Once Were Brothers in theaters Friday, February 28th

The new documentary on the greatest self-contained (songs, instruments, vocals) Rock ’n’ Roll band in the music’s history---The Band, is in theaters tomorrow. Quotations from the movie:

John Hammond Jr.: "Bob Dylan thought they were phenomenal. So he hired the guys."

Taj Mahal: "If there was any American musicians that were comparable to what The Beatles were, it woulda been them."

Bruce Springsteen: "There is no band that emphasizes becoming greater than the sum of their parts than The Band. (I disagree; even taken individually, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manual, Garth Hudson, and Robbie Robertson are master musicians, singers, and songwriters).

Bruce continues: "When they came together, something miraculous occurred."

Eric Clapton: (upon hearing Music From Big Pink) "I thought, this is huge. It changed my life."

Mine too, along with every good musician I knew then and have known since.

Thank you for the info bdp.  I find it a little disconcerting that one surviving member seems to have a slightly different view of the collective known as The Band.  Recent interviews, statements, make me much more sympathetic to Levon's views on this person (very clearly exposed in his book) than they ever were.  And I was always in Levon's camp.  The Band was just that, a band, rather than a collection of backing musicians supporting the vision of a leader.  I miss Levon, Richard, Rick, and wonder what Garth is doing and feeling these days.  Levon, at his barn, was pure love and magic.  

Agree 100%, @rpeluso. I know there are Robertson apologists, but I see right through his self-serving rationalizations for what he did. He is a fine guitarist and songwriter (or rather was), a terrible singer (he "fakes" singing all throughout The Last Waltz. I find his solo albums unlistenable, and quite pretentious.), and not much of a friend.

In his autobiography (Testimonial, which I refrained from reading until very recently, out of respect for Levon. It’s actually fantastic, the best retelling of their story I’ve read.), Robertson talks about the songwriting credits issue, and his explanation sounds very bogus. I stood next to him at a movie theater on Sunset Blvd. in the early-2000’s, and was sorely tempted to say something nasty to him. Let it go, Eric ;-) .

It was Levon who had a great post-Band career, not Robbie. Including a Grammy for one of his albums. A not bad actor, too (The Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Right Stuff, a couple others). You’ll notice Muddy Waters walks right past Robertson as he exits The Last Waltz stage, over to Levon’s drum riser to shake his hand. During rehearsals it became apparent the show was running long, and Robertson asked Levon to tell Muddy they were going to have to cut him from the show (instead of Neil Diamond?! Robertson was at that time producing Diamond’s in-progress recordings sessions ;-). Levon replied "If Muddy don’t play, I don’t play." When Muddy’s segment became a highlight of The Last Waltz film (in spite of Robertson’s showboating on guitar, and his uncalled-for vocal proclamations), Robertson acted as is having Muddy on the roster was his doing. He’s shameless.

By the way, there’s a video on You tube chronicling Garth Hudson’s revisiting the Big Pink house, and speaking with it’s current owner (a musician). It’s fantastic, including a snippet of Garth displaying his incredible prowess on piano.

Great Band, BUT, let’s not go overboard, they had their ’unlistenable’ period, it took them and Bob (didn’t know how to play with others) a while to get it together.

Robbie tells you all about it in his terrific book


best quote:

Bruce continues: "When they came together, something miraculous occurred."
The Band could not have been The Band without Robbie Robertson and vice versa. My advice is to never peak behind the curtain, like Dorothy you will only be disappointed.

Robertson was essential to The Band, especially as a songwriter. When they regrouped without him (Jim Weider taking his place on guitar) it was not remotely the same. Richard Manuel never got back his songwriting mojo, and the magic just wasn’t there. Like all bands, they had run their course, given all they had to give, pretty much in those first two, perfect albums.

The Band albums after the first and second had scattered good songs (the duet between Manuel and Van Morrison on Cahoots’ "4% Pantomime" is a gas! Northern Lights-Southern Cross’ "It Makes No Difference" is utterly majestic.), and their live album is about the best I’ve ever heard (as is their live album with Dylan, Before The Flood.). On Moondog Matinee they created some very interesting versions of old songs. NO other band could have created that album!

But as far as the level of musicianship in a Rock ’n’ Roll band, they really raised the bar. They played like studio musicians, their only competition being the house band at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals (The Swampers), Booker T & The MG’s, the Motown guys (The Funk Brothers), The Wrecking Crew (Spector’s L.A. studio band), and the Nashville players Dylan went there to record with starting in ’65.

If I go "overboard", I’m not alone. Eric Clapton’s reaction to hearing Music From Big Pink was to disband Cream (at the time the biggest band in the world), and go to West Saugerties (the location of the pink house) for a coupla weeks, waiting to be asked to join The Band. It finally occurred to him that they neither desired nor required his services ;-) . Every good guitarist I knew in the Bay Area traded his Les Paul or SG for a Telecaster, their Sunn, Marshall, or Fender Dual Showman for a small combo amp (the Fender Deluxe Reverb being a particular favorite). Gone were the long guitar solos, in was songwriting, harmony singing, and ensemble-style musicianship (playing for the song). The Band completely changed what was hip.

But of course unhip was much more commonplace. As the above was going on, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, ELP, Elton John, Aerosmith, and all the rest took over Rock. There was Creedence from the East Bay, and The Doobie Brothers from my hometown of San Jose, and then Fleetwood Mac (when fronted by a couple more San Jose residents, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. I saw their SJ garage band Fritz live in ’68), and lots and lots of Blues-based UK bands. Hundreds, maybe. Ugh (as Sonny Boy Williamson said to The Hawks when they jammed together in ’65, right after he returned from a UK tour with promoter-provided UK bands: "They {the UK bands} wanna play the Blues SO bad. And that’s just how they play it." One of those bands was The Yardbirds, featuring Eric Clapton on guitar ;-) .

By the time things had gotten REAL bad (mid-70’s, right before the appearance of The Ramones), everybody I knew was doing what Dylan had done with The Hawks in the basement of Big Pink throughout all of 1967: follow the trail of music back to before Elvis Presley walked into Sam Phillips’ little recording studio in Memphis. We discovered Rural Blues, Urban Blues (Howlin’ Wolf rules!), Jump Blues, Big Bands, Western Swing, Hillbilly, Bluegrass, Folk (including it’s English/Irish roots), Tin Pan Alley, and some of us Classical. But we also learned there was a lot more to early Rock ’n’ Roll than just the big names: Rockabilly! The Johnny Burnette Trio Rules!! Listen to their version of "Train Kept A Rollin’" to hear how bad Aerosmith’s version sucks.

Would there even be the Americana Music scene as we know it had there been no The Band? I don’t think so.

Enjoying the thread and like with most things the Truth is somewhere in the middle and certainly obscured by ego.

i have caught Bob Margolin live in hyper small venues - he is Muddys guitarist in the Last Waltz. A great player and a hoot to chat with.
Also for those in orbit around all things musical The Band...

make sure to check out Amy Helm - she is the real thing :-)
@tomic601, Have you noticed during Muddy's set in The Last Waltz how Bob Margolin looks over at Robertson every time the latter lets out with one of his exclamations during "Mannish Boy"? Hilarious! I know just what Bob is thinking, 'cause I'm thinking the same thing.
In the larger scene , they were not the Berlin Philharmonic .
They were the "real deal"  in a genre with a very low bar ..
@bdp24 ya man and I always, always wondered why Neil Diamond was on stage - now I know...

at the prep school where I got many of my early life lessons and tastes, The Last Waltz was revered and somewhat rare because of the number of discs and $$$& but the guys and girls ( yes ! ) that had imo good and far ranging taste had a copy...

No, The Band weren’t The Berlin Philharmonic (though Garth Hudson IS Classically trained ;-) . Listen to his "Genetic Method" intro to "Chest Fever" on The Band’s live album, if you dare). Neither were The Count Basie and Duke Ellington Orchestras. And Frank Sinatra wasn’t an Opera singer. Horses for courses. Interviewer to Keith Moon: "Could you play in The Buddy Rich Big Band?" Moon: "No, and Buddy couldn’t play in The Who."

Saying "They were the real dead (sic) in a meaningless genre" is like a Vegan saying the best steak in town is the real meal in a meaningless menu. Mind your own business, ya smug elitist square. Speaking of squares: did ya hear the one about what Buddy Holly said about Jazz music? "It’s strictly for the stay-at-homes" ;-) . Vivian Stanshall (The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah band) said "Jazz; delicious hot, disgusting cold."

Oh, notice how he changed "They were the real dead in a meaningless genre" to "They were the real deal in a genre with a very low bar." in response to this post? Too late, you already revealed your true character.

I, for one, always appreciate/look forward to (but rarely agree with) Schubert's posts.  He is nothing if not consistent in his views/criticisms.  I find them refreshing in their consistency and honesty, even though I agree with him nearly never.  

Well, okay, never.  

I may be Schubert for next Halloween.  
I share his adoration of J.S. Bach, but (this) man does not live by JSB alone.
Eric, happy to see you can forgive and forget!  

We all will be old (er) some day

I hope.  

His predictability I find charming.  And amusing.  I am always looking for things to make me smile, or laugh out loud.  Schubert seems to do that with his words, short, terse, and biting.  I wonder how he is in real life, in person.  I have a mental picture that I am certain bears little in common with reality.
It does not matter what schubert and I think, but I do find The Band a bit overpraised. I have an album, or two, but I do not think they were as great as they are talked about these days.

Having said that, Berlin Philharmonic has been slightly out of tune lately.

The Band are sort of a Rorschach test. ;-) Bob Dylan thought they were phenomenal, Nick Lowe says Brinsley Schwarz (in which he was the bassist/songwriter/singer) were trying to be the British Band, Elvis Costello has expressed his deep appreciation, as have Lucinda Williams, Ry Cooder, the guys in Los Lobos, Buddy Miller, T Bone Burnett, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, Richard Thompson, John Hiatt, Neil Young, the guys in Little Feat, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, Jim Keltner, Jim Lauderdale, Springsteen (as noted above), Bill Graham, countless others. And Clapton gave up Cream after hearing Music From Big Pink, saying the album "changed his life." Is that "a bit overpraised."? ;-)

But that’s just them. Like anything else, The Band are not for everyone, only those who understand and appreciate what made them very, very special. No offense intended. I myself didn’t "get" them at first, try as I might. I couldn’t hear what all the fuss was about (there was a lot of fuss made about them in 1968 and ’69). Once I did, a new world was opened to me. You either get it, or you don’t. For those who don’t, oh well.

*S* The Last Waltz....it was like a party thrown by that girl that wasn’t the most attractive at first glance, but after you were there for awhile...
You were havin’ such a damn good time with her and her friends, you’d remember it like yesterday....even the hangover felt Good. ;)

"Chest Fever" (for the organ intro) and "Rag..." (for the violin intro) are on my playlist...

*...sits down next to schubert...* (Don’t be scared...I’ve had my shots, and haven’t been near China....)

Y’know, schu....I Do enjoy an occasional ’sesh’ with the Old Masters...Listz, Bach, Viv., Verdi, Strauss. et al.... It’s where the ’roots’ of ’serious music’ come from, and it still shows in the ’low bar’ contemporary music. You may not approve of it within the squall of a synth and the percussion line behind it.....but it’s there.


The Art of Noise; the group, not your response.

Deadmau5 or Crystal Method: Turn the subwoofer Down, there’s nuance in there...;)

"200 Motels", F.Zappa: ...who argued with Zubin M. to get the mezzo-soprano to sign "Munkins get me hot!"....and won.

P.D.Q. Bach: Saw him Live in Houston. The house was Packed, EVERYONE was in Evening Dress. We had a Great Time. ;)

And...a personal favorite....

The Sound of Music..... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjY3bHRZl-k

...but I’m just an urban spaceman.....:)
The first two albums get the most attention, but don’t underestimate the orher studio recordings. They’re pretty awesome.
I agree with bdp24 and I don't get what all the fuss is about. Yes, they may have been influential in creating that "down home country soul garage band" sound, but I just don't get connected to or emotionally moved by much of what they were doing (believe me, I've tried). I think their sound is sort of muddy and the vocals are kind of lazy. I prefer a crisper, more energized style of rock, so you can count me as one who just doesn't "get it". And to have only one song listed in many greatest songs of all time lists (The Weight) doesn't say much for the song writing abilities. Just trying to be honest here.
"The Art of Noise; the group, not your response."
Once upon a time, I entered the record store in Italy and they had racks arranged by genre. The first one, with the sign just above the records, was "musica leggera" and under it the record...Art of Noise.
Prompted by this thread, I listened to The Band and Music From the Big Pink last night.

It was good, better than I had remembered it, but still just a great example of a garage band, as the poster above implied.

It may be that time alignment is also an issue. Maybe those who have not been around when The Band was at its peak simply do not have that emotional, maybe even nostalgic, connection. We may be looking at them as just another band among many that we have heard until 2020, and not the breakthrough artist of 1969.
All most everyone you mentioned could only say what they  thought   relative to what they did.
I get what the band was , the best of rock .
The best of rock is below average compared to Jazz or Classical .Not my opinion , it's a fact .

I like to hang with artists who see the beauty and creativity in each other’s work and thru competition, collaboration, etc raise each other up. I prefer the same here..
But... while I think of it...

what in particular are you doing with your limited time here in Eden?

i try to ask myself that each day....

today we are picking just the right tube to color a ribbon vocal microphone 

btw, the Berlin Philharmonic has a most excellent app
bdp24, you could live by Bach alone , if it was the ONLY music in the world music would still be God’’s greatest gift to man(save his Son) and everyone would be happy .
That said , I do like to listen to Mozart, Brahms . Haydn, Puccini and several hundred other great composers .Jazz as well , The great saxophonist Sonny Stitt and the fabulous Cuban Pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, one of the GREATEST keyboard artists alive get heavy duty on my systems .Anyone who even claims to like music should hear Rubalcaba

Jazz and Classical deserve equal billing because they are SERIOUS
music .Some R&B and folk is as well .Rock is not .

If I could have the music of only one music creator (thankfully, such is not the case), it would be that of JSB. If I could have the music of only one Rock ’n’ Roll band, it would be that of The Band (for a solo Rock & Roller, it would be Dave Edmunds). But those are two very different things, and cannot be appraised by the same metric. The opinion about ANY Rock ’n’ Roll by one who considers ALL of it beneath him is irrelevant, just as is my opinion about anything in the Rap genre.

But The Band wasn’t just a Rock ’n’ Roll band. They started out playing R & B in the clubs in Toronto, though individually they had very deep roots, which I won’t go into here (you can read about it in the books by Robertson, Levon Helm, and Harvey Kubernik). Dylan spent all of 1967 in the basement of Big Pink tutoring them on the entire history of American Popular music, back to the music brought over from England and Ireland (Folk to you, schubert). In The Last Waltz, they perform music in all Pop genres: Blues (Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton; Paul Butterfield blows harp with a couple of performers as well), R & B (Dr. John and Van Morrison), Gospel (The Staples), Folk (Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young), Country (Emmylou Harris), Rockabilly (Ronnie Hawkins), Pop (a dreadful dirge by Neil Diamond). And Garth performs his Classically-infused Organ intro on "Chest Fever."

When The Band were booked into The Hollywood Bowl in 1970, they were given carte blanche for the opening act of their choice. They chose The Miles Davis Group, pianist Keith Jarrett being a favorite musician of both Robertson and Garth Hudson. Miles’ drummer Jack DeJohnette and Levon Helm became lifelong friends and admirers. Here’s what Jack had to say about The Band: "I knew The Band---Music From Big Pink---and thought they were terrific, not flashy but real soulful, with great lyrics and great singing. We got to jam briefly with The Band, and really dug their musicianship." When Jack himself headlined the Playboy Jazz Festival at The Bowl in 2017, he included "Up On Cripple Creek" from the second Band album in his set. Ironically, though Levon sings the song, it was pianist Richard Manuel who plays the drums heard on the studio recording.

"The Weight" is hardly the only song of note (sorry ;-) from The Band. But even if it were, that song alone is worth more to me than the entire recorded output of The Beatles. I realize that is a minority opinion, one I can offer no explanation or rationale for. The song fills me with a feeling so glorious, the physical world evaporates, my consciousness elevated. The same when I listen to J.S. Bach’s Concerto For 4 Harpsichords And Orchestra. Good music is good music.

"Pop (a dreadful dirge by Neil Diamond)."
Whoa, that was the highlight of the show.

Ok, Bobby Charles and Forever Young. could share second place.

Not to mention that The Last Waltz was some kind of a funeral for The Band so singing a dirge was quite appropriate.
Sorry, but they certainly weren't anything close to impacting the World stage of music like the Beetles. In fact, until today I'd never heard of them. The Doors were certainly much bigger overseas, The beach boys were as well, in the same era.