More thoughts from myself and high school pal Adam, talking (via Facebook) about the Bob Dylan’s Super Bowl commercial, selling out, the challenge of being a “jam band” in Toronto, hippie wiring, (re)considering Nirvana and overpriced compact discs.
In three parts.
Part 1: The Imposter
Cam: Any thoughts on the Dylan/Chrysler Super Bowl ad? Bit of a “whatever” although I find it really strange to pick a guy lobbying for Detroit who has no obvious ties to the city. Couldn’t they have put Smokey Robinson in there instead? I guess Bob Seger would totally NOT have been marketable.
Adam: I admittedly haven’t watched it yet. The last Dylan thing I saw was the fabulous interactive video for “Like a Rolling Stone”. Only heard about it a few days ago on the Sklar Brothers’ Podcast, as they did bad impressions of Dylan as your car’s internal navigation system. “turn right ahead” (insert your own bad Dylan impression here). Now I have to watch it. Bob Seger, I believe is long spoken for. Have you so quickly forgotten “Like a Rock”? A song that essentially only exists anymore in 30 second chunks, including that great guitar solo at the end, and “Oh, like a rock!”. Kid Rock must’ve been too busy doing lines of coke off strippers’ (uh.. bodies).
Cam: … and Eminem was tied up in litigation with family members. Totally forgot the Seger/”Like a Rock” turn and never did the math about the Detroit connection. I think that commercial played 3-4 times/hourly on TSN Sportsdesk circa 1989-1993. Theory: could Dylan have been a more legit actor if he’d wanted to? He had a few small roles and I could see him being VERY funny if used properly in films 1970s and onwards. And not just in that Neil/Waits/Keith “let’s give them a weird background cameo”-type role. He actually looked fairly spry in the Chrysler spot.
Adam: Um…have you watched Masked and Anonymous? THERE is Dylan acting. I love Bob and everyone in that movie (who also love Bob too), but in no way can I watch that whole thing start to finish. Bob IS Mr. Cryptic. On purpose. I remember reading an article about him right after 9/11 (Love and Theft came out that day), and there were pictures of him playing cards on the bus and reading a Baseball Weekly magazine in a convenience store. I was amazed by both of these. You mean he’s actually a human male? I think he’s acting when he finishes a show and stands before an audience. He doesn’t bow, doesn’t even hardly acknowledge the crowd but glares at it. It always made me laugh when I saw him do it. Bringing it back to Masked, check out the spectacularly fantastic “Cold Irons Bound” video that rocks full out. I have always been amazed by how he barely nods his acknowledgement of the applause the crew gives him. He is also Mr. Improv, performing songs as he wants in the speed he wants. At the Concert for Bangladesh, he famously threw off Ringo when he changed the time signature to “Hard Rain” for the second performance. I find in commercials, he tends to stand there looking mysterious like the “beyond here lies nothing” commercial I think they did for Victoria’s Secret. Because CLEARLY an aging Zimmy makes me think of breasts.
Cam: Oh! I always assumed that the “watchtower” of song was merely innuendo for… well, you know. I’m not a Dylan mark by any stretch but I do find him kinda fascinating in so far as he is almost universally regarded as the authentic REAL voice of a generation. And yet his name, image, persona and pretty much everything is completely fabricated. This makes no comment on his songwriting or abilities as a musician. Has he not made a career out of “being weird for the sake of being weird” and yet he’s beloved because his songs (at least to start) were seen as entirely authentic? He wasn’t as overtly feisty or “difficult” (in an obvious sense) as Neil Young but his image is maybe more impressive overall because he’s never really broken character in, what, 50 years?!? Not surprisingly, there was some “Dylan sells out” whining on the Internet RE: that Super Bowl ad. I’m trying to think of what artist of “our generation” (i.e. guys or gals who showed up late 1980s thru early 2000s) would’ve generated the largest amount of outrage if they were in that commercial. I’d say Eddie Vedder. By a wide margin! I’d round out my Top Five with Thurston Moore, Michael Stipe, Tori Amos and Trent Reznor.
Part 2: They’re dead
Adam: (Ed: I’ve chopped out a bunch of Major League Baseball chatter. Email me if you MUST know and I’ll give you the gist). I never saw the Grateful Dead proper.
Cam: Assume they played MLG when they gigged in Toronto?
Adam: They hadn’t been in Toronto since 1987 and had played Kingswood. They were coming to the SkyDome on Yom Kippur for the fall tour 1995 when Jerry up and died.
Cam: That’s crazy. Did they just not play Canada? Assume there’d be all sorts of border issues with their crew?!?
Adam: There were issues. They did play Hamilton a couple of times. Rather famously in 1990, I believe. They don’t come up here much even now. Bob Weir actually got held at the border two summers ago on his way to the Ottawa Blues Fest. Some (scalliwag) at the crossing out by Kingston gave him a hard time about a bust on his record from 1968. They’ve also got guys on their road crew who have border issues. Plus while they are very big east coast and even upstate NY, a lot of those deadheads don’t or can’t cross the border. Phish also don’t come up here much. Last summer was first in 10 years I think. That’s why we drive to Buffalo and Darien Lake and Rochester and Syracuse and Saratoga.
Cam: In general, it kinda seems like a lot of jam bands were far less popular in Toronto than they were elsewhere? I saw the String Cheese Incident out of curiosity at the Phoenix in 2001 or so. Pretty sure they were doing amphitheaters in parts of the US around that time. Maybe this was moreso a product of aforementioned border crap and whatnot. With Weir, a border guard could literally product any number of hard over books that outline their drug use. Hard to live down, I guess.
Adam: They can’t draw any regional fans besides Canadians here. ‘heads as a rule road trip. Toronto has a big jam band base. But if you look at the college culture in the States and how that fosters bands like String Cheese or even the Avett Brothers, etc. In Toronto, they’re playing the Danforth Music Hall or the Opera House or Queen Elizabeth Theatre instead of amphitheatres
Cam: Yeah, for those bands, there is a whole different “star” system up here. Maybe it’s just because we’re older but at our school, there definitely were different camps based what kind of music you like: jammies/potheads (Dead, Phish, DMB), grunge kids (PJ, Nirvana), skids (GnR Use Your Illusion, Metallica, Megadeth) and a small amount of goth kids (namely, some lil’ scamp who had a leather jacket with the Smiths’ Meat is Murder cover on the back… he was cool). Strangely, the only band i can think of that sort of reached all these groups…. Blind Melon!!!
Adam: Very funny. Yes. That one song. But heavy bands hated when they released such commercially palatable stuff like that.
Cam: You remember Evad? He did morning announcements so we used to give him songs to play on the two-minute warning. He used to delight on banning certain songs (namely, Matthew Sweet’s “Sick of Myself” since he thought the title promoted negative thinking) while letting other more obtuse choices “go to air” (namely, Ministry’s cover of “Lay Lady Lay” and the album cut of Sonic Youth’s “Teenage Riot” ).
Adam: Funny. I remember grunge when it started. I always hated it. Nirvana has only gotten worse with time. We went to see the Addams Family (Values?) at the Eaton Centre with (some dudes). They bought Nevermind. I bought Bryan Adams’ Waking Up the Neighbours at the big “Sams“. I tried liking Pearl Jam to impress a girl, but could only listen to three songs on Ten. Anything too hard was unlistenable. And yet, the first time I heard “Terrapin Station”, I felt my heart lift and I danced. Wired to be a hippie.
Cam: Clearly! Yeah, it’s funny in retrospect that PJ were CLEARLY just “hard rock” more than anything. And wildly earnest in a way you could only be in 1992. Do you remember the CD liner notes for Ten? You unfolded it into a “poster” and it ended up with the band members doing one of those “one…. two… three… BREAK” unity poses. Completely the opposite of the jaded, cynical manner in which Nirvana were marketed. I guess that’s why those bands were enemies. Well, “enemies”. Trying to think what local Toronto jam bands of that era were. Gypsy Soul? Later… the New Deal?
Adam: Man, we LOVED Gypsy Soul. Saw them open for Blues Traveler at the Kool Haus. Then, we went to see then at “the Elmo”. I still love that album. Very listenable. Saw the lead singer with the dreads up on the lawn at the Amphitheatre once. The trumpet click on the Lawrence subway platform. We though she was the coolest. Deep on my high school “I’m self identifying as a hippie ” phase.
Cam: I could totally be imagining this but I remember being in cahoots with some folks to curate a “massive” festival that would feature Gypsy Soul headlining with support from a hip-hop band called Graffiti Logic (Evad’s view: “there’s no logic in graffiti”) and 2-3 high school bands.
Part Three: Late 20th century rip-off
Cam: If you want to see a real capsule of those times, check out the 1992 or 1993 MTV Music Awards… you’d see Eric Clapton, Nirvana, En Vogue, Pearl Jam, Snoop Dogg, Bryan Adams, Black Crowes, Mariah Carey… all performing on a single show.
Adam: I have no recollection of that. Seriously.
Cam: I think in a broader sense, kids are more open to different types of music these days. But in a more micro-focused Top 40 sense, those days were really scattered… you’d have Clapton, Garth Brooks, Nirvana, Bell Biv Devoe in the Billboard Top 10. non rhyme-or-reason (pun intended?), style-wise.
Adam: It was just each genre putting it’s points up on the board. The glory days for Columbia/Sony. With us paying $18 for new release CDs.
Cam: Such a wracket! Plus everybody would care for their CDs like they were precious gems. Polishing solutions, etc. I used to think if you touched the CD’s “underbelly”, the whole thing would erase!
Adam: I was remembering yesterday the wonder of looking at my first CDs.
Cam: I like that moment music nerds have during format changes: do I splurge the extra $6 for the CD or just cheap out and get the cassette?!? The TRUE measure of how much you like a band!
Adam: There’s a great line in Men in Black where K is showing I all the alien technology. This is going to replace CDs soon, guess I’ll have to buy the white album again. I’ve had Graceland on LP, tape x2, CD x 3. Remastered was the first repurchase which made a huge difeewnce. My big pet peeve is when HD Chanel’s play SD movies.