Tag Archives: essay

Greil Marcus Reveals Secrets Of Rock ‘N’ Roll In New Book

The Flamin’ Groovies ’70s classic, “Shake Some Action,” is one of the ten songs Greil Marcus writes about in his new book. Pictured is the cover of an early ”90s single by the group.

Ten songs that shook the world!

By Michael Goldberg

I’ve learned quite a few things from the critic and cultural historian Greil Marcus over the years, but maybe the first – and the one I keep coming back to — is that when listening to music, the artist’s intention isn’t so important. What really matters is what you and I, as listeners, hear.

You know, what we get from the music.

“I was never interested in figuring out what the songs meant,” Marcus wrote in the prologue to his book, “Bob Dylan, Writings 1968 – 2010.” “I was interested in figuring out my response to them, and other people’s responses. I wanted to get closer to the music than I could by listening to it – I wanted to get inside of it, behind it, and writing about it, through it, inside of it, behind it was my way of doing that.”

Marcus has been sharing his response to the music since the late ‘60s. In “Mystery Train” and “Lipstick Traces,” “The Old, Weird America: The World Of Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes” and other books he uses art as a doorway, and steps through it to find vast secret histories, histories of America and Europe that mostly hadn’t made it into the history books – at least not in the way Marcus writes.

After reading “Lipstick Traces,” which starts with Johnny Rotten and then proceeds to spin into a history of anarchistic rebellion going back long before Johnny Rotten was born – I haven’t been able to listen to a Sex Pistols or Public Image Ltd. song without thinking of Dada and the Situationists and the May ’68 protests in France and so many other things that Marcus wrote about in that book.

This new one, “The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs” (Yale University Press, 320 pages), is all about what Marcus hears when he listens to ten songs, and what he hears is unexpected and sometimes revelatory. It’s not any kind of history of rock that you or I have ever read before, because Marcus sees no point in revisiting the same old story that we’ve read numerous versions of since the ‘60s.

“Shake Some Action” is one of ten songs Marcus writes about in the book.

One of the big ideas in the book is that the chronological history of rock ‘n’ roll – that blues and country begat Chuck Berry and Elvis begat Dylan and the Beatles and so on and so on, is, if not irrelevant, beside the point. Or if not beside the point, well, we’ve been there. We all know, or think we know, the contours of that story. Marcus has a different story to tell.

“Whole intellectual industries are devoted to proving that there is nothing new under the sun, that everything comes from something else – and to such a degree that one can never tell when one thing turns into something else,” Marcus writes in the introduction to his book. “But it is the moment when something appears as if out of nowhere, when a work of art carries within itself the thrill of invention, or discovery, that is worth listening for. It’s that moment when a song or a performance is its own manifesto, issuing its own demands on life in its own, new language – which though the charge of novelty is its essence, is immediately grasped by any number of people who will swear they never heard anything like it before – that speaks. In rock ‘n’ roll, this is a moment that, in historical time, is repeated again and again, until, as culture, it defines the art itself.”

He continues:

“’It’s like saying, “Get all the pop music, put it into a cartridge, put the cap on it and fire the gun,’ Pete Townshend of the Who said in 1968. ‘Whether those ten or 15 numbers sound roughly the same. You don’t care what period they were written in, what they’re all about. It’s the bloody explosion that they create when you let the gun off. It’s the event. That’s what rock and roll is.’ Any pop record made at any time can contain Pete Townshend’s argument. … which is to say that this book could have comprised solely records issued by the Sun label in Memphis in the 1950s, only records made by female punk bands in the 1990s, or nothing but soul records made in Detroit, Memphis, New York City, San Antonio, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Chicago in 1963.”

And more:

“From that perspective, there is no reason to be responsible to chronology, to account for all the innovation, to follow the supposed progression of the form. The Maytals’ ‘Funky Kingston’ is not a step forward from the Drifters’ ‘Money Honey,’ or Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’ a step forward from ‘Funky Kingston.’ They are rediscoveries of a certain spirit, a leap into style, a step out of time. One can dive into a vault as filled with songs as Uncle Scrooge’s was filled with money and come out with a few prizes that at once raise the question of what rock ‘n’ roll is and answer it.”

I’ve been reading reviews and books by Marcus since the late ‘60s, and he’s dead serious about what he puts on the page. And about what he discovers when he listens to and then writes about rock ‘n’ roll. This is serious stuff, life or death, and if you think music is nothing more than entertainment, well this book is probably not for you.

Reading Marcus is hard work because you have to think when you read his sentences. He takes for granted that you know a hell of a lot about music and art and film and literature. He’s not into coddling the reader. So when he calls his book “The History Of Rock ‘N’ Roll In Ten Songs,” it’s not that you’re going to get the literal history of the music, what you’re going to get is a theory about rock ‘n’ roll, and then ten examples that, in different ways, back up that theory.

So Marcus takes his ten songs and writes an essay about each. He works hard to tell us why these songs matter so much to him, why each in its own way contains the history of rock ‘n’ roll, and why they should matter to us too. And after you read this book, they likely will.

Read the rest of this column at Addicted To Noise, and dig many other great music features, news and reviews.

Blurt’s Fred Mills Offers Moving Review of ‘True Love Scars’

And Perfect Sound Forever has an excerpt in the latest issue.

I’ve gotten many wonderful reviews so far of my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.

This one by Fred Mills at Blurt blew me away.

Fred Mills writes:

Veteran rock journalist Michael Goldberg, of Addicted To Noise and Sonic Net fame, is clearly working through some personal demons in his debut novel, a kind of poetic-license memoir rendered in a vivid 1st person voice containing echoes of Holden Caulfield, Sal Paradise and Danny Sugerman (who of course was not a fictional person, being a member of the Doors inner circle, but certainly wrote with a definite ego swagger in his own memoir). And in a very real sense, True Love Scars contains echoes of my own voice, because in reading the book I felt some of my demons from that time being stirred up, including initial musical alliances with key albums/concerts, mixed feelings toward my relationship with my parents and friends and memories of my first few crushes (not to mention losing my virginity).

Indeed, Michael Stein’s recollections chart an emotional arc as striking as I’ve seen a novel’s lead character experience, from naïve and tender to streetwise and hip to cynical and wounded, with Dylan lyrics seeming, to him, laden with meaning and Rolling Stones tunes, likewise, churning with prophecy. When he meets, for example, the girl he calls Sweet Sarah and they embark upon a doomed courtship, Dylan’s there as their guide and their muse. Later, though, following a breakup and a dark descent into teenage debauchery, Stein’s haunted by mental echoes of the ominous slide guitar riff powering the Stones’ “Sister Morphine.” Similar musical reference points from the time abound, as befits novelist Goldberg, who cut his teeth as a rock writer and came of age in that same era; it’s tempting to play the is-it-or-ain’t-it-autobiographical game with the book, since Goldberg has a temporal, geographical and personal backstory that mirrors, to a degree, Stein’s. (Stein’s nickname in the book is “Writerman,” which should tell you something.)

Later in the review Mills writes:

Goldberg advises us that True Love Scars is the initial installment of his “Freak Scene Dream Trilogy,” full of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll plus the inevitable heartbreak and roadkill that comes with the whole package. “How the dream died and what there is left after,” he concludes. It’s worth noting that despite the timeframe outlined above, Stein/Writerman is actually narrating in retrospect from some as-yet-unspecified point in the near-present. So we know that despite the gradual sense of dread building up over the course of the book and present at its abrupt ending, he will manage to survive in some form and fashion despite whatever adventures—good, bad, ugly, tragic—will go down over the course of the next two volumes of the trilogy. I can’t wait to read ‘em.

Read the whole review here.

— A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blot post —

Hey Bill Wyman, Bob Dylan’s Not Weird At All!

One of our best music critics is Bill Wyman, who wrote an incredible piece about Michael Jackson for the New Yorker in 2012.

I’ve been reading Bill since at least the mid-’90s, and he always has a unique take on the artists and music he writes about.

His latest writing, an essay about Bob Dylan, is in the latest issue of New York magazine and has also been published online at Vulture.

The essay is thoughtful and informed, but I have one big problem with it: the headline.

“How Did Bob Dylan Get So Weird?”

I have two problems with that headline. First, the question asked assumes that Bob Dylan is weird.

And then it implies that Bill’s essay will explain how Bob Dylan went from normal to weird, you know, the way one might explain how a moth becomes a butterfly.

Only as far as I can tell — and this is based on reading everything I’ve been able to get my eyes on that’s been written about Bob Dylan starting in the early ’60s, as well as my one brief meeting with Bob Dylan — he’s not weird.

In fact, I would argue that for someone who has had to deal with international success for over 50 years, who has been accused of everything from being Judas and betraying folk music to inciting racial hatred, Bob Dylan is about as normal as any of us.

I mean how do you define normal?

One could argue — certainly the late Guy Debord would — that nothing about how we live, and nothing about the capitalist system that defines the West has anything to do with normal.

But anyway

One of the big themes regarding Bob Dylan’s so-called weirdness is that he tours all the time. That he practically lives the road.

But why is that a problem. Why does that make him weird?

Bob Dylan is the one who coined the phrase, ‘don’t look back,’ which he used in his song, “She Belongs To Me.”

Remember? “She’s an artist, she don’t look back.”

Dylan took lessons from such fellow travelers as Woody Guthrie and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Jack Kerouac.

Kerouac’s “On The Road,” a book about two guys who criss-cross the country many times, has been loved and appreciated by millions.

Weird? To want to wake up to something new every few days? Rather than live in the same rut for decade upon decade. I don’t think so.

From what I’ve read. Bob Dylan had some very dark moments during his life. One came at the end of the ’70s, after his marriage to Sara ended in divorce.

That was when he turned to religion in a way that many of us still find hard to understand. But there’s nothing weird about turning to religion at a time of spiritual crisis.

Millions have done the same.

Bob Dylan also lost his way musically for a while during the ’80s. As Wyman points out, Dylan still managed to write and record great songs during that period, it’s just that most weren’t released on official albums and it’s only been during the ’90s and 2000’s that we’ve gotten to hear such gems as “Blind Willie McTell.”

Wyman argues that the ’80s and ’90s “were tough for him artistically.”

I agree that the ’80s was a bad decade for Dylan, but in the ’90s he made Good as I Been to You and World Gone Wrong and
Time Out of Mind, albums that have gotten rave reviews from most critics including Greil Marcus.

The ’90s turned out to be a great decade for Dylan musically, his comeback decade.

And even the ’80s have turned out to be not a total wipeout. While Dylan’s shows with the Grateful Dead were not so hot, the recordings of his rehearsals with the Dead at Club Front in Marin County in 1987 show him to be in great form. He recorded Oh Mercy in 1989, which got great reviews and is an excellent album.

But what has any of that got to do with weird?

When you headline an article — and Bill Wyman may very well have had nothing to do with the headline — “How Did Bob Dylan Get So Weird?” and then the first graph is some musings about Dylan covering a song made famous by Frank Sinatra, as if that in itself is weird, well is this just a way to sell magazines?

What’s weird is the disconnect between the headline and the article itself.

But then that could just be those pesky editors.

Frankly, that headline doesn’t sound like Bill Wyman to me.

Early on Wyman tells us that Dylan behaves differently than others who are in the “pantheon of great rock stars.”


That’s what makes Bob Dylan Bob Dylan. He doesn’t follow the rules. He does what he wants, when he wants and he does it how he wants.

He answers to no one other than himself, far as I can tell.

That’s one of the things that is so great about him.

That’s what I learned from him when I was in my teens.

Here’s a quote from my novel, “True Love Scars,” in which I address that very thing. I’m talking about “Like A Rolling Stone” here:

Somehow that song summed up exactly and for certain how I felt that day, summer of ’65, every loner feeling, every put down I ever suffered, every bit of existential angst, I hear it all in that song and then, top of all that, that Dylan voice which broke every rule which I didn’t actually know back then, but still I knew, in my body I knew, and what I knew was that every damn thing I’d been told was wrong ’cause if a voice like that, all sneer and sarcasm and ragged and strange, could be on Top 40 radio, anything was possible. And all the rules they taught me didn’t mean shit.

I knew.

“How Did Bob Dylan Get Weird”?

Bob Dylan isn’t weird. He’s just living life to the max, on his own terms.

[In August of this year I’ll be publishing my rock ‘n’ roll/ coming-of-age novel, “True Love Scars,” which features a narrator who is obsessed with Bob Dylan. To read the first chapter, head here.

Or watch an arty video with audio of me reading from the novel here.

–- A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-

So, Would You Want the Newport Guitar or Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ Lyrics?

Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival performing “Like A Rolling Stone.”

In response to my post yesterday, “Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ Manuscript Sells for $2 Million But Dylan’s Secrets Remain Secret,” Mike Jones commented:

The LARS lyrics went for more than I thought they would…how are a few pieces of paper worth more than the Newport guitar? I don’t get the whole ephemera thing. I guess people like to have historical stuff, just to look at or whatever. But I would much rather have the Newport guitar, which sold for like half as much. That seems very strange to me.

I understand why some folks, especially musicians, would want the guitar Bob Dylan played at the Newport Folk Festival gig that drew the line between the old Dylan, and the new.

For me though — and I’m not saying paying $2 mil makes any kind of sense — between the guitar and the manuscript, I’d go for the manuscript.


Bob Dylan’s Newport guitar sold for $965,000.

Here’s why.

Certainly the guitar is an iconic object, symbolic of Dylan’s rejection of so-called ‘folk music’ for rock ‘n’ roll, but he could have played any Strat that day and made the same music, made the same impact. Dylan’s art and his creativity didn’t hinge on that particular guitar. In fact, he played many guitars over the years. It’s always been Dylan, not his instruments, that makes the difference.

But that manuscript.

That’s the artist at work. That’s the artist in the throes of the creative process.

On those pages we see the song take shape. Words crossed out and other words written in. The chorus forming before our eyes from page to page.

And those cryptic notes to the side of the lyrics. “Al Capone,” “On the Road,” “Pony Blues,” “Butcher Boy.”

From these pages and the ones for “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” we get the curtain pulled back a little on Dylan’s creative process.

And when one combines what’s on these pages, with what he reveals in “Chronicles: Volume One” and elsewhere, we do get a vague sense of the Dylan mind at work.

We’ll never get to the bottom of it, and it’s probably better that way, but still.

So Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ lyrics are very different from the Newport guitar. They’re a time machine that takes us back to that day (s) when Bob Dylan put the ideas that were in his head down on hotel stationary, and created a timeless song, a song that, nearly 50 years after he wrote it, stands tall.

But what do you think?

Would you opt for the Newport guitar, or the “Like A Rolling Stone” manuscript pages?


Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ lyrics: The four pages went for half a million a page.

Or is there something else that you’d go for instead. If you had the money, and if you could afford to spend it in this way.

Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 singing “Like A Rolling Stone”:

Bob Dylan – Like a Rolling Stone (Live… by toma-uno

— A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blot post —

The Rant: Who The Hell Is Noah Berlatsky & Why Is He Trashing Bob Dylan?


Yesterday at Salon, some guy named Noah Berlatsky took out a hatchet and went after Bob Dylan.

Ok, I get it. Websites need heavy traffic and attacking Bog Dylan is an easy way to get thousands of Dylan fans to click on a story. And others too.

For this particular story, the headline is:

“10 musicians influenced by Bob Dylan who are better than Bob Dylan”

So right off you and I know this is so lame we shouldn’t be wasting time on it.

Why would anyone need to compare one musician to another? And who cares if this guy thinks some musicians that were influenced by Dylan are better than Dylan?

I just couldn’t let this crap go by without commenting.

Now we’re not dealing with facts here. We’re dealing with opinion. The opinion of one man. And this guy Berlatsky, a correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, can have any opinions he wants. If he thinks Donovan is a better singer than Bob Dylan (one of his claims), hey, I can think he’s an idiot. I can even tell you he’s an idiot. But if that’s what he thinks, that’s what he thinks.

After all, plenty of people bought Pat Boone records. Journey is still popular. There was a time when Styx could fill coliseums.

Berlatsky states that Dylan “may be the most overrated performer in the history of popular music.”

He criticizes Dylan’s signing, writing: “As a singer, he mimicked the roughness of roots sources without capturing their nuance or power, often resulting in self-parody.”

Then he attacks Dylan’s songwriting: “As a lyricist, he had a tendency to mistake Beat Poet doggerel bathos for profundity.”

By the way, he tells us that Nashville Skyline is his favorite Dylan album. Now there’s nothing wrong with Nashville Skyline, but it’s not Bringing It All Back Home or Highway 61 Revisited or Blonde On Blonde, Dylan’s greatest albums.

Clueless, this guy Berlatsky.

And then he states that the following musicians are “just a few performers influenced by Dylan who are better than he is.”

The list: Jimi Hendrix, Donovan, The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, the Velvet Underground, Townes Van Zandt, Joni Mitchell, Sly Stone and the Minutemen,

Now with the exception of Donovan (come on!), that’s a list of heavy hitters. Those are excellent solo artists and bands. But why would you spend your time making claims that they’re better than Bob Dylan.

And why trash Dylan?

This guy Berlatsky reminds me of the squares who just don’t get it. There are always people like that. They’re the ones who don’t want to watch a film if it has subtitles. Who still don’t think hip-hop is music.

We could take one view, and see Berlatsky as one of those squares. But I tend to take a more cynical view. He pulled together his list, spent a half hour cranking out his copy, and voila, a post for Salon sure to draw many curious readers. And gain some notoriety for the writer.

Hopefully, if you do take a look at Berlatsky’s silly post, you’ll have a good laugh and move on down the line. Maybe put on Blonde On Blonde or Bringing It All Back Home and dig on recordings that continue to reveal themselves even after all these years.

I guarantee you that we, you and I, have better things to do than spend another minute on this Berlatsky guy.

— A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blog post —

Am I a Crazy Dylanologist?

Author David Kinney puts it all in perspective.

By Michael Goldberg

I always wondered if I was a bit, well, over the top when it came to Bob Dylan. After all, I’ve been listening to his records since I was 13, and I’m still listening.

Yeah, a long fuckin’ time.

And just this past week I watched D.A. Pennebaker’s addendum to “Don’t Look Back,” a film called “1965 Revisited,” finished up Larry “Ratso” Sloman’s On the Road with Bob Dylan and the Rolling Thunder Review, watched a YouTube clip of Dylan and John Lennon having a very stoned conversation in the back of a cab for the benefit of a cameraman shooting the never released “Eat the Document,” and listened to outtakes from Blood on the Tracks, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde, recordings made when Dylan rehearsed with the Grateful Dead in 1986, mostly unreleased recordings of a 1963 Dylan appearance at Town Hall in New York and, and…

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In my crowd in Marin County in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, I was the one leading our explorations into the new frontiers of rock. I was the first to get into the Mothers of Invention’s Freak Out, and Captain Beefheart’s Safe As Milk. I got my folks to drive me into San Francisco to buy an import copy of Pink Floyd’s trippy The Piper at the Gates of Dawn at the long-gone Gramophone Records on Polk Street. This was when Pink Floyd didn’t have a U.S. record label; when Syd Barrett hadn’t yet blown his mind.

Regards Dylan, I was his #1 fan, at least that’s how I saw it.

Sure the others I hung with dug Dylan, but I was the only one who bought the Great White Wonder bootleg when it showed up in a record store bin, and soon enough I had quite a few Dylan bootlegs, mysterious collections of songs that weren’t on his official releases, each in a white sleeve, usually with the name of the album stamped on the cover with one of those rubber stamps you could get made at a stationary store, typically to stamp your address in the left hand corner of an envelope.

These days we know artists record songs that don’t end up on official releases, and in fact, officially releasing those recordings years after they were made has become business as usual. But in 1969, when Great White Wonder was first released, it was a total shock to discover all this music I’d never heard before by an artist I totally dug. It was as if the world I’d known just fell away and another world was revealed, one with a hell of a lot more Dylan music than I had previously known.

When I got my hands on the supposed ‘Albert Hall’ live set (actually recorded at the Manchester Free Trade Hall as we learned many years later), and played it for the first time, it was the most ecstatic listening experience of my admittedly short life.

So you can understand why I’ve always considered myself obsessive regards Bob Dylan, and worried that there was something, well, extreme, maybe even a bit mental, about my obsession. There was a time — now this is back when I was 15, 16, so please don’t hold it against me — when I wanted so bad to look like Dylan, which I didn’t. (I’ve applied some of my own real Dylan fixation to the fictional character Writerman in my first novel, “True Love Scars,” which I’m publishing in August of this year.)

So I owe David Kinney a big thank-you. His excellent book, “The Dylanologists,” put my concerns to rest. I mean compared to the Dylan freaks profiled in Kinney’s book, I’m an average run-of-the-mill Dylan fan. Yeah, to be a Dylanologist you have to be operating on a whole other level.

Take Bill Pagel, who actually moved to Dylan’s hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota. Pagel spent years trying to buy the Hibbing house Dylan grew up in, and he succeeded in buying the Duluth, Minnesota house where Dylan’s folks, the Zimmermans, lived when Bob was born. Pagel also bought Dylan’s highchair, for God sakes! And a ceramic candy bowl that at one time belonged to Dylan’s grandmother.

Me, I can’t compete with a Bill Pagel.

For the rest of this column, please head to Addicted To Noise.

– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-

Considering the Fate of the ‘Literary Bad Boys’

Two literary bad boys: William Burroughs and Tom Waits. Photo via http://www.tomwaitsfan.com/

It’s one hundred years after William S. Burroughs’ birth. To celebrate, the New York Times has published two intriguing essays regarding what the Times calls the “so-called literary bad boys.”

James Parker writes:

It’s the question every writer faces, every morning of his or her life: Am I Malcolm Gladwell today, or am I Arthur Rimbaud? Do I sit down with my pumpkin latte and start Googling, or do I fire a couple of shots into the ceiling and then stick my head in a bucket of absinthe? Which of these two courses will better serve my art, my agent, my agenda? Old hands are ready with the answer: If you want to stick around, kid, if you want to build your oeuvre, you’ve got to be — in the broadest sense — sober. You’ve got to keep it together. There’s no future in going off the rails. “You go in dutifully, slavishly, and you work,” commanded Norman Mailer, his head-buttings long behind him. “This injunction is wholly anti-romantic in spirit.” But his sternness communicates the strain, does it not, the effort required to suppress the other thing: the room-wrecker, the Shelley inside, the wild buddings of Dionysus.

This is where the literary bad boy lives today, at any rate — in the mind of the writer…

Rivka Galchen writes:

In the seventh grade I admired a charismatic, witty girl who had a particular way of writing her lowercase a’s. After some practice, I took to writing my lowercase a’s in the same fashion. Sometimes we find ourselves emulating a trait that’s merely proximate to something wonderful — you can wear a white suit every day, but it won’t get you any closer to revolutionizing American journalism. Emulating that girl’s charisma or wit would have involved much more work, and trying to think and write like the best of the “literary bad boys” can be near on impossible. The handwriting, or the suit, are manageable.

And I would argue that certain traits we associate with the “literary bad boy” — traits we spend the most time excoriating or lauding, with excoriation and laudation amounting to almost the same thing — are more like the handwriting or the suit than the essential substance. They have little to do with the genuinely countercultural thinking or the intelligently transgressive prose. Instead they are, upon inspection, just the fairly straightforward qualities of persons with more financial or cultural or physical power who exercise that power over people with less. There’s nothing “counter” about that, of course; overpowering in that way implicitly validates things as they are, and implies that this is how they ought to be. So I presume that when we value literary-bad-boy-ness — and there is a lot to value there — those traits wouldn’t be, if we thought about it, the essence of bad-boy-ness; those traits aren’t even distinctive. They’re just trussed-up versions of an unfortunate norm.

Even William Burroughs mocked that idea of a literary bad boy. In his oft quoted short story, “The Lemon Kid,” he wrote: “As a young child Audrey Carsons wanted to be writers because writers were rich and famous. They lounged around Singapore and Rangoon smoking opium in a yellow pongee silk suit. They sniffed cocaine in Mayfair and they penetrated forbidden swamps with a faithful native boy and lived in the native quarter of Tangier smoking hashish and languidly caressing a pet gazelle.” The passage is funny, hyperbolic and also somehow psychologically accurate. Audrey dreams of the trappings of a writer, not of writing. Burroughs’s language illuminates the covert dream within the dream: the moneyed associations of Mayfair and the yellow pongee silk suit, and the de facto purchasing of a person whitewashed into the term “a faithful native boy.” The transgression in the fantasy is revealed to be a self-flattering illusion; the real fantasy, nested inside the manifest one, is the standard and childish desire for dominion….

Read both essays here.

Plus a review of Barry Miles’ “Call Me Burroughs: A Life” here.

-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-

The Modernization of Bruce Springsteen

An artist who was once at one with the times tries (again) to reinvent himself

By Michael Goldberg.

Bruce Springsteen was once a myth, a myth we all could pretend was real. He was a myth the way Bob Dylan was a myth, is a myth.

During the Sixties it stopped being OK to be an entertainer. Musicians got onstage wearing the same jeans and t-shirts they wore around the house. It was cool to keep it real. But it turned out that the jeans and t-shirts were as much a costume as Elvis’ crazy stage garb.

So when Bruce Springsteen showed up in the early ‘70s with his leather jacket, his jeans and his motorcycle boots singing about the Jersey shore – one of the ‘New Dylan’s’ that were appearing with frequency — we wanted to believe it was real.

And I did believe it.

I didn’t think of Springsteen as a writer creating a persona, a cast of characters and a story that was ultimately spread across seven albums. I thought he was the guy singing stories from his crazy youth: ‘Rosalita’ and ‘Mary Queen of Arkansas’ and ‘Blinded By The Light’ and ‘Thunder Road’ and ‘Born To Run’ and all the others. Sure he was writing in an almost embarrassingly derivative style that owed everything to Dylan’s mid-60s surrealistic word games, but Springsteen pulled it off. And by 1973 the real Dylan seemed to be losing his luster anyway. (And soon enough Springsteen settled into his own voice and sound.)

I found a version of myself in Springsteen’s songs. When he sang in ‘Thunder Road,’ “It’s a town full of losers, I’m pulling out of here to win,” I knew that was me. Fuck yeah, I was going to become a successful writer, write for the New York magazines, leave all the chumps I’d put up with in high school and college behind.

Sure I was working as a copy boy at the San Francisco Chronicle in 1975, but that was gonna change. That was temporary, a way to pay the bills until I broke into the writing business.

In the late fall of 1975, two months after the release of Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen toured the west coast. There were five of us loaded into Karen’s car the night of October 29, 1975, Our destination was the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium in downtown Sacramento, the state capital, a two-hour drive north east of San Francisco. Two hours? We didn’t care. I mean this was our chance to see Bruce Springsteen!

In the car were me, my girlfriend Leslie, my best friend Dave, Dave’s girlfriend Karen and another friend, Dana, who co-led a band with Dave. Springsteen was also playing at the Paramount Theater in Oakland, but that show was sold out, and anyway, there was something romantic, Springsteenesque even, about driving two hours in the early evening to Sacramento, a town seeming stuck in the past. The Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, after all, had been built in 1926, and it looked it. It was like time-traveling when you passed through the front doors – it’s one of those grand old theaters.

For the rest of this column, head to Addicted To Noise.

Ten Reasons Why I Didn’t Watch the Grammy Awards

Should have gotten album of the year award.

1 The Grammys has always been a joke. The artists that record albums and songs that I listen to rarely get an award.

2 I don’t care about Lorde or Justin Timberlake or even Bruno Mars (you can hear the sarcasm, right?).

3 Even if Neil Young had gotten the best rock album award, it would have been for Psychedelic Pill.

4 I don’t need to see Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr perform in 2014. 1964, yes, 2014, nope.

5 Ariel Rechtshaid, who deserved the producer of the year award, naturally didn’t get it. The year he produces a Billy Joel album, maybe he’ll get it.

6 I don’t need to see Trent Rezner, Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl and Lindsey Buckingham perform together or solo in 2014.

7 Bob Dylan’s Another Self Portrait, one of the best albums released last year, didn’t get a Grammy.

8 Savages wasn’t one of the performers; Silence Yourself didn’t win an award.

9 Kim Gordon and Bill Nace didn’t perform and didn’t get a Grammy for their amazing Body/Head album, Coming Apart.

10 Enough already. (Plus they’ve always sucked in the past.)

-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-

50 Years Too Late, the New York Times Wonders if Bob Dylan is a Poet

The headline in today’s New York Times: “Bob Dylan: Musician or poet?”

I’m always happy to see Dylan written about in the New York Times. They’re no johnny-come-lately as supporters of Bob Dylan.

It was their music critic Robert Shelton who gave Dylan his first serious, high-profile review, following a performance at Gerdes Folk City in the Village, September 26, 1961.

Still, here at the end of 2013, do we really have to ask? Is Bob Dylan a poet? Would the New York Times run an essay today titled “Was Einstein a genius? Well maybe, possibly.

I guess the question bothers me because it seemed so obvious from the start. I always thought Dylan was a poet. And a rock star. And a singer. And a musician. And he was damn funny too.

I first heard Bob Dylan on the radio singing “Like a Rolling Stone” in 1965 and it knocked me sideways, it was listening to one of Picasso’s cubist masterpieces, sent me right into some other world. I was 12 years old. When I bought Highway 61 Revisited, once I got past looking at the amazing cover photo, there was a lengthy piece of writing by Dylan that was clearly (to me) a poem.

Soon enough, by the time I was 13, I was reading Ferlinghetti’s “A Coney Island of the Mind” and e. e. cummings’ “a selection of poems” and Ginsberg’s “Howl.” If “Howl” was a poem, why not “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” or “Bob Dylan’s Dream” or “Desolation Row”?

We really don’t need the Times asking if Dylan is a poet 50 years too late.

Still, both essays in today’s Times — by Francine Prose and Dana Stevens — are worth reading (and are well written), but not because you need anyone to tell you whether or not Bob Dylan is a poet. You don’t need a weatherman, To know which way the wind blows.

Check the essays out here.

Allen Ginsberg on Dylan as poet:

John Corigliano – “Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan”:

Greil Marcus talks with composers John Corigliano and Howard Fishman at the CUNY Graduate Center about their respective projects based around the works of Bob Dylan. September 17, 2009:

– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-