Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Band at Woodstock

They were known as Levon & the Hawks when they left Tony Marts in Somers Point in late August 1965. They went to New York and some of them played with Bob Dylan at Forest Hills and then took a tour of Europe. When they returned Dylan was injured in a motorcycle accident and recuperated at the Woodstock home of his manager Albert Grossman. The band visited him there and liked the small, eccentric artist colony that was already established, so they took out a lease on a pink split level house where they jammed in the basement.

They called the house "Big Pink," and people began to refer to them as "The Band," so when their first album appeared it was called "Music From Big Pink" by The Band.

The album cover art was by Bob Dylan, who also wrote a few of the songs.

When Eric Clapton heard "Music From Big Pink" for the first time he was blown away, and decided to quit his band Cream, because he later said, he realized they were going in the wrong direction. The Band, with their down home bluesy, electric folk was where it was at.

And apparently a lot of others agreed.

Among the songs on "Music From Big Pink" were "The Weight," which was first played over the radio airways by Dave Herman at WMMR radio in Philadelphia on Sunday nights, a show that would later be credited with developing the Album Oriented Rock (AOR) programing style, which he would later take to New York.

Also on the first album by the Band was a song called "Chest Fever," which especially features the organ recitals of Garth Hudson, considered the best musician in The Band.

The words to "Chest Fever" include the line, "She's been down in the dunes and she's dealt with the goons," which some people believe refers to the Dunes nightclub on Longport Blvd., which was an after-hours, open all night joint where a lot of people went after 2 am when Tony Marts and Bay Shores closed. It was famous for its bouncers - the Goons.

The lyrics to "The Weight," include "I pulled into Nazareth, I was feelin' about half past dead. Just need o find a place where I can lay my head. 'Hey mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed. He just grinned and shook my hand and, 'No, was all he said."

Robbie Robertson: "When I wrote ‘The Weight’, the first song for ‘Music From Big Pink’, it had a kind of American mythology I was reinventing using my connection to the universal language. The Nazareth in ‘The Weight’ was Nazareth, Pennsylvania. It was a little off-handed - ‘I pulled into Nazareth’. Well I don’t know if the Nazareth that Jesus came from is the kind of place you pull into, but I do know that you pull into Nazareth, Pennsylvania! I’m experimenting with North American mythology. I didn’t mean to take sacred, precious things and turn them into humour....In ‘The Weight’ it was this very simple thing. Someone says, ‘Listen, would you do me this favour? When you get there will you say “hello” to somebody or will you give somebody this or will you pick up one of these for me? Oh? You’re going to Nazareth, that’s where the Martin guitar factory is."

So while they were set up as the house band at Tony Marts in Somers Point, they probably took a road trip to the Martin guitar factory in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where Robertson was inspired to write the opening lines to the song.

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