Music Journalism A-Z – Greil Marcus

File:Mystery Train single cover.jpgTrain I ride, sixteen coaches long

Train I ride, sixteen coaches long

Well that long black train got my baby and gone

Mystery Train , Written By Junior Parker, 1953

I have greatly admired Greil Marcus‘s writings for 45 plus years. He has stamped an indelible impression on my musical taste and interpretation. I thank him from the bottom of the music of our heart for all he has shared and communicated.

I first discovered Greil Marcus in the record review section of Rolling Stone in the folded newspaper days (1968). His reviews contained an innate sensibility of the artist’s musical intent. He immediately understood what the music was accomplishing and communicated that knowledge directly to the reader. He transitioned the audio experience to the printed word effortlessly which has never been easy to articulate.

I bought his first book, Rock and Roll Will Stand in the summer of 69. He initiated my rock music book collection. I found his writing frank, honest and compelling. He cultivated my interest in the live concert idiom. I have been to 400+ concerts since that time. You might say he was a strong early influence for me.

The Greil Marcus book I treasure the most is Mystery Train. The first edition was published in 1975.  I continue to marvel even after the fifth edition (2008) how well the author informs the reader with its focused range of subjects from Robert Johnson, Elvis Presley, The Band, Randy Newman, and Sly Stone.

I wrote about Greil Marcus in December of 2011 when he published The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years (2011) . Here is that earlier blog post.

The Doors

 

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Randy Newman – I’m Dreaming

Randy Newman at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritag...
Randy Newman at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Randy Newman’s new song, “I’m Dreaming,” is available as a free download below, where you can also watch the accompanying video. With lyrics from the viewpoint of a voter who casts his ballot solely based on skin color, the song draws attention to something Newman has noticed and written about for 40 years: racism in America. (The complete lyrics are below as well.) While the song, which Newman performs solo at the piano, is free, anyone wishing to contribute is encouraged to donate to the United Negro College Fund at www.uncf.org.

Mama Told Me Not To Come, Etc. ;)

I was thinking about what to write for today’s music blog post when the song, “Mama Told Me Not To Come” sung by Three Dog Night and written by Randy Newman started playing on the turntable in my mind.

“Mama Told Me Not To Come”, I was surprised to learn was originally written by Randy Newman for Eric Burdon and the Animals in 1966. It was released on the album, Eric Is Here, by Eric Burdon and Animals on MGM in 1967.

From 1969-1974, nobody had more Top 10 hits, moved more records, or sold more concert tickets than Three Dog Night!

Three Dog NightWhen I was first dating my wife Rosemary, Three Dog Night was OUR band. I purchased every vinyl LP they recorded. Our song was “One”, their first Top 5 hit in 1969. “One” was written by Harry Nilsson. I learned from Wikipedia that the reason Harry Nilsson wrote the song after calling someone and getting a busy signal. He stayed on the line listening to the “beep, beep, beep, beep…” tone, writing the song. The busy signal became the opening notes of his version of the song.

I have an interesting personal story to tell you about Randy Newman and Livingston Taylor that happened to me in 1973. I was attending the University of New Haven in West Haven, Ct. in those days. I had made arrangements as a DJ on WNHU-FM to interview Livingston Taylor before the concert. I was asked to conduct the interview with another on-air personality. I warned this person NOT to mention James Taylor during the interview because I had read it infuriated Livingston Taylor to hear those comparisons. That person swore to me he would not do so.

So we get to the locker room and Randy Newman is such a nervous Nellie before the show. He paced that locker room like you wouldn’t believe. He stood off to the side as we interviewed Livingston Taylor. Randy Newman was actually the opening act for Livingston Taylor that night. Don’t you know the asshole I am doing the interview with asks Livingston, “So what’s it like to have a famous brother like James? Livingston looks at him and then me and says, “Sorry, interview is over.” I pushed that stupid idiot DJ off the bench, telling him, “Thanks for screwing this up for the station.” Randy Newman said, “Hey guy, you really blew it for your buddy there.” That was how I met Randy Newman. I recall he played “Mama Told Me Not To Come” that night on a beautiful white Steinway piano.

I mentioned this story years later to Livingston Taylor (who we have seen perform and spoken with many times) and we had a big laugh over that memory.