The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Band

1-16-08 The Band

It took me nearly 40 years – but I finally got to ‘hear’ “Music from Big Pink” by The Band recently. At the time this album was released – I did not know of their association with Bob Dylan. I definitely heard a few songs from “Big Pink” on the FM radio – “Tears Of Rage”, “The Weight”…and I bought one of those 3 LP boxed sets from Capitol – “Steve Miller Band – Quicksilver Messenger Service – The Band”, so I have owned an LP of “Big Pink” for 35+ years.

Somewhere in the 70’s, I remember someone in a record store asking me what I thought of The Band. At the time, I did not think them to be a ‘compulsory listen’ – the ‘hit singles’ I could remember “Up On Cripple Creek”, most notably, was not a personal favorite. My response was to say that I didn’t think they mattered, in the scheme of things. The guy I told this to was shocked: “Wow, I’ve never heard anybody say anything bad about The Band!”.

This scenario will tell you something about my orientation in the early 70’s. After The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Cream – and loads of other stuff that didn’t properly ‘make it’ into the 70’s, I found solace in British and European progressive rock. Probably when I was asked about The Band, my favorite artist at that time was Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come.

Owing to the fact that “Big Pink” is produced by John Simon, I am surprised that it took me this long to hear it properly. I am a huge fan of other John Simon productions: “You Are What YouEat” soundtrack, the first Leonard Cohen album, the masterful debut from Blood, Sweat & Tears etc. I knew about Simon’s Warner Brothers solo albums – but what else did he produce in the 70’s? Or after that?

The familiar stuff on “Big Pink“ pretty much sounds like I remembered it. The organ playing is fairly distinct. I am a bit distracted by there being 3 or 4 lead vocalists, at times. Some of the songs I did not know sounded pretty good. I think I’d even spring for a newly re-mastered CD with bonus tracks, if I could find an inexpensive copy.

Seems to me that whoever became The Eagles owes a fair bit to The Hawks (which is what The Band were called before they were known as The Band).

I come to “Big Pink” in 2008 via hearing the ‘1966 Live in England’ Bob Dylan 2CD set. The Hawks are backing him up, during the electric part of the show. Which took me to “The Basement Tapes” 2LP set of 1967 recordings of The Hawks with Bob Dylan. Which got me to playing my LP of “Big Pink”…finally. Gee, I didn’t know that the cover was painted by Bob Dylan!

Did I spend 35+ years thinking The Band were ‘too country’? And what’s with some of the accents they use? They’re all Canadians, right? My only additional thought about The Band are: Robbie Robertson is on a Howie B CD.


Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Re: The B(l)and

The only thing I can say about these dudes is that I recently saw film called "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" and I was shocked to see that Levon Helm played "The Old Man With The Radio." Eyow! He looks like Methuselah now! Not a great film, by the way.

Also, I hated "Up On Cripple Creek" also as a child. And I really hated "The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down" too! Having Joan Baez cover that was like twice the torture! So The Band were never on MY hit parade, let's say!

But kudos to Levon Helm for being the debut musical guest on SCTV back in 1981! And for looking so OLD in "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada!" I have seen a LOT of The Band lately since my wife is in a Dylan phase. We saw "No Direction Home" a little while ago. But they were not yet part of Dylan's scene in "Don't Look Back.

Also, when Richard Manuel killed himself in 1986, it was after a show at the "legendary" Cheek-To-Cheek lounge in fashionable, Winter Park, Florida. I was only miles away! I only ever saw one show there [The Bobs - excellent! 1992] but I can imagine it was too much of a comedown for Manuel too play such a rinky-dink place. Too bad LIFE ISN'T FAIR!

And anyone who inspired the Eagles must be held responsible in a court of law!

8:13 AM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...


What aspect of Dylan is your wife into?

- RK

6:30 PM  
Blogger Brian Ware said...

I have one CD by The Band and I really enjoy it when my mood is properly aligned. It's "Rock Of Ages" which is essentially a greatest hits live LP. It's nicely arranged with a horn section which gives the tunes much more energy. This LP was also reissued as a double disc with a second disc with Dylan, but I just have the original single disc.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Being female, she wants to know more about Dylan's personal life: What type of person he is, how he treats people. You know the drill. I have noticed the sexual dimorphic aspects of music fandom by my twenties. Men want to analyze the music and quantify it while women want to analyze the musician. A woman is in charge of the Ultravox website and published their fanzine for years prior to that, and after a decade is there a !@#$^ discography on so I can know if I'm missing anything? No. But there is a forum where fans can communicate with one another about minutiae regarding Ultravox and of course LOTS of interviews with the gods themselves! Feh!

5:59 AM  
Anonymous Tim P said...

Nice review. They were 4/5ths Canadian - Levon Helm is from Arkansas, which may explain some of the accent confusion.

6:39 PM  

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