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All Along the Watchtower – Bob Dylan v. Jimi Hendrix

All Along the Watchtower is the song you here in pretty much every montage about the sixties. Most of us immediately think of Jimi Hendrix wailing on his guitar when the song is brought up. I, for the longest time, even believed that Jimi Hendrix had written the song. I was dead wrong. And if you believe that Hendrix wrote Watchtower you are as dead wrong as I was. It’s lyrics appear to have their roots in Isaiah 21: 5-9 turned into basically an epic poem by master songwriter/storyteller Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan recorded All Along the Watchtower in November of 1967 and Hendrix began recording his cover less than three months later releasing it about nine months after Dylan released the original version of All Along the Watchtower. The rest is history.

Before we go any further here is a *short* list of some notable artists and groups who have also covered All Along the Watchtower:

Bear McCreary/Battlestar Galactica, Bobby Womack, Brewer and Shipley, Bryan Ferry, Calvin Russell, Chris de Burgh, Dave Mason, Dave Matthews Band, Dionysis Savvopoulos, Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam, Eric Clapton, Giant Sand, Grateful Dead, Indigo Girls, Jackson Browne, Jeff Healey, John Mellencamp, Josh Charles, June Tabor, Lisa Gerrard, Michael Hedges, Mountain, Neil Young, Paul Weller, Phil Lesh and Friends, Phish, Richie Havens, Sal Valentino, Spirit, Taj Mahal, The Allman Brothers Band, The Dream Syndicate, The Killers, The Persuasions, TSOL, Turtle Island String Quartet, U2, Van Morrison, Widespread Panic, XTC plus everyone ever who may have thought it nice to pay tribute to either Bob Dylan or Jimi Hendrix.

Without also listing the countless movie scenes etc. that All Along the Watchtower has graced with it’s presence, it is pretty easy to say that it is a very prolific song.

I personally enjoy Dylan’s voice and harmonica, some people though, are averse to “Dylan voice” and also the harmonica. While I appreciate both, one of the major reasons Hendrix’s version of Watchtower blew up and Dylan’s didn’t might have been Dylan’s excessive use of both “Dylan voice” and also the harmonica. Another reason could be that the album on which the song appeared, John Wesley Harding was released in 1967: the same year that saw the debut of the Grateful Dead, the supergroup Cream, Hendrix’s rise in America, Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the Beatles’ Srgt. Pepper’s Lonley Hearts Club Band, and tons of other rockin’ psychedelic tunes which can often eclipse a low-key (although awesome) roots-country album by an artist who really prefered to stay on the down low.

Those who are curious about taking their appreciation of “Dylan voice” to the next level can check out his “Nashville” voice here at Selective Listening, though, I warn you in the same way the people at Chinese restaraunts warn you about how spicy your food is about to be… we know that’s what you ordered, but you don’t understand this is really freakin’ spicy… You are sure?…*sigh*…alright have it your way… click here

Hang on for a second though- Bob Dylan is a folk hero and song writing legend. He deserves as much respect for writing the song as I feel Jimi Hendrix does for enhancing it.

It’s like Bob made an awesome kid who would eventually go on to achieve great things. Jimi Hendrix just adopted him, took away his goofy harmonica and taught him how to play a mean electric guitar. Seriously, Jimi Hendrix’s guitar solo in his cover of All Along the Watchtower is regarded by many to be one of the greatest guitar solos ever. From about 1:42 – 2:49 Hendrix executes a guitar solo, as artistic and beautiful and expressive as any piece of art laying around in any art museum ever.

Dylan even admitted to being overwhelmed by Hendrix’s talent and musical abilities and even went so far as to say:

“I liked Jimi Hendrix’s record of this and ever since he died I’ve been doing it that way… Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it’s a tribute to him in some kind of way.”

Jimi Hendrix’s cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower was so unbelievably amazing, that now when Bob Dylan plays his own song, he plays Hendrix’s version as a tribute to Hendrix. Tell me that doesn’t sound like some kind of weird Chuck-Norris-type joke. At the end of the day though, it simply is Bob Dylan’s respect and admiration for Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower that makes this cover so great, perhaps even the greatest cover song of all time.

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Mr. Spock and Bilbo Baggins

Some bands make it big. Some bands have huge followings that display an almost religious ferocity in their devotion. There are few people, however, few single-bodied mortal beings that have risen to such status in the world of music and culture. Grateful Dead guitarist and singer Jerry Garcia comes instantly to mind, and I can only really think of one more man who has attained such status: Leonard Nimoy. That’s right, I brought Spock into this, so set your phasers to stun and just hear me out.

To boldly go where he probably should have never went... the recording studio

Trekies have been known since he dawn of Star Trek in the 1960’s to take fandom  to a whole new level of whacked-out-ness, and I think I am about to make the day of those of us who appreciate the finer things in life (and then go to conventions in their mom’s minivan). Not only did Mr. Spock, in the experimental spirit of the era, test the waters of a pop musical career, he did so by evoking the name of another saint of the genres: Bilbo Baggins. The most widespread, or at least the most popular surviving, single of his career was “The ballad of Bilbo Baggins”, a tale recounting the life and adventures of one of the coolest little people in literature. I could go on and examine the music and video, talk about clichés of the decade and this kind of music and make some sarcastic commentary, but I assume you can too. Instead, I’m just gonna sit back and let Spock, his vibrant go-go line, innovative harmonies and his love of all things short, hairy and that just wanna be left alone have their moment as Shire-folk everywhere cringe at that dark time in their history, not when the forces of evil threatened their peaceful way of life, but when Leonard Nimoy shook their world. Rumor has it that every year since Nimoy quit doing music, the Bagginses and the Proudfeet have held an annual Hobbit-kegger where they smoke pipes, shoot fireworks with Gandalf and tell tales of how short-lived and non-prosperous Leonard Nimoy’s pop music career was.

And to those of you who have never heard of this, you’re welcome.

Spock sings about effin’ Hobbits… Seriously.

 

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Epic-sounding Collaborations You’ve Probably Never Heard of #4 Ringo and Ozzy

 

 
 
 

Ringo Starr - ex-Beatle/ advocate of "peace and love"

 

Ozzy Ozborne and Ringo Starr: that’s right, you didn’t misread anything. 1998 saw the beloved ex-Beatle and the Prince of Darkness share a song on Ringo’s 11th studio album Vertical Man. They both sing on the title track, well, kinda. Being a Ringo album, Mr. Starr takes the lead and he doesn’t give it back. If you didn’t know Ozzy was on the track, it would be a little hard to figure it out for yourself (but then again, most anything his royal Darkness says or does is a little difficult to decipher).

Ozzy Osbourne - Prince of Darkness

Ozzy, for being a world-renowned front man and a very talented singer, resides himself to take the role of a forgettable background singer. He only harmonizes during the chorus, a few lines here and there, and he sings in the coda, mostly just repeating the name or making noises. The mixing was a little unfair, but I assume that is because this is a Ringo track. There is nothing “Ozzy” about it, and it just seems like Ringo had an odd session musician step in. All this said, it is actually pretty good for a modern Ringo song and the only thing overshadowing it is what you expect when you hear about a duet with a Beatle and Ozzy.

 

Music: Your Daily Dose – Dizzy Gillespie Quote

“I don’t care much about music. What I like is sounds.”

Sounds. Not just noise. Not even music so much. Sounds. What Dizzy Gillespie likes is sounds.

Born in 1917 in South Carolina, he began playing music at a very young age. He almost always wanted to be a jazz musician, and eventually he would recieve a music scholarship to attend the Laurinburg Institute but instead chose to pursue his career in music.

From the early parts in Dizzy Gillespie’s career he is mostly remembered for beboppin’ around with Charlie Parker. Gillespie’s early compositions are notable for featuring different rhythms and harmonies than were customary for the swing music at the time.

Dizzy Gillespie is also regarded as one of the forefathers of Afro-Cuban music.

Most people remember Gillespie for his upturned trumpet bell and his massive puffy cheeks that essentially turned his head into a bagpipe. Legend has it some guy fell on his trumpet and he decided he liked the way it sounded while he was playing it better.

 
 

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Music: Your Daily Dose – Sergei Rachmaninoff Quote

“Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music”

Though it has not been expressly stated at any point in the short life of this blog, we try to be inclusive of music in all of its forms and manifestations. This is an absurd undertaking, yet, this is okay. This quote explains why this is okay and why in a thousand eternities we will never be without something to write about at Selective Listening.

Sergei Rachmaninoff is widely regarded as one of the last great Romantic composers in Russian music. The size of his hands were bested only by the immense breadth of his freakish memory and virtuosic piano skills. Sergei Rachmaninoff’s large hands actually contributed a great deal to his unique sound and abilities by allowing him to play much larger chords (as in distance between keys on a piano).

One reason his compositions are so popular today is because of the powerfully immense chords throughout his writing.

Fun Fact: Rumor has it that DCI fan-favorite Carolina Crown will be performing Rachmaninoff’s 2nd and 3rd piano concertos as part of their 2011 show “Rach Star.” (Could be pretty fun…)

Rachmaninoff: Prelude Op.3 No.2 in C-sharp minor

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2011 in Ben, Music: Your Daily Dose

 

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Epic-sounding Collaborations You’ve Probably Never Heard of #3 Rick James and Neil Young

 

Neil Young (left) and Rick James (right) later in their respective careers

 

Neil Young and Rick James: now, a lot has been said about Canadian songsmith Neil Young, but I’ve not heard him called a superfeak. You know who is? RICK JAMES. Legendary funk bassist had a 1981 hit with a song by that name and the riff was sampled by the likes of MC Hammer. What connects these two? They had a band in the mid-60’s that almost made it to the big time. You’re probably thinking, much like the author when this was made known, HESAYWUTNOW?!? Neil Young has a healthy repertoire of genres, from influencing singer-songwriter folk to becoming one of the “godfathers of grunge”, but funk, let alone working with Rick James? Surely material was just running low for the column and this was fabricated… but it happened.

the Mynah Birds: James is singing, Young can be seen second from the right

The Mynah Birds were comprised of Neil Young, Rick James, Goldie McJohn (future Steppenwolf member), and Bruce Palmer, who would go on to play with Young in Buffalo Springfield. Having heard “Superfreak” and being very familiar with Neil’s work, I was AGAIN surprised with the groups sound and style. With their yellow boots, black jackets, and yellow turtlenecks, they must have fit in well with the 1966 crowd, and had a sound eerily similar to the Rolling Stones of the era. Even though Rick was singing, it would be hard to tell these recordings apart from studio outtakes from Mick, Keef and the boys. All available accounts of live performances were stunning, as to be expected by anyone familiar with Young, James, or any other of the members and their future careers. Given the time period and the stage of these men’s careers, these tracks are everything you’d expect them to be. This band was the final jumping-off point before Young delved into the waters of the singer-songwriter acoustic art, where his fame really took off.

Recorded in 1966, Motown chose not to release the album because James was taken from the studio for being AWOL from the US Navy. The distribution of their single “It’s My Time” was halted the day of release, and the other recording have never been officially released (again, which really surprises me). As videos are available on Youtube of at least 3 tracks, obviously somebody got a hold of a bootleg and it made its rounds. Happy hunting! Here is their single, “It’s my Time”:

 

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Extreme Feats of Musical Bad-Assery #3 Barney the Purple Dinosaur

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Dylan and the Dead

 

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