Saturday, October 15, 2011

This Wheel's On Fire

That's the title of Levon Helm's autobiography released in the early '90s. It's essential reading about the history of The Band; written very informally like almost conversation style, and includes their stints with the Ronnie Hawkins and Dylan, in which they've honed their craft on the live stage for several years before finally making Music From Big Pink, which singlehandedly changed American music forever. I've always had a fondness for Big Pink, but after reading the book and listening to the album again, I was taken aback even more. It still sounds so revolutionary. On the other hand there's also the darker and more bitter parts of their career, covered thoroughly, especially The Last Waltz. I didn't realise how much Levon hated doing that farewell show and in particular how much he 'hated' Robbie Robertson towards the end, who was portrayed by the press as being the frontman of the band and took most of the credit for the songwriting and music, which led to the reason why Rick Danko and Richard Manuel got tired of composing after the first two albums. Also Levon describes both Rick's and Richard's deaths in heartbreaking detail. Richard died a week after I was born. Robbie's autobiography is due next year, so it'd be interesting to read his perspective on things. Hopefully we'll finally get the other half of The Band's real story.