I’m proud to present the first in a week-long event here at http://LaptopSessions.com entitled “Title Tracks Week”!! Each day this week, we’ll unveil a new session devoted to a song whose title is the same as the album it was on. For instance, I chose a song from the Band’s 1970 album Stage Fright called — well, you may have guessed it already — “Stage Fright.”
This is an interesting song to me, as I’ve heard and read rumors over the years that this song was written by the Band’s Robbie Robertson in reference to Bob Dylan. If anyone would know, it would be someone like Robertson, who has played many shows with Dylan over the years, most often as his lead guitarist. (He’s particularly well-known for being the electric guitarist that powered Dylan’s sound in the mid-60s, when he first “went electric.”)
For anyone who’s seen Dylan play on stage, it does make sense that he might suffer from a form of stage fright…
So, without further ado, here’s the first of seven title tracks this week — even Original Wednesday this week will be a title track. I hope you’ll check back tomorrow for Jeff’s installment!
Welcome to another video blog in the Laptop Sessions music video series! Today, I bring you a cover song that was written in the 1950s and was covered on two separate occasions by two of my favorite artists — Johnny Cash and the Band. Cash recorded it most famously on his Folsom Prison concert and the Band included it on their 1968 album Music from Big Pink. Both are great albums, and this is a fun song. I hope you like it…
And, just like that, I’m back with my second session of the night!
As a follow-up to my previous music video, this is “Please, Mrs. Henry,” also from Bob Dylan’s 1975 release The Basement Tapes. Generally, I am most impressed with complete, clean studio recordings of songs from my favorite bands, yet there are many instances of great music being created when an artist has stripped away at all the usual standards and practices of studio recording. A most recent — and admittedly weird — instance of this is the re-release of Beck’s early nineties indie rock release One Foot in the Grave. While this album really isn’t the kind of music I’ll be showing off to my friends, there is this really raw and unique sound to it. One of the benefits to these types of recordings is the quantity of music usually available — i.e. 24 Basement Tapes tracks and 32 tracks on the aforementioned Beck album. In the first 16 album tracks, songs like “Cyanide Breath Mint,” “Asshole” (later covered by Tom Petty for the She’s the One soundtrack!), and “Painted Eyelids” would never make it anywhere near the radio. I love the lyrics and sound to some of the bonus tracks, as well — “Favorite Nerve,” “Burning Boyfriend,” and, “Feather in Your Cap” to name a few.
Of course, with these types of recordings, there are always going to be throwaway tracks and songs that will make you want to say, “What was he thinking?!” But that’s to be expected…
Getting back to the Laptop Session at hand, “Please, Mrs. Henry” is one of the songs I initially disliked from this album. More specifically, I found it kind of plain. Now that I’ve gone back to it — specifically during my Bob Dylan mp3 marathon earlier this month — I have a newfound appreciation for the lyrics as well as the music. Where else can you get the perspective of a singer/narrator who is not only telling you he is drunk, but actuallly sounds drunk while he’s doing it? Dylan’s inflection aside, how else can you read lyrics like “I’ve been sniffin’ too many eggs…Drinkin’ too many kegs” or “I’m groanin’ in a hallway; pretty soon, I’ll be mad” or, who could forget, “Why don’t you look my way and pump me a few?”
With that, I’ll leave you to watch my interpretation of one of the many songs on The Basement Tapes that have been capturing the attention of fans since it was recorded in 1968. Even before the album was officially released, these tracks became some of the most bootlegged songs in rock music history. (Think: Great White Wonder.) And now you have my version to add to the mix. It certainly doesn’t approach the level that Dylan’s on, but it was a lot of fun to try! (Check out the chords, linked at the top of this post, so you can play, too…)
Well, it may not have been recorded in my basement with an as-yet-unknown Canadian rock band, but this is the best version of “Odds and Ends” you’re going to get out of me! I’ve always loved this song. It sets the tone nicely for the 23 songs that follow. Indeed, “Odds and Ends” encapsulates the spirit of The Basement Tapes: often absurd lyrics sung over raw yet warm instrumental tracks. For Dylan, this set of songs signified his retreat from the “wild, mercury sound” of Blonde on Blonde and the wild world tour of 1966. At the same time, you can listen as the Band begins to really gel and find their collective voice.
The primary reason I chose this song tonight — one of two that I will post tonight — is in honor of Dylan’s brand-new album being released tomorrow. It is titled Together Through Life, and I’ve already recorded a Laptop Session of the lead track, “Beyond Here Lies Nothin.'” There is at least one other song that’s been leaked online, but I’d rather save the other nine tracks for my first listen to the album as a whole.
Instead, I’ve gone back to this 1975 release of these 1968 recordings.
Why choose The Basement Tapes to cover now?
The answer, quite simply, is that I was too busy with other videos and writing to be able to record these songs a couple weeks ago when several Dylan albums — The Basement Tapes, New Morning, Dylan and the Dead — were reissued in digipack format. I saw them in the stores, and although I really don’t see why anyone who already owns these albums would want to buy the updated versions (aside from sound quality, of course), I can’t help but feel it necessary to celebrate any and all attention that Dylan’s back catalog is given.
It hasn’t been all that long since I would scan the CD racks at stores like Sam Goody, FYE, Best Buy, Borders, and a host of others, looking for Dylan albums to complete my collection. For a while, I would buy two at a time in an attempt to satiate my thirst for new Dylan material. Although I don’t feel that same urgency for Dylan’s releases when I walk into a CD store, I have lost none of my passion and respect for his music.
As Jim knows and is probably already thinking (and he’s right), I’ll jump at any excuse to record a Dylan song!!
Okay, that’s it for the first post. I need to save something to write about in my second post of the night, coming very shortly…