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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Waters is great - not afraid to tell the truth and has a critical mind ... listen to his interviews from at least the last year.

I see no need to diminish Abbey Road in order to heap praise on MFBP or The Band. What about Blonde On Blonde, or Are You Experienced?  Or Blue, Surrealistic Pillow, or Let It Bleed or Freak Out?  These were all records that defined the era.

HS Class of ‘69

I remember the name Brinsley Schwarz but not their sound--will have to check them out.  I always thought the British band that sounded like The Band was the early Procol Harum. 

What can I tell ya'? I barely tolerated The Band from day one, and hated them more often than not. I liked the song "The Weight," but I enjoyed the cover version that was an AM hit in L.A. (was it by Dusty Springfield?) far more than the one by The Band itself. To my ears, the Band severely lacked pep. Their vocals sounded choked and forced. The guitar licks weren't so much inspired as over-wrought. I never saw them live but I did see an industry pre-release screening of "The Last Waltz." I loved the genre they played in, too. I still listen to my Byrds and Buffalo Springfield LPs. What can I say? To my ears they were pretentious and leaden.

 

It wasn't that I didn't like the genre, either. My favorite band at the time was The Byrds...who I managed to see in every incarnation but the original with Gene Clark. Or did I see them with Gene Clark, in a reunion performance at the Troubadour?

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 ;-) .