Beyond Belief

In 2004, Elvis Costello wrote a lengthy appreciation of The Beatles for Rolling Stone: “I first heard of The Beatles when I was nine years old…I was exactly the right age to be hit by them full on. My experience — seizing on every picture, saving money for singles and EPs, catching them on aContinue reading “Beyond Belief”

New Amsterdam

1980’s Get Happy!! is Elvis Costello’s fourth album and third with his backing band The Attractions. The album is an attempt to fuse Costello’s lyrical content with the rhythms and sounds of R&B and Motown, resulting in a 20-song record with a flood of musical ideas. Costello wrote about Get Happy!!: “The lyrical content ofContinue reading “New Amsterdam”

Watching the Detectives

The essay “The Simple Art of Murder” written by crime writer Raymond Chandler was published in The Atlantic Monthly in December 1944. It’s his definitive statement on the mystery genre, encompassing insights on all manner of detective stories, country house murders, and hard-boiled crime fiction. The essay includes some praise, but mostly criticisms of suchContinue reading “Watching the Detectives”

Finite

The Aboriginal Australians have a central story that encompasses the beginning of the world known as the Dreaming or Dreamtime. This narrative describes a spontaneous act, or “that moment when the world first came convulsively into being, thrown up in an explosion of energy by ancestral spirits.”1 Dreamtime is a single concept of religion andContinue reading “Finite”

Desolation Row

In 1963, the director Federico Fellini released his film 8 ½ with the following scene opening the movie: The scene depicts a man feeling a panic attack come over him during a traffic jam in the inner city. Smoke or steam pours into his car. He struggles to leave the car while faces from theContinue reading “Desolation Row”

You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere

The legend of The Basement Tapes is that Bob Dylan and The Band woodshedded in Woodstock, NY, making music and writing songs during the summer and fall of 1967 away from the rest of the world. At the time, Dylan was 26 years old and the father of three, including his adopted five-year old daughterContinue reading “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”

Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)

In an interview for Spin in December 1985, Bob Dylan said the following about the act of songwriting: “The best songs are the songs you write that you don’t know anything about. They’re an escape. I don’t do too much of that because maybe it’s more important to deal with what’s happening rather than toContinue reading “Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)”

When I Paint My Masterpiece

The crime novelist James Ellroy, who is known for giant and intricate novels such as L.A. Confidential and American Tabloid, opens his public appearances book readings with a hyperbolic self introduction. Here’s one version: “Good evening peepers, prowlers, pederasts, panty-sniffers, punks and pimps. I’m James Ellroy, the demon dog with the hog-log, the foul owlContinue reading “When I Paint My Masterpiece”

Watching the River Flow

In March 1971, Bob Dylan entered the studio searching for a new sound after the pastoral feel of his previous album New Morning. The song “Watching the River Flow” was the single that emerged from those sessions: This recording session was produced by Leon Russell, a former studio musician who had achieved renown for leadingContinue reading “Watching the River Flow”

Visions of Johanna

On Valentine’s Day 1966 in Nashville, TN, Bob Dylan was finally able to record a version of the song “Visions of Johanna” to his liking: He had debuted the song in concert the previous October in Baltimore and had struggled with various arrangements and instrumentation during a recording session in November 1965 in New YorkContinue reading “Visions of Johanna”