By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood
This series looks at performances of songs that were not written by Dylan but which clearly have a Dylan influence within them. As ever, Aaron selects the theme and the works, and Tony endeavours to write something moderately relevant while listening to the selections for the first time.
Aaron: Let’s look at another one of the albums that spun out of the Rolling Thunder Revue. This time it is The Alpha Band’s self-titled debut.
From Wikipedia: “The Alpha Band was an American rock band, formed in July 1976 from the remnants of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. Band members were Rolling Thunder alumni T-Bone Burnett, Steven Soles, and David Mansfield, plus sidemen who differed from record to record and included: David Kemper (later drummer for Bob Dylan) and Ringo Starr. The band produced three albums, particularly notable for their intelligent cultural critique. The members of the band, especially Burnett and Mansfield, are known for their important roles as producers of other people’s albums subsequently.”
Aaron: Here are just a handful of my favorites from the album. Interviews… some great lyrics in this one I thought
The first interview was out of a wrestler Who's the maitre d' at the Bucks Owen Show In the basement of the Empire State Building And he's wearing his bronze and grey belt With an atomic arm lock On a lounge lizard at the Spanish Steps And there were Ferrari automobiles Sitting in the ground fifty million years ago And there were James Brown records Sitting in the ground fifty million years ago And there was acrylic paint Flying through the air fifty million years ago The next interview was out of a gambler Who keeps all his money in fifty dollar bills And floats between Dallas and Vegas and Los Angeles And he's standing outside the real motel By a '68 Coupe Deville with his pool cue And he's high on bullets and afraid of cobwebs
Tony: Oh my goodness, how have I missed this song? The lyrics are, to me, (and perhaps it is just me) very hard to distinguish so I rushed off to find the lyrics of whole song – if you feel the same way they are here.
I absolutely love this – the rhythm is hypnotic and the way the two parts of the song work together is fantastic. If I’m putting my producer hat I’d say, cut the synthesizer – I don’t feel it adds anything, and for me it gets in the way of understanding the lyrics, and it takes away from the pounding insistence of the 50 million years ago chorus section. But that’s just me.
Brilliant – including the extra beat at the end.
Aaron: The Dogs
Tony: I really didn’t know what to expect next; again it is fascinating. In case you are interested the lines in Spanish mean
The dog is not howling, it is laughing I was crying and now bleeding
Goodness; what an amazing set of lyrics: a song that doesn’t have to have a meaning but just has to be there…
I never had a French girl outside of France I never tasted foreign love, I never had a chance With the finance and romance Romance and finance
Aaron: Arizona Telegram
Tony: As I have said I don’t know this album – but of course I will get to know it. And here’s a funny thing – I wanted to look up the lyrics of this song and there are half a dozen websites that claim they have the lyrics therein, but don’t. What naughty chaps these fellows are!
Another good song – not so immediately taken by it as with the songs above; it seems more mainstream than all that has gone before, but I guess one can never be completely far out all the time. (As it were). Superb coda to the song too.
Tony: But we are now back with the amazing originality and quality of the earlier songs. I really must have lived a very sheltered life never to have come across this album before. What on earth have I been doing all these years. This is brilliant. I do hope you are still with us here. Of course, you may have known this album for years, but if you are a hopeless case like me, I hope you are simply smiling as much as I am listening to this for the first time.
Last Chance to Dance
Tony: Oh what a wonderful time I have just had. And I have just seen that the whole album is on Spotify so I can keep playing it through as I continue working. Aaron I am always in your debt for articles on this site. But now more than ever.
And I have just seen that they made two other albums. Well, that’s my day’s work gone then. Although actually I am going to add a track of my own, as I have just started playing the series of Spotify. My life is changed. It now includes the Alpha Band.
- Part 1: Desolation Row
- Part 2: There goes rhyming Dylan
- Part 3: Songs inspired by the music of Bob Dylan – Young, CSNY, and Coxon
- Part 4: Dylanesque: the anti-war songs
- Part 5: The Rolling Thunder album – Kinky Friedman
- Part 6: Rolling Thunder albums: Cardiff Rose – Roger McGuinn
- Part 7: Rolling Thunder albums: Joni Mitchell
- Part 8: Scarlet Rivera’s Debut Album