Posts Tagged ‘Rolling Stone’

Highway 61 Revisited Album CoverI wrote earlier this week about the 40th anniversary of Springsteen’s classic LP, Born to Run.  Just a day or two later came another anniversary of another landmark album, this one marking  50 years since Highway 61 Revisited from Bob Dylan was released back in 1965.  It has remained a critical favorite over the decades, coming in at #4 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.  Of course, lists like that are pretty subjective but in this case, I tend to agree.

It was Dylan’s first all electric outing after making the transition from purist folkie to rock star with his prior album, Bringing It All Back Home, which was part acoustic folk and part electric rock.  With Highway 61 Revisited, Dylan went all in and made an album that was a real document and catalyst for the turbulent times in which it was made.  It is said that the 1960’s, as we have come to remember them as an era, started with this album.

I know it has long been a favorite of mine.  It’s an album that has been with me for so long that it doesn’t seem to be of any time, regardless of its age.  It just is.  Every song holds up and each is like a full and rich meal.  It’s filled with a meaty mix of words and textures and meanings that just fills you up.

So, for this week’s Sunday morning music,  what could be more fitting than the title track from this classic from half a century ago?  It’s a song that never gets to get my blood moving.  It’s been covered by a multitude of other artists and I don’t know that I ever heard a bad cover of it.  Here’s the original.  Have a great Sunday!


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hunter s thompson anthony hope-smithThe Edge… There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others — the living — are those who pushed their luck as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to choose between Now and Later


The quote above is taken from Hunter S. Thompson’s 1966 book , Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.  I read that book and most of his other work , including that from his  longtime union with Rolling Stone magazine,many years ago with great glee but never really got caught up in the whole gonzo mania that sprung up in later years as he became an almost mythic figure.  No, I just loved the Ralph Steadman -Bad Crazinessway his journalism, if indeed it was that or purely fictional, took on sometime serious subjects with a skewed and jaded eye.  And it was just laugh out loud funny at times with imagery that is as vivid in my mind as when I first read it oh so many years ago.  Plus, it usually was accompanied by the ink-splattered artwork of Ralph Steadman, including this drawing shown here taken from a memorable incident in  Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  I think Steadman’s manic drawings of Thompson’s adventures were a major force in the  building of the Thompson legacy and legend.

And for some, Thompson is a legend, an icon, a caricature that still lives on.  There have been numerous books and films on his life including a graphic novel last year, Gonzo: A Graphic Biography of Hunter S. Thompson , illustrated by Anthony Hope-Smith.  I don’t know if I’m still buying in but some of the imagery is wonderful and the early stories are still great reads.

Here’s a video from artist Piotr Kabat that is his graphic interpretation of the quote at the top of this post.  Well done.

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Last week, I picked up Rolling Stone: Cover to Cover, a set that includes a book on the history of the magazine and a digital archive that includes every issue from 1967-2007.  When it arrived I installed the viewer on my computer and within a few minutes was knee deep in an issue from the 70’s. 

I haven’t read Rolling Stone for many, many years now except for the random article or interview that I pick up online.  It’s just a little too slick and polished now, at least in my perception.  But looking back at these old issues brought back what I saw in the magazine as a young man.  The issue I was viewing was from 1971 and has the frantic, ink splattered drawings of Ralph Steadman illustrating a serialization of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a book that I used to read every year or so with great glee.  If you’ve read the book, you know how perfectly the drawings mesh with the story.

 Leafing through on the computer screen, I could almost feel the rough newsprint of the paper. 

Inside, it came back immediately.  The ads for Marantz tuners and Ovation guitars.  The classifieds at the end of the magazine with multiple ads for rolling papers of all sorts.  Ads hailing new albums from bands long gone and sometimes barely remembered.  An ad offering any 2 Rolling Stone albums free with a subscription to the magazine.   It was like dropping back into a time, as from a time machine of sorts. 

Dr. Hook Finally on the Cover of the Rolling Stone

But the thing that struck me most was the amount of print on the pages.  It was jammed with page after page of print.  Oh, there were ads and pictures.  But it was primarily the written word.  I had forgotten how long their articles were then, how the interviews sometimes went on for 12 or more pages and were truly in depth. It was wonderful to see all those words and sentences and paragraphs. 

 It made me wish I still had an attention span.

Perhaps in the dead of this winter, when the snow is piled up and I feel like idling away a few hours, I will be able to muster up a remnant of my existing attention span and read more of those pages.  But for now, I just jump in here and there when I have a minute and browse, taking in the artifacts of our culture and my youth. 

And hum along to Dr. Hook’s refrain that’s playing in my head—-Gonna get my picture on the cover, gonna buy five copies for my mother…

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They showed the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors on television last night.  It’s always an interesting show, highlighting the careers of some of the most enduring and venerable performers and entertainers.  A virtual who’s who of our culture over the last half century.

For me, this years group of honorees was as good as it gets across the board.  You had high culture with operatic hero Grace Bumbry, jazz culture with the ever hip piano of Dave Brubeck, rock and roll with Bruce Springsteen, the world of comedy from Mel Brooks and the ultimate in dramatic acting from Robert De Niro.  What an incredible group.

One of the highlights for me was the absolute look of joy on Dave Brubeck’s face as his four sons joined in to play a medley of his compositions.  The night fell on his 89th birthday and he seems to be a testament to the longevity of those who are able to follow their passion.  I don’t know squat about jazz but what I feel is that Brubeck’s work has appeal across the spectrum of listeners out there.  There’s enough stellar playing and complicated rhythms to satisfy real jazz fans yet it’s incredibly accessible to the less savvy, like me.  Great stuff.

Of course, the other was the tribute to Bruce Springsteen.  I’ve been a big fan for well over 30 years and it’s been interesting to see how he has transformed into an elder statesman of  popular music.  I think that Jon Stewart hit it right on the head for me when he spoke of Bruce’s willingness to empty the tank for his audience every night as being the thing that most struck him and influenced him as a young fan.  I know seeing Bruce when I was younger made me hungry to find something, anything, that would make me feel that same passion and commitment in my own life.  Something where, like Bruce, I could give everything I had.  The medium wasn’t important.  It was all about the spirit of the effort, the total dedication to your own vision.  That is always in the back of mind when I see him, even today.

I remember writing a letter in the 70’s (long before e-mail) to Dave Marsh, the Rolling Stone editor who had just written an early bio of Bruce, describing how the music affected me.  I was working in a factory and couldn’t see anything on the horizon but when I listened to Bruce I was no longer a loser, a factory drone.  I had hope.  It was very much how Jon Stewart described his own experience.  Marsh responded with a lovely handwritten letter, that I still prize today, telling me how he was moved by my letter.  That, too, served as inspiration to search further, to give more.

Thanks, Bruce, for the inspiration.  You deserve this honor…

Here’s nice version of My City of Ruins from night’s show, performed by Eddie Vedder.  Enjoy.

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