So, it’s just Garth now on the mystery train. I will never be able to decide where I stand on Robertson, except for his guitar playing on “Who Do You Love” and with Dylan in England c. 1966. And what else did he have to do, really? Any final thoughts would be greatly appreciated. —DEREK MURPHY
Thank you for this - the whole continuing series really - they're so interesting and pleasurable to read. Few things hit your inbox and instantly generate the kind of anticipation and excitement that certain magazines once did, but "Ask Greil" is an instant 'drop everything and devour'. It's a great kindness that you put so much time into writing and sharing them with us. Much appreciated.
Harlan Ellison had the line “I am an artist and should be exempt from shit" posted on his Olympia typewriter. No P.J fan, he, but HE knew a good aphorism when he saw it, and he saw it.
As with any list of “songs I like,” your mileage may vary, but other worthwhile Gene Vincent songs include “Woman Love,” “Bop Street,” “Race With The Devil,” “Blue Jean Bop,” and “Git It.” And since it’s known that Tony Sheridan tried to attach himself to Vincent and Eddie Cochran during their 1960 English tour (Vincent and Cochran refused to let Sheridan join them on that fateful taxi ride), I find myself wondering if Sheridan might have used Vincent’s 1956 LP version of “Ain’t She Sweet” to convince John Lennon to record the song. Just speculation, of course. Robert Mitchell, Tucson
My Buddy Holly alternate history is that he was in the plane when it went down, but survived as a paraplegic. He moved back to NYC, his daughter was born healthy, and he began hanging out in Greenwich Village clubs to pass the time. He keeps writing songs, and becomes a sort of Doc Pomus figure. Bob Dylan moves to New York to hang out with him, not Woody Guthrie. Holly’s daughter grows up to be Joan Jett. Robert Mitchell, Tucson
A little bothered by the posthumous Robbie Robertson bashing in a couple of questions. For those who don't care for The Last Waltz, watch the b'n'w video via Bill Graham's house camera of the show. It gives the viewer a single angle of the entire stage and it's like watching the concert in person. There is also fantastic footage on YouTube of The Band in their glory, The Festival Express tour in '70, w/plenty of outtakes. As Greil says, it was tough to capture Richard and Garth because they were tucked away onstage and not upfront. Both men shunned the spotlight, as did most of The Band. Robbie had to step out, not because he was a narcissist, but because no one else would or could. Post Robbie would have Levon as their spokesman and god love his incredible talent, but Helm turned those guys back into a bar band.
To clarify, I saw Christgau’s words in the most recent Xgau Sez entry. You can find them there in response to a question over his views on Robertson in light of his passing.
If my memory serves me well, it is the cover of "Blonde on blonde" that appears in "Wonderstruck".
Thank you for years of eye-opening writings
Comparing the "new and revised Creem" to a deluxe Yes album gave me a real chuckle, Greil. The Creem doc was pretty good (and necessary), and making the Creem archives readily available (reasonably priced, I think) annual subscription is terrific. But why why why does the world need a "new" Creem? The magazine died a quiet, albeit sad, death almost 35 years ago. The attempted revival of Creem is not unlike the vestiges of Herman's Hermits or Gerry and the Pacemakers or the Union Gap performing at these pathetic nostalgia festivals at state fairs in the Midwest (now the Big Market is British Invasion or Flower Pop cruises for folks my age to wallow in the memories of mediocre AM radio hits). Next to Rolling Stone, Creem was the greatest widely distributed rock magazine ever, and it had a decent run with a remarkable heyday. Why fuck that up? Anyway, thanks for calling out a very bad idea. (I did not know about The Pitchfork Review so I just bought the full run via Ebay - looking forward to reading it.)
RIP Robbie Robertson. I liked Robertson's scarf in Last Waltz-- it looked good on him. I guess he was starting to adopt a more suave, sophisticated persona, and also maybe distancing himself from his bandmates. He definitely was the best-looking of the group, and just emanated a fashion sense that definitely let you know that he had left the pastoral, rural American landscape behind. I wasn't crazy about the way he added Elvis to the list of musicians the "road destroyed or killed". Although true, he delivered the line in a gratuitous, coy ,staged way. My fave moments from the film are Van Morrison's high kicks, the way Rick Danko is so Canadian he wields his bass like a hockey stick, and the ribbing Ronnie Hawkins gives the boys during "Who Do You Love..."Big time, big time...Take it easy Garth, don't give me no lip".