Saturday, November 22, 2008



Almost two years ago to the day (11-20-06), Dylan closed out his initial Modern Times tour with a barnburner of a performance in Midtown at the New York City Center on a seasonably warm evening. It was windy and chilly on this occasion as I left work and boarded an A Train for Washington Heights and the United Palace Theatre. This renovated theatre also serves as a place of worship for Rev. Ike’s Church, so Dylan opened with “Gotta Serve Somebody.” Bob hadn’t played that in awhile. It sounded great as Dylan stood and delivered from center stage swiping in nifty harmonica licks between lines. A few songs later, Bob sang, “This is a day only the Lord can make,” as he concluded “When the Levee Breaks.” What a version! Hellfire blues, lean and mean.

“The Times They Are-A-Changin” and “Things Have Changed” sizzled in the second and fifth spots respectfully – awesome songs to contemplate as I swayed in my third row dead center loge seat. I was locked in tight and out of range as I pounded tap beer in my dark blue business suit, I was dressed like a member of the Cowboy Band. With the economy disastrously freefalling, anthems like “It’s Alright Ma” were more relevant than ever before –“Money doesn’t Talk it swears…Even the President of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked.” Good luck Obama, you’re gonna need some help from the Lord above. Dylan looked out into the crowd truculent as a rooster and howled, “He not busy being born is busy dying.” I’ve seen a lot of versions of this song over the years, but none were as powerful or as electrifying as this one. As one would certainly expect, “Desolation Row” was a thrill to witness, though it started out a little choppy. Dylan’s organ playing was magnificent here, fascinating stuff; nobody is on this guy’s wavelength, though the Cowboy Band does a magnificent job following along. This was a great night for the band. Surprising the faithful with “Tomorrow is a Long Time” in the fourth spot, Dylan had unleashed a supreme concert through the first half.

After spoiling us with lobster medallions, Dylan served cheese puffs for the next five songs. I’m quite fond of “Beyond the Horizon,” but Dylan has yet to nail it in concert. The musical arrangement was fetching, but his vocal cadence was way off. “Make You Feel My Love” had a great harp finale. “Spirit on the Water” was well played and received, but it was the fifth consecutive uninspiring selection. However, everybody was happy. Much ganja filled the air. There were no lines for fresh tap beer or the restrooms. Seeing a concert at this venue is a pleasure you must experience.

Bob stripped all the meat off the carcass with a curt “Highway 61,” knives scraped against bone. Recile was a beast pounding the percussions wildly. Tenacious rock-and-roll thundered through the palace, 67 year-old Bob Dylan had conquered NYC all over again. As the crowd went bananas, Dylan shuffled out from behind the organ, looked at Garnier, looked at the crowd, and then raised his arm and began to fidget around with the back of his neck behind his top hat. He looked like a pitcher in search of a foreign substance for the purpose of doctoring a spitball. We were back on track. Dylan performed “Ain’t Talkin” with visceral preacher-like charisma –“They say prayer has the power to heal so pray for the mother.” The band crisply played four unique and succinct solos. An incredible masterpiece was painted at the theatre. Dylan’s vocals were exuberant during “Thunder on the Mountain” and he dished out an extended organ instrumental. The three-song encore consisted of the usual culprits with extra zest. That “Watchtower” was positively wacky and the crowd adored Dylan’s guitar solo during “Blowin in the Wind.” Dylan’s still leaving a greasy trail, so I’ll be back for many more in 2009. "The world of research has gone berserk"

Thursday, November 20, 2008




It was a glorious road trip to Oneonta. I enjoyed the two hour bus ride from the Port Authority to Kingston while listening to Tell Tale Signs. After checking into a forlorn Super 8, my long-time friends King and Blaze picked me up for the last leg of the journey. Sticks, deer, a mountain and ninety miles of road headed west were all that separated us from Oneonta. It was a cool crisp autumn eve. We listened to Tell Tale Signs all the way – “Some of us turn off the lights and we lay off/ In the moonlight shooting by/ Some of us scare are selves to death in the dark/ To be where the angels fly/ Pretty maids all in a row lined up/ Outside my cabin door/ I never wanted any of them wanting me/ Except the girl from the Red River Shore.”

The Alumni Field House at SUNY Oneonta was quaint, smaller than it sounds. The basketball backboards were raised to the low-lying rafters and the concessions consisted of bottled water for $1. They took our tickets from us and put them in a yellow sack and returned them after the show instead of giving us stubs. I’m not sure what that was all about. Dylan set the tone by opening with “The Wicked Messenger.” Getting up front was a hassle-free experience and the music was thundering. Under dim lighting, Bob looked dashing in a black suit with matching silver medallions, gold tie and white top hat.

Bob slipped out from behind his organ for a stroll to center stage on “It Ain’t Me Babe.” He side saddled by the microphone twisting to his right. Between singing lines, he added some tasty harp licks, circa 1966. His gesturing and posturing was fascinating all evening. Garnier’s bass was blasting my brain during “Levee Breaks.” Dylan taunted the college kids singing, “I was so much older than/ I’m younger than that now.” Donnie’s banjo sounded great on a brilliantly rearranged “High Water.” Near the end of each verse, the Cowboy band switched gears from thrashing blues to a feel good ragtime sound – the world of American music has gone berserk.

Dylan’s Wolfman howl worked over my eardrums as he shuffled to center stage for “Stuck Inside of Mobile.” Somebody yelled out, “Hey Dylan, eat some soup.” We were swimming in a sea of organ as Dylan chastised us with “Ballad of a Thin Man.” His organ playing was infectious, marching to its own beat. He also treated us to one of his patented and repetitive two note harp solos. It never grows old, only keeps getting better. The rock and roll bombardment continued on “Honest with Me”, “Tweedle Dee”, and “Highway 61.” Stu’s playing more leads than I can ever recall, it mixed in nicely with Denny’s jazzy touches. The Field House was dark during Tweedle, as Dylan was orating/ lead-singing – at times he looked like he was balancing himself on a surf board; then he looked like he was trying out for the lead role in West Side Story. There was a lot of finger pointing and gesturing to the audience. “Tweedle” was powerful and wonderfully strange.

The highpoints of the show were the slower numbers from Modern Times. “Workingman’s Blues # 2” was immense – booming vocals with chilling poignancy against a delightful arrangement. There’s nothing wrong with living on rice and beans. His vocal inflections and word play on “When the Deal Goes Done” and “Nettie Moore” was gripping. Denny really added some creative touches pulling out those Wes Montgomery – Grant Green like riffs. Bob was extremely animated during his vocal presentation of “Like a Rolling Stone.” He laughed into the microphone several times, as well as laughing in Donnie’s direction. Dylan further riled-up the crowd by playing a Gibson Guitar that was thrice his size during “Blowin in the Wind.” The crowd was pleasant, but not the type of crowd you would expect to whip Dylan into a frenzy. Whatever the reason, Dylan had IT going on in Oneonta, New York – a small old-time railroading town with two colleges, a Minor League stadium for young Yankees working their way towards the Majors, and the Soccer Hall of Fame. It was another new stop for the Bob Dylan Show, in its 20th year – one of its most innovative, strangest and finest years. Here’s to the next twenty. "I say it so it must be so"

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bad News for Joe the Plumber


It was a performance dominated by anthems that changed American culture. Revisiting his old school, University of Minnesota, Dylan played “The Times They Are-A-Changin,” “Masters of War,” “It’s Alright Ma,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” and “Blowin in the Wind. ” Walking out into the lobby of Northrop Auditorium after the show, there was a thunderous roar, females were hysterically screaming. Initially I thought Tony Garnier had been spotted in the lobby, but everybody was reacting to the scoreboard on the big screen: Obama 297 Mc Cain 130. It was bad news for Joe the Plumber, but fantastic news for Obama, Dylan, all the young liberals on campus and yours truly. A poignant celebration broke out in front of the Auditorium. This was the place to be – a crowd touched by Dylan’s desire celebrating on Obama’s historic night.

Around noon time, I was kicking around in Bob’s old crib – second floor of what was Gray’s drugstore in Dinkytown. Dylan spent some time up there reading Woody Guthrie’s Bound for Glory in 1960. It was an unseasonable warm and glorious day, t-shirt weather. Gray’s is now Loring Pasta Bar, a nice place to woof down lunch. I had a few beers and a yellow fin tuna sandwich topped off with a jalapeno laced pickle. This was a historic day; Dylan’s first major concert took place on 11-4-61 at Carnegie Hall. I was born on 11-4-63.

There was a popping instrumental, but Dylan lyrically butchered “Cat’s in the Well.” The crowd went ballistic when they realized “The Times They Are-A-Changin” was second. His fellow Minnesotans were boisterous all night. Dylan offered up a pair of harp solos and went for a stroll to the center of the stage on solo #2. I liked Summer Days in the third spot, but only Dylan jammed on organ during the instrumental. It’s weird, there are these two guys in suits and top hats, Denny Freeman and Stu Kimball, who used to rock solos, but now their lack of contribution is staggering. Bob needs to free them up to play, or sack them.

During “This Wheel’s on Fire,” Dylan emerged from behind his organ and shuffled around the stage like a motivational speaker as he sang. He then placed the microphone on stand, continuing to sing, now motioning with his hands like a flight attendant reviewing safety procedures. A few Rockettes style kicks were thrown in for good measure. The next song started off like the Barney Miller TV theme, no wait a second, it sounded like “Chain Lightning” by Steely Dan, but I realized Dylan’s garbled words were “Tangled Up In Blue.” Yikes, this really didn’t work out too well. Two songs later, the reworking of “Stuck Inside of Mobile fared much better, though Dylan mangled and flat out blew several lines.

“Masters of War” was excellent, and with the inclusion of an eerie “John Brown,” this performance had the feel of a final parting shot at the Bush regime. Musically, the concert was a little ragged, Dylan never really got on a magical roll, though his organ playing was excellent and dominating the sound. “Shooting Star” was a great choice for his return to Minnesota: “Seen a shooting star tonight and I thought of me. Was I still the same did I ever became what you wanted me to be.” A black backdrop with stars appeared, created for this exact moment in the show, I suppose. Dylan started the song playing keys and then strapped on his electric guitar for the final verse. Huge roar; that was the extent of the guitar experiment. A late “Under the Red Sky” was another nice call, loosening-up the mood. I love “Thunder on the Mountain,” but the lack of Freeman’s guitar was disappointing.

“Ain’t Talkin” was a great way to wrap the set up. In his black pants with the singular red stripe running vertically and grey top hat, Dylan barked out his masterpiece with gritty determination. It was a wonderfully strange show. “Like a Rolling Stone” was necessary, as always. Dylan wailed a great harp solo to the crowd’s delight. It was a spot usually reserved for Freeman, who is quickly joining Stu Kimball and Stephen Marbury on the bench. Oh well, Tony and George are still cranking and Donnie’s happily hanging in. Before “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Dylan said something like, “I was born around the time of Pearl Harbor, I’ve seen some darkness, but I think things are beginning to change.” After thrilling the crowd with the final encore, the hometown hero, came to the front of the stage with his Cowboy Band lined up like statues behind him. He was giddy, smiling at the rowdy audience. He raised his arms upwards in a curling motion, holding them there suspended, palms stretched outwards as he swaggered to the left and shuffled to the right. I give all this to you, the good people of Minneapolis. Watching Dylan receive his admirers was worth the price of admission. We filed into the lobby and looked up at the screen. An African American man was elected President of the United States and the all white crowd broke into an hour of spontaneous celebration.

Saturday, August 23, 2008



Sparse gray trails of burning incense filled the air in front of the purple drapes. Like lonely wallflowers, an assorted array of instruments awaited the arrival of Dylan and his Cowboy Band. Bob was in his house, the Borgata Resort and Spa Casino Event Center, the site of inspirational and creative Dylan performances each of the last three summers. The venue lacks historic significance, maybe that’s why Dylan has thrived here. The quintessential time-traveling minstrel/ ambassador, Dylan effortlessly weaves America’s musical past from the 19th and 20th centuries into the here and now. I was taking in the ambiance prior to what I knew would be another scintillating evening at the Borgata. What is it about this place?

Nightgowns and jewelry sparkled and glittered, drawing attention away from the sagging wrinkled skin and receding hair lines of the affluent baby boomers filing into their seats. A column of speakers hung from the rafters, in front of each side of the stage, like rattlesnakes frozen in time, poised to strike. Square lights were lined up, Xs and Os on a tic-tac-toe board within wooden paneling. Projectors beamed rainbow-colored geometrical patterns upon powder-blue drapes next to the side entrances. Five circular cranberry contraptions dangled down from the ceiling like silicone-filled mammary glands. The Events Center was spacious and serene - modern elegance with a relaxed vibe. Dylan’s predilection for the swank Borgata is understandable, especially in the filthy/ scummy/putrid monopoly rat cage that is Atlantic City, N.J.

“Watching the River Flow” was the commencement to an evening of raging twists and turns. “Mr. Tambourine Man” made his presence known for the first time in two years. Those expecting anything resembling the sensual/poetic jingle from 1965 were in for quite a jolt, the time had come to eat or be eaten. Dylan bellowed his magical words in a deep harrowing howl that echoed through the night with the madness of an Edgar Allan Poe vision. Dylan twisted and mangled his masterpiece, yet it was vibrant and irresistible, “Quoth the raven nevermore.”
“Things Have Changed” and “Mississippi” followed; two of the great compositions of the last ten years. They were Tell Tale Signs that Dylan was and is inspired. I was enamored with Bob’s wildness during “Mississippi;” he shouted and growled while hurling himself at the organ. Dylan was in gonzo mode, there was no looking back.

Though I prefer stronger material, “Make you Feel My Love” was performed with incredible tenderness - the ladies were swooning. “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” was shot out-of-a cannon as the Cowboy Band sizzled. The band mistakenly (???) tried to end the song prematurely, but Dylan played through the mishap, refusing to let the song sink - every word must be heard.
“Visions of Johanna” was immense, at this point, the only surprise would have been complacency. The Maestro encouraged the band to wander, turning Johanna into a gripping improvisational piece. The creativity of the jams nearly matched the lyrical brilliance. Dylan broke out his entire arsenal of vocal chicanery - strange incantations, offbeat cadence, up-singing, barking, etc. The poet and preacher poured from his soul.

I eventually pulled myself away from this absorbing performance for a pit stop during “Honest With Me.” I refueled with a beer and a shot, and left a few brews in the urinal. My timing was impeccable, I bumped into a friend who had tickets up front; she invited me into the fourth row where there were some unoccupied seats. I was now standing in the Lion’s Den, part of the Cowboy Band circle, close enough to casually be tossing a pigskin with The Man. He looked in my direction, first toss, “Lenny Bruce.”

It’s been awhile since Dylan served up the underappreciated Mr. Bruce (I believe the last time was back in San Francisco on 10-18-06). Empathizing with Lenny’s struggles, this ballad is Dylanesque to the bone. Lenny Bruce was an outlaw just like “The Man in the Long Black Coat,” “”Pretty Boy Floyd,” “Black Jack Davey” or Bobby Zimmerman. There was a twinkle to Dylan’s nearly shut eyes as he swayed slowly and laterally while plucking his sleek keyboard. A smug smirk was evident when he sang, “I rode with him, in a taxi once, only for a couple of hours, but it seemed like it took a couple of months.” Dylan was in rare form, disturbing the peace like never before, just because he can.

“Highway 61 Revisited” in the thirteenth slot was the first predictable happening of the night, but beloved by all. Overplayed staples omitted from this concert included; “Spirit on the Water” (thank you Sweet Jesus), “Summer Days” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” It was remarkable that Bob had not played anything from Modern Times until he mesmerized the Borgata people with a scathing “Ain’t Tallkin”. After the grandiose finale to his epic, Dylan shuffled to center stage and waved his right arm to the heavens, calling for rain. Following their fearless leader, the Cowboy Band loped into the majestic fanfare beginning of “Thunder on the Mountain.” Absolutely Brilliant! It was the first time these songs were paired - the best combo to end a set. Ever. Where does he come up with these ideas? Hearing those instrumental interludes signaling the ending and beginning of Modern Times in succession was overwhelming. Garnier and Recile were ecstatic; smiles a mile high as they pounded the foundation of another Thunderous Mountain. After all the years the bassist and drummer have played with Dylan, and all the years I’ve had the pleasure of listening in, we were still in awe.

Friday, August 15, 2008



Although I’ve been trapped in the heart of Manhattan for the past twelve years, the hog-eyed borough of Brooklyn was as mysterious to me as Lewiston, Maine or Mexico City. After exiting the F Train by Prospect Park with everyday commuters, I stopped off for refreshments at a tiny bistro. In the garden, beneath a caravan tent, the waitress poured a FROTHYBrooklyn Lager for me while fondling my upper torso. Greek music and incense filled the air as the scraping of cutlery against plates was offset by birds chirping in stereo. A grey tabby proudly displayed his furry white belly for the patrons, then suddenly whacked a pebble and chased it down the cellar steps. I had to extricate myself from this charming backyard Brooklyn scenery and figure out how I was going to get into Dylan’s sold out performance at Prospect Park.

As evening sky grew dark, I was struck with the realization that my mission was futile. I wasn’t able to find a reasonably priced ticket or scam my way in, so I joined thousands of Brooklynites who were content squatting or milling about the bandshell perimeter. Any view of Dylan or the stage was completely obstructed, and from my vantage point I could hear the music, but it wasn’t loud enough to get off on. I sulked during spotty performances of Rainy Day Women and Lay Lady Lay. A generic set list ensued. Dylan shuffled out the wonton soup, egg rolls, chicken and broccoli, pork fried rice, orange slices and fortune cookie like so many times before. On the grassy knoll, I sat amongst those spread out on blankets. Lonesome Day Blues was apropos for my situation, and well played. Dylan and the band really laid into a fiery offering of When the Levee Breaks. However, an obnoxious Bensonhurst couple bickered non-stop right behind me. They were unhappy with the concert series, Dylan, each other; they were born pissed off. A sullen-faced brown dog sidled-up by my side and licked my face for a minute or so. “Bones come here, I’m so sorry,” exclaimed the embarrassed dog owner. I was fond of Bones, but I decided to relocate.

Sandwiching the next segment with the old timey swinging ping pong waltzes Spirit on the Water and Behind the Horizon, the concert felt like a summer’s eve on the Coney Island Boardwalk, circa 1941. Picnickers, dog walkers and curiosity seekers peacefully paraded around the perimeter of the bandshell. In my line of vision was a poster promoting Issac Hayes’s July performance at Prospect Park - one of his last. R.I.P. Shaft! “You know you hurt me, you gave it to me, you socked it me mama, when you said goodbye, oh mama, walk on by.” Highway 61 Revisited was muscular; you could hear Stu’s guitar squeal and screech. Netitie Moore was cathartic. I needed to be closer to the Cowboy Band. Summer Days grooved - an amalgamation of all of Dylan’s vocal and musical stylings on this night. With Russian bombs raining down on former Soviet soil, Dylan’s performance of Masters of War was wicked. Resumption of the Cold War loomed in the air, but It’s Alright Ma, it’s life and life only.

Better tardy than not at all, I found out where the cool kids were chillin to Dylan. Up on the hill where the asphalt cuts through the greenery, and the bicyclists and hipsters hang, the music was thundering. The hypnotic flashing neon lights of the NYPD mini jeeps effortlessly danced amidst the towering pines beneath the egg white omelet moon. I should have been in this spot all night. Dylan was deep inside Like a Rolling Stone, 20,000 New Yorkers were in awe, and I was at one with the universe. Thunder on the Mountain was out of control, everything exploded from its essence. Blowin in the Wind was anti-climatic after that one-two punch, but Sweet Jesus, we were in the park, with the Maestro, on a sweatless, starless night in a City Park. Saturday Night at the Borgota beckons.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008


................................................My first college house, New Paltz..................................Dylan's childhood home, Hibbing

MY OLD SCHOOL (Guadalajara wont do)

After enduring Memorial Day Weekend traffic on my way to New Paltz, I hopped off the bus and headed straight to China House. Everything remained the same: same white triangle-framed house; same tiny sign with red lettering that reads – CHINA HOUSE, same waitress. The carpets haven’t been shampooed since I first ate here twenty years ago, and it’s still two-star cuisine featuring mystery meats. The only change over the years was a sign that was put in the window about seven years earlier: “GOOD NEWS: WE HAVE BROWN RICE.” Yes, that’s fantastic news, welcome to the new Millennium.

I tried to recall some of my hazy college days when I went to SUNY New Paltz. I lived in a light blue house where I terrorized my neighbors with a constant barrage of Dylan and Garcia. This house, strikes a resemblance to Dylan’s childhood home in Hibbing (see above). Today is Dylan’s birthday

It was a lush spring afternoon in Ulster County: seventy degrees, partly sunny skies, billowing clouds, a steady breeze rustled the leaves of the trees in the valley. I celebrated Bob’s sixty-seventh birthday by woofing down three chicken tacos and washing it down with several pints of Hoegaarden at Bacchus – a dark musty bar with billiards, hippies, decent food and over 400 varieties of beer. I could wreak substantial havoc if I were to be locked in their beer cellar/ cooler overnight. When I was a student, I spent more time at Bacchus than I did on campus.

I resided in and around New Paltz for ten years – a decade of my life blew by like a puff of wind. Somehow, the Huguenots found New Paltz in 1678 and built stone houses that still stand today. I paid a visit to Huguenot Street, the oldest continuously inhabited neighborhood in the U.S. with the possible exception being some areas that are still inhabited by Native Americans. After my historic stroll, I pulled up to the banks of the Wallkill River and watched her flow.

I lined up the I Tunes for Blaise’s 40th birthday party at his Mom’s house somewhere in the sticks of New Paltz. His family is originally Woodstock – they all dig Dylan. I started the evening off with “Thunder on the Mountain,” and encored with “Huck’s Tune” (“When I kiss your lips, the honey drips”) at 4 AM. After catching a nap on the porch, I watched the rising sun return. I also saw deer, blue jays, robins, and a woodpecker doing his thing – impressive sights for a city boy.

Sunday, May 18, 2008



An alarm clock shakes you awake from the thick of strange dreams at 5:30 AM. You gather what you need for your trip to Lewiston, Maine and stuff it in a backpack. Manhattan is quiet except for the yellow taxis rushing the changing traffic lights – you flag one down and tell the driver that the destination is Penn Station.
On a train bound for Boston, you think about the good times you’ve had in Maine, especially that trip to Oxford when you were part of an invasion force of 100,000 Deadheads in town to see a pair of Grateful Dead concerts on Independence Day weekend in 1988. You blew off the second concert because you found out Dylan was playing at a Minor League Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach. You convinced your friend Perry to leave the Dead behind and join you. It was a prudent decision. With G.E Smith by his side, Dylan rampaged through an eighty minute set –something was born. You didn’t realize it at the time, but it was the first leg of Dylan’s Never Ending Tour. The Grateful Dead played their last show thirteen years ago (Jerry RIP), but Dylan’s still on the road, sounding better than he did twenty years ago. Dylan will be performing for you in Lewiston, tonight!

Drifting in and out of sleep, Hank Williams is yodeling in your headphones as you honky-tonk past Providence. After hopping on a Greyhound headed for Lewiston, you know three things happened there: 1) On May 25, 1965, Ali knocked out Sonny Liston in the first round of the weirdest Heavyweight Championship boxing match in history; 2) The Grateful Dead played at the State Fairgrounds on September 6, 1980, unleashing a thirteen song first set featuring a blazing “Sugaree;” 3) Your favorite periodical, The Farmer’s Almanac, gets published there. As the bus turns on to the quaint main drag of Lewiston, you notice there’s a store called Zimmie’s, and a few feet down the road there’s a bar called She Doesn’t Like Guthries. Enjoying the pleasant spring weather and sipping iced-coffee at the Bon Bon CafĂ© while in the company of attractive hippie girls, you remember why you’re drawn to arcane Maine.

At Chick-A-Dee’s, a twin lobster feast with two Shipyard Export Ales and a Glenlivet on the rocks only costs $47.95. Feeling omnipotent, you make a donation to the Lewiston Little League team, dropping three dollars in the collection bucket. A taxi takes you to the see Dylan at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee which was formally known as the Central Maine Civic Center. When Ali delivered his “Phantom Punch,” this venue was simply known as St. Dominick’s. Whatever you call it, it’s nothing more than a banal high school hockey rink with limited seating, exactly the type of place you love seeing Dylan at. The beer lines are long, you feel obliged to grab two.

Leaning up against the corner of the stage, on the extreme far left side, Dylan’s looking at you as he surprises by opening with “Watching the River Flow.” You can only see Dylan; the black equipment cases in front of you block out the Cowboy Band. Perched behind his organ, Dylan’s a sheet of black from his top hat to shoes. He’s really digging deep and growling viscerally during “Lay Lady Lay.” Sweet looking ladies surround you, apparently this is where the groupies hang, vying to get into Dylan’s big brass bed. Between two romping blues remakes, Dylan delivers a delectable “Shelter From the Storm,” that’s unlike anything you’ve heard before, complete with a harp solo that flutters. The Cowboy Band sounds tight as they shine the light on the maestro.

It’s masterpiece theatre - Dylan breaks into “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.” The musical backing is sparse and spooky as the words ricochet off the brick walls and low-lying rafters dangling overhead. This is incredible. Looking at the centrally located soundboard, you wonder if that’s where Ali took out Liston with that short choppy right in round one. Imagine the intensity in this building that night. Malcom X had been assassinated three months earlier; there were death threats to both fighters. The year was 1965; Ali and Dylan were two young men changing American society with their creative powers.

The hard charging beat of “Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum” emerges. Dylan zaps you into the 21st century with the opening number from Love & Theft, the CD you bought at the Nobody Beats The Wiz in the Garment District, on the morning of 9/11. The place is reeling and rocking, but Dylan suddenly motions for the band to abort the song halfway through. Alright, it’s time for track two of L&T, “Mississippi.” Is this really happening? It’s a mysterious dream. Dylan’s a howlin’ and growlin’ one of his modern day masterpieces, plinking ring tones on his keys. It’s a funky, shuffling arrangement with a distinct country & western twang. You’re ecstatic, you last saw “Mississippi” at the Beacon Theatre on Friday, April 28, 2005.

“Highway 61 Revisited” roars by, full throttle, as the band rattles this dinky rink in the middle of nowhere. You’re seduced by the serene and hypnotic beginning to “Workingman’s Blues #2.” Dylan sings, it’s poignant, yet the words sound like they are being barked out by a motivational speaker. It works. The eleventh song of the evening is another 1965 classic, “It’s Alright Ma,” in a new spot in the rotation. Disorientation sets in. You go score a brew, and leave a few brews in the urinal. “Spirit on the Water” follows, so you decide to get some chicken fingers and strike-up clever conversation with the girl who sold them to you before returning to the ceremony. The thirteenth song is “Ballad of Hollis Brown.” Everything is beautifully out of whack and surreal.

You relocate. You’re dancing and shuffling in Ali’s footsteps, in the center of the ring as the Cowboy Band explodes on “Summer Days.” Dylan boasts, “You can't repeat the past. I say, You can't? What do you mean, you can't? Of course you can.” Garnier and Recile grin and smirk confidently as they manipulate the tempo. Dylan jabs at his keys offbeat, hitting the wrong notes at the right time, just like a jazz master. Freemen and Herron are plucking leads; Stu’s doing his thing. It’s old-time swing music in a dance hall – Looney Tunes with cat and mouse professionalism. You howl in disbelief when you realize “Ain’t Talkin” is the final statement of the set – a dark apocalyptic epic for the finale. The preacher sounds incredible; acquire the tape, you must.

The Dylan eye logo banner drops, everybody gets up and prances around to “Thunder on the Mountain.” You’re awed by Dylan’s new classics and how well they stand up along side his 60’s anthems. “The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind,” he sings; there’s a harp solo; the lights go out; he remerges in front of the stage with his Cowboy band; briefly accepts applause, and then Dylan disappears into the darkness.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Visions of Dylan # 9...4-28-08

A New Visions of Dylan Radio Show this Monday 4-28-08...9-11 PM

WBAI 99.5 FM New York


Theme: Dylan in Hollywood
Dylan songs in movies and TV...rare tracks

Bob Dylan
Jerry Garcia Band
Jack Fate
Jimmy Hendrix
Billy Parker

Friday, February 29, 2008

Revolution in The Air 2-27-08


One of the goals of my three day trip to Mexico City was to avoid a nasty stomach illness. I did well, in large part due to the Manhattan Deli.I feasted on turkeys slices and lox. Prior to Dylan's second performance, I was enjoying multiple margaritas (two for one happy hour), until I noticed a disturbance outside. Across the divide of the main road that cuts through the business district of the city, I noticed a sizeable gathering of protesters waving red flags. Their leader’s face was covered with a black scarf as he stood on top of a van with a mega phone barking out orders in Spanish. And the roar of thousands of rebels filled the air in response to the Big Cheese. I only know about ten words in Spanish, so this scene was a little unsettling.

Two dozen Policia in full riot gear were about 7 yards northwest of the entrance to the Manhattan Deli. They were crouched behind a 25 foot fence/ barricade, ready for action and retaliation. Maybe I should mention that the deli is located to the left of the American Embassy which is fortified with multiple fences and barricades, but with the right trajectory, a Molotov cocktail could have pierced through the front plate glass window sending employees, business executives, and one cat that was there just to see a Cowboy Band into a mad scramble for survival. For a few minutes, I felt like I was experiencing the movie Masked & Anonymous in real time. The margaritas eased my head and eventually the rebels peacefully paraded down the road due south. I paraded up the road north to the Auditorio Nacional to see the star of Masked & Anonymous, Jack Fate aka Bob Dylan.

Dylan sang love's praises during the three opening numbers before thrilling me with “Love Sick.” “I’m sick of love,” bam bang,”I wish I never met you,” bam/ bang, “I’m sick of love,” bam bang, “I’m trying to forget you.” Other highlights included “Rolled and Tumbled,” “My Back Pages,” “Ain’t Talkin,” “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Thunder on the Mountain.” Rolling Stone and Thunder were tour de force – pure ecstasy for Mexico. The venue was half filled on the second night which was fantastic for me. I freely roamed around enjoying the show from up close and personal vantage points. Dylan delivered another inspired performance in spite of the lackluster turnout.

That opening night was Something. Full color photos graced the front pages of two Mexico City daily newspapers. In bold letters, the Reforma proclaimed: Gracias Dylan! The crowds on both nights seemed genuinely thrilled with Dylan’s outings. Between scaling a pyramid, walking on historic sites, being in the thick of an almost violent protest and seeing two more great Dylan concerts, it was a helluva 48 hour rendezvous. Oh yeah, on Wednesday, I saw rhythm guitarist Stu Kimball (black porkpie hat and cranberry blazer) getting an afternoon shoeshine in front of the Sheraton Hotel. I smiled and waved to him, and he said, “Hey, what’s up man.” I was going to strike up a conversation with him, but I figured it was best not to disturb a giant while he's getting a shoeshine. There’s a heartwarming end for this final installment of Tales of Mexico City 2008.

Tangled Up in Tunes: Ballad of a Dylanhead is available in paperback and Kindle at

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Modern Times In Ancient Land

Tales From Mexico City 2008

It was a day only the Lord and Dylan could make. I had an action-packed 12 hours: climbed to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun – part of the colossal remnants from the archeological city of Teotihuacan dating back 2,000 years, stepped inside churches built in Mexico City during the early 16th Century, and saw a Cowboy Band ransack the most populated city in North America located in the gut of Mexico.
I purchased an inexpensive ticket for 275 pesos (about $25) for this performance at the Auditorio Nacional. My frugality landed me a less than desirable seat in the rafters and my second monumental climb of the day. I realized the folly of my ways and went to the hospitality desk to ask if I could upgrade my ticket. I knew this 14,000 seat venue didn’t sell out. A lovely Mexican maiden who spoke good English surrendered to my charms and handed me a third row, dead center ticket in the lower balcony for free. Dylan sounded great on guitar and vocals on a well executed “Raniny Day Women #12 + 35” and “It Ain’t Me Babe” opening.

All early reports about how tight the band has been this tour were validated with a resounding “Watching the River Flow.” That song seems to capture the pulse of the people of Mexico City. Maybe it was because my bewildered brain baked in the sun all day, but the ensuing “Masters of War” had me thinking about Mexican history. The United States has been the reigning Mater of War since its birth, but Mexico has experienced the ravages of war more than any other place in our hemisphere. Dylan led the charge perched behind his beloved keys; Austin’s Denny Freeman played some dazzling guitar solos.

Dylan was wearing a suit of black and a white top hat with a touch of grey, his Cowboy Band was in matching grey suits and black hats. Dylan popped the cork on a lethal “When the Levee Breaks.” “Some people on the road carrying everything that they own/ Some people got barely enough skin to cover their bones/ Put on your cat clothes mama put on your evening dress,” exalted the maestro. As our fearless leader provoked the third blitzing instrumental with some chunky organ riffs, he yelled, “Oh!” The Cowboy Band was led by the plucking of the Denny/Donnie combo, and the restless thumping of Garnier and Recile. Dylan ended matters by howling, “This is a day only the Lord, only the Lord can make!” Checkmate.

A reality check followed in a well received, yet anticlimactic “Spirit on the Water.” "Things Have Changed" was a powder charge throwing the evening back into spin cycle. “When the Deal Goes Down” and “High Water” were of the highest quality, and continued a symmetrical ballad/ rocker flow to the show. When Dylan sang, “The shacks are sliding down,” I thought of the all those poverty shacks piled on top of each other in the foothills surrounding Mexico City. It’s also noteworthy that the five songs just mentioned were the core of the show and they are all recent Dylan creations.

“Stuck Inside of Mobile” was bland and blunt. “Workingman’s Blues” was pure bliss, especially for those like me who enjoy rice and beans and Mexico City Blues, as Dylan sang like a bird on the horizon and Freeman whipped up another distinctive solo. “Highway 61 Revisited was extra vicious and elicited an enthusiastic standing ovation from the crowd. It reminded me of my tour guide during the day, Manuel. He’s a large native with an equally huge presence and white sombrero – a man of wisdom, though he spoke few words. Manuel was gunning our red van down from the pyramids toward Mexico City on Highway 85 at a 110 MPH clip. Highway 85 cuts through the heart of Mexico, east to west like Highway 61 slices through heartland of America, north to south.

After “Highway 61,” I heard a weird chant behind me, “Dill –awn, Dill –awn,” it took me a few moments to realize they were chanting for his Bobness. The Cowboy Band anthem, “Nettie Moore” followed. Hearing this and Workingman's Blues in the same show gave me chills. “Summer Days” was truncated. Dylan ended the set with his first "Like a Rolling Stone."  Dylan sang the often skipped verse, “You gone to the finest school alright miss lonely but you only used to get juiced in it."
“Thunder on the Mountain was a pure rush of adrenaline…best version… Mexico City was shaking. A nice harp solo introduced a fine “Blowin in the Wind” conclusion. There was a post-concert mob scene. At least 100 vendors were selling all sorts of Dylan merchandise: pens, stickers, shirts, posters, coffee mugs, shot glasses, etc. I picked up a few Never Ending Tour pens. Attention shoppers: clearance sale after tonight’s show.

Rest was hard to come by last night; I drifted in and out of strange dream sleep for a couple of hours. I felt like I had sucked the milk out of 1,000 cows, in one day. The mattress in my hotel room is like Formica. I would have rolled on to the floor, but this rug hasn’t been shampooed in half a century. It’s back to the nitty-gritty tonight, I’ll be tenth row.

More on the Mexico City journey in Chapter 20 of Tangled Up in Tunes: Ballad of a Dylanhead available in paperback and Kindle at

Monday, February 4, 2008


The Prodigal Son

Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found…THE BIBLE…ELI MANNING 2008…I’m beginning to believe what the scriptures tell.
Giants 17-14

Jason Tuck you can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.

That third and ten from Eli to Tyree is the greatest play in American sports history.

Eli Manning …Super Bowl MVP

I’d like to “Pat” myself on the back. I predicted greatness for Manning when he was at his lowest point here on VOD…

A lot of people can say they believed in Eli, only I can prove it.

NewEngland 18-1, very very sad, ladies and gentlemen, very sad. Long Live the 1972 Dolphins!
The revenge factor is amazing. The Giants lost to the Patriots, Packers, and Cowboys (twice) during the season.

The Giants were the worst team in the NFL after week 2. Coughlin should have been fired. The New York Football GIANTS went on to win 11 straight road games - a feat that will never be duplicated.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Man in the Long Black Coat

Hey, it's me. I'm back. I've been pretty, pretty busy and haven't posted recently. Here's an essay I did for a college class.

Question - If Bob Dylan's Chronicles is a song, what song is it? Dylan himself discusses dozens of songs in the course of his book. Which song best captures it, in terms of imagery, tone of voice, melody, rhythm, or the story the song tells? You might consider any of the songs Dylan mentions, any he does not, a folk or a blues song, or a song by Dylan himself.


If Bob Dylan’s Chronicles is a song, it would have to be “Man in the Long Black Coat” from the album “Oh Mercy.” Mysterious, audacious, decisive and reckless, the character in this song could be Dylan himself. If the “Man in the Long Black Coat” isn’t Dylan, then it’s a composite sketch of the outlaw figure he has a predilection for. The song draws its inspiration from the folk tradition of “Blackjack Davey.” In both tales, an irresistible swashbuckling figure dressed in black comes to town, does as he pleases, and takes off with somebody else’s woman without explanations, or an ounce of regret. In Chronicles, Dylan writes like a literary fugitive as his lyrical prose defies expectations for a memoir, breaking all the rules for chronology and content, yet its message is timeless, and neatly fits together like the song,” Man in the Long Black Coat.”

As we’re introduced to the song, an acoustic axe casually picks away as crickets chirp in the background before a reverberating electric guitar riff shatters the serenity. Dylan plays three foreboding notes on his harmonica, waits for a couple of measures to build suspense, and follows with a menacing solo that completes the picture: the town is peaceful, though devastation has taken place, and the “Man in the Long Black Coat” is lurking in the distance, possibly readying himself to strike somewhere else. In the first verse the narrator informs us that a hurricane has swept through town leaving nothing but a soft cotton dress hanging from the line. There was no written or verbal message, but the implications are clear – his lady has run off with the man in black, and the hurricane is a metaphor for the disruptive force that our black coated friend can unleash.

When Dylan was presented a Lifetime Grammy Award by Jack Nicholson, Jack referred to Dylan as a “disturber of the peace.” Upheaval, positive and negative, is a consistent theme throughout Chronicles. Like the man in the long black coat, Dylan has torn through towns like a tornado altering the lives of those around him. He forever changed New York City, and the quaint upstate town of Woodstock, as well as revolutionizing the foundation of American music. But the positive whirlwind changes he brought to American culture had a backlash effect on his domestic life. He tried to shield himself from the turmoil by hiding out on a mountainside in Woodstock, but he wasn’t able to elude his obsessive fans. His fear of these fanatics was so intense that he acquired a small arsenal of firearms to protect his family. When Bob Dylan, Blackjack Davey, Lenny Bruce or the man in the long black coat come to town, the denizens of that town know it. These men shake things up, and in the process, they often become the hunted.

During the song’s bridge, it seems we’re getting Dylan’s point of view, not the narrator’s when he sings, “People don’t live or die, people just float/ She went with the man in the long black coat.” Dylan seems to be empathetic with the sinners here, insinuating that they are the ones who are really living and taking chances. There’s an admiration for the woman who has decided not to float, but has rendezvoused with the man in the long black coat. In Chronicles, Dylan writes, “It’s hard to describe what makes a character or an event folk song worthy. It probably has something to do with a character being fair and honest and open. Bravery in an abstract way” (39).

Bravery is a characteristic trait we see from Dylan as he aggressively engages challenges in Chronicles. The stories Dylan weaves, mostly stem from crossroad moments in his professional and personal life. With a guitar slung around his torso, a couple bucks in his jeans, and a burning desire for fame, he said goodbye to the North Country, the only world he knew, and hitched a ride to New York City in search of Woody Guthrie. “Howdy East Orange!” Dylan went straight to Woody Guthrie’s home as if he was the anointed one to carry on Woody’s tradition, though Dylan was a complete unknown. In Greenwich Village, he quickly identified the movers and shakers of the folk scene befriending them on his meteoric rise to the top. Dylan spun many tall tales as he impressed the likes of Izzy Young, owner of the Folklore Center, and radio host Cynthia Gooding, but the man in black does whatever is necessary to achieve his goals, whether it’s a conquest of fame, or another man’s woman. He risks his neck, usually succeeding; that’s why he is so admired.

The man in the long black coat can never be pinned down, stamped or labeled; he can never be owned by others. He’ll never be the President of the United States or leader of a political movement, although others are awed by him. As Dylan tried to raise a family in Woodstock, he decisively tried to distance himself from those who worshiped him like a prophet. The music of his releases at the beginning of the 70’s, “New Morning” and “Self Portrait,” seemed to echo his desire to separate himself from his fanatic fans who thought Dylan was their voice. As usual, Dylan went his own way, refusing to let others dictate his fate. In “Man in the Long Black Coat,” Dylan describes the man of mystery as having a “face like a mask” and as being seen “hanging around at the old dance hall on the outskirts of town.” This is clearly an individual who’s not going to be pigeon-holed and used as a pawn. And his facial mask is symbolic of someone who is perpetually changing identities, both physically and spiritually, like Dylan.

In the third verse, the narrator listens to a preacher deliver a sermon about the unreliability of one’s conscience to be a guide because it is “vile and depraved.” Then Dylan’s lyrics become visceral when he moans, “It ain’t easy to swallow, it sticks in the throat/ She gave her heart to the man/ In the long black coat.” Even a preacher’s sermon about the inevitability of man’s wickedness can’t bring the narrator any peace of mind. He can’t come to grips with why his woman left him or what she sees in the man in black – “it sticks in the throat” and probably will continue to do so for some time. Like the classic folk songs that stirred Dylan’s imagination, this song has all the intrigue, ambiguity and weirdness to match any of them. This is pure timeless folk that could have been born in England in the 15th Century, but Dylan put this together in New Orleans 1989. It captures our fascination with an eternal subject using emotive language while the melody, mood, vocal incantations and arrangement scream of dread and horror. In typical Dylan fashion, he sets up the line “There are no mistakes in life some people say/ It’s true sometimes, you can see it that way,” as something that can be interpreted in many ways, it’s up to the performer or the listener to make the connection they want to in-the-moment. In Chronicles Dylan wrote,” “A folk song might vary in meaning and it might not appear the same from one moment to the next. “It depends on who’s playing and who’s listening” (71). “Man in the Long Black Coat,” will never become outdated or fully be defined, therefore making it a classic folk song.

The woman in this tale runs off without offering any excuses for her passionate actions. As would be expected, the man in black is a man of action - he won’t be filling in any blanks. Just like the title of the 1965 documentary on Dylan, Don’t Look Back, Bob doesn’t waste time making excuses for his behavior in Chronicles. One contradiction that begs for exploration is his lack of compassion for the fans that are infatuated by him. When Dylan rambled across the country determined to meet Woody, he marched right up to the Guthrie residence, knocked on the door and tracked him down. However, Dylan offers no understanding, and is downright hostile to anyone who would dare pursue him, like he pursued Woody. And no explanations are forthcoming. Chronicles is Dylan’s folk song; we can read his accounts, but we’re often left with more questions than answers, and that’s fine with him. We buy the ticket and we take the ride, just like we do with his music.

In the fourth chapter, Dylan takes on the most serious crisis of his professional career as he questions his relevance as a performer. His descriptions of events are dark and dreary, and they give a sense of a lost soul searching for inspiration. In the midst of this hazy phase in his life, he talks at length about the making of Oh Mercy. Discussing the album’s most compelling track, “Man in the Long Black Coat,” Dylan says, “the production sounds deserted…It’s cut out from the abyss of blackness – visions of a maddened brain, a feeling of unreality” (215-216). It’s apparent that Dylan was able to channel the gloominess he was feeling into the song, but the song would connect him with his future by looking back at his past. This tune, and others like it, would provide a roadmap for Dylan to rediscover his muse. A few years later, Dylan would record an album of folk songs as he found new meaning in his music by returning it to traditional roots. It’s as if “Man in the Long Black Coat was within Dylan, waiting to burst out. He wrote, “After we had completed a few takes of the song, Danny (Lanois) looked over to me as if to say, This is it. It was” (216). While other tracks from Oh Mercy were difficult to record, Dylan nailed “Man in the Long Black Coat in just a few takes. This was a situation where the song played Dylan as much as he played the song. The song and the performer both got what they wanted.


  In honor of the anniversary of Music Mountain, here’s chapter two from my latest work, The Grateful Pilgrimage: Time Travel with the Dea...