Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tangled Up In Tunes

Tangled Up in Tunes: Ballad of a Dylahead will be released in January. Here's the latest endorsement my book has received:

Howard Weiner's new book is a smart, funny, informative, and ultimately touching accomplishment, a classic American bildungsroman with Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan as the surprising emotional engines. For those of us who grew up far from the capitals of culture, popular music performed the same education in sensibilty that high culture once did for an earlier, perhaps more aristocratic generation. That history, at once public and personal, is a story rarely told -- and Weiner tells it boldly and resonantly here.

-- Robert Polito, author of Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson and Hollywood & God

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thanks for your blessing Bob!

Everybody knows by now that there's a gazillion books on me either out or coming out in the near future. So I'm encouraging anybody who's ever met me, heard me or even seen me, to get in on the action and scribble their own book. You never know, somebody might have a great book in them.

Dear Mr. Dylan,
Great news. I'm scribbling the last few pages of my book right now.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

3-9-81 MSG, my first GD show, thirty years ago today

The twang of Garcia’s guitar was exotic. I felt like I was waltzing into a Hawaiian adventure as I found our seats in the 400 section during the "Feel Like a Stranger opener." That afternoon I had convinced two of my misfit high school acquaintances to see the Grateful Dead with me.I was sixteen and the date was on March 9,1981. We didn’t see much, there was six guys on stage but the music was thundering.

After settling into a few numbers, Jerry came through with with the song I desired, "Ramble on Rose." I knew this was the beginning of some magnificent obsession. The Garden rumbled when Jerry sang, “Just like New York City, just like Jericho.” Garcia sang in ragtime and let an ear-splitting solo fly. I found my calling, I’d be rambling with Jerry. It was a differnt story for Tom and Don, the cats who had joined me, they were sound asleep.

"Ramble on Rose" became my favorite song on January 24, 1981, the day I was first bitten by the Dead. It's a night I rememeber oh so well. I was in the Nassau Coliseum watching Islander hockey. The splendid French Canadian, Michael Bossy, became the second hockey player in NHL history to score fifty goals in the first fifty games of the season. Goals 49 ad 50 rifled into the back of the net with less than five minutes remaining in the game. Impressive. But nothing like the jaunt home in the backseat of my friend's Honda Civic.

Seymour cranked Europe 72 on the ride home. I knew some basic Grateful Dead, but this album blew my mind, especially "Ramble on Rose." I was drwan to the weirdness of it all. What other band had songs that sounded like "Jack Straw" or "China Cat?" The next day, I purchased every album in the GD record bin at Tapesville USA, a record shop in front of the Nanuet Mall.

Historical Note: Bob Dylan arrived in New York City on January 24, 1961, twenty years earlier than Bossy’s historic performance, and my acceptance of Jerry Garcia as the center of the universe. January 24th is a day of holy ascension.

“Oh sweet Mama, your daddy’s got them Deep Elem Blues.” We’re back at MSG on 3-9-81. Never heard the song but I was digging the shindig. The second set opened with "China Cat." Garcia stroked his kitty with manic delight. I was lost, his guitar improv was too wild for my adolescent mind. The jam was a work of sheer genius that I could only grasp when I heard it a month later. The band tore up "I Know You Rider:" the jams exploded and Garcia, bellowed "I wish I was headlight on a northbound train," with a furious guitar lick pinned on the train. Rider rolled into an expansive "Samson and Delilah." Estimated lingered in an endless jam which evolved into "Uncle John’s Band." Everything was hypnotic - I was in a haze as I listened to this new musical language. There were Drums, Space and a few more tunes which seemed to take another hour before they landed into "Good Lovin."

This dynamo of show was too much for me to grasp in one bite. The Dead defied musical theory and time, pouring unlimited psychedelic mojo into their performance. A few days after the concert, I better understood live Dead after acquiring a bootleg of Englishtown 77. I would spend the next five years listening to nothing but Jerry. I scrambled after bootleg tapes of any quality.The Grateul Dead could eviscerate any musical barrier. Understaning Dead dialect took skill, but once you were there, there was no going back. It was in your blood. Your lust for their music could never be satisfied, More More More.

3-9-81 Highlights
1. Best China Cat Rider since 1974
2. Second best Feel Like a Stranger (11-10-85 Brendon Byrne Arena #1)
3. Excellent versions of Althea, Estimated Prophet> Uncle John's Band and The Other One
4. An electric Deep Elem Blues

The tone of Garcia's guitar is provocative, one of the most interesting shows to listen to.

I went on to see GD 152 times, and 54 JGB shows...Selah

Sunday, February 13, 2011

All Your Creations: Dylan's Top Fifty

Fifty years after showing up in Greenwich Village with an acoustic guitar, Bob Dylan has been busy. Here are my top Fifty Dylan songs. Mojo Magazine ranked Dylan’s 100 best songs a few years ago. Those rankings are indicated in parenthesis. (NM) equals no Mojo: not on their list. After a brief comment or lyric, I reveal my favorite version of each tune.

50 Years of Creation: Dylan’s Top Fifty

1. Like a Rolling Stone (1)…twenty pages of vomit condensed…Highway 61 Revisited
2. Mr. Tambourine Man (14)…sonic and lyrical ecstasy …Bringing It ALL Back Home
3. A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall (23)…eternal prophecy,…Freewheelin” Bob Dylan
4. Idiot Wind (19)…Paranoia blowing in the wind…The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3
5. Desolation Row (4)…A vacation destination…11-09-06 Portland, Maine
6. Blind Willie McTell (5)…Nothing but the blues…Bootleg Series Volume 1-3
7. Visions of Johanna (21)…The heat pipes just cough…Blonde on Blonde
8. Positively 4th Street (2)…What a drag it is to see you… Memphis 4-24-06
9. Stuck Inside of Mobile (59)…Oh mama, smoke eyeballs and punch my cigarette…Blonde on Blonde
10. Mississippi (9)…Chock full of mantras….Tell Tale Signs, bonus disc number three
11. Simple Twist Fate(73)…Flicked on the Dylan switch in my brain…Blood on the Tracks
12. Just Like a Woman (10)…You ache you take and you bake…Concert for Bangladesh, MSG 1971
13. It’s Alright Ma (8)…Dylan’s Commandments…Bringing It All Back Home
14. Hurricane (25)…Greatest Story Ever Told…Desire
15. It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (7)… Forget the Dead you left, they will not follow you…Blonde on Blonde
16. I Shall Be Released (24)…I shall eat greased meat…Live at Budokhan
17. Tangled up in Blue (15)…music in the cafes at night, revolution in the air…Real Live
18. She Belongs To Me (53)…buy her a trumpet and give her a drum...Bringing It All Back Home
19. Every Grain of Sand (17)…hanging in the balance of the reality of man…Shot of Love
20. Thunder on the Mountain (NM)… powder keg of Dylan, welcome to Modern Times…7-04-07 Montreal
21. Tough Mama (NM)…Can I blow a little smoke on you?...Planet Waves
22. Tombstone Blues (94)…Mike Bloomfield’s licks between Dylan’s teeth…Highway 61 Revisited
23. Nettie Moore (NM) …the bible, love, devotion, Americana, and the world of research gone berserk…The Borgota, Atlantic City, 6-23-07
24. Where Are You Tonight? (NM) …Pain amplified, hey, hey, hey-hey…Street Legal
25. Subterranean Homesick Blues (18)… mixing up the medicine…Bringing It All Back Home
26. Ballad of a Thin Man (20)…Contacts among the lumberjacks, geeks and freaks…7-12-87 Dylan and the Dead
27. One More Cup of Coffee (57)…a cup Joe, before I go, to the valley bellow…Desire
28. Chimes of Freedom (93)…Ring them bells…Another Side of Bob Dylan
29. Girl from the Red River Shore (NM)…I adore this pearl from Tell Tale Signs
30. Master of War (16)…Make Love not war…Lake Compounce 1988
31. Man in the Long Black Coat (31)…a rumbling force…Oh Mercy!
32. I Want You (28)…Dancing child in his Chinese suit…Blonde on Blonde or 7-24-87 Dylan/ Dead
33. Not Dark Yet (41)…my sense of humanity, has gone down the drain…Time Out Of Mind
34. Workingman’s Blues (NM)…I can live on rice and beans…Modern Times
35. All Along the Watchtower (27)…This is not our fate, the hour’s getting late…7-12-87 Dylan and the Dead
36. The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (11)…The ladder of law has no top and no bottom…Radio City Music Hall 10-20-1988
37. Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)(90)…I can smell the tail of the dragon, this place don’t make sense to me no more…1-17-98 MSG
38. Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight (NM)…Yesterday’s gone but the past lives on…Infidels outtake
39. Things Have Changed (74)…People are crazy, times are strange…4-6-2007 Las Vegas
40. It Ain’t Me Babe (6)…no no no…Lake Compounce 1988
41. Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest (NM)…Don’t go mistaking paradise for that home across the road…John Wesley Harding
42. It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry (87)…Blues to the bone, finger snapping, foot stomping…No Direction Home Soundtrack
43. The Time’s They Are-A Changin’ (22)…Admit that the waters around you have grown…Waters around you have grown…The Times They Are A-Changin’
44. Isis (35)…”This is a song about marriage, this is for Sam Peckinpah, if he’s still here” said Dylan…11-21-75, Boston Music Hall, but the best version is on Desire
45. Love Minus Zero (32)…even the pawn must hold a grudge…Brining It All Back Home
46. Love Sick (12)…I hear the clock tick (boink, boink, boink) I’m Love Sick…1998 Grammys, Soy Bomb
47. Ain’t Talkin’ (NM)…still yearnin’ and burnin’, colossal…Modern Times
48. Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright (46)…Love Lessons 1963…6-21-91 Munich, Germany
49. You’re a Big Girl Now (77)…Love Lessons 1974…Blood on the Tracks
50. A tie…Shooting Star Oh Mercy, Knockin On Heaven’s Door, 1986 Hard to Handle Soundtrack…Selah

Friday, February 11, 2011

Rank the Beatles: Part Two

To compliment my last post, here's a Beatles top twenty list that I found in 100 Best Beatles Songs: An Informed Fan's Guide, by Spignesi and Lewis...

1) A Day in the Life 2) Strawberry Fields Forever 3) Let It Be 4) Yesterday 5) All You Need is Love 6) In My Life 7) Hey Jude 8) Penny Lane 9)Revolution 10) While My Guitar Gently Weeps 11) I Am the Walrus 12) Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds 13) Nowhere Man 14) Here Comes Sunshine 15) She Loves You 16) Here,There and Everywhere 17) Blackbird 18) Martha My Dear 19) I Feel Fine 20) I Wanna Hold Your Hand

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rank the Beatles

Rolling Stone came out with a special issue listing the Top 100 Greatest Beatles Songs. After considering the matter for fifteen minutes, I produced my own Top Twenty. Let’s compare:

Rolling Stone Top Twenty
1) A Day in the Life 2) I want to Hold Your Hand (yikes) 3) Strawberry Fields Forever 4) Yesterday 5) In My Life 6) Something 7) Hey Jude 8) Let it Be 9) Come Together 10) While My Guitar Gently Weeps 11) A Hard Day’s Night 12) Norwegian Wood 13) Revolution 14) She Loves You 15) Help 16) I Saw Her Standing There 17) Ticket to Ride 18) Tomorrow Never Knows 19) Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds 20) Please Please Me

My Top Twenty

1. A Day in the Life
2. Hey Jude
3. Come Together…hair down below his knees, hold you in his arm chair you can feel his disease, or as Dylan put it: see the primitive wallflower freeze, where the jelly face women all sneeze, and the one with the moustache saying jeez I can’t find my knees…come together right now over me…shoot
4. Tomorrow Never KnowsClose your eyes, relax and float downstream
5. Help… powerful verses, so powerful they needed to be repeated in harmony. If Subterranean Homesick Blues is the first rap song, Help is the debut of punk
6. Rocky Racoon…Beatles Americana (this didn’t make the RS top 100)
7. Revolution (slow version)…shoe be doo wop bob…nice and easy, everybody sing: Don’t you know that you can count me out (in).
8. Strawberry Fields Forever…Nothing to get hung about... the double fade away ending…sublime…I buried strawberries
9. Happiness is a Warm Gun…She’s not a girl who misses much
10. Ticket to Ride…tasty guitar riff and these lads can sing!
11. Yesterday…You can outplay this song, but you can’t contain it
12. I Dig A Pony…I listened to this every day when I was six – weird song for a weird kid
13. I Am the Walrus…I like animal songs
14. You Got to Hide Your Love Away…Dylanesque…I can see them laugh at me
15. All You Need is Love…first Beatles tune to catch my ear, it’s easy
16. Nowhere Man …Isn’t he a bit like you and me
17. She’s a Woman …I know that she’s no peasant and she won’t be bringing me any presents
18. You Never Give Me Your Money…Oh that magic feeling…all good children go to heaven
19. For You Blue…My favorite George thang, because your sweet and lovely, I love you…The Beatles filled the world with silly love songs
20. Yer Blues…Sizzling guitar…Feel so suicidal just like Dylan’s Mr. Jones…

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Top Ten Grateful Dead songs from the pen of Robert Hunter

10. Jack Straw
We can share the woman/ We can share the wine
We can share what we got of yours/ ‘Cause we done shared all of mine

9. Stella Blue
It all rolls into one/ and nothing comes for free
There’s nothing you can hold/ for very long

8. Scarlet Begonias
Once in a while you get shown the light
in the strangest of places if you look at it right

7.Crazy Fingers
Your rain falls like crazy fingers
Peals of fragile thunder keeping time

6.Saint Stephen
Talk about your plenty, talk about your ills
One man gathers what another man spills

5.Help on the Way
Paradise waits
on the crest of a wave/ her angels in flame

4.Mississippi Half Step
They say that Cain caught Abel/ rolling loaded dice
Ace of spades behind his ear/ and him not thinking twice

3.Friend of the Devil
Got a wife in Chino, babe/ And one in Cherokee
First one say she’s got my child/ But it don’t look like me

There is a road/ no simple highway / Between the dawn and dark of night
And if you go/ no one may follow / That path is for your steps alone

1.Terrapin Station
The storyteller makes no choice/ soon you will not here his voice
his job is to shed light/ and not to master


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