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Author Archives: reallystupidrants

CSN: Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

This time a song about a real person, one the writer of this tune was pretty sure was gonna leave him any minute for another man. Stephen Stills met the object of his affection in 1967. In fact, she was with him when he recorded a demo version of this song, saying to him that evening not to stay at the studio all night. Her name would appear, if not in the lyrics, then most certainly in the song’s title, referencing the color of her incredibly piercing eyes, to which men found themselves attracted. Two years into her love story with Stephen Stills, it was 1969, and she was appearing in the New York Shakespeare Festival musical production of Peer Gynt, when she fell in love with her co-star, Stacy Keach. Knowing this, Stephen Stills caught up with her one night, brought his guitar along to her hotel room and sang her the whole song, spelling out the legacy of their relationship. And while that one ended, the song proved the beginning of a new one. A three way, actually. A song that would mark the beginning, not only of Crosby, Stills & Nash, written for singer, actor and former flame of Stephen Stills, Judy Collins, as in “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”

– Jeff Woods, “Legends of Classic Rock” Q107 Toronto


CSNY: Cash and Cocaine

They were one of the hottest tickets throughout the seventies, filling concert halls and stirring festival crowds wherever they went. Throw in the wildcard, Neil, and instantly arenas became stadiums for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. A vast amount of money would both be made and spent. One such summer stadium tour lurched into action in 1974. There was no new CSNY album to promote, but all four members, and especially Neil Young, had new songs to play. Promoter Bill Graham was given the job of making everyone really rich, and the cash came in. The 32-day tour soon became the most lucrative in history to that point, out-grossing the previous year’s tours by both the Stones and Zeppelin. Everyone got paid in cash, many millions came in, but it seems the four principles ended up with about $300,000 each. Where the rest went, they didn’t seem to care. With their amps cranked to 11, their shows were exhilarating, with Stills and Young indulging in many long and extremely loud guitar duels. Another indulgence came backstage as David Crosby handled the tour with drug-fueled paranoia. He kept a gun in his backpack behind the amplifiers and cocaine always at the ready. With Stills never far away, the two found an appropriate place to put it.

– Jeff Woods, “Legends of Classic Rock” Q107 Toronto

The Last Waltz: Will He or Won’t He?

When the band, known as the Band, decided to call it a day, they wanted to celebrate with as many people as possible. Some like Ronnie Hawkins had been there right from the beginning. Others like Neil Diamond… well, nobody really quite understood why he was there that Thanksgiving night, 1976. But the one guy that just had to perform with the Band, the man who gave them their name… the only question was, would the cameras immortalizing the evening be able to film Bob Dylan? He’d recently worked on his own film, “Renaldo & Clara,” and was hesitant about having too much footage of him out there, too much exposure. But for the group, and director Martin Scorsese and the film’s producers, capturing Dylan on camera was an absolute must. Up until the last minute, nobody was quite sure what Dylan would do. But when push came to shove, Dylan actually showed his love and appreciation for the Band by allowing the cameras to film him – but only for two songs.

– Jeff Woods, “Legends of Classic Rock” Q107 Toronto

The Band: Cocaine Blues at the Last Waltz

For many, Martin Scorsese’s documentary about the original Band’s final live gig was also a testament to the massive drug use going on in the music scene back in the day. Hard to argue otherwise too, since backstage at the Winterland Ballroom, concert promoter Bill Graham had a room painted white, decorated with noses from plastic Groucho Marx masks. The room also had a strange recording of people sniffing in the background. And that was backstage. Onstage? The most notable sign of the times, Neil Young joining the Band to sing “Helpless.” Helpless was he to realize the evidence was in plain sight. Up his nose! Where it would remain the essential film that documents the Band’s last stand, The Last Waltz.

– Jeff Woods, “Legends of Classic Rock” Q107 Toronto

The Band: The Last Waltz – The Seeds

“I couldn’t live with twenty years on the road.” That’s what Robbie Robertson tells Martin Scorsese on camera during one of rock’s most legendary documentary concert films. And it’s the reason why, in 1976, Robertson was ready to call it a day. From gigs as a teen with Ronnie Hawkins, to his role as 1/5 of Dylan’s band when Bob went electric in ’66, to his own tours with the band known as the Band. Robbie had had more than enough of suitcases and hotel rooms. Rather than break up the Band, though, he proposed they’d continue like the Beatles had, recording studio albums without having to tour. The rest of the group was reluctant at first; they liked the road, though ultimately agreed. But without the road to bind them, the group drifted apart. As fate would have it, following the release of the Band’s Last Waltz in 1978, the five original members never worked all together in the studio again.

– Jeff Woods, “Legends of Classic Rock” Q107 Toronto

The Band: The Last Waltz for Robbie and Levon

It was the fall of 1976 when change was in the air for four Canadians and an American that had impacted and influenced rock music in a profound way. With six studio albums and two records with Dylan in their rear-view, their last chapter was about to be written. In a way, written off for Levon Helm. While Robbie Robertson was ready to pack it in and go out with a bang, Levon was not. He didn’t want to break up the Band, it sickened him. Still, the farewell show featuring a Who’s Who of special guests, from Dylan to Muddy Waters, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and many more, not only went off, but was captured by the cameras of Martin Scorsese. And the 25th of November, 2014, marks 38 years since the original Band danced their last waltz.

– Jeff Woods, “Legends of Classic Rock” Q107 Toronto

The Band: The Weight

Though they have a rich and memorable list of songs to their credit, if you had to pick just one to sum up the Band, it might be the one inspired by the work of Spanish film director, Luis Bunuel. Robbie Robertson points out the director’s films were oftentimes about sainthood and people trying to be good and do the right thing in their everyday lives. Robbie set out to write a song that would be the musical equivalent of that. He wrote the story of a traveler who was making his way in the world, coming across all sorts of people, asking them for favors: could you watch my dog, can you say hi to this person, can you keep this person company? The lyrics are truly great! But one might argue it’s actually the vocal performances of drummer Levon Helm and bassist Rick Danko that carry the weight of the song. Ultimately, the two in question would become the first charting single for the Band, and would come in at  #41 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time. So, take a load off, and listen to “The Weight.”

– Jeff Woods, “Legends of Classic Rock” Q107 Toronto