Thursday, June 18, 2015

Still a Pawn in Their Game

Bob Dylan, March on Washington, "Only a Pawn in Their Game," and entire song.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Still Gathering No Moss

Exactly 50 years ago today, in mid-June 1965, Bob Dylan recorded in New York City, with Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and the gang, the final take of what some (not just me) call the greatest single in rock 'n roll history, "Like a Rolling Stone."  It was released one month later, on July 20, reaching #2 on the Billboard chart.  Among other breakthroughs: It was the first six-minute single and DJs played the whole thing for weeks, before breaking off after two verses near the end of its run.   The rarely heard  first take in the studio was slow, almost a waltz, and Bob  on piano.  The Wikipedia entry describes it this way:  "The lack of sheet music meant the song was played by ear. However the essence of the song was discovered in the course of the chaotic session."  Greil Marcus has a whole book on the song.  Bob live in 1966.

And then, a year later, there was Jimi Hendrix's amazing version at Monterey.  I saw Bob do it himself in November 1965, in Buffalo, with The Hawks.  And below that, Bob does the tune for David Letterman's 10th anniversary on the air with, get this, Emmylou, Mavis, Rosanne, Michele Shocked--and Carole King on piano.  But first up, an earlier acoustic take of the song 50 years ago in the studio:

Monday, April 20, 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Judy Miller Laughs

If you missed Dame Judith on Bill Maher's HBO show last night, defending her coverage of Iraq WMD.  She even laughs when she says "of course, we did not find WMDs."  Also a laugh:  Bill actually asked her, of all people, for advice for reporters now covering Iran...

Thursday, April 16, 2015

My 'Campaign' Book In New Edition

My Random House book, The Campaign of the Century: Upton Sinclair's Race for Governor  --  and the Birth of Media Politics, was recently re-issued  in new print and e-book editions. Campaign won the Goldsmith Book Prize, was one of five finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and served as the basis for an episode in the PBS The Great Depression series.  

The modern political campaign--dominated by advertising tricks, political consultants, "spin doctors," and attack ads on the screen--was invented in this 1934 campaign. It was one of the dirtiest campaigns ever and also marked Hollywood's first all-out plunge into politics,  after socialist author Sinclair swept the Democratic primary on August 28, 1934. Sinclair's End Poverty in California (EPIC) crusade was one of the great mass movements in U.S. history, and the links to today's economic crisis, media trickery and political climate are profound. The cast of characters in this wild and very entertaining  tale reads like a "Who's Who," from FDR and Hearst to Will Rogers and Katharine Hepburn.  Chairman of the GOP campaign?  Earl Warren.  And so on.  FDR basically sabotaged Sinclair (and see their meeting here).

The movie moguls actually threatened to move their studios to Florida--and then docked each of their worker, including top actors, one day's pay that went straight into a slush fund for Sinclair's hack opponent. More on the Hollywood angle here.

You may enjoy the three videos below, including a look at the first political "attack ads" using the screen to destroy a candidate--the infamous faked newsreels created by Irving Thalberg and MGM.  My lengthy piece at The Nation takes a broader look.

Go here to order it in print or as e-book.  Hailed by The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek and even Leoanrd Maltin at Entertainment Tonight.  Contact me at   Listen to or read segment  on NPR's "On the Media" online now.    First attack ad right below and more below that:

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bolton It Down

John Oliver, joined by Michael Bolton, defends the IRS as tax day nears....brave!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


New service launches today and John Oliver unveils...

The Best of Townes

I've wanted to do this for awhile, so why not now?  Some of us--a few of us--consider the late great Townes Van Zandt one of the great American songwriters ever (and great American fuck-up).  You may have heard of him, or not.  You may have heard one or more of his songs, or not (or more likely heard them, even in True Detective, and not known it was by him).  So here's what I consider his greatest, in no order, both his versions or great covers of his songs by others.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Oliver Meets Snowden

Yes,  John Oliver's main segment on HBO last night re: the Patriot Act renewal and clueless Americans took an unexpected turn when John suddenly bolted for Russia--and interviewed at some length Edward Snowden.  Oddly, "dick pics" would play a telling role....

Leonard Rings Belz

Great find by Dangerous Minds:  Leonard Cohen on Richard Belzer's short-lived talk show back in 1985 at the lowest point of his popularity.  The album they talk about at the beginning, rejected by Columbia, included..."Hallelujah."  Whoops.  Famous line by Columbia exec to Leonard: "We know you're great but we don't know if you are any good."  (h/t Stu Levitan)


Sunday, April 5, 2015

For Opening Day

From Japan.  They are still fanatic about it there--perhaps because no basketfall, hockey and pro football drafts to distract them...

More Japanese media in --> Jrock Radio
More Japanese media in --> Jrock Radio
Posted by Jrock Radio on Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday, April 3, 2015

When Good Friday Comes

One of the finest vocal performances ever--and greatest Good Friday song--featuring Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers, mid-1950s. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Fools Gold

John Oliver off this week but posted an anti-April Fools' Day blast.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Back on the 'Streets'

Van Morrison on new album re-visits one of his greatest songs off his greatest cult album, Veedon Fleece--with Mick Hucknall dueting.  The atmosphere of the original still tops this, but still.   Live from 1974 below that, and full concert (opening with "Ballerina").

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lessig Backs Warren

The well-known Harvard prof and activist Lawrence Lessig just sent an email to MoveOn members declaring that he was "in" on backing Run, Liz, Run.  And calling for dough, of course.
I'm Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard professor and the founder of MAYDAY Super PAC—the "SuperPAC to end all SuperPACs"—which many MoveOn members helped launch. I'm writing to you because I want Elizabeth Warren to run for President, and I'm asking you to join me.

The biggest problems we face—a rigged economy, climate change, the engulfing corruption of our political system by big money—have something in common: If we don't tackle them soon, we won't get another chance.

It keeps me up at night.

But what wakes me up in the morning is another thought: We really do have a chance to win in 2016. If we can elect leaders with the courage and independence to tackle the hard stuff—and build the mega-movement necessary to make sure they actually do it—we could see the kind of progressive sea change that brought the Gilded Age to an end more than a century ago.

But honestly? The only way I see this working is if Senator Elizabeth Warren runs for president.

That's why—as my next big project—I've joined the Run Warren Run campaign. I'll be giving a major speech in New York on April 20 to lay out the case. But right now, today, I'm asking for your help to supercharge this effort—before conventional wisdom congeals and everyone decides that the 2016 primaries are already over.

Can you chip in $3 to help fund the Run Warren Run campaign?

Yes, I'll chip in and help convince Elizabeth Warren to run for president.

Look: From everything I know, running for president is really, really hard. Most sane people would hate doing it. So I completely understand why my friend and former colleague has, to date, not shown any interest in doing so.

It's just that the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that she should reconsider.

We're now facing the prospect of no vigorous Democratic primary, potentially a primary season without even a single debate, generating a nominee who has not had to enlist the support of a genuine grassroots base. That's dangerous—not just for Democrats, but for our democracy.

Elizabeth Warren would change all of that. Not just because she'd guarantee a primary where every candidate has to take a stand. But because she (and, I believe, she alone) would galvanize the kind of movement that we'll need if the next President of the United States is to have a prayer of tackling the hardest, most urgent crises of our time.

The Run Warren Run campaign is doing something extraordinary: By organizing on the ground in the early primary states, it's keeping open the possibility of a Warren candidacy, in a moment when the primary is supposedly sewn up—and in the process forcing issues like economic inequality and political corruption to the center of the debate. But it can only keep going with our support.

Can you chip in $3?

Yes, I'll chip in, and help the campaign to draft Elizabeth Warren keep going and growing.

I don't pretend to know whether Elizabeth Warren will ultimately decide to run. But I do know this: There's always been one thing, and one thing only, that could convince her to take on a challenge. Not money. Not power. Just one thing: the realization that her jumping into the fray was necessary to make a difference.

This is one of those moments. And the more of us that raise our hands and say we're ready to fight by her side, the more clear it will become to her that she has a once-in-a-lifetime chance to fight the central battles of our nation. Not alone. With a movement. That's our role: to show her how much energy is waiting to be unleashed if she enters the race.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Real Crime of Municipal Violations

John Oliver's main segment last night on how local towns and cities--even beyond Ferguson--use ticketing to pay for government, and how so many people wind up with massive bills or even end up in jail.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Greatest Song Inspired by Civil Rights Struggle and Dylan--and "Ol' Man River"?

Update:  Great new article at The New Yorker covers what I wrote last year (below) and much more. 

As I've posted before, I consider Sam Cooke's "Change Is Gonna Come" the greatest song of our era.   It's still little known that Sam's response to Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" becoming the new anthem of the civil rights movement--as it was enshrined at the March on Washington in 1963, via Peter, Paul and Mary--was to 1) record that song himself  2) determine that a black writer should pen such an anthem.  So he wrote "Change Is Gonna Come," inspired you might say by Dylan and Martin Luther King Jr.   Here's Sam and below that the Peter, Paul and Mary performance at the march.  -- G.M.