Friday, 4 April 2008

Newport 1963

Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger at the Newport Folk Festival, July 28, 1963Phil Ochs' "Birch Society Song" was not only a "tribute" to the John Birch Society, but his solution to the dearth of song material available as "groups move farther and farther to the right...I wrote this song for them, so they can sing when they get together," he said. The very basic song began with the line "I like Hitler, jolly, jolly Hitler" and ended with a chorus "Loyally we Birch along." Since it was not as clever or well-written as Bob Dylan's "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues," would Ochs have chosen to perform it at Newport, and during his first appearance there, no less?

Pictured at the top right are Dylan and Pete Seeger, performing the song "Playboys and Playgirls" at the Newport Folk Festival on July 28, 1963. Earlier that day on the same stage, Phil Ochs made his debut performance at the festival, singing "Too Many Martyrs" and "Talking Birmingham Jam." That much everyone agrees on, as these two tracks are included on the releases Phil Ochs Live At Newport and The Early Years. Beyond this point, accounts have differed. Marc Eliot in Death of a Rebel reports that Ochs played two more songs, "Birch Society Song" ("the enthusiasm was boisterous, contagious") and an encore of "Power and the Glory." Eliot then writes that after the show Seeger passed Ochs a note that called the "Birch" song "sophomoric." Michael Schumacher in There But for Fortune seems to indicate that Ochs' performance ended with "Talking Birmingham Jam." Neither accounts are true.

As the original sound recording of the event reveals, Ochs rounded off his set with "Talking Cuban Crisis," which was certainly more polished than "Birch Society Song." The note from Seeger on the "Birch" being "sophomoric" had been in fact passed to Ochs in September of the previous year. Seeger likely heard the song from Ochs' 1962 demo of the song recorded by Sis Cunningham of Broadside Magazine. So, Ochs did not play "Birch" at Newport (or ever in front of an audience, as far as we know). He instead played two "talking blues" numbers, with similar musical accompaniment, in a row. He would play another, "Talking Vietnam," the following year at Newport. Within two years, he was finished with "talking blues" genre, abandoning the songs altogether. Eliot's presumed selection, "Power and the Glory," would likely have made a better choice to close his 1963 set, but Ochs instead chose to use the song to open his 1964 Newport nighttime performance.

The full three reels of the July 28, 1963 Newport performances contain the following:
1. Pete Seeger - (intro regarding topical songs and new songwriters)
2. Jim Garland - I'm Crazy 'Bout You, Baby
3. Jim Garland - Gimme Back My Job
4. Peter La Farge - Ira Hayes
5. Peter La Farge - Custer
6. Peter La Farge - Coyote, My Little Brother
7. Tom Paxton - The Willing Conscript
8. Tom Paxton - Ramblin' Boy
9. Pete Seeger - Intoxicated Rat
10. Pete Seeger - Weave Room Blues
11. Phil Ochs - Too Many Martyrs
12. Phil Ochs - Talking Birmingham Jam
13. Phil Ochs - Talking Cuban Crisis
14. Pete Seeger - Tom Dooley
15. The Freedom Singers - Fighting For My Rights
16. The Freedom Singers - I Love Your Dog, I Love My Dog
17. The Freedom Singers - Calypso Freedom
18. Mississippi John Hurt - Candy Man Blues
19. Mississippi John Hurt - Stagolee
20. Mississippi John Hurt - Trouble, I've Had It All My Days
21. Mike Settle - Little Boy
22. Mike Settle - Sing Hallelujah
23. Tom Paxton with Pete Seeger - A Little Brand New Baby
24. Tom Paxton with Pete Seeger - Hope You Have a Mighty Nice Life
25. Bob Dylan - Who Killed Davey Moore
26. Bob Dylan - Masters of War
27. Bob Dylan with Pete Seeger - Playboys and Playgirls

Interestingly, Ochs' performance that day was not only recorded on audio tape, but there is a good chance it was captured on film as well. Dylan's Newport performance of "Who Killed Davey Moore" listed above is available on the DVD The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live at Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965.

1 comment:

Vince said...

Wow, a very informative source from a person who has tremendous of and respect for Phil Ochs