Roger Waters and Graham Nash on The Band.


I’ve just started reading the new book Levon Helm: Rock, Roll & Ramble; The Inside Story Of The Man, The Music, and The Midnight Ramble by John W. Barry (with a forward by Ringo Starr). I’m only on page 25 of the first chapter, and already I have read something I found very surprising:

Roger Waters: "Big Pink changed everything, overnight." (What have I been telling ya’ll? ;-). He continues: "It was sonic. It was the sound that they made all playing together. It was what they created. It was just completely different than anything I had heard before and it was remarkable. They (sic) were great songs as well. When I heard the record I went ’Wow, what was that?’ What a great band they were." No sh*t Sherlock.

Not as surprising is what I read in the paragraphs immediately preceding that of Waters, that being:

"When they served as opening act for the 1974 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young stadium tour, said Graham Nash: ’I would watch their set with great interest, of course.’

"But even though The Band was opening for CSNY, Nash remained in awe of them and, as a result, was too shy to approach any of the guys or chat them up."

’I should have, of course. I’m not particularly un-famous myself. But I was just too shy. They were too incredible a band in my mind...I mean holy sh*t, they were The Band...they were incredible. They were the best band in the world apart from The Beatles, as far as I was concerned. I was just a fan.’

Every good musician I knew felt just as did Roger and Graham, and still do. The best self-contained band (writing, singing, and playing) in the entire history of Rock ’n’ Roll. You see, Graham had the order reversed ;-) . When Abbey Road came out, it sounded like yesterdays news to me. The Band’s first two albums had completely changed the rules of the game. Those two albums still sound fresh, like they were recorded today. Abbey Road sounded dated to me on release day.

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Yeah @edcyn, The Band really separates the men from the boys ;-) . I didn’t get Music From Big Pink at all when it was released. I was confused (and perturbed) that many of the people who shared my musical taste loved it, and I couldn’t relate to it in the slightest. I was still into Cream, Hendrix, The Who, Jeff Beck, etc. Power Trios.

Then in the Summer of ’69 my teen combo (an old term for a young band that I still enjoy using) got the gig of opening for The New Buffalo Springfield at a local San Jose high school. We played our set, and then The NBS took the stage. The only remaining Buffalo Springfield member was drummer Dewey Martin, and on bass and harmony vocals was Randy Fuller, Bobby’s brother. I loved The Bobby Fuller 4, so that was cool!

They started their set, and as they played one song and then another, I became mystified. None of them seemed to be doing much, but they sounded SO good. Well, before their set ended I had experienced my first epiphany. I suddenly understood what The Band was all about: ensemble playing! Dewey’s drum parts were designed to serve the song, not impress other drummers. When the lead guitarist took a solo (thankfully, fairly short ;-), the bass player stayed with the bass drum, not also soloing ala Jack Bruce. Great 3-part harmonies (which were not a thing in power trios), songs with great chord progressions, including bridges.

There are other musical ensembles who understand and play in ensemble fashion, but when The Band appeared that style was certainly not common. That’s why when Clapton heard MFBP he realized (and has stated numerous times) that "music had been heading in the wrong direction for a long time" (an exact quote), a direction he himself had been leading! His reaction to hearing MFBP was to disband Cream.

As for The Band’s vocals "sounding choked and forced": Wow. Richard Manuel is one of the greatest singers I’ve ever heard, and Levon’s vocals are a joy to hear. I am far from alone in that opinion, and truly pity anyone who doesn’t get it. But I understand; I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now ;-) .

+1 for the movie Once Were Brothers

I recall a story about the publishing royalties on the song The Weight

Dylan 25%, Albert Grossman 25% and the members of The Band divided the remaining 50%

And while normal protocol of the times, just seemed rather unfair that others would profit more from their best work and art

@crustycoot: My intent in mentioning Abbey Road was not to diminish that album, but rather to draw a distinction between The Beatles and The Band, relating back to Graham Nashes holding those two bands up as the two best in the world.

Prior to eventually getting The Band (it wasn’t until the s/t "brown" album. I had to work backwards to Music From Big Pink), I too may have considered The Beatles about as good as it gets. By the time Abbey Road appeared, that was no longer the case. They sounded like the past to me, I had moved on. Everyone is free to disagree with that sentiment, of course.

When I saw and heard The New Buffalo Springfield live in the summer of ’69 (see my above post), I had already seen and heard live The Beach Boys (my first concert, summer of ’64), The Beatles (summer of ’65), Cream (twice), The Jimi Hendrix Experience (twice), The Who (twice), The Jeff Beck Group, Procol Harum, The Kinks, Them (with Van Morrison), The Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Fritz (the local San Jose Garage Band whose members included Lindsey Buckingham and little Stevie Nicks) and maybe a hundred more (including San Jose’s own Chocolate Watchband, The Syndicate Of Sound, Stained Glass, People, a bunch more you’ve never heard of.). By the time TNBS had finished their set, I considered them "better" than all the above. Well, except for The Kinks ;-) .

I had become a man ;-) .

I was a young working musician when Big Pink arrived and pretty much everybody I knew in the biz was stunned. I'd seen "Bob Dylan and the Hawks" live and was blown away as a Dylan fan...just miles ahead of any other live band in 1966. Saw the Band a couple of years later and again was impressed at how powerful they were...Procul Harum were great live (Gary Brooker was an incredible voice)...for me the Lowell George led Little Feat were the best live band from the 70's.

@tostadosunidos and @wolf_garcia: Love Procol Harum! With organist Matthew Fisher at least. Those first three albums are astoundingly good. I didn’t see them live until the Home album tour, after Matthew had departed. I didn’t like that album at all; gone were Matthew’s majestic classically-influenced organ parts, replaced by Robin Trowers blues-based guitar parts. Live Gary Brooker was in fine voice, and drummer B.J. Wilson was of course just fantastic.

Beside both The Band and Procol harum having identical line-ups (drums, bass, piano, organ, one guitar), each had an organist with a classical music education, singers owing a great debt to Ray Charles (Richard Manuel of course), and a history of playing R & B music.

I somehow missed out on Little Feat, but did see The Electric Flag in ’68, with Mike Bloomfield and Buddy Miles (and four sax players!). Awesome! I also feel very fortunate in having seen Big Joe Turner backed by The Blasters, mid-80’s. Big Joe Turner---now THAT’S a man! In The Blasters at that time were Lee Allen (a member of Little Richard’s 50’s band) on tenor sax and Steve Berlin (soon thereafter to leave to join Los Lobos---another great band!) on baritone. I just saw Steve live with NRBQ, both sounding fantastic. NRBQ, one of my favorite live bands.

I have two friends who saw Dylan & The Hawks at The San Jose Civic Auditorium, a show I would kill to have been at (though in ’65-6 Dylan was way too odd for my suburban teenage mind to comprehend). I also somehow never saw Moby Grape or The Byrds. Can’t see ’em all!