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THE LADY OF THE LOG: Q&A w/ Catherine Coulson

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014



BYLINER mecroppedsharp_1BY JONATHAN VALANIA Catherine Coulson, aka Twin Peaks‘ resident Log Lady, will be giving a sold-out talk at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts on Saturday about all things David Lynch, with whom she has collaborated creatively since production commenced on Eraserhead back in 1971. Like everyone else in the cast and crew, from star down to cameraman, she was paid $25 a week. When money ran low — as it often did over the course of the six years it took to complete the film — her weekly salary was halved to $12.50. But true to his word, Lynch cut everyone in on the proceeds when Eraserhead became a cult smash. “Eraserhead helped put my daughter through college,” Coulson told me a few weeks ago when we spoke on the phone. She still gets a check every year. Back in the lean years, Lynch and Coulson brainstormed a character called The Log Girl — kooky, clairvoyant, and always cradling heavy lumber. She would have to wait 20 years to bring the character to life as cast member of Twin Peaks. By then, The Log Girl had blossomed into The Log Lady — a role she will be reprising next year when the Twin Peaks franchise reactivates after going dark for 20 years, with Lynch and Mark Frost back at the helm. As you’ve no doubt heard by now, that gum we all like is finally back in style.

DISCUSSED: Doing experimental theater in Haight-Ashbury in the Summer Of Love; meeting David Lynch @ The American Film Institute; being assistant director of Eraserhead and earning $12.50 a week for six years; being married to Jack Nance, aka Henry from Eraserhead; doing Jack Nance’s Eraserhead hair style; The Unified Field; The Amputee; Bertolt Brecht; Hamburger Hamlet; Jean Genet; Anne Bancroft; Ellen Burstyn; Mel Brooks; The Elephant Man; Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine Arts; Jack Fisk; Sissy Spacek; why David Lynch always wore three ties while making Eraserhead; the Lady In The Radiator; Bob’s Big Boy; Agent Cooper; Major Briggs; the prevalence of Log Lady tattoos on the internet; Roseanne Barr; Russ Tamblyn; Richard Beymer; Piper Laurie; Mark Frost; Kyle MacLachlan; Fire Walk With Me; the return of Twin Peaks.

PHAWKER: Tell me about your life before David Lynch comes into the picture. Where are you from?EraserteamCROPPED

CATHERINE COULSON: Oh, gee. I don’t even remember life before meeting David. I was a young woman then. I met him at the American Film Institute in Beverly Hills, right after he moved there from Philadelphia. He was a student at the American Film Institute, and he heard about our theater company, which was in San Francisco, where I had been working. I was married to Jack Nance, who went on to play Pete Martell on Twin Peaks, and Henry in Eraserhead. David heard about the two of us in a workshop that we did at the American Film Institute for acting. He asked Jack to come over and work a little bit on his script for Eraserhead. He cast Jack, and then he asked me if I would be a nurse in Eraserhead. He had a kind of outline. I had graduated from Scripps College in Claremont, California, and then moved to San Francisco. Met Jack Nance, got married. Came down to Beverly Hills on tour, and in theater, and that’s when I met David. I really spent the next four or five years of my life working on Eraserhead, because Jack was playing Henry. I kept waiting to shoot my scene, but by the time we got to them, it seemed like overkill to do the scene where the nurse gives Henry and Mary the baby. I was helping to raise money for the film, by that time. We sort of decided not to shoot it, which I’ll always regret, because it would’ve been fun to be in it. I am in an outtake — which unfortunately, I think is lost — where I’m strapped to a bed tied with battery cables. It’s in the room next door to Henry’s. During this time, working together on the film, we became very good friends and collaborators. I always felt like I was the handmaiden to genius. I did everything from styling Jack’s hair to making grilled sandwiches for the crew. We also made The Amputee, is that in the show, do you know? Have you seen it?

PHAWKER: No, do tell.

CATHERINE COULSON: Oh, OK. It’s an interesting piece,  When the AFI executives wanted to test two kinds of videotape ‘stock’ for use in the students’ projects they asked Fred Elmes to shoot something twice on the two different kinds of tape. (I think they were expecting a color chart or grey scale). David heard about it and he and Fred decided to shoot a scene which David wrote about a woman writing a letter. I played the woman — an amputee — and David played the doctor who tended to her bandaged stumps. We shot it twice on two video tape ‘stocks’ and used voice over only. The short was called The Amputee and when it was screened by the AFI executives for the two video tape companies, I remember one of them saying, “LYNCH. LYNCH HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH THIS!”

David Lynch & Log LadyI guess they weren’t prepared for blood spurting out of an amputated limb.We just called it a simple little love story, Eraserhead. But it seemed really normal to us, at the time. When people would ask what Eraserhead was about, we would just say it’s a simple love story. So that’s pretty much my history. I was an actor, and I worked for David, and then I went on and worked in film as a result of working on Eraserhead. I did camera work, and then I went back to acting full-time, and that’s what I’m still doing. We’re going do Twin Peaks again, so I’m excited about that.

NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Ray Davies by Alex Fine

[illustration by ALEX FINE]

listenRay Davies will be Terry Gross’ guest on Fresh Air today, discussing the new Kinks box set marking the 50th anniversary of the release of “You Really Got Me,” one of the defining songs of rock and/or roll.

Do us all a favor: Cue up “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks. Ah. Don’t you feel better already? Music in the left speaker, vocals in the right — back to mono. That twinkling strum of brotherly guitar and gently piddling snare, those drowsy sha-la-las drifting upward while the bassline tumbles downward, and the comforting sentiment that even the shittiest day on earth ends with a glimpse-of-paradise sunset. That, my friend, is the sound of your father’s Britpop. They don’t make singles like that anymore — Damon Albarn has long since stopped even trying. Sadly, the Gallagher brothers haven’t. As a modish young man, back when London was swinging and shagadelic, Ray Davies authentically articulated the quiet desperation of middle-aged English milquetoasts straitjacketed in cardigans and stuck at the crossroads of fat wives, cold tea and limp biscuits; the fashion slavery of Carnaby Street dandies; the lazy, summery noontides of stoned Victoriana, where nobody is all that concerned that London Bridge is falling down, and hey, what was in that marmalade anyway? He also wrote “Lola” — which STILL tastes just like cherry cola, C-O-L-A Cola — and then married Chrissie Hynde only to have her leave him for, of all people, the lead singer of Simple Minds. The Kinks more or less puttered out at the dawn of MTV, although they’ve never officially pulled the plug. In the late ’90s Davies became a habitue of the Big Easy. Ten years ago, Davies was shot in the leg while chasing the man who had just mugged his girlfriend in the French Quarte. America’s always been a secret unrequited love of Davies: He loves her; she shoots him. No wonder he moved back to England. – JONATHAN VALANIA

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PETITION: It Is Time For Temple Univ. To Sever Ties With A Man Accused Of Rape By 16 Women

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014


Bill Cosby, alleged rapist of at least 15 women, including a former Temple University employee, continues to be a trustee of Temple University. He spoke at the 2014 Temple University commencement. As recently as August of this year, he was honored by Temple. It’s time for Temple to recognize that continuing its relationship with Bill Cosby is damaging to its own reputation, as well as its students, employees and alumni. It’s time for Temple University to sever its ties with this man. Temple should not be the last organization to end its relationship with Bill Cosby – it should have happened in 2005 when the allegations against him first began to surface. I’m a Temple alum and I want to be able to be proud of my alma mater once again. Please sign my petition to join me in asking Temple to permanently end their relationship with Bill Cosby. SIGN HERE

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LAW & DISORDER: Ferguson Burns

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

The Full Grand Jury Report

NEW YORK TIMES: A St. Louis County grand jury decided on Monday not to bring criminal charges against Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, more than three months ago in nearby Ferguson, Mo. Unraveling how the grand jury came to its decision remains something of a mystery – the jury’s deliberations were confidential – but in thousands of pages of testimony and forensic evidence, clues emerge. Officer Wilson’s testimony, in particular, stands out both for what he says, and how he describes what happened. Officer Wilson begins by telling prosecutors some basic personal information – that he is nearly 6-foot-4 and weighs around 210 pounds. He then proceeds to explain why, in his view, the episode with Mr. Brown – whom he compares to a demon and Hulk Hogan – became violent.

The Altercation

Officer Wilson’s initial description of Mr. Brown focuses on three things: his size, that he was walking in the middle of the street with a friend, Dorian Johnson, and that Mr. Brown was wearing socks with the image of green marijuana leaves. He recalls his first verbal exchange with Mr. Brown in stark terms.
From Page 13 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

I see them walking down the middle of the street. And first thing that struck me was they’re walking in the middle of the street. I had already seen a couple cars trying to pass, but they couldn’t have traffic normal because they were in the middle, so one had to stop to let the car go around and then another car would come. And the next thing I noticed was the size of the individuals because either the first one was really small or the second one was really big.

And just for the conversation, I didn’t know this then, but the first one’s name was Dorian Johnson, the second one was Michael Brown. That was discovered, I think, the following day is when I learned the names. I had never seen them before.

He said he noticed at that point that Mr. Brown was carrying cigarillos – potentially tying him to a recent report of theft at a convenience store. He said that he had ordered Mr. Brown to get back, but that Mr. Brown became only more threatening.
From Page 16 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

He then grabs my door again and shuts my door. At that time is when I saw him coming into my vehicle. His head was higher than the top of my car. And I see him ducking and as he is ducking, his hands are up and he is coming in my vehicle. I had shielded myself in this type of manner and kind of locked away, so I don’t remember seeing him come at me, but I was hit right in the side of the face with a fist. I don’t think it was a full-on swing, I think it was a full-on swing, but not a full shot. I think my arm deflected some of it, but there was still a significant amount of contact that was made to my face.

Officer Wilson said the altercation at the car window continued to escalate.
From Page 18 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

And he said, “Hey man, hold these.” And at that point I tried to hold his right arm because it was like this at my car. This is my car window. I tried to hold his right arm and use my left hand to get out to have some type of control and not be trapped in my car any more. And when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.

Attorney: Holding onto a what?

Hulk Hogan, that’s just how big he felt and how small I felt just from grasping his arm.

He continued to provide testimony suggesting that he felt afraid for his life. And the prosecutors often did very little to question that sentiment.
From Page 22 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

I felt that another one of those punches in my face could knock me out or worse. I mean it was, he’s obviously bigger than I was and stronger and the, I’ve already taken two to the face I didn’t think I would, the third one could be fatal if he hit me right.

The Gun

Officer Wilson also revealed details of what he said was an effort by Mr. Brown to grab his gun. He again quotes Mr. Brown insulting him with a common vulgarity, and then describes the specific physicality of the episode.
From Page 29 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

He grabs my gun, says, “You are too much of a pussy to shoot me.” The gun goes down into my hip and at that point I thought I was getting shot. I can feel his fingers try to get inside the trigger guard with my finger and I distinctly remember envisioning a bullet going into my leg. I thought that was the next step.

This appears to have been the moment, according to Officer Wilson’s account, when he decided he had the right to shoot. But the weapon did not cooperate.
From Page 30 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

Like I said, I was just so focused on getting the gun out of me. When I did get it up to this point, he is still holding onto it and I pulled the trigger and nothing happens, it just clicked. I pull it again, it just clicked again. At this point I’m like why isn’t this working, this guy is going to kill me if he gets ahold of this gun. I pulled it a third time, it goes off. When it went off, it shot through my door panel and my window was down and glass flew out of my door panel. I think that kind of startled him and me at the same time.

The gunshot startled Mr. Brown, Officer Wilson said. The young man stepped back. And then came forward. He had his hands up, but Officer Wilson did not see this as a sign of surrender – quite the opposite.
From Page 31 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up.

Officer Wilson said Mr. Brown hit him again, though he admits he could not be sure if he was being punched. Then he pulled the trigger again from inside the car. He remembered firing two shots, then he said Mr. Brown ran. Officer Wilson said he chased him until Mr. Brown stopped by a light pole.
From Page 32 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

When I look up after that, I see him start to run and I see a cloud of dust behind him. I then get out of my car. As I’m getting out of the car I tell dispatch, “shots fired, send me more cars.” We start running, kind of the same direction that Johnson had pointed. Across the street like a diagonal towards this, kind of like where the parking lot came in for Copper Creek Court and Canfield, right at that intersection. And there is a light pole right there, I remember him running towards the light pole.

The End

For Mr. Brown, these were his final moments. Here is Officer Wilson’s account of those last few seconds, quoted at length.
From Page 33 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

So when he stopped, I stopped. And then he starts to turn around, I tell him to get on the ground, get on the ground. He turns, and when he looked at me, he made like a grunting, like aggravated sound and he starts, he turns and he’s coming back towards me. His first step is coming towards me, he kind of does like a stutter step to start running. When he does that, his left hand goes in a fist and goes to his side, his right one goes under his shirt in his waistband and he starts running at me.

From Page 34 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him. And the face that he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there, I wasn’t even anything in his way.

From Page 35 of Officer Wilson’s Testimony

And when he gets about that 8 to 10 feet away, I look down, I remember looking at my sites and firing, all I see is his head and that’s what I shot.I don’t know how many, I know at least once because I saw the last one go into him. And then when it went into him, the demeanor on his face went blank, the aggression was gone, it was gone, I mean I knew he stopped, the threat was stopped. MORE

Boldfaced passages beggar belief

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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

Monday, November 24th, 2014


Artwork by JACK RACKAM

SOUND OPINIONS: Robert Plant is arguably one of the most famous names and faces in music history—amazing considering he started his career in the Welsh borderlands of England, or as he says, the Black Country. There he was inspired by sounds from across the pond including the Blues and singers like Little Richard and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. Plant went on to found Band of Joy and later Led Zeppelin with his friend, drummer John Bonham, and the two ruled the rock airwaves in the 1970’s. Bonham died in 1980, and with him Led Zeppelin. But Plant has never stopped releasing music or exploring new sounds. Examples of this are Raising Sand with bluegrass musician Alison Krauss in 2007 and Band of Joy with singer-songwriter Patty Griffin. His 10th and latest album is called Lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar. MORE

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BEING THERE: Dylan @ The Academy Of Music

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Artist’s rendering

The Academy of Music opera house in Philadelphia opened in 1857, which, if memory serves,  is where and when Bob Dylan first went electric — much to the consternation of the stovepipe-hatted folkies, who felt he was selling out the purity of good ol’ steam-powered protest anthems. It is said that Stephen A. Douglas was so incensed he attempted to chop the cable supplying power to the Academy stage with an axe and had to be wrestled to the ground by none other than Abraham Lincoln, who “licked him,” as Huckleberry Finn used to say. Historic records indicate that the mutton-chopped Whig Judge Theophilus Lyle Dickey shouted out ‘Judas!’ from his stage right second floor luxury box.  A yellowed and wrinkly YouTube of the incident records Dylan responding with a laconic “I don’t believe you…you’re a liar.” Then he turned to Robbie Robertson and yelled “Play fuckin’ loud!” as The Band kicked into “Like A Rolling Stone” with amps set on KILL. Thus began the The Never-Ending Tour, which, after 157 years, came full-circle with a three night stand at The Academy Of Music that kicked off Friday night.

Never one for nostalgia or sentimentality, Dylan made no reference to those historic events of 157 years ago when he took the stage last night dressed in a cream suit and matching, wide-brimmed hat, as the band launched into the slow-gait gallop of the ironically-titled “Things Have Changed.” In fact, the only thing Dylan said all night was “We’ll be right back” before exiting the stage and signaling the onset of intermission. Many of us declined bathroom and smoke breaks to parse Dylan’s gnomic utterance for generational import on our newly acquired iPhone app designed specifically to parse gnomic Dylan utterances for generational import. Results were inconclusive. The only things that’ve changed about Bob Dylan shows in the last century and a half is that he shuffles his feet instead of picking them up when he walks and he doesn’t wear a guitar anymore, which used to give him something to do between verses. Instead he steps back from the mic, takes a wide stance and puts his hand on his hip like an old man at a urinal and nods slightly to the crowd as his magic band takes flight. “Look, Bob’s dancing!” the septuagenarian fellow next to me enthused to his wife. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that wasn’t dancing, that was rheumatism.

After 157 years of howling in the wilderness, Dylan’s voice sounds like the proverbial emphysemic cow with its leg caught in an electric fence, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Beyond that, the Platonic ideal of Dylan remains immutable and all the eternal verities still hold true: He’s still tangled up in blues. His hat still balances on his head like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine. He’s still keeping company with jokers and thieves and sword swallowers and sideshow freaks. He still has many contacts among the lumberjacks who get him facts when someone attacks his imagination. Willie McTell is still blind. The levee still breaks — high water everywhere — and there is still plenty of thunder on the mountain. Down in Ferguson they’re still selling postcards of the hanging and the beauty parlor is still full of sailors whenever the circus is in town.  The fiddler still steps to the road, writing that everything’s been returned which was owed, on the back of the fish truck that loads while my conscience explodes. The harmonica still plays the skeleton keys and the rain and these visions of Johanna are now all that remain. – JONATHAN VALANIA

RELATED: Dan DeLuca’s Non-Fiction Concert Review Of Dylan @ The Academy Of Music

RELATED: How I Learned To Stop Worrying & Love Bob Dylan

RELATED: The Night Bob Dylan Got The Beatles High On

RELATED: Q&A With Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist David Kinney, Author Of The Dylanologists

RELATED: The Ballad Of Bob Dylan’s Bag Man

Setlist after the jump…

CINEMA: The Fox In The Madhouse

Friday, November 21st, 2014



FOXCATCHER (2014, directed by Bennett Miller, 130 minutes, U.S.)

BY DAN BUSKIRK It’s hard to live in the state of Delaware and not say the name “DuPont” every day or two. Highways, hospitals, chemical plants and state parks all carry the name. In fact, the DuPonts own their home state in a way that few old money families can claim. Residents of Delaware have made peace living in the shadow of these modern day Dukes and Duchesses but there was something unnerving to discover in 1986 that the DuPont name had been affixed to homicide. The news broke that John E. DuPont, a high-profile direct heir to the family fortune, had murdered an Olympic gold medalist wrestler in some sordid little world that had been conjured on the family’s 800-acre Foxcatcher Farms estate in Newtown Square. The incident and its high-profile news coverage raised the question: what if those wise elders who invisibly run our society are actually bat-shit crazy? You don’t have to be a local to be morbidly fascinated by director Bennett Miller’s telling of the story in his new film Foxcatcher, but for audiences in the Delaware Valley, DuPont’s story takes on an extra dimension of fascination.

BEING THERE: The New Pornographers @ UT

Friday, November 21st, 2014



Ten minutes before arriving at Union Transfer to see the New Pornographers, I was dumped. Denied. Kicked to the curb. Or whatever you want to call it. Not to worry, “we can still be friends” I was told. Great. That’s just great. Having taken a crash course in the New Pornographers greatest hits and misses shortly before my arrival, I knew the show was going to feel like getting slapped upside the head with a happy stick. Great. That’s just great.

But enough of me feeling sorry for myself, there were more important things to worry about, like finding parking that wouldn’t set me back a week’s non-existent wages, and getting from my car to the venue un-victimized. Unfortunately, the only spot I could find was under a dark and dangerous-looking bridge on Hamilton Street, where shady-looking men that I’m guessing weren’t New Pornographers fans paced up and down the sidewalk. It was pitch black and terrifying and most likely filled with registered sex offenders, but the price was right. I got out of my car, slammed and locked the doors in one fluid motion as I ran off to the venue like a screaming banshee.

I got my ticket and photo pass at WILL CALL and walked inside. It was only 8:15. Somewhat distracted by my newly-minted single status and the near-death experience under the bridge, I wasn’t thinking clearly, and the backdrop of the band onstage was clearly the album art from the new New Pornographer’s album, Brill Bruisers. Oh no! They’re already on! In a panic, I pieced my DSLR together in the dark, weaving through the dad-aged crowd, leaving a zig-zag trail of dirty looks and spilled beers in my wake. When I made it to the photo pit, I asked the security guard about letting me through. Or I tried to — I’m sick right now, and my voice sounds like a little boy going through puberty. (Ordinarily I sound like a medium-sized boy going through puberty.) The security hunk said, “Sorry, photo pit’s open for the first 3 songs only, this is, like, the fifth.”


How I Learned To Stop Worrying & Love Bob Dylan

Thursday, November 20th, 2014



BY MIKE WALSH Let me make this clear up front: I’m not a Dylan-head, Dylan-ite, Dylan-phile, Dylan-ologist, or any other kind of extreme Dylan fan. In fact, I never bought a Dylan record or CD until just a few years ago. I never saw the need. Growing up in the 60’s, Dylan was on the radio all the time —“Blowing in the Wind,“ “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right,“ “The Times They Are a Changin’,“ “All I Really Want to Do,“ “It Ain’t Me Babe, “Mr. Tambourine Man,“ etc., etc. Plus, many other bands had hits with his songs, like Peter Paul and Mary, Hendrix, and The Byrds. There was no escaping Dylan back then. You listened to him whether you wanted to or not.In college, it seemed like everybody in the dorm except me owned Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Volumes 1 and 2. So I had to listen to the same songs all over dylancartoon.jpgagain at just about every dorm party. One kid down the hall even had a guitar, a neck stand with a harmonica, and a music book of Dylan’s greatest hits. So I got to hear the same songs played and sung live — quite amateurishly, to put it kindly. By the mid-70’s I’d had quite enough of Dylan — so much so that I did a nasally, slurred vocal rendition of “Like a Rolling Stone“ just to torture the Zimmermanites, even though they never seemed to mind. In fact, they joined in no matter how obnoxiously I wheezed, “How does it feeeeeeeel?,” so the joke was always on me.

What I wanted to hear was something different, something that wasn’t on the radio. Soon punk and new wave surfaced, and I’ve been a slave to indie rock and the underground sounds ever since, as my record collection can attest. My opinion of Dylan stayed the same during all that time, even though I didn’t sing “Like a Rolling Stone“ quite so often (although I did work up an even more annoying version of “The Needle and the Damage Done“ but that’s another story).

Then about five years ago I met this kid at work. About 25 years my junior and with 80 gigs of remastered 60’s classics by The Who, Beatles, Kinks, Stones, Hendrix, and Dylan on his iPod. We worked together and made quite a pair: a young kid who listened to nothing but 60’s rock heroes and a middle-aged guy still looking for the latest underground thing. It didn’t compute. We had arguments about Roger Daltrey, who I cannot abide, and The Replacements, who the kid just refused to enjoy. It was The Odd Couple Revisited.

I grudgingly agreed to listen to his ’60s music, and behold — I became enraptured with Dylan, especially early Dylan. I pored through documentaries and books. I studied the deep LP cuts. I endured I’m Not There, and I tried my best to understand The Basement Tapes. Eventually even Dylan’s harmonica playing no longer made me cover my ears and hide. Part of Dylan’s appeal for me is the history and the myth, of course: Al Kooper, The Hawks, ‘Judas!’, Baez, Newport, Suze, Ginsburg, the whole crazy scene. I mean, aside from Brian Wilson who else from the 60s can claim to have influenced the Beatles? In fact, the Beatles were still singing about holding hands when Freewheelin’ came out.

So when I heard that Dylan was appearing at the Mann, I figured it was my last chance to see him. I mean, the dude is 70, and it’s a miracle he’s still alive dylancartoon.jpgand touring. Plus, I wanted that one memory of Dylan, something to remember whenever I listened to another Dylan song. Wednesday night did not start off well. A traffic jam and parking confusion meant that we got to our seats just as the Leon Russell’s set was ending. But it did give me an opportunity to gaze in wonder at Russell’s astonishing appearance — a glowing white pyramid of hair, like some cross between Gandalf and ZZ Top. However, the covers of rock standards with which he ended his set, like “Roll Over Beethoven,” were eminently forgettable.

The Night Bob Dylan Got The Beatles High On

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

At the very moment a race riot is breaking out in North Philadelphia, the Beatles are camped at the Hotel Delmonico in New York for a two-day run at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. Something is happening in the hotel room that, had he found out, would have given Rizzo apoplexy: Bob Dylan is passing a joint to John Lennon. This act of stoner generosity will almost single-handedly light the fuse of the psychedelic ’60s. Dylan just assumed the Fab Four were all seasoned pot smokers, having mistaken the “I can’t hide” line in “I Want to Hold Your Hand” for “I get high.” Lennon warily hands the joint to Ringo Starr. Blissfully unaware of pot-smoking etiquette, he proceeds to bogart it down to the ashes. Another joint is quickly rolled. Giddy with the “profound” philosophical insight of the newly high, Paul McCartney announces he has figured out the meaning of life. He asks an assistant for a pen and a piece of paper. He simply must write this down before he forgets it. The next morning he’s disappointed to discover that the only thing written on the piece of paper is the cryptic phrase, “THERE ARE SEVEN LEVELS.” MORE


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BOOKS: Q&A With Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist David Kinney, Author Of The Dylanologists

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

EDITOR’S NOTE: This originally posted on July 17th 2014

BY JONATHAN VALANIA Sometimes I think Dylanology — the obsessive study and consumption of all things Bob — is the new (and improved) Scientology. Think about it: Both are non-denominational pop cults formed in the latter half of the 20th Century that rally around a charismatic leader and rake in boatloads of believer money. Both have celebrity acolytes and promise extraordinary insight. But there is one vast and crucial difference, as vast and crucial as the difference between The Old Testament and The New Testament: L. Ron Hubbard wrote Battlefield Earth and Bob Dylan wrote “Like A Rolling Stone.” And that, kids, is why your mother and I are not Scientologists. That, and Tom Cruise. Besides, as L. Ron Hubbards go, you could do a lot worse than Bob Dylan. Plus, the music’s better. To prove my point I got Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Kinney, author of The Dylanologists: Adventures In The Land Of Bob, on the horn. It went something like this:

PHAWKER: So where did the idea to write about Dylan obsessives come from?

DAVID KINNEY: I’ve been a Dylan fan for like 25 years and it grew a little bit out of that fishing book in that both of them are about this subculture that I was maybe on the fringes of. I’ve been a fisherman for a long time but not at any level near these guys at Martha’s Vineyard. So, to go up there and fish wish them and watch them and to go see how the professionals do it. With Dylan it was kind of the same thing. I would listen to him for a long time and I think my wife and my friends would have said I was a hardcore Dylan fan. I had all the records and I’ve seen him a bunch of times in concert. I still felt like a piker, I guess. So, I had at some point started searching for some of his unreleased recordings. I think it was maybe like 10 or 15 years ago when I discovered I had everything already and that there was other stuff out there that I heard like the ’66 concerts and that sort of thing. Searching for those recordings I kind of realized that there was this whole world out there of people who took it far more seriously than I did. So I found a ramp for another book idea. I thought it would be fun to write about them. And also for selfish reasons I wanted to go deeper into Dylan than I had before. So, I spent all this time — I could have locked myself in my attic I guess with all the CDs and a library of Dylan books and done it that way, but I wanted to go out and meet these people and immerse myself in this world to see what other people who are smarter than me had to say about Dylan. That was the fun of it. That was the genesis of the idea.

PHAWKER: You spend a lot of time following these people around while they followed Dylan, kind of like Deadheads. You’re married — to former Inquirer columnist Monica Yant-Kinney —  with children. I’m curious how ‘Honey, I have to go sleep out for Bob Dylan tickets at Madison Square Gardens’ or ‘Honey, I can’t go to your mothers I need to go to Big Pink’ went over at home.

DAVID KINNEY: Well, I call this ‘work.’ Quote unquote. It was a little less crazy than the fishing tournament. That lasted for five weeks straight. So I went to Martha’s Vineyard for six straight weeks while Monica was working at the Inquirer. We had a three-year-old at that point at home. So she was sort of a single mom for six weeks. This time, even though the book project took a lot longer, I was away for shorter periods of time. Probably if you added it all up I was gone for a couple of months traveling all over the place. I did a week of following Dylan through the Great Plains from Austin, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, all the way to Sturgis in South Dakota where he played that biker rally. I went up to New York more times than I could count. I went to England for a week and hung out with the fanzine writers there and editors. [Monica] did come with me to Vienna. There was a Dylan academic conference one year that we went out to together. She didn’t go to any of the Dylan-related stuff. She sort of saw the city while I went and geeked out on Dylan.

DYLANOLOGY: Ballad Of Bob’s Dylan’s Bag Man

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Bob Dylan & Victor Maymudes in Philadelphia 1964. Photo by DANIEL KRAMER/STALEY-WISE GALLERY

NEW YORK TIMES: The most vivid passages go back further — to 1964, the pivotal year when Mr. Dylan broke out of the East Coast folkie bubble and made a cross-country journey. Victor took the wheel of a blue Ford station wagon, also joined by the folk musician Paul Clayton and the journalist Peter Karman. “It was a group of friends, all in the know, a nucleus of hip in America,” Mr. Wilentz said of the 1964 tour. “It was something special. The civil rights movement was going on.” The stops included a visit to the poet Carl Sandburg, in North Carolina, and a stay in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, where Mr. Dylan was denied entrance to a blacks-only bar. Back on the road, they heard early Beatles hits on the car radio, and Mr. Dylan feverishly scrawled lyrics in a spiral notebook. The first inkling of Mr. Dylan’s new fame came in London that May, when he performed at the Royal Festival Hall to an audience much larger than he normally drew in America. Victor draped his large frame over Mr. Dylan as they slipped through the ecstatic crowd. […] Returning to New York, they rushed to a studio, and Mr. Dylan “blurted it all out,” running through 11 new songs, “one after another without rehearsing.”

Improbable though this account seems, it squares with the one in Howard Sounes’s book Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, which describes a single six-hour session, lubricated by Beaujolais, that resulted in the album “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” Mr. Dylan’s farewell at age 23 to the blues-inflected folk idiom he had conquered. Two songs — “Chimes of Freedom” and “My Back Pages,” with its soaring refrain, “Ah, but I was so much older then/I’m younger than that now” — signaled the next, visionary phase in Mr. Dylan’s work. Later that summer, he was invited to meet the Beatles at the Delmonico Hotel. The Dylan entourage brought along some marijuana. Mr. Dylan sat down to roll a joint, as Victor and others have reported, but he proved all thumbs, and Victor expertly took command. It was the first quality weed the Beatles had smoked, but the giddy conversation went on without Mr. Dylan. Exhausted from a string of late nights and a few drinks, “he passed out on the floor!” Victor remembers. Not that the book is an exercise in skeleton rattling or score settling. On the contrary, Victor reverently speaks of Mr. Dylan’s “greatness” and “genius” and rejoices in the “magical mystery tour” Mr. Dylan opened up for him — even as he remained curiously remote. The book suggests that the closer one got to Mr. Dylan, the more unknowable he became. MORE

BOOK EXCERPT: By 1955 a twenty-year-old Victor was entering the new culture of beatniks, music, art and drugs that Jack Kerouac would capture in On the Road, which was published in 1956. He and his friend Herb Cohen decided to open a coffee shop. They would become partners in the traditional sense; Herb would manage the business, and Victor would design and build the look and feel of the cafe. That year, in all of the city, there wasn’t a single counterculture hangout or coffee shop. What they were planning was the first of its kind for Los Angeles: a home for live music and poetry; a reading room with a collection of hip books and ample space to play chess. It would quickly become a place where rebellion could thrive.

They found a perfect location in the heart of Hollywood at 8907 Sunset Blvd, the center of the Sunset Strip. Together they named the cafe: the Unicorn. For marketing they put posters up in liberal bookstores, music venues and any place that had a sense of hipness and a taste for folk music. Their posters were hand drawn with large hippie-looking characters playing guitars and sipping espressos. Swirling lines intertwined with slogans such as, “Where casual craznicks climb circular charcoal curbs for cool calculated confabulations” and “Espresso espression sessions on the patio.” The cafe was painted entirely black inside and pictures of nude women hung upside down on the walls. They were defining what hip was and they nailed it. Once the place was built, Victor would reach out to musician friends and poets to book performances at the cafe.

When they opened the doors, the Unicorn was instantly a hit. Queues would stretch down the street and around the block. They had tapped right into something bigger than themselves, a cultural divide precipitated by the strict mentality of the 1950s. What they created didn’t happen by chance, it was built by the entropy of a jaded youth reaching out for something to identify with. My father told me on many occasions about the feeling in the air at this time, as if everyone was waiting for something to happen. Some change of consciousness, like a giant wave that starts way out in the middle of the ocean. You know it’s coming, you just don’t know when it’ll arrive or how big it’s going to be. The venues for this revolution were being built, like the Unicorn; Victor would say they just needed a figurehead, a voice. They were waiting for someone to show up on the scene, someone who could reach across the oceans and connect people. MORE

RELATED: In an interview via Skype at the exhibit opening last weekend, [photographer Daniel] Kramer, 83, explained from New York City that he was intrigued by the power of Dylan’s lyrics after seeing him perform “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” on “The Steve Allen Show” in 1964. Not a music or showbiz photographer, Kramer tried to contact Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, to arrange a photo session. After six months of negotiating, Kramer went to visit Dylan at his home in Woodstock, N.Y., for a one-hour shoot. He stayed for five or six hours. Kramer mentioned that he hadn’t seen Dylan perform, so the singer-songwriter invited the photographer to a concert in Philadelphia [pictured, top of the page] . Dylan and his road manager picked up Kramer at his New York City apartment. That trip was when he really got to know Dylan. MORE


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WORTH REPEATING: How Dylan Got His Weird On

Thursday, November 20th, 2014


NEW YORK MAGAZINE: You have to start by disregarding the well-told narrative: The soi-disant vagabond’s rise through folk music to a place of utter domination at the highest level of literate, passionate, and difficult pop and rock music, all by 1966; a retreat and Gethsemane until 1974, when he came back, roaring and vengeful, more passionately focused than before, adding a remarkable personal dimension to his ’60s work. After that, depending on how generously you view his career, there has been either a long decline or decades of remarkable and kaleidoscopic creativity, culminating in the triumphs, late in life, of his five most recent albums.

For an artist as rooted in our musical culture as Dylan, the linearity of a narrative works more to disconnect him from the influences and traditions his work comprises than to explain him. First, you have to appreciate the many layers that make up his peculiar but unmistakable aesthetic. His work is grounded in acoustic folk-blues—­ballads, chants, and love stories, populated with mystical or just plain weird meanings and themes, rattling and farting around like tetched uncles in the attic of our American psyche. To this add the dread-filled dreamscapes—unexplainable, ­unnerving—of French Surrealism, and then, arrestingly, the punchy patois of the Beats, who originally intuited the substratum of social stresses that would whipcrack across the ’60s and into the ’70s. Then factor in personal songwriting, a strain of pop he basically invented, doled out first with obfuscations, payback, tall tales, and lies—some by design, some on general principle, some just to be an asshole—and then the signs, here and there (and then everywhere, the more you look), of autobiographical happenstance and deeply felt emotion.

Dylan Words Older


And remember that some of his narratives are fractured. Time and focus shift; first person can become third; sometimes more than one story seems to be being told at the same time (“Tangled Up in Blue” and “All Along the Watchtower” are two good examples). And then there’s plain sonic impact: Even his earliest important songs have a cerebral and reverberating authority in the recording, his voice sometimes filling the speakers, his primitive but blistering guitar work adding confrontation, ease, humor, anger, and contrariness, presenting all but the most unwilling listeners with moment after moment of incandescence. […]

He came to New York in early 1961, telling anyone who’d listen he’d ridden the rails, played with Buddy Holly, all sorts of nonsense. In reality, he was a fairly middle-class kid who’d hitchhiked, in winter, from the far north of Minnesota; in a way, this single act of propulsion toward reinvention by a 19-year-old is braver and more interesting than all his later tall tales of travel. He arrived in New York on the coldest day the city had seen in many years. He was a prodigy, with a natural affinity for a medium that would, unexpectedly, afford a few people like him international acclaim and a permanent place in the cultural firmament, and lots of money too. His uncanny musicianship—producing enduring melodies and lovely harmonica solos—included an ability to effortlessly transpose keys that would impress professionals throughout his career. He also had a first-class mind, quick (almost too quick) of wit and relaxed enough to let inspiration flow without forcing it, yet also wiry, retaining permanently the complex wording of many hundreds of tunes. He soaked up the songs and the lore of folk and blues, cobbling together a shtick—an Okie patois, a shambling affect, and a fixation with Woody Guthrie, the socialist troubadour of the ’30s and ’40s and the author of “This Land Is Your Land,” who at the time was dying in a New Jersey hospital. It all served to disguise, at first, a mysterious charisma—with eyes, as Joan Baez remembered them later, “bluer than robin’s eggs”—and an apparent ambition that left a few damaged friendships, and egos, in its wake. MORE

RELATED: An Open Letter From ‘Mick Jagger’ To Keith Richards


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