Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On A Last Waltz Kick

I feel like we all owe it to ourselves to revisit great works of art from time to time, no matter how exposed we may have been to them in the past. Recently I've gone through such a journey with The Last Waltz. I'm not going to definitively argue that it was the greatest rock concert of all time, but I will certainly listen to someone who does claim as much.

Here are my personal highlights:



Acadian Driftwood (no video footage!)

The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show (again, no footage)

What a concert. What a band.


texplush said...

Have you ever read Levon's account of filming the Last Waltz? It really changed my perception of this film, though I still love it.

Quinapalus said...

I don't think I've ever heard Acadian Driftwood before...leave it to Hollywood to excise the Canadian songs from the movie!

drischord said...

I honestly take what Levon says with a grain of salt. I do think he's right that the film seems like a promo video to get Robbie Robertson acting work-- and the lack of Richard Manuel close-ups is honestly baffling.

But when you read the sum total of Levon's Robbie-bashing over the years, it becomes kind of absurd and I think you have to consider the source. For instance, Levon has claimed that if there's one person whose publishing rights Robbie "stole" more than any others, it's Garth Hudson. (aka Garth wrote lots of music that Robbie gets credit/money for) But you've never heard Garth himself say that, and in fact he played on at least one of Robbie's solo albums.

So while it's clear that a) Robbie Robertson does receive a certain amount of credit/money that ought to go to his bandmates, and b) this film is like Scoresese's valentine to Robbie personally... I do think that Levon has discredited himself a bit by being so vicious. You just never hear any of the other guys talking about Robbie in those terms.

And this is from someone who loves Levon. One of my favorite drummers and singers and such an awesome presence in this film.

drischord said...

And yeah, I don't understand how Acadian Driftwood did not make the movie. Per my last comment, maybe Scorsese couldn't find enough Robbie close-ups within the song.

Either way, it's one of my all-time favorite Band songs. The album version is great too. (On Northern Lights/Southern Cross.)

texplush said...

Well, hey - perhaps Richard and Rick (RIP) weren't in the kind of condition to speak out about their views on the publishing rights. And Garth just isn't the kind of guy to start fights. I don't think Levon's vehemence (or even being an asshole) discredits his arguments.
He does, however, have a different definition of 'songwriting' than is traditionally accepted, and I think it has some merit, even if I'm not completely convinced. Levon's use of Garth's playing as an reference is just the clearest example of how elements of an arrangement can be as definitive to a song as the chord progression or the lyrics. Take that wah wah organ out of Cripple Creek, and I'm not sure it would have been the same (very successful) song. The same goes for each member of the Band's contributions, but to a layman Garth's contributions (along with his classical training) are the most distinctive.

texplush said...

And besides all that publishing stuff, the more interesting things Levon has to say about The Last Waltz for me concern Robbie's pushing Neil Diamond over Muddy Waters, the shameful lack of respect for Richard and the weirdness surrounding Bob Dylan's appearance.

drischord said...

I'm with you on all that. Forgot about the Neil Diamond thing. Worst song on The Last Waltz. And yeah, the lack of respect for Richard is inexcusable. I never quite understood what percentage of those decisions came for Robbie or from Scorsese. As for Bob Dylan, I blame any and all problems related to him on Dylan himself. One of my favorite musicians of all time; unimpressive person.

Either way, it's still an awesome film and one worth re-watching.

drischord said...

As for the publishing rights, I think Levon's totally right that Robbie mishandled the whole thing and comes across as cold and greedy. The law, of course, is on Robbie's side-- and that's the letter of the law, not the spirit of it. He should be sharing royalties on at least some of those songs-- even if, by copyright definitions, he can lay exclusive claim to them.

But yeah, as I say, I can't fully take Levon's word at face value because he gets so vitriolic. I might be wrong, but doesn't his book claim that everyone except him wound up overdubbing their parts in the Last Waltz film-- meaning, he's the only one you actually hear live? Because that's absurd. I know Eric Clapton wasn't overdubbed.

In conclusion, Levon and Robbie should put the feud to bed and go back to making great music together. Not going to happen, I know... although actually each of their most recent solo albums are really great.

texplush said...

Agree about their recent albums. Did you know Story PIrates is performing with Levon this summer?! Crazy. As for the overdubs, if memory serves it was just the members of the Band that got rerecorded, not the special guests.