Ween Breaks Up

Posted in Ween on May 31st, 2012 by Willie

One of the world’s most creative and innovate bands, Ween, has apparently ended.  The band’s lead singer Aaron Freeman, otherwise known as Gene Ween, has announced the end of Ween in Rolling Stone.  The breakup came as suprise to Mickey Melchiondo, Dean Ween, as he sent out this sad message on facebook.

Obviously it seems that the breakup is sudden and unplanned.  Aaron noted that there is no bad blood, but rather its just a time to just close that chapter in his life.  Is this really the end?  Maybe officially, but probably not forever.  I’m sure some reunion concert/reunion record will come down the road at some point.  Whether that’s gonna be in 2 years, or 20, nobody knows right now, but its truly a sad day in the history of rock and roll.  For Ween fans I have two videos.  The first is a short documentary on the guys from 2000, and the second is Aaron Freeman playing “It’s Gonna be Alright,” an appropriately crushing ballad for the occasion.  RIP Ween…


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John Lennon Was Wrong About Bob Dylan's New Morning LP

Posted in Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Record Reviews on July 7th, 2011 by Willie

Here is an exchange between John Lennon and Jann S. Wenner of Rolling Stone Magazine on Bob Dylan’s 1970 release New Morning, ”

What do you think of Dylan’s album?
I thought it wasn’t much. Because I expect more–maybe I expect too much from people – but I expect more. I haven’t been a Dylan follower since he stopped rocking. I liked “Rolling Stone” and a few things he did then; I like a few things he did in the early days. The rest of it is just like Lennon-McCartney or something. It’s no different, its a myth. WENNER:

You don’t think then it’s a legitimate New Morning?
No, It might be a new morning for him because he stopped singing on the top of his voice. It’s all right, but it’s not him, it doesn’t mean a fucking thing. I’d sooner have “I Hear You Knocking” by Dave Edmonds, it’s the top of England now.

Pretty damning stuff from John Beatle, but I understand.  John was in a revolutionary mood at the time, firmly believing that rock records should be altering people’s consciousnesses and  toppling governments.  It’s ironic because ten years later he’d release a similar record to Bob’s New Morning in the form of Double Fantasy.  Like John’s last release, New Morning was a record about escaping into the pleasures of domesticated life, taking it easy, and appreciating the little things.  New Morning was mostly written on Bob’s piano, the instrument he would retreat to when he wanted to ruminate on less socially and psychologically intense themes that would come out on his acoustic guitar.  I love this record.  When you play it, it just hums along with a sweeping peaceful energy.  John’s right about one thing, in this record, Bob left his high pitched country singing style behind in favor of his traditional folk rocking croon.  There is almost a Jim Morrison lounge like imitation going on here as Bob enthusiastically moans his way through a bunch of gospel tinged bluesy numbers.  The clearest example of this is “The Man in Me,” a boozy and rollicking celebration of romantic devotion.  This song was famously featured in the Coen Brothers fabulously funny classic film, “The Big Lebowski.”  The Coen’s apparently picked it because at the time the song was relatively obscure, and its the sort of song that only middle aged hippies like the Dude, (and my dad for that matter) would have on their mix tapes.

On the more playful side you get a cut like “Went to See the Gypsy,” a song where Bob seems to be mocking the hype surrounding some famous Las Vegas fortune teller.  It’s not about meeting Elvis Presley, as some have suggested. The straightforward storytelling on this track is very reminiscent of the minimalistic style Bob mastered on John Wesley Harding.  It’s a slow building song that just gets under you skin with repeat playings.  It’s a feeling the record gives you spades.

“Day of the Locusts,” my favorite song on the album, is a lot like “Went to See the Gypsy” in its clear cut storytelling style, but way more epic.  It’s a song inspired by Bob’s experience in receiving an honorary diploma from Princeton University and how the “singing” cicada’s spooked him.  Folk rocker David Crosby, who was with Bob at the time tells the story best, “Sara (Dylan’s wife) was trying to get Bob to go to Princeton University, where he was being presented with an honorary doctorate. Bob did not want to go.  I said, ‘C’mon, Bob it’s an honor!’  Sara and I both worked on him for a long time.  Finally, he agreed.  I had a car outside, a big limousine.  That was the first thing he didn’t like.  We smoked another joint on the way and I noticed Dylan getting really quite paranoid about it.  When we arrived at Princeton, they took us to a little room and Bob was asked to wear a cap and gown.  He refused outright.  They said, ‘We won’t give you the degree if you don’t wear this.’  Dylan said, ‘Fine. I didn’t ask for it in the first place.’…Finally we convinced him to wear the cap and gown.”  Priceless.

The last song I want to highlight is “If Not For You,” a song featured on my youtube countdown.  This track continues the steady mature romanticism that defines the record.  George Harrison famously covered the song with a lavish arrangement for his All Things Must Pass solo record, but I kinda prefer the low key presentation Dylan came up with.  Here is George and Bob taking a stab at it in the more mellow vein.

In conclusion, it’s probably a very good idea to listen to this whole record if you haven’t gotten into it ever, despite what John Lennon says.  Part of me suspects John was just projecting a hyper competitive spirit at the time.  As a newly emerging solo artist, Lennon was trying to grab some credibility real estate in the field of solo stars, and if that meant knocking Dylan a bit to make room, that was probably all the rationalization he needed.  In that same interview, he also did manage to knock the Stones, McCartney, Harrison, and all other rock artists in general outside of Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino, leaving very little room for anyone but himself to revel in glory.  Leaving John’s caustic criticisms aside, this is just the perfect Bob Dylan album to have on your playlist this summer.  It’s a hiking record, a beach record, a meadow strolling record, a real peaceful outdoorsy sonic adventure if I ever heard one.  You’d do yourself a big favor to download it, or buy it used somewhere.  Until tomorrow, cheers everybody.
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George Harrison, Bangladesh

Posted in George Harrison, Youtube Favs on June 3rd, 2011 by Willie

Part 80 of the countdown continues with George Harrison’s charity rock performance of “Bangladesh.”  This is the second video I’m posting from the “Concert for Bangladesh,” the first being the incredible rehearsal video of Bob Dylan and George Harrison playing “If Not For You.” This song starts off really sad and maudlin, but kicks into boogie rock overdrive when he hits the chorus.  I love the way he sings, “Bang-a-la-desh, Bang-a-la-desh!”  It’s very funky and driving.  We all know that the concert was the world’s first charity rock show, but I got some real fun facts that you might not have known, and that will leave you begging the universe for “what-if” mercy!  First off, George got John Lennon to agree to perform with him at the show, with one condition, that Yoko Ono not appear on stage with him.  John actually agreed, but two days before he was to leave for the show, John and Yoko got in a fight about the stipulation, and she made John decline at the last minute.  On top of that George almost got Paul McCartney of all people to play as well, but Paul had a less impulsive reason for not appearing, stating in Rolling Stone that, “George came up and asked if I wanted to play Bangla Desh and I thought, blimey, what’s the point? We’re just broken up and we’re joining up again? It just seemed a bit crazy.”  Blimey indeed!  You’re telling me that George was trying to reunite the Beatles, and almost got it done in 1971?  Imagine if he did!  This would be one of the greatest moments in rock and roll history, and would have raised Bangladesh billions of dollars.  At the time, the concert only raised $234,418.51.  Not peanuts, but not exactly a world changing amount.  Anyway, forget the Beatle reunion fantasies as they exist only for crazy people like me and you. It’s just not healthy. Anyway, without further ado, “Bangladesh!”

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