Monday, 31 October 2016

The Bob Dylan Top 125 Countdown & This Week's Statistics

I'm not happy with the lack of Dylan videos on YouTube. I mean, one can find the most obscure song by the most niche artist in 10 different versions and one can't find the original versions of Bob's masterpieces? Something is happening here and I don't know what it is, do I, Mr. Jones?

I've decided not to embed any third rate live version that is available on YouTube. I'd rather give you the link to a good version. Such is the case with You’re a Big Girl Now, the song in #122. It is one of five songs on Blood On The Tracks (1975) that Dylan initially recorded in New York City in September 1974 and then re-recorded in Minneapolis in December that year, the later recording becoming the album track. One of the September 1974 outtakes was included on the 1985 compilation Biograph. Here is the link to it:

One of the more desperately lovesick moment in Dylan's entire catalog, he talks of "pain that stops and starts, like a corkscrew to my heart." "I read that this was supposed to be about my wife," Dylan wrote in the Biograph liner notes, hoping to clarify the matter. "I don't write confessional songs… It only seems so, like it seems that Laurence Olivier is Hamlet."

The song was covered by many an artist. Here are My Morning Jacket with their 2012 version:

At #121, we find I Am a Lonesome Hobo, released in 1967 on his eighth studio album, John Wesley Harding.

The lyrics to I Am A Lonesome Hobo tell of the typical riches to rags tradition, where a man openly admits to being a hobo having "tried my hand at bribery, blackmail and deceit", yet has "served time for ev'rything 'cept beggin' on the street". Dylan's style of writing often leans towards writing ballads that present his listeners with a chance to get inside the minds of social outcasts, a perspective that everyday people may overlook or misunderstand. This "hobo" has seen it all, once being an affluent yet selfish man unable to trust anybody, including his own brother. The hobo's isolation began not with his loss of wealth but with the effect that wealth had upon him in the first place. As the song reaches its final verse, the hobo offers advice to the common people as he plans to continue his misinterpreted wandering, asking them to, "stay free from petty jealousies, live by no man's code, and hold your judgment for yourself lest you wind up on this road". Within his solitariness, the hobo has found a certain philosophical stability, leaving him standing in the garb of a prophet rather than a beggar. This hobo's warning before his departure holds true to the writing style Dylan approaches with the ending of many of his songs, offering a lyrically and vocally driven picture of a life that is not typically lived or even considered.

The haunting harmonica, assertive drum beat and acoustic guitar incorporates well with the clearly pronounced and elongated wordplay. The song features some of Dylan's most controlled singing, most likely being a rhetorical decision on Dylan's part because hobos are typically known for being wanderers lacking any insight or socially acceptable manners. Dylan, however, seems to put this character on a level socially where one would not typically place a vagabond, providing the idea that a hobo can be a wise man rather than some socially awkward bum.

Now, let's move on to this week's statistics. We've had a return to English-speaking artists after a while. Also, the Rolling Stones countdown was replaced by that of Bob Dylan's songs. Has this affected the week's visits?

Well, it was a good healthy week as far as the total number of visits was concerned. Some countries benefited more than others: for the US, Greece and Germany it was a good week. The UK and France had a very good week, as well as the Netherlands and Cyprus. Mexico, Singapore and Australia also did great and they are new additions to our visitors' weekly Top 10. A most hearty welcome!

The full Top 10 is as follows (there is a 2-way tie at #8):

1. the United States
2. Greece
3. the United Kingdom
4. France
5. Germany
6. the Netherlands
7. Cyprus
8. Mexico
8. Singapore
10. Australia

Here are the other countries that graced us with their presence this week (alphabetically): Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada China, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Oman, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. Happy to have you all!

In the the all-time list, there have been no changes. However, Germany is shortening its distance from Russia, the UK is inching closer to France and Cyprus has already caught up with Ireland. If the trend continues, it'll overtake it in a week or two. Here is the list:

1. the United States = 46.9%
2. Greece = 18.7%
3. Russia = 9.2%
4. Germany = 3.6%
5. France = 2.6%
6. the United Kingdom = 2.4%
7. Canada = 1.04%
8. Ireland = 0.98%
9. Cyprus = 0.91%
10. Italy = 0.60%

That's all for today, folks. Till the next one!

Sunday, 30 October 2016

The Bob Dylan Top 125 Countdown

After the unprecedent announcement of the Nobel Academy that the honoree for this year's Nobel prize for Literature would be a Pop star, I decided, with the accord of the readers who actually write comments (yes, both of them!), that I would start a Bob Dylan best song list. I came up with a Top 125. Now, I could spin this with "since the Rolling Stones' list included 75 songs, for Dylan there would have to be more - and everybody does a Top 100, but we don't do what everybody else does.", but the truth is that when I wrote down the Bob Dylan songs that are essential to me, I came up with 120. It was easier to add 5 than to subtract 20. So, on with the countdown!

At #125, we find Thunder on the Mountain. It is the opening track to Modern Times, his thirty-second studio album, released on August 29, 2006. The album was Dylan's third straight (following Time Out of Mind and Love and Theft) to be met with nearly universal praise from fans and critics. On Metacritic, a site that tracks prominent critical opinion, Modern Times holds a score of 89 out of 100, indicating "universal acclaim" and putting it among the 100 most acclaimed albums of all-time on the site.

The album was recorded with Dylan's touring band, including bassist Tony Garnier, drummer George G Receli, guitarists Stu Kimball and Denny Freeman, plus multi-instrumentalist Donnie Herron. Dylan produced the album under the name "Jack Frost".

Many of the album's songs have roots in well-known older compositions, though in all cases, Dylan has given the songs new lyrics. Thunder on the Mountain has a second verse based on the song Ma Rainey by Memphis Minnie. Dylan cuts and shuffles Memphis Minnie's lyrics substituting Alicia Keys and Hell's Kitchen for Ma Rainey and her Georgia birthplace. The reference to Keys was listed by Rolling Stone as among the "ten weirdest shoutouts" in song. The guitar licks and riffs are typical of Chuck Berry's famous records, with the melody sounding closest to Let It Rock.

Here it is:

At #124, here's If You See Her, Say Hello, a track in his 15th studio album, Blood on the Tracks (1975), his best album in the 70s, and as the B-side to single Tangled Up In Blue.

If You See Her, Say Hello might be the most painful moment on Blood on the Tracks. Dylan is grappling with fresh grief: "To think of how she left that night," he sings, "it still brings me a chill." The song went through extensive revisions – an early draft's "If you're making love to her, kiss her for the kid" was softened to "If you get close to her, kiss her once for me." But the final version still cuts close to the bone. Hearing Dylan admit "Either I'm too sensitive or else I'm gettin' soft" packs just as much punch as his most venomous songs.

I couldn't find the original studio version on YouTube, but I've found an equally effective early outtake which contains the original verses:

For those of you who want to listen to the original studio version, I managed to embed it for you:

Here's a wonderful version by the late, great Jeff Buckley from 1993:

At #123 we find When You Gonna Wake Up, a track off his 19th studio album, Slow Train Coming, released on August 20, 1979.

It was the artist's first effort since becoming a born-again Christian, and all of the songs either express his strong personal faith, or stress the importance of Christian teachings and philosophy. The evangelical nature of the record alienated many of Dylan's existing fans; at the same time, many Christians were drawn into his fan base. Slow Train Coming was listed at #16 in the 2001 book CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music.

When You Gonna Wake Up was one of the album's most prominent tracks, a mid-tempo sermon-like song that touches us, no matter if we are Christian or not. Unfortunately, even though I've found a YouTube link to the song, it will only play in certain countries, so I also included a Chinese link. It may be more complicated to play, but I managed it, so I'm sure you'll do too.

It seems that there's a YouTube embargo for Dylan's songs or something  - and since it's YouTube videos that I'm allowed to embed to my post, we may have some trouble with our Dylan countdown. We'll see how it goes...

Here's the song, for those who are not geo-blocked:

Here's the alternative Chinese link:

Tomorrow, more Dylan songs and this week's statistics. Till then!

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Elvis Presley

You may be wondering what is Elvis doing here. Well, I originally meant to include him because his classic, Jailhouse Rock, has a gay reference. Then, while doing my research, I realized that there's a credible theory going 'round making a case that Elvis might have been bisexual. So...

Also, because it's Elvis, this will be different than usual. No biography and no parade of songs in chronological order. We'll adress the bisexuality rumors and on the same time present my Elvis Presley Top 30 songs. Since I can't properly present 30 songs in one post (it would normally take at least 5 posts) there will be just a few words introducing each video. The list itself was made in just 30 minutes, so it may not be my definitive list, but it's close. Let's save time and start with #30: a song first recorded by Gwen McCrae and Brenda Lee in 1972 and later a hit for Willy Nelson and the Pet Shop Boys, Elvis' version, also in 1972, made #20 US. Here's Always On My Mind:

At #29, Hard Headed Woman, a platinum #1 rocker from 1958:

To be honest, I'm very cautious regarding the veracity of these claims. I have found two different sources and firstly I will quote what seems to be the more reliable one. Everyhting that you see in quotation marks are the words of Rob Buchanan, from an opinion piece in TheOutMost on 28th August, 2014.

At #28, a gold #4 single from 1961, (Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame:

At #27, (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear, a 2× Multi-Platinum #1 hit from 1957:

Says Mr Buchanan:

"Given Elvis Presley’s megastar status, it’s unsurprising that there has been a huge amount of speculation about his personal life over the years. But what did surprise me, given his massive straight sex-symbol status, was how much rumour there was about Elvis`s occasional gay dalliances. While a lot of these rumours came about after his death, there was sufficient suggestion when he was alive – from the sets of his questionable movies to almost barefaced flirtation with certain male interviewers."

At #26, I Need Your Love Tonight, a #4 hit from 1959:

At #25, Good Luck Charm, a platinum #1 hit from 1962:

"With so much of our queer heritage redacted from the history books, we can be forgiven for curious speculation, and the suggestion that Elvis was less than 100 per cent hetero is based on more than just tabloid sensationalism or even envious gossip spread by his contemporary competitors. Academics such as Professor Albert Goldman and Marjorie Garber have analysed Elvis’s androgynous sexual mystique and feminine qualities."

At #24, Reconsider Baby, an album track from 1960's Elvis Is Back!:

At #23, An American Trilogy, a 1972 single and a favorite concert piece. Here he is, live in Hawaii:

"The FBI Director and infamous self-hating homosexual, J. Edgar Hoover labeled The King a dangerous pervert and drug addict. Under his watch, the Bureau kept an extensive file on Elvis, reportedly 683 pages long. There are extensive tracts about Elvis’ “sexual mystique”. The reports cited his erotic performances as an actual danger to the security of the United States. They also highlighted the possibility that he could be the victim of extortion."

"Gay entrapment was one of FBI’s favourite tricks at the time to provide sufficient blackmail material to keep celebrities and politicians in their pocket. An actual extortion attempt was made by Laurenz Johannes Griessel-Landau, a fake doctor from South Africa who was treating Presley while he was serving in the army in Germany. Griessel-Landau made sexual advances on Elvis and when they were rejected he was fired. He threatened to ruin Elvis’ career and expose compromising photos of him. If there were no smoke without fire, surely Elvis would have wanted to drag this fake blackmailer into court?"

At #22, Kentucky Rain a gold hit from 1970:

At #21, Little Sister, a Top 5 hit from 1961:

"Speculation wasn’t just rife among the authorities but with people who were frequently in the star’s unguarded company. Gerald Peters, Presley’s chauffeur and close friend, described him as a “man’s man” who “although he loved Priscilla dearly, preferred the company of men”. He notoriously had an inner circle of male hangers-on, bodyguards and staff, known as ‘The Memphis Mafia’. Although there were some stories of homoerotic horseplay, it was little more than you’d see in your average GAA dressing room or stag party hotel suite. There was a notable exception, however, that went beyond male bonding."

At #20, One Night, a 1958 platinum hit. This is footage from the 1968 comeback special:

At #19, Viva Las Vegas, a gold hit from 1964:

"Actor Nick Adams was undoubtedly Presley’s best friend. Adams had previously lived with and had an affair with bisexual actor and teen icon, James Dean. Elvis and Nick met after Dean’s death, just as Presley’s star was starting to rise. The two became inseparable and the calming effect Adams had on Presley led his notoriously temperamental manager, Colonel Tom Parker to encourage the friendship."

Nick Adams (l), Elvis Presley (r)

"Drugs and copious amounts of alcohol were a large component in the pair’s socialising, as they both struggled with the vagaries of fame (although Elvis` superstardom greatly eclipsed Adams comparatively humble acting career). According to Elvis biographer Kathleen Tracy, The King would often ask Adams “to stay over on nights”."

"All of this is indicative of hardly anything other than a platonic bromance. But there was more to this than simple friendship. The two were rumoured to regularly indulge in threesomes with female groupies and famous actresses. One notorious documented third in these sexual encounters was actress Natalie Wood. Several sources including New York Times reporter Danforth Prince, biographer Darwin Porter, and Adams’ personal assistant William Dakota, claimed the pair indulged in oral sex with each other and mutual masturbation. Elvis’ doctor and confidant, George C. Nichopoulos also hinted in interviews about Elvis’s same-sex dalliances, although undoubtedly one must question the word of any medical professional who is willing to divulge confidential information about a patient, especially gossip that was posthumously profitable."

At #18, Guitar Man was a 1968 hit:

At #17, Crying In The Chapel, originally a hit for Darrell Glenn as well as for the Orioles in 1953, Elvis' version was a #3 platinum hit in 1965:

"Indeed, given the money that could once be made from gossip about Presley, we should err on the side of caution when it comes to stories about his sexuality. If proof that Elvis was indeed queer were released today, decades after his death, it would still generate global headlines. So can you imagine how much of a tabloid goldmine it would have been in the first years after his death, when all the hangers-on came out of the woodwork peddling hearsay and scoops."

At #16, one of his earliest Sun pre-fame recordings, from 1954, Milkcow Blues Boogie:

At #15, one of his greatest hits ever, Love Me Tender:

"We must always be conscious not to appropriate the dead for our own purposes. It’s easy to understand how we might try and illuminate the hidden LGBT history, but it is wrong to rainbow-wash the past in an attempt to reclaim our lost heritage. Incorrect historical revisionism is as unjust as deliberate omission. We can’t forget that Elvis was not a fictional character in a dry historical text. He was a human being with an inner life who deserves respect. But in a strange way, by being so eager to embrace stories about his queerness, the LGBT community is honouring Elvis by saying we would be glad if he had been one of us. One way or the other, it’s possible we will never know the truth. Elvis has unfortunately left the building."

At #14, Burning Love, a #2 platinum hit from 1972:

At #13, It’s Now Or Never, based on the Italian evergreen O Sole Mio. A platinum #1 hit from 1960:

In an even more reliable source, Nick Adams' Wikipedia page, we get more info:

"Nick Adams' widely publicized friendship with Elvis Presley began in 1956 on the set of Presley's film Love Me Tender during the second day of shooting. Presley had admired James Dean and when the singer arrived in Hollywood he was encouraged by studio executives to be seen with some of the "hip" new young actors there. Meanwhile, his manager Colonel Tom Parker was worried that Elvis' new Hollywood acquaintances might influence Presley and even tell him what they were paying their managers and agents (usually a fraction of what Parker was getting). Elaine Dundy called Parker a "master manipulator" who used Nick Adams and others in the entourage (including Parker's own brother-in-law Bitsy Mott) to counter possible subversion against him and control Elvis' movements. She later wrote a scathing characterization of Adams:

...brash struggling young actor whose main scheme to further his career was to hitch his wagon to a star, the first being James Dean, about whose friendship he was noisily boastful... this made it easy for Parker to suggest that Nick be invited to join Elvis' growing entourage of paid companions, and for Nick to accept... following Adams' hiring, there appeared a newspaper item stating that Nick and Parker were writing a book on Elvis together."

At #12, If I Can Dream, a spiritual song, a gold hit from 1968:

At #11 a proper Gospel tune: How Great Thou Art, a 1969 song.

"Dundy also wrote, "Of all Elvis' new friends, Nick Adams, by background and temperament the most insecure, was also his closest." Adams was Dennis Hopper's roommate during this period and the three reportedly socialized together, with Presley "...hanging out more and more with Nick and his friends" and glad his manager "liked Nick." Decades later, Kathleen Tracy recalled Adams often met Presley backstage or at Graceland, where Elvis often asked Adams "to stay over on nights": "He and Elvis would go motorcycle riding late at night and stay up until all hours talking about the pain of celebrity" and enjoying prescription drugs."

At #10, In the Ghetto. A beautiful platinum Mac Davis penned hit:

At #9, one of his early 1955 Sun recordings, originally recorded by Junior Parker in 1953: Mystery Train.

"Almost forty years later, writer Peter Guralnick wrote that Presley found it "good running around with Nick ... – there was always something happening, and the hotel suite was like a private clubhouse where you needed to know the secret password to get in and he got to change the password every day." Presley's girlfriend June Juanico complained the singer was always talking about his friend Adams and James Dean. She was also upset that Adams had started inviting himself to see Elvis, and Juanico felt that she was trying to compete for Elvis' attention. Adams would talk often about Natalie Wood to Elvis, constantly discussing her figure and her beauty, something else that caused Juanico to feel that she would soon lose Elvis to the glitz of Hollywood. Presley's own mother even commented about Adams, "He sure is a pushy little fellow".

At #8, one of his greatest hits ever, a double A-side with a song we'll get to hear a little later. Don’t Be Cruel was a 4× Multi-Platinum #1 hit from 1956:

At #7, another great song and a glorious comeback hit. Suspicious Minds was his first #1 in 7 years, a platinum hit in 1969:

"As with Dean, Adams capitalized on his association with Presley, publishing an account of their friendship in May 1957. In August 1958 after Elvis' mother Gladys died, Parker wrote in a letter, "Nicky Adams [sic] came out to be with Elvis last Week which [sic] was so very kind of him to be there with his friend."

"The Rebel and the King" by Nick Adams is a first-person account written by Adams about his friendship with Presley. The manuscript was written in 1956 by Nick during Presley's eight days in Memphis when the singer returned home for his big Tupelo Homecoming. The manuscript was discovered 45 years later by Adams' daughter, and published.

At #6, this is my favorite Elvis ballad. Can't Help Falling in Love was a platinum #2 hit in 1961:

Bill Dakota, Adams' personal assistant, tells the Gossip Columnist:

"Both Nick and Elvis were bisexual, although both enjoyed men as companions and lovers more than women. Elvis was always with the so called Memphis Mafia, more than women. I recall many times that Elvis paid Nick's airfare to Memphis, whenever he visited Graceland. One day they had a falling out and Nick spent the day at the front gate with Elvis's uncle Vester Presley. On several occasions I would be with Nick when he picked up his airline tickets."

At #5 here's a song that we'll be talking more about, because it's the one with the gay mention, even if it's fleeting. A 2× Multi-Platinum #1 hit from 1957, Jailhouse Rock was written by the prolific and inspired duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. As the title suggests, it is set in a jailhouse, where, as people always believed, gay sex thrives. The song contains the suggestion of gay romance when inmate Number 47 tells Number 3, 'You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see'.

Gender studies scholars cite the song for "its famous reference to homoerotics behind bars," while music critic Garry Mulholland writes, "Jailhouse Rock was always a queer lyric, in both senses." Douglas Brode writes of the filmed production number that it's "amazing that the sequence passed by the censors".

At #4, the song that lit the fuse of the Elvis frenzy. His first #1, Heartbreak Hotel was a 2× Multi-Platinum smash in 1956:

At #3, it's All Shook Up, another one of his monster hits, a 2× Multi-Platinum #1 smash in 1957:

At #2 is the other side of Don’t Be Cruel: the explosive Hound Dog was also a 4× Multi-Platinum #1 hit from 1956.

Finally, at #1 is the song that started it all. That’s All Right was the first song that Elvis recorded in Sam Phillips' Sun studios on July 5, 1954. It was written and originally performed by blues singer Arthur Crudup. Elvis' version didn't chart nationally, but it still managed to sell in excess of 500,000 copies, receving a gold certification. It was his calling card to the world - and boy, the world did respond!

I hope that the way I edited today's article wasn't too confusing. Otherwise, it would have been a whole lot of text followed by a whole lot of videos. Somehow, that didn't feel right. As for not giving you the full Elvis biography, I did the same with the Rolling Stones and will do the same with Bob Dylan starting tomorrow. When an artist is this huge, you can find their life facts everywhere. I'm trying to add these things that are harder to find. I hope you've enjoyed it.