Happy Birthday Bob Dylan

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This great video for the outtake “Series of Dreams,” featured on the Bootleg Series Vol 1-3, includes a great montage of images from the life of Bob Dylan. On the occasion of his 70th birthday, I am pleased to share this tribute, and even more so, to have enjoyed his music for my entire life. Maybe I didn’t enjoy it that much in the 60s when my mom was listening to Bobby Dylan and Joan Baez, but as I entered my twenties, Dylan began his long comeback that culminated with the recording of Oh Mercy with Daniel Lanois.

I’ve only seen Dylan once offstage, when he snuck into the back of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony and sat against a back wall of the banquet room in a hoodie. At least I got to tell Daniel Lanois how great a song “Series of Dreams” was, and its mysterious quality is apparent in his indecision about whether the song should have been on Oh Mercy years later.

What’s great about Bob Dylan, as Allen Ginsburg said, is the search for identity. By leaving these questions open, he encourages all his listeners to fill in the blanks. And he’s a big Willie Nelson fan too.

Happy birthday Bob!

Elvis is King

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After a few years of pretty serious music from Elvis Costello, he has created the “Revolver” tour, a clever take on a “greatest hits”/career-overview set.  The tour is ending tonight at the Beacon Theater, and we can only hope there is a revival or second life for the event online.   As Elvis revives the arch, sardonic and often hilarious persona from his closet to bring us Napoleon Dynamite on Broadway, he reminds us longtime fans of made us love him in the first place.  His vitriol was balanced by occasional self-deprecating humor and always conveyed in the most sophisticated vocabulary in rock.

For those who didn’t get a chance to see it, ElvisCostello.com features a wheel that leads to streaming song samples, tour dates for festival shows this summer and extensive resources, such as every lyric.  What it doesn’t include, unfortunately, is a way for fans online to participate in the shows and for folks attending the shows to have a central place to share and discuss the event.  Seems to me the whole event is focused on his catalog and with a very dedicated and articulate fan base who were taking cellphone pictures and video throughout the show, that this tour could have been bigger for fans and the business.

Classic rock pundit Sal Nunziata called last night’s concert “one of the most exciting shows I’ve seen in a long time.” Check out the full review on his blog Burning Wood, here.

NonCommvention 11 Opens Today in Wilmington DE

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Noncomm logoStarting today, the eleventh annual NonCommvention will gather adult music industry-ites at the new World Cafe Live at the Queen, in Wilmington Delaware. As its title implies, the conference focuses on listener-supported stations, many of which are also affiliated with National Public Radio.

Bruce Warren and Dan Reed, programmers of WXPN, Philadelphia, the ultra-successful host station, and other top radio people from around the country will be in attendance to hear new music and discuss business strategies to promote the growth of non-commercial radio.

As commercial aaa fms (and all radio audiences) have shrunk in size over the past few years, programmers have continued to impose very restrictive aesthetic and transactional requirements of content partners, the “NonCommvention” and its affiliates have thrived. Its associated stations, which imply a broader programming policy than the commercial stations, includes major markets like New York and Philadelphia, and represents a forceful confederation for any artist they choose to support en masse.

WXPN created its own club when it took over an abandoned factory in Philadelphia, and is now branching out to a new venue in Wilmington, Delaware, where it has had an antenna for a number of years. In developing this audience, the management of the station has once again proven its ability to provide a great music experience to rock fans in Philly and nationally through the syndicated World Cafe radio program. In an era where most everything music related is shrinking, WXPN’s growth is worth celebrating and studying.

Tune in to hear live broadcasts of artists such as The Civil Wars, Thurston Moore and G. Love here.

Lee Elia 100th Anniversary Video – NSFW

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Cub manager Lee Elia‘s 1983 tirade is one of my favorite moments in baseball history. After an early season blowout where the day-baseball fans of Wrigley Field went off on the team, Elia went off on them. Every reporter in Chicago caught the rant on tape, and it was so blistering that it became public. In those days, all we had was cassette-to-cassette copying, so its proliferation was relatively underground until YouTube was invented.

Now there are video tributes that play along with the audio, but NuttySportsVideos.com has kicked it up many notches when they put Lee Elia’s words to a robot voice. Now his admonishments about people not working or being stupid sound much more critical and disapproving coming from a mechanical manager with a computer for a brain. When he says “print it” to the reporters of the future, will they know what he means? Listening to the robot become emotional about the Dodgers and the other teams brought to mind Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics.”

Asimov was a genius. Lee Elia’s words sound a lot more threatening coming from a robot (but it’s still hilarious).

Carlos Santana Speaks for "the invisible" at MLB Civil Rights Game

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Rock icon Carlos Santana used the awards ceremony of MLB’s annual Civil Rights Game to make comments about Atlanta and Arizona’s recent immigration laws, and drew boos from the fans in attendance the next day when introduced before the game. I applaud Carlos Santana for taking a stand for “the invisible.”

In accepting the Beacon of Change award from Harry Belafonte, Santana spoke about how “universal tone” connects everyone through music, and named many songs from the rock and jazz canon that express these ideas. Some of the songs were “One Love” by Bob Marley; “War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate’… “Mr. President are you listening?” Santana added to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” lyrics. He also mentioned Mahalia Jackson, “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke, “Imagine” by John Lennon and “All You Need is Love” by The Beatles. At the end he admonished MLB for playing Kenny G when it should have been “A Love Supreme” by John Coltrane!

But his real message was about immigrants and the implied racism of recent laws. “I would invite all Latin people to do nothing for about two weeks so you can see who really, really is running the economy,” Santana said. “Who cleans the sheets? Who cleans the toilets? Who babysits? I am here to give voice to the invisible. By god’s grace, I represent the invisible ones. It’s a shame that those in charge would pass a law like those in Arizona. The sound that comes to my heart and my fingers is that we are in this together, that we don’t leave anyone out.”

It’s pretty hard to outshine Hank Aaron, Morgan Freeman, Don Newcombe and hometown hip hop superstar Ludacris, but Carlos Santana brought up a contemporary topic for baseball and America to address.  I happened to catch Morgan Freeman’s painful (“Who was your favorite leading lady?”) on air interview but was happy he got to speak about the great film Invictus and his admiration for Nelson Mandela.