Pete's Blog

The Band

Last summer a group of High School kids, members of various Island bands, decided to throw a charity concert. This is a time-honored gimmick, going back at least as far as Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney putting on a show in somebody's barn. But these kids did something very cool with the concept. They performed in its entirety the Beatles' "Revolver" album - playing the arrangements with fastidious care right down to the clinking glasses on "Yellow Submarine." I saw one of the shows and I was impressed. Like a lot of people I wondered what they would do next. I heard today that their new project will be "The Band," known to that group's fanatics (I am one) as "The Brown Album." Again I am impressed. "Rag, Mama, Rag," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," "Across the Great Divide," "Whispering Pines," - these are hard tunes to play. But, as with the previous show, I'm most impressed with the kids' good taste in vintage pop music. I often call the Band "the group that killed the British Invasion" and if you compare the work of the best British groups of the '60s before and after the Band's debut "Music from Big Pink" you'd feel that way, too. Cream broke up. The Beatles turned their back on psychedelia, found they had nothing left in common, and broke up. The Rolling Stones quit aping the Beatles and turned into a funky blues band. The Band made me proud to be an East Coast kid. At a time when American pop music had more or less decamped from New York City (and Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, etc.) to California, the Band celebrated the East-Coast virtues of craft, professionalism, and experience. The stuff still stands up, and when I watch those kids struggling (or not) with, say, "Unfaithful Servant," with its weeping horn lines and terse acoustic guitar solo, I'll be watching them learn more than music. Right on.

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