Before she met John Lennon, Yoko Ono belonged to an international modern art collective known as Fluxus.
Before he met Yoko Ono, John Lennon belonged to an international music collective known as the Beatles.
I was reminded of these parallel facts whilst listening to Nate’s interview with Peter Doggett about his book “You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup.”
I also was reminded that, upon their commitment to one another, Ono became such a fixture in Lennon’s life that she also became a fixture, quite literally and figuratively, within the workings of the greatest popular musical act in human history.
Whatever one may believe or feel about Ono, this much is true: That the greatest popular musical act in human history allowed her so deeply into its fold — to the extent that she sat amongst them in the studio as if fused to Lennon, and her bed was moved right onto the premises — indicates something seriously fucked up with the greatest popular musical act in human history.
I won’t spoil the ending — and even though I know how it ends, I’ve decided to read Doggett’s book after re-listening to this LItR episode — but the craft known as the Beatles already was taking on water when Yoko showed up. That said craft not only continued to float but also continued to produce music worthy of its overall contribution to the form provides just one more indication of how astonishingly superior the Beatles truly were.
You may wonder, after listening to Nate’s interview with author Elijah Wald about his book “How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘N’ Roll”, what a father and son listening to Neil Young’s “Harvest” while driving to the son’s first year of college has to do with the Beatles destroying rock ‘n’ roll.
I wondered that myself this week after my second listen to this episode of Let It Roll. And, in spite of taking umbrage with Wald’s seemingly pejorative characterization of the father and son/Neil Young car ride to college as a “white middle-class” exercise — everything I did with my dad till 1980 qualifies as “white middle class,” including Pops driving me to my tryout for the marching band drum section, during which we probably listened to 96 Rock because he was tolerant that way — I came up with a connection between a father-son “Harvest” listening session and the Beatles’ positively atomic effect on rock und roll.
In the interest of brevity and of enticing you, reader of this blog, to listen to the episode, I’m keeping that insight to myself. But if anyone asks me in the “comment” section, I’ll say what I believe it is.
And here’s another reason to listen to this LItR episode, all the way to the end: If you listened to Nate’s initial interview with Wald, about his book “Escaping the Delta,” you know that Elijah Wald does not yield an insight — or yield to anyone else’s insights — without a tussle.
And, to our host’s significant credit, Wald lets rip a whopper of an insight at the very end of the interview, one that could be the subject of one or several books about the history of rock ‘n’ roll.
Listen all the way through, and ye shall hear it, too.
I had a sneaking suspicion I might stumble across the limits of my Hip-Hop knowledge before the end of this Let It Roll miniseries, and, to quote one of America’s most enduringly beloved television dads, Today’s the Day for Homer J.!
One tick of the cultural-historical clock, and suddenly I’m on the outside looking in as Nate, Alexei and Eugene dig the penultimate episode of Netflix’s “Hip-Hop Evolution" season 2.
I do, however, recognize the artists’ names and the era that produced them, and because I’m super hip I visited New York City on numerous occasions during those years and, at the very least, hung out with buds who really were dialed in. (One of them pals around with Killer Mike in Atlanta these days, but I realize declaring that “I know someone who hangs out with Killer Mike” is sad compared to Eugene’s A-List capacities across numerous musical genres, cultural eras and demographic spheres of influence).
All that writ, I do have one last Hip-Hop card to play, one bit of Southern Hip-Hop cred to cite. Stay tuned for next week’s blog as it accompanies the stunning conclusion of Nate, Alexei and Eugene digging “Hip-Hip Evolution,” when my Old School cred and pre-Jordan, ‘Nique-style game will be on display.
And know this, friends. I already nabbed one pair of $50 Superstars, my favorite shoe since Isiah took it to the house with the Hoosiers in the spring of ‘81. There’s more deals out there in this post-holiday rush.
If the world’s greatest bluesman performed his most inventive guitar lick ever while sitting at the crossroads at midnight but no one — not even Mr. D — heard it, would it be any less inventive?
And if no one read this blog post, would that make me any less of a smartass?
These are the kinds of philosophical questions I ask myself when I contemplate Elijah Wald’s book “Escaping the Delta,” a book I’ve actually read and which Nate features this week in a Let It Roll replay interview with Wald.
Whether Robert Johnson was a blues magician whose devilish tunes spread Beelzebubba’s message far and wide, or he was an ambitious and peregrinating professional musician who just kept getting better as he incorporated a variety of popular styles, his songs and his recordings have endured and influenced generations of musicians, among them Keith Richards and Eric Clapton.
That Johnson persisted and survived his demons long enough to record his songs but not quite long enough to take his star turn at Carnegie Hall — which was planned before organizer John Hammond knew he had died, by misadventure of course — his bedevilments are in the details.
And, for that matter, so are everyone else’s. ‘Cause the crossroads ain’t just an intersection in Clarksdale, baby.
Michael Bloomfield and Edward Van Halen both moved the artistic needle, but which one was “better,” “greater” or “more important” to rock ‘n’ roll guitar?
I suppose I could pontificate about the merits of each, and I was about to write that I’ve heard more of Van H. than Bloomfield but how much of what Bloomfield did build the table upon which Young Edward did feast?
Can you see Bloomfield starring in a video like the one for “Hot For Teacher” (a song VH the band cribbed from a killer ‘70s Zappa tune)?
Herein lyeth (rhymes with “Wyeth”) the rub. Listen to “Let It Roll”
There are plenty of other “rubs” in Bloomfield’s saga, but what jumps out and grabs me by my mind-meld is the image of Bob Dylan and Maria Muldaur crawling through Bloomfield’s window to request his presence on what became “Blood on the Tracks.” (He said no, for better or worse I do not know).
I do know this: Of the Edward VH YouTube tributes I’ve seen since his sad passing, the one of him and his brother at the Kimmel show sound check gives us form following function instead of a gymnastic-atomic recitation of rock guitar’s version of the septuplet axel and probably 6,000 other moves.
Could that fucker play? Yes that fucker — Ed and Mike both, you can have both, this ain’t Beatles v. Stones — could play.
Ed Legge (@freebirdyeller) is a life-long musician, long-time journalist and sometime corporate dweeb who’s writing a book about originating rock ‘n’ roll’s most absurd tradition.