Tuesday, May 15, 2012

One More Time Around: More Dylan Talk with Gene Lafond

This Friday, May 18, the Armory Arts and Music Center is hosting a benefit concert to raise money and awareness for the renovation of the Duluth Armory. Scarlet Rivera, who recorded with Dylan in 1975 and traversed the land with the Rolling Thunder Revue, will be on stage with Gene LaFond and the Wild Unknown.

May 7 I posted part one of a very warm conversation I had with Geno, as his friends call him, on the topic of all things Dylan. Here is another portion of that conversation.

Geno: I’ve been trying to learn several new songs for this gig and man, it’s a lot of work. I need a teleprompter. Scarlet’s excited. There’s a couple from Desire, one from Oh Mercy that we’re going to do. I think we’re going to do "Man with a Long Black Coat."

EN: "Most of the Time" is one my favorites.

GL: Oh, I forgot about that. I love that song.  I love singing it. It’s not just his lyrics which are incredible, but the way he can put music to it. He’s not just cranking out another blues song or whatever. It all fits so well.

I don’t know how he does it. I’m lucky if I get one or two a year. He probably writes one or two a day.

We’d be walking down the street and I’d see him pull out a little piece of paper that’s just jammed with words, and he’d start writing something down and put it back in his pocket.

It’s an honor to have been able to do that. But I have to credit to Larry. I wouldn’t have been able to be part of all that if it weren’t for Larry. He and Bob were very close friends. Larry broke his neck when he was sixteen and he was in the hospital for a long time. Bob would visit and bang on the piano. Then one day he said, “I’m going to New York” and Larry said, “You’re crazy. You’ve got to get a job. You’re flunking out of school.” And Bob said, “No, I’m going to New York to make music. That’s what I was born to do.”

EN: If it’s O.K. I’d like to hear your impressions of some of his albums. Let’s start with the first one.

GL: I remember hearing it when I was fifteen or sixteen at the time. I remember my parents had an old console record player and I remember laying on the floor with my ear to the speaker and saying, “Holy mackerel, who is this guy?” I remember having the feeling, “This is the brother I never had.”  That’s a fabulous album.

EN: Second album: Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

GL: He was really on fire at that time. Those albums… it’s just amazing.

EN: Times They Are A-Changin’

GL: How do you write something like that, I just don’t know. He was certainly on fire, no question about it.

EN: Another Side of Bob Dylan

GL: I think what has impressed me most is his total confidence, the way he sings a song with total confidence…. And it just makes it come alive. He’s not about to let things go.  I’ve been told that there are lots of songs in the vault that never got recorded.  Who knows how much there is, but when he passes there will probably be a lot of new stuff coming out.

EN: Bringing It All Back Home / Highway 61 Revisited / Blonde on Blonde

GL: I can remember being into folk music when I was young and I remember thinking, “Oh man, what’s he doing playing electric guitar?” It took me about two or three times of listening before I said, “Oh yeah.” That’s what he’s doing.”

That’s happened to me several times where I’ve listened to an album once and say gee, I don’t know. It takes a while to sink in.

EN: How about the bands he played with over the years?

GL: They were professionals. He hired the best there is.

EN: You were also with him during his Gospel period and then Infidels.

GL: We went into the studio in New York with him at that time and hung out while he was mixing the album. I remember he brought us into the studio and played a song called “Angels Flying Too Close to the Ground.” I’d never heard it before, and I think it had only been released in Europe and I said, “Oh Bob, that’s the best thing you’ve ever written.” He looks at me with this scowl and says, “I didn’t write that. That was Willie Nelson.”  I laugh about it now but I was embarrassed as hell.

EN: There’s still so much great material coming out in later years. Time Out of Mind won a grammy. Love and Theft, Modern Times, Together Through Life

GL: You wonder why he keeps pushing himself like that, but he says, “It’s a business. I’ve got a lot of people who depend on me.”

I say, “You’ve got such stamina.”

He says, “No, stamina is guys like you who get up every day at six and go to the same job day after day. Me, I’ve got this beautiful bus and they take care of me and they feed me and I go from town to town and play my songs and they give me a bucket of money. That doesn’t take stamina.”

Gene Lafond and the Wild Unknown with Scarlet Rivera at the Cabooze
I hope you'll join us when Gene Lafond and the Wild Unknown perform here with Scarlet Rivera at Weber Hall, UMD on Friday evening. It’s a truly great venue and an opportunity to contribute to the restoration of the historic Armory here. Tickets for the concert, if still available by the time you read this, can be found at Ticketworks.com. And if the show is sold out, let me know. I still might be able to get you one.

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