Thursday, 30 July 2009

Forever Young: Photographs of Bob Dylan

by Douglas R. Gilbert with text by Dave Marsh

Wolfe announced that the festival "marked the emergence of Phil Ochs as the most important voice in the movement." Ochs had released just one album, All the News That's Fit to Sing, and thirteen of its fifteen tracks were "topical." Ochs had written an essay in praise of "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" in Broadside's previous issue. He loved Dylan's new work and said so to everyone who asked.

Irwin Silber, editor of Sing Out!, decided to dethrone Dylan with a lecture, and wrote him an open letter that appeared in the magazine's November issue. Silber adopted a tone appropriate to a fairly hip father lecturing a wayward child: "You seem to be in a different kind of bag now, Bob--and I'm worried about it. I saw at Newport how you had somehow lost contact with people. It seemed to me that some of the paraphernalia of fame were getting in your way. You travel with an entourage now--with good buddies who are going to laugh when you need laughing and drink wine with you and insure your privacy--and never challenge you to face everyone else's reality again."

Saturday, 25 July 2009

A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of Blood on the Tracks

by Andy Gill & Kevin Odegard

By the end of April 1974, Dylan was back in New York, hanging out at his old haunts in Greenwich Village, catching up with old chums like Dave Van Ronk and Phil Ochs, and even, at the latter's behest, giving a somewhat sozzled performance at a Friends of Chile benefit Ochs had organized at the Felt Forum. With Sara remaining on the West Coast, rumors soon began to circulate about the state of their marriage, particularly when he started spending a lot of time with Ellen Bernstein, a young A&R executive at Columbia Records, who was later widely believed to be the subject of the most emotionally upbeat of the Blood on the Tracks songs, "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go." He also started taking a course of classes given by art teacher Norman Raeben, which would have a (literally) dramatic effect on his songwriting.

Monday, 20 July 2009

1968: The Year That Rocked the World

by Mark Kurlansky

Another event that they did intend to carry out was the nomination of the Yippie candidate for president, Mr. Pigasus, who happened to be a pig on a leash. "The concept of pig as our leader was truer than reality," Hoffman wrote in an essay titled "Creating a Perfect Mess." Pig was the common pejorative for police at the time, but Hoffman insisted that in the case of Chicago, the "pigs" actually looked like pigs, "with their big beer bellies, triple chins, red faces, and little squinty eyes." It was a kind of silliness that was infectious. He pointed out the resemblance of both Hubert Humphrey and Daley to pigs, and the more he explained, the more it seemed that everyone was starting to look like a pig.

But there was a problem: There were two pigs. Abbie Hoffman had gotten one and Jerry Rubin had gotten one, and a conflict arose over which one to nominate. Typical of their differences in style, Rubin had picked a very ugly pig and Hoffman a cute one. The argument between them over the pig selection almost became physically violent. Rubin accused Hoffman of trying to make the Yippies his own personality cult. Hoffman said that Rubin always wanted to show a fist, whereas "I want to show the clenched fist and the smile."

The arguing continued for some time before it was decided that the official candidate of the Youth International Party would be Rubin's very ugly pig. Hoffman, still angry from the dispute, stood in the Chicago Civic Center as Jerry Rubin said, "We are proud to announce the declaration of candidacy for president of the United States by a pig." The police then arrested Rubin, Hoffman, the pig, and singer Phil Ochs for disorderly conduct but held them only briefly. The next day another pig was loose in Lincoln Park, apparently a female, supposedly Mrs. Pigasus, the candidate's wife. As the police pursued the animal, Yippies shouted, "Pig! Pig!" for the fun of it, because it was unclear whether they were shouting at the pursuers or the pursued. When the police finally grabbed the pig, someone shouted, "Be careful how you treat the next First Lady." Some of the police laughed; others glared. They threw the little pig into the back of a paddy wagon and threateningly asked if anyone wanted to go with the pig. A few Yippies said yes and jumped into the wagon. They closed the door and drove off. Some journalists took the bait and started interviewing Yippies. The Yippies said that they were unstoppable because they had a whole farm full of pigs just outside Chicago. A journalist wanted to know how they felt about losing their pig, and one of the Yippies demanded Secret Service protection for both their candidate and his First Lady. A radio reporter asked with great earnestness just what the pig symbolized. Answers were hurled back: Food! Ham! Parks belong to pigs.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Wild in the Streets (1968)

Phil Ochs turned down the lead role of Max Frost for this 1968 feature film. Having watched the film, I can't help but agree with his assessment.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice

by Raymond Arsenault

As the originator and chief financial sponsor of the Rides, CORE had the closest organizational identification with the elimination of segregated transit facilities, a victory that brought unprecedented attention and influence to a group of activists unaccustomed to visibility or notoriety. Despite the continuing legal responsibilities and debts associated with the Rides, CORE emerged from the crisis in good shape, with an expanded budget and staff, thousands of new members, and an expansive sense of its new role as a leading force within the nonviolent movement. The enhanced stature of Farmer and other former Freedom Riders gave the organization credibility and standing, even in the arena of popular culture, where musicians such as Chuck Berry and Phil Ochs paid tribute to them in song. "Jim Farmer was a hard fightin' man," Ochs's 1962 folk ballad "Freedom Riders" intoned, "decided one day that he had to make a stand. He led them down to slavery town, and they threw Jim Farmer in the can." Buoyed by this and other public tributes, the national office in New York, along with local CORE chapters around the nation, was brimming with proposals for direct action. By the end of the year several of these proposals had become operational, from the Freedom Highways campaign in the Southeast to a national recruiting project known as Task Force Freedom. And, unlike in the past, there was no sense that such projects were limited to a small vanguard or constrained by organizational inertia. Despite the continuing challenges of public complacency and political backsliding, CORE--the organization that had put the movement on wheels--was on the move.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

America: A History in Verse Volume 3, 1962-1970

by Edward Sanders

March 2

Robert Kennedy arose in the Senate to speak on the war
that had sent 400,000 men to its widening

He raised his voice against the escalation
& urged the Nation to "dare take initiatives for peace."

The singer Phil Ochs had flown down from NYC
for the speech
Afterwards Jack Newfield brought Phil
to Kennedy's office where Phil sang an
a cappella version of his song "Crucifixion"

with lines especially meaningful to RFK such as

"The stars settle slow, in loneliness they lie.
Till the universe explodes as a falling star is raised.
The planets are paralyzed; the mountains are amazed;
But they all glow brighter from the brilliant of the blaze.
With the speed of insanity, then he dies!"

Jack Newfield later recalled the response:

"Kennedy quickly grasped
that it was half about his brother--
and it was a very heavy scene
--he was wiped out by it."

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Kansas City Bomber

Phil Ochs' single (1972):

The Kansas City Bomber trailer (Ochs' song for the film was rejected):

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Phil Ochs in the New Yorker: Doesn't Lenny Live Here Anymore

Ochs was mentioned today in the New Yorker's "Goings On" blog. The end of the post has to do with "Doesn't Lenny Live Here Anymore" and re-posts Ochs' last known footage (previously featured on this blog). Interestingly, the article frames the song as being about Lenny Bruce. I initially assumed this as well, but after listening to concert audio and reading the liner notes to Farewells & Fantasies, I now think the song has nothing to do with Bruce (though since Ochs was so fond of him, he was certainly aware of the association). Ochs himself framed the song more generally as about "varying levels of depression." Kudos to Ben Greenman for highlighting such a great and under-appreciated song, one that happens to feature some of my favorite lyrics:
You laugh at the people who walk outside on the sidewalk
And you talk to yourself so much, when you see other people you can't talk
This time it's true, the charade is through
And you can't seem to run away from you, away from you
And the haggard ex-lover of a longtime loser stands rejectedly by the door
Doesn't Lenny live here anymore, are you sure

You sit at your desk to lose your life in a letter
But the words don't seem to come and you know that they're better
And it's all so strange, pictures lose their frame
And I bet you never guessed there was so much pain, so much pain
Till the haggard ex-lover of a longtime loser stands rejectedly by the door
Doesn't Lenny live here any more, are you sure

The moon she shines too soon and simply sadly
You love your love so much that you'd strangle her gladly
And it's all so slow, time has ceased to flow
And the whistling whore knows something you don't know
And the haggard ex-lover of a longtime loser stands rejectedly by the door
Doesn't Lenny live here anymore, are you sure

You swore you'd store your love for one time only
Now you searched the books in vain for a better word for lonely
And you're torn apart, no other love will start
And you feel you'd like to steal a happy heart, a happy heart
Then the haggard ex-lover of a longtime loser stands rejectedly by the door
Doesn't Lenny live here anymore, are you sure

The fat official smiles at the pass on the border
And the hungry broom makes sure that the room is in order
You pull the shade, all the beds are made
As your lips caress the razor of the blade, of the blade
And the haggard ex-lover of a longtime loser stands rejectedly by the door
Doesn't Lenny live here anymore, are you sure

The soul of the sun shines just outside of the winter
The shoulders charge, the boards of the barricade have splintered
Now at last alone the flashlight has shown
Hello inside, is there anybody home, anybody home
It's the haggard ex-lover of a longtime loser standing rejectedly by the door
Doesn't Lenny live here anymore, are you sure, are you sure, are you sure

Sunday, 5 July 2009

The Revolution Is In Your Head

Eugene Rosenthal. Dist Adelphi Films. 10 Mar 1970 [Washington, D. C., opening: c17 Aug 1969; MP20138]. Sd; col. 16mm. 75 min. [Copyright length: 70 min.]

Prod-Dir Eugene Rosenthal. Photog William Hatfield, Joel Jacobson. Film Ed Joel Jacobson, William Hatfield, Gayle Moore. Sd Kurt Wittig, Van Wood.

Featuring: Phil Ochs, Paul Krassner, Urch Perch, The Fugs, The Fallen Angels, Hog Farm, Pigasus the Pig, Pat Pig.

Documentary. The film concerns the counter-inaugural activites of January 17-20, 1969 (coinciding with the inauguration of President Nixon), organized by the Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (Mobe). The events of the weekend are depicted in chronological order, beginning with scenes in the offices of Mobe, showing preparation for the march. Next are the activities in the workshops at the Hawthorne School and the tent raising on Friday and Saturday. The middle section shows the rallies, speeches, the march, and the mock inauguration of Pigasus and Pat Pig, two pigs representing the new President and his wife. The Young Americans for Freedom Ball at the Washington Hilton Hotel is also shown. The final section of the film is devoted to the Mobe-Yippie Ball held under the circus tent.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Phil Ochs & John Lennon - Chords of Fame

Hotel room, Ann Arbor, Michigan, December 10, 1971: