Direct link to mp3
[James Dean - Drive Safely]
Episode 15 – I ran at Bakersfield
This is the Dreamtime podcast - occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour weekly show.
Sometimes you write the show, and sometimes the show decides to write you. This is one of those shows. This Saturday is September 30th, 2006. Fifty-one years ago, on September 30th, 1955, James Dean died.
I didn't remember that until a few days ago. The date – and the accident – used to be a lot more important to me some 30-odd years back. In the early '70s, I spent the good part of one Fall season driving back and forth between Northern and Southern California, down the Grapevine on Route 5 from Los Angeles, through the San Joaquin Valley and back to the college I was in the long, slow process of leaving.
There was a girl in Los Angeles. There's always a girl somewhere in every story. She was in the long, slow process of leaving me too, but I didn't know that then. So every Thursday I would take the Volkswagen, loaded with whatever passengers I could find who were willing to pony up $10 bucks for a roundtrip to LA and back and leave around 11 or so at night to go stay with my girl over the weekend. On Sundays, I'd make the reverse trip… 350 miles back.
On one trip back – by myself that time – I detoured off 5 after passing Bakersfield and headed west on Highway 46, pulling off at the intersection of 46 and 41. It was a little before six pm on September 30th, 19 and 71.
Sixteen years earlier, Dean's Porsche Spyder flew over the road I had just traveled, bearing down like a freight train on the downgrade to a bump-in-the-road town called Cholame. At the intersection of Highways 46 and 41, Dean would collide with a Ford Tudor, driven by a 23-year-old with the unlikely last name of Turnupseed. It was 5:45 in the early evening. The sun was just setting.
Turnupseed would survive the accident and live for another 40 years. He would never speak publicly about what had happened. Dean's one passenger also survived. Dean lived for a few moments after the crash, but was pronounced Dead On Arrival at Paso Robles Hospital.
Rebel without a Cause would premiere about a month later.
We all make pilgrimages. In 1988, Dylan, with an entourage of 15 in tow, visited the farm that Dean grew up on, in Fairmount, Indiana. "It was 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning,” said Marcus Winslow, one of Dean’s cousins. “He'd had a concert in Indianapolis, and he came with a bus to Fairmount. He came out here for a few minutes. ..."
That was probably the morning of July 16th, 19 and 88, the morning after Dylan finished a show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds during what would become the first year of the Never Ending Tour. As an aside, Dylan mentions in the liner notes of World Gone Wrong that the Never Ending Tour actually ended three years later in 1991, to be followed by a succession of others, including The Money Never Runs Out, The Southern Sympathizer and the Why Do You Look at Me So Strangely tours.
No word on what the current one is called, although I’m holding out hope that its name is The Search for Rejection tour in honor of Modern Times.
In 1955, Bob Dylan was 14 years old. Like hundreds of other teenagers he would see Rebel multiple times, and bought Rebel's iconic red jacket… just like James Dean’s.
During the 1963 cover shoot for The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Dylan reportedly wanted to create Roy Schatt's 1954 photo of James Dean walking down West 68th in New York City. The Freewheelin' photo that would eventually be the cover uses Jones Street in Greenwich Village, a one-block street connecting West 4th and Bleeker, as its backdrop.
At least one other Don Hunstein photo from the same session has surfaced. Used as the cover art on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan Outtakes bootleg, the picture also features Dylan's girlfriend at the time, Suze Rotolo, braced on his arm as he strikes an even more Dean-like pose.
We all emulate our heroes.
On the 50th anniversary of Dean's death, the state of California put up a sign at the intersection, naming it the James Dean Memorial Junction. If you travel about a quarter of a mile west, you'll find a memorial put up in 1977 by a Japanese Dean fan. It's engraved with Dean's name, date of birth and death, an infinity symbol, and what was reportedly Dean's favorite quote, "What is essential is invisible to the eye," from The Little Prince.
Back in the early `70s, none of that was there to see at the junctions of 41 and 46, just a lonely, dusty patch of California road. I sat on the hood of my car for awhile, watching the sun go down. And I got back in the VW, pulled onto the road, blinded then by the explosion of the sunset's glare, not able to see a thing.
And a car came out of the sunset light, engine screaming, horn blaring, swerving inches from my left bumper, and then gone.
I think it was a silver Porsche. It looked like a Porsche. But except for a lone, dark patch of rubber from its braking, there was nothing left to see.
I had stalled the VW in my fright. I started it up again and drove on. In a year I'd be in the Army, and on the road that would eventually lead me here, in my kitchen in New Hampshire, looking out the window at golden Fall light, writing this, in the year of our Lord, 2006.
[Rebel without a Cause theme]
This has been Fred Bals with the Dreamtime podcast, occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour weekly show and occasionally commentary on other dreams. I'll be at Podcast Expo in Ontario, California on September 30th. If you're in the neighborhood, come by and say hello.
I'll be the guy wearing the red jacket... just like James Dean.
The opening Gig Young interview with James Dean on automobile safety and the closing Rebel theme were both taken from the beautifully produced Rebel without a Cause 2-disc DVD set. If you haven't seen Rebel - or haven't seen it in awhile, go watch it. The background music - provided tonight from the PodShow Podsafe Music Network. Check it out at 'music.podshow.com. The artist is nezecus.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Direct link to mp3
This is the Dreamtime podcast - occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour weekly show.
If you follow Bob Dylan, and I would assume you do if you listen to Dreamtime, you're probably aware of last week's NY Times article about Dylan reworking several lines from various poems by an all-but-forgotten 19th century poet, Henry Timrod, into the lyrics of songs from Modern Times.
I think while it's obvious Timrod is a source, I don't think there's much to get excited about, especially if you go to the trouble to compare Timrod's work versus Dylan's work. The lines and phrases are used in completely different ways to produce completely different works, in my opinion. I'm not going to weigh in on the debate past that except recommending - if you're interested - that you go check the lines in question both in their original form and in Dylan's version, as I did.
Timrod's poems are reproduced on many internet sites and there's an excellent site annotating Modern Times' lyrics that's worth your while to visit. I'll link to those sites in this episode's show notes.
I bring all this up only because I recently did a "sources of 'Love and Theft,'" in episode 12, and this week's episode is on the famous plagiarism story behind "Rum and Coca-Cola." Fwiw, I had both episodes planned long before the Modern Times story, and I don't want my listeners thinking I'm promoting some sort of hidden agenda of criticism against Dylan.
As with "Love and Theft," Modern Times is filled with references, allusions, sampling, and reworking from both ancient and contemporary sources. And personally, I find locating Dylan's sources a fascinating and enlightening exercise. And, as with "Love and Theft," I look forward to discovering the sources behind Modern Times. 'Nuff said.
On to this week's episode 14 - Working for the Yankee dollar
[Andrews Sisters - "Rum and Coca-Cola"]
"Rum and Coca-Cola" has a very twisty history. A huge hit for the Andrews Sisters, selling over seven million copies after its release in 1945, the melody apparently began life as a Martinique folk song sometime in the 19th century. In 1906, Lionel Belasco, a Trinidadian pianist, composer and bandleader, used that melody and added lyrics and the title, "L'Année Passée."
As Dylan mentions in an introduction to another song, Calypso often acts as a cultural meme, reporting important social and political news - and always opinion - to people without access to newspapers, radios, or television. "L'Année Passée", or "Last Year," in English, tells the story of the downfall of a daughter of a prominent Trinidad family, who ends her days as a prostitute walking the Trinidad streets.
["L'Annee Passee" excerpt]
Last year [the song goes], Last year I was a little girlLuckily for Belasco, even though he never recorded the song, nor apparently put the lyrics to paper until the 1940s, he did submit "L'Année Passée" among several other songs to a publisher, who copyrighted it in 1943.
Living with my dear mother at home;
This year I am a woman though,
On the streets you will find me roam.
Sometime between 1942 and 1943, Rupert Westmore Grant, a Calypso singer known professionally as "Lord Invader," composed the words to "Rum and Coca-Cola." Lord Invader's version, in the tradition of Calypso, is a complaint about American G.I.'s ah, "relationships," with the local women who, as the song goes, "saw that the Yankees treat them nice / and they give them a better price." In fact, the final stanza of the Lord Invader version relates a bride running away with a US soldier lad, driving her "stupid husband" "staring mad" in the process.
The lyric was copyrighted in Trinidad in February of 1943 and Lord Invader began to sing the song publicly in March using a reworked version of "L'Année Passée" as the melody. In court, Grant claimed that he hadn't tried to copyright the music in the belief that it belonged to Belasco, as it did.
In September of 1943, Morey Amsterdam arrived in Trinidad as an entertainer for the U.S.O. He stayed for about a month, during a period when Lord Invader's "Rum and Coca-Cola" was at the peak of its popularity. Amsterdam's testimony about how he supposedly wrote the song was rife, in the court's terms, with contradictions and improbabilities. He claimed never to have heard the Lord Invader version and came up with the idea for the song when he heard a soldier sing the words, "Rum and Coca-Cola kill the Yankee soldier" to the melody of "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More." That inspired him, Amsterdam claimed, to write the "Rum and Coca-Cola" lyrics, and put the song into his show, still using the "Ain't Gonna Rain No More" tune.
Back in New York, Amsterdam reportedly offered the song to a now long-forgotten singer, Jeri Sullivan, who commissioned Paul Baron, she said, to write the music. In testimony equally as torturous as that offered by Amsterdam, Baron claimed to have based his music - mysteriously identical to that of Belasco's - on a Spanish melody and on a song he called "King Jaja." Baron was possibly smoking King Jaja at the time, since he couldn't identify that song, its origin, or who had sung it.
In any case, if you're a collector of obscure Andrews Sisters items, you might want to search out one of the first 200,000 singles of "Rum and Coca-Cola," listing Amsterdam as sole composer of both lyrics and music. For reasons unknown, but probably having something to do with the fact that "Rum and Coca-Cola" was a mega hit, Jeri Sullivan and Paul Baron quickly consulted a lawyer, and in the credits after 1944, Amsterdam, Sullivan, and Baron are all listed as co-composers and copyright holders.
Maybe because of bad karma, the Andrews Sisters version of the song had a troubled career, even though a million-selling record. The sisters were recording two songs for Decca, and finding they still had 30 minutes of session time, they decided to record "Rum and Coca-Cola," even though they had only seen the song for the first time the night before. Patty Andrews recalled, "We hardly really knew it, and when we went in we had some extra time and we just threw it in, and that was the miracle of it. It was actually a faked arrangement. There was no written background, so we just kind of faked it."
Kind of appropriate, don't you think? While the record would prove a enormous hit, only surpassed by The Tennessee Waltz and White Christmas, it was banned from the radio. First, because it mentioned rum; and at that time you couldn't mention liquor on the air. Then, there was the "Coca-Cola" problem. Free advertising in the eyes of Coke's competitors.
And, that didn't even get to the lyrics, which even in Amsterdam's sanitized version, made it pretty obvious that the mother and daughter's work for the Yankee dollar meant more than oiling up the soldier's weapons… if you get my drift. Maybe that's why the Andrews never included "Rum and Coca-Cola" in any of their films.
In 1947, the copyright holder of Lord Invader's original lyrics - not Lord Invader himself - prosecuted a successful infringement case against Amsterdam and the US publisher of "Rum and Coca Cola." And in 1949, the copyright holder of "L'Année Passée," - who wasn't the composer, Belasco - successfully sued the publisher again.
Reportedly, both Belasco and Lord Invader eventually received six-figure payments in settlement, I assume from the copyright holders who had won the cases. But ironically, the infringers would retain their copyright to "Rum and Coca-Cola." And as Dylan says, people still think Morey Amsterdam wrote the song. In fact, if you go to Amsterdam's page on the International Movie database site, you'll see "Rum and Coca-Cola" listed in his credits.
So, ask yourself, who wrote "Rum and Coca-Cola?" Morey Amsterdam, U.S. copyright holder, who slightly changed some lyrics to a song he heard in Trinidad? Lord Invader, who put new lyrics to a song written by Lionel Belasco in the early 1900s? Lionel Belasco, who adapted his music from a folk song from the 1800s?
And how far back does the thread stretch from there? Who originally wrote the music that would evolve into "Rum and Coca-Cola"?
[Lord Invader - "Rum and Coca-Cola" excerpt ]
This has been Fred Bals with the Dreamtime podcast - occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour weekly show. Dreamtime is not associated with XM Radio or Bob Dylan. No names were changed to protect the innocent in tonight's podcast. Until next time, hold tight on to your dreams.
Sources: Lord Invader - "Rum and Coca Cola" excerpt; Legal opinion by New York District Judge Simon Rifkind, who ruled that the music to "Rum and Coca-Cola" infringed upon the copyright to Lionel Belasco's song, "L'Année Passée."; The Mudcat Cafe, a website devoted to folk musicology, has a forum thread that discusses the song, with postings that include the full lyrics of both the Lord Invader and Morey Amsterdam versions, as well as the lyrics to "L'Année Passée" and some alternative, more ribald lyrics for "Rum and Coca-Cola" that Amsterdam reportedly sang when entertaining troops. ("She wear grass skirt but that's O. K. / Yankee like to hit the hay.") Links via Wikipedia which provides an overview of the "Rum and Coca-Cola" story.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Episode 13 - Stay away from planes and automobiles
Direct link to mp3
[Dylan Email reading - from "Devil"]
"…I don't know what they're teaching in school nowadays, but here's a list for ya: Two princesses - Princess Grace of Monaco and Britain's Princess Diana; the famous 20th century dance innovator Isadora Duncan; Albert Camus, the author of "The Stranger;" James Dean, who died in his Porsche Spyder; action-painter Jackson Pollock; beautiful blonde actress Jayne Mansfield; and old blood'n'guts himself, General George Patton, Jr., all died in car accidents.
So be careful when you get behind the wheel. You never know when the checkered flag comes down and you find yourself in a race with the Devil."
[Dead Man's Curve excerpt]
Notably missing from Dylan's list in the "Theme Time" episode, "Devil," are any musicians. But, if you're a regular listener to "Theme Time," you'll know that Dylan has provided an ongoing roll call of musicians who have died in plane and automobile crashes since the first show, "Weather," and his introduction of "The Spaniels" version of "Stormy Weather."
The Spaniels were on the Winter Dance Party Tour with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper in February of 1959, the day the music supposedly died, as Dylan relates with noticeable disgust in his voice, because the music can't die, of course. It's probably one of the few things in the world that's definitely indestructible, unkillable, invincible. But musicians are only human, and Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper all did die that day in the infamous plane crash.
It's not easy being a DJ, Dylan mentions in the recent "Radio" episode, and it's not easy being a professional musician either. Bad food, a bad lifestyle where bottles, pills and needles are all too available. And there's too much travel, and nights staring out at a sea of faces that you can barely see through the lights. And the next day is the next town, and you have to get there somehow.
You wonder whether Dylan thinks about that on the Never-ending Tour, looking out the window as the bus takes him to another town.
Patsy Cline was another star claimed in a plane crash, on March 5th, 19 and 63, along with her manager, Randy Hughes, who was flying the yellow Piper Comanche, and Cline's fellow musicians, Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins. Dylan played Hawkin's Dog House Boogie on the 16th episode of "Theme Time." and Cowboy Copas' "Three Strikes and You're Out" on "Baseball."
As I mentioned in my last episode, Jack Anglin, of Johnnie & Jack, also died in 1963, driving alone to attend a memorial service for Patsy Cline not far from his home. Jack rounded a bend at high speed, crashed and was killed at age 46. Dylan hasn't played Johnnie & Jack yet on "Theme Time," but I bet he will.
Another artist who I'm betting will make a "Theme Time" appearance is Rick Nelson, who Dylan has high praise for in "Chronicles." Born Eric Hilliard Nelson in 1940, Rickie Nelson had the million-selling hit, "Travelin' Man" in 19 and 61. Shortly after the single topped the US charts, Nelson celebrated his 21st birthday and announced that he was changing his performing name from Ricky to Rick.
Ten years later, Nelson composed "Garden Party," an open letter to fans that he was determined not to become a living museum of `60s replays, like it or not. Ironically, "Garden Party" also became a million-seller and was Nelson's last hit record. On the 31st of December 19 and 85, a chartered plane carrying him to a concert date in Dallas crashed near De Kalb, Texas.
[Travelin' Man excerpt]
Planes are dangerous enough for musicians, as are helicopters, as Bill Graham among others would tell you, but for sheer body count, four-wheeled vehicles are the musician's major nemesis.
Eddie Cochran - Dylan played his "Summertime Blues" - was killed in England when his taxi suffered a burst tire and veered off the road and crashed. Gene Vincent was a badly injured passenger.
Keith Godchaux of the Grateful Dead - Dylan played their "Friend of the Devil," in the "Devil" show, although Pig Pen was still their keyboardist back then - was leaving a toll plaza and drove straight into the back of a flatbed truck, killing him instantly.
Speaking of the "Devil" episode, and as I mentioned in my own take on the Louvins, Ira Louvin died at age 40 in a head-on collision with a drunk driver as he drove home from a performance. Of course country music has a rich history of songs about car crashes, such as Porter Wagoner's "Carroll County Accident," which I think pretty much fits Dylan's recent exposition on what country music is all about.
[Carroll County Accident]
Tommy Perkins, the drummer for Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys died in 2003 driving home from a festival celebrating the "King of Western Swing."
J.B. Lenoir from the "Mother" episode of "Theme Time" died in 19 and 67 from a heart attack following a car crash.
Bessie Smith - lost at age 43 when her car was struck head-on by a truck. She survived the accident, but legend has it that she was denied treatment from several "whites only" hospitals in Mississippi before arriving at a "colored's only" hospital in Clarksdale. But by then it was too late for Bessie.
And I could go on but I think that's enough. It's a jungle out there, as Randy Newman sings, and many of the beasts have steel skins. So take care of yourself, and if you think of it, say a prayer for all the musicians on the road.
This has been Fred Bals with the Dreamtime podcast - occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour weekly show. Dreamtime is not associated with XM Radio or Bob Dylan, and is obviously not associated with either the airline or automobile industries. Until next time, stay safe, and sweet dreams.
Links to music excerpted on the show:
Jan & Dean - Dead Man's Curve (Amazon link)
Rick Nelson - Travelin' Man
Porter Wagoner - The Carroll County Accident
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Will the Circle Be Unbroken - Wreck On the Highway
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Episode 12 - Love, Theft, and Emails
Direct link to mp3
[Dylan - Email]
Time for a change of pace again and time to answer some of the emails that have been coming into Dreamtime. First up is a letter from two brothers, Johnny and Jack Richard from Birmingham, Alabama, one of my favorite towns. They write,
Dear Dreamtime,Well, that's two questions, J&J, but I'll let it go this time. I call it "Dreamtime" because Mr. Dylan calls his show, "Theme Time," and I like the rhyme. Plus, his tag-line is "Themes, Dreams and Schemes." But "Scheme Time" didn't make any sense.
We love your show and we're glad it's a podcast so we can listen to it during the day, since our Mom won't let us stay up late. But we have a question: how come you call it Dreamtime, and how come you never play any John Lennon, our Mom wants to know?
Tell your Mom I'll play some Lennon and/or Beatles music when "Theme Time" does. But while we're waiting, here's a song you all will enjoy, played by your namesakes, the singing brother act, Johnnie & Jack, who weren't brothers at all, but brothers-in-law.
[Uncle John's Bongos]
That was Johnnie & Jack and their song from way back in 19 and 61, "Uncle John's Bongos." Johnnie's wife was a lady named Muriel Deason who, if you're a fan of country music, you'll know better as Kitty Wells. Johnnie & Jack made the Billboard country charts a total of 15 times - with and without Kitty.
In 19 and 63, Jack would die in a car crash - ironically while he was on his way to a memorial service for Patsy Cline, herself killed in a plane crash - ending the team of Johnnie & Jack.
Here's an email from Roberta Warren of Washington, D.C….
Dear Dreamtime,Well, Roberta, I gotta tell you, I'm sorry to say I discovered I wasn't the True Fan I make myself out to be. That day was the coldest day of the Summer this year, and it was either drizzling or raining hard all day.
So, how was the Dylan concert at the Manchester ballpark that you said you were going to way back in Episode 2?
And you know what? They don't allow umbrellas in ball parks. Guess they're scared you might poke out someone's eye, I guess. Now, I love Bob Dylan, but I'm smart enough to come in out of the rain, especially when I don't have an umbrella.
Here's someone I'd go listen to rain or shine, in the Summer Days or the Summer nights… Big Joe Turner with "Roll `Em, Pete."
[Roll `Em Pete]
Big Joe's gal got eyes like diamonds, they shine like Klondike gold. And all he wants is a little loving from her, cause he knows she's going to die someday. Just wants a little loving, he does, before she passes away.
More email here from Brenda Starr, down the road in Cambridge, MA. Brenda writes,
Dear Dreamtime,Well, thanks, Brenda. I'm doing Dreamtime for lots of reasons, but mostly because I love radio, and always wanted to be on it. But today's radio ain't radio… programmed-ized, homogenized, stupefied. I want the radio back that I grew up with as a kid, with DJ's like Wolfman Jack - before he got popular - and Dusty Roads, and Outrageous Nevada, Stephen Seagull, and the Night Bird. I want DJ's who played whatever they felt like… like Bob Dylan does.
I love your shows, especially the one about Tiny Tim, but how come you're doing them? Forgive me, but you don't sound like a natural radio talent.
Here's someone you're not likely to hear on any commercial radio soon, Eddie James House, Jr., better known as Son House, with "Low Down Dirty Dog Blues." from 19 and 42.
[Low Down Dirty Dog Blues]
You know, I think Son House liked songs with "Dog" in the title. Some of the other ones he recorded included, "Sic 'Em Dogs On," "Weary Dog Blues," "Baby Please Don't Dog Me 'Round," and "Police Dog Blues." Dylan could have done the whole "Dogs" show just using Son House tunes!
Well, I'm tired of being insulted in emails, so I think I'll play something to cheer myself up before I read another one. Here's one of my favorites, Billie Holiday, also known as Lady Day, who's having herself a time.
[Having Myself A Time]
"Having Myself A Time," was written by the team of Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin. Some of their other hits included "La Bomba," "Blue Hawaii," "Easy Living," which was another hit for Billie Holiday, and the Bob Hope theme song, "Thanks for the Memory."
Okay, I'm feeling better now, so let's go back to the emails. Here's one from someone whose name I can't read… looks like the ink got smeared. They write…
Dear Dreamtime,Hmmm. Is that some sort of joke?
Why do you think Dylan plays mostly old music on "Theme Time"? Don't you think he likes Modern Times?
I like old songs too, and here's a classic from the '30s and the golden age of dance bands. If it's not too much to ask, think of a moonlight lake, a dance hall, and the girl of your dreams floating in your arms and snuggled on your shoulder
[Snuggled On Your Shoulder]
If "Snuggled on Your Shoulder" sounds like it could be from a Woody Allen movie, you're right. Allen used the composer's - Carmen Lombardo - music in several movies, including "Annie Hall," and "Radio Days." Carmen's more famous brother was Guy, who, if you're as old as me and Dylan, you probably listened to on New Year's Eve, before it got rockin'.
Well, the big clock on the wall says there's no more time for any more emails, but keep those electronic cards and letters coming, please. email@example.com.
We're closing out with another oldie, "Lonesome Road," by the voice of the Southland, Gene Austin.
This has been Fred Bals with the Dreamtime podcast - occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour weekly show… and occasionally commentary on something else. Dreamtime is not associated with XM Radio or Bob Dylan, but sometimes sees other associations. Until next week, dream on, my brothers and sisters.
Sources: Bob Dylan's Hidden Inspiration ; Johnnie & Jack biography from CMT.com ; Son House discography; Roll `Em Pete lyrics