Happy Christmas 2018 from Bob Dylan (x2), Judy Garland & Charles Dickens!

Traditions must be maintained!

An Etching by Rembrandt

A Literary extract from Charles Dickens

Music by Bob Dylan and Judy Garland .

Rembrandt who may be the most searching anatomist of the human heart who has ever lived.

rembrandt

There is such depth of humanity in Rembrandt’s etching of Mother and Christ Child.

The scene glows with immediate and eternal love and intimacy.

So, at last it’s Christmas Eve!

I hope you have enjoyed the music and reflections on the way here.

I have agonised over the music choices in this series and have many years worth stored up for Christmases to come (you have been warned!).

But today’s choices were the first I wrote down and were my inevitable selections for the day before the great Feast.

First, the Keeper of American Song, Bob Dylan, with his inimitable spoken word rendition of Clement Moore’s, ‘The Night Before Christmas’.

It is safe to say that Bob’s pronunciation of the word ‘Mouse’ has never been matched in the history of the dramatic arts!

Of course, in the process of his more than 50 year career Bob has continually been reinventing himself and in so doing has gloriously renewed American culture.

The clip, above comes from his wonderful, ‘Theme Time’ radio show where over a 100 episodes he displayed an encyclopaedic knowledge of twentieth century popular music and a wicked sense of humour.

Bob also recorded for the season at hand the deeply heartfelt, ‘Christmas In The Heart’ album which gets better and more extraordinary with every hearing.

It is clear that Bob, who is well aware that it’s not dark yet (but it’s getting there) is consciously rounding out his career by assuming the mantle of the grand old man of American Music tipping his hat to every tradition (hence the deeply stirring series of CDs where he explores the Great American Songbook).

The only safe thing to say about Bob is that he will have a few surprises for us yet!

Who could have imagined his helter-skelter, how fast can you polka punk?, take on, ‘Must Be Santa’?

Only Bob Dylan!

Only Bob.

Now we turn to Judy Garland with a Christmas song without peer, ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’.

Her singing on this song seems to me to be almost miraculous.

It’s as if her singing really came from secret chambers of the heart all the rest of us keep under guard.

No wonder she has such a deep impact on us – we know she is expressing a profound truth about the human condition – our need to love and know we are loved.

Judy Garland paid a high price in terms of personal happiness for living her life and art with such an exposed heart and soul but she fulfilled a vocation given to very few and left an indelible mark on her age and will surely do for aeons to come.

Today, not a poem but the concluding passages from, ‘A Christmas Carol’ by the incomparable Charles Dickens – a writer for all seasons and situations.

‘Hallo!’ growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?

‘I am very sorry, sir’ said Bob, ‘I am behind my time,’
‘You are?’ repeated Scrooge. ‘Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.’
‘It’s only once a year, sir,’ pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. ‘It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.’

‘Now I’ll tell you what my friend, said Scrooge, I am not going to stand that sort of thing any longer. And therefore, he continued, leaping from his stool and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again, and therefore I am about to raise your salary!’

Bob trembled and got a little nearer to the ruler. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it, holding him, and calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat.

‘A merry Christmas Bob! said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. ‘A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!’

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards, and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.

May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, Every One!

And who am I to do anything other than echo Mr Dickens and Tiny Tim?

So, to all the readers of the Jukebox I wish you a peaceful and joyous feast – however you choose to celebrate it.

God bless us, Every One!

 

Christmas Alphabet 2018 : T for Tom Petty & Tom Waits

Christmas Tide is a time to cherish blessings.

It is also offers us a space to reflect on those, no longer with us through death or estrangement, with whom we once shared Christmas.

Still we can hold them dear in our hearts, our thoughts and our prayers.

Over the last few years we have lost many legendary musicians – Aretha Franklin, Tony Joe White, Hugh Masakela, Denise LaSalle, Otis Rush and Charles Aznavour immediately spring to my mind.

As I decided which musicians to feature under T for the Alphabet Series I thought at once of Tom Petty and his rousing Christmas Anthem, ‘Christmas All Over Again’.

It was with some sense of shock that I next realised that Tom Petty, so vital a musician and personality, had died shortly before Christmas 2017.

Here’s to you Tom – thanks for all the songs and all the singing.

We will all pass on like the melting snow.

Like melting snow.

Raise your voice alongside the cracked croon of Tom Waits and pray that all those we have lost sleep in Heavenly Peace.

Heavenly Peace.

 

 

The Alphabet Series continues on 17/19 and 21 December.

Don’t Miss One!

 

Ry Cooder & The Chieftains : The Coast of Malabar (A Sailor’s Reverie)

Aye, I’m here every morning.

An Seancheann. The Old Head of Kinsale.

I start out early with the Hound.

I watch the timeless waves.

Watch them come dazzling round into the rocks.

Looking down I hear the tides flowing to and fro.

To and fro.

The Sea’s a swell that’s been there since the very beginning.

And, it will keep on heaving until time stops and God clangs The Bell.

Nowadays I don’t stir my stumps beyond this Headland.

Oh, but there was a time when I had an awful yen for things and places remote.

Nothing for it but to sail for forbidden Seas and sport on barbarous Coasts.

The wild call of the running tide.

Flung spray. Blown spume. Gulls crying and the white clouds flying.

White sails straining in a wind like a whetted knife.

I followed The Leviathan.

Sailed the length and breadth of The Whale Road.

A grand gypsy life.

Hermanus.  Plettenberg.  Luderitz.

Walvis Bay.  Cape Lopez.  Baia dos Tigres.

Ponta do Ouro.  Tristan Da Cunha.  Bahia.

Tierra del Fuego.  Deseado.  Wilson’s Promontory.  Macquarie Island.

The Cocos Islands. Diego Garcia. Kiribati.

The Coast of Malabar.

The Coast of Malabar.

That’s where I met her.

Far away across the Ocean anchored under an Indian Star.

Sometimes I take a walk along the strand.

And, I scribe her name right there on the sand.

Ah Sure I know the rolling Sea will wash it away but as long as my legs hold out I’ll write it there again and again and again.

Some things you never forget though the decades pass and you grow old.

You might look at me and see a rheumy eyed Rummy.

Aye and you’d be right.

But, Tornado blasted as I am there’ll always be a part of me deep down, despite all the woes, that’s bathed in joy.

Until I reach the final harbour I’ll always have the memory of my dusky dark eyed maiden.

Shy and sweet with the wild waves at her feet.

Oh my thoughts keep ever turning to that far off distant shore.

To that dark eyed girl who loved me.

Loved me.

I hear her calling across the ocean wild and far.

From The Coast of Malabar.

In my heart I live forever on The Coast of Malabar.

On The Coast of Malabar.

The Coast of Malabar.

 

 

Ry Cooder and The Chieftains are great musical collaborators.

And, here their partnership casts an oceanic musical spell.

Together Ry, Paddy Moloney, Sean Keane, Kevin Conneff, Matt Molloy and Derek Bell set our spirits and imaginations surging far beyond our hearts harbour.

The deep sway of the recording is very rarely achieved since only imusicians of great technical resource, emotional intelligence and artistic humility can play with such transfixing simplicity.

Take a voyage with them to The Coast of Malabar.

 

This Post for my Brother Ger on his Birthday.

Three score years we have shared and supported each others dreams.

Sail on Brother. Sail on.

Notes :

There are fine versions of the song by Liam Clancy & Tommy Makem and Sean Tyrell.

Emmylou Harris, Roy Buchanan, Tommy McLain & Patsy Cline : Sweet Dreams

Somewhere East of Eden Dawn breaks.

You open your eyes to greet The Sun.

That lucky old Sun, He got nothing to do but roll around Heaven all day.

All Day.

Now, you have lots to do.

You have goals and tasks and targets.

You have reflections and reviews to consider.

You have outcomes and KPIs to attain.

You have stratagems.

Things to do. Places to be.

Youre on the case. You’re in charge.

All day. Every Day.

Until, eventually, that lucky old Sun has rolled all around Heaven to set in The West.

Now, The Moon has dominion.

Now, you need your sleep before you can face another busy, busy Day.

And, with Sleep, unbidden, unstoppable, come The Dreams.

Everybody has them Dreams.

Dreamers find their way by Moonlight.

The Captain of the Watch and his Guards are no longer at attention – in fact they are carousing in the Town – AWOL.

And, if they should glance up from their cups all they will say is:

He is a dreamer; let us leave him : Pass.

Unfettered you slip the bonds of time and are free to wander the echoing halls of memory.

Free to peer into the open doors and to ascend/descend the Escher stairs to secret rooms.

Who knows who you will meet?

Perchance all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

Perchance dreams are all you will truly ever own.

Poor as you are you have your dreams.

You have your dreams.

And, you have to dream if you are to live.

Though you are nothing you have in you all the dreams of the world.

Life without dreams is a broken winged bird.

Some dreams will not survive the fluttering of your opening eyelids.

Some dreams will stay with you for ever after and permanently alter the colour of your mind.

Some dreams, though you are yet to know it, will be the last, the very last, dream of your soul.

Some dreams are nought but the gleanings of an empty heart.

An empty heart.

Why can’t I forget my past and live my life anew …

Instead, instead, instead.

Instead I’m having Sweet Dreams about you.

Sweet Dreams about you.

 

Don Gibson, the Nashville Laureate of Heartbreak, wrote, ‘Sweet Dreams’ in 1955 and singers have been launching it into the ether ever since.

Don put it out first but it was Faron Young who had the first Hit.

Don had another go in 1960 and emerged with a nice morose version that got even more people listening.

But, in 1963 Patsy Cline, who sang supremely in the Key of Heartbreak took the song to another dimension of feeling.

Patsy Cline had a voice that seemed to possess ancient knowing about the human heart.

Every Patsy Cline vocal is an intense drama that commands you to listen with deep attention.

Her bruised and anguished tones tell you; this is how it is and you know it too don’t you?

You might not want to admit it but Patsy makes it plain.

No good pretending.

Troublous dreams this night doth make me sad.

I should hate you the whole night through.

The whole night through.

Instead I’m having Sweet Dreams about you.

Once you’ve fallen asleep none can know what dreams may come.

Should you be grieved in the spirit visions in your head may trouble you all your live long days.

Jacob and Daniel and Joseph.

And in 1966 from Jonesville Louisiana Tommy McLain.

Image result for tommy mclain images

 

Tommy’s version of Sweet Dreams will play forever in your dreams from the moment you first hear it.

Surely this version was recorded direct from the soundboard of your dreaming soul.

Why cant I forget my past and live my life anew?

Why, Why, Why!

Tommy’s time banishing, heart stopping, ethereal vocal seems to surround your senses with the vibraphone adding further levels of sensual derangement.

Floyd Soileau recorded Tommy in his Ville Platte Studio but was not convinced this version would sell.

He changed his mind when it was reported to him by the owner of a local bordello that the song was No 1 on their Jukebox – a favourite of the working women and customers alike!

Later on as the song got picked up by national distributors and major radio stations three Million record buyers came to agree with the folks back in Ville Platte.

 

 

Emmylou Harris (a firm Jukebox favourite) has always found the sweet heart of any song she chooses to sing.

There’s an ache in her voice that it is even more emotionally affecting now that her hair has turned to silver and her knowledge of the trials of the world has deepened.

Here, live with The Nash Ramblers she sings like the angel always out of sight in your dreams.

The one you hope will return to those dreams again.

The one you could listen to the whole night through.

The whole night through.

 

 

Some dreams don’t need words.

Some yearnings cry out beyond syllables.

Roy Buchanan made his Guitar sound your deepest dreams.

Now some will tell you this is because he played a 53 Fender Telecaster and some will wax lyrical about overtones and pinched harmonics.

Maybe. Maybe.

Yet, there is something in Roy’s playing that’s undreamt of in philosophy or guitar manuals.

When he plays like this the valleys are exalted and the hills and mountains made low.

When he plays like this the hills and mountains are made low.

When he plays like this the rough places are made plain.

When he plays like this the crooked places are made straight.

 

 

I call that a Sweet Dream.

A Sweet Dream.

You can be in my dream if I can be in yours.

 

Willy Deville : Rebirth in New Orleans – Beating Like a Tom Tom

If you can’t find your way follow The River.

The River.

The Mississippi River.

More than two thousand miles all the way.

Well it winds through Bemidji, St Cloud and Anoka.

St Paul, Redwing and Pepin.

On through Minneiska, La Crosse and Potosi.

Lansing, Prarie Du Chien and Galena (hats off to U S Grant)

Sabula, Moline and Oquawka.

Right by Keokuk, Kaskaskia and Hannibal (hats off to Sam Clemens)

Thebes, Cairo and Osceola.

Memphis, Greenville and Helena (hats off to Levon)

Vicksburg, Natchez and Baton Rouge.

That’s how you find your way to the Crescent City.

As it flows The River is always picking up freight.

Flotsam and Jetsom.

Ramblers, Rebels and Gamblers.

No account Losers and Aces up the sleeve sure fire Winners.

As it flows it gathers up and gathers in tall tales and stories, myths and legends, bawdy jokes, rhymes and half rhymes, drunken vows and whispered poems.

As  it flows it gathers up and gathers in melodies and rhythms and lyrics and binds them into Songs.

In a small studio in the Crescent City musicians meet and greet each other.

No ones a stranger.

They all been breathing the same air for years and years.

They know who’s good and just how good they are.

Everyone knows Fats and Dave and ‘Fess.

Mac and Earl and Plas.

Alan and Cyril and Zigaboo

The Studio don’t give them a whole lot of time but they don’t need it.

Count off … let’s roll!

We respect a real song.

More we revere them.

Let the years decide which ones get remembered.

Somewhere out there – maybe thousands of miles Up River someone will respect and revere these songs like we do.

The music gets caught on tape and they press up the vinyl.

The guys on the radio play it when they alloŵed.

In the Roadhouses and Honky Tonks the button is pressed on The Jukebox and the song blooms in the night air.

We got another one to cut now.

A true message always gets through.

Decades later a Singer sweats through another night with the monkey on his back.

Embed from Getty Images

The Dreams take him back to sweet days of youth but they don’t linger there.

No, there’s jeering Demons in the hours before the Dawn and they don’t always fade away in the light.

Always. Always The Songs.

He’s made a lot of mistakes in his life.

A lot.

But, he’s always respected and revered the true songs.

The ones with heart and soul.

The ones that keep turning up in your dreams.

The ones heard on the radio and played on the Jukebox when he was starting out.

The ones you know it ain’t so easy to sing unless you can really sing.

Songs that play in your head sometimes at 33rpm, sometimes at 45, sometimes at 78- depending on what and how much medicine has been taken.

In the roaring traffics boom.

In the silence of a lonely room.

Beating. Beating. Beating.

Big blue diamonds instead of a band of gold.

Oh, I’ve been a fool my dear – a fool by heart.

Beating. Beating. Beating.

I’m loaded out of my mind.

Loaded out of my mind.

Beating. Beating. Beating.

I’ve played the game of love and lost.

Lost.

All through the night all I do is weep.

Tossing and Turning.

Tossing and Turning.

You on my mind.

You hold me and won’t let go.

Hold me and won’t let go.

The beating of my heart.

Beating. Beating. Beating.

Beating like a Tom Tom.

Beating like a Tom Tom.

Now, I know, I know, I’m so defiled in this world I’ve made.

Maybe my own Mother and Father would abandon me.

Maybe they’d be right.

Yet, maybe there’s still a power that could gather me up.

A power that would gather me up.

But, I gonna have to move to find it.

Kind of a pilgrimage.

The River – I’ll follow The River all the way.

All the way.

Got to find my way Down River.

Down River where the Songs come from.

All the way Down to the Crescent City.

Find me those guys who can really play.

They all know each other.

I need the place and their time.

The time and the place.

I need to believe again.

To believe.

Theyll know straight away if I can really Sing.

Gonna ask ‘em to play, ‘Beating Like A Tom Tom’

My heart been beating to that for a long time.

A long time.

Let’s see what kind of Mojo I can show them.

Count it off…

Freddie … make that guitar real pretty ….

‘ … Tossin’ and I’m turnin’ all in my sleep ….’

 

All Right!

Now do you believe?

Got some storefront gospel in there too by God.

I think we did right by old Ernie there guys!

Now Ernie K Doe is one thing but Little Willie John is sure another.

Ain’t a singer alive who heard Willie who didn’t get The Fever.

Willie lived inside the song.

Held it up to the light so it glowed in your mind.

Lodged deeper than a bullet in your heart.

Remember, ‘Big Blue Diamond’?

‘Blue diamonds, big blue diamonds on her finger
Instead of a little band of gold
Big diamonds, big blue diamonds tell the story
Of the love that no one man could hold’.

You got to feel that ache.

The ache for the love behind that band of gold.

The ache.

Count it off ….

 

Yeh … that’ll do it.

Lonesome in the moonlight.

Lonesome in the moonlight.

We all been there.

Looking up with a broken heart.

I was trying to sing it for Willie John in prison looking up at the moon.

Hey Mac what about that one of Alan’s about being a fool by heart?

Ah … Hello My Lover – that’s it.

‘I’ve been a fool, my dear, a fool by heart
But I’m done up in my mind

Oh … I’m gonna try my best to do what is right
I’m gonna be with you, yes I will, both day and night …’

Let’s see if we can get a second line feel here  – raise everybody up.

Gonna dance my way through this one Mac.

When this one comes on everybody gonna dance.

Count it off …

 

Ain’t no hiding why I come down here.

Don’t need to tell you guys what that Junk will do to you.

If I ain’t got as right to sing that Junker Blues – who has?

Here’s one for you Champion Jack!

We all craving for something to make the dawn easier to face.

No messing ..gonna sing this one straight … tell the story.

It’s all about the tempo.

Count it off …

‘Some people call me a Junker ….’

 

Well, ain’t that the best damn feeling!

Got to take these songs out on the road guys.

Take it to the people and show them a new side of me.

Get that Tom Tom Beating.

Get that Tom Tom Beating.

‘ … Tossin’ and I’m turnin’ all in my sleep ….’

 

 

Notes :

Willy Deville in search of musical and spiritual nourishment and respite from being, ‘Willy Deville’ in New York moved to New Orleans in 1989.

Hooking up with Carlo Ditta who owned Orleans Records they conceived the idea of a, ‘Little Record’ that would celebrate Crescent City classics whether they were hits outside New Orleans or not.

A stellar Band was assembled and the resulting record, ‘Victory Mixture’ shows a great singer mining depth after depth from these songs.

The success of the enterprise led to live shows captured on, ‘Big Easy Fantasy’.

Willy Deville could really sing and singing these songs brought out the very best in him.

Listening to him here it’s hard to imagine anyone ever singing these songs better.

P.S. Special thanks to Harvey G Cohen for reminding me of Willy’s New Orleans recordings.

I highly recommend Harvey’s book on Duke Ellington.

He can be found on Twitter @CultrHack.

P.P.S.

bienvenido a la máquina de discos a todos mis lectores en México