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Desert Trip Dispatch: Our Ace Reviewer Bob Busby Gives A Thumbs Up Wrapup From ‘Oldchella’

Busby: ‘One of the Best Events I’ve Ever Attended’

screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-12-25-35-amBy BOB BUSBY

Roger Waters kept his politics in check during weekend 2 of Desert Trip, but did basically tell the crowds that he would still support the Palestinian people and their causes.

Nobody yelled anything at him. There was no discomfort in the crowd. Some people left a little earlier; he finished at 12:35 a.m.

Bob Dylan opened and he was great, of course.

The people said he was better than last week. He was really good, he opened the first set and the show in fact with “Everybody Must Get Stoned,” he did “Tangled Up in Blue” and he did five or six songs that were popular. The band sounded great.

The Rolling Stones: Still Smokin’

Keef and Mick are still smokin' hot - Photo and video courtesy of Prestoff2000

Keef and Mick are still smokin’ hot – Photo and video courtesy of Prestoff2000

The Rolling Stones were The Rolling Stones, of course they were great. Mick made a funny joke to the effect of “I know people are calling this ‘Oldchella’ but maybe they should call it ‘Who’s gonna croak first?’  He also said, “I can’t help call attention to the fact that we’ve never shared the stage with a Nobel Prize winner before,” referring to Dylan.

On Saturday night Neil Young opened with classic acoustic songs and the favorite, “Sugar Mountain.

By coincidence it was a full moon, which rose huge with great light to the side of the stage while he was playing, “Harvest Moon” and the cameras went to the moon and put it on the screens. It was a crystal clear moon, it was very emotional. It was literally magical. Other people were affected in the same way. It was the most magical thing. Neil was just really on.

Sir Paul With Neil Young at Desert Trip

Photo by Kevin Mazur

Photo by Kevin Mazur

Then Paul came on, and these guys are not retired, they do this all the time and it shows. Then he brought out Rihanna.  I didn’t know the song, “FourFiveSeconds” but she was really good. Then she left. Right after that he brought Neil out and they did “A Day in the Life,” and it was a fantastic version. Neil just rocked. Paul was like, “This is Neil fucking Young!” Neil went apeshit on the guitar and Paul looked at the audience like “I hope you realize what you’re watching.” And Neil was saying “This is Paul McCartney!” It was two icons.

Saturday was the best. The Who complained before they sang a note. Roger Daltrey said, “Can somebody please turn off the fan?” That’s because it was windy and like 90 degrees at 6 o’clock still.  Not only was the heat holding, the heat held all the way through the night, it cooled down and then at 10 o’clock it warmed up again.

The real star of the show was the venue.  And the screens and the speakers. The screens were at least 10 stories tall and 100 yards wide.  The screens were so big.  We just kept remarking on how incredible the video production was. It was so crystal clear. The real star of the whole thing is the venue for sure.

The Venue at Coachella

The Who - Photo courtesy of Desert Trip for CaliforniaRocker.com

The Who – Photo courtesy of Desert Trip

You know you can put thousands of people into Giants stadium it’s tiered so it doesn’t look like this. Believe me, 85,000 people on a flat surface goes way the heck back. My friends were in the back. They had four giant screens in the back too. Four huge screens, and there were amazing speakers every 25 yards in every direction and Roger Waters made full use of those speakers with sound coming from all directions. You’d be hearing sounds like a taxi cab coming from a thousand yards to the left.

All in all, musically it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended.

Mavis Staples is Awarded The Woody Guthrie Prize at LA’s GRAMMY Museum

Mavis-Staples-Photo © Donna Balancia

Mavis Staples performs at GRAMMY Museum – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA — Mavis Staples was awarded the Woody Guthrie Prize at the GRAMMY Museum in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday night.

Among those on hand for the prestigious event were Bob Santelli GRAMMY Museum executive director, and Deana McCloud, executive director of the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Okla.

“Music can be a great tool for social justice,” McCloud said. “We want to change lives and change the world. In this country our history isn’t necessarily pretty but we’re looking for ways to do better.”

Megan Ochs, the daughter of Phil Ochs, accepted the Woody Guthrie Legacy Award on behalf of her father.

“As  patriot it’s not only the right but the responsibility to challenge the government,” Ochs said. “My father found a way to interpret political times through music.”

Staples said she was honored to receive the Woody Guthrie Prize, particularly since The Staples Singers — comprised of patriarch Roebuck “Pops” Staples, Cleotha, Mavis and Pervis Staples — always loved Guthrie’s songs.

Mavis-Staples-Photo © Donna Balancia

Mavis Staples performs at GRAMMY Museum – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“I was a teenager when I heard Peter, Paul and Mary sing “This Land Is Your Land,” and we loved the song so much that we recorded it.”

The lively leader of The Staples Singers, Mavis gave an audience of GRAMMY members and guests insights into her inspiration to sing and record freedom songs.

The Staples Singers had a history of gospel, but it was during the time of the preachings of Dr. Martin Luther King that they found their calling.

She said until the Staples Singers came along, gospel had not previously been blended with blues and it was something that made her family unique — even though their sound was met with a degree of resistance.

Staples said some things have improved, compared to the day and age in which she was raised.  She said her father was 18 and her mother was 16 when they married and that her father was proud of her mother’s cooking.

“My father would invite people over for dinner,” she said. “Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson… Ray tried my mother’s Sweet Potato Pie and said, ‘We should franchise,'” she recalled. “We could make big ones, little ones,'” she recalled. ”  My father would bring sweet potato pie to the disc jockeys,” she said. “They would say, The Staples Singers don’t need payola, they have ‘Pie-ola.”‘

Mavis-Staples-Photo © Donna Balancia

Mavis Staples discusses civil rights at GRAMMY MUSEUM -Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Staples said she was influenced by Guthrie and a host of artists like Joni Mitchell and others who used the guitar.  She told her father she wanted to learn the guitar.

“Pops had me cut my fingernails,” she said. “He gave me three lessons it was too much for him, I wasn’t learning fast enough. I wanted to pick I wanted to strum.”

Staples said she was flattered to be included in the Martin Scorsese film, The Last Waltz.  By the time the film was actually going into production, she had formed a strong bond with Levon Helm and The Band as well as Bob Dylan.  She said Dylan was always close to her brother Pervis.

Pervis is living in their parents’ house in Dalton, Ill., and he’s doing well, Staples said.

“He’s still frisky at 80,” she said. “He thinks he’s a player.”

As far as finding their successful niche, Staples said it was the sermons of Dr. Martin Luther King that influenced the Staples Singers.

“Pops had been hearing Martin Luther King on the radio and said he has a church and he would like to go to the 11 o’clock service,” Staples recalled. “We were ushered in and greeted by Dr. King who said he was glad to have Pops and the Staples.  After service, Dr. King used to shake hands. Pops shook hands and spoke to Dr. King for a while.  When we got home Pops called us in and said listen, y’all, if Dr. King can preach it, we can sing it.”

Staples said she was disappointed there aren’t more singers singing songs of freedom today and said she remains hopeful someone would come forth.

Staples sang a selection of songs and closed out the night with the GRAMMY-winning 1972 hit “I’ll Take You There,” which she said was initially scorned in the church because of its rythmn.

Mavis-Staples-Photo © Donna Balancia

Mavis Staples and GRAMMY Museum’s Bob Santelli discuss her Woody Guthrie Prize – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“They said it was Devil’s music,” she recalled. “I said, ‘The devil ain’t got no music, all music is God’s music.'”

Eventually, when she proved her point and was asked back to the church, she said the first request was “I’ll Take You There.”

Staples said she has felt fortunate to have worked with some of the top names in music.

She joked that after seeing all the memorabiliia in the GRAMMY Museum that’s devoted to Taylor Swift, she decided she would like to sing a duet with the young songstress.  “I would make more friends I think.”

In addition to collaborating with some of the greats, including Ry Cooder, and Curtis Mayfield, Staples said she enjoyed her recent work with Bruce Hornsby and Galactic.  The work won’t stop, she said.

“I’m not retiring as long as I have a voice,” she said.

And the best advice she ever received?  She said it was from her father.

“He said, ‘Sing from your heart, be sincere,” she said. “He said, if you’re singing from your heart, you’ll reach the people.'”

GRAMMYs: McCartney, Dylan and … Tom Jones?

Paul McCartney, Kanye West, Rhianna -- Photo courtesy of Grammy.com for CaliforniaRocker.com California Rocker

Paul McCartney, Kanye West, Rihanna prep for performance — Photo courtesy of Grammy.com for CaliforniaRocker.com California Rocker

LOS ANGELES — Honorees take all different styles and shapes at the GRAMMY Awards.

But 2015 is definitely a nostalgia year as Paul McCartney and Tom Jones were set to perform, and Bob Dylan was honored.

With 84 categories in 2015, there were several wins that viewers tuning in to CBS at 8 PM EST would not see.

Early winners include “Happy” by Pharrell Williams for Best Music Video and 20 Feet From Stardom as Best Music Film.

Ricky Dillard, nominated for Best Gospel Album for Amazing, was outshone by Erica Campbell, whose Help won the statuette.

“I feel I am blessed to be a nominee,” Dillard told California Rocker. “I’ve been around a long time.”

“Don’t get yourself get cornered by fear,” said Angelique Kidjo, winner in the Best World Music Album category. “Every one of us have the power to transform this world. What I tried to do is give the voice to the African women. They want to live in dignity.”

Another veteran, Toni Braxton, secured a Best R and B Album win with Love, Marriage and Divorce, surpassing Aloe Blacc, whose album Lift Your Spirit was considered a strong favorite in the category.

Rockin’ performances are expected during the evening, with McCartney teaming with Rhianna; Beyonce teaming on a Selma tribute with John Legend and Common and 60s sex symbol Jones performing with Jesse J.

Jones said: “I got my first GRAMMY in 1965, 50 years ago exactly, and I got it for Best New Artist, now (I’m) back with Jesse J  for ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin.’”

Dylan was honored with a fundraiser Musicares concert Thursday night and he gave a speech that moved the audience.

###GRAMMYS###

 

 

 

Bob Dylan’s Speech from MusiCares Concert: ‘Fringes then, Fringes Now’

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan courtesy Musicares

Bob Dylan courtesy Musicares for California Rocker

I’m glad for my songs to be honored like this. But you know, they didn’t get here by themselves. It’s been a long road and it’s taken a lot of doing.

These songs of mine, they’re like mystery stories, the kind that Shakespeare saw when he was growing up. I think you could trace what I do back that far. They were on the fringes then, and I think they’re on the fringes now. And they sound like they’ve been on the hard ground.

I should mention a few people along the way who brought this about. I know I should mention John Hammond, great talent scout for Columbia Records. He signed me to that label when I was nobody. It took a lot of faith to do that, and he took a lot of ridicule, but he was his own man and he was courageous. And for that, I’m eternally grateful. The last person he discovered before me was Aretha Franklin, and before that Count Basie, Billie Holiday and a whole lot of other artists. All noncommercial artists.

Trends did not interest John, and I was very noncommercial but he stayed with me. He believed in my talent and that’s all that mattered. I can’t thank him enough for that. Lou Levy runs Leeds Music, and they published my earliest songs, but I didn’t stay there too long.

Levy himself, he went back a long ways. He signed me to that company and recorded my songs and I sang them into a tape recorder. He told me outright, there was no precedent for what I was doing, that I was either before my time or behind it. And if I brought him a song like “Stardust,” he’d turn it down because it would be too late.

He told me that if I was before my time — and he didn’t really know that for sure — but if it was happening and if it was true, the public would usually take three to five years to catch up — so be prepared. And that did happen. The trouble was, when the public did catch up I was already three to five years beyond that, so it kind of complicated it. But he was encouraging, and he didn’t judge me, and I’ll always remember him for that.

Artie Mogull at Witmark Music signed me next to his company, and he told me to just keep writing songs no matter what, that I might be on to something. Well, he too stood behind me, and he could never wait to see what I’d give him next. I didn’t even think of myself as a songwriter before then. I’ll always be grateful for him also for that attitude.

I also have to mention some of the early artists who recorded my songs very, very early, without having to be asked. Just something they felt about them that was right for them. I’ve got to say thank you to Peter, Paul and Mary, who I knew all separately before they ever became a group. I didn’t even think of myself as writing songs for others to sing but it was starting to happen and it couldn’t have happened to, or with, a better group.

They took a song of mine that had been recorded before that was buried on one of my records and turned it into a hit song. Not the way I would have done it — they straightened it out. But since then hundreds of people have recorded it and I don’t think that would have happened if it wasn’t for them. They definitely started something for me.

The Byrds, the Turtles, Sonny & Cher — they made some of my songs Top 10 hits but I wasn’t a pop songwriter and I really didn’t want to be that, but it was good that it happened. Their versions of songs were like commercials, but I didn’t really mind that because 50 years later my songs were being used in the commercials. So that was good too. I was glad it happened, and I was glad they’d done it.

Purvis Staples and the Staple Singers — long before they were on Stax they were on Epic and they were one of my favorite groups of all time. I met them all in ’62 or ’63. They heard my songs live and Purvis wanted to record three or four of them and he did with the Staples Singers. They were the type of artists that I wanted recording my songs.

Nina Simone. I used to cross paths with her in New York City in the Village Gate nightclub. These were the artists I looked up to. She recorded some of my songs that she [inaudible] to me. She was an overwhelming artist, piano player and singer. Very strong woman, very outspoken. That she was recording my songs validated everything that I was about.

Oh, and can’t forget Jimi Hendrix. I actually saw Jimi Hendrix perform when he was in a band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames — something like that. And Jimi didn’t even sing. He was just the guitar player. He took some small songs of mine that nobody paid any attention to and pumped them up into the outer limits of the stratosphere and turned them all into classics. I have to thank Jimi, too. I wish he was here.

Johnny Cash recorded some of my songs early on, too, up in about ’63, when he was all skin and bones. He traveled long, he traveled hard, but he was a hero of mine. I heard many of his songs growing up. I knew them better than I knew my own. “Big River,” “I Walk the Line.”

“How high’s the water, Mama?” I wrote “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” with that song reverberating inside my head. I still ask, “How high is the water, mama?” Johnny was an intense character. And he saw that people were putting me down playing electric music, and he posted letters to magazines scolding people, telling them to shut up and let him sing.

In Johnny Cash’s world — hardcore Southern drama — that kind of thing didn’t exist. Nobody told anybody what to sing or what not to sing. They just didn’t do that kind of thing. I’m always going to thank him for that. Johnny Cash was a giant of a man, the man in black. And I’ll always cherish the friendship we had until the day there is no more days.

Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Joan Baez. She was the queen of folk music then and now. She took a liking to my songs and brought me with her to play concerts, where she had crowds of thousands of people enthralled with her beauty and voice.

People would say, “What are you doing with that ragtag scrubby little waif?” And she’d tell everybody in no uncertain terms, “Now you better be quiet and listen to the songs.”

We even played a few of them together. Joan Baez is as tough-minded as they come. Love. And she’s a free, independent spirit. Nobody can tell her what to do if she doesn’t want to do it. I learned a lot of things from her. A woman with devastating honesty. And for her kind of love and devotion, I could never pay that back.

These songs didn’t come out of thin air. I didn’t just make them up out of whole cloth. Contrary to what Lou Levy said, there was a precedent. It all came out of traditional music: traditional folk music, traditional rock ‘n’ roll and traditional big-band swing orchestra music.

I learned lyrics and how to write them from listening to folk songs. And I played them, and I met other people that played them back when nobody was doing it. Sang nothing but these folk songs, and they gave me the code for everything that’s fair game, that everything belongs to everyone.

For three or four years all I listened to were folk standards. I went to sleep singing folk songs. I sang them everywhere, clubs, parties, bars, coffeehouses, fields, festivals. And I met other singers along the way who did the same thing and we just learned songs from each other. I could learn one song and sing it next in an hour if I’d heard it just once.

If you sang “John Henry” as many times as me — “John Henry was a steel-driving man / Died with a hammer in his hand / John Henry said a man ain’t nothin’ but a man / Before I let that steam drill drive me down / I’ll die with that hammer in my hand.”

If you had sung that song as many times as I did, you’d have written “How many roads must a man walk down?” too.

Big Bill Broonzy had a song called “Key to the Highway.” “I’ve got a key to the highway / I’m booked and I’m bound to go / Gonna leave here runnin’ because walking is most too slow.” I sang that a lot. If you sing that a lot, you just might write,

Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose Welfare Department they wouldn’t give him no clothes He asked poor Howard where can I go Howard said there’s only one place I know Sam said tell me quick man I got to run Howard just pointed with his gun And said that way down on Highway 61

You’d have written that too if you’d sang “Key to the Highway” as much as me.

“Ain’t no use sit ‘n cry / You’ll be an angel by and by / Sail away, ladies, sail away.” “I’m sailing away my own true love.” “Boots of Spanish Leather” — Sheryl Crow just sung that.

“Roll the cotton down, aw, yeah, roll the cotton down / Ten dollars a day is a white man’s pay / A dollar a day is the black man’s pay / Roll the cotton down.” If you sang that song as many times as me, you’d be writing “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more,” too.

I sang a lot of “come all you” songs. There’s plenty of them. There’s way too many to be counted. “Come along boys and listen to my tale / Tell you of my trouble on the old Chisholm Trail.” Or, “Come all ye good people, listen while I tell / the fate of Floyd Collins a lad we all know well / The fate of Floyd Collins, a lad we all know well.”

“Come all ye fair and tender ladies / Take warning how you court your men / They’re like a star on a summer morning / They first appear and then they’re gone again.” “If you’ll gather ’round, people / A story I will tell / ‘Bout Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw / Oklahoma knew him well.”

If you sung all these “come all ye” songs all the time, you’d be writing, “Come gather ’round people where ever you roam, admit that the waters around you have grown / Accept that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone / If your time to you is worth saving / And you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone / The times they are a-changing.”

You’d have written them too. There’s nothing secret about it. You just do it subliminally and unconsciously, because that’s all enough, and that’s all I sang. That was all that was dear to me. They were the only kinds of songs that made sense.

The New Basement Tapes ‘One Night Only’ Concert

The New Basement Tapes LIVE Donna Balancia

The New Basement Tapes Live in Concert – Photos and video © Donna Balancia

Johnny Depp and Haim Join ‘Superband’

By DONNA BALANCIA — The New Basement Tapes proved work and friendship can indeed mix, performing a “one and only” show that knocked the socks off a curious LA audience in Hollywood Thursday night.

JOHNNY DEPP AND HAIM MAKE SURPRISE APPEARANCE CLICK HERE

The band, comprised of Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Goldsmith, Jim James and Marcus Mumford played the songs each had co-written to Bob Dylan lyrics discovered in Dylan’s upstate New York home.

It was a night not to be forgotten for the crowd at the Montalban Theatre in Hollywood, as the group performed songs including “Kansas City,” “When I Get My Hands on You,” “Card Shark,” and others off the new album “Lost On The River.”

SEE VIDEO -TNBT PERFORM CARD SHARK

Produced by T Bone Burnett, Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes brought together the supergroup and their lively performance in a “one night only”-billed affair.

The New Basement Tapes musicians were also joined onstage by the sisters Haim, and Johnny Depp.

VIDEO – JOHNNY DEPP PERFORMS WITH RHIANNON GIDDENS AND THE NEW BASEMENT TAPES LIVE AT MONTALBAN

The New Basement Tapes: An Amazing One-Off Performance

By DONNA BALANCIA in HOLLYWOOD — The New Basement Tapes gave a one-off performance that blew the house away at the Montalban Theater in Hollywood. Johnny Depp and Haim joined Elvis Costello and major music stars for a one night only show that no one who attended will forget.

SEE VIDEO OF JOHNNY DEPP, HAIM and THE NEW BASEMENT TAPES

The cameraderie among TNBT members Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Taylor Goldsmith, Jim James and Marcus Mumford with their special guests made an unforgettable evening for a lucky full house crowd at Montalban Theater in Hollywood.

SEE THE NEW BASEMENT TAPES WITH JOHNNY DEPP PERFORM “DUNCAN AND JIMMY”

TNBT played the songs each had co-written to Bob Dylan lyrics discovered in Dylan’s upstate New York home and some tunes got multiple renditions, proving the diversity of the talented musicians assembled for the evening.

SEE THE NEW BASEMENT TAPES PERFORM “CARD SHARK” LIVE

The new album by TNBT was produced by T Bone Burnett, and is called Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes.

This has to be one of the most unique and fun shows any of us have attended.  The friendship among the musicians was remarkable and we couldn’t help but notice their egos didn’t get in the way.

It was an interesting way to see each of these musical leaders from different bands working together on songs that Bob Dylan wrote but never finished.

We particularly liked the unplugged “Card Shark,” and “Kansas City.”

For the crowd that waited in line, it was time well spent and a memorable evening.

 

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