Saturday, May 03, 2008

A few good reads

Since I'm probably not the only person to spend a little time wondering just what it was like to wander the Greenwich Village streets in the early 1960s, to bop into the folk clubs and sit cross-legged in Washington Square Park, to know who was who and just basically watch as the world became a new place, this new book from Suze Rotolo will command a lot of attention.

Dylan's girlfriend for the four years that he went from a recently arrived Midwestern nobody to one of the world's biggest stars, Rotolo had an utterly fascinating place in that scene.

Her bright eyes light up the Freewheelin' album cover, while Dylan stares downward. And in all likelihood, we might not be hearing from her today if she'd never appeared on a Dylan record cover.

But as this excellent LA Times article makes clear, this isn't a book of just Dylan, not does it have any sort of the groundbreaking revelations that Dylan nuts are always searching for.

The promise of an in-depth and detailed history of the whole folk world is what I'm most excited to read. A book about that place and time as it nestled and nurtured Dylan doesn't have to be just about him. Whatever it was about Greenwich Village that drew Dylan there in the first place by definition existed apart from him. That Dylan and the folk scene of Greenwich Village are now understood to be inseparable is a product of those years when Rotolo was at his side and it's that transformation of the place that's at the core of the book, as this Salon review discusses.

DOWNLOAD: Bob Dylan - Let Me Die In My Footsteps (Freewheelin' outtake)

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Next up is an ongoing feature I stumbled across at the Seattle Weekly - Behind My Music, a series by the Long Winters' John Roderick (Part 1 and Part 2 are all that are up now).

In a sense, Roderick's tales parallel Rotolo's. He was front and center for the grunge explosion in Seattle and rather than trace too much of his own existence at the time, Roderick writes as an observer, with a list of fascinating names of both bands (Motor Virus) and singers (Joey Shithead). He catalogs a rich list of strange jobs and various other weirdos he encounters along the way.

As the dying grunge scene was co-opted by major record companies, Roderick was basically out of music himself, but kept writing songs. And as Seattle began its rebirth as home of the Northwestern jangle of indie rock Roderick was in the same boat again.

He's a fascinating writer and I'll definitely keep up as this series progresses.

DOWNLOAD: The Long Winters - Pushover

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And finally, there's a great new blog at the New York Times about songwriting: Measure for Measure. The contributors are Andrew Bird, Roseanne Cash, Suzanne Vega and and Darrell Brown. Yeah, not a bad lineup.

The blog has been up for a little over a month and in the first entry, Andrew Bird described all the time he's spent over the past year in a tour bus, and how time to kill in the unfamiliarity of a new town is perfect time for songwriting. And in case I had any doubt that songwriters are a breed apart, consider this line from Bird: "Almost every breath contains some fragments of an escaping melody." It's as if he would actively have to try and prevent music from escaping from his body.

In other posts, Suzanne Vega talks about writing songs even as a teenager, and Roseanne Cash argues that the truth shouldn't get in the way of a good song - if an event didn't really happen that way, go with what makes the song better, she writes.

Indeed, what's most fascinating is how completely different one songwriter is from the next. The creative process is by its very nature an individualized thing, and this blog certainly puts the meat on those bones.

DOWNLOAD: Andrew Bird - Measuring Cups (live on KCRW)

1 comment:

Rol said...

really great post!