Simply, The Band! 50 Years On

It was on this day in 1965, when Bob Dylan appeared at Carnegie Hall in New York City. He introduced his new touring band on this tour, made up of guitarist Robbie Robertson, organist Garth Hudson, bassist Rick Danko, pianist Richard Manual and drummer Levon Helm. They will become known simply as The Band.

The band’s lack of a name may be puzzling to some. But as Robbie Robertson explained to Rolling Stone back in 1968, “You know, for one thing, there weren’t many bands around Woodstock and our friends and neighbors just call us the band and that’s the way we think of ourselves. And then, we just don’t think a name means anything. It’s gotten out of hand — the name thing. We don’t want to get into a fixed bag like that.”

Once they had been known as the Hawks. For a while they thought of calling themselves the Crackers. Evan after they released their first album of their own music, they still didn’t officially have a name. At the time it appeared that they simply were going to be identified as Bob Dylan’s band, but not even Dylan called them that. Although Dylan painted a picture for the cover of the album, wrote one of the songs on it, co-authored two more and endowed the remainder with his  unmistakable influence!

Originally released  on 1 July 1968, Music From Big Pink emitted a mystique all unto itself. Book ended by a trio of Dylan numbers, opener ‘Tears Of Rage’ and closing duo ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’ and ‘I Shall Be Released’, it offered the first hint of how any of the infamous “Basement Tapes” songs should have sounded by the musicians that first recorded them. Though the 1967 sessions that Dylan held at Big Pink with The Band while recuperating from a motorcycle crash (and the demands of his ’66 world tour) were already the stuff of legend – and, thanks to leaks of acetates, had spawned numerous covers – the Big Pink album versions were the first released by anyone who was actually present during those hallowed “Basement Tapes” sessions. But, with “Music From Big Pink”  it”s no wonder that, when The Band returned home to their rented house in West Saugerites, New York (nicknamed “Big Pink” on account of its eye-catching outer walls), the music they worked up seemed to yearn for a simpler way of life. Nor is it any surprise that, with their chops, they would create a seemingly effortless blend of gospel, soul, country and rock. If “Americana” has ever had any solid definition, it is in the songs that these four Canadians and one Arkansawyer recorded for 1968’s Music From Big Pink is the band’s claim to its own identity.

Recorded in only two weeks, “Music From Big Pink”is a subtle beast that only rewards repeated listens, it’s secrets slowly reveal themselves with each return – yet without ever relinquishing the mysterious beauty that lies at its core.

About “Big Pink” (Pictured above)

The Band began to create their distinctive sound during 1967 when they improvised and recorded with Bob Dylan a huge number of cover songs and original Dylan material in the basement of a pink house in West Saugerties, New York, located at 56 Parnassus Lane (formerly 2188 Stoll Road). The house was built by Ottmar Gramms, who bought the land in 1952. The house was newly built when Rick Danko found it as a rental. Danko moved in along with Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel in February 1967. The house became known locally as “Big Pink” for its pink siding. The house was subsequently sold by Gramms in 1977, and since 1998, it has been a private residence.[

And now let’s listen to the first song most of us heard from these legendary sessions!

 

How about you? Did you also fall in love with this beautiful, unusual record?

~SMS

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Always cool to be reminded of the Band, even tho their first 45 was actually a bigger hit when Jackie deShannon covered it over the original, both peaking on Billboard’s Hot 100 at 55 and 63 respectively THIS WEEK in 1968 on Sept 28, 1968 Hot 100.
    Also, even tho the charts showed the artist as “The Band,” the original DJ 45s all showed the 5 band members as the artist and not the overall group name anywhere.
    I always liked that part!

  2. RICK

    Thanks for focusing our attention on The band. While so many others consider their second self-titled album to be their masterpiece, it is MUSIC FROM BIG PINK that will always be the music that defines the group to me. It would probably be in my Top 10 All-Time Fave Rave Albums if I ever tried to compile such a thing.

    Hope your article turns a few of your younger readers on to what was one of the premier groups of the late ’60s, even if their premier status as a maker-of-great-albums was rather short-lived.

    Keep on keepin’ on!

    NEAL

    PS: The sections on The Band in Greil Marcus’s MYSTERY TRAIN remain required reading decades after the book’s original publication.

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