MY FAVORITE FANTASY ALBUM (Not Quite Random Favorites…In No Particular Order)

Introducing a new category, “Not Quite Random Favorites”:

Beginning with My Favorite Fantasy Album, just beating out Al Green Sings the Delta Blues, which should have occurred along about 1978.

The Shangri-Las Do Dylan (which should have occurred along about 1966)

Preferably with this for the cover photo.

SHANGS1

Inevitably, of course, the humorless plugs in legal and marketing would have liaisoned and changed the title to The Shangri-Las Sing Bob Dylan’s Golden Hits or something. No matter. I would have settled for any compromise if it meant hearing Mary Weiss take on “I Want You,” which she once listed as one of her ten favorite records.

As for how the enlightened would have dealt with any of that (under any title or any cover), you can check this fascinating little time capsule from The Village Voice published in the immediate aftermath of Dylan “going electric” to a chorus of boos at Newport in 1965. (Unfortunately, you have to squint and read the article as a reproduction. I found it worth the effort but in case you don’t here’s the relevant statement: “The irony of the folklorists and their parochial ire at Dylan’s musical transgressions is that he is not Guthrie or the Shangri-Las, but this generation’s most awesome talent. And in 60 years you will read scholarly papers about his themes (terror, release) and the images (so similar to the disharmonies and exaggerations of a William Burroughs). And those learned men will be benefited by the most comprehensive set of readings that any poet ever provided.”

Of course, the Shangs’ reference is buried in contemporary hipster post-ironic irony (or something along those lines) delivered in the style which exists so that any inferred meaning can be accepted or denied as the situation calls for.

Meaning one is going out on a limb to say for absolute certain that it’s not a compliment.

Believe me. It’s not a compliment.

One of these days I’ll write about Dylan’s version of “Talkin’ World War III Blues” from Volume 6 of his official bootleg series, which captures his concert at the Philharmonic in the fall of 1964 (one of the greatest concert recordings ever, incidentally). That includes the bit where he slapped the Shangri-Las and Martha and the Vandellas up side the head and got one of the biggest laughs of the night. It may, among other things, explain why a Village Voice writer would not-so-randomly pull the Shangri-Las out of the air and stick them between Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. But for now, I’ll just dream on…and then look at things like this and wonder who the real revolutionaries were. (As Weiss once said about the London rivalry between the Mods and the Rockers: “I got off the plane dressed in black leather. They definitely knew where I stood!” Got her clothes in the Village by the way.)

shangs2

Next up: My Favorite Murder Ballad.

2 thoughts on “MY FAVORITE FANTASY ALBUM (Not Quite Random Favorites…In No Particular Order)

  1. NONDISPOSABLEJOHNNY

    Tree Tings: 1) I dunno—I can sorta read a compliment into placing the Shangri-Las in the same sentence as Guthrie and Dylan. It was always hard to know with writers for the VV. And that sentence CAN be read to mean that Dylan should not be compared to ANY voice from the past, be it Guthrie or the Shangs. No qualitative judgement implied.

    I dunno.

    2. You wrote, “Of course, the Shangs’ reference is buried in contemporary hipster post-ironic irony (or something along those lines) delivered in the style which exists so that any inferred meaning can be accepted or denied as the situation calls for.”

    More on post-ironic irony, please. I am fascinated with irony, especially as many Americans (if not all conservative Americans) seem to have a difficult time recognizing it let alone employing it. And I don’t know “hipsters” at all . . .

    3. One of my fantasy albums would be based on Elvis having released “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” as a single in 1966 and having had a BIG hit. And received positive press from the VV and Crawdaddy, the only hip reviewers at the time with national distribution.

    So Elvis goes back to Nashville in late ’66 or early ’67 and cuts an album’s worth of Dylan songs. My guess is he would have leaned towards the 1963-64 folkie songs, but hearing Elvis F*cking Presley sing “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blue Again” or “One Of Us Must Know” could have changed his career and made the ’68 Comeback unnecessary, heyna?

    Bestest,

    DISPOSABLENEAL

  2. Well, taking them in order as best I can… (Bear with me if I’m telling you some things you already know)

    1) On whether it was meant as a compliment…Well, when Dylan sang “Talking World War III Blues” in those days, and he got to the part where he turns on the radio, he would plug in the name of some pop singer. On the only other period show I’ve heard where he sang it, the singer was Fabian. That got a big laugh, too, and obviously had a pretty literal and strictly non-complimentary meaning: After WWIII hits, only crap will be on the radio. At the Philharmonic, what he sang/said was that the radio was playing “‘Leader of the Pack’…by Martha and the Vandellas!” Got a big laugh. Of course, Dylan could have been moving into straight irony. Sort of “My audience will get that I really love the Shangri-Las and the Martha and the Vandellas, but that all the unhip people think of them as interchangeable commercial girl groups.” Or he could have meant it straight. What the radio will be playing after WWIII will be crap. Like with Fabian. Or he could have just figured it would work either way. Part of the audience would assume he was ironic, the other that he was still playing it straight. Gets a laugh either way! Personally, I think he may well have thought both groups were great and knew his holier-than-thou audience didn’t, but who can really know?

    2) Which brings us to an I-just-made-it-up concept like post-ironic irony. That’s what you get when you move past irony into a little secret circle (for which “hipster” seems as good a description as any). In the little secret circle you can make what seems like an incongruous reference (say to Woody Guthrie and the Shangri-Las, not as they are respectively seen now, but as they were respectively seen then, which I’m gonna guess is with Woody representing folk purity and the Shangri-Las representing purely disposable commerce, which I’m then further guessing the author of the piece saw as the two traps Dylan was in the process of transcending), and know that the people inside the circle will immediately get whether you are employing straight irony–saying one thing and meaning the opposite–or merely giving the appearance of being ironic and providing an extra layer of meaning (or possible meaning) for the unhip to work through in order to decide what you REALLY mean. I’m not sure how many layers can be added before it turns into straight gibberish, but that you and I, who are not unintelligent, can’t say for sure whether something is a compliment surely means we are not among the anointed. Because, of course, when I said it was definitely not a compliment I was being ironic. Sort of. (Insert maniacal laughter here!)

    Incidentally, my busted wing has limited my time in front of the keyboard, else I would have already commented on your interesting experiences with irony. I think one thing most of us use it for is to separate the people who “get” us from the people who don’t. But I haven’t found a reliable political pattern in my own life. Whether people get me (when I’m being ironic) or don’t doesn’t seem to have any relationship to their politics but more to their age and personality type. Just anecdotal, of course, but I found the difference between your experience and mine to be intriguing.

    3) My favorite fantasy Elvis album might have to be its own category. But yours is an excellent suggestion. Love to read your track list!

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