Friday, April 21, 2006

Up on Shit Creek

I'll be playing at Fergies (1200 block of Sansom Street, Philadelphia) tonight at about 10:00 PM. Oughta be a good show. Except for one thing.

Paul is making us perform "Up On Cripple Creek", by The Band.
It would be impossible for me to fully express how much I HATE The Band.
There are few bands that I despise as much as Robertson, Helm, and co, except perhaps for bands that want to BE The Band or who list The Band as a big influence.

The music isn't so much bad as it is bland. It's the faux nostalgia (their stock in trade) that annoys the fuck out of me. The lyrical content, which contains incessant references to people with "jest plain folks" kind of names who have nothing to do with the rest of the song, makes me want to eviscerate myself.

Consider for example "The Weight": who are Fannie, Miss Annie, Luke, Miss Moses, Crazy Chester and Carmen, and just why the hell should I care about them? It's like the outline of the "News from Lake Wobegone" schtick on "Prairie Home Companion", but without a plot or the humor. "Rockin' Chair" is just as bad, with the added benefit of condescending imagery and flatulent rhymes. "Old Virginny/ they call him Ragtime Willy". Barrf.

About the only thing worse than The Band and their shitty songs is that they have the kind of critical cred that an equally obnoxious band like Ace of Base, will never have, and thus they will never fade into obscurity and the dollar bin. Therefore, when The Band comes on the radio, you can never just get away with "Turn this shit off", because if you say that you'll have to sit through a lecture about why The Band is the best Band ever, and you just don't get it, and really they're really deep and you just don't get it.
Like this pompous pile of poop:
I've tried to write about this song for years. In many ways it needs little explanation. The words are transparent enough. But it is a key Band song for me, and a favourite of mine since 1969. While it is a favourite of Band afficianados, it fails to make all but the longest compilation, and until the remasters series in 2000 had not appeared in an official live version.

This article is even more an assembling of others' views than my previous articles on The Band. The folks on the Band Guestbook said it all so well, that I see my role as cutting and pasting the comments into order, deleting the repetitions (sorry if I cut a comment because someone else said it) and linking the various points together. Thanks to everyone who contributed. I've quoted Susan and Al Edge at length and I've added Pehr Smith's section on paintings as an appendix.

And it just goes on. About "Rockin Chair". By The fucking Band.

Levon Helm:

It was a complicated record. We wanted to make one that you didn't really get until the second time you played it. Some of the songs, like Rockin' Chair, sound like folks playing accordion and mandolin on the back porch of some farm ...

Barney Hoskyns:

The old-timey string-band arrangement was perfect for Robertson's enchanting song about a pair of retired seafarers: Helm on mandolin, Hudson on accordion, Robertson himself on acoustic guitar.

...and if you really care all that much, there's an even LONGER article about the meaning behind "The Weight". You can go find it for yourself.

Listen: I listen to so much old-time music, I shit fiddles and piss mandolin strings. "Old-timey string band arrangement"? What the fuck is this guy talking about? "Rockin' Chair" is nothing but self-conscious, self-satisfied, unadulterated CRAP, and about as old-timey as my mother-in-law's asshole.
It makes me turn into Alec Baldwin in "Glengary Glen Ross": "What's my name? FUCK YOU!"

If I had been of age to drive when Robbie Robertson etc were recording "Music from Big Pink" I would have personally driven to upstate NY and dynamited the house with them AND Bob Dylan inside.

If you should make it by Fergie's tonight, you will note the expression on my face when playing "Up on Cripple Creek." It's the expression you get when you're sucking on a lemon.


Blogger somegirl said...

with his civil war obsession i'm surprised you're not doing the night they drove old dixie down.

i think acadian driftwood suits the jangling sparrow sound more than up on crippled creek but that's just my useless opinion.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Brendan said...

If I have to play "the night they drove old dixie down" I promise you I will avail myself of a large firearm and blow a hole in the back of my head on stage.

2:49 PM  
Blogger somegirl said...

heh use it on paul instead.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Brendan said...

No way. If anyone deserves to continue to keep living, it's that one.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

Just goes to show you can take the asshole out of punk rock, but you can't take the punk rock out of the asshole.

Shine on, you crazy diamond.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Brendan said...

dude I am so uptight about The Band, that if you shoved a lump of coal up my punk rock asshole, you'd end up with a punk rock diamond within a few minutes.

Seriously, everytime I hear that "ragtime willy" line, I picture Chris Ziter looking confused.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

You know, while I totally feel you on your aversion to annoyingly superjuiced "authenticity" AND the super-lionization/cultural theorist circle jerk session, I still have to say: The Band are a fucking good band.

AND OKAY, okay, I hate Robbie Robertson too. Who doesn't. And Rick Danko's tortured vocals sorta give me the creeps. And sometimes Garth Hudson's 70's version of futuristic keyboard shit is kinda wanky.

But Levon? Come on. You cannot fuck with Levon. He is actually FROM Arkansas, and actually has all the style those Canadian motherfuckers were aping. He was in that band since it was Ronnie Hawkins', and then Levon and the Hawks. They played the same thankless circuit -- okay, hang on... wrong arguement. He's a GREAT fucking drummer okay, AND a great singer.

And Richard Manuel? Come on. That fucking sad junkie weirdo could sing like a little baby girl, and play piano like a goddamn drunk octopus with a snoot full of blow. "Whispering Pines"? All that high raspy shit? That shit kills.

And yes, Up On Cripple Creek has been almost completely bled of all enjoyability by Margaritaville/Brown Eyed Girl radio. And yes, Rockin' Chair is about as authentic as Cracker Barrel.

But as with the Grateful Fucking Dead, it would be a pity to dispose of a lovely baby because of some shitty bathwater. Uh... okay, a lot of shitty bathwater. And I KNOW you'll agree there's plenty of wack-ass string bands out there and fucking crummy, useless metal and, if I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I might just be given to hate both genres completely. But that would be wrong, right?

I feel a lot like Dave Chapelle on the witness stand defending MJ:
He made Thriller, man.
He made Thriller.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Brendan said...


I love you.


6:18 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

Dear Brendan,

[tearful embrace]


2:38 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

I stumbled across this by Googling "I hate the band" and "Levon Helm." This was one of FOUR results that came up.

I'm currently cramming for my last two finals, one of which is a history of Rock and Roll class, at Indiana University. The Band is on my listening list, and I hate their music. It's overrated, and I'm so glad to have found a like-minded individual.

And yes, yes, YES "The Weight" is a pretentious piece of shit of a song.

That is all.

5:49 AM  

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