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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Summer 1984 Mt Watatic in Massachusetts held and arts and energy festival. The Band headlined. Stage set up at the base of the ski hill. The sloped hill served as stadium seating,  blankets, hippies,  sunshine,  (moonshine) ,  great show! Arlo Guthrie played too. I remember getting lost driving there and stopping for directions at a farmhouse. All these geese came sqwaking and walking over trying to bite me as I walked up the driveway! That's when I learned they make good watch dogs. 

Prior to 1967, The Hawks were "just" a Rockabilly/Rock 'n' Roll/R & B band. But as wolf_garcia testified above, a REALLY good one. That all changed in 1967. The Hawks (minus Levon) spent that entire year in the basement of Big Pink, being tutored in American Roots music by Bob Dylan. They emerged the best band in the world, were offered a recording contract by Capitol Records, recorded Music From Big Pink, changed their name to The Band, and redirected the course of Rock 'n' Roll. 

Never thought of The Band as anything more than a really good garage (or basement if you prefer) band. This is just my opinion but I’ve never understood the hype.

For some context, I’m hitting 70 (or is it hitting me?!) in October. I, like some others here, had the great fortune to see/hear some of the amazing bands of that time; Hendrix, Cream, Spirit, Electric Flag, etc., before the rigors of the music business and "unauthorized chemical research" took their toll. I had started playing drums and was enamored with Mitch Mitchell, Ginger Baker, etc. In 1970 or 71 a friend who was into "Americana" (before that term existed) took me to a show at the Pasadena Civic put on by local radio station KPPC 106.7. For what amounted to chump change we saw/heard Captain Beefheart, Little Feat and Ry Cooder. It was the most impactful musical night of my life, sending me on a new trajectory as both a listener and a player! Richie Hayward with LF and Jim Keltner with Ry Cooder played with such unique style and feel serving to completely reroute my neural pathways devoted to rhythmic perception aka blew my mind! Also, the Band’s first two albums are absolute masterpieces! We got to see them at the Hollywood Bowl with the Miles Davis Bitches Brew era band opening the show. Whew!