Rob Stoner want to get a couple of things straight about The Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story, Martin Scorsese’s fever dream mix of reality, fable, and audacious fiction.
He’d know, because he was there, sharing the stage with Dylan night time after night time because the performances grew more and more incantatory and wild. He was on digital camera for Renaldo and Clara, the sprawling 1978 Bob Dylan movie that gives repurposed and recontextualized elements for Scorsese’s film. He was there working alongside individuals principally omitted from Scorsese’s finished venture, together with Jacques Levy, who he says was liable for the success of the tour “more than some other single particular person” and the digital camera crews liable for the bulk of the archival footage, led by Howard Alk, David Meyers, and Paul Goldsmith. “They adopted us all over the place,” Stoner explains. “Not only are they not mentioned, besides a few minute into the crawl…but their work will get attributed to a fictitious character!”
It’s this last level—the invention of the fictional filmmaker Stefan Van Dorp, portrayed on-screen by performance artist Marty von Haselberg—that the majority bothers Stoner. “It’s type of a diss to those poor lifeless guys, man,” he laments. But Stoner is usually used to working in the background, typically without proper recognition. Pull a rock & roll legend out of a hat and there’s a superb probability he’s played with them, from Dylan (he served as his musical director on a lot of tours and played on Want) to Chuck Berry, Roger McGuinn, Joni Mitchell, and dozens more. Stoner’s a consummate skilled, all the time offering what a track needs, whether you’re speaking a folk-pop epic like Don McLean’s “American Pie” or rockabilly rave-ups with Link Wray and Robert Gordon.
In Stoner’s eyes, the Netflix film clouds the story in ways in which don’t honor the work individuals did in actuality, which isn’t to say that he doesn’t respect it, or get what his former boss and Scorcese have been after. “That they’re both iconoclasts, Bob and Marty, they usually wish to put individuals on, tongue-in-cheek,” Stoner says. “They need to present that they’ve acquired a sense of humor. Perhaps they’re huge followers of Spinal Tap. Lots of people, when This Is Spinal Faucet got here out, they thought it was an precise band. There’s nothing to disabuse you of that until you dig deeper. Who needs to dig deeper, man? Apart from, the fantasy state of affairs is extra fun than the actual deal.”
Placing fantasy situations apart, Stoner spoke with Aquarium Drunkard to dive into the murky waters of Rolling Thunder, in addition to mirror on a life as a journeyman bassist.
Aquarium Drunkard: You spent plenty of time with Bob Dylan. Do you get the sense that The Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story is consistent with Bob’s tendency to cloud and obscure details about his life and work?
Rob Stoner: Totally, man. To begin with, he characterizes himself, and all the time has, as the jokerman. Even has an autobiographical track of that identify. Actually, as early as like 1971 when Don McLean recorded “American Pie,” he forged Bob as “the jester.”
When he’s pressed about what his deal is, Bob says “Oh, I’m only a track and dance man.” He’s all the time making an attempt to put individuals on, to put individuals off his trail. He’s busy throwing shade; he turned wary of people placing a mantle on him once they started calling him “the conscience of his era” and all that crap around the time of “Blowing in the Wind.” Instantly, he come across a technique of “Hey, I’m simply gonna throw some bullshit out there and maintain them guessing.” This is completely in line with his fixed technique.
I mean you would even take a look at that as in his sartorial strategy, how he modifies his lid every period: began out with slightly newsboy hat, just a little commie, comrade employee hat, after which he went on to the top hat, then the cowboy hat, then the fucking cab driver hat. It’s all part of him just being a shapeshifter. It’s all intentional, and it’s all in enjoyable. It makes for a more entertaining film than just one other goddamn rock documentary. Additionally, it’s as a result of it poses extra questions than it answers. It sets them up for a sequel.
AD: Do you assume that there shall be one?
Rob Stoner: Nicely, they’ve acquired plenty of performances left in the can, and moreover, once they got down to start this challenge 12 years in the past, Scorsese despatched a workforce round to each principal who was alive on the time to do a day’s value of interviews. They came to my home. Bob’s supervisor, Jeff Rosen, sat in my studio with me for a whole day, interviewing me. In order that they have all these interviews within the can. They’ve obtained sufficient to do it. This time, in the event that they do it again, hopefully they’ll mention Jacques Levy, Howard Alk, and Paul Goldsmith.
AD: To not mention the players on stage, individuals like you and Mick Ronson. Do you keep in mind having a way of being conscious that you simply guys really have been enjoying some exceptional music through the tour?
Rob Stoner: I might inform that this band was really occurring. It wasn’t with out numerous effort. Like several good rock & roll, it ought to appear effortless, but you gotta pay attention to doing the groundwork, ensuring that the tunes have intros and endings…You pay a number of consideration to the pacing. You don’t put two shuffles collectively, you don’t put two ballads collectively. I might tell the stuff was good, and in addition I felt underneath the gun with that shit because the band leader because I knew that everybody had made such an enormous deal about Bob’s capacity as a performer. His work with the Band was at the time, a vaunted normal of rock & roll excellence. I knew that regardless of the fuck Bob did, it was gonna be judged by these requirements, they usually had set the bar type of high. The strain was actually on to ship one thing that wouldn’t pale in comparison to his former stuff.
I don’t find out about the remainder of the individuals, but I used to be all the time looking, [thinking] “How can we make this association more exciting?” It was a continuing problem to attempt to guard towards the worst tendencies of Bob’s music. He’s obtained sluggish songs, he’s received medium songs, and he’s received shuffles. I was all the time advocating for him, “Bob, we gotta change it up, man! We gotta like put in a 6/eight tune, we gotta put in a fast funk tune.” However nope. That was not his comfort zone. He was snug with these four primary feels that he used again and again.
In truth, once we started touring, the Want album was not out but, so no one had heard these tunes. Every time we might start “Oh, Sister” in live performance, individuals would go berserk, despite the fact that they’d never heard the fucking track. They thought it was gonna be “Woman from the North Country!” This music was not out but! So I relaxation my case about that shit, man. A lot of his tunes are like in the identical bag when it comes to feel and key and strategy. I lobbied to get some different approaches rhythmically. In all equity, once we have been working collectively in 1978, we did that world tour together, we had a 12-piece band at that time and I used to be capable of get him to range his program and put in some totally different feels, however on the time of Rolling Thunder, nope. He would run down the tunes one particular approach, and I’d say “You understand, man, let’s rock this one up!” No, no, no, no. So guarding towards his worst tendencies to fall into that lure was an enormous problem for me.
AD: You definitely managed to get him to rock up “A Onerous Rain Is Gonna Fall.”
Rob Stoner: Yeah, individuals love that sort of shuffle, that ZZ Prime-type shuffle.
AD: It’s virtually punk-like in its intensity.
Rob Stoner: The Onerous Rain stay album, which was from the second Rolling Thunder tour, has typically been lauded as a prototype of the punk scene. If you take heed to the desperation of his singing on a tune like “Fool Wind” or “Maggie’s Farm”…he was undoubtedly into a punk thing, whether or not he knew it or not. Obviously, there was no so-called punk music yet, but you go back to Link Wray and Eddie Cochran in the ‘50s and hear that type of sensibility in other forms of music.
AD: Had the mood changed through the second Rolling Thunder tour?
Rob Stoner: Properly, for one thing, the bloom was off the rose. It was more of a challenge. Bob was beginning to undergo some private upheaval. He was in the midst of his divorce and youngster custody stuff. Financially, he was in a gap at that point because Rolling Thunder was not an enormous money-maker because clearly when you do the numbers, whenever you play little school gyms and tiny downtown theaters with that huge an ensemble, you’re gonna lose cash. He had lost quite a bit.
AD: Not lengthy after this era, Dylan went gospel, changing to Christianity. T-Bone Burnett has stated that 15 or so people associated with the Rolling Thunder tour acquired into church, or back into it. Do you keep in mind a spiritual vibe going around?
Rob Stoner: No, none by any means, man. In truth, that didn’t happen till after the ’78 tour. I feel it’s because he had just been by means of [a lot] in his life. He was looking to be grounded spiritually ultimately. As part of his quest for peace of thoughts, as many individuals do, he turned to varied types of faith. He’d experimented with different forms of religion too, just in search of one thing that spoke to him.
AD: You’ve played with very lyrical songwriters, as well as individuals like Chuck Berry and Link Wray, who are less lauded as lyrical writers. Do you sense a shared poetic sensibility between these guys and somebody like Dylan?
Rob Stoner: Chuck Berry’s lyrics have been super hip. The truth is, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is just principally a rewrite of “Maybelline.” The same beats, the same concept, the same nonstop verbiage. I mean, individuals did get just a little wordier as the shape advanced, however I feel principally the same rules that worked firstly have been those that folks nonetheless keep on with immediately. When individuals attempt to transcend the boundaries of what the general public will accept, they fall on their face. If the general public have been hipper, then they might embrace the more formidable types of music reminiscent of jazz or classical more. However no, they like that three-chord shit, man. That’s what speaks to ‘em, like Hank Williams stated, “Three chords and the reality.”
Now, lyrically, in fact, there’s all the time room for enlargement, but even in the event you get a bit too high-minded with that, you’ll fall in your face. You take a look at lots of people who have tried to try this and failed, and it’s not like John Prine, who was one of many biggest songwriters I ever heard in my life, has had business success. It’s not like Roy Harper, who impressed Led Zeppelin, has had business success. The panorama is affected by people who tried to broaden the style and have not been successful.
I’m down within the engine room, man. I’m just stoking the fires.
AD: How typically does the lyrical content material of a music affect what you deliver to it musically?
Rob Stoner: I’m down in the engine room, man. I’m simply stoking the fires. I take note of it and I recognize the fact that sure lyrics create a much hipper track than easy ones, however I feel all of them require the same primary understandings in order for them to be business rock & roll. Which is to have an incredible beat, to only slam house the man’s message with a really supportive musical foundation.
AD: You’ve labored with some pretty demanding creators. What it that you’ve that permits that to work, to facilitate that kind of collaboration?
Rob Stoner: Incredibly good luck and other people expertise. It’s a must to make use of numerous psychology and tap dancing and tip-toeing round these individuals’s idiosyncrasies. These idiosyncratic people, man, they’re artists. Some of them have acquired their unusual quirks and character by design, some of them are simply naturally that means, but both means, you must accommodate them. It’s all about psychology, really.
AD: And that was only a natural talent set that you simply possessed?
Rob Stoner: Properly, principally, it was a want to maintain the job. Whatever job you got, you need to make the boss completely satisfied. For those who see that the boss is a few nutty artist who has strange expectations of his staff, you need to attempt to accommodate the man or woman.
AD: Did you ever work for anybody who was harder to please than Dylan?
Rob Stoner: I’m gonna have to save lots of that one for my ebook, man. [Laughs]
AD: Even a sure or no works. [Laughs]
Rob Stoner: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Whether or not deservedly so or not. A variety of these artistes, man…they are really artistes.
AD: Do you think about your self more of a craftsman, an engine room guy, than an “artiste” yourself?
Rob Stoner: It’s a bit of each. I mean you gotta hold your eye on what your position is. You don’t need to intrude an excessive amount of on what the individual at the helm is doing, but at the similar time, you need to be collaborative and perhaps make options. Fairly often, these individuals are so insular in their environments and so confident that they’ll simply go off in some loopy course to which you may say, “Hey, man, this ain’t the perfect concept.” You need to attempt to achieve their confidence sufficient that they’ll take heed to your recommendations. Then you definitely may make a suggestion which alters the course of the undertaking, and it not solely makes for a greater undertaking, but in addition this individual becomes very trusting of you and will delegate much more duty and decision-making energy to you.
If I can achieve the individual’s trust by protecting my head down and doing my job, I cannot only provide what any nameless backup guy would do, however I can turn into a type of a quasi-collaborator. That’s one of many issues that makes me beneficial to these individuals: I may give them insights into their stuff once they start to belief my musical judgment. Although it’s their identify on the venture, it’s as if I’m in a gaggle with them. words/j woodbury
Previously: Why Rolling Thunder Revue is a Horrible Documentary However A Nice Bob Dylan Film//The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Reside Recordings
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