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Once a fan, always a fan: a report on the “most over the top” Levon Helm Midnight Ramble ever

“Tonight is going to be the most over the top Ramble we have ever had.”

Damn straight, Barbara. Damn straight.

That was the statement that Levon Helm’s manager and Midnight Ramble host, Barbara O’Brien, made when she kicked off the night’s festivities.   I had already experienced the Ramble twice in 2011; I went back on 3rd December hoping that the third time would be a charm. It was.

I am from New Hampshire, but I now  live in London, UK. I flew in specifically for each of the Rambles I attended this year. For the most recent one I flew in just for the weekend: landed in Boston on Thursday night and flew back to London on Sunday night.  It is a long way to travel just for a gig, but this is not just a gig …  it is a full-on, bow-down music experience.

My first Ramble was on 29th January, 2011. I wrote an exhaustive story detailing every bit of that experience [read it here].  That Sunday morning when I was pulling out of Woodstock I felt … satisfied. Attending a Ramble is like one massive exhale.  Afterwards you feel exhausted and excited and then you start to feel a bit anxious: “I have to do that again!”

(“once you get it, you can’t forget it … “)

After my second Ramble [8th August] I had them old anxious-blues again and was looking for an excuse to get in the big bird and fly back to Woodstock, N.Y. to visit ol’ Levon and friends again.  And then I found my it: Dawes.

In late October I received my handy Levon email newsletter. It told me that Dawes would be opening up for Levon at the 3rd December Midnight Ramble. Hot Damn!  Dawes was the perfect band to play in Levon’s barn.  If you know of Dawes, then you would agree with me and would know full-well why I immediately bought two tickets to that Ramble even before checking on international flights.

If you don’t know Dawes, watch this:

Okay, now you see what I mean. This band wears that old timely, band as a family, pass the jug, the music matters most ethos that  permeated throughout the sweet-spot era in Laurel Canyon and up state New York way back when.  As expected, Dawes were perfect for the Midnight Ramble. I’ll jump ahead in the story a bit here …  before Dawes lit into the third song of their set, Taylor, the lead singer and guitarist and brother of drummer Griffin, said this to the audience: “when we first started out, our manager asked us what our goals were as a band. One of them was to play here at the Midnight Ramble.” And with that, he flashed a big shit-eating grin and they tore into the balls-out sing-a-long, “When My Time Comes.”

At one point or another we are all fans. We all start out as fans and then some fans make the jump from fan to musician, or whatever … professional chef, athlete, actor … whatever. But, once a fan, always a fan.  That’s the beauty of it all … being a fan … you never lose that spark of what got you juiced enough to sing-a-long, follow the tour or to once and for all, pick up that guitar and start a strummin’.

Me and Dawes, we were both in Woodstock for the same reason: the experience that is the Ramble. The only difference is that they were playing and I wasn’t.  You could see their fan-roots when they played and when they were hanging out during Levon’s band’s set and singing along with the rest of the packed house.

There were other fans in the room, too. At the outset of the night when Barbara made her proclamation of “greatest Ramble ever,” she also told us we were in for a few surprises that evening.  She wasn’t lying. The shit hit the fan after Dawes completed the fourth song of their set, “Twilight“, a cover of a classic Band song: Jackson Browne came out on to the floor. Jackson and Dawes had been touring and recording together earlier this year. Seeing him come up with Dawes  made sense, but still, it was a welcome surprise. The place erupted.

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“Once you Get it, You Can’t Forget It”: My Levon Helm Midnight Ramble Experience

note: originally posted on on 14th February, 2011

Once you get it, you can’t forget it.

I had a standing-room-only ticket. Not having a ticket for a seat made me edgy. I get frenzied about making sure I have the right perspective, the right positioning for any gig I attend. I get shark attack frenzied when the gig in question means as much as this one.

At 7pm they opened the door to let us in. Walking up the stairs to enter the studio I was juiced-up with equal parts anticipation, anxiousness and flat out awe. I had made it; this was the real-deal and it was about to happen, but before it did I had to find my spot.

I am in the studio now. Actually, it is a barn that doubles as a studio. The space inside is generous, but feels cozy. It is rustic, but not old. It is timber-framed and held together by wooden pegs and bluestone pulled from local Woodstock quarries. It was made by local craftsman, out of the kindness of their hearts. By the end of the night, the structure proves to be the perfect foil for the near perfect acoustics. The lights are dimmed low and give off the feeling of a cathedral full of glowing candles. It feels safe inside; a place to kick-back, sit a spell and take a load off.

There is a mezzanine hanging over the performance floor that accommodates both seating and standing. I decide this would be a good place to get a bird’s-eye view of the night’s entertainment and I go upstairs to get a look.

On my way to the stairs I pass by a massive stone fireplace complete with roaring fire and people chatting and warming themselves in it’s heat. When I get upstairs, I peer out over the balcony; although it feels as though I am directly on top of the band, it is still too far away; I need to feel connected.  I spy a platform in back of where the band is set to play. It hovers over the performance floor. That is my spot.

To get to this spot I walk by a few guys wearing yellow shirts: the security. In truth, they are less about security and more about accommodation. There is a set of stated and unwritten rules for the event. If you are there for the event, you aren’t there to break them. Security governs the stated; the attendees honor the unwritten.

I point up to where I intend to go and question the security guy about “my spot.”

“Is that a good place to be for the show?”

“Anyplace in here is a good place for the show,” he said with a grin.

“Yeah, but I will be behind the band. I don’t want to miss anything.”

“You’re inside, aren’t ‘cha? You’re not gonna miss a thing.”

“Okay, man, I’ll take your word on it.”

“You’re not gonna miss a thing,” he said again and he assures me of that with a solid pat on the back as I walk up the stairs to my night’s perch. So off I go to my spot. My road to the Ramble had started over twenty years ago. These last few steps felt like a homecoming.

There I was, standing within six feet of my host and hero, Levon Helm. I was about to take in my first Levon Helm Midnight Ramble, the good time event that has been the lifeblood pumping through the heart of one of America’s greatest music makers for as long as he can remember.

In Martin Scorsese’s classic film about The Band, The Last Waltz, Levon Helm talked about the Midnight Rambles of his youth.

“After the finale, they’d have the midnight ramble,” Helm told Scorsese. “With young children off to bed, the festivities resumed, but with a rowdier feel: the songs would get a little bit juicier, the jokes would get a little funnier and the prettiest dancer would really get down and shake it a few times.”

Check out this very clip from the flick: Levon explains the Midnight Ramble.

These Rambles were offshoots of early 20th century traveling medicine shows. The medicine show was a roving band of storytellers, scheisters and showman. For the most part, they peddled “snake oil” or “miracle elixirs” that were touted for a variety of uses: good for keeping you fit, trimming fat or for curing whatever fate people thought they were doomed to.

Entertainment was the other product these shows were selling. Most often these quack medicine profiteers would also serve as a source of ribald and rowdy entertainment for the locals. Minstrels, dancers and jokesters were part of the troupe and they kept the parties roaring well into the night.

Growing up in Arkansas in the 1940’s and 50’s, Levon experienced his share of medicine shows and rambles. Those influences proved indelible. He’s been playing out these images and instances in the music he’s made with his kin, The Band, his solo work and now, in his own home at The Midnight Ramble, for over six decades.

One of the most obvious examples of this influence can be found in The Band’s classic tune, W.S. Wolcott’s Medicine Show.

Once you get it,
You can’t forget it.
The W.S. Wolcott Medicine show

The same can be said for the first time you encounter the music of Levon Helm: once you get it, you can’t forget it.

Catch a Cannonball

Back in 1987 I was a sophomore in high school. I was ambitious and curious as all hell; I was always peering around corners. I had my interests and one of them was music. Actually, music wasn’t so much an interest as it was an anchor. Like any good sixteen year old I was impressionable and wanted to be part of the scene. So much happening all around me and there was so much that I wanted to be a part of. I needed something to latch on to help me make sense of it all to identify with something and to create an identity for myself. That was when the music started to play.

I was at this party – a “senior” party. I felt a bit out of place, but wanted to be part of the scene at all costs. I spent the night moving around to and from one of three spots: my wallflower outpost in the corner of the room, the line for the keg and the stereo. I paid very close attention to what was happening at the stereo.

Music was my “cool-magnet”. I figured that if you had good music you would attract all things cool. This one guy that night proved that point. He was obviously experienced at manning the music and manipulating the mood of the room. He was popping mix tapes in and out of the dual cassette player all night long (remember, this is the ‘80’s). The crowd loved it. I loved it. The crowd seemed to know all of the tunes. I hardly knew any of them.

As far as I was concerned, this guy was the shit. The chicks were digging him, the guys were backslapping him and the music fuelled the party all night long. I had to get my hands on those mix tapes.

Before I left that night, I stumbled over to the stereo. There were mix tapes piled up on top of it. I stabbed my hand into the pile, pulled out a random tape and jammed it into my pocket. Aside from the fact I was too drunk to pick up chicks, the only thing I wanted to score that night was one of those mix tapes.

The next morning I woke up and tried to shake off the prior night. A few hours later, I found the mix tape in my coat pocket. Yes! I had forgotten all about that brazen act of thievery. I was feeling proud of myself. There in my hand was a key into the Kingdom of Cool.

The tape was rewound to the beginning of “Side B” (remember, this is the ‘80’s). I dropped it into the deck and pressed play. Those first handful of seconds of silence before the music played felt like forever. I had no idea what was going to come out of the speakers, but, based on my perceived importance of this tape, I anticipated something monumental. I was nowhere near ready for what happened next.

Euphoria is a sneaky bastard. It is unexpected. It is like nothing you have felt before. It is a point of no return. When it hits you, it packs a wallop not unlike that of a jarring sledgehammer blow.

This is exactly what it felt like twenty-three years ago when I first heard The Band’s, The Weight, come lopping out of the speakers.

I had heard The Band before, but I had never actually listened to them. I was still in the huge chords, thumping drums, wailing solos phase of my rock and roll education. The Band’s low-key, solo-less, textured music had never cut through the cacophony of all that wailing and soloing for me.

At that moment all those years ago, alone in my room, listening to that mix tape, The Band had my attention, especially the guy singing the lead vocals; his voice cut straight to the bone.

The song started off with that anaemic, tinkering, Far East-esque guitar sound, the plodding drums and that little flourish of piano. Then, without any hint of warning, it all gave way to that rich, caramel-y, road weary voice. That was it for me. The voice was overpowering. It took control of the song and it commanded my attention. I was certainly willing to give it.

I had no idea what Levon Helm was singing about and I didn’t care. It was the delivery and the presence of the voice that struck me. It felt like the truth. Straight away I believed in it. I wanted to hear everything it had to say and every story it had to tell.

For the next twenty minutes or so, I kept rewinding those first few verses just to hear Levon sing. For the next twenty years I didn’t stop listening to Levon and learning about where his sound came from.

A Vital Part of Their Lives

I am a passionate music fan. The music I love means a lot to me. I am passionate about listening to it, learning about it, swapping stories about it, experiencing it live and sharing it. That first euphoric sledgehammer experience I had with Levon and The Weight so many years ago had a profound impact on me. It changed the way I thought about, listened to and identified with (my kind of) music. It turned me into a true music fan.

I realised that, especially with the music that Levon made, it wasn’t just about the song, it was about the stories and people and shared communal experiences behind the songs that gave the songs their true meaning and purpose. Whether or not the songs actually meant something in a literal or cloaked sense (e.g. “Paul is dead”) wasn’t the point. Where the songs and feel of the music came from and what they were influenced by, resonated with me more than anything.

There are a couple of passages in Peter Guralnick’s epic book, Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm & Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom, that ring true. In the first, Guralnick describes the meaning of the music, where it came from and why the (learned) listener connected with the singer’s message.

[They] sing music from the heart; music that is deeply engraved in their background and experience. All make reference to this in one way or another; all recall a boyhood in the country, on the farm, a sharply delineated group of men and women who grew up in circumstances probably very much like their own, who responded to the music not just as entertainment but as a vital part of their lives.

For people like me – a complete foreigner to this way of life – it is this intriguing and curious background and experience that draws me to the music. As someone who cannot truly understand the meaning and origins on a first hand basis, I can only lean into it to learn and appreciate it for what it is musically and the message I derive from it.

Again, I will call on Guralnick to provide clarity:

To appreciate that kind of commitment [of these men and women], though, you have to be prepared to make a commitment of your own. What is involved is a kind of leap of faith on the listener’s part, willingness to extend his or her own horizons and break out of the passive restraints that an evolving society has imposed upon us. What is involved is engagement.

Engagement: I am chock full of that. Engagement is my way of giving back. I have made many leaps of faith for the music I am drawn to. Levon’s music – the message within, the stories and characters – has been drawing me closer and closer to it for sometime now. I could not think of a way to get any closer to it than to (finally!) go to the source.

The Road to the Ramble

Levon lives in Woodstock, NY, the spiritual home and caretaker of the late ’60s ethos of peace, harmony and community. He has lived there since he and the rest of The Band grew roots in the basement of Big Pink to brew their own special blend of old timey, sepia toned music.  While most of the rest of the world has turned on the digital trappings of the information super-highway, Woodstock remains an off the beaten path, back-roads kinda town.


If you want to get to a Ramble, you are going to have to take a few back-roads. People have been making the jaunt to Levon’s barn since the first Ramble in 2003. If necessity is the mother of invention, the Ramble is its fortune son.

In the late ’90s, Levon fell on hard times. He was forced into bankruptcy to save his home. He was diagnosed with throat cancer and went into a lengthy recovery process. Because of this, his career took a backseat to his survival. He was in danger of losing everything: his long time home, his legendary voice and his ability to connect with his fans.

In the meantime, the people closest to him – his friends, family and the local Woodstock community – never stopped caring. They came together to help build Levon’s barn, the Grammy winning recording studio and home of this modern day Ramble. They put his career back on track and restored his place as living legend with two Grammy winning albums, 2007’s Dirt Farmer and 2009’s Electric Dirt. Levon, though not without hardship and heath struggles, was back where he belonged: making music with friends and family and sharing the good times with those who cared to be a part of it.

I have cared about being a part of Levon’s Ramble for quite some time. I’m New Hampshire born and bred; I sat a spell in Rhode Island; I spent a handful of years in Boston; since 2005 I have been living in Australia and, currently, London, England. The Ramble always seemed just out of arm’s reach.

Finally I decided that no distance was too far and I bought my (standing room only) ticket for the 29 January Ramble.


On the morning of the 29th, I picked up my rental car in Boston, Massachusetts. I was headed west to New York State in search of good music, community and a sense of belonging; I was taking my leap of faith.

Ah, a good ol’ American road trip: the affirmation of our freedom to roam from coast to coast. The earliest settlers roamed to this new land from the east. The next wave of roamers, pioneers, took that great big road trip out west and unified the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Along the way they sang songs and played music to keep themselves entertained and their minds off the hardships of the road. Music was part of their community bond. They may have been traveling many miles from home and into uncharted territory, but the singing and the music kept them connected to everything that meant something.

Fortunately I wasn’t driving a covered wagon, but I was going to be listening to music on my ride  – a lot of it. Prior to my trip I had asked a bunch of friends, followers and fellow music heads to help a brother out by collaborating on a playlist for my trip.

We are all subscribers to the online music subscription service, Rdio. At will, everyone added tunes to the playlist. My only rules were that the songs had to either evoke the spirit of the music that Levon made, and if they did not, the songs had to have personal meaning for whomever added them.

The Road to the Ramble Playlist:

The cross-curated collection of songs was bow-down good. We ended up with over four hours of music that would fuel my ride across Massachusetts and up through the back roads of Woodstock. Even though I was making this road trip solo, I never really felt like I was alone. I had good tunes to keep me company: handpicked by trusted and like-minded members of my music fan community.

With a steady pace and a steady stream of sing-along songs pouring out of the speakers, I rollicked and rolled from east to west, highway to backroads and straight into Woodstock…


Come on out and catch the show (all kinds a people you might want to know)

They open up the parking lot to Levon’s place at 6pm. The doors to the studio, to get inside the barn, open at 7pm. The Ramble doesn’t start until 8pm, but they allow you to get on the property a bit early to get comfortable.

When you drive up to Levon’s house, there are no billboards, markers or giant, flashing neon arrows pointing and proclaiming, “This Way to Levon’s!”  You have to understand this: you are going to Levon’s house. This isn’t the Verizon Center or the local amphitheatre; this is Levon’s home, where he lives year round. To approach the house is akin to driving through your own neighborhood. When you get to his driveway, the only hint that it is Levon’s place is the mailbox with the numbers “160” on it (he lives on 160 Plochmann Lane).

I am driving on Plochmann Lane, I have The Band’s Live album Rock of Ages playing and I am excited. I pull in to the driveway and head down to the check-in at the bottom where I am met by Jeff who welcomes me with sincere enthusiasm. He asks for my surname and goes off to find my ticket.

“Is this your first Ramble, Judd?” (he has made sure to read my name off my ticket before he makes it back to my car window)

“Yes, it is and I’m happy as all hell to be here.”

“Well we are sure happy to have you.”

He gives me a few instructions on seating and sends me off to park. It is January and it’s bitterly cold. I drive thirty yards to the parking lot and I am met by another gentlemen, bundled tightly and warming himself by a small fire nearby. He welcomes me, wishes me a good night and then points me to where I should park.

I am one of the first people to arrive. I want to soak it all in – all of it – and I want to take my time. I make my way to the barn to get on line. Before I do, I make a stop into the “General Store”. The General Store sits directly underneath the performance area located upstairs in the studio. It is a no frills setting: part storage area, part merchandise stand, part makeshift buffet.

In my hand is a pumpkin pie. One of the reasons why the Ramble is so special is that it is not a concert per se, rather it is a community gathering. When you visit the Ramble you are encouraged to bring food to share with others: baked good, side dishes, sandwiches or what ever else you like. Before the opening act, at intermission and after the show everyone is welcome to grab some food and shoot the shit with the other guests.

Geanine works the merch table and asks me my name and what I have brought.

“It is a pumpkin pie that I bought at the local bakery.”

“Oh, great! We love their pumpkin pie. You’ll make fast friends around these parts with that. Let me get that for you.”

I ask her if she can help me with buying a few bits of merchandise.

“Absolutely! Wait, I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name? Who are you and where did you come from?”

I tell her my name and I tell her I made the trip from London, but I’m really from N.H. and so forth and so on. Before I realize it, we’ve had a fifteen-minute chat, just getting acquainted. She is making me feel like I belong, like I am a friend of the family. I feel welcome and I feel at home. The true colors of the Ramble are starting to show.


I head back outside and get in line; I am close to thirty people deep. There is a couple behind me; it is the husband’s fortieth birthday. I congratulate him on the fact that he made it to forty and that he made it to the Ramble. He says he has been planning this for a few years now; it is a special occasion.

There is a woman walking up to the line with two large trays covered with aluminum foil. She made two lasagnas and is trying to figure out where she can put them. I point out the General Store and offer to help her carry one of the trays. On the way to the food tables she tells me that her kids “love her lasagna.” She says she only makes it on special occasions.

There is a group of 8-10 people standing in front of me. They are all baby boomers. They saw The Band together in the early ‘70s and they were reuniting at tonight’s Ramble to talk old times and see if they could strike up some of those old sparks. They are having a great time. They don’t get together often; they do so only on special occasions.

I’m standing outside Levon’s house and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. I’m thinking of that ear-opening day back when I was a sophomore in high school  – the day I first really listened to Levon sing. From that moment on I stopped listening to music and started to experience it. I started to explore and seek it out.

I made my way to Clarksdale, Mississippi and up to the West Side of Chicago where I found Charlie Patton and Otis Rush. While in Chicago I stopped by 2120 South Michigan Avenue to check in on Wolf and Muddy and Chuck and Bo. Then I travelled on up to Detroit Michigan where I boogied with John Lee Hooker. I hopped a couple of Greyhounds down to Memphis where I looked in the front window of Sun Records and caught a glimpse of Johnny Cash playing the boom-chicka-boom for Mr. Phillips. I stuck out a thumb and hitched a ride to 926 East McLemore Avenue in South Memphis, home of Stax Records, where I listened in on Booker T. & The MGs back up Otis Redding on hit after hit. I went to Muscle Shoals, L.A., Texas, New York, Boston, Topanga Canyon and all points in between.

Now I am inside the studio, inside Levon’s house. I have found my spot. I am standing within six feet of my host and hero, Levon Helm. I am about to take in my first Midnight Ramble. This is definitely a special occasion.

The crowd is just as important as the group. It takes everything to make it work. – Levon Helm

From where I am standing it feels like I have a backstage pass. I am behind the band, but it is not awkward. There are people all around me, above me, behind me, to the right and left of me and in front of me. We are everywhere.

The people seated in the front row are practically part of the band. They could reach out and grab Larry Campbell’s mic stand. The person sitting to Levon’s left could rest his elbows on his drum kit. We are part of the band.

There are no boundaries, no separation between the artists and the crowd. Each and every one of us in the room is performing tonight. We are part of the experience.

The night’s opening act takes the mic. He is Steve Guyger, harmonica player extraordinaire. He is an old friend of Levon. He and Levon haven’t seen one another in many years. When they greet each other later that night, they pause the performance long enough to hug and back-slap and have a quick catch-up. No one minds the break in the action. It warms the heart to see two old buddies reconnect. We are fortunate to witness it.

The harmonica man brings a guitar player with him, Richard Ray Farrell. They are the torchbearers, carrying on the tradition of roaming from town to town, from big halls to small juke joints, to play the blues for the people. They play and we clap and sing. We all share in the fun.

The traveling blues duo take a bow. It’s time for the Levon Helm Band to take the floor. It would be more appropriate to call them a family rather than a band. There is Levon, the father figure of the group. His daughter Amy, a stunning vocalist and talented instrumentalist in her own right, is also part of the act.

Larry Campbell, legendary sideman, producer of Levon’s solo albums, and world-class talent on various stringed instruments is the band leader. His wife, Teresa Williams is the other golden throat in this group, as well as a mighty fine rhythm guitar player.

The rest of the band includes Brian Mitchell, the multi-talented accordionist, piano man, keyboardist and vocalist, Jim Weider, long time Levon collaborator and The Band Mach II guitarist, as well as a handful of horn players who take on the roles of cousins, nephews and in-laws.

The band takes the stage and gives Levon room to make his entrance. This is who we came to see. He comes in to the studio from the side of the room. He is smiling and waving to his guests. His build seems slight, but his stride to his drum kit is cock-sure.

He walks through the crowd, shaking hands and giving a thumbs-up to everyone he can’t reach. He props himself up on his stool, pulls the mic close and says, “yeah, baby!” It’s time for the fun to begin. We all whoop and holler back at him. I can feel the smile on my face growing, skin stretching and then, whammo!, that familiar Levon euphoria feeling hits me – again.

Levon grabs his sticks, gives a nod to Larry and then counts off the first song of the night. Like most families, this group is tight. They have been doing this for a while and it shows. The music starts with a classic Band song, The Shape I’m in. Based on the way everyone plays, they are all in great shape.

I am up on my perch, directly to Levon’s right. I can see his every move. I pay close attention to his technique. What he lacks in voice tonight, he makes up for with pure hell fire playing on the drums. He is driving this band. He is not just drums, he is lead drums.

The cancer has permanently altered Levon’s voice. It is not the same sturdy, rich, pitch perfect voice that it was prior to the illness. He sings back-up most of the night, only taking leads on OpheliaW.S. Wolcott and the night’s finale, The Weight. But even on these songs, he doesn’t sing lead entirely.

It doesn’t matter. No one expects a Levon lead vocal straight out of 1972. We aren’t here for his voice; we are here for his vibe. The entire event is a living breathing embodiment of Levon’s vibe. It feels good and it permeates throughout the studio and the crowd all night long.

The band played for over two hours, giving us nearly two dozen songs to dance and sing along to. The music they play is special. You are inspired and compelled to listen to more real music such as this. Lead vocals are traded, solos are played, spotlights are shared. Make no mistake, though, this show is not about standing out; it is about joining in. That goes for the guests, too. We may not have instruments in hand, but we join in with singing, foot stomps, hand claps, cheers and applause.

The sounds we create on this night are a group effort. No one musician, instrument or person, even Levon, will take precedence over the collective. Yes, Levon is the star of the show, but he doesn’t matter more than the music. In fact, just watching Levon play with his friends, you can tell that he understands this and is enjoying the hell out of the sounds we are creating.

Here are a few quick-hit highlights from the performance:

  • You’re Running Wild, a Charlie Louvin cover, performed as a tribute as he recently passed. It sounded very Roy Orbison-y and damn good at that.
  • There were two Grateful Dead covers, Attics of My Life being one of them. It sounded like church in the studio while Larry, Amy and Theresa sang this for us. It felt like a gentle church hymn.
  • Legendary brass-man, Howard Johnson, put down the tuba and took over lead vocal on Get a Little Loving. A fun, fun tune performed in a playful manner.
  • What was my fave rave Band cover of the night? It was a tie between a surprise (to me) Goin’ to Acapulco and a gorgeous duet by Amy and Teresa on It Makes No Difference. Both performed with passion and taste.
  • Amy Helm impressed the hell out of me (and everyone else) with her singing on Good News andReasons. She raised the temp in the studio!
  • Mardi Gras and Bourgeois Town were flat-out party tunes. The horn section was ON FIRE. The brass attack actually took to their feet and marched through the crowd on Mardi Gras.
  • Teresa sang her ass off on Lamps. Equal parts beauty and beast; powerful and pretty. Whew!
  • Larry Campbell – stellar on everything he did – was magnificent on lead vocal for Volver. It was a true highlight. Even Levon gave him a standing ovation.
  • Levon was a powerhouse on the drums: finesse and muscle; down in the groove until the very end.
  • Song #18 was to be either (Don’t want to) Hang Up My Rock ‘n Roll Shoes or Wolcott. Levon called out for Walcott. I would have been happy with either (and I was).
  • The Weight was a group sing-a-long between musicians, staff and guests. Being a part of that last song is a moment I will never forget.


Take what you need and leave the rest

I am prone to hyperbole and sweeping, gushing gestures of fan-boy fervor when I write about the music I love. I am also unapologetic. For that is what being a passionate music fan is all about and I feel very passionate about the experience I shared at Levon’s Midnight Ramble.

I don’t play an instrument and I have never played in a band. But on this night at the Ramble, I felt like I did. I felt like I was part of a performance. I felt like I was creating, contributing and collaborating with everyone in the room. It felt good. It felt harmonious.

Harmonious. That was the word I thought of as I made my way to my car after the performance. Whether it was the singing, the spirit or the setting, harmony was everywhere. It felt good to be a part of that. It felt genuine and authentic. It was a celebration. I was inspired.

All of this harmony comes from Levon himself. Who he is and how he carries himself is synonymous with creating harmonies between family, friends and community. His generosity knows no bounds. He opens up his home and shares his history and traditions and presents it as if it was done just for you. Sure, you could say that he is doing this purely to make a buck, but that is not purely the case here. This effort is earnest and unselfish and an act of trust. He invites us in and allows us to connect with him in ways that is impossible with other artists – or even ourselves.

My Ramble experience got me to thinking about what it is that I truly value and what is most important and what is most frivolous in my life. For the past few years I have been pulling up stakes and moving to places all over the globe. While I wouldn’t trade one moment of all that have I learned and experienced, there are trade-offs: you lose a bit of your connection with friends, family and community.

After the Ramble, I felt like I wanted to reconnect. I felt like I had clarity on what it really is that I aspire to. How I will get there? That is part of the process. Knowing what is important, what is not and what I want to achieve is what matters.

Whew! That is heavy stuff for a concert review. See, that is the thing. As I said earlier, the Ramble is not a concert, it is a community event. It is unlike any concert experience you will ever have. What Levon is sharing with us is how it always was.

The Ramble is what Levon was brought up on. The Ramble is a snapshot of what the music experience was in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in America. The Ramble reflects what this music experience once was and who Levon still is. But what he is, is a bona fide American treasure.

Sadly, these experiences are scarce today. Either that is a good thing, as it makes events like the Ramble that much more sacred. Or, it leaves us feeling extremely disappointed that these essential values that were once part of making and sharing music in this manner are a lost cause on today’s concert scene.

As music fans, we need to continue to foster these types of communal music experiences by celebrating and contributing to them: make the road trip, pay the premium, bring a friend, share the music, write a blog post, do whatever it takes to make these experiences part of a time tested tradition and not a history lesson.

If music is your passion, or community is what you value most, or you just love to celebrate and have fun, you must attend The Midnight Ramble. Take the back roads to Woodstock. Drop your pumpkin pie off at the General Store. Stand in line and make new friends. Get inside and find your spot. Join in with the band. Open up and allow the Ramble to work its magic on you.

Once you let it, you won’t regret it.

“But I love to hear him talk” – The next best thing to hearing Levon Helm Sing

What’s the next best thing to listening to Levon Helm sing? Listening to him talk. When Levon sings he tells great stories. When in conversation, Levon tells stories that sing.

His voice is like a handshake or a pat on the back. It invites you in and tells you to sit a spell. Even after a tussle with throat cancer you can still feel the warmth and welcoming nature in Levon’s way of talking. 

I thought I’d pull a few choice vids off the world wide web cam of Levon telling tales and slinging the drawl. 


A scene from “Classic Albums” – The Band

Are you familiar with the Classic Albums series? If not, lucky you; you are in for a treat. It is a documentary series about albums considered to be the best of of their eras. In each docco, they have the musicians, producers, engineers, managers and the like, tell the stories about how the albums were made. My fave part is when they sit at the mixing board and twiddle the nobs to spotlight a bass line or a vocal. If you are a music nut and haven’t seen these, shame on you.

One of the best episodes focuses on the album “The Band” by The Band. Levon is front and center on this one. I pulled a clip from the docco off of YouTube for you to check out. It’s one of my fave rave scenes of the whole dang thing. 

Pay attention at 5:17 of this clip. John Simon makes a comment to Levon; watch / listen to Levon’s two word response. That kills me every time I see that. He is in the moment and he is loving this. He is a fan of good music and respects and appreciates the small nuances as much as the big crescendos. There is a lot of joy and honesty in his response. I love his laugh and comment at the end of this clip, too.Pure Joy.


A “couch” appearance on Conan O’Brien back in 1993

The interview kicks-in at 3:13, right after Levon and Max Weinberg belt out a rocking version of “Short Fat Fannie”. Levon reeks of humility in this interview conducted by a very fresh faced Conan. When I watched this my mind slipped off into it’s strange and damp places where all the gooey weird thoughts live; it conjured up ugly thoughts of dick-swinging rappers who boast and brag about how much their shit is littered with rose pedals. Who the hell are the kidding?

Thanks Levon for being a humble servant of the sound, stories and sanctity of America’s musical heritage. We owe you one…

A second scene from the “Classic Albums” episode on The Band

Half way through this one, Robbie starts talking about Levon’s drumming / singing style. Jim Keltner chimes in with a bit of awe for how Levon plays the skins. Levon gives us a bit of insight as well. Lest we forget that Levon’s drumming is as revered by musicians as much as his voice is. 

It’s Levon Helm week on The 6149. I am celebrating my first visit to Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble this Saturday with a series of post about the man and his music. Have a read of the ones you may have missed.

The Road to the Ramble: Levon Helm, “Defining Moments” and a Road Trip Playlist

The Rock & Roll Three-Way: The Surprise Guest is the Best (Levon Helm Midnight Ramble Edition)

The Road to the Ramble: Levon Helm, “Defining Moments” and a Road Trip Playlist

There are two types of defining moments in life: those that sneak up on you and those that are built by design. Life is full of both. This story has both. One has happened already and one is about to happen.  My appreciation of the former and the anticipation of the latter cannot be overstated. Though they will take place nearly twenty-four years apart, they are joined at the hip. 

One’s defining moments in life can read like a short list of big accomplishments, a regretful rap sheet or a singular event of chance or choice. The thing I like about defining moments is that they are defined by you. They are personal. What may seem trivial to others is a watershed moment for you. 

This here story that I want to tell is a rushing river that broke my music fan damn all those years ago and is still raging today. 


About a year or so ago, I wrote a three-part blog post called, “The Ballad of the Music Fan and the Stolen Mix Tape.”  It is my story about how I became a real-deal, bonafide, Katy bar the door music fan and gave back to those that helped make it possible. 

 You can cozy up to parts one, two and three with a few cold ones when you have the time. This is how I kicked-off that three-part epic:

 The first time I heard that song, I shut it off almost instantly.  After only fifteen-seconds worth I was long gone. I was equal parts confused, awed and inspired. I remember thinking that maybe I had gotten more than I bargained for. That was the moment I became a true music fan.

Yes, I had heard that song before, but I had never listened to it in the way I did at that moment (surprise!). Shit, that moment is so crystal-clear in my mind it is creepy. 

It was a Saturday morning. It was early spring and the sun was coming though my window. I was sitting at my desk with my portable cassette player (we’re talking 1987‘ish here people). I popped the mix tape I had stolen from the prior night’s party into the slot (it was rewound to “Side B”), slammed the lid and hit play. 


 That song you ask? That song was “The Weight” by The Band.  I still get the chicken skin when I hear the geetar creep on in, the thumping, loping drumming, and most of all, the rich and earthy, wise and weary vocals of Levon Helm.

I am not going to regurgitate that story for you here and now, but I am going to resuscitate it this week in a series of posts leading up to my (designed) defining moment du jour: my visit to Woodstock, NY to attend my first Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble. Hot Damn

How do you know a moment is going to be defining if it hasn’t already happened? Trust me, it will be. Either it is going to be the socks-knocker I anticipate it to be or it is going to a  gut-punch extroidinaire.  I’m going into it with an open mind, if not a wide open filleted heart.  By all music fan accounts that I have heard, I won’t be let down. 

As I write this, I am flying over the Atlantic Ocean about 1,500 miles outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I am going to land in just a few hours, but my trip will be far from over.  I will be holed up in Harvard Square all week for work. On Saturday morning I am going to make the drive from Boston to Woodstock, NY. 

Buy the ticket, take the ride

Seeing as though I have lived outside the States for the past six years, it has been quite some time since I took a good ol’ fashioned American Road Trip. I am looking forward to this one. Unfortunately, the drive …and the Ramble gig… will be a solo trip. Attending The Ramble is a right of passion; it is not for everyone. The people that I know who share my passion for the scene couldn’t make the gig. 

That’s okay, honestly. I have a feeling I own’t be alone anyhow. No good road trip is without great tunes. Here is what I would like from you: I would like your help in collaborating on a playlist for my Ramble Road Trip. 

To make this happen, I have decided to continue with my on Rdio. If you are unfamiliar with Rdio, check out more here. It is an online music subscription service that allows you to pay a monthly fee to access seven million songs that you can add to your personal collection, share with Rdio friends or create collaborative playlists with. You can also sync songs to your iPhone or Android device for on the go “offline” listening.  I plan to do take advantage of the collaborative playlist and offline syncing with this playlist.

We can do this two ways:

If you aren’t an Rdio subscriber, you can offer up song selections in the comment section below. I’ll take those selections and dump them into the running collaborative playlist I have built on Rdio.  

If you are an Rdio subscriber, you can add them to the playlist I have already created on Rdio. 

Here is the only rule for contributing to the playlist: add only songs that you are passionate about or songs that played a part in your own life’s defining moments.  

I only want to hear song that mean something. It doesn’t matter that your specific song means something to you and not to me. As long as I know the songs that are in the playlist are songs that result from music fan passion and defining moments, the message will ring true. 

Some Rdio friends of mine have already been helping out. Here is the Road to the Ramble Playlist thus far:

As I said at the top of this post. Your life’s defining moments are defined by you. What may seem trivial to others may be very meaningful to you. My trip the Ramble is a meaningful moment to me and I’m going to celebrate it. 

I’ll be sharing more Levon/The Band/Woodstock related posts throughout the week. I play journo and come back with a full account of the sounds and the scene from Woodstock. 

I’ll be sure to give your regards to Miss Annie…

The Rock & Roll Three-Way: Playin’ The High Class Joints and the Low Class Joints


Was it every New Hampshire whiteboy’s dream to be sitting on one of four unmatched chairs around a table with a wad of napkins stuffed under one leg to keep it steady, while drinking homemade whiskey from a paper cup just as a local Mississippi Hill Country band of roustabouts counts off a shuffle and lays down one of the dirtiest blues beats ever heard…or was it just me? Yeah, I thought so. 

The things you can’t have are the things you want the most. I always wanted an authentic southern Juke Joint / Roadhouse / Honky Tonk experience. I always wanted to feel the room sweat and heave on hot southern summer night while the patrons shimmied and wobbled to the rhythms of the house band. I always wanted to stomp out a beat and be part of the old call and response. I always wanted to pass the jug and wield a greasy spoon. I wanted to be frozen in time in black and white as part of the scene.

Like I said, in N.H. I wasn’t going to get that. I wanted it then and want it now. I even wrote a post on what my roadside haunt would be like: Judd’s Juke Joint: where good people go and where the good times always roll.  Yep, Good Ol’ N.H. is great place, but its not a hotbed for country, delta or Chicago blues, let a lone it being much more redneck than black-skinned. 

Just because we didn’t have any of these experiences, didn’t mean I wouldn’t go looking for them. There was this one place on the N.H. / Massachusetts border called, “Bill’s Curve In”. Bill’s was situated, as suggested, on the bend of this old two-lane road. From where I lived, it was a 25-30 minute hell ride there and back. 

If you ever found yourself headed to or leaving from Bill’s, you knew you were scrapping the barrel.  A trip to Bill’s…and I only took one…started off as a result of a very slow night on the local bar scene. When someone would shout out, “Hey, let’s go to Bill’s”, you knew that guy had been knocking back his share of the crazy water. 

A trip to Bill’s was daunting for a few reasons: you were probably already drunk before you decided to go, you were going to be much more drunk on the way home and to get there and back you were going to have to cross the state line.  Bill’s was a place where people went to be primal, brood in the shadows and bend elbows. 

Bill’s Curve In was one of the most lowdown tittie bars in the North East. We’re not talking the “Bada Bing” either. We’re talking one big room with holes punched in walls, suspended ceilings with missing panels, naked light bulbs swinging from the rafters and decor that was part dump and part crack house. The room was usually filled with hulking drunken goons, wirery punks looking for fights and lonely bastards sniffing around for cheap thrills. 

“Rape, murder…it’s just a kiss away

Yeah, it was a tense room, but that wasn’t the craziest of shit going on there. The crazy shit was “the stage”. In the middle of the room there was what can best be described as a corral…like you’d keep hogs in. Guys were lined up around this, hanging over it, slapping and pounding on it and shouting and snorting at the gals inside of it. 

Stage…ah, there was no real stage. The stage was actually a big wood table/box covered with a nasty looking black cloth (I shudder to think what a black light would have told us) and it was on wheels. If one of the heathens wanted to offer up a few bucks for the girl to do her thing, he would shout at her and she would wheel the stage over to him. Let’s not even get describing the local talent [wincing].

I’ve been a part of and seen some crazy shit in my days, but this was some crazy shit. 

We had been there not but an hour and we could feel the walls closing in. All five of us must have all been twenty-two or twenty-three and we looked squeaky clean against this backdrop. Needless to say we were getting a few looks.  One way or another, everyone of those poor bastards in the room that night were going to get what they came for: drinking, fighting or fucking.  We wanted no part of their festivities. 

We ended up staying another hour or so. We decided to leave when the bouncer told us that the natives had become restless and were looking to take us out back and beat us to pulps. He told us he didn’t care if they did it, but he would be the one responsible for cleaning up the blood and picking up all of the teeth. Apparently, he had to stay extra late the night before to do just that and he didn’t get any overtime pay.  

(And, cut to scene: five guys are sprinting across the parking lot to their car)

Where was I? Oh yeah…juke joints. I heard an early song by The Band this past Saturday and it sparked an idea for this here Rock & Roll Three-Way. I have three bow-down tracks for you, all of which are set in Roadhouses, Honky Tonks and Juke Joints. For those of you unfamiliar with these joints here is one description of what a Juke Joint is or could be:

Juke joint (or jook joint) is the vernacular term for an informal establishment featuring music, dancing, gambling, and drinking, primarily operated by African American people in the southeastern United States. The term “juke” is believed to derive from the Gullah word joog, meaning rowdy or disorderly.  

Classic juke joints found, for example, at rural crossroads, catered to the rural work force that began to emerge after the emancipation. Plantations workers and sharecroppers needed a place to relax and socialize following a hard week, particularly since they were barred from most white establishments. Set up on the outskirts of town, often in ramshackle buildings or private houses, juke joints offered food, drink, dancing and gambling for weary workers. Owners made extra money selling groceries or moonshine to patrons, or providing cheap room and board.  (Wikipedia)

 Don’t you just want to be there? What’s the next best thing to being there? Hearing about it from those who have been there and done it. 

Just imagine that there is one magical dirt road where these three haunts are within earshot of one another. What’s that you say? No such place exists, you say? Sure it does…right here where Highway 61 meet Highway 49. 

Courtesy of The 6149, here is another Rock & Roll Three-Way: > 1. The Doors: Roadhouse Blues >> 2. The Band: Honky Tonk >>> 3. Big Joe Turner: Juke Joint Blues

How about if we let The Lizard King set the stage? Too Bad Jim dusts off a drunken rant and sets the stage for what a road trip to a roadhouse should go down like. Seems like he’d done that kinda thing before, eh? 

“Roadhouse Blues” – The Doors

“Everything is fucked up…as usual“, says Jim. Ah, to have walked a mile in your shoes, Jim ol’ boy…or at least to have been on the inside of one of your thousand yard stares looking out into the chaos of the fucked-upness. The end is always near, indeed…

“Honky Tonk” – Levon & The Hawks (The Band)

Listen to Richard Manuel sing raw on this barrel-house burner. This early incarnation of the The Band was still being billed as “Levon & The Hawks”.  Levon’s influence ran much deeper than top billing for the group. Have a listen to this southern thang…

“Juke Joint Blues” – Big Joe Turner

No stranger to Juke Joints himself, Big Joe sings about the trials and tribulations of playing the circuit in this slow, grooving burner. 

Here is a bonus cut for you. In 2008, Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcom put out an album called, “Two Man Wrecking Crew“. “Burnside”? Yeah, that Burnside. Cedric Burnside is the grandson of the late and great R.L. Burnside. Cedric is carrying ont he family tradition in fine form. He and his playing partner have since renamed themselves, The Juke Joint Duo. 

I have this album and love it for it’s simplicity and fresh take on the Mississippi Hill Country stomp. My fave rave track is the tribute cut to Ol’ R.L.. Check out this vid as The Juke Joint Duo play this tribute to a master juke joint bluesman, played…you guessed it…in a true blue juke joint. Enjoy. 

“R.L. Burnside”  – The Juke Joint Duo: Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcom

Speaking of R.L….R.L. used to play his pal Junior Kimbrough’s own Juke Joint. This blues fan visited it and asked permission to take a bit of footage. This here is the real deal shit, people. 
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My shit-box stereo and the case of the missing Bobby Keys sax solo

When I was in college I had to borrow a pot to piss in. Like most all college students, I didn’t have a lot of money.  What money I did have went to the essentials: beer, parties, beer, music, beer and food (in that order). I didn’t have many possessions either. Living in a fraternity house for three years teaches you a thing or two.  One of which is to protect the things you love most; if you don’t, they will get chewed up and spit out in that madcap, 24/7, party carnival environment.

Of my possessions, the one thing everybody knew not to touch, was my music collection. Back then it was much, much smaller than what it has become today (1,500 albums strong: Judd’s Juke Joint). It was cassettes mostly (I graduated uni in ’94); the majority of which were Rolling Stones albums. I also had a few dozen mixes that I had made over the years. I called this gang of mixes the Frankenstein Collection.  I had dug up lost causes and old faves and created some monster mixes that kept parties rollickin’ until many a sun-up.

My room I lived in was small. The closet was almost as big as the room itself. In fact, I chose to stuff my single mattress in the closet and sleep in there. I did this for two reasons: one winter we didn’t have any heat in the house, so we were forced to hunker down in our rooms with space heaters, and two, I wanted everyone to hunker in my room to party…so I need to clear space.

People liked hanging in my room because I never closed the bar and because I had the best tunes. I had a chest of drawers in my room; the top two of which held all of my tapes and what few CDs I had. My stereo was a complete and utter piece of shit. It was a set of scrapheap components consisting of a tuner, tape deck and a cd player.

The tuner had been through the ringer: beer spilled into it, fuses blown, dropped a half a dozen times and it had a big dent in the side for good measure. Near the end of its life, it only played music through the right speaker channel. Back then, the fact that the music was only coming through one channel didn’t matter to me. I wasn’t listening to the music as much as I was just hearing it. I never really thought about the different instruments being played…I just liked the song, the story and the attitude that came out of the speakers.

I remember the night the tuner blew out in the left channel.  We were having a few-hundred beers and listening to Sticky Fingers.  We were right in the middle of “Brown Sugar” when the left channel went dead. At first no one noticed it. When the song made its way to Bobby Keys sax solo…it wasn’t there?!  I stopped the tape and rewound it.  Nope, it was gone. I knew I was drunk…but drunk enough to lose a Bobby Keys sax solo?

After I slapped and shook the tuner, I realised that the left channel went kaput. Short of administering drunken CPR to my stereo, there was nothing I could do to fix it…and I never did.

I didn’t party because I didn’t have the cash to replace the stereo and party because I had stumbled upon a whole new way to listen to the songs I thought I knew so well. When I lost Booby Key’s wailing, cock-sure, sax strut I gained a pulsing, driving Keef Richards rhythm machine. It was always there all along, but I had never really listened to it. Without the sax, the rhythm was isolated and I realised that it was underpinning the song. It was the spine of the song and the sax was the flesh on the bone.

I started to re-listen to all of my music again…through only the right channel. There was so much there that I had missed!

My listening habits were forever changed. There was no turning back…my ears had been opened and tuned to listen to the layers of the songs. The song may be the sum of the parts, but the individual parts have their own stories to tell, too.

Which leads me to one of the most unheralded music documentary series ever: “Classic Albums“. Have you seen any of the documentaries in this series?  If so, you are nodding your head and smiling. If not, here is what it is all about:

Musicians, producers, music biz’ers and the like talk about a particular album. They discuss how they made the album or how they were affected by it. The music, and its production, is dissected by the musicians and/or producers. They sit at the mixing console and play the multitrack recordings and spotlight the individual instrumental and vocal tracks. The insights they give into how the songs and the sounds were made is captivating.

I love this series for the storytelling. There are so many stories that exist within songs; stories about the instruments; stories about the musicians; stories about the studio; stories about the culture; stories about the stories. I am completely transfixed when the producer and musician are sitting at the console and isolating a particular piano part or back-up vocal and talking about how/why it was created. You really start to get a feel for what it was like to be in the studio.

My fave episode focuses on The Band’s, “The Band” album. If you have followed along on this blog you know that Levon Helm is one of my heroes and I have said that if there was one band I could have been in, it would be the The Band…and this album is one of my top five faves of all time. This episode is all killer, no filler. Front and centre are Levon, Robbie and Rick as well as the producer John Simon.  

The beauty of The Band’s music was the juxtaposition of song-simplicity with a rich cache of a multifarious, layered instrumental supporting tracks. This particular album is steeped in integrity. When you watch this episode, nothing expresses this more than watching Levon tell his stories. 

As John Simons says in this episode, “Levon sings in his own voice”.  So true. Levon does not sing in a southern accent, rather he is his southern accent. This integrity, this realness is so very evident in the songs on this album. One of my fave scenes in the episode is when Levon and Simons are sitting at the console picking “Rag Mama Rag” apart.

Look how much fun Levon is having!  You hear a lot of artists say,”oh, I never listen to any of my records”.  Not Levon. The songs are his life, his memories and he doesn’t leave them on a shelf collecting dust. How could you not want to be hanging with Levon in the studio…

At seven minutes into this next clip, Levon and Simons start to pick “Rocking Chair” apart. They are talking about the vocal harmonies, specifically the sweet sound of Richard Manuel’s voice. It is fascinating to watch Levon relive the recording. I want to pop a couple beers and put my cuban heeled boots up on the console and kick back my chair…

The next vid clip finishes up that segment. At one point (0:18 into it), Simons says, “I love this part”.  Levon quickly follows with a, “me too”. How many times have you, I, been sitting with friends talking about a song just like this: “I love this part…listent to that piano…that guitar fill just kills me…”.  

(I love the comment from Levon on “that Chinese ending”)

You really should watch the entire episode on “The Band” album. Click through the vids I have here and you can watch it all…it is broken up into five parts. There are other bow-down episodes I like, too: I like the one on The Dead’s, “American Beauty” (watch Bob Wier cringe when he hears his isolated vocal on Sugar Magnolia), The Who’s “Who’s Next”, Lou Reed’s “Transformer” and John Lennon’s “Plastic Ono Band”.  

Check out the Classic Album YouTube Channel

Flipping Vinyl: A Lunch Hour Look in to London’s Vintage Vinyl Bins

Lunch breaks aren’t just for eating…unless you use them to gobble up the best of London’s vintage vinyl.

I have recently discovered that there are almost one dozen vintage vinyl shops near my office in London. I work off of Oxford Street, near Soho. I went for a stroll the other day and realised that I was smack dab in the middle of my London Record Shop Search map (find it here)!

This is dangerous for many reasons. In the next few months I see three things happening as a result of my lunch break discovery…I will get skinnier, my wallet will get lighter and my vinyl collection will get much fatter. The other problem I see is that I will have to come up with excuses as to why my lunch hour has turned into a lunch hours.

Damn the problems!  I have mass vinyl at my fingertips! 

I am going to use this post as a photo album for my lunchtime vinyl hunt exploits. The album will keep updating as I send pics frm my iphone (via the PicPosterous app).  I’ll update the comments so that you can see when new vinyl haunts have been properly hunted.

To kick things off, let me tell you a bit about what I saw today:

The first shop I stopped in was”On the Beat“.  This shop has been alive and owned by the same guy for 31+ years!  He not only had the coolest old vinyl, but he was playing great tunes…RL Burnside was blaring out from the shop into the streets when I approached the shop. He had all kinds of old Melody Maker, Creem, Rolling Stone original copies hanging on the wall; tons of artifacts and souvenirs, framed, autographed pictures; many racks of obscure, bootleg and special release vinyl.  

I need more time in this shop. Too much to take in just thirty minutes. I found a gem here though: an original pressing of Bob Dylan & The Band’s, “Basement Tapes”.  There’ll be good rocking  at my place tonight for sure.

The second shop I stopped in was “JB’s Records“.  JB’s was a bit smaller, certainly did not lack in volume of cool vinyl.  The shop itself has been there for almost 30 years; the current owner has had it for the last ten.

Here I picked up two classics from two fave acts:

  • Booker  T. & The MGs: “Green Onions”
  • Keith Richards: “Talk is Cheap” (first solo album)

Stay tuned for more vinyl bin flipping fun…