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Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Annotated “Weather” Theme Time Radio Hour - Episode 1

Being a Compleat Transcript with Commentary of the premiere episode of Theme Time Radio Hour

***

First Broadcast Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

[Rain and wind sound effects]

“The Lady in Red” (Ellen Barkin): It’s night time in the Big City. Rain is falling. Fog rolls in from the waterfront. A nightshift nurse smokes the last cigarette in her pack.

Ellen Barkin: It’s Theme Time Radio Hour with your host, Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan: It’s time for Theme Time Radio Hour, dreams, schemes and themes. Today’s show… all about the weather. Curious about what the weather looks like? Just look out your window or take a walk outside.

Bob Dylan: We’re going to start out with the great Muddy Waters, one of the ancients by now whom all moderns prize. One of his early songs on the Chess label, “Blow Wind, Blow,” featuring Jimmy Rogers, Otis Spann, and… Little Walter. From the windy city of Chicago, Muddy Waters, “Blow Wind Blow.” Here’s Muddy.

[Muddy Waters – “Blow Wind Blow”]

Commentary

Although unrelated musically, no one can hear the title of the first song aired on Theme Time without thinking of Dylan’s own Blowin’ in the Wind.

“…one of the ancients by now whom all moderns prize.”

The first shot fired in the great “did Bob Dylan contribute to TTRH scripts?” debate, and a definite point for the “Yes” side.

The line is a paraphrase taken from Alexander Pope’s 1711 poem, “An Essay on Criticism,” an unlikely reference for producer/writer Eddie Gorodetsky to be making in relation to Muddy Waters, no matter how literate the ex-radio jock and comedy writer may be.

The Ancients only, or the Moderns prize:
(Line 394)

There’s much for Bob Dylan to like in “An Essay on Criticism,” including Pope’s argument that all good writing stems from “the imitation of the ancients,” and his contention that bad criticism is much more tiresome to the reader than bad writing.

Dylan may have adapted the “one of the ancients…” line to acknowledge one of the primary tenets of his career: all artists owe a debt to their predecessors, a thread that would run through many Theme Time commentaries.

Although little-remembered in these modern times, “An Essay on Criticism” has made several contributions to the popular lexicon including, “a little learning is a dangerous thing,” and “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”



Bob Dylan: Muddy Waters, “Blow Wind, Blow.” Chicago’s known as the Windy City, but it’s not the windiest city in the U. S. The windiest city is Dodge City, Kansas. Other windy cities are Amarillo, Texas, and Rochester, Minnesota. All of which beat Chicago. But you can’t beat Muddy Waters singing “Blow Wind, Blow.”

Commentary

“…the windiest city in the U. S.”

Theme Time Radio Hour sources often can be found by entering a few key words into Yahoo or Google and following the results. Dylan’s list of the windiest cities in the U.S. appears to be from a 2005 USATODAY.com article, one of the top links appearing in Google results for the phrase, “windiest city in the U.S.”

“…the windiest U.S. city is Dodge City, Kansas, with an average speed of 13.9 mph. Other windy cities include Amarillo, Texas (13.5 mph) and Rochester, Minn. (13.1 mph.).”

Using the first results they found on the Web was a habit that would occasionally get the Theme Time researchers into hot water with the show’s more discerning listeners. An unhappy fan pointed out midway through Season 1 that many of Bob Dylan’s stories about the music and musicians were reproduced almost verbatim from Wikipedia articles or other easily identifiable sources. Occasionally the information the TTRH team found would also be dead wrong, with the error repeated on-air by Dylan.

[“Weather” jingle]


Bob Dylan: James Houston Davis, better known as Jimmy Davis. Not only a singer and songwriter, but also the governor of Louisiana, wrote this song. He also wrote a bunch of risqué songs. At his 100th birthday party in 19 and 99 he performed four songs. One of them this one.

[Jimmy Davis – “You Are My Sunshine”]

Bob Dylan: “I dreamed I held you in my arms. When I woke I was mistaken. You make me happy when shies are grey.” “You Are My Sunshine,” Jimmy Davis.

Commentary

"James Houston Davis, better known as Jimmy Davis. Not only a singer and songwriter, but also the governor of Louisiana, wrote this song."

It’s curious that neither Bob Dylan nor Eddie Gorodetsky seemed aware that Jimmy Davis didn’t write “You Are My Sunshine,” a fact which is cited in almost every piece written about Davis, with even the notoriously unreliable Wikipedia getting it right. Maybe the story was simply too complicated to tell, as there are multiple histories about the cloudy origins of "You Are My Sunshine."

According to most accounts, Davis and his pedal steel guitarist, Charles Mitchell, purchased the song from a Paul Rice - who may or may not have composed it himself- for $35 in 19 and 39 and put their own names on it, a not uncommon practice of the era. In his later days, Davis provided a semi-acknowledgement of the truth, claiming that he had been misquoted over the years about writing the song and had been referring to his efforts in popularizing it, rather than in claiming authorship.

Jimmie Davis did perform four songs at his 100th birthday party at Baton Rouge in 1999, including the one he didn’t write but was best-associated with, “You Are My Sunshine.” He passed away in his sleep at his home on Sunday, November 5, 2000, at the age of 101,

"He also wrote a bunch of risqué songs."

Davis recorded a number of risqué songs during his early career, including a paean to monkey glands, which I wish TTRH had aired, a popular impotence treatment of the `30s, in his "Organ Grinder Blues."

Gonna get me some monkey glands,
Be like I used to was;
Gonna run these mamas down,
Like a Dominicker rooster does.

Bob Dylan: All right now. Going out West, where I belong. Get away from the gee-rind. “I walk. They talk. They twist, they shimmy. They’re frisky, frisky ‘Frisco girls.” This here song was a hit by The Riveras. The Ramones covered it many years later. Here’s the original, this is “California Sun” done by Joe Jones.

[Joe Jones – “California Sun”]

Bob Dylan: “Having fun in the ol’ California sun.” Joe Jones. Joe was from New Orleans. He had a hit record with “You Talk Too Much.” Unfortunately, he passed away last year.

Commentary

"Unfortunately, he passed away last year."

Joe Jones died on November 27, 2005, confirming that Dylan recorded his commentary sometime between January 2006 and the show’s air date of May 6, 2006.

Bob Dylan: “I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine.” Dean Martin with Paul Weston and His Dixieland 8. We forget how much Elvis wanted to be Dean. But this is one of the songs that Elvis himself recorded for Sun Records. “I don’t care if the sun don’t shine. We kiss and kiss, and kiss some more. Don’t ask how many times we kiss. There’s no fun with the sun around.” “I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine.” Dean Martin, Paul Weston and His Dixieland 8.

[Dean Martin with Paul Weston and His Dixieland 8. – “I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine”]

Commentary

"We forget how much Elvis wanted to be Dean."

Bob Dylan’s off-hand remark that would prompt me to begin Dreamtime, and eventually attempt a book on Theme Time Radio Hour.

The idea that Elvis had ever wanted to be Dino had never occurred to me, but a little research did show that Martin had, in fact, been one of Presley’s favorite singers and role models.

Jerry Hopkins' “Elvis: A Biography,” relates a story told by the office manager of Sam Phillips' Sun Records studio, Marion Keisker, who said that in Elvis’ first audition he relied so heavily on Dean Martin material she felt that he had deliberately decided "...if he was going to sound like anybody, it was going to be Dean Martin."

“I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine” was originally composed for Disney’s animated film Cinderella, but dropped from the final score.



[The Prisonaires – “Just Walking in the Rain” (excerpt)]

Bob Dylan: The Prisonaires’ lead singer, Johnny Bragg, was sentenced to 99 years for rape when he was just 11 years old. But, you know for a black man in Tennessee in the `40s, rape could have been just looking at the wrong white woman in the wrong way.

Bob Dylan: All right, now get this. The governor of Tennessee heard the Prisonaires sing “Just Walking in the Rain” and arranged for them to record for Samuel Phillips Sun label on June 1st 1953. It hit the airwaves and took off, selling 250,000 copies. Johnny Ray, a very popular singer at the time, covered it for Columbia, selling over two million copies.

Bob Dylan: After the third single, several members of the group were paroled and formed another group called The Sunbeams. In 1955 they changed their names again, to The Marigolds, and recorded a song called “Rolling Stone.” Johnny Bragg, who was out on parole, was sitting in the back seat of a car with a white girl… who was his wife. Which, somehow, violated his parole and he ended up spending the next six years back in the lockup.

Bob Dylan: A sad story. A beautiful song. “Just Walking in the Rain,” The Prisonaires.

[The Prisonaires – “Just Walking in the Rain”]

Commentary

"Johnny Bragg, was sentenced to 99 years for rape when he was just 11 years old."

Dylan misread the script or there was a typo. Bragg was imprisoned at age 17, not at age 11.

"The governor of Tennessee heard the Prisonaires sing “Just Walking in the Rain” and arranged for them to record for Samuel Phillips Sun label on June 1st 1953."

Most histories of The Prisonaires have them discovered by radio producer Joe Calloway, who beat the drum about The Prisonaires to Sam Phillips, and who eventually brought them into the studio on June 1st 1953. After “Just Walking in the Rain” became a hit the band did become favorites of governor Frank G. Clement, and they frequently performed at his mansion.

"Johnny Bragg, who was out on parole, was sitting in the back seat of a car with a white girl… who was his wife. Which, somehow, violated his parole and he ended up spending the next six years back in the lockup."

After his sentence was commuted in 19 and 59 Bragg was in and out of prison on various parole violations, described as both trumped-up and legitimate, depending on the source. Bragg completed his final jail term in 19 and 77, He passed away in 2004.

Dylan missed the opportunity to tell several other stories about Johnny Bragg, including a reported 1961 prison visit from Elvis, who had been captivated by “Just Walking in the Rain.” Another visitor was supposedly Hank Williams Sr. Both stories, as well as the legend that Bragg sold Williams “Your Cheatin’ Heart” for $5, are likely apocryphal but would have been perfect grist for the TTRH story mill.

Time: 17:01

(Storm sound effects)

Bob Dylan: Theme Time Radio Hour. Dreams, schemes, and themes.

Bob Dylan: “After The Clouds Roll Away” by The Consolers, a husband and wife team from Florida. They recorded this song on the Nashboro label. Don’t know what kind of clouds are rolling away, but they’re probably the alto cirrus, or the altostratus, one or the other. The altoculmulus (sic) might be in there too… rolling away.

Commentary

“… but they’re probably the alto cirrus, or the altostratus, one or the other. The altoculmulus might be in there too… rolling away.”

One of the first examples of Dylan’s and Gorodetsky’s fondness for having Dylan recite lists of things, a riff that would be used throughout the series.

Dylan mispronounces “altocumulus,” saying “altoculmulus” instead.

Bob Dylan: “Everything going all right. Before the day is over, clouds cover the sky. Try not to cry. But you know that indeed in each life some rain must fall. Trouble may be waiting ‘long the way.” Here’s The Consolers, “After The Clouds Roll Away.”

[The Consolers – “After The Clouds Roll Away.”]

Bob Dylan: Brother Sullivan Pugh and his wife, Lola. “After The Clouds Roll Away.”

Bob Dylan: Here’s a song by Jimi when he was trying to write a Curtis Mayfield song. Everybody thought that Jimi was a wild man, but this shows his more gentle side. Sometimes the wind whispers “Mary.” Sometimes it cries “Mary.” Here’s Jimi Hendrix, “The Wind Cries Mary.”

[Jimi Hendrix – “The Wind Cries Mary.”]

Bob Dylan: They call the wind Mariah, south of the border. But here it cries, “Mary.”

Commentary

“…when he was trying to write a Curtis Mayfield song.”

As he does throughout the 100 episodes of Theme Time Radio Hour, Dylan studiously avoids making the obvious reference to himself or his own work. He could have as easily said, “…when Jimi was trying to write a Bob Dylan song,” given the Dylanesque turns of phrases Hendrix uses throughout “Mary.”

According to Jimmy Black’s Jimi Hendrix, The Ultimate Experience, the last time Dylan saw Hendrix he remembered, “[Jimi] was slouched down in the back of a limousine. I was riding by on a bicycle. I remember saying something about a song ‘The Wind Cries Mary’…”

The Wikipedia article on the song includes an unsourced quote from Billy Cox, bassist for the Band of Gypsies: "’The Wind Cries Mary' was a riff that was influenced by Curtis Mayfield, who was a big influence for Jimi."

Various other published works also note Hendrix’s admiration for Curtis Mayfield, so Gorodetsky and Dylan may have known the connection without having to consult Wikipedia.

"They call the wind Mariah, south of the border."

“They Call The Wind Mariah” is a song from the musical, “Paint Your Wagon,” and popularized by The Kingston Trio.

[Judy Garland – “Come Rain Or Come Shine” ]

Bob Dylan: Okay, Judy Garland. Just like Prince, she’s from Minnesota. “Come Rain or Come Shine.”

Commentary

"Just like Prince, she’s from Minnesota."

As is, of course, Bob Dylan. The TTRH team apparently had nothing more they wanted to say about Judy Garland, as Dylan would use the exact same line, “…just like Prince, she’s from Minnesota” when introducing Judy’s only other appearance on TTRH, performing “Smile” in the Season 3 “Happiness” episode.

Time: 27:26

Bob Dylan: “I’m gonna love ya like no-body loves ya, come rain or come shine.” Song’s written by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Harold Arlen wrote, “The World On a String” and “That Ol’ Black Magic,” and “One For My Baby, One For the Road.”

Bob Dylan: Johnny Mercer wrote “Accentuate the Positive” and “Stormy Weather,” which we’re gonna hear a little later by The Spaniels. But first, here’s a little more music by Miss Irma Thomas.

Bob Dylan: Irma’s still down there in New Orleans, rebuilding and doing what she’s got to do. Irma’s had a song out called “Ruler of My Heart” that Otis Redding changed into “Pain of My Heart.” And of course The Rolling Stones took Irma’s song, “Time Is On My Side” and had a little hit with that.

Bob Dylan: “Drip drop! It’s raining so hard, raining all night. I guess I’ll have to accept the fact that you’re not here. It’s raining.” Is it raining where you are?

[Irma Thomas – “It’s Raining”]

Commentary

"Irma’s still down there in New Orleans, rebuilding and doing what she’s got to do."

The first reference to the Hurricane Katrina disaster of August 2005 made in this show. Dylan would again refer to Katrina’s impact on New Orleans while introducing Fats Domino’s “Let the Four Winds Blow.”



Bob Dylan: “Many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away the hunger.” Saint Basil, def poet.

Commentary

The first Theme Time Radio Hour “def poet” reading is from Saint Basil, also known as "Basil of Caesarea" and "Basil the Great,” a 4th century theologian.

Eddie Gorodetsky and Bob Dylan planned Dylan’s def poetry readings as one of the staples of TTRH from the show’s very beginning, making it somewhat ironic that this first “def poet” – Saint Basil – is better-known for his moral homilies than for his poetry.

During Season 1 of TTRH, Dylan would eventually read selections or entire poems from over 25 poets ranging from Anon. to William Butler Yeats. Omnivorous reader Dylan may have supplied the Saint Basil quote. It’s also possible that Eddie Gorodetsky found it through a quick Web search for quotations about the weather, as he apparently did with much of the content used in the "Weather" show,

[Sister Rosetta Tharpe – “Didn’t It Rain?” ]

Commentary

A noticeable omission in the "Weather" episode was Dylan providing neither introduction nor closing mention of the song after playing Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Didn’t It Rain,” an error he would acknowledge 16 episodes later, on the “Friends & Neighbors” show, when he next played one of the Sister's songs.

While it’s possible that both intro and outro were cut during editing, it’s more likely that the mistake was caused by the sequence not being programmed correctly into the XM computer system. XM’s occasional errors exposing Theme Time’s high-tech seams infuriated the TTRH producers, who spent much of their time trying to maintain the illusion that TTRH was produced as many listeners probably imagined it produced, with Bob Dylan in a studio, spinning platters as he provided a running commentary on the songs. In reality, Dylan's narrative was recorded separately from the other show elements and later mixed in, a common technique in modern radio known as “voice tracking.”  When a similar mistake happened in a later show, this time with Dylan's voice introducing one song and another being played, a livid Eddie Gorodetsky called the East Coast at 7 a.m. his time to have the error fixed in later rebroadcasts.



[Sara Silverman promo - “Hi this is Sara Silverman and you’re listening to Theme Time Radio Hour with Bob Dylan!”]

Commentary

An unlikely candidate for Theme Time’s first celebrity guest spot, there’s no evidence that pretty but potty-mouthed comedienne Sarah Silverman knows, or even has met, Bob Dylan. It’s more probable that, as with many of the other celebrity guests who would be featured on TTRH, Silverman did the spot at the invitation of Eddie Gorodetsky, who she does know.

Bob Dylan: Excello Records recorded artist Slim Harpo with his harp in the rack., singing ‘bout a swampy rain. “I know I was wrong. Please come home. “Bout to lose my mind. Don’t let me cry in vain. “

Bob Dylan: Slim wrote a bunch of his songs with his wife, Lovelle. (laughs). Boy, wish I had a wife like that – help me write songs.

[Slim Harpo – “Raining In My Heart”}

Bob Dylan: Slim Harpo, with his harp in the rack. On Theme Time Radio Hour, “Raining In My Heart.”

[audio clip from “Taxi Driver.” “Some day a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.”]

Bob Dylan: Lord Beginner! “Jamaican hurricane, oh what sorrows and pain, Jamaica, because of the hurricane. Hundred-mile-an-hour wind is an awful blow.” Calypso is like a rap, or field hollers. Telling the news to people who got no access to the media. Here’s Lord Beginner, Jamaica Hurricane.

[Lord Beginner – “Jamaica Hurricane”]

Commentary

The first example of TTRH’s ongoing love affair with calypso and reggae, music which would be played regularly throughout the show’s three-year run, especially in the later seasons. Dylan would repeat his analogy of music as a means of distributing news in several other shows.

[WSVA ID jingle]

Time: 40:37

Bob Dylan: Here’s Fats Domino, “Let The Four Winds Blow.” We seem to be playing a lot of records from New Orleans. Well, that only makes sense. New Orleans has been hit pretty hard by the weather. Fats Domino himself was missing for a few days, they finally found him and pulled him up in a boat. Here’s Fats to sing, “I like the way you walk. I like the way you talk. Let the four winds blow.”

[Fats Domino – “Let The Four Winds Blow.”]

Commentary

Domino’s 9th Ward home was flooded to the roof during Hurricane Katrina. Due to the confusion caused by the storm and miscommunications – including someone spray-painting “R.I.P. Fats” on his roof – both family and friends thought the missing Fats was likely dead. He was eventually found and rescued on September 1st 2005, taken to the Superdome and later evacuated to Baton Rouge.

[WARM weather jingle]

Bob Dylan: Here’s The Spaniels, “Stormy Weather.” “Life is bare. Gloom and misery everywhere. The blues walked in and met me. Rockin’ chair would get me.” An awfully happy song for gloom and misery.

[The Spaniels – “Stormy Weather”]

Bob Dylan: The Spaniels, with their lead singer Pookie Hudson, were on that ill-fated tour with Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, Link Wray, and a bunch of others… which means probably I saw them. Winter Dance Party, February, 1959. The day the music supposedly died.

Commentary

Dylan apparently isn’t a fan of Don McLean’s “American Pie” if the way he spits out, “the day the music supposedly died” is any indicator.

For reasons known only to the prankster, The Spaniels’ Wikipedia entry is regularly vandalized to include the falsehood that the group was part of the 1959 Winter Dance Party tour. It’s likely that the TTRH research team stumbled across the faked “fact” there.

While it’s entirely possible that Bob Dylan was in attendance at the Winter Dance Party show in the Duluth Armory on January 31st 1959, as he’s claimed on several occasions, he didn’t see either The Spaniels or Link Wray during that show. Neither the group nor Wray were part of the `59 tour either before or after Holly’s death. Dylan is careful to note that he “probably” saw the group, possibly ad-libbing off-script while wondering why he didn’t remember seeing them.

Time: 46:45



Bob Dylan: Here’s “Place in the Sun” by Stevie Wonder, only this is the way you might hear it in Italy…. [Speaks Italian gibberish with mentions of prima della and frittatas]: Stevie Wonder, Place in the Sun.”

[Stevie Wonder – “Place in the Sun (“Il Sole E' Di Tutti”)]

Bob Dylan: Stevie Wonder singing, “A Place in the Sun.” Bueno, Stevie, bueno.

Commentary

A nice demonstration of how you can get away with almost anything just as long as you do it with enough brio. Dylan is neither reciting the song’s lyrics in Italian nor making a metropolitan commentary on “A Place in the Sun” but simply mouthing nonsense Italian, mostly the names of different foods.

While still a student at Emerson College in the late `70s, Eddie Gorodetsky was one of the writers and stars of a parody of Italian art films, “Nino, Nino, Nino.” The dialogue in the hour-long movie was conducted entirely in the same pseudo-Italian Dylan uses, including a heavy reliance on the names of Italian foods.

[Wind sound effects]

Bob Dylan: One of those hot, dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair. Oh yeah, make your nerve jump and your skin itch. Always on the edge of hell fire.

Bob Dylan: It’s hard for people who have not lived on the West Coast to realize how radical the Santa Ana figures in the local imagination. West Coast weather is the weather of catastrophe. The Santa Ana winds are like the winds of the Apocalypse.

Commentary

"One of those hot, dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair. Oh yeah, make your nerve jump and your skin itch. Always on the edge of hell fire.


"… It’s hard for people who have not lived on the West Coast to realize how radical the Santa Ana figures in the local imagination. West Coast weather is the weather of catastrophe. The Santa Ana winds are like the winds of the Apocalypse."

Given Bob Dylan’s magpie appropriations from other sources for use in everything from his music to Chronicles, it’s not surprising that he borrowed all his Theme Time commentary on the Santa Ana winds from other writers…. all from quotations found in the Wikipedia entry on the Santa Anas.

Dylan’s first remark is a paraphrase of Raymond Chandler’s famous lines on the infamous winds“…it was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch.” His mention of, “…always on the edge of hell fire” is a reworking of a line in Robert Crais’ mystery novel, “Chasing Darkness.” “…a sick desert wind carried the promise of Hell.”

The next set of lines are from Joan Didion’s essay, “Los Angeles Notebook” published in Slouching Toward Bethlehem, the first a near-quote and the latter two lines paraphrased from the same essay, both substituting “West Coast” for “Los Angeles.”

Didion writes, “It is hard for people who have not lived in Los Angeles to realize how radically the Santa Ana figures in the local imagination.…”

“…Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse….


Bob Dylan: But the summer wind that Frank’s singing about… maybe a little lighter. Come on in, Frank…

[Frank Sinatra – “Summer Wind”]

Bob Dylan: The song was originally a Danish song. Written by the legendary Hans Blotki (sic) [Bradtke] from Denmark. The English lyrics were written by our old friend, Johnny Mercer. And sung beautifully by Mr. Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra.

Commentary

"Summer Wind" was indeed originally written in Danish. Dylan mangles original lyricist Hans Bradtke's name while claiming (probably with tongue firmly in cheek after his struggles with the name) that he was a famous Dane. Bradtke was actually German. 

Bob Dylan: Here are The Staple Singers singing “Uncloudy Day.” “They tell me of an uncloudy day.” Pop Staples with his dreamy underwater sound of the tremolo guitar. Tremolo guitar bar – that’s one of the hardest things to master if you’re a singer – the tremolo bar. It’s hardly ever used, you won’t hear anybody use it, because it’s very hard to control. But when you use it the right way, it can be a very beautiful effect, as we can hear from Pop Staples and The Staple Singers, singing “Uncloudy Day.”

[The Staple Singers – “Uncloudy Day”]

Commentary


"...that’s one of the hardest things to master if you’re a singer – the tremolo bar." 

Perhaps another one of those quirky Dylanesque (or Gorodetskyesque) jokes that no one else quite gets.  There is no such bar that a singer could master.  The tremolo bar, better known as the tremolo arm is "a lever attached to the bridge and/or the tailpiece of an electric guitar or archtop guitar to enable the player to quickly vary the tension and sometimes the length of the strings temporarily, changing the pitch to create a vibrato, portamento or pitch bend effect." (Mr. D. isn't the only one with access to Wikipedia).

Bob Dylan: Welllll, the ol’ clock on the wall says it’s time to go. Until next week, you are all my sunshine. If you think the summer sun is too hot, just remember, at least you don’t have to shovel it. We’ll be here next week, on Theme Time Radio Hour

[The Carter Family – “Keep on the Sunny Side”]

59:52

[“Top Cat (Underscore”)]

“Pierre Mancini”: You’ve been listening to Theme Time Radio Hour, with your host, Bob Dylan. Produced by Eddie Gorodetsky. Associate producer, Sonny Webster. Continuity by “Eeps” Martin. Edited by Damian Rodriguez. Supervising editor, Rob Macomber. The Theme Time research team: Diane Lapson and Bernie Bernstein, with additional research by Lynne Sheridan, Kimberly Williams, and Robert Bower. Production assistance by Jim McBean. Special thanks to Randy Ezratty, Coco Shinomiya, and Samson's Diner. For XM Radio, Lee Abrams. Recorded in Studio B, The Abernathy Building. This has been a Grey Water Park Production in Association with Big Red Tree.

This is your announcer, Pierre Mancini, speaking.

Join us again next week for Theme Time Radio Hour, when the subject is, “Mother.”

Monday, May 09, 2011

Theme Time Radio Hour F.A.Q.

This F.A.Q. covers the common Theme Time Radio Hour questions I've received while writing Dreamtime.  Last updated July 2011 to announce the return of TTRH, if only in reruns.

Some of the following information is unverified. When I use qualifiers such as "possibly," "probably" and so on it means I'm making my best guess based on available information. It doesn't necessarily mean I'm right. Feel free to disagree.

Q: Who did the opening "Night in the Big City" introduction?

A: Ellen Barkin. The identity of the narrator was argued among TTRH fans during Season 1 until the Christmas episode was broadcast, when Barkin identified herself.

Except for announcer "Pierre Mancini" and Dylan himself, Barkin was the only continuing voice on TTRH. Barkin introduced every episode in Seasons 1 and 2 except the Season 1 "Halloween" show, which was introduced by comedian Steven Wright.

Barkin's intro was used intermittently during the final season. In some Season 3 shows the intro was dropped altogether. In other episodes, the intro was edited to Barkin's voice simply saying, "This is Theme Time Radio Hour with your host, Bob Dylan." During the final "Goodbye" show of Season 3, which did not use an intro, Barkin was heard midway through the episode announcing to listeners, "This is Ellen Barkin. It's time to go..."

Q: What is the background music played in the credits?

A: "Top Cat (Underscore)," which can be found on the CD compilations, Tunes from the Toons: The Best of Hanna-Barbera and Hanna-Barbera's Pic-a-Nic Basket of Cartoon Classics . Both compilations are currently out-of-print, but can be purchased from third-party sellers on both Amazon and eBay.

The music is an acoustic version of the theme song from the cartoon Top Cat, composed by Hoyt Curtin.  The more familiar version of the "Top Cat" theme was played as the last song of Season 3's "Cats" episode.

Q: Where can I find playlists of the music played on TTRH?

A: The Wikipedia article on TTRH , "notdarkyet.org ," or the Theme Time Radio Hour Discussion Forum at Expecting Rain.

Q: Who is announcer "Pierre Mancini?"

A: TTRH producer, Eddie Gorodetsky.

Q: Who is Eddie Gorodetsky?

A: Gorodetsky has had a storied career as disc jockey, writer, comedian, and television writer/producer.  In some circles he's probably as well-known as Bob Dylan.

Among music collectors and music historians, Gorodetsky and his collection are legendary. In a 2010 Wall Street Journal interview, Gorodetsky estimated his collection at over 10,000 albums and 140,000 digital files.

For over two decades Gorodetsky distributed annual holiday cassette tapes and later CD compilations of forgotten, arcane and just plain weird Christmas music to friends and acquaintances. Copies of those compilations - which often resemble a TTRH playlist - are exceedingly rare and regularly sell for hundreds of dollars. They can be occasionally found on eBay, especially around the holiday season.

It's likely that their common interest in music is how he and Bob Dylan first met. Gorodetsky, a Rhode Island native and a one-time Boston deejay, is a member of the so-called "Boston Mafia" circle of Dylan friends and acquaintances, which includes Peter Wolf and Peter Guralnick.  He may have been introduced to Dylan through one of those people.  Gorodetsky is reportedly a close friend of another musician who values his privacy - Tom Waits - probably one of the reasons that Waits made regular "guest appearances" on Theme Time Radio Hour and, with Dinah Washington, became the show's "most-played artist" by the close of Season 3.

One commercial Eddie Gorodetsky Christmas compilation, Christmas Party with Eddie G was released, the only issue from the Strikin' It Rich label, owned by Bob Dylan.

The 1990 compilation, later re-issued in 1996, is in many ways a precursor of what would become the idea for TTRH. The press release announcing the formation of Strikin' It Rich stated that it would be, "releasing rare and interesting rhythm and blues material," presumably much of it originating from Gorodetsky's massive record collection, and probably with the idea that the label's releases would be curated by Gorodetsky and Dylan himself. Strikin' It Rich's goal of "releasing rare and interesting rhythm and blues material," fizzled out after Christmas Party with Eddie G. and would remain nascent for a decade before being revived for the genesis of Theme Time Radio Hour.

Before TTRH, Gorodetsky's connection to Dylan was best-known through the television series, Dharma & Greg, where Gorodetsky was a writer/producer and arranged for a Dylan cameo appearance on the show. Gorodetsky has also appeared in the movie Masked and Anonymous and in the Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee music video.

Q: What are Big Red Tree and Grey Water Park Productions?

A: Grey Water Park is Bob Dylan's production company, used to produce and finance various Dylan-related media projects, including TTRH. Big Red Tree is Eddie Gorodetsky's production company, filling a similar role for him as GWPP does for Dylan.

Q: Who are the various people named in the credits?

A: Many of the research/production team named are long-time employees of Bob Dylan, or more accurately, of Grey Water Park Productions. Many of the other people named are - or were - employees of XM Radio.

The "associate producer" of Season 3 was one "Nina Fitzgerald," also credited as "Nina Washington," replacing Season 2's "Ben Rollins," who himself had replaced Season 1's "Sonny Webster." The three pseudonymous associate producers giving a nod to jazz giants was actually just one person who prefers, as the saying goes, to remain anonymous.

Jim McBean, who is credited with "production assistance," was the XM Radio vice president of production and an "audio animator" whose staff developed the TTRH promotional announcements as well as supplying some of the vintage radio airchecks used on the show. You can hear McBean's voice in the promotions  as well as the "Sponsored by Cadillac" intro used throughout most of Season 2. McBean left Sirius XM in 2008 and formed "Music Fog," a site covering Americana music, with several other partners.

Randy Ezratty, who was the engineer who recorded Dylan's 1995 MTV "Unplugged" album, reportedly introduced Lee Abrams to Dylan's business people and helped to facilitate the show's production process. Ezratty's mobile recording company - Effanel Music - was purchased by XM Radio in 2006, and Ezratty became an executive at XM. Engineer and editor Rob Macomber, another member of the Effanel team, also joined XM Radio at that time.

Out of all the XM Radio personnel associated with Theme Time Radio Hour, Rob Macomber was the person who worked most closely with the Theme Time team.  Among other responsibilities, Macomber was part of the composite "studio engineer, 'Tex' Carbone," together with sound editor, Damian Rodriguez and the anonymous associate producer. 

Coco Shinomiya is a respected graphic designer and art director, a two-time Grammy nominee, and incidentally, Eddie Gorodetsky's wife. Shinomiya has worked on many Bob Dylan-related projects, and designed the Theme Time Radio Hour iconic logo.

Lee Abrams was the Chief Creative Officer of XM Radio, and the prime mover in bringing Dylan to satellite radio. He left the company in 2008.

The identity of continuity coordinator, "Eeeps" Martin is unknown, as is the correct spelling of his/her nickname.

Q: Is the Abernathy Building real?

A: The Abernathy Building and surrounding environs (Studio B, Samson's Diner, Elmo's, Carl's Barber Shop) exist only in the theater of the mind.

Q: How did TTRH start? Where is it recorded? How is it produced?

Creation

Then-Chief Creative Officer Lee Abrams wrote that in 2005 he had pitched Dylan's offices on the idea of Dylan doing something for XM Radio. A "Bob Dylan Channel" was discussed, but the idea was discarded. In ongoing talks the concept of a weekly radio show evolved, and a deal was signed in late December 2005. Abrams went on to write that the premiere show was originally scheduled for a February 2006 release. The first press release about the show names March as the start date, but the premiere was eventually pushed out to May to accommodate Dylan's schedule.

Production

The mechanics of TTRH production were a closely-held secret, due to a desire to preserve the Dylan mystique as well as the listener's "willing suspension of disbelief" that TTRH was a vintage radio show, with Your Host Bob Dylan broadcasting live from Studio B of the Abernathy Building.

In reality, Dylan's narrative was recorded separately from the other show elements and later mixed in, a common technique in modern radio called "voice tracking." Dylan used a mobile recording set-up to lay down his narrative tracks while on tour or at other locations. Final editing and production sessions were conducted in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Most non-musical show elements, such as the celebrity segments and the caller side of the staged phone calls were recorded in Los Angeles, home base of Eddie Gorodetsky, or in New York City, home of Dylan's Grey Water Park Productions.

Music for the various episodes were probably supplied by all the members of the TTRH team, most notably by Eddie Gorodetsky. A 2010 Wall Street Journal interview with him noted that "... much of the material for the 100 [TTRH] episodes was culled from Mr. Gorodetsky's own record collection" and it's indicative that during the interview and in the Eddie G's Holiday List sidebar, Gorodetsky names a half-dozen favorites that were aired on various episodes of TTRH.

XM Radio representatives noted in interviews that they received the shows in completed, final format, but occasionally replaced some music tracks with versions from the XM music library either better recorded or better suited for satellite transmission.

Recording vs. Air Dates

One hotly-debated topic among TTRH fans was how far in advance the shows were recorded prior to airing. XM personnel have noted in interviews that most Season 1 shows were usually delivered two weeks or less prior to airing. Other evidence, such as Dylan's remark during the "Number One" episode on Ike Turner's death shortly after that event confirms that some shows were still in production as little as two weeks prior to airing.

In an interview conducted in April 2009, in fact just a week before the broadcast of TTRH's final episode, Bob Dylan stated that he "had stopped doing those shows a while ago." Other evidence also suggests that Dylan's direct involvement with TTRH had ended sometime in  2008.

There is strong circumstantial evidence that Seasons 2 and 3 were originally planned as one Season 2 50-episode block of shows intended to run from 2007 through 2008, similar to Season 1. Likely due to Lee Abrams leaving the company, the then-pending merger of Sirius and XM, and the need for the TTRH contract to be renegotiated, the 50 Season 2 episodes were split into two 25-episode segments.  The segments were aired beginning in 2007 and continued through 2008 and into 2009 as Seasons 2 and 3, with a six-month hiatus between the two seasons. While production work continued up to the show's 2009 finale, the recording of Dylan's commentary was likely completed by late 2008.

Dylan's Involvement

Another argument among TTRH fans is how much involvement Dylan actually had with the show past reading his scripted commentary.

The evidence points to producer Eddie Gorodetsky having a strong influence on TTRH content, including scripting most of Dylan's remarks, supplying much of the music from his own record collection, creating the email and phone call segments and booking the "guest appearances" of the various celebrities, musicians, and comedians who appeared on the show. But it's likely that Dylan also interjected his own choices for the music, as well as speaking his own personal thoughts and opinions.

Various interviews over the years and Chronicles: Volume One confirm Dylan's appreciation for the musicians, genres, and music played on TTRH. Derek Barker's The Songs He Didn't Write catalogs over 50 songs played during the various seasons of TTRH that Dylan has also covered in concert and on record.

It's improbable that anyone but Bob Dylan himself would suggest that he perform an a capella rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, or that he play Blowin' in the Wind on a recorder, both of which he did on episodes of TTRH. Anyone who follows Dylan's rare remarks in concert also knows that he has a weakness for corny old jokes, a regular feature of TTRH. His occasional on-air outbursts on subjects ranging from modern medical care, "commercial affiliations," and country music have all sounded deeply heart-felt and personal.

Perhaps the strongest evidence of Dylan's commitment to Theme Time Radio Hour is the fact that he recorded the narrative for 100 episodes of the show from 2006 through 2008 during a period when he was touring, recording, and involved in numerous other projects.

Q: Which artist(s) had the most airplay on TTRH?

A: At the close of Season 3 (April 15, 2009) Tom Waits and Dinah Washington had tied as "most-played," each with 10 appearances on the turntable over the 100 episodes of TTRH.

Q: What are "deaf poets"?

A: Dylan wasn't fixated on poets with hearing problems in the early days of the show, but instead was using the hip-hop slang term "def," as in "great" or "definitive" during his poetry readings.

According to Wikipedia, "def" originated in New York City in the 1980s and was accepted into the Oxford English Dictionary in 1993. Dylan or Gorodetsky may have taken the "def poet" phrase from the HBO series, Def Poetry Jam, which ran from 2002 through 2007.

Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour poetry readings were featured throughout the show's run, although the segment was reduced in each consecutive season. Likewise, the"def poet" phrase was gradually phased out in favor of Dylan doing variations on the theme, such as referring to Robert Frost as a "frosty poet."

Def Poetry Trivia

The first def poet reading was from Saint Basil (also known as "Basil of Caesarea" and "Basil the Great") and used in the first episode of the series, "Weather," "Many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head, and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away the hunger."

While Dylan calls Saint Basil a "def poet," the theologian is better-recognized for moral homilies such as the above quote than for poetry. Dylan may have supplied Eddie Gorodetsky with the Saint Basil quote. However, it's more likely that, as with much of the information used in the "Weather" show, Gorodetsky found it through a quick Web search.

The last full def poetry reading of the series was Delmore Schwartz's "The Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me" in Season 3's Episode 21 "Sugar & Candy." In keeping with the episode's theme Dylan calls Schwartz a "candy-coated poet" after his reading.

The Flowers episode from Season 1 had the most poetry readings with Dylan quoting four separate poems from authors ranging from Christopher Marlowe to Anon.

William Shakespeare wins hands down as "most quoted" poet on TTRH. "The kid is good," as Bob Dylan says.

Q: What is and where can I find the TTRH poster?

A: Commissioned by producer Eddie Gorodetsky in 2007 from artist/illustrator Jaime Hernandez, each of the poster's scenes illustrate Ellen Barkin's "It's Night/Night Time in the Big City," introductions from Season 1 of TTRH.

The poster was originally available as a free high-resolution download at bobdylan.com from October 2007 through July 2008, but that link was discontinued upon the launch of the redesigned site. Bootleg print versions have occasionally appeared on eBay. An "authorized" low-quality print version of the poster was offered to the first 5,000 people who ordered any one of the three Bootleg Series Volume 8 packages sold through bobdylan.com. A search through Google Images may uncover copies of the original digital file at various sites on the Web.

Q: Was it possible to contact Bob Dylan about TTRH and would you get a response?

A: During the show's original run, XM advertised the email address bobdylan@xmradio.com as the means to contact Dylan and the TTRH team with suggestions and questions. There were some fan reports that their email to that address either went unanswered or generated an auto-reply noting that due to the high volume of mail received, personal responses were impossible.

Email Trivia

Before and during Season 1, XM advertised that "Dylan will read and answer select emails on his show." Most fans assumed that all the listener mail read on the show was was scripted, as several used names of Dylan friends and acquaintances, or were otherwise obviously fake. However, at least one email read on the "Friends and Neighbors" episode came from a real listener, suggesting that there were probably others over the show's 100-episode run.

Q: How can I listen to TTRH?

A: SiriusXM discontinued its rebroadcasts of TTRH episodes in April 2011, ending the show's five-year run.  However, continuing the show's aspiration to become the "I Love Lucy" of satellite radio, in late July, 2011, SiriusXM issued a press release announcing the "Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour" channel, an internet-only channel that will broadcast reruns of TTRH 24/7 on SiriusXM internet channel 801.

SiriusXM also noted the return of rebroadcasts of TTRH in its traditional time slot on satellite radio, on Deep Tracks, channel 27, on Mondays at 8:00 pm; Wednesdays at 11:00 am; Thursdays at 12:00 am and Sundays at 8:00 am (all times Eastern). The return of TTRH on both stations is scheduled for August 15, 2011.  To listen requires a subscription to SiriusXM and is only available in North America.

"Dylan Radio," a fan site, (http://www.dylanradio.com ) streams Dylan music and Dylan-related content including Theme Time Radio Hour episodes and the Dreamtime podcast. Check the site for times.

Q: Are there any commercial releases of Theme Time Radio Hour shows?

A: No. To date no complete TTRH show has been offered as a standalone commercial offering. However, there are a dozen compilations featuring music from the show as well as two promotional CDs of complete TTRH shows.  For an up-to-date listing, see The Compleat Theme Time Radio Hour Shopping List.

Q: Are there any books about Theme Time Radio Hour?

A:  Not yet. The announced "Theme Time Radio Hour Compendium," a tie-in book originally scheduled for October 2008, was never released and appears to have been placed on indefinite hold. The book's original page on Amazon (see link above), has been edited to read "Bob Dylan Untitled Christmas Book." and is no longer cataloged in any form on its publisher's site.

A 2010 article from "Crain's New York Business" noted that a literary agent was reportedly shopping a "proposed series of books" authored by Dylan, including "a collection of riffs from his Theme Time Radio Hour show on Sirius Satellite Radio."  That collection may be a version of the Compendium, which was advertised using similar language. However a "source close to Dylan," later told the LA Times in 2011 that no deal for any proposed book projects had been closed.


Q: Can I find Theme Time Radio Hour shows for download on the internet?

A: Various TTRH show archives have appeared (and regularly disappear) on the Web. A little judicious searching through Google or Dylan fan sites should identify what's currently available.

It's unlikely that a complete set of TTRH - 100 shows at the close of Season 3 - will ever be released commercially. The non-commercial efforts to distribute TTRH is likely to be the only complete record that will ever be accessible to researchers, scholars, and fans.

Q: Where can I find additional information on TTRH?

A: Although incomplete, The Annotated Theme Time Radio Hour is an excellent reference site on TTRH. Lee Abrams's original XM Radio blog is still on-line and includes a lengthy three-part post on the background and creation of TTRH. Vanity Fair published an article on TTRH trivia both in a print version and on line in April 2008. It should be noted much of that article's content appears to have been taken from The Annotated Theme Time Radio Hour site without credit.

Although TTRH has ended, any new news about the show will continue to be found at Expecting Rain, the Dreamtime blog, and DylanTweets a news feed on Twitter run by Dreamtime. Bob Dylan's official web site has also carried news about TTRH.

Expecting Rain offers a TTRH forum, which was renamed to "Picasso's Theme Time Radio Hour " in memory of one of the show's most ardent fans. The archives of RightWing Bob and the Theme Time Radio Hour page on MySpace are also of interest.



Q: Will there be a Season 4 of Theme Time Radio Hour?

A: Although there has been no official announcement, Theme Time Radio Hour appears to have ended airing original broadcasts.

In an April 2009 interview with ROLLING STONE magazine, Dylan implied that his contract to do the show was completed and stated that while Sirius XM wanted to renew the program, he wasn't sure he wanted to continue. Sirius XM declined to comment when contacted by ROLLING STONE about Dylan's remark.

***

Dreamtime friend and correspondent Heddy Richter was kind enough to review and edit the TTRH F.A.Q. for spelling, grammar, and consistency. All errors or omissions remain our own.

In Memory of Pierre Ponette ("Picasso From Belgium")

Last updated March 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Compleat Theme Time Radio Hour Shopping List

Current as of January 2011. Originally published as part of our Theme Time Radio Hour "Frequently Asked Questions" document.

Promotional CDs and 45s


Baseball

A CD of the complete Baseball show was released in 2006 as part of a limited in-store promotion for Modern Times. The link above will take you to Amazon where various re-sellers offer the disc for prices ranging from the reasonable to the ridiculous. The disc can also be found on eBay.

If packaging and "original condition" are important to you, you should make sure the packaging is the original cardboard sleeve (with the TTRH logo on the front and playlist on the back) and that the disc itself is not a CD-R copy but the original with silk-screened artwork.

If you liked "Friends and Neighbors" (see below) chances are you'll love "Baseball," which features Your Host Bob Dylan performing Take Me Out to the Ball Game a capella among its other highlights.

Friends & Neighbors

Another CD, featuring the complete "Friends and Neighbors" episode, is part of the "deluxe" Together Through Life package released in April 2009. The CD has everything that makes TTRH special and is the perfect starting point for introducing someone to the show: quirky music, interesting facts and trivia; two emails, wife-swapping and swinging, and Our Host launching into a blistering attack on modern country music. Who could ask for more?  As with the "Baseball" disc, the original "Friends and Neighbors" CD is packaged in a cardboard sleeve displaying cover artwork and track listing.  The CD also displays silk-screened artwork.

Twas the Night Before Christmas

In November 2009, Sony/Columbia offered a limited-edition 45 rpm vinyl record ("while supplies last") as a bonus to some purchasers of the "Christmas in the Heart" album. The B-side of the 45 is Our Host's reading of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" from the Theme Time Radio Hour Christmas Special.  The A-side of the single also has an interesting Theme Time Radio Hour connection, Bob Dylan's cover of Brave Combo's version of "Must Be Santa," a song that was featured on the TTRH Christmas Special.  Although no longer commercially available, the 45 is offered through various resellers on Amazon.

***

Promotional Compilations

Radio Bob and Radio Bob Another 17 Brillant Tracks...are two compilations originally included as promotional CDs in editions of Uncut magazine. Featuring music only from various episodes of TTRH, the CDs are probably only of interest to collectors wanting a complete TTRH-related collection.  Both compilations can be found on Amazon and eBay.

***

Commercial Compilations

There are currently 11 different commercial CD compilations featuring music only from TTRH.

These compilations do not include Dylan's commentary or other features that made the show unique. The tracks used on the compilations are not necessarily the ones used on the show. If you're interested in the folk, jazz, swing, rockabilly and country music played on TTRH, you might like these sets. If you're looking for TTRH shows, they're not for you.

Chrome Dreams/ISIS Compilations

There are four "unauthorized" (in the sense that they were not produced with the involvement of the TTRH team) sets from the Chrome Dreams/ISIS label:

 The Best of Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour Volume 1 and Volume 2 cover the show's first season. For reasons unknown, the U.S. Amazon store isn't carrying Volume 2, but it can be purchased at Amazon U.K. through the link above. Volume 1 can also be purchased at Amazon U.K.

 The Best Of The Second Series compiles music from the show's second season. It can also be purchased at Amazon U.K.

Presumably the last of the Chrome Dreams TTRH issues, Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour - The Best Of The Third Series has been released in the U.K. and  U.S.

All the above compilations are 2-CD sets of 52 tracks each.

Mischief Music "Radio Radio"Compilations

Four other "unauthorized" compilations come from the German Mischief Music label. Radio Radio is a 4-CD box set released in 2008 and covers music from TTRH's first season. A second "Radio, Radio" compilation is also available, Bob Dylan Radio Radio Vol. 2. As with the first, "Vol. 2" is a 4-CD set with 112 tracks. "Vol.2" also focuses entirely on Season 1 of TTRH.  A third 4-CD set, Bob Dylan Radio Radio Vol.3 appears to collect music played over Season 2 of TTRH with a total 108 tracks.

A fourth compilation from Mischief Music was released in late 2010 and is available through Amazon U.K., "Radio Radio: Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour Volume 4." Personally, given that I haven't seen/heard it, I'd approach this one with a caveat audiens 'tude. A Dreamtime correspondent notes that at least one of the tracks was directly recorded from the radio show itself and several of the tunes fade out abruptly.  Definitely a gray market entry in the TTRH field.

Ace Records Compilations

The authorized Theme Time Radio Hour with Your Host Bob Dylan set was compiled by Ace Records U.K. under the supervision of TTRH producer Eddie Gorodetsky and Dylan factotum, Jeff Rosen.

In September 2009 Ace released another 2-CD set, Theme Time Radio Hour Season 2. As the title implies, the compilation features music from Season 2 of TTRH.

In November 2010, Ace  released the third, and presumably last, of its TTRH compilations, Theme Time Radio Hour Season 3 with your host Bob Dylan. The 2-CD set is available for order through both Amazon U.S. and Amazon U.K.

Of all the commercial compilations, the Ace volumes of Theme Time Radio Hour with Your Host Bob Dylan best reflect the breadth of music played on TTRH.  All contain both relatively modern music, such as The White Stripes Seven Nation Army, The Clash's Tommy Gun, and Nirvana's Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle, as well as the type of vintage cuts you'll find on the other sets.

The Collected Ace TTRH Compilations and the Infamous Slipcase

Ace announced that it would release a box set collecting all three of its TTRH CD compilations in a packaged slipcase resembling a vintage radio, and for a short time advertised that set on both Amazon and Amazon U.K. for a $79.98 U.S. dollars price.

However, as of this writing (November 2010), both the U.S and U.K Amazon pages have been changed to sell the slipcase only - although both note that it is out-of-stock.  Adding to the confusion is the erroneous price listing and description on the Amazon U.S. page, noting a $64.84 discount and that what is being sold is "all three volumes of this acclaimed series based on Bob Dylan's 'Theme Time Radio Hour' radio show from Ace together in this limited edition cardboard box holder"  Add it to your shopping cart if you like - I did - but I think it's highly unlikely that either you or I will eventually receive all three editions of the Ace compilations in a cardboard holder for $15.14.  But hope springs eternal.

For those wishing to buy the slipcase only, the current best bet seems to be through Ace itself.

Other TTRH-related Compilations

The 2008 Starbucks compilation, Artist's Choice - Bob Dylan: Music That Matters To Him is highly recommended. The CD set reflects Dylan's musical interests, "right now," as he relates in the liner notes, and the music in the compilation could easily have appeared on a TTRH playlist. The CD also has another connection to TTRH. Its liner notes state that it was produced by "Tim Ziegler," the fictitious name used by a caller during one of the Season 2 episodes who complained that Dylan had misidentified a record label.

Christmas Party with Eddie G. is the only commercial release of one of TTRH writer/producer's Eddie Gorodetsky's infamous Christmas compilations. It's more Dr. Demento-oriented than a typical TTRH episode, and as its title implies, Christmas Party with Eddie G. is focused entirely on a holiday theme.

The compilation is notable to those interested in the background and origins of  TTRH. The original CD was the only release from Bob Dylan's Strikin' It Rich label, created in October of 19 and 90 with the stated goal of "releasing rare and interesting rhythm and blues material" and an early precursor of what would become the idea for TTRH.  Prices for the CD, available through resellers on Amazon, verge on the ridiculous to the reasonable.

Although overpriced, the CD/DVD set, Ricky Jay Plays Poker is also of interest to the TTRH fan. A friend of Bob Dylan and Eddie Gorodetsky (Eddie G. is one of the table members watching Jay demonstrate various card deceptions on the DVD feature), Jay's compilation could easily be a TTRH set with the theme of "Poker."  The tracklist includes artists as diverse as Memphis Minnie, Anita O'Day, and Lorne Greene. Recommended for the TTRH completist.


***

There are literally dozens "Roots of Bob Dylan" compilations, including at least one using that title, all collecting music that the curators claim had some influence on Bob Dylan. My personal favorite from a TTRH viewpoint is Songs from the Invisible Republic: The Music That Influenced Bob Dylan.

Invisible Republic is a 2-CD set issued by a Repertoire Records, based out of Hamburg, Germany. The 45 cuts on the set include artists as diverse as Odetta, Slim Harpo, Bing Crosby, and Curtis Mayfield. The common thread tying all together... Bob Dylan.

If you've read the various speculations and commentaries on the musical influences on the songs of "Love and Theft" and Modern Times, here's the means to listen to all their antecedents in one package: Gene Austin's The Lonesome Road; Slim Harpo's Shake Your Hips; Bing Crosby's Where the Blue of the Night (Meets the Gold of the Day) itself the theme song for Crosby's Philco radio show; Billie Holiday's Having Myself a Time; and more, including the hard-to-find Uncle John's Bongos by Johnny & Jack, which inspired probably the most nakedly transparent music appropriation Dylan has made to date: Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum.

While hard-core Dylan fans may find nothing particularly new in Invisible Republic (for example, the roots of Modern Times were thoroughly covered by the excellent Live Roots and Wounded Flowers bootleg of 2006), the chances are that you'll hear at least one surprise.

Of course, that's one of the delights of Theme Time, hearing music you've never heard before, and connecting it to other music. And it's one of the delights of Invisible Republic. If you want to listen to a Theme Time Radio Hour with the theme of "Roots," you couldn't do better for source material than Invisible Republic.

Friday, March 26, 2010

About Dreamtime

Dreamtime is an archive of blog posts and some 60-odd audio podcasts I created as commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour, a weekly satellite radio show that originally aired from April 2006 to May 2009 and is still being rebroadcast at the time of this writing.

Herein you'll find such arcana as a Theme Time Radio Hour FAQ, a list of various TTRH CDs and related material, transcripts of a few of the shows and lots of commentary discussing the show's three-year run.

I've moved on to other projects, and don't plan on updating Dreamtime past March 2010 unless there is some significant news about the show in the future.  As time passes, you'll probably find broken links, missing videos, and so on. That's life on these here interwebs.  I hope you'll still find enough content to have made the visit worth your time.  Thanks and enjoy.

Fred Bals

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Wink Or a Nod from an Unexpected Place

A reblast from the past in honor of the Gorgeous One's induction into the 2010 Wrestling Hall of Fame.






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"... all it takes is a wink or a nod from some unexpected place to vary the tedium of a baffling existence.

That happened to me when Gorgeous George the great wrestler came to my hometown. In the mid-50s, I was performing in the lobby of the National Guard Armory, the Veterans Memorial Building, the site where all the big shows happened - the livestock shows and hockey games, circuses and boxing shows, traveling preacher revivals, country-and-western jamborees.











Once a year or so, Gorgeous George would bring his whole troupe of performers to town: Goliath, The Vampire, The Twister, The Strangler, The Bone Crusher, The Holy Terror, midget wrestlers, a couple of lady wrestlers, and a whole lot more.

I was playing on a makeshift platform in the lobby of the building with the usual wild activity of people milling about, and no one was paying much attention. Suddenly the doors burst open and in came Gorgeous George himself. He roared in like the storm, didn't go through the backstage area, he came right through the lobby of the building and he seemed like forty men. It was Gorgeous George, in all his magnificent glory with all the lightning and vitality you'd expect. He had valets and was surrounded by women carrying roses, wore a majestic fur-lined gold cape and his long blond curls were flowing. He brushed by the makeshift stage and glanced towards the sound of the music. He didn't break stride, but he looked at me, eyes flashing with moonshine. He winked and seemed to mouth the phrase 'You're making it come alive.'"
"I am the Greatest Wrestler in the World!"

During the peak of his career, Gorgeous George's fame was comparable to that of Muhammad Ali's - whose public persona had more than a little of Gorgeous George in it. During the early part of his career, when he was still known as Cassius Clay, Ali was promoting his latest fight on a Las Vegas radio show. Also appearing was Gorgeous George, who was talking up his own fight and who worked himself into a frenzy describing the hurt he planned for opponent,
"If this bum beats me, I’ll crawl down Las Vegas Boulevard on my hands and knees. But it won’t happen. I’ll tear his arm off. For I am the greatest wrestler in the world!"
Like the young Dylan, the young Ali was entranced by George's rhetoric, and became even more enthusiastic when he discovered that George regularly sold out wherever he appeared. Taking up George's invitation, Ali went to see his match and, as he later remembered, "I saw 15,000 people coming to see this man get beat, and his talking did it. I said, 'This is a g-o-o-o-d idea!'"

Gorgeous George's influence can also be seen in Little Richard, James Brown, and Liberace, as well as nearly every other sports or entertainment figure - such as Elton John - who ever adopted a flamboyant, outrageous style.

Gorgeous George was born George Wagner in Seward, Nebraska on March 15, 1915. He began his wrestling career during his teens - often competing at local carnivals, where the prize purse averaged 35 cents. By age 17, George was getting bookings through the area's top promoter. At 5'9' and 215 pounds, Wagner was not all that an imposing a figure, but he developed a reputation as a solid wrestler, and by the late `30s he had legitimately captured two regional titles.

He also met his first wife, Betty Hanson, who George subsequently married in an in-ring ceremony. That turned out to be so popular that the couple incorporated the wedding into their tour and would re-enact it in arenas throughout the U.S. Seeing how show biz elements helped draw crowds may have started George thinking about developing a more memorable shtick than simply straight wrestling. At least one report has it that he got the idea for an effeminate, dandy villain wrestler after reading an article about a now-forgotten contemporary who wrestled under the name Lord Patrick Lansdowne, and who would appear at bouts as a British Lord attended by a valet.

The Human Orchid

Also known as "The Human Orchid," George debuted his new persona in 19 and 41 in Eugene, Oregon, and was instantly slapped with the title "Gorgeous George" by a bemused ring announcer. George rapidly became the villain crowds loved to hate. One of the first wrestlers to use the type of flamboyant entrance now common in pro wrestling matches, George would arrive to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance, escorted down a personal red carpet by his ring valet “Jeffries,” who would carry a silver mirror for George to gaze upon as rose petals were strewn at his feet.

These entrances often took longer than the actual bout, as George still had to exchange taunts with the crowd, have Jeffries spray the ring and unwilling opponent with disinfectant which George claimed was "Chanel #10." The show would culminate in George's refusal to let the referee inspect him for foreign objects unless he was also doused by Jeffries while George shrieked in horror, "Keep your filthy hands off me!"

Eventually the match would begin, and George would brazenly ignore the rules while chanting his motto to the audience: "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat!"

It was an outrageous, larger-than-life act, tailor-made for the new medium, television. Gorgeous George would become the biggest drawing card of the wrestling industry, as well as one of its first genuine stars. It's been claimed that Gorgeous George was responsible for selling as many TV sets as Milton Berle, Mr. Television, himself.

By the '50s, Gorgeous George was earning over $100,000 a year, making him that decade's highest paid athlete. His most famous match would take place in 1959 before 14,000 fans and millions of television viewers where he would be defeated by longtime rival "Whipper" Billy Watson and would lose his treasured platinum locks to the Whipper's razor.

Although he would wrestle for three more years, and in fact, knowing a good crowd-pleaser when he saw one, would lose his hair to an opponent's razor twice more in those three years, age and a tough lifestyle eventually caught up with the Gorgeous One. George retired in 1962, bought into a turkey ranch and opened a cocktail lounge in Van Nuys, California, "Gorgeous George's Ringside Restaurant," where he would entertain customers with card tricks. Although filmed before his retirement, you can see a different side of Gorgeous George in this clip from You Asked For It, as he demonstrates some sleight-of-hand for the audience and host Art Baker.










Our Daddy, Gorgeous George

Gorgeous George passed away on December 26, 1963 at age 48. Although he had made millions during his wrestling career and for a time was probably the most recognizable entertainer on the planet, Gorgeous George would die broke. He was buried at Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood, California, the final resting place for several other celebrities including Oliver Hardy; Curly Joe from The Three Stooges; and in a coincidental Dreamtime connection, Cliff ("Ukulele Ike") Edwards, the voice of Jiminy Cricket, who also died penniless.

Gorgeous George's grave can be found in plot 6657, near the northeast side of the fountain. A plaque reads "Love to Our Daddy Gorgeous George."

Audio excerpt from Chronicles: Volume One, read by Sean Penn.

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You've been listening to the Dreamtime podcast – occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour.

Dreamtime is researched and written by Fred Bals and is a Not Associated With production. As the name says, we're not associated with XM Radio, Bob Dylan, or much of anything else.

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