show itself was a blast. I began by quoting a comment Ferlinghetti had made to me in February of 2017: “He [Dylan] was a poet first. He wanted to be a published poet. But luckily he had a guitar and he knew how to make it into music. His early songs in the 1960s were long surrealist poems.”

And then a quote from Dylan’s friend and road manager, Bob Neuwirth: “Remember, Bob Dylan’s a poet, man. So when he writes, it’s a poet writing, and when he talks, it’s a poet talking.”

Right away I could tell the audience was into it, and things flowed smoothly from there.


David Monterey at a gig earlier this year. Photo by Michael Goldberg

When I got to the part about Peter, Paul and Mary scoring a hit with Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” I asked Dave if he’d play the song for us. He stood, strapped on his guitar and played an achingly beautiful version of the song. I’ve heard “Blowin’ in the Wind” countless times over the past 50-plus years. Yet hearing it in the intimacy of the Beat Museum performance space, it sounded brand new, and totally in tune with the horrific Trump years. These lines hit me hard:

“Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist

“Before they’re allowed to be free?

“Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head

“Pretending he just doesn’t see?”

Dave has a great voice. I hear a little John Prine sometimes, and Jesse Colin Young, perhaps some Jackson Browne and a little Paul McCartney. But really, Dave has his own unique voice. Sometimes there’s a slightly rough edge, other times it’s smooth as a billiard ball. There’s a passion in Dave’s voice, and compassion, but also a toughness. Dave is someone with true integrity. He was conscientious objector during the Vietnam War and he stands up for what he believes. Often he likes to quote the Elvis Costello line, “What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?”

During “Blowin’ in the Wind” (and all the others that Dave sang), some members of the audience just couldn’t help themselves and they quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) sang along.

When Dave finished “Blowin’ in the Wind,” he got a great round of applause.

By the end of the show, Dave had also sung a heartfelt “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” as well as potent renditions of “Chimes of Freedom,” “Desolation Row” and a concluding “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

Meanwhile, I read excerpts from “Bob Dylan’s Beat Visions” that probably added up to about one third of the essay.

The audience dug it, and I was invited back! Can’t beat that.

— A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post —

LIVE FRIDAY! The Dylan-Kerouac Connection

Jack Kerouac (left) and Bob Dylan.

“The Dylan-Kerouac Connection” will be performed one more time on Friday, Nov. 9 at 7 pm at The Beat Museum, 540 Broadway in San Francisco.

Former Rolling Stone Senior Writer Michael Goldberg (that’s me) will read from his acclaimed essay, “Bob Dylan’s Beat Visions” and singer/guitarist Johnny Harper will perform Dylan songs referenced in the essay.

When Johnny and I did this in Berkeley earlier this year and charged admission we had a sold out enthusiastic audience at the Art House. This time the event is free.

From the Beat Museum writeup for this event:

“Veteran music journalist Michael Goldberg is a former writer and editor for Rolling Stone, and has written for numerous other publications. His brilliant essay, “Bob Dylan’s Beat Visions,” appears as a chapter in the new book “Kerouac on Record” (Bloomsbury Press), which explores Jack Kerouac’s relationship to music — the music he was inspired by, and the many famous musicians who were inspired by his writing. Michael’s chapter explores in detail the influence of Kerouac and other Beat writers (Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, more) on Bob Dylan’s world-changing songs of the 1960s. Michael has written on Dylan for many years, and his chapter draws not only on a lifetime of study, but also on important new interviews with major figures including Ferlinghetti, D.A. Pennebaker, and John Cohen, who knew both Bob and Jack personally. The connections he makes between Bob’s songs and the specific Beat writings that inspired them are surprising and exciting.

“Singer-guitarist Johnny Harper is a celebrated Bay Area musician who has performed and recorded with Barbara Dane, Maria Muldaur, Charlie Musselwhite, Katie Webster, Queen Ida, Tony Marcus, Ernie K-Doe, and other well-known performers. He is also a band leader, record producer, and an exciting solo performer. In this special event he performs live versions of the classic Dylan songs Michael discusses in his essay — “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Desolation Row,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “It’s Alright Ma,” lots more! — and gives them new life with his powerful interpretive singing and his dazzling work on acoustic and electric guitars. Hearing the combination of Michael’s spoken insights with Johnny’s compelling performances makes for an exhilarating and thoroughly delightful evening.”

— A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post —

Live: The Dylan-Kerouac Connection

Jack Kerouac (left) and Bob Dylan.

To celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday, a very special event, “The Dylan-Kerouac Connection,” will be held in Berkeley, CA on Friday, May 18, 2018.

Former Rolling Stone Senior Writer/ West Coast Music Editor Michael Goldberg and acclaimed Bay Area singer/guitarist Johnny Harper will be collaborating on a night of words about and music by Bob Dylan.

Goldberg will read from his new essay, “Bob Dylan’s Beat Visions (Sonic Poetry),” which has just been published in the book “Kerouac On Record” (Bloomsbury). Harper will perform exciting solo versions of “Desolation Row,” “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” Mr. Tambourine Man,” “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” “Like a Rolling Stone” and more!

The two set evening will begin at 7:30 pm at The Art House Gallery & Cultural Center, 2905 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA. Doors open at 6:30 pm.

Goldberg’s essay focuses on how Jack Kerouac and other Beat writers had a profound influence on the songwriting of Bob Dylan. In reviewing “Kerouac On Record,” Mojo magazine wrote: “Among the strongest in a strong lot are Michael Goldberg’s examination of Dylan’s lit roots and Kerouac’s own musicological piece — ‘The Beginning Of Bop’ – that attempts to capture jazz in words – and succeeds.”

Johnny Harper is a well-known Bay Area singer, lead guitarist, songwriter, bandleader, arranger, and producer of recordings and concerts.

Harper has been known, for many years, for leading rockin’ bands (Johnny Harper & Carnival and the earlier Hot Links) specializing in the joyous, upbeat, and funky New Orleans R&B sound – the music of artists like Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, the Meters/ Neville Brothers, Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, and many more. He lived in New Orleans for several years at one point, soaking up the Crescent City’s magic first-hand.

In addition to his work in bands, Johnny is a powerful solo performer, accompanying himself in complex lead/rhythm and finger-picking styles on electric and acoustic guitars. He is a veteran performer in a wider range of American roots music styles – blues and gospel, vintage rock and classic country, R&B/ soul, traditional and contemporary folk, and more. He is an expert on the music of The Band, and knows over 100 Bob Dylan songs! And he is a born storyteller whose comments on the music are by turns moving and highly entertaining.

The show will take place at: The Art House Gallery & Cultural Center, 2905 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA. Suggested donation: $15.00 – $25.00

For additional info, please contact Johnny Harper: jjmusic@ix.netcom.com

– A Days of the Crazy-Wild post –

Bob Dylan’s Beat Visions – A Rock’s Back Pages Excerpt

We’ve known for years that Bob Dylan borrowed melodies from older songs, and that particular songs and poems inspired him to write his own lyrics. In a nearly 12,000 word essay in the just published book, “Kerouac On Record: A Literary Soundtrack,” I detail just how extensively Dylan made use of Jack Kerouac’s writing in some of the songs Dylan wrote for Highway 61 Revisited.  You can read an excerpt from my essay at Rock’s Back Pages.

Here’s a bit of what you’ll find there:

‘No rhyme, all cut-up, no nothing, except something happening, which is words’

I couldn’t have written those songs back then. If I had just come out and sung “Desolation Row’ five years ago I probably would have been murdered – Bob Dylan to Nat Hentoff, autumn 1965, unpublished interview for Playboy

Following the 3 May 1965 publication of Jack Kerouac’s Desolation Angels, the publisher, Coward- McCann, a subsidiary of G. P. Putnam’s Sons, ran full-page ads in the Sunday Times Book Review, the daily New York Times, the New York Review of Books and elsewhere. If you were in New York, and dug Jack Kerouac, it would have been hard not to know that the “King of the Beats’ had a new novel in the stores.

Hi Lo Ha (the house Bob Dylan had just bought in Woodstock, New York, was where Dylan said he wrote the rest of Highway 61 Revisited in the six weeks between the 15 and 16 June sessions in Manhattan where “Like a Rolling Stone” (which he’d written in early June) was recorded, and the late July and early August sessions at which the rest of the Highway 61 Revisited album was completed. (Dylan, ever the poet, said that in one interview, but in another with Jann Wenner for Rolling Stone he said he wrote the Highway 61 song “Desolation Row” “in the back of a taxicab” in New York.)

More interesting than where the songs that comprise Highway 61 Revisited were written is that just six weeks after Desolation Angels was published, Dylan used the book as a major source of raw material for his new songs. “Desolation Row” took the first half of its title from Kerouac”s new book, and Dylan seems to have gotten the idea for the song’s main theme from Kerouac as well. In Desolation Angels, Kerouac writes about “Surrealistic Street,” and describes a wild cast of characters that he sees out on skid row. What is “Desolation Row,” as Dylan describes it in his song, if not a dark, at times horrific version of Kerouac”s “Surrealistic Street”?…

Read the excerpt here and buy the book here.

Cover of “Kerouac On Record.”
– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post –

How Jack Kerouac Influenced Bob Dylan & More

Cover of the upcoming “Kerouac On Record.”

In a 12,000 word essay, “Bob Dylan’s Beat Visions (Sonic Poetry),” that appears in the upcoming book, “Kerouac On Record: A Literary Soundtrack,” I explore how Bob Dylan was profoundly influenced by the Beat writers, and especially Jack Kerouac.

The book is being published by Bloomsbury and will reach book stores online and off on March 8, 2018. Rock’s Back Pages will be publishing an excerpt from my essay, and the April issue of Mojo magazine (see full review below) includes a rave review that says in part: “Among the strongest in a strong lot are Michael Goldberg’s examination of Dylan’s lit roots and Kerouac’s own musicological piece — ‘The Beginning Of Bop’ – that attempts to capture jazz in words – and succeeds.”

Nice to be mentioned in the same sentence as Kerouac!

In addition my Dylan piece, I also have an interview with writer (and one time rock critic) Richard Meltzer in which he talks at length about Kerouac.

The book also contains essays on the influence of Kerouac on a number of musicians including Tom Waits, the Grateful Dead, Jim Morrison, Van Morrison, Patti Smith and others. And there are excellent pieces about the influence of jazz on Kerouac’s writing style.

As we get closer to the publication date I’ll share more about this fascinating book.

Here’s the Mojo review in full:

Review in the April issue of Mojo.
  • A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post –

Michael Goldberg’s New Novel, “Untitled,” Now Available!!

Cover art, “Untitled,” by Leslie Goldberg.
Love, Truth, Innocence & Loyalty.

Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll & Betrayal.

It’s 1973 and the Sixties are gone, baby, gone. College sophomore Michael Stein has lost his way, betraying everyone once dear to him. Just when he thinks nothing could get worse, femme fatale Harper moves in, and his real troubles begin.

“Untitled” is now available in print and Kindle versions here.

Michael Goldberg – that’s me – will be doing a reading at the Octopus Literary Salon on Saturday, August 19, 2017 from 7 pm until 9 pm. More info here. Grammy winning experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser will accompany me on electric guitar. Henry will also so a 20 minute solo set!!

Henry Kaiser and friends. Photo by Michael Goldberg
Praise for the Freak Scene Dream Trilogy,including “Untitled”:

“Oral prose. School of Twain and Salinger. It’s improvised, and its immediate and delayed echoes, its ellipses, its obsessions, make music.” LARRY BECKETT, author of “Morning Glory” and “Paul Bunyan”

“Michael Goldberg’s sharply drawn characters, vivid musical nods, and keen eye for detail transport us back to the post-countercultural mid-1970s when sex and drugs and rock & roll were a way of life. In this third installment of the Freak Scene Dream Trilogy, antihero Writerman takes us along for the rollercoaster ride – angel dust, anyone? – while he tries to make sense of a life littered with broken hearts. A page-turner.” HOLLY GEORGE-WARREN, author of “A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton”

“Relive the 1970s – the music, the dope, the clothes, the books, the confused and restless sexual politics – in all their filthy glory.” MARIA BUSTILLOS, author of “Dorkismo: the Macho of the Dork” and “Act Like a Gentleman, Think Like a Woman.”

“Michael Goldberg is comparable to Kerouac in a 21st centuryway, someone trying to use that language and energy and find a new way of doing it.” MARK MORDUE, author of “Dastgah: Diary of a Head Trip”

Michael Goldberg at The Octopus. Photograh by Wayne Hsiung
“Goldberg presents us with a beautiful evocation of the Seventies where the music wasn’t just the soundtrack to our lives but the auteur of them. Writerman, our hero, drinks and drugs and dances to the nightingale tune while birds fly high by the light of the moon. Oh, oh, oh, oh Writerman!” LARRY RATSO SLOMAN, author of “On the Road with Bob Dylan”

“Radioactive as Godzilla.” RICHARD MELTZER, author of “The Aesthetics of Rock”

“Penned in a staccato amphetamine grammar, its narrative is fractured and deranged, often unsettling but frequently compelling, an unsparing portrait of the teen condition: assured then despairing, would-be sex god then impotent has-been, an only child battling the wills of his domineering father and interfering mom in the anonymous, suburban fringes of Marin County.” SIMON WARNER, author of “Text and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll: The Beats and Rock Culture”

“So who is this protagonist anyway? Holden Caulfield meets Lord Buckley?” PAUL KRASSNER, author of “Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counterculture”

“‘True Love Scars’ reads like a fever dream from the dying days of the Summer of Love. Keyed to a soundtrack of love and apocalypse, Writerman pitches headlong into a haze of drugs, sex and confusion in search of what no high can bring: his own redemption. Read it and be transformed.” ALINA SIMONE, author of “Note to Self” and “You Must Go and Win”

“True Love Scars is deeply dialed in to rock’s dichotomy of enlightening powers versus stonered party time.” GREG M. SCHWARTZ, PopMatters

“Michael Goldberg reminds us of the difficulties of remaining true to our own visions amidst the powerful exigencies of young adulthood.” JOLIE HOLLAND, recording artist, whose albums include Catalpa, Escondida and The Living and the Dead

“Untitled” is now available in print and Kindle versions here.

Michael Goldberg & Henry Kaiser at Octopus Literary Salon

Celebrating ex-Rolling Stone Senior Writer Michael Goldberg’s new rock ‘n’ roll novel, “Untitled,” Goldberg and Grammy winning experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser will collaborate on “a post-beat happening” at The Octopus Literary Salon in Oakland, CA on Saturday, August 19, 2017. Goldberg will read from his new novel while Kaiser improvises on electric guitar. Plus a solo set by Kaiser. Note that no meat will be served during this event! Free.

This will mark Goldberg and Kaiser’s third collaboration. When they appeared at The Octopus last year it was standing-room-only. Come early!

If you think you can attend, please go to the Facebook event page and clock “going” or “interested.”

Cover art, “Untitled,” by Leslie Goldberg.

What the critics say about Goldberg’s novels:

“Michael Goldberg’s sharply drawn characters, vivid musical nods, and keen eye for detail transport us back to the post-countercultural mid-1970s when sex and drugs and rock & roll were a way of life. In this third installment of the Freak Scene Dream Trilogy, antihero Writerman takes us along for the rollercoaster ride – angel dust, anyone? – while he tries to make sense of a life littered with broken hearts. A page-turner.” – Holly George Warren, editor of “The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats” and the author of the acclaimed bio, “A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton”

“Oral prose. School of Twain and Salinger. It’s improvised, and its immediate and delayed echoes, its ellipses, its obsessions, make music.” – Larry Beckett, author of “Morning Glory” and “Paul Bunyan.”.
“Radioactive as Godzilla!” – Richard Meltzer, author of “The Aesthetics of Rock” and “Tropic of Nipples”

“Kerouac in the 21st Century.” – Dennis McNally, author of “Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, The Beat Generation & America”

“Penned in a staccato amphetamine grammar…” – Simon Warner. author of “Text and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll: The Beats and Rock Culture”

“Holden Caulfield meets Lord Buckley?” – Paul Krassner, founder of The Realist

“Our hero drinks and drugs and dances to the nightingale tune while birds fly high by the light of the moon.” – Larry Ratso Sloman, author of “On the Road with Bob Dylan”

“Reads like a fever dream from the dying days of the Summer of Love.” – Alina Simone, musician, author of “Note to Self” and “You Must Go and Win”

“If Lester Bangs had ever published a novel it might read something like this frothing debut by longtime music journalist Michael Goldberg.” – Colin Fleming, Rolling Stone

Michael Goldberg at The Octopus. Photograh by Wayne Hsiung

Michael Goldberg was a senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine for a decade. He has interviewed Jerry Garcia, Patti Smith, George Harrison, Captain Beefheart, Stevie Wonder, Sleater-Kinney, James Brown, Frank Zappa, Berry Gordy Jr., John Fogerty, Neil Young, Lou Reed, Black Flag, The Replacements, Flipper, Robbie Robertson, Sonic Youth and many more. In 1994 Goldberg launched the first Web music magazine, Addicted To Noise, and “invented music journalism on the web,” as journalist Denise Sullivan put it. Goldberg currently writes an occasional column, The Drama You’ve Been Craving,” for Addicted To Noise. His 10,000 word essay, “Bob Dylan’s Beat Visions,” will be included in the book “Kerouac On Record,” due from Bloomsbury in February 2018.

“Untitled,” the third of the Freak Scene Dream Trilogy, is a story of love, friendship and the search for identity, set in the early ‘70s. Although it takes place in the past, themes running through the book — trying to live an authentic life, struggling against the powers that be, navigating the terrain between love and lust, loyalty and betrayal — are as relevant today as ever. Goldberg’s first novel, “True Love Scars,” was published in 2014; his second, “The Flowers Lied,” was published in 2016.

Henry Kaiser and friends. Photo by Michael Goldberg

Grammy winner Henry Kaiser is widely recognized as one of the most creative and innovative guitarists, improvisers, and producers in the fields of rock, jazz, world, and contemporary experimental musics. The California-based musician is one of the most extensively recorded as well, having appeared on more than 250 different albums and contributed to countless television and film soundtracks.

A restless collaborator who constantly seeks the most diverse and personally challenging contexts for his music, Mr. Kaiser not only produces and contributes to a staggering number of recorded projects, he performs frequently throughout the USA, Canada, Europe and Japan, with several regular groupings as well as solo guitar concerts and concerts of freely improvised music with a host of diverse instrumentalists. Among the numerous artists Kaiser has recorded or performed with are Herbie Hancock, Richard Thompson, David Lindley, Jerry Garcia, Steve Lacy, Fred Frith, Terry Riley, Negativland, Michael Stipe, Jim O’Rourke, Victoria Williams, Diamanda Galas and Cecil Taylor. Kaiser’s latest album, The Celestial Squid, was released last year.

The Octopus Literary Salon is located at 2101 Webster St #170, Oakland, CA 94612

Phone: (510) 844-4120

Michael Goldberg’s Third Novel, “Untitled,” Coming August 1, 2017

Cover art, “Untitled,” by Leslie Goldberg.

Love, Truth, Innocence & Loyalty

Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n’ Roll & Betrayal

In the third book of the Freak Scene Dream Trilogy, “Untitled,” you’ll read about 19-year-old Michael Stein’s affair with 35-year-old feminist college teacher Susan “Simone” Braveheart, his unexpected reunion with Thee Freakster Bro, Jim Costello, and a crazy road trip to Big Sur with Simone that signals the end of their summer fling.

And you’ll be there when mysterious trouble girl Harper reappears, moves in with Michael Stein at Simone’s beach house and causes all kinds of, you guessed it, trouble.

Michael Stein is obsessed with sex. Only the sex is more than sex. Sex is the door to intimacy, and transcendence.

For Michael Stein, the Sixties ended in the nut house. Where they put the crazies. His parents blamed his erratic behavior on drugs. Michael Stein just blames himself.

Aware. Michael Stein is aware he has lived through one of the biggest social changes America has experienced. The trouble is, Michael Stein’s not aware that the biggest social change has already changed, moved on down the line.

The love is gone and all that’s left is the drugs.

The Freak Scene Dream Trilogy is one long deep breath. The exhale is obsessive, transgressive. How macho meets feminism. How second chakra rises up to third. Through all the women: Sarah, Elise, Jaded, Simone, Harper, Eve. A puff, a party, a tragedy—from marijuana to angel dust, teenage heartbreak to addiction, from “All You Need Is Love” to the junkie garage rock of the New York Dolls.

How the dream died and what there is left after.

If you dug “True Love Scars” or “The Flowers Lied,” come along for more of the ride as Writerman struggles to escape his past and invent a brave new life.

And if you didn’t read the first two books, never fear, “Untitled” is a stand alone novel that can be read and enjoyed without reading the other books.

“Untitled” by Michael Goldberg

Available August 2017.

Praise for the Freak Scene Dream trilogy

“Michael Goldberg is comparable to Kerouac in a 21st century
way, someone trying to use that language and energy and find a new way of doing it.” MARK MORDUE, author of “Dastgah: Diary of a Head Trip”

“Goldberg presents us with a beautiful evocation of the Seventies where the music wasn’t just the soundtrack to our lives but the auteur of them. Writerman, our hero, drinks and drugs and dances to the nightingale tune while birds fly high by the light of the moon. Oh, oh, oh, oh Writerman!” LARRY RATSO SLOMAN, author of “On the Road with Bob Dylan”

“Radioactive as Godzilla. RICHARD MELTZER, author of “The Aesthetics of Rock”

“Penned in a staccato amphetamine grammar, its narrative is fractured and deranged, often unsettling but frequently compelling, an unsparing portrait of the teen condition: assured then despairing, would-be sex god then impotent has-been, an only child battling the wills of his domineering father and interfering mom in the anonymous, suburban fringes of Marin County.” SIMON WARNER, author of “Text and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll: The Beats and Rock Culture”

“So who is this protagonist anyway? Holden Caulfield meets Lord Buckley?” PAUL KRASSNER, author of “Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counterculture”

“‘True Love Scars’ reads like a fever dream from the dying days of the Summer of Love. Keyed to a soundtrack of love and apocalypse, Writerman pitches headlong into a haze of drugs, sex and confusion in search of what no high can bring: his own redemption. Read it and be transformed.” ALINA SIMONE, author of “Note to Self” and “You Must Go and Win”

“True Love Scars is deeply dialed in to rock’s dichotomy of enlightening powers versus stonered party time.” GREG M. SCHWARTZ, PopMatters

“Michael Goldberg reminds us of the difficulties of remaining true to our own visions amidst the powerful exigencies of young adulthood.” JOLIE HOLLAND, recording artist, whose albums include Catalpa, Escondida and The Living and the Dead

If you want to keep up with what I’m up to as a writer and blogger, please sign up for the Days of the Crazy-Wild Communique at:

www.daysofthecrazy-wild.com/novel/email

Audio: Michael Goldberg Previews New Novel

Michael Goldberg at The Octopus. Photograh by Wayne Hsiung

Last night (March 30, 2017) I previewed a chapter of my new novel, “Untitled,” at The Octopus Literary Salon in Oakland. There was a nice sized audience at this venue, which has the best atmosphere for reading prose or poetry.

Here is the audio from my reading:

“Untitled” is the third book in a rock ‘n’ roll, coming-of-age trilogy titled, the Freak Scene Dream Trilogy. Each of the books stands alone, and at the same time is part of the bigger story.

There’s a lot of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in the book.

The chapter I read an excerpt from is mostly about the drugs, or rather, what it’s like tripping on the drugs. It takes place in 1973. Nixon is still in the White House, the Vietnam War is still going on as is the Watergate investigation. But all of that feels far, far away to the narrator, Michael Stein AKA Writerman.

The excerpt is about Michael Stein and his best friend, who he calls his “freakster bro,” Jim Costello. Jim is still recovering from being dumped by his first girlfriend, Jade Kaufman, who the narrator refers to as Jaded.

I think the excerpt speaks for itself, except there is one thing you need to know. The narrator has a cigarette lighter that he calls The Dylan. He stole it from Jerry Garcia, who told him that it had once belonged to Bob Dylan. How he came to know Jerry Garcia and steal the Dylan is detailed in my first novel, “True Love Scars.”

“Untitled” will be published in August of this year.

Photograph by Wayne Hsiung
Photograph by Wayne Hsiung

I read before Larry Beckett, the poet/songwriter best known for the lyrics he wrote for many of Tim Buckley’s best songs. Larry read from his book “Paul Bunyan,” which is an epic poem that explores tall tales and the myth of America as bigger than life.

– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post –