Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Neil Young Nation

by Kevin Chong

"The Riverboat was the pre-eminent coffehouse," said Jennings. "It was run by a German immigrant named Bernie Fiedler, who was a coffee salesman originally. Fiedler designed it to look like the inside of a riverboat, so there were pine-paneled walls with brass portholes." The Riverboat was a long narrow basement room that sat about 120 people. The seats were booths, and no seat was farther than fifty feet from the stage. It was an intimate space, especially for big-name acts like Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Phil Ochs, Gordon Lightfoot, and Joni Mitchell. "There was always a lineup. On the biggest nights, Fiedler would turn over the crowd several times. There'd be a seven o'clock show and an eight-thirty show and a ten o'clock show. Visiting celebrities had to go to the Riverboat. Bernie Fiedler booked them all. He turned it into the showcase venue in Yorkville. And it was a launching pad for a lot of up-and-coming singer-songwriters."


After Four to Go came and went, Neil tried remaking himself as a folksinger. "He had his twelve-string and people would often see this tall, skinny figure walking along Yorkville Avenue. He played mostly at open mike nights at different coffehouses like the Half Beat, the New Gate of Cleve, and the Cellar." Young would cover songs by Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs and do originals like "Sugar Mountain."

Friday, 25 December 2009

The Declared Enemy: Texts and Interviews

by Jean Genet

A few hours before going to the convention, where our free and easy ways stunned the police and made them suspicious, we took part in the peace march organized by David Dellinger in Grant Park. Thousands of young people were there listening peacefully to Phil Ochs who was singing, and to others who were talking; we were covered with flowers. A symbolic procession set off toward the slaughterhouse. A row of blacks in front, then behind them, in rows of eight, everyone who wanted to join the demonstration. No one got very far: more potbellies charged, throwing tear gas at the young people. Trucks fill with armed soldiers moved endlessly up and down the streets of Chicago.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Phil Ochs Covers: False Prophets - One More Parade

How Can I Keep from Singing?: The Ballad of Pete Seeger

by David King Dunaway

Dylan's departure from the folk music community might have affected Seeger less had it not opened a floodgate of recriminations. A Sing Out! forum on topical song produced unexpectedly bitter responses: Pete's brother-in-law Ewan MacColl (Peggy Seeger's husband) wrote, "The folk magazines seem to compete with each other in the hunt for superlatives with which to describe Bobby [Dylan] and Phil [Ochs] and Tom [Paxton] and Peter [Seeger] and all the rest of the mostest, bestest, youngest and newest." (These were strong words, from a member of the family.) Then, a community organizer and poet, Don West, called Seeger a publicity-seeking hero.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Northern Passage: American Vietnam War Resisters in Canada

by John Hagan

I visited Toronto for the first time in the summer of 1968 and on returning to the United States spent an August evening listening to Phil Ochs sing in Chicago's Grant Park across from the Democratic Convention hotels the night before the infamous police riot. The brutal images of the Chicago convention are still familiar to most Americans, but it is less well known that Toronto was then also a city coming alive. The American ghetto, described in Chapter 3 of this book and in the Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants that led me there, was taking form in the Baldwin Street neighborhood just south of the University of Toronto. The first arrivals, the "draft dodgers," were soon joined in growing numbers by the "deserters." This area of the city was a benign but unruly communion of countercultural entrepreneurship and anti-war activism. We thought of ourselves as war resisters as well as draft and military resisters, but most of us still do not mind being called "dodgers," for this term still has a positive resonance in Canada. The mood then was a mixture of desperation and excitement; the atmosphere was electric.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune

Phil Ochs The Movie: There But For Fortune
Watch the trailer for the upcoming documentary film, Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune, on the film's new website. Additional clips on the site include an interview with director Kenneth Bowser, plus excerpts from interviews with Billy Bragg, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Christopher Hitchens, Sean Penn and Peter Yarrow.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Mythical West: An Encyclopedia of Legend, Lore, and Popular Culture

by Richard W. Slatta

In 1964 Phil Ochs wrote "The Ballad of Alfred Packer." The chorus runs:

They called him a murderer, a cannibal, a thief;
It just doesn't pay to eat anything but Government-inspected beef. (Ballad of Alferd Packer Web Site)

Ochs published the song in Broadside magazine, which also featured a cartoon with Republican politicians celebrating the fact that Alfred had eaten five Democrats.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Phil Ochs, Fondly Recalled, Is Never Really Lost

By John Pietaro

Another December, another Phil Ochs birth anniversary. Wow, he would have been 69 this year. It’s also time for the stream of annual Ochs birthday concerts which have been occurring all over the nation each December since the singer’s untimely death in 1976. The movement has not had Phil Ochs to call upon for a long time, but none on the Left have forgotten his impact – and the impact his music continues to have upon us.

[read more]

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Performing Glam Rock: Gender and Theatricality in Popular Music

by Philip Auslander

For Ennis, the performance that epitomizes the pause point in rock was Phil Ochs's appearance at New York's Carnegie Hall in April 1970. Ochs had made a career as an unremittingly political folk protest singer and was considered one of the least compromising practitioners of that idiom. By his own testimony, Ochs was so disturbed by the political developments of the late 1960s that he "went crazy and didn't care anymore" (qtd. in Wilson 44). At Carnegie Hall, he appeared on stage wearing a gold lamé suit modeled after one of Elvis Presley's stage outfits and interspersed rock and roll and country songs from the 1950s with his usual repertoire of folk protest.

Ochs was roundly booed by much of his audience, presumably because they saw his embodiment of Elvis as a retreat from the political engagement of the 1960s back to the conformism of the 1950s against which the counterculture had rebelled. But I shall emphasize a different aspect of Ochs's performance that may also have set him at odds with the counterculture: wearing the gold lamé suit was clearly a theatrical gesture in conflict with a counterculture that was ambivalent, at best, about theatricality, especially in musical performances. Although it has long been conventional to describe the political protests and Yippie manifestations of the 1960s as street theater, I argue that the counterculture's deep investment in the idea of authenticity entailed a necessary antipathy to theatricality. This antipathy derived from three ideological commitments: the emphasis on spontaneity and living in the present moment, the desire for community, and the suspicion that spectacle served the interests of the social and political status quo.