The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

The Art of Public Performance #2


In the Spring of 1974, the late singer and songwriter Phil Ochs organized a concert to benefit the Friends of Chile. Chile, of course, was a country in peril; one that badly needed friends after their democratically-elected President, Salvador Isabelino del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús Allende Gossens, was Suicided by his own millitary (with an assist from our own Central Intelligence Agency) in Santiago on September 11, 1973.

As I say, Chile needed friends . . . and on May 9, 1974, this is what Ochs came up with.

To call this line-up eclectic is hardly adequate, but what milder euphemism could there be for an evening at the Felt Forum in New York's Madison Square Garden with the likes of Pete Seeger, Melanie, Arlo Guthrie, Mike Love, Dave Van Ronk, Dennis Hopper, Phil Ochs, Dennis Wilson and . . . oh, yeah . . . Bob Dylan. Dylan reportedly got roped into this gig after Ochs played upon his conscience in a weak moment (and who wouldn't love to have been a fly on the wall for that one), and from the minute he hits the stage he makes no secret of his committment to the cause of extricating Chile from the savage bonds of a far-Right dictatorship.

This has often been called the single worst live performance of Bob Dylan committed to record and, for once, Conventional Wisdom has its way with Truth. It's genuinely stinkola. To be fair, it should be noted that he, along with Ochs, had been guzzling vast quantities of wine in gallon jugs long before the show started. In fact, everyone sounds just a little bit blotto, but none more so than the Prokofiev of Hibbing, Minnesota himself. Some reports have Dave Van Ronk holding Dylan steady through the finale, and photos of the event (like the one above) partially bear this out.

I would be remiss, before we get to the concert itself, if I failed to include this priceless account of that magical night.

And now . . . the Friends of Chile Benefit Concert:

Act I:

01. Introduction/Guantanamera (Phil Ochs/Pete Seeger & Arlo Guthrie)
02. Estadio Chile (Pete Seeger)
03. Oh, Mary Don't You Weep (Pete Seeger & Arlo Guthrie)
04. He Was a Friend of Mine (Dave van Ronk)
05. Recitation (Dennis Hopper)
06. Try Me One More Time (Arlo Guthrie)
07. Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) (Arlo Guthrie)
08. Presidential Rag (Arlo Guthrie)
09. California Girls (Mike Love & Dennis Wilson)
10. Ring The Living Bell (Melanie)
11. My Rainbow Race (Melanie)

Act II:

01. Victor Jara (Arlo Guthrie)
02. Allende's Last Speech (Dennis Hopper)
03. Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) (Arlo Guthrie & Bob Dylan)
04. Pablo Neruda Poem (Dennis Hopper)
05. North Country Blues (Bob Dylan)
06. Spanish is the Loving Tongue (Bob Dylan)
07. Blowin' in the Wind (The Cast)

2 comments :

That Little Round-Headed Boy said...

I've read a lot of Dylan remembrances, but the Bobfather shoved in a back seat sitting on laundry bags is a classic. I also can't imagine Love and Dennis Wilson performing together, considering how much they would learn to loathe each other in the coming years. Great post! I'll be seeing Dylan and Merle Haggard in concert next week.

phoneguy1952 said...

Remembering all that went on that evening, all one can say is whew! We were fortunate enough to be back stage for a portion of the evening, and the rumors of Dylan being drunk were not exagerated. He and Dave Van Ronk were guzzling wine from a gallon jug like a couple of hillbillies at a still in Tennessee. They each took quite a few long gulps and probably spilled as much as they drank.
The part of the show that was most memorable was the living theatre. What was most disturbing was the depiction of the resistance being tortured by gov't. troops, especially the electric shock "treatment". It was so realistic that many people thought it was actually happening, and quite possibly, it was . Those were images that I will never forget.
All in all, the conceert was very entertaining, what with everyone spilling out onto the stage for the finale. What amused me the most was that Dylan had to have the words to "Blowin' in the Wind" taped to the mike he was using, Very funny!