The Band: Moondog Matinee
Notes by Peter Viney© Peter Viney 1998
LP (Capitol 1973)
Produced by The Band.
An oldies album recorded as a tribute to Alan Freed's Cleveland radio show `Moondog's Rock `n' Roll Party.
(Musician credits vary and are disputed)
Ain't Got No Home (Clarence `Frogman' Henry)
Holy Cow (Allan Toussaint)
Share Your Love With Me (A. Braggs / D. Malone)
Mystery Train (S.Phillips / H. Parker Jnr)
The Third Man Theme (A. Karas / W. Lord)
The Promised Land (C. Berry)
The Great Pretender (Buck Ram)
I'm Ready (Domino / Bradford / Lewis)
Saved (Leiber / Stoller)
A Change is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke)
Levon's autobiography credits Richard with vocals on both Holy Cow and A Change Is Gonna Come. Greil Marcus agrees with the second. Barney Hoskyns attributes both to Danko, which is what I'd always assumed. Levon is pretty fuzzy here. He says I sang on Fats Domino's Saved , which isn't a Domino song in the first place, and which everyone else credits to Richard. He might mean he sang backing vocal, but more likely he was referring to Fats Domino's I'm Ready, on which he did sing lead. Levon would appear on the surface to be the irrefutable source, except that I don't think proof-reading was necessarily his area of interest or expertise.
The issue of Richard or Rick was a thorny one. I started off sure that both vocals were Rick, but I was heavily influenced by the apparent authority of Levon's book. The more I listened the more confused I got. First Rick, then Richard. The phrasing and accent sounded like Rick, but then it was getting into a pretty high register. And I thought that Levon couldn't be wrong. In the end, I posted a query on the Internet, and thanks to those of you who replied. The majority favour Danko as the singer (i.e. to be precise, seven to one). It was pointed out finally that Robbie says unequivocally that Rick sang on A Change Is Gonna Come in a Crawdaddy interview. 2 If you're not exhausted by this much detail, there are additional notes under the song below.
The issue re-opened in December 1998 on The Band Guestbook, and was finally resolved:
Little John Tyler
Levon is adamant that he played bass guitar on two numbers.
Ben Keith is credited with thanks along with Billy Mundi. We know what Billy Mundi played on, but no one has mentioned Keith's precise contribution, presumably on pedal steel. David Powell points out that Ben Keith is a pedal steel player, and that pedal steel can be used to manipulate a ``talk box''. Levon puts his voice through a talk box in Ain't Got No Home and it's also used on the lead guitar part on The Promised Land and Holy Cow. It could be Robertson using the talk box alone, Robertson using it with the help of Keith, Robertson borrowing the device from Keith or it could be Ben Keith playing. David thinks both guitarists can be heard on The Promised Land.
Hidecki's Band site claims that John Simon joined them on baritone sax for The Great Pretender. Well, there's no credit and no one else has ever noted it. Hidecki also has Levon on bass for A Change Is Gonna Come . Levon mentions his other bass parts, but not this one.
This has been called `Richard's album' and vocally it is. Garth is extremely prominent throughout instrumentally and is on great form.
The original LP has a superb wrap round poster of a painting by Edward Kasper, which can be found reproduced in the centre of the CD booklet. The first thing you should do with your CD is to turn the insert inside-out, thus putting the painting on the outside. Then you should find a copy of the LP and frame the poster. You'll need the LP poster to see everything clearly. The Band appear in the painting, and in case you don't get it, their initials appear in graffiti next to the characters. The other names written on the walls are `Big Albert' (Grossman) and `Sonny Boy' (Williamson). The central point is The Cabbagetown Café, placing us in Toronto, with `Jook Joint - Rock & Roll, R&B, C&W' above it. There's a pool hall next door, and then `The Hawk Shop' selling instruments. A woman's profile appears in the pink room above, with two glasses perched on the window sill. A pink trailer with a black hawk painted on the back is outside (just as Ronnie Hawkins' was painted). Richard Manuel's 1956 Thunderbird is outside the pool hall.
How far should we read the placing of the characters? The album is produced `By The Band' - equal credits, reinforced by strict alphabetical order. No Robertson compositions either, so it must have been a five way split. BUT note that Robertson's character is isolated inside the café, gazing at the juke box, i.e. he is making the selections. All the others are outside. Manuel's character is solitary too, lost in the shadows, leaning against the window, as if looking in at Robertson, except that the eyes are rolled upwards. The stance is that of the observer. Danko is sitting alone also, against a fire hydrant reading ``C&W hits'' intently. This was a waste of time for him, because not one C&W number got onto the album, and all nine vocal tracks were originally by African-American singers. Hudson and Helm are chatting in the doorway and sharing a Coke, or rather both are gripping the same bottle. Helm has a Razorbacks T-shirt.
Attention to detail went as far as an original 50s design Capitol centre label on the LP. On the CD, the Robbie section is reproduced in closer detail to fill out the page of notes.
Four of the original versions of the songs were included by Dave Marsh in his `Heart & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made,' as well as two by Greil Marcus in his article `Thirty Songs About America.' Mystery Train gave his seminal book its title and provided the theme linking from Elvis Presley to the Band.
Ain't Got No Home (Clarence `Frogman' Henry)
Originally a US #20 hit for Clarence `Frogman' Henry in January 1957. Henry was a New Orleans musician. Dave Marsh's notes on the `1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made' put it at #665.
Holy Cow (Allan Toussaint)
Originally a hit for Lee Dorsey. November 1966 (US #23, UK #6). Dorsey is often regarded as an archtypal New Orleans singer (though he was born in Portland, Oregon). Dorsey had been a boxer, roustabout, U.S. marine and mechanic before becoming a singer. He had his first major hit with Ya Ya in 1961. His career was revived with a strong New Orleans connection with Ride Your Pony in 1965. Dorsey had four British hits in 1966 in short order: Get Out My Life Woman (UK #22), Confusion (UK #38), Workin' In The Coalmine (UK # 8) and Holy Cow (UK #6). Only Workin' in the Coal Mine (US #8) and Holy Cow (US #23) made Top 40 pop in the US. Dorsey was hugely popular in British clubs at the time of the Dylan / Hawks British tour. By the time Holy Cow was charting in August 1966, The Hawks were already back in the USA and Dylan had had his motorcycle crash. In fact they were taking a rest after the Dylan tour, and the start of the basement tapes sessions is usually put as March 1967. Levon didn't rejoin them until Fall 1967. There is no record of them performing in this era.
Allen Toussaint had worked on the horn charts for Rock of Ages, so was a recent friend and ally. This was a song he'd produced for Lee Dorsey. The horns, piano, almost ska-like guitar slashes and very loud bass line carry the song. There's a call and response arrangement, and it sounds earthier and more basic than the Band version.
Share Your Love With Me (A. Braggs / D. Malone)
Originally a US #42 hit for Bobby Blue Bland in July 1964. The Hawks were performing this at Port Dover before it became a hit (it had appeared on LP earlier).
Bobby Bland had started out in a band with Little Junior Parker and Johnny Ace, had a spell as a driver and valet to B.B. King and later toured extensively in a revue with Parker. Bland had a major R&B hit with Further On Up The Road which The Hawks recorded, and which The Band performed with Clapton at The Last Waltz. Bland had two parallel careers, as the bluesman of Further On Up The Road and the more sophisticated, jazzier-tinged `The Voice' as heard on Share Your Love With Me. Like some African-American popular singers in that period, he either had to, or wanted to, sing some songs in a neutral accent, to try to sound "white" so as to increase his airplay potential. He was known as `the Sinatra of R&B singers' for a while. Bland by name . Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye did the same thing, and in Gaye's case there were pretensions to becoming a Las Vegas entertainer, strange as that may now seem.
Levon & The Hawks performed two more Bland numbers on the Dallas 1965 tape, Don't Cry No More and Turn On Your Lovelight. Their version of Don Robey's (Do The) Honky Tonk from the same era turned up on the Across The Great Divide box set. Robey was Bland's manager. Four numbers from one singer? This made him The Hawks' favourite artist!
The biggest-selling version of the song was neither Bland's nor The Band's. Aretha Franklin's cover version in July 1969 reached Pop #13 and Soul #1. It was her direct follow-up to her version of The Weight (Pop #19, R&B #3). This connection is simply an odd coincidence - The Hawks had been doing it five years earlier, and it would seem highly doubtful that Aretha could have known this. It does show a shared taste though.
I agree. Richard Manuel beats the original hands-down. It also beats the Aretha Franklin version by the same margin. The song has a strong melody, and is the best track on the album.
Mystery Train (S.Phillips / H. Parker Jnr)(Additional lyrics by Robbie Robertson)
Originally a hit for Junior Parker in 1953, then Elvis Presley. Elvis cut it on The Sun Sessions in 1955. Levon would have known both versions, but his sequence on seeing Elvis live (twice) in Helena during The Authorized Video Biography is backed by the Elvis version on the soundtrack, and Levon is hugely complimentary about the Elvis / Scotty Moore / Bill Black / D.J. Fontana line-up. Levon also narrated the documentary Elvis 56. The Elvis version added rhythmic possibilities that The Band fully exploited.
Both versions were produced by Sam Phillips.
Dave Marsh's notes on the `1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made' place the Elvis version at #12:
Read Greil Marcus's book if you haven't already. He says everything else there is to say about the song:
Almost everything, but not quite:
The Third Man Theme (A. Karas / W. Lord)
Original version: Harry Lime (Third Man) Theme film soundtrack, single 1949 by Anton Karas. This was the biggest selling single here, selling four million copies in 1950 when it topped the US charts for eleven weeks. A cover version by Guy Lombardo with his Royal Canadians and Don Rodney (guitar) 11 with the title switched to Third Man Theme (Harry Lime) reached #2 in the American charts the same year. That also went on to sell a million.
Anton Karas (1906-1985) was an Austrian, `the man who did more to popularize the zither than anyone before or after' 12 Orson Welles classic film The Third Man was filmed in Vienna. The director, Carol Reed, wanted to avoid the obvious Viennese waltzes on the soundtrack, and came across Karas playing zither in a wine garden. He took Karas to London and kept him plucking away for six weeks to create the soundtrack. Karas rearranged an 8-measure melody from a zither tutorial book for the main theme. 13 You would expect this feat to have appealed to Garth Hudson!
The Third Man Theme was regarded as almost a comedy pastiche at the time of release, though the subsequent Theme from The Last Waltz demonstrated that they had more where this came from.
The Promised Land (C. Berry)
Originally a hit for Chuck Berry. It was on the You Never Can Tell album in 1964. UK #26 in January 1965. Johnny Allen's cover version and Elvis Presley's version were both a year later than The Band's version. Greil Marcus uses it to start an article, `Thirty Records About America' but unaccountably fails to mention The Band version.
He quotes Chuck Berry who wrote it during his spell in Springfield Penitentiary. This is what Berry himself wrote:
Marcus adds word went out that he was planning an escape, which of course he was. The Promised Land is a retake on the Johnny B. Goode story.
The same song appears at #134 in Dave Marsh's notes on the `1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made.'
The Great Pretender (Buck Ram)
Originally a hit for The Platters, US #1 in 1955. Also #1 R&B. The Platters were the first black artists to have a number one pop single ( My Prayer in 1955). The composer of the song, Buck Ram, was their manager. He owned the name, and kept editions of the group going.
That's fascinating. In other words The Platters did a reverse-Elvis Presley in the same year. They blended R&B and country, appropriately for The Band. And the title described exactly what Ram was doing when he wrote it.
You'd expect to find Platters cover versions on an Art Garfunkel record. He is one of the few artists (apart from Richard) who could sing it.
I'm Ready (Domino / Bradford / Lewis)
Originally a hit for Fats Domino. Original version: US #16, UK #18 May 1959
The Band's members have visited Domino's work several times. Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks had featured Sick & Tired (later revived by Danko, Fjeld, Anderson). Robbie Robertson sang The Fat Man on the Carny album. Richard Manuel joined Bobby Charles on the latter's Bobby Charles album for Grow Too Old. I'm Ready is a good straight-ahead R&B song - `I'm ready, I'm willing, and I'm able to rock & roll all night ' It's the kind of number that Levon Helm is particularly fond of performing.
Saved (Leiber / Stoller)
Originally a hit for LaVerne Baker, US #37 in 1961
LaVerne Baker was born in Chicago in 1929, and her recording career dates from 1949. She also had a hit version of See See Rider in 1962, a song which The Band and various solo variants have performed in recent years.
So there's a double connection. In the late 50s LaVern Baker was a regular top-of-the-bill act on Freed tours. This song is not gospel, it's a send-up of gospel by Leiber and Stoller, the only white writers here. It has a deliberately over-the-top approach. LaVerne Baker was not adverse to the odd novelty number, recording Jim Dandy and in the same year as Saved , she did an answer disc to Elvis Presley's Little Sister, entitled Hey, Memphis! The original recording of Saved features Phil Spector on guitar.
It's one of the few Moondog Matinee songs to make their stage act, though the Jersey City 1973 version which has appeared on bootleg (as This Wheel's On Fire and as Blue Highways ) is frankly awful, one of the worst Band performances I've heard. They can't be criticized for an unsanctioned release though! Listen to this and you see why artists hate bootlegs so much (apart from the loss of royalties).
A Change is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke)
Originally a hit for Sam Cooke, posthumous B-side of Shake! in January 1965 (US #7) and on album Shake! also 1965.
Otis Redding cover: on Otis Blue album in February 1966 (UK #6, US #75). Also covered by Aretha Franklin on I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You in 1967 (US#2, UK #36).
Greil Marcus makes this the second of his `Thirty Records About America' which appear on this album.
Dave Marsh brings it in at #32 in his list of great singles.
Gerri Hirshey talks about the song in very much the same tone that Marcus uses to talk about The Band's lyrics in Mystery Train.
The Band's version is sung by Rick Danko. That's the Internet consensus, and what I'd originally thought. I wavered, swayed by Levon and Greil Marcus who said it was Richard. But when I listen yet again I'm certain. As has been pointed out by correspondents, Rick has two hallmarks here - he sings I been running ever-y since, adding a full syllable. Sam Cooke just about sings every since, while Otis Redding sings ever since. Danko also pronounces asked as axt in a slightly exaggerated way, which he's done elsewhere. But Danko would have heard Redding's version as well, even though everything about this one is closer to Cooke.
If you're still in doubt about the vocalist, listen to Danko singing Bring It On Home To Me on collectors' tapes. My favourite version is Redding's spare version with the jagged horns, in preference to Cooke's lush orchestration. I'm afraid The Band come third. I'm most familiar with the Otis Redding version, which comes from Otis Blue, one of the few soul albums of the era that stands up as a coherent whole. Otis Redding covered three Sam Cooke songs on the album, which can be seen as a deliberate tribute to the recently departed Cooke.
Both Redding and Danko drop the `went down to a movie' verse. 25 In Danko's case it would not have been appropriate.
Anthologies / live versions
It's instructive with Band albums to note what has been anthologised, as it gives a view of the tracks in public perception. I looked at Greatest Hits / Anthology collections, including Japanese releases. If we look at `official' anthologies, the ones with certain Band input, To Kingdom Come and Across The Great Divide, we find Mystery Train on both, and Share Your Love With Me on the 3 CD box. The best single album collection is the new The Shape I'm In - The Very Best of The Band 26, and it features Share Your Love With Me as the only Moondog Matinee track. Mystery Train and Share Your Love With Me are the two songs I'd choose as most representative myself.
If you look at record company anthologies, Ain't Got No Home has appeared most times (five), presumably because it was the single release. Mystery Train comes next.
The Great Pretender and The Third Man Theme have each appeared on three collections. I'm Ready and The Promised Land appear once each.
The only appearance on an official live album is Mystery Train (with Paul Butterfield) on The Last Waltz. Mystery Train also appears on both video releases of the 1983 reunion tour, The Reunion Concert and The Japan Tour.
Saved appears on bootlegs from Jersey City in 1973.
Share Your Love With Me was performed live on the first show of the Before the Flood tour with Dylan in Chicago (3 January 1974). The show had six different selections to the official release, and included Share Your Love With Me. Maybe the dynamic was wrong for the show. In this first show they hadn't seperated the sets as they were to later, and Bob Dylan added extraneous harmonica that didn't really match the song, but Richard was in fine voice, deep and powerful. Though it's missing from some set lists 27, the tape of the concert also includes Holy Cow, which is a storming version and it's hard to believe they dropped it from the tour set list (but the applause sounds half-hearted compared to the preceding All Along The Watchtower). Most likely they accepted after Chicago that this was a Greatest Hits package and that covers of oldies from a recent album just weren't appropriate. Also, The Band played ten of their own songs in Chicago, but eight later. As a result of being dropped from the tour, I suspect the Moondog Matinee songs passed their time of currency - they weren't around by the fall of the same year.
Moondog Matinee seems not to figure highly in The Band's own view of their history. The Authorized Video Biography slips straight from Rock of Ages to Planet Waves without mentioning the album.
The stage act myth
This is from Chris Morris' sleeve notes to the CD re-issue:
Read it carefully. Morris does NOT say that this was The Hawks stage act, though contemporary reviewers had latched straight onto this idea.
He thus started or perpetuated the myth that this was the Hawks stage act. He also said `It's much more musical than anything we've done before, much more complicated, much more sophisticated.' Hmm. Levon Helm adds notes on who did what in his autobiography (which contradict other credits), and repeats the myth:
Now it might be sequenced like their club act. It might be an idealized view of what they might have sounded like, but taken as a whole, it is NOT The Hawks club act. At least two of these tracks were originally written and recorded too late for that ( Holy Cow, A Change Is Gonna Come). The following quotes are comments on The Hawks stage act:
Ralph J. Gleason
Levon Helm lists a set from Pop Ivey's in Port Dover:
They followed the classic pattern of the period - a fast, loud showstopper, then the lights down for an end-of-evening smooch. It looks familiar to anyone watching live bands in 1964, or in 1962 or 1963 (one point for Greil Marcus's view above). There is absolutely nothing that ended on up on Moondog Matinee , although comments on the same show do add Share Your Love as well as James Brown's I'll Go Crazy. There is only one song that the original Band eventually recorded on album (Georgia On My Mind on Islands ), though You Don't Know Me appears on the Japan Tour video from 1983. There are two that Levon Helm eventually committed to tape (Money, and later Short Fat Fanny on a tuition video). There's a lot of R & B, a lot of instrumentals that were jammed (and as long or short as anyone felt like); some were original, some standard time fillers like Can't Sit Down and Honky Tonk. There's not much deep blues (Bobby Bland's Turn On Your Love Light), no Motown or Impressions soul (though you get James Brown's Please, Please, Please and possibly I'll Go Crazy) and absolutely no country. Only two Ronnie Hawkins specialities appear, Bo Diddley and Forty Days . The inclusion of Money, Twist and Shout and Not Fade Away is doubtless connected to the contemporary popularity of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones rather than Barrett Strong, the Isley Brothers and Buddy Holly. Compare the set with Joey Dee's two live albums at The Peppermint Lounge 36, which are a couple of years older. Or with half the bands in Britain at the same time. One of the main surprises was that Peter Gunn featured in their act that late, most bands having dropped it long before The Beatles shot to fame. Presumably the set differed from night to night - Levon says they were heavily into Cannonball Adderley and Work Song was part of their set at other times, and the repetoire must have evolved into 1965.
A set list from London, Ontario has Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks (February 1964, though I had heard someone say it was 63) includes Share Your Love , A Sweeter Girl and Howlin' Wolf's Howlin' For My Baby, the latter proof of the often-cited Hubert Sumlin / Howling Wolf interest.
In Dallas early in 1965 someone had the presence of mind to run a tape, and recorded part of their set. The blues influence seems stronger:
Bacon Fat was covered by Taj Mahal in 1968, and is credited to Robbie Robertson-Garth Hudson. It's a pretty standard blues, and a fragment of it by The Hawks exists on some rarer circulating basement tapes, though good sound quality indicates a studio demo at least. She's 19 Years Old by The Hawks features on the Mojo Man LP and later on the Hawkins and Hawks retrospective The Roulette Years (1994). Smack Dab in The Middle is early Ray Charles. So only three tracks were the same as a year earlier.
Did reviewers of Moondog Matinee really think that The Hawks played The Third Man Theme in dance halls? Lee Dorsey's Holy Cow (a hit in late 1966) is another certain non-starter. Moondog Matinee represents oldies they liked. No doubt one or two were in their stage act ( Share Your Love), but not all, and Hawkins has said that a major reason for The Hawks' departure was their desire to get into harder R&B. Hawkins expressed amazement at The Band's country feel after their first two albums. Note again that Danko was alone reading his book of C&W hits on the poster. Gleason was plainly wrong. The folk / country interest was fired in the basement working with Dylan. The Hawks vocal repetoire was exclusively R&B.
The economic factor (how do we get gigs?) made some Ronnie Hawkins material a certainty. They still called themselves The Hawks, and they had to capitalise on their association. Hawkins had had three Top Ten hits in Canada ( Forty Days, Mary Lou and Who Do You Love?). The latter had been number 5 in the Canadian charts in 1963. Levon says they used to have a Ronnie Hawkins segment in their shows, though it's amazing that Who do you love? wasn't in the Port Dover set. Earlier, with Hawkins, they had done covers of heavily-covered 60s numbers like Matchbox, I Feel Good, Suzie Q, Searchin', Big Boss Man. Their last recordings while they were with Hawkins included Further On Up The Road. 37 Barny Hoskyns mentions Tommy Tucker's Hi-Heel Sneakers and Rufus Thomas' Walkin' The Dog as a standard part of their repetoire in the summer of 65.
Richard Manuel had always had a soul spot on the Ronnie Hawkins' stage show, doing numbers like You Don't Know Me, Share Your Love and Georgia. Fats Domino comes up time after time on Hawks and Band members solo ventures, but not on these partial set lists. Again and again Robbie Robertson has referred to the influence of Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions, both on his guitar style and on the Hawks' vocals, but it's not apparent in these lists. Hawkins has mentioned that Danko and Manuel were perfect vocalists for early-Motown. Many working bands were in a period of transition in 1964 to 1965, as soul numbers gradually replaced R & B. On the other hand, as the soul boom was starting they were selective. Levon Helm maintains that they always refused to play Land of 1000 Dances! Barney Hoskyns notes that they considered but rejected their well-known stage cover versions for Moondog Matineee, Slippin' and Slidin', Lovin' You Is Sweeter Than Ever and also Larry Williams' Bony Moronie which leaves you wondering whether there are out-takes in existence. They had just done two other covers on Rock of Ages, Marvin Gaye's Don't Do It and Chuck Willis' (I Don't Want To) Hang Up My Rock & Roll Shoes which surely helped to point the way.
The Band have not been noted for varying their stage act too much. Maybe The Hawks varied more. Groups I saw in the same period were expected to react to currently popular material, and this didn't just mean the charts. There were always ``R&B classics of the day'' and songs that were not major hits got into a large number of set lists. I always found it interesting that so many bands covered not only Robert Parker's Barefootin', but also covered the great B-side, Let's Go baby (Where the Action Is). The same happened with Tommy Tucker's Hi Heel Sneakers and the B-side I Don't Want Cha. There was a category of live performance numbers, that today we might call bar band standards. Willin' is a perfect 70s example. Every bar band seemed to play it.
In other words, of the whole of Moondog Matinee, only Share Your Love With Me exists in a bootleg tape by The Hawks. John Hammond mentions `Junior Parker songs' as part of their set, and that probably does mean Mystery Train (anyone else would have said Elvis Presley songs). That's not to say they didn't play the others. Actually, Moondog Matinee portrays a rather less-obvious, more original set list than (say) Port Dover or Dallas. If we take Robbie literally when he says it was the stage act of ``twelve years ago'' (1961), we eliminate three, Share Your Love, Promised Land , Holy Cow. I think though they aimed to capture the spirit of their stage act and that was the point. It was the idealized set in retrospect.
It's also a deliberately unusual set list. Few of the songs were obscure as such, but none of them are standard stage fare from the period, in spite of what The Rolling Stone Record Guide said:
Marsh is completely wrong here. The selections are neither `obvious' nor `trite'. Robert Christgau, who generally is luke-warm in his appreciation of The Band thought differently (even though he managed to get in his trademark sting-in-the-tail):
My views on this are from a British standpoint, but judging by live albums, the choice of songs to cover was broadly similar for working bands on both sides of the Atlantic in the early 60s.
Take Chuck Berry. Everybody covered Berry in the early 60s. The Hawks did No Particular Place To Go at Port Dover, which is from the same post-prison spell of creativity. Levon has also performed Nadine (with Dylan) from the same period. Their other Chuck Berry cover, Back to Memphis is even later, from the post-Chess period. The Promised Land came out on album in September 1964, the single was a hit (in the UK only) in January 1965, at the point when the really hip bands were already dropping their reliance on the Complete Works of Chuck and Bo. It's a great song, up there with his best, but much less obvious than most. It was the last of the run of classic Berry Chess singles too. And after The Band had revived it, both Elvis and Johnny Allen followed.
The one I probably saw most bands perform live was Holy Cow, and that might be a regional anomaly. A lot of the bands round where I lived were heavily into Lee Dorsey and Robert Parker, and bands feed off what more successful local bands are doing. Even so, both Ride Your Pony and Workin' In The Coalmine were more likely songs for bands to play on club dates. The reflective mood of Holy Cow and the vocal line are harder to put across live. Dorsey was comparatively more successful in Britain than the USA, and Holy Cow was his last, biggest (and greatest) hit.
A Change Is Gonna Come is difficult for a British (or white American) band to carry off, but such was the huge popularity of Otis Blue that some did a take on the Otis Redding version. But Danko's performance is squarely based on the Sam Cooke original.
As for the rest, well, by the early 60s no one was still doing Mystery Train , at least no one in any places that were safe to go if you weren't dressed in full biker gear. Clarence Frogman Henry's Ain't Got No Home was well-known on record for its novelty value. Not many bands would have tried to perform it, if any, once it had dropped out of the charts. Fats Domino covers were fairly thick on the ground, but Walkin' To New Orleans is the one I remember being covered most, probably because The Soul Agents (featuring a young Rod Stewart) were renowned for their version on the circuit. But I'm Ready was a reasonable hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1959, and I guess it was covered to an extent. I can't imagine many bands persisting with it far into the 60s. I'd swear I never saw anyone try Share Your Love With Me, The Great Pretender or Saved . Few bands have anyone with the voice to do them. The Hawks had. And that's without even mentioning The Third Man Theme.
There's a standard problem with albums of covers (cf. John Lennon's later Rock & Roll, or David Bowie's Pin Ups). That is comparison with the originals. I even made up a cassette of the originals in the same sequence. My personal judgments follow. I've used rather an odd system for appraising them. I've awarded a nominal ten points to each song, and then divided that ten between the original and The Band cover. So if I think they're about equally good, they get 5:5 .
This is personal opinion, but note that I don't think they improved on everything by any means. With a cover, you're doing very well to equal the original, let alone beat it. I was aware that Share Your Love (apart from being a great, great Manuel performance) was not familiar to me in the Bland version before I heard The Band doing it, and that The Band's I'm Ready was not particularly familiar in the Domino version either, which helps set The Band version in the mind. It seems unfair on the surface but I prefer the originals of both Holy Cow and A Change Is Gonna Come . I think a white singer can act out the latter, can perform brilliantly (and indeed Rick Danko does), but on this particular song, with all its ramifications, I think the `soul' just has to be authentic! Having said that, I quite often program my Moondog Matinee CD to play just these two plus Share Your Love. Instrumentally they often improve on the originals, but Ain't Got No Home was a novelty song, and that's half its appeal. The same is true of Saved.
To be fair, the whole point is that this is supposed to be a night club set by ONE group. As such, the range would have been brilliant to see in performance. You would not have compared the material with the originals, but you would have expected The Band / Hawks to have imposed their style and they do. They create a seamless whole out of diverse material.
So the avowed aim was reinventing, or as Robertson says complementing the originals.
A final thought. There's an instant title for a compilation of post-1978 Band / solo recordings, Moondog Matinee II. Obvious tracks: Not Fade Away (Buddy Holly tribute), Young Blood, The Same Thing, Stuff You Gotta Watch, Caldonia (New Orleans laser disc) plus Levon's solo versions of Money, Havana Moon, Summertime Blues (the rare German single), Willie & The Hand Jive (either Levon's version or The Band live), then Rick's Bring It On Home To Me , the Staying Together soundtrack Lean On Me (OK, it's too late, but then so was Holy Cow), the Japan Tour You Don't Know Me, with Chuck Berry's Back to Memphis and Milk Cow Blues maybe a recent live Deep Feeling and See See Rider. To make it a bargain, they could find a Short Fat Fannie (tuition video?) and a live I Finally Got You.
THANKS to all of you who contributed information, especially on the vexed issue of who sings what. Most of you preferred to make an anonymous choice, which I respect, given the possibility of flaming on the Guestbook!
I had totally forgotten that Share Your Love with Me was on Chicago 1974 tapes. Thanks to Stanley & Jonathan for the reminder.