Dylan hearts Buffett?

Bob Dylan, asked for some of his favorite song writers, names JIMMY BUFFETT first? I mean, I like Margaritaville, too, (and even sang it at a gig once after three or four), but can you see his Bobness hanging with the Parrot Heads?

Here’s the article:

In anticipation of the release of his 33rd album, Together Through Life, Bob Dylan sat down with rock critic and MTV producer Bill Flanagan for a rare and unusually candid conversation. The first three portions of their meeting can be read at bobdylan.com, and the fourth installment can be read here on the Huffington Post).

In the fifth installment, published below, Dylan reveals his favorite songwriters, discusses whether he’s a cult figure, and gives his thoughts on trading on nostalgia and if he’s a mainstream artist (to view a slide show of Dylan’s favorite’s, click here).

Bill Flanagan: Going back to that song you wrote for the movie that you mentioned earlier, “Life is Hard,” has the formality of an old Rudy Vallee or Nelson Eddy ballad right down to the middle eight (“Ever since the day…”). Do you figure that if you start a song in that style, you stick with the rules right down the line?

Bob Dylan: Sure, I try to stick to the rules. Sometimes I might shift paradigms within the same song, but then that structure also has its own rules. And I combine them both, see what works and what doesn’t. My range is limited. Some formulas are too complex and I don’t want anything to do with them.

BF: “Forgetful Heart” – how do you decide to put an Appalachian banjo on a minor key blues? Is it something you think of ahead of time or does it come up in the session?

BD: I think it probably came up at the studio. A banjo wouldn’t be out of character though. There is a minor key modality to “Forgetful Heart.” It’s like Little Maggie or Darling Cory, so there is no reason a banjo shouldn’t fit or sound right.
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BF: You wrote a lot of these songs with Robert Hunter. How does that process work?

BD: There isn’t any process to speak of. You just do it. You drive the car. Sometimes you get out from behind the wheel and let someone else step on the gas.

BF: You must have known Hunter a long time. Do you remember where you first met?

BD: It was either back in ’62 or ’63 when I played in the Bay area. I might have met him in Palo Alto or Berkley or Oakland. I played all those places then and I could have met Hunter around that time. I know he was around.

BF: Didn’t Hunter play in a bluegrass band with Jerry Garcia?

BD: Yeah, it was either that or a jug band.

BF: Have you ever thought about composing anything with those Nashville songwriters?

BD: I’ve never thought about that.

BF: Neil Diamond did an album years ago where he co-wrote with different Nashville songwriters.

BD: Yeah, that might have worked for him. I don’t think it would work for me.

BF: You don’t think it would work for you?

BD: No. I’m okay without it. I’m not exactly obsessed with writing songs. I go back a ways with Hunter. We’re from the same old school so it makes it’s own kind of sense.

BF: Do you listen to a lot of songs?

BD: Yeah – sometimes.

BF: Who are some of your favorite songwriters?

BD: Buffett I guess. Lightfoot. Warren Zevon. Randy. John Prine. Guy Clark. Those kinds of writers.

BF: What songs do you like of Buffett’s?

BD: “Death of an Unpopular Poet.” There’s another one called “He Went to Paris.”

BF: You and Lightfoot go way back.

BD: Oh yeah. Gordo’s been around as long as me.

BF: What are your favorite songs of his?

BD: “Shadows,” “Sundown,” “If You Could Read My Mind.” I can’t think of any I don’t like.

BF: Did you know Zevon?

BD: Not very well.

BF: What did you like about him?

BD: “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” “Boom Boom Mancini.” Down hard stuff. “Join me in L.A.” sort of straddles the line between heartfelt and primeval. His musical patterns are all over the place, probably because he’s classically trained. There might be three separate songs within a Zevon song, but they’re all effortlessly connected. Zevon was a musician’s musician, a tortured one. “Desperado Under the Eaves.” It’s all in there.

BF: Randy Newman?

BD: Yeah, Randy. What can you say? I like his early songs, “Sail Away,” “Burn Down the Cornfield,” “Louisiana,” where he kept it simple. Bordello songs. I think of him as the Crown Prince, the heir apparent to Jelly Roll Morton. His style is deceiving. He’s so laid back that you kind of forget he’s saying important things. Randy’s sort of tied to a different era like I am.

BF: How about John Prine?

BD: Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs. I remember when Kris Kristofferson first brought him on the scene. All that stuff about “Sam Stone” the soldier junky daddy and “Donald and Lydia,” where people make love from ten miles away. Nobody but Prine could write like that. If I had to pick one song of his, it might be “Lake Marie.” I don’t remember what album that’s on.

BF: A lot of the acts from your generation seem to be trading on nostalgia. They play the same songs the same way for the last 30 years. Why haven’t you ever done that?

BD: I couldn’t if I tried. Those guys you are talking about all had conspicuous hits. They started out anti-establishment and now they are in charge of the world. Celebratory songs. Music for the grand dinner party. Mainstream stuff that played into the culture on a pervasive level. My stuff is different from those guys. It’s more desperate. Daltrey, Townshend, McCartney, the Beach Boys, Elton, Billy Joel. They made perfect records, so they have to play them perfectly … exactly the way people remember them. My records were never perfect. So there is no point in trying to duplicate them. Anyway, I’m no mainstream artist.

BF: Then what kind of artist are you?

BD: I’m not sure, Byronesque maybe. Look, when I started out, mainstream culture was Sinatra, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Sound of Music. There was no fitting into it then and of course, there’s no fitting into it now. Some of my songs have crossed over but they were all done by other singers.

BF: Have you ever tried to fit in?

BD: Well, no, not really. I’m coming out of the folk music tradition and that’s the vernacular and archetypal aesthetic that I’ve experienced. Those are the dynamics of it. I couldn’t have written songs for the Brill Building if I tried. Whatever passes for pop music, I couldn’t do it then and I can’t do it now.

BF: Does that mean you create outsider art? Do you think of yourself as a cult figure?

BD: A cult figure, that’s got religious connotations. It sounds cliquish and clannish. People have different emotional levels. Especially when you’re young. Back then I guess most of my influences could be thought of as eccentric. Mass media had no overwhelming reach so I was drawn to the traveling performers passing through. The side show performers – bluegrass singers, the black cowboy with chaps and a lariat doing rope tricks. Miss Europe, Quasimodo, the Bearded Lady, the half-man half-woman, the deformed and the bent, Atlas the Dwarf, the fire-eaters, the teachers and preachers, the blues singers. I remember it like it was yesterday. I got close to some of these people. I learned about dignity from them. Freedom too. Civil rights, human rights. How to stay within yourself. Most others were into the rides like the tilt-a-whirl and the rollercoaster. To me that was the nightmare. All the giddiness. The artificiality of it. The sledge hammer of life. It didn’t make sense or seem real. The stuff off the main road was where force of reality was. At least it struck me that way. When I left home those feelings didn’t change.

BF: But you’ve sold over a hundred million records.

BD: Yeah I know. It’s a mystery to me too.

To see a slide show of Dylan’s favorite songwriters mentioned above, click here.

Tea party reflections

It was interesting attending the “tax day tea party” in Milaca today, and fun to get the story up on the new site, with a photo gallery to go with it. Video will follow.

I was surprised that there were so many people there. Apparently the populist anger out there is real, but I wasn’t convinced that it was directed properly. Some of the folks I talked to didn’t seem know who they were mad at; others were mad at “the government” (whatever that means). Conservative leaders seem to have tapped into the rage and channeled it away from the banks, the war, and George Bush and toward the “liberal elites,” Obama, welfare recipients, etc., ignoring the fact that GW ran up the largest deficits in history, largely due to an unnecessary war in Iraq and massive tax giveaways to the richest 2 percent.

There was also a clear religious dimension to the protest too, at least on the part of the speakers. They still want the U.S. to be a “Christian nation,” which I guess is fine, but shows a pretty superficial understanding of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers (imho). They don’t like judges making laws (unless they’re conservative judges), and there were veiled anti-gay references from Doug Dahl (who, while the Tea Parties pretended to be non-partisan, is or was chair of the Republican party in Mille Lacs County).

There were also plenty of “straw man” arguments about the “other side,” painting them as extremists who want everybody to get a handout and don’t want anyone to have to work, and want to destroy values and faith and apple pie. In fact, the 12 principles and 9 big ideas they were pitching would be embraced by most people on the left as well, which Obama has been trying to tell them.

The usual rants about the liberal media were trotted out again, in spite of the fact that the tea party folks had two cable networks (Fox and CNBC) carrying water for them, and they’ve had every major talk radio host on their side for 20 years.

It’s amazing how the two sides of the political spectrum can both believe the people on the other side are utterly delusional, paranoid and out of touch with reality. Sad state of affairs. I think Barack has sincerely attempted to bridge that divide, and he’s succeeded with folks in the middle, but there are 20-30 percent on the far right who will never see anything positive on the left (or even the center), just like there are 20-30 percent on the far left who will never see anything positive on the right (or the center).

Will hard times bring us together, or drive us farther apart. Sadly, there’s a long history of scapegoating when times get tough. Luckily our nation is so evenly divided that it’s unlikely either side will gain the momentum to start a real revolution. Thank goodness for the mushy middle.

To Newspaper Moguls: You Blew It

From Huffington Post, by Jeff Jarvis, Author, ‘What Would Google Do?’, blogger at Buzzmachine.com, teaches at CUNY’s J-school

Posted April 7, 2009 | 06:40 PM (EST)

The Newspaper Association of America is meeting in San Diego this week and they’re preaching up at their own choir loft with angry, self-righteous fire and brimstone about their plight. They need to hear a new message, a blunt message from the outside. Here’s the speech I think they should hear:

You blew it.

You’ve had 20 years since the start of the web, 15 years since the creation of the commercial browser and craigslist, a decade since the birth of blogs and Google to understand the changes in the media economy and the new behaviors of the next generation of – as you call them, Mr. Murdoch – net natives. You’ve had all that time to reinvent your products, services, and organizations for this new world, to take advantage of new opportunities and efficiencies, to retrain not only your staff but your readers and advertisers, to use the power of your megaphones while you still had it to build what would come next. But you didn’t.

You blew it.

And now you’re angry. Well, gentlemen – and that’s pretty much all I see before me: angry, old, white men – you have no right to anger. Instead, you are the proper objects of anger. The public should be angry with you for the poor stewardship you have exercised over the press and its service to society. Your journalists are angry at you for losing their jobs. Your pressmen and drivers and classified-ad takers are angry at you for the same reason (and at the journalists for paying attention only to their own plight). Your advertisers were angry at you for using your monopolistic power to overcharge them and for providing inefficient platforms and bad service for so long. But they’re not angry anymore because they left you for better advertising vehicles and better prices in a competitive marketplace.

But you’re the ones who are acting angry.

Yesterday, you delivered a foot-stomping little hissy fit over Google and aggregators. How dare they link to you and not pay you? Oh, I so want Eric Schmidt to tell you today that you’re getting your wish and that Google will no longer link to you. Beware what you wish for. You’d lose a third of your traffic overnight. If other aggregators (I work with one) and bloggers (I am one) and Facebook all decided to follow suit, you’d lose half your traffic. On most of your sites, only 20 percent of the audience in a day ever sees your homepage and its careful packaging; 4 of 5 readers instead come in through search and links. In the link economy – instead of the outmoded content economy in which you operate – Google and aggregators and bloggers are bringing value to you; they should be charging you for the value they bring. You should rise up today and give Mr. Schmidt a big thank you for not charging you. But you won’t, because you’ve refused to understand this new business reality.

You blew it.

Your Google snits don’t even address your far more profound problem: the vast majority of your potential audience who never come to your sites, the young people who will never read your newspapers. You all remember the quote from a college student in The New York Times a year ago, the one that has kept you up at night. Let’s say it together: “If the news is that important, it will find me.” What are you doing to take your news to her? You still expect her to come to you – to your website or to the newsstand – just because of the magnetic pull of your old brand. But she won’t, and you know it. You lost an entire generation. You lost the future of news.

You blew it.

You had a generation to reinvent the business but you did too little. I by all means include myself in that indictment because I spent my career in our industry: Guilty. I didn’t raise loud enough alarms (it felt as if they were too loud already) or accomplish enough change (not nearly enough). I blew it, too. But no last-minute hail-Mary passes will make up for our failings. Having not taken advantage of the last two decades to reinvent the news business, you’re not going to manage a rescue in two months, before the creditors come calling. That was your worst hail Mary: stoking up on debt and hoping to milk these cows for years to come. Mad cash-cow disease, that’s what too many of you had. Your other desperate moves: suddenly fantasizing that you can fix everything by going behind a wall (to tell with Google and its billions of readers!) and charging us because you think we “should” pay. Since when is a business plan built on “should?” I haven’t seen a sensible P&L justifying this dream from any of you. If you have one, please stand up show us now….. I thought so. Other desperation moves: fantasies of white knights from foundations buying you and letting you stay just the way you are…. government subsidies (do we even have to discuss the danger?)…. switching to not-for-profit, as if that suddenly takes away the need to sustain the business still… misguided, self-righteousness thinking that Google or cable companies owe you money, as if you have a God-given right to the revenue and customers you lost….. No, none of this will save newspapers and in your subconscious, at least, you know it. You know the truth.

You blew it.

So what can you do? Two years, even a year ago, I would have said that you had time to build the networks and frameworks and platforms that would support the ecosystem of news that will come next. I would have said you could retrain your staff to take on new responsibilities: organizing and supporting that ecosystem, curating the best, training people to be the best. I would have advised you to offer your staff members the opportunity to join that ecosystem, setting them up in business. I would have told you to take advantage of the efficiencies the web allows (do what you do best, link to the rest, I used to say). I would have argued that we need to invent new forms of marketing help for an entire new population of businesses-formerly-known-as-advertisers. I did say that. But the financial crisis only accelerated your fall. It didn’t cause the fall, it accelerated it. So now, for many of you, there isn’t time. It’s simply too late. The best thing some of you can do is get out of the way and make room for the next generation of net natives who understand this new economy and society and care about news and will reinvent it, building what comes after you from the ground up. There’s huge opportunity there, for them.

You blew it.

Final fours past

I only remember watching a handful of Final Fours, but some of them were among the best.

The first was in 1974, when David Thompson and NC State ended UCLA’s 7-year run. (It’s nice to be able to use the Internet to help with recall.) Thompson was 6-4 and started the semi-final against UCLA by blocking a shot by 7-footer Bill Walton. Dunking was illegal back then, but Thompson and 5-7 point guard Marty Towe would do these beautiful alley oops where Thompson would fly above the rim and sorta drop the ball through. Thompson could knock a quarter off the top of the backboard (but could not replace it with two dimes and a nickel, as the myth said.) My brother Jeff and I used to imitate the Towe to Thompson alley oops on my Nerf basketball hoop (much like we used to play Saunders and McHale).

Drugs and alcohol abuse kept Thompson from reaching his potential as a pro. Some say he could’ve been Michael Jordan before Michael Jordan.

Other Final Fours I remember: Magic Johnson winning the championship (though I don’t remember Bird and Indiana State); Keith Smart’s buzzer beater for Indiana; Villanova’s timeless win over Georgetown; UConn with Khalid El-Amin from Minneapolis; Duke beating the Fab Five from Michigan (after Laettner’s buzzer-beater got them into the final game).

I watched the semi final Michigan/Connecticut game on the weekend, but I got bored with the final last night and went to bed before it was over.

Vegetarian for a day

Interesting Salon article about a guy who broke a lot of Columbine stories and exploded myths 10 years ago (many of which I didn’t know had been exploded). He’s written a book about it.

Great Fresh Air interview last week with Seymour Hersh, the investigative reporter who won a Pulitzer for breaking the My Lai story, and also broke the Abu Ghraib story. He’s talking about a comment he made that Cheney was in charge of an international assassination ring.

Came across this on Alternet.org. I’ve never been a vegetarian, and I love eating meat, but I used to eat a lot less and have considered cutting back for health reasons. Some interesting facts (of course, I have no way of confirming them):

If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save:

● 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months;

● 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year;

● 70 million gallons of gas — enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare;

● 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware;

● 33 tons of antibiotics.

If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would prevent:

● Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France;

● 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages;

● 4.5 million tons of animal excrement;

● Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant.