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Bob Dylan Reveals The Inspiration Behind His Songwriting Mastery

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Bob Dylan is considered by many, including Crazy4Rock and Rolling Stone, as the best songwriter of all time.

Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan in 1961 (photo via Rolling Stone)

One thing many people don’t know is the “how” behind Bob Dylan’s songs. Well, when Dylan accepted an award from MusiCares, he revealed how he created his biggest hits.

“…They didn’t get here by themselves,” he said. “It’s been a long road and it’s taken a lot of doing.”

He likened his songs to a great mystery or Shakespeare’s plays.

“These songs didn’t come out of thin air,” he said. “I didn’t just make them up out of whole cloth. …It all came out of traditional music: traditional folk music, traditional rock ‘n’ roll and traditional big-band swing orchestra music.”

He goes one step further and said he wrote songs, taking directly from those traditional songs. Some might call what Dylan did plagiarism, like Joni Mitchell.

Joni Mitchell
From left: Joni Mitchell, Roger Mcguinn, Bob Dylan (photo via American Songwriter)

According to Dylan, those old songs were basically his teacher.

“I learned lyrics and how to write them from listening to folk songs,” he said. “And I played them, and I met other people that played them back when nobody was doing it. Sang nothing but these folk songs, and they gave me the code for everything that’s fair game, that everything belongs to everyone.”

He listened to only folk standards for a period of a few years. He let them invade every part of himself.

“I went to sleep singing folk songs,” he said. “I sang them everywhere, clubs, parties, bars, coffeehouses, fields, festivals — I could learn one song and sing it next in an hour if I’d heard it just once.”

He said traditional folk songs inspired the songs he wrote. His music and traditional folk music are blood brothers.

“All these songs are connected,” he said. “Don’t be fooled. I just opened up a different door in a different kind of way. It’s just different, saying the same thing. I didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary.”

It may have seem ordinary at the time, but his songs ended up standing out among all the other music of his time and future generations.

You Won’t Believe The First Drug The Beatles Tried

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The Beatles were clearly on drugs during the height of Beatlemania and beyond. But what happened the first time they did illegal substances?

The Beatles
The Beatles encounters with doctors seem to often involve illegal drugs

The first drug The Beatles tried was the stimulant Benzedrine, in June 1960. John Lennon remembered it well.

“The first drugs I ever took, I was still at art school, with the group,” he says in Anthology. “We all took it together– was Benzedrine from the inside of an inhaler.”

It was all thanks to a poet named Royston Ellis, who was friends with the band. They even supported him during one of his coffee shop poetry nights.

According to George Harrison, Ellis was the one who figured out how to get high from an inhaler.

“Ellis had discovered that if you open a Vick’s inhaler you find Benzedrine in it, impregnated into the cardboard divide,” Harrison said.

They figured out that chewing up that cardboard strip (aka “a spitball”) would give them a euphoric high.

So what happened when The Beatles tried this for the first time?

The Beatles
The Beatles (photo via Beatles By Day)

“Everybody thought, ‘Wow! What’s this?'” Lennon recalled. “And talked their mouths off for a night.”

Years later, Paul McCartney tried Benzedrine again while living with the family of his then girlfriend, Jane Asher. This time, Asher’s father, Dr. Richard Asher, told McCartney how you could extract the drug from an inhaler.

As Barry Miles writes in his book Many Years From Now, Dr. Asher “loved to shock his family.” One time he wrote a prescription for McCartney for a nasal inhaler and showed him how to use it.

“You take off the top and place it on your little finger, like so,” Dr. Asher told McCartney. “Then you take a sniff with each nostril as per normal; then, after you’ve finished with it, you can unscrew the bottom and eat the Benzedrine.”

Hey, those are the doctor’s orders. What was McCartney supposed to do?

“We learned about that stuff up in Liverpool but hearing it coming from him was quite strange,” McCartney said later.

This may remind you of the time a different doctor encouraged The Beatles to do drugs, slipping LSD into their coffee cups without their knowledge.

The Beatles, apparently, had bad (or good?) luck with doctors.

One Of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Songs Wouldn’t Exist Without The Help Of This Man

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Bob Dylan says there are two songs people ignore but that he thinks are some of his best work.

Bob Dylan (photo via NPR)

Critics and fans alike don’t think Bob Dylan’s gospel era was that great. But he begs to differ. One guy helped him write one of his best songs from that time.

On one of his gospel albums, Saved, there are two songs that Dylan singles out as underrated– “In The Garden” and “Brownsville Girl,” an 11-minute song that he wrote with a man named Sam Shephard. The late Shephard was a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and playwright.

If you’re a hardcore Dylan fan, you already know “Brownsville Girl,” and you probably agree with Dylan that it’s one of his better ones despite the lack of attention. Unfortunately, it appears on an album that most people consider his worst.

But that one song, it stands out.

Bob Dylan and Sam Shepard
Bob Dylan and Sam Shepard (photo via Sam Shepard)

Throughout the 17 verses of the song, both writers express their worries about the creative process, like in the lyric “If there’s an original thought out there, I could use it right now.” They also spout proverb-like lyrics for the listener to chew on (“Strange how people who suffer together/Have stronger connections than people who are most content”).

By the end of the song, you realize you’ve just listened to a conversation between two creatively minded men.

“Working with Dylan is not like working with anybody else,” Shepard told the Village Voice in 2004. “With Dylan, you’re continuing on this hunt for what he’s after, who he is, this continual mystery about his identity.”

And Shephard followed Dylan along in this journey.

During Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue tour, Shephard brought his pen, paper, and camera and created The Rolling Thunder Logbook, a book about the whole experience. In the book, he talks about Dylan as a mystery.

“If a mystery is solved, the case is dropped,” Shephard writes. “In this case, in the case of Dylan, the mystery is never solved, so the case keeps on. It keeps coming up again. Over and over the years. Who is this character anyway?”

Who knew this experience would lead to co-writing one of Dylan’s best songs?

The Story Of The Rolling Stones Making History On Their First Show In Cuba

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We’re all used to hearing The Rolling Stones, but to Cubans, it was mind-blowing music.

The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones performing in Cuba in 2016

Back in 2016, The Rolling Stones broke an international record. They became the first major rock band to perform in Cuba after the country lifted a ban on rock music.

What? A ban on rock music, you say? Yes, it’s true. Here’s the backstory.

Following the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro banned rock music. It wasn’t on Cuban state-own TV and it wasn’t on the radio. Even Cubans who wore long hair like The Beatles or The Stones or wore beards faced harassment from the authorities.

And at The Stones’ concert– which was free to attend, mostly because Cubans earn about $20 per month in wages– Mick Jagger was not afraid to point out their anti-rock past.

“Years ago it was difficult to hear our music but here we are,” he said to the crowd in Spanish. “The times are changing.”

The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones members that most people would recognize today (photo via theticketbay.com)

After the United States and Cuba announced in 2014 that they would be repairing their broken relationship, the work began to lift the Rock n’ Roll ban.

And it all culminated in The Stones playing a raucous set, including “Paint it Black,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” and “Brown Sugar.” Instead of blowing up balloons, the audience inflated condoms, which they bounced around in the air.

Ernesto Estevez, an English teacher who lives across the street from the field where the concert happened, remembered how then President Barack Obama made a historic visit to Cuba the same week of the record-breaking concert.

“I never would have guessed both things would have happened the same week,” he said. “But it has happened,” he said. “Which means anything can happen.”

Check out their performance of “Brown Sugar” during that concert:

Does Gary Clark Jr.’s Version Of “Come Together” Do The Song Justice?

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If you’re going to cover a Beatles song, you’ve got to nail it. Did a young rocker do that with his version?

Gary Clark Jr.
33-year-old blues rocker Gary Clark Jr. is making a big splash in the rock world (photo via Gary Clark Jr.)

Blues rocker Gary Clark Jr. was commissioned to cover The Beatles’ “Come Together” for the Justice League soundtrack. And it’s a bad-butt, big-drums, nasty-good version.

The Austin, Texas musician is skyrocketing to fame, thanks to his passionate soul-filled vocals and his sick guitar playing. Rolling Stone calls him “The Chosen One,” and many big names praise him for his skills.

Legendary guitarist Eric Clapton said Clark rejuvenated his love of playing guitar.

“I wrote him a letter,” Clapton said, “Saying, ‘Thank you– you make me want to play again.'”

Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, whom Clark has played with numerous times, said he’s a great mix if blues and rock.

“He’s billed as a kind of blues singer, but sometimes he sounds like early Bruce Springsteen,” Jagger said. “And I’m not putting it down!”

But Clark doesn’t see himself that way.

Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr. (photo via The Current)

“There is pressure,” he told Rolling Stone. “Coming from Austin, there are so many guitar players there. And here I am playing the Garden. It still doesn’t feel fair.”

Although he doesn’t see himself as the next guitar hero, he loves him some superheros.

“Batman is my favorite superhero of all time,” Clark said. “My mother had this black robe that I thought would be amazing for a cape. I ran around my neighborhood telling everybody I was Batman. Jump off my roof holding the cape thinking that I would fly and then just hit the ground.”

And he showed us his super powers in his rendition of “Come Together.” Take a listen below…

The Story Of How Iggy Pop Declined ‘The Doors’ Offer To Replace Jim Morrison

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If a band that impacted you one day asked you to join their band as lead singer, you’d take it. I think we all would.

Iggy Pop
Iggy Pop had a chance to join The Doors as Jim Morrison’s replacement, but he said no…

James Newell Osterberg, Jr., a.k.a. Iggy Pop, first saw The Doors in concert in 1967, and that’s when he was inspired. He saw front man Jim Morrison being himself on stage — crude, darkly energetic, entertaining — and took notes, apparently.

That concert, which was at a homecoming dance at the University of Michigan, is where it all started for Pop. That’s where Pop found the inspiration for his own crazy and controversial stage performances as the front man for The Stooges.

“Here’s this guy, out of his head on acid, dressed in leather with his hair all oiled and curled,” Pop said in 2011. “It got confrontational. Part of me was like, ‘Wow, this is great. He’s really pissing people off and he’s lurching around making these guys angry.’”

And the other part of him was like, I need to do this.

So he started The Stooges in 1967, two years after The Doors formed.

And then when Morrison died in 1971, The Doors, seeking to continue on with a new captain, asked Pop to join them as their lead singer.

But Pop had more respect than that.

The Doors
Jim Morrison on The Ed Sullivan Show

He declined, saying trying to live in the late Morrison’s shadow was just disrespectful. He said he wasn’t going to do a “ghoulish impersonation.”

“What’s wrong with me?” Pop said. “Why do you need Jim Morrison?”

Just think, if Iggy Pop had said yes, we might still be able to see The Doors in concert today, even though they’d be a completely different band.

Below you can listen to Iggy Pop describe his experience with Morrison…

The Story Of Freddy Mercury Writing “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” When He Was Naked

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Queen went to Germany in June 1979 to start recording The Game. One of the songs was born in a bathtub.

Queen
photo via Rolling Stone

Freddie Mercury proved to be an amazing songwriter and arranger, with songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Are The Champions.”

Often we don’t get a look into a songwriter’s creative process. But with Mercury’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” we do know how it came to him.

After Queen checked into their hotel in Munich, Mercury hopped into the bath to wash of the grime you collect when you travel. That’s when– in that soapy tub of water– a melody came to him.

It had a rockabilly feel to it and tongue-and-cheek lyrics. And it definitely sounded like an Elvis song.

As he sat there in the bathtub, he asked his assistant, Peter Hince, to grab a guitar for him. He wrapped a towel around himself, took the guitar, and started forming the song.

Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury was the mastermind behind one of Queen’s biggest hits “Bohemian Rhapsody”

“‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ took me five or 10 minutes,” Mercury told Melody Maker in 1981. “I did that on the guitar, which I can’t play for nuts, and in one way it was quite a good thing because I was restricted, knowing only a few chords. It’s a good discipline because I simply had to write within a small framework. I couldn’t work through too many chords and because of that restriction I wrote a good song, I think.”

Once he nailed down the structure of the song, he called the studio they were going to use to tell engineer Reinhold Mack to get ready to record. Mercury threw on some clothes and ran over to the studio.

“I was very quick and had everything set up in almost no time,” Mack said.

When Mercury got there, the only band member absent was Brian May. Despite this, Mercury pushed forward. He actually was glad May’s perfectionism was not present.

“Quickly, let’s finish it before Brian gets here, otherwise it takes a little longer,” he said.

And sure enough, the song was pretty much done by the time May arrived.

“Brian isn’t going to like it,” Mercury said.

And he was right. May didn’t like it.

“I wasn’t happy,” May said. “I kicked against it, but I saw that it was the right way to go.”

As it turns out, it was the right way to go. The song came out as a pre-album single– it quickly flew to No. 1 worldwide.

Roger Taylor remembered that whole ordeal.

“We were still making the record, we hadn’t nearly finished the album,” he said. “We were going out in Munich and someone came up and said, ‘It’s gone to Number One in America.’ And we were going, ‘Yeah! More drinks!'”

The Rolling Stones: Our Album Is A “Load Of Sh*t” And So Is The Beatles’

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Many people may not realize this, but lots of rock bands regret albums they’ve released. The Stones are one of those bands.

The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones’ “Satanic Majesties” album cover (photo via Feel Numb)

It’s a fact that The Rolling Stones followed in the footsteps of The Beatles. First, Paul McCartney claimed it was so.

“I don’t rub it in because I know the guys,” McCartney said of The Stones. “But, however, you look at the history of it all: The Beatles come to America, a year later the Stones come to America. …We’d go psychedelic, they’d go psychedelic.”

Then Mick Jagger confirmed it.

“[The Beatles] were both rivals and they were also … showing the way because they were the first…” Jagger said. “I admired them for that because they were sort of trailblazers in a lot of ways. They went to the United States first, they showed the way, they were big international stars.”

The Beatles
The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album cover (photo via Genius)

So, following this way of doing things, after The Beatles dropped their psychedelic album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Stones released their own version of it, Their Satanic Majesties Request. 

This is ironic because Keith Richards said Sgt. Pepper was “a mishmash of rubbish.”

And, understandably, The Stones hated Satanic Majesties.

“There’s a lot of rubbish on Satanic Majesties,” Jagger said in the book According To The Rolling Stones. “Just too much time on our hands, too many drugs, no producer to tell us, ‘Enough already, thank you very much.'”

Likewise, Richards said if The Beatles could make a terrible record, so could The Stones.

‘Oh, if you can make a load of sh*t,” he said, “so can we.”

Below, you can “enjoy” the entire “load of sh*t” that apparently is the Satanic Majesties album.

John Lennon’s True Murderers: Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and Stephen King?

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On December 8, 1980, the rock world mourned the loss of The Beatles’ John Lennon. Although Mark David Chapman is serving the jail sentence, was he the actual brains behind the murder?

John Lennon murder
image via LennonMurderTruth.com

Earlier that day, John Lennon had actually autographed Chapman’s copy of Double Fantasy, Lennon and Yoko Ono’s album. Chapman, thinking he would acquire Lennon’s fame by killing him, pulled out a pistol and fired five shots.

It’s clear he was the one who did the deed, but were there other people behind this murder? Did someone put Chapman up to it?

Conspiracy theorists, namely the man behind LennonMurderTruth.com, claims it was not just Chapman who planned to do away with Lennon. No, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and Stephen King were all in on it too.

That conspiracy theorist, Steve Lightfoot, cites “government codes,” King’s writings, including letters King apparently sent him, and Nixon’s book.

John Lennon
John Lennon in 1963 (photo via ArtStack)

But his golden ticket is the picture published in Newsweek showing Lennon signing that autograph for Chapman. Only it’s not Chapman, says Lightfoot. It’s King.

He says Newsweek used a fuzzy photograph in order to hide the fact that it was King and that Chapman was simply a King look alike. He says King was posing as Chapman so he could shoot Lennon, then on his way to the police station after his arrest, he somehow switched places with Chapman. Chapman then confessed to the whole thing and King continued on with his life.

And then Lightfoot somehow ties in Reagan and Nixon to the master plan, citing Nixon’s book The Real War.

But this theory means that not only were Reagan, Nixon, and King in cahoots, but also Newsweek, the arresting police officers, and others in the government had to be in on it. All for what? To kill a peace-loving rock star?

Call me skeptical. But I’d rather be skeptical than lunatic.

 

 

The Conspiracy Theory Of The Beatles Going Undercover To Form This Prog-Rock Band

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Ever hear of Klaatu? Probably not. And The Beatles, apparently, preferred it that way.

The Beatles
Did The Beatles go undercover as a progressive-rock band in the 70’s?

In 1966, a critic writing for Providence Journal claimed The Beatles went undercover to form a progressive rock band under a different name.

It all started in 1966 when The Beatles supposedly recorded a follow-up record to Revolver. But as the theory goes, that record never came out because the tapes were lost.

Then in 1975 is when Klaatu enters this story.

The Beatles
Klaatu’s album cover

This Canadian prog-rock band formed in 1973, and they did sound a lot like The Beatles. Then two years later, The Fab Four’s lost tapes were discovered. So they decided to release the new found record under the pseudonym Klaatu as a tribute to the “late” Paul McCartney (see the “Paul Is Dead” Conspiracy Theory“).

All of this started with the Providence Journal writer. What made him come to these conclusions?

First, the album credits listed no band members, and therefore, no songwriting credits. There were no production credits. The record had no photos of the band.

Also, the name Klaatu comes from the movie The Day The Earth Stood Still, in which an alien named Klaatu commands his robot Gort to stop hurting people. And on Ringo Starr’s Goodnight Vienna album, we can see Starr exiting the spaceship from that film and standing next to the robot Gort.

There are a ton more reasons that conspiracy theorists use to say Klaatu was actually The Beatles.

However, by Klaatu’s third album, the band members’ had revealed their identities. For the most part, people have lost interest in this conspiracy theory because, well, it’s so obviously false.

But it is definitely true that they sound very similar to The Beatles– in their songwriting, melodies, production, and even voices.

You can take a listen below to a medley of their tops songs.