Leon Russell


Speaking of Dylan… was I? Oh yes, see the LYRICS OF THE WEEK, below, a slice of his 1965 musically-culturally-politically-literarily brilliant discourse “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” through the video that broke all the rules of the time.

Bob stood alone, expressionless, in a New York alleyway with an armful of large flash cards, each with a word or phrase from the song, which he would briefly expose then let fall to the ground as the song kept pace. Except some were not exactly verbatim, in ways that were insightful or just funny, making for a sub-statement by the author.

And he wasn’t completely alone in that alley. You can see a figure off to the side, near a building, but it’s pretty obvious it’s Allen Ginsberg. At the very end as Dylan walks off toward the camera, the figure peels off in the other direction and, yup, that’s Ginsberg, beard, bald pate, sandals.

But wait: if you could tear yourself away from the rapid-fire flash cards message you saw there was a second figure, back to you, also holding a cane like Ginsberg. As he too peels off you still can’t see the face, so I did the research.

Turns out it was a 26-year-old Bob Neuwirth, longtime personal and musical confidante of Dylan, organizer of his famous Rolling Thunder Revue, co-writer of “Mercedes Benz” and the guy who introduced Janis and Kris, filmmaker, painter, poet, folk singer, the musicians’ musician whose recent concert at McCabe’s was an all-star Event and cause of the first Alpha Band reunion in 40 years, career resurrector and producer for Texas troubadour Vince Bell and the guy sitting next to me in the audience for Bell’s recent Library Girl show at the Ruskin Group Theatre. And that’s how I found out that Neuwirth has lived in Santa Monica for years. Seems like every year I find out about the longtime residence here of some music or literary legend.

So, back to Dylan, it’s December ‘79 and I’m preparing for my long-planned move from Albuquerque (30 years) to LA, where I expect my desert drought to turn into waves of great music, all the time. No disappointment there. But for all the great but way-too-infrequent acts that hit our stages all my life — we eventually wound up snagging nearly everyone worth seeing, thanks partly to the Pit, the 20,000 seat UNM basketball arena, but thanks mostly to my friend Tom Hogg who early on saw the potential for wedding this newfangled computer stuff to concert promotion (and became the number three honcho in bold startup Ticketmaster)   — Dylan never showed up.

Until 12/5/79. Caution, though — Bob was now born again and singing songs like “Covenant Woman,” “In the Garden” and “Blessed be the Name.” Hardly footstompin’ like “Everybody Must Get Stoned.” Fortunately I had made the 450-mile trek to Denver five years before to see what many consider the greatest rock tour ever, Dylan and The Band, so I had seen the light and wasn’t expecting much from this Duke City premier.

And that’s exactly what we got. Weak songs, mediocre band, lame performance. However, opening act Leon Russell, playing with the New Grass Revival, stepped up to the challenge and knocked the ball clean to heaven. “Over the Rainbow,” “Prince of Peace,” “I Believe to My Soul,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” God is where you find Her. The crowd went nuts, and Bob should have snuck off to the next gig during intermission.


Across the Great Divide: JOHN PRINE. LUCINDA WILLIAMS, BOB WEIR, Lee Ann Womack, Tash Neal, Larkin Poe, Joe Louis Walker, Shemekia Copeland, Doyle Bramhall II (dang, in a weak week lacking many good shows, you’ve got a month’s worth right here, one night, one stage, Prine alone is worth the price of admission), Fri 8:30 p.m., the Theatre at Ace Hotel, downtown LA, $64-$125.

Outlaw Music Festival Tour with WILLIE NELSON & Family, STURGILL SIMPSON, PHIL LESH, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Margo Price (dang, in a weak week lacking many good shows, you’ve got a month’s worth right here, one night, one stage, calling all Deadheads and Willie zealots, but the shining star I will go for is Sturgill Simpson, a ridiculously gifted songwriter with a voice like Waylon inhabiting Merle), 5 p.m., Hollywood Bowl, $45-$180.


JACKSON BROWNE with Greg Leisz, McCabes 60th Anniversary Benefit (some things you might not know about Santa Monica’s JB: born Clyde Jackson Browne in Heidelberg, Germany, his father a Stars & Stripes journalist, at three the family moved to Highland Park, he graduated high school in Fullerton, began folk singing and songwriting, at 17 joined the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band who recorded a number of the kid’s songs, soon moved to Greenwich Village and became a staff writer for Elektra Records, still 17, backed Tim Buckley and Nico, dated her, moved back to CA and met Glenn Frey, signed with David Geffen and released first album, toured with Linda and Joni, began lifelong professional relationship with Warren Zevon, toured with Toots, guest-starred on The Simpsons so, with Harry Shearer, two Santa Monica guys on one episode, campaigned for Ralph Nader, John Kerry, Obama and Bernie Sanders, sued John McCain and GOP for unauthorized use of his “Running on Empty” and got apology and money — please note, Rolling Stones, you wimps — performed at Barnum Hall with Heart 2008 and ‘09 for arts fundraiser, also in 2012 raising $100,000), Fri-Sat 8 p.m., McCabes, Santa Monica, $150-$200.

PARADISE — A Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy (the Ruskin keeps me as a fan with another ace, fun production with some great original songs you’ll hum out the door but be careful about those lyrics in mixed company, solid to great cast with star leads both local and imported, live band, directed so well by our own Arts Commission chair Mike Myers, set to finally close, last chance?!), Fri-Sat 8 p.m., Sun 2 p.m., Ruskin Group Theatre, Santa Monica airport, $20-$35.

SANTA MONICA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA with Roman Kim (74th season! Music Director Guido Lamell leads the orchestra, featuring YouTube sensation Kazakhstani guest violinist Kim (his heroes: Paganini and Hendrix), through Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” Overture, Kim’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in B minor (US premiere), ending with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor, why would you not turn out for such an evening of great music making in your own backyard?), Sat 7:30 p.m., Santa Monica High School, Barnum Hall, free.

BAND NAMES OF THE WEEK: Dead Sara, Healthy Junkies, GayC/DC, Bad Advice, Groovy Rednecks, How to Know Your Own Home, Faster Pussycat, Black Milk, the Crystal Method, Electric Ferrets, Barenaked Ladies (not to be confused with Live Nude Girls, a Boston punk band who figured that name would squeeze a couple more admissions out of people not clear about what kind of venue they were at).


“Johnny’s in the basement, mixing up the medicine

I’m on the pavement thinking about the government

The man in a trench coat, badge out, laid off

Says he’s got a bad cough, wants to get it paid off

Look out, kid, it’s somethin’ you did

God knows when but you’re doin’ it again

You better duck down the alleyway lookin’ for a new friend…

The phone’s tapped anyway, Maggie says that many say

They must bust in early May, orders from the DA

Look out, kid, don’t matter what you did

Walk on your tiptoes, don’t tie no bows

Better stay away from those who carry around a fire hose

Keep a clean nose, watch the plainclothes

You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows…”

Bob Dylan (from “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” 1965)

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com

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