Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Johnny Appleseed Strikes Again!

An excerpt from Chapter 16 of Tangled Up in Tunes

A thousand die-hard Dylanheads had a sing-along with Bob during the second tune, “You Ain’t Going Nowhere.” If you didn’t dig Dylan, you were on your way home or headed for the exit. The rest of us were in for an enchanted evening. Dylan slid into a playful “Just Like a Woman.” The precipitation intensified as he yelled, “Nobody feels any pain tonight as I stand inside the rain.” On August, 27, 2006, the Lord said, “Let it rain on that tiny ballpark in New Hampshire.” And so it rained—a relentless downpour, similar to the ending of Grapes of Wrath.

Dylan loves the slop. He could have written the night off as a lost cause and shortened the show, saving his best tunes for another gig with a bigger crowd. However, Dylan felt a kinship with these New Englanders. Dylan performed as if he wanted to put on a poncho and serenade us from the pitcher’s mound. It was a soggy fantasy camp.

Another plane took off from Manchester airport and sailed through the clouds, fifty feet above the stage. Dylan howled, “Where have you been, my blue-eyed son? Where have you been, my darling young one?” Phil, Rich and I moved closer to the stage. There may have been 1,000 fans left to hear “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” Standing in the pelting rain, we were invigorated. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes “Hard Rain” is just hard rain.

“Highway 61 Revisited” left burn marks. “Tangled Up in Blue” was better than any version I’d heard since 1998. Almost every night we get “Like a Rolling Stone,” but Bob was more deliberate with it on this night. Denny Freeman kicked out a great solo. The band was in no hurry to leave. They may never play in front of such loyalists again.

If you were Bob Dylan, how would you say goodnight? Dylan started off with his usual routine, taking bows with his ten-gallon hat in hand and his Cowboy Band stoically lined-up behind him. Suddenly, Dylan reached into his hat and grabbed a fistful of a mystery dust and soft-tossed it at the crowd, as if he was performing a baptism. Johnny Appleseed strikes again!
For more info on the book visit www.tangledupintunes.com

Monday, January 30, 2012

Interview with the Bob Dylan Examiner

Who is Howard Weiner?
I'm a music lover. I want to turn the world on to the artists and songs that inspire me. Below my name, I want my tombstone to read: "Tangled Up in Tunes."

Tell us about your radio show.
It's a show called Visions of Dylan which I created for WBAI a few months after Dylan began his own show, Theme Time Radio Hour. Handpicking the songs and weekly themes for Visions of Dylan was a labor of love. My program featured a mix of Dylan originals, covers, and live performances. The possibilities were endless, but the one thing I learned from Dylan was that a radio show is more compelling when its theme driven.

How did you get into the Dead, and then Dylan?
As a teenager, I worshipped the classic rock of the '70's. Initially, I didn't get the Grateful Dead. They're an acquired taste because their music is an eclectic mix of several American musical genres. Once I got the taste for Jerry Garcia's guitar, I was hooked. Their best music existed in an exotic world of bootleg tapes, and every night they played, improvisational genius beckoned.
I always had a fondness for Dylan's anthems, but I didn't have my Dylan epiphany until I borrowed my friend's car and heard Blood on the Tracks for the first time. Sweet Jesus, I flipped out when I heard that tape. I went out and bought every Dylan album and studied them like a man possessed. A few weeks later, a Dylan/Dead tour was announced for the summer of 1987. This twist of fate was mind-boggling. 

How did you decide to write Tangled Up In Tunes: Ballad Of A Dylanhead?
After catching a tremendous run of shows by Dylan in April of 2005, I had a burning desire to write a book on Dylan's "Never Ending Tour." I was a witness to essential music history, and I felt compelled to document it. I jumped right into the book without a game plan, and after seven years of writing and rewriting, I finally crossed the finish line. 

How did getting your MFA Degree in Creative Writing help with your book?
I realized my initial drafts of the book were too journalistic. As someone who saw 300 Dylan and/or Dead shows over three decades, I had to tell my story as well. Why was I on this never ending quest? I had to let the reader stand inside my shoes. At The New School, I had the good fortune of learning from Jonathan Ames, Greil Marcus, David Gates, Robert Polito, and Ann Hood. Hopefully I picked up on some of their mojo.

You refer to many specific experiences and performances in your book. Did you keep a diary, or did you do it mostly from memory?
Once I decided I was writing a book I meticulously documented my experiences, but prior to that I relied on memory and concert recordings. I have an incredible capacity to recall musical experiences. My brain, however, doesn't function as well in other areas.

What would be a good example that would illustrate how fanatical you are about the Dead and/or Dylan?
I was in Memphis after seeing Dylan at Autozone Ballpark in 2005. I could have spent my last day in the "Land of the Delta Blues" partying on Beale Street, but a voice in my head was telling me to make a road trip to Little Rock to see Dylan. The only problem was I didn't have a car, so I took a $400 taxi ride to Little Rock. It was an unforgettable voyage into Razorback Country with a Memphis cabbie.

What does your place look like? Is it full of Dylan and Dead paraphernalia?
My apartment is overrun with CDs. I collect all the good stuff: Miles, Coltrane, Otis, Van, etc. But I'd estimate that there's about 7,000 Dylan and Dead CDs in my crash pad. Thankfully, I don't collect much memorabilia.

What would you say to, or do for, someone who did not understand either Dylan or the Dead?
I'd ask them to read Tangled Up in Tunes, and pray. 

How can someone buy your book?
It's available on my website, or on Amazon.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

I have seen Donna Jean 1-25-12

"Pretty lady ain't got no friend till the Candyman comes around again," sang Donna as she smiled and slung aside her flowing gray hair. Wow, this was my first time seeing Donna. I got on the bus in 1981, two years after Donna's departure from the Dead. That revelation struck me halfway into the late show at the Iridium.
Jeff Mattson was on stage with the Donna Jean Godchaux band as they laced into classics like  Sugaree, St. Stephen, and Scarlet Begonias. I was thinking Fox, Binghamton, and Cornell. Well it was a little tamer than that, but I can now say I have seen Donna Jean.
Donna Jean's vocals have appeared on records for Elvis and Cher—songs cut in Muscle Shoals Alabama. And we all know she has harmonized with the two greatest American bands: The Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band. Donna's voice wasn't powerful on this night, no Memorex glass shattering moments, however, she sang lead vocal on 60% of the songs; tasteful performances. Other highlights included ripping versions of Tore Up, New Speedway Boogie, Cosmic Charlie, and the Youngblood's Darkness, Darkness.

For $25, I was able to enjoy both the early and late shows. As far as  legendary NYC clubs go, few places are as cozy as the Iridium. During Scarlet Begonias, half of the club had evacuated their tables to dance off to the side. A few dancers briefly relieved their spinning days on tour. I never thought I'd see spinners in the Iridium. And I have finally seen Donna Jean.  

Friday, January 20, 2012


People have been asking me what periods in Dylan and Dead history are covered in Tangled Up in Tunes. Here are the shows and road adventures in my memoir:

Grateful Dead: 4-6-82 Philly Spectrum...4-9-82 Rochester...8-7-82 Alpine Valley, Wisconsin...4-9-83 Hampton Coliseum...10-9-83 Greensboro Coliseum...10-11-83 Madison Square Garden...10-12-83 MSG...10-17-83 Lake Placid, NY...3-22-85 Hampton, Virginia...3-25-85 Springfield, Mass... 6-21+22-85 Alpine Valley...6-24-85 Riverbed Music Theatre...7-4-86 Rich Stadium, Buffalo...7-6+7-86 RFK Stadium, Washington D.C..Brendan Byrne Arena 4-6-87...Madison Square Garden 9-18-87...7-2-88 Oxford Raceway, Maine...7-4-89 Rich Stadium...7-11-89 Giants Stadium...6-21-95 Highgate, Vermont.

Dylan/ Dead shows: 7-4-87 Foxboro Stadium...7-10-87 JFK Stadium...7-12-87 Giants Stadium

Bob Dylan's Never Ending Tour: 7-3-88 Old Orchard Beach, Maine...10-19-88 Radio City Music Hall...7-21-89 Garden State Performing Arts Center...10-13-89 Beacon Theatre, NYC 10-20-89 Mid-Hudson Civic Center...7-4-91 Tanglewood Music Shed, MA...6-21-95 Highgate, Vermont...11-19-01 Madison Square Garden...1-31-02 Orlando, Florida...2-02-02 Tampa, Florida...11-11+13-02 Madison Square Garden...4-25-03 Jazzfest, New Orleans...8-12, 13+20-03 Hammerstein , NYC...6-05-04 Mohegan Sun...6-8-04 Kahunaville, Wilmington, DE...8-04-04 The Chance, Poughkeepsie...8-06-04 Cooperstown, NY...8-10-04 Fishkill...4-15+16- 05 The Orpheum, Boston...4-26, 28+29-05 Beacon Theatre, NYC...6-19-05 Lancaster, PA...7-1-85 Autozone Park, Memphis...7-2-05 Little Rock...10-28-05 Rotterdam, The Netherlands...4-07-06 Aladdin Theatre, Las Vegas...4-24+25-06 The Orpheum, Memphis...8-19-06 Frederick, MD...8-27-06 Manchester, NH...11-09-06 Portland Maine...6-22+23-07 Borgata, AC...6-27-07 Mohegan Sun...6-29-07 Jones Beach...6-30-07 Bethel Woods, NY...7-04-07 Jazzfest Montreal...2-26+27-08 Mexico City...5-17-08 Lewiston, Maine...11-04-08 Minneapolis...7-14-09 Allentown PA...7-23-09 Lakeland, NJ...10-17-09 Phoenix...10-18-09 Las Vegas
Jerry Garcia Band: 6-16-82 Music Mountain...5-30-83 Bushnell Auditorium, Hartford...5-31+6-1-83 Roseland Ballroom, NY...6-3-83 Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ...6-4-83 The Chance, Poughkeepsie...6-5-83 Tower Theatre, Upper Darby, PA...9-1-89 Merriweather Post Pavilion, MD  

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dylan Paying Homage to Jerry

Dylan's thoughts on Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead through the years

“There’s no way to measure his greatness or magnitude as a person or a player. I don’t think any eulogizing will do him justice. He was that great, much more than a superb musician, with an uncanny ear and dexterity. He’s the very spirit personified of whatever is Muddy River country at its core and screams up into the spheres. He really had no equal. To me, he wasn’t only a musician and friend, he was more like a big brother who taught and showed me more than he’ll ever know. There’s a lot of spaces and advances between The Carter Family, Buddy Holly and say Ornette Coleman, a lot of universes, but he filled them all without being a member of any school. His playing was moody, awesome, sophisticated, hypnotic and subtle. There’s no way to convey the loss. It just digs down really deep”
1995 Dylan press release on the passing of Jerry Garcia

“You’re either a player, or you’re not a player. It didn’t occur to me until we did those shows with the Grateful Dead. If you just go out every three years or so like I was doing for a while, that’s when you lose touch. If you’re going to be a performer, you, you’ve gotta give it your all.”
1991 Interview with Robert Hiburn

“To me, that’s a great song (Joey). Yeah. And it never loses its appeal……That’s a tremendous song. And you’d only know it singing it night after night. You know who got me singing that song? Garcia. Yeah. He got me singing that song again. He said that’s one of the best songs ever written. Coming from him, it was hard to know which way to take that. [Laughs] He got me singing that song with them again. It was amazing how it would, right from the get-go, it had a life of its own, it just ran out of the gate and it just kept getting better and better and better and better and keeps on getting better… But to me, Joey has a Homeric quality to it that you don’t hear every day. Especially in popular music.”
1991 Interview with Paul Zollo

"The Dead did a lot of my songs, and we'd just take the whole arrangement, because they did it better than me. Jerry Garcia could hear the song in all my bad recordings, the song that was buried there. So if I want to bring out something different, I just bring out one of them Dead records and see which one I wanna do. I never do that with my records."
2006 interview with Jonathan Lethem

“Thank you. Well, I don't know exactly what to say here. Different peoples been coming down to the theater every night so far. And this night is no exception I guess. Anyway this is, keep ..., here's a young man I know you know who he is. I've played with him a few times before. I'm a great admirer and fan of his and support his group all the way, Jerry Garcia. He's gonna play with us, key of C.” – before “To Ramona”
10-16-80 Fox Warfield, San Francisco

“Thank you Grateful Dead!” – before “The Times They Are A-Changin’” …These were the only words Dylan spoke in concert during his 36 performances of 1987!
7-12-87 Giants Stadium, East Rutherford…Dylan and Dead concert


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