So he was not only down in the basement mixing up medicine and making tapes, but squirreling away mountains of artifacts in a hideaway storage facility. Thus the late period curtain-reveal of Bob Dylan’s career continues. This is from the NYT piece by Ben Sisario on Dylan’s huge secret $60 million archive: “Humanizing touches appear, but in small and scattered pieces. There is a wallet from the mid-1960s containing Johnny Cash’s phone number and Otis Redding’s business card. We can see the 1969 telegram from “Peter and Dennis” (Fonda and Hopper, that is) about the use of “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” in the film “Easy Rider,” but the response is by a lawyer. Amid these mountains of paper, Mr. Dylan, the man, remains an enigma.”
From Big O: It’s already a big deal to have a celebrity in class but what happens when it is Iggy Pop, 68, who poses nude for your art class? Twenty-one artists, aged 19 to 80, at the New York Academy of Art were greeted by a naked Iggy Pop on February 21, 2016 as the rocker was recruited by the Brooklyn Museum to serve as the class’ nude model. Rolling Stone reported that conceptual artist Jeremy Deller, who was the driving force behind the Iggy Pop Life Class project, said: “For me it makes perfect sense for Iggy Pop to be the subject of a life class; his body is central to an understanding of rock music and its place within American culture. His body has witnessed much and should be documented.”
How nice to see a dynamic B&W photograph used on a concert poster for once…
Mick Gold treats me to a viewing of the very affecting Mavis! at BAFTA. Highly recommended for its story of family ties and Civil Rights – for Mavis Staples, it’s always all about the music. No diva-ishness, no dilution – the struggle runs through her like a seam of coal. Most moving moments: a visit to Levon Helm in his studio, rail thin and gaunt, intently listening while Mavis sings to him, and finally being compelled to join in by the beauty of her voice; Mavis talking about Pops with Jeff Tweedy and his son, and feeling the love of another musical family in the projects that they’ve recorded with her.
Other highlights: the least gnomic Bob Dylan interview, possibly ever, and the performances with her current band, a terrific ensemble consisting of guitarist Rick Holmstrom, bassist Jeff Turmes and drummer Stephen Hodges (whose work I mainly knew from the swordfishtrombones-era Tom Waits).
Mick sent me this, from the filmmaker’s notes: Many people have wondered what it was like to ‘meet Dylan.’ WTTW rented a suite in the North Side hotel where Dylan was staying. We invited Mavis and her sister Yvonne to watch the interview; they had not seen Dylan since Mavis sang background on Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone for David Letterman’s 10th anniversary show in 1992. Dylan arrived on time and alone. He wore a black riverboat gambler outfit, framed by a black cowboy hat and black gypsy boots. Like a schoolboy, Dylan tiptoed into the room with a shy stride. He carried a single red rose for Mavis. They embraced… Dylan and the Staples had some good times. This didn’t make it into our documentary, but Pervis (who left the group in 1970) recalled Dylan diving off a board at the motel where they were staying during the Newport Folk Festival. “He jumped off the board and his shorts came off,” Staples said. “I went in and got ’em. I thought something happened to him because he had his boots on, too. We got to be friends. We bought some wine, and he wrote “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” on the back of a shirt board.” I asked Dylan about this story. He said it “pretty much sounds right” and that he wrote many songs on many different objects.
In an interesting interview with Noah Schaffer for Arts Fuse, Holmstrom explained his philosophy for backing Mavis: “I really think Mavis sounds best in a stripped down setting because it gives her voice more room to resonate. Plus, a lot of my favorite Staples Singers stuff was just Pops Staples on guitar and their voices, occasionally with bass and drums too. To me, that’s where the deep Staples vocal blend really shines. It’s as if the singers are an orchestra horn section, punching and popping lines, being a lead instrument at times, not just singing “oohs and aah’s.” If you add too much it takes away from what makes it so soulful in the first place. We like to use silence and a bigger range of dynamics than most bands. We try to play really quiet at times so that when we play at medium volume it has an impact, rather than starting on 10 and staying there all night. It also makes it easier on the six singers to really sing rather than strain to hear ourselves. It’s something we have to constantly work on, remind ourselves of.”
FIVE: MICHAEL ABRAHAMS!
If only all health warnings were like this…
Thanks this week to Marc Myers of JazzWax fame for running some fine Terry Cryer shots of Sister Rosetta Tharpe with Ken Colyer this week. Marc had written about Sister Rosetta and linked to the fine BBC documentary about her, so I had sent him the shots out of interest.
Oh, and look out for a Five Things Extra! next week on all the strange Woodstock related events and coincidences that seemed to happen in the last few days.