Thursday, October 2, 2008

How Does It Feel?

In his latest missive, Bob Lefsetz implores his readers to check out Michael hedges cover of "Like a Rolling Stone."

He says,
"And here's where I give you instruction. From a dead man. Who never really made it. Whose legend has not grown since his passing, but has only contracted. But he's a star in my pantheon. I'll still be playing HIS covers long after [James Taylor's] lame renditions of famous tracks evaporate from my memory bank.

I'm speaking, of course, of Michael Hedges.

You've got to hear his cover of Peter Gabriel's "Come Talk To Me". He covered everything from "I'm Into Something Good" to "Holiday" to "If I Needed Someone". But the absolute best is "Like A Rolling Stone". The supposedly uncoverable Bob Dylan classic. Hedges wrings new meaning from the song, he slows it down and makes it three dimensional. He implores us, he asks us...HOW DOES IT FEEL? To be on your own. Like a complete unknown."
Well of course I headed straight over to YouTube to check it out.

I haven't thought about Michael Hedges in years - in fact I didn't even know that he'd died (Michael's car skid off a cliff in 1997). But I'm grateful to Bob for reminding me of him. In the Summer of 1991, I listened to Hedges' Grammy-nominated-album, Taproot every single day. I can't recommend this album enough, but it occurs to me that I've never even listened to any of his other records. For all I know, Taproot is his worst album (but I doubt it). BAM Magazine had this to say about it,
"Conceived as an autobiographical myth told in music, Taproot offers twelve pixyish instrumental journeys, with often ingenious arrangements, pristine instrumentation and pleasing melodies."
The closing track is the lone vocal on the album, e.e. cummings' "I Carry Your Heart."

The one thing I really disagree with Bob Lefsetz about though is that "Like a Rolling Stone" is an "uncoverable classic." I would never have described it that way.

I remember hearing 10 seconds of the Hendrix version on a PBS documentary and immediately running out to the record store and purchasing Jimi at Monterey. Without a doubt, that performance was a landmark in Rock History - a cover that easily rivals the original.

Much less famous than Jimi's cover but still totally cool is the Other Bob's take on the tune.

Finally, I've embedded the "Judas" performance from the Royal Albert Hall in 1966. This clip is taken from the No Direction Home DVD - this is the closing sequence of the documentary.

I'll never get tired of this song. Lyrically, it's a time-capsule of the 1960s/70s Rock 'n' Roll coming-of-age experience. I think that everyone can relate to feeling lost and alone - even if they aren't homeless drug addicts like the character in this stanza,
You said you'd never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He's not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And ask him do you want to make a deal?
How does it feel?

I saw Sandra Bullock on David Letterman one night, and she described how she had recently gotten into boxing at her local "celebrity gym." Her trainer paired her up with Bob Dylan, and all she could think of while they were trading blows to the face was ... "How does it feel?"

-Mack Arillo