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The Band: Moondog Matinee

[Peter Viney]  Notes by Peter Viney

© Peter Viney 1998

LP (Capitol 1973)
CD (Capitol CDP 793592) (1988) Japanese CD (TOCP 3247)
UK mid-price CD (EMI Replay CD11) (1997)

Produced by The Band.
Design by Bob Cato.
Cover painting by Edward Kasper
``Special thanks to Billy Mundi and Ben Keith''
CHART: US # 28

An oldies album recorded as a tribute to Alan Freed's Cleveland radio show `Moondog's Rock `n' Roll Party.

Track listing:

(Musician credits vary and are disputed)

Side 1

Ain't Got No Home (Clarence `Frogman' Henry)
Levon Helm - lead vocal, bass guitar / Billy Mundi - drums / Garth Hudson - piano, sax / Robbie Robertson - electric guitar (incomplete information)
Levon says that Garth helped him rig up a talk box for the ``frog'' voice. The talk box is a tube that you sing into, and you can then bend or alter the sound using a pedal steel or other instrument as a triggering device. 1 This track was also issued as a single.

Holy Cow (Allan Toussaint)
Rick Danko - bass, lead vocal /Richard Manuel - electric piano, vocal / Levon Helm - drums, vocal / Robbie Robertson - guitar / Garth Hudson - organ, tenor sax

Share Your Love With Me (A. Braggs / D. Malone)
Richard Manuel - lead vocal, piano / Levon Helm - drums / Rick Danko - bass / Robbie Robertson - electric & acoustic guitar / Garth Hudson - organ, synthesizer

Mystery Train (S.Phillips / H. Parker Jnr)
Additional lyrics by Robbie Robertson
Levon Helm - bass guitar, lead vocal / Rick Danko-rhythm guitar, vocal / Richard Manuel - drums / Billy Mundi - drums / Robbie Robertson - electric guitar / Garth Hudson - organ, clavinette

The Third Man Theme (A. Karas / W. Lord)
Levon Helm - drums / Rick Danko - bass / Richard Manuel - electric piano /Robbie Robertson - electric & acoustic guitar / Garth Hudson - organ, synthesizer, clavinette

Side 2

The Promised Land (C. Berry)
Levon Helm - lead vocal, rhythm guitar / Richard Manuel - drums / Rick Danko - bass / Robbie Robertson - lead guitar / Garth Hudson - piano, clavinette
* Possibly Ben Keith, pedal steel via talk box

The Great Pretender (Buck Ram)
Richard Manuel - lead vocal, piano / Levon Helm - drums / Rick Danko - bass / Robbie Robertson - electric guitar / Garth Hudson - organ
* + John Simon - baritone sax (according to Hidecki Watanabe)

I'm Ready (Domino / Bradford / Lewis)
Levon Helm - lead vocal, drums / Rick Danko - bass / Robbie Robertson - electric guitar / Garth Hudson - organ, saxophone / Richard Manuel - drums

Saved (Leiber / Stoller)
Richard Manuel - lead vocal, piano / Levon Helm - drums / Rick Danko - bass / Robbie Robertson - electric guitar / Garth Hudson - organ

A Change is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke)
Rick Danko - lead vocal, rhythm guitar /Richard Manuel - drums / Levon Helm - bass / Robbie Robertson - electric guitar / Garth Hudson - organ, tenor sax


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
As per Peter Viney's suggestion, I had the following bit of conversation with Rick Danko, barely an hour ago, after his show at the Towne Crier, Pawling, NY. It is as close to accurately quoted as I can recall.

Me: Hey Rick, I've got a Moondog Matinee question.
RD:What's that?
Me: Who sang lead vocal on Holy Cow?
RD: That's me!!
Me: Ah, really? Because there are lots of folks who think it was Richard.
RD: Well Richard WAS our lead singer.

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 Cover

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.

The songs

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.

Dave Marsh
(This) may be the funniest of all New Orleans hits. `I sing like a girl and I sing like a frog' Henry declares at the outset and he's not kidding a bit. Soon enough, this guy you're feeling bad for because society's given him no place to rest his head becomes a girl who lacks a lover and a song, then transmutes into a frog whose worries stem, I guess, from lack of family just as the swamps are drying up. In their entire careers, neither Prince nor Michael Jackson has come up with anything quite this strange.3

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.

Greil Marcus
`Share Your Love' outclassed Bobby `Blue' Bland's original; Manuel had more to give the song, and Garth's knack of making his Lowery sound like a complete string section added great warmth. 4

Barney Hoskyns / Joe Forno
The quietly despairing `Share Your Love With Me' was the best thing Richard had done since `Sleeping'. ``I know he was really proud of `Share Your Love''' says Joe Forno. ``It meant a lot to him when Greil Marcus wrote in ``Mystery Train'' that he'd improved on the original, because Bobby Bland was one of his idols.'5

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.

Sam Phillips
It was the greatest thing I ever did on Elvis. It was a feeling song that so many people had experienced - I mean, it was a big thing, to put a loved one on a train: are they leaving you forever? Maybe they'll never be back. `Train I ride, sixteen coaches long' … Junior (Parker) was going to make it fifty coaches, but I said, no, sixteen coaches is a helluva lot, that sounds like it's coming out of a small town. It was pure rhythm. And at the end, Elvis was laughing because he didn't think it was a take, but I'm sorry, it was a f***ing masterpiece. 6

Dave Marsh's notes on the `1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made' place the Elvis version at #12:

Dave Marsh
Here, singing a song in which Junior Parker reworked the folk images from country songs like the Carter Family's `Worried Man Blues', Elvis … owns the song and nothing within it is unknowable to him or could ever betray him. Which is pretty weird because he's singing about something like a death ship, `a long black train got my baby and gone,' which may also be looking to snatch him. By the end, he's persuading himself - and you, too - that it's bringing her back. The recording itself is a masterpiece, the sound virtually liquid as it hits the ear. … Junior Parker's version, a minor R&B hit in 1953, is spooky because it details what fate can do to a man. Elvis makes you want to defy all omens, hie to the graveyard and dance fearlessly at midnight. 7

Read Greil Marcus's book if you haven't already. He says everything else there is to say about the song:

Greil Marcus
`Mystery Train' was almost completely retooled by Robertson; he kept the first verse, added two of his own, and made up the chords from scratch. After a ha'nt-ridden false start, the Band crept into the standard and took it over, the music dark and funny; when Robertson's new lyrics emerged they sounded as if they'd been in the song since it was first sung, seventy years or twice as long ago … `I tried to get that old Robert Johnson- Arthur Crudup mood,' Robbie said. Well, he did; those were the best lines he'd written since `The Band.'8

Almost everything, but not quite:

Robert Palmer
There has always been a hazy, dream-like aura to the piece - why is the train a mystery train? Robbie taking a cue from Sam Phillips free hand with tradition, reworked the tune even more radically, adding a new rhythm underpinning and two bridges and a verse of his own. This is one of The Band's masterpieces. The somnabulistic intro, which seems to trail of illogically, before the rhythm starts up, helps prepare the listener for the bluesy dream imagery, sounding like Robert Johnson, or Sonny Boy Williamson, but in fact pure Robertson.9

Barney Hoskyns
In Presley's playfully spooky reading, it became an archtypal song of American distance and loss, with the train as the sexual robber bearing people away into the night. The resonance of the imagery may be a little lost in our age of commuter planes, but it wasn't lost on a Canadian like Robbie whose country had been opened up by the railroad in the first place. 10

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!

Greil Marcus
Moondog Matinee contained some of The Band's best music, and the instrumental `The Third Man theme' might have been the hit single they never had, though it would have had to cross over to the Easy Listening charts to make it. 14

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.

Side 2

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.

Greil Marcus
This is the map as the `Poor Boy' sets out from Norfolk, Virginia, to discover the country: a journey that moves from poverty to wealth, from a bus to a plane setting down at LAX. All pop music that takes America as a subject - whether winding toward tragedy or toward an even sweeter harmony runs off this mountain. 15

He quotes Chuck Berry who wrote it during his spell in Springfield Penitentiary. This is what Berry himself wrote:

Chuck Berry
I remember having extreme difficulty in writing Promised Land in trying to secure a road atlas of the United States to verify the routing of the Po' Boy from Norfolk, Virginia to Los Angeles. The penal institutions then were not so generous as to offer a map of any kind for fear of providing the route for an escape. 16

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.'

Dave Marsh
Arriving in Hollywood he (The Poor Boy) understands immediately, without leaving the terminal, that he has arrived not just in a place of possibility but in the Future. Of course his first reaction is to call home and spread the word. Collect. 17

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.

Buck Ram
The A&R man from Mercury said, `you've had a big hit, we need another tune.' I said, `I've got just the tune.' I thought quickly, and said, `The Great Pretender.' I hadn't even written it yet. I went back to my hotel, went to the washroom, and in 30 minutes wrote `The Great Pretender.' Tony Williams (lead singer) didn't want to sing it because it was a `hillbilly tune'.' 18

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.

Robert Palmer
Once again, The Band shows an uncanny ability to match the singer with the song, as Richard tackles The Platters oldie, translating it from the East coast sweet harmony idiom into a grittier but no less affecting style. 19

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.

Claes Ollafsson
The success of `Tweedle Dee' (in 1955) coincided with the arrival in New York of DJ Alan Freed who had begun popularising the new rock & roll sound from Cleveland, Ohio. His package shows played a large part in her life and LaVern thought highly of him,20

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.

Greil Marcus
Cooke was dead when his answer to Dylan's `Blowing In The Wind' appeared on the radio. The new country he demanded - an old country really, that promised land without the catch, without separation, without exclusion - flared up with the passion in his voice, in his whole body, then it faded away. The song remains a rebuke of the decades that followed it, passing by the tune the way you pass a bum on the street. 21

Dave Marsh brings it in at #32 in his list of great singles.

Dave Marsh
There are those who would argue that the single is inferior to the album version because it omits the most militant verse (about being refused admission to a movie theater). But in 1965, much less twenty years later, what Cooke was singing about was clear enough, especially when he talks about his ``brother'' who knocks him to his knees. This was Cooke's final hit, and it is the one record that comes closest to the spirit of Dr Martin Luther King's self-eulogy, `I've Been To The Mountaintop.' 22

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.

Gerri Hirshey
`Change' is remembered as (Cooke's) last and as the record most worthy of his talent. It had an almost funereal tempo. But there were heavenly strings and the lyrics are straight from church, `It's been too hard livin', and I'm afraid to die.' … the man in `Change' is a searcher; born by a river, and been running ever since. Like the pilgrim, he turns to ask for help - to brother, to mother - and again he is left running, alone. Yet there is nowhere to run. He says he doesn't know what's up there beyond the clouds. It is that terrible loneliness, the kind that sentences the soul man to incessant searching . 23

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.

Gerri Hirshey
Redding's is a broader, less subtle version, snagged on a few oversouled asides, but it is beautiful and full of ache. By 1965 … there was no longer great concern about masking a black man's language. Sam Cooke would surely have smiled when he heard Otis launch the verse about seeking comfort … `and then I axed my little mother …' 24

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:

Chris Morris
(It) couldn't be construed merely as a cash-in on trendy nostalgia. Moondog Matinee was as personal a project as the albums that preceded it - it was the group's trip back to the roots that raised them. … The album itself was programmed like a club set - a mixture of rockers and ballads, with a break song (Third Man Theme) … smack in the middle … (it is) a full-blown tribute to the music they played as rock apprentices and the environment they flourished in. 28

Read it carefully. Morris does NOT say that this was The Hawks stage act, though contemporary reviewers had latched straight onto this idea.

Robbie Robertson
A great portion of this album is our old nightclub act that we played twelve years ago. We thought: Gee, wouldn't it be fun for us anyway to go into the studio and put down a lot of those tunes that we did.` 29

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:

Levon Helm:
Why don't we do our old nightclub act?' I forget who said it, but that's how we came up with our next record. 30

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
What did they play, as Levon and The Hawks, when they were in New Jersey before they joined Dylan? The records with Ronnie Hawkins don't give much clue (although they disclose Levon as a songwriter with talent) and the Johnny Hammond album didn't offer much either. My guess is `Slippin' and Slidin'' and `Little Birdies', and all kinds of mixtures of current songs and things heard as children or taught or sung to them by friends or relatives. 31

Rob Bowman
(In the early summer of 65) the Hawks were setting a thousand or more patrons on fire nightly with their heady brew of blues and R&B. 32

Greil Marcus
Like most of the best bands forming at the time, the Hawks were a walking jukebox that played only other people's hits, and the jukebox was a few years out of date to boot. 33

John Hammond (Jnr)
Those guys were good. They were really hot. They did R & B tunes, James Brown tunes, Jumior Parker tunes. Bobby Blue Bland. 34

Greil Marcus
Moondog Rock & Roll Party on WJW … featured black rock exclusively to which all the future Band members listened at the time … (the album was) made up of rock classics they often played in those days, the album sold poorly. 35

Levon Helm lists a set from Pop Ivey's in Port Dover:

  • Not Fade Away
  • A Sweeter Girl (lead vocal: Richard. Jerry Penfound & Garth - saxes)
  • Lucille (lead vocal: Levon)
  • Peter Gunn (instrumental. Penfound on flute)
  • Money
  • You Don't Know Me (lead vocal: Richard)
  • Bo Diddley
  • Forty Days
  • Hootchy John Blues (original impro with saxes)
  • Robbie's Blues (original impro)
  • Kansas City (lead vocal: Richard)
  • Memphis (lead vocal: Levon)
  • Please, Please, Please (lead vocal: Richard)
  • Short Fat Fanny (lead vocal: Levon)
  • No Particular Place To Go
  • You Can't Sit Down (instrumental)
  • Turn On Your Love Light
  • Hi Heel Sneakers
  • Woman Love And a Man (lead vocal: Levon)
  • ``Blues and Bach number'' (a Garth showpiece)
  • Honky Tonk
  • Twist and Shout
  • Georgia On My Mind (lead vocal: Richard)

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:

  • She's 19 Years Old (Muddy Waters)
  • Don't Cry No More
  • Instrumental
  • Georgia On My Mind (Ray Charles hit)
  • Go Go Liza Jane (Canadian Squires single)
  • Bacon Fat (Robertson - Hudson)
  • The Work Song (Cannonball Adderly )
  • Turn On Your Love Light (Bobby Bland)
  • You Don't Know Me (Ray Charles hit)
  • Instrumental
  • Robbies Blues
  • Smack Dab In The Middle (Ray Charles hit)
  • Money (Barrett Strong)
  • Instrumental

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.

Robbie Robertson
When we were kids playing in clubs, everybody played cover songs, and we never wanted to do that. We'd do something else, like playing with Ronnie Hawkins. We never wanted to play what club bands were supposed to play. We had to separate from the pack. Trying to be different was part of the nature of our group. 38

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:

Dave Marsh
Moondog Matinee was a misguided oldies album, with obvious and trite selections, redeemed mostly by pianist / vocalist Richard Manuel's singing on `The Great Pretender.' 39

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):

Robert Christgau
I regard this album not as an aesthetic reverse but as an uncommonly well-selected and performed buncha oldies. Not as many good tunes as on `Stage Fright' but the lyrics are better. 40

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 .


Band version

Original version

Ain't Got No Home


C.F Henry - 6

Holy Cow


Lee Dorsey - 6

Share Your Love With Me


Bobby Bland - 3
Aretha - 2

Mystery Train

4 (v Elvis)
6 (v J. Parker)

Elvis Presley- 6
Junior Parker-4

Third Man Theme


Karas - 5

The Promised Land


Berry - 5

The Great Pretender


Platters - 5

I'm Ready


Domino - 3



L. Baker - 6

A Change Is Gonna Come

3 (v Sam Cook)
3 (v Redding)

Cook- 7
Redding - 7

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.

Mick Gold
What The Band expressed on … Moondog was a faith in rock & roll as a living tradition which could be invoked as well as added to. 41

Barney Hoskyns
Gold (above) was one of only a handful of writers who appreciated the degree of reinvention that had gone into Moondog Matinee. As much as they had done on `The Band' they were making the past new.42

So the avowed aim was reinventing, or as Robertson says complementing the originals.

Robbie Robertson:
It's the only album I've ever heard of old rock & roll songs where I thought the interpretations came anywhere near to complementing the originals. Unfortunately people compared it to everything else we'd done, which I thought was ridiculous. 43

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.


  1. Thanks to David Powell for posting detailed information on the talk-box and its use on `Moondog Matinee'
  2. Interviewed by Harvey Kubernick, Crawdaddy, 1976. Thanks to Ben Pike for posting this information.
  3. Dave Marsh, `The Heart of Rock & Soul', 1989
  4. Greil Marcus, `Mystery Train'
  5. Barney Hoskyns, `Across The Great Divide.'' I'm quoting Hoskyns who is is quoting Forno quoting Manuel's reaction to a quote in Marcus. Post-modernism? What?
  6. Quoted in Peter Guralnick, `Last Train To Memphis' 1994 (& on 50s Masters box set - also Guralnik)
  7. Dave Marsh, `The Heart of Rock & Soul', 1989.
  8. Greil Marcus, `Mystery Train
  9. Robert Palmer, sleeve notes to CD, `Anthology II' (Capitol)
  10. Barney Hoskyns, `Across The Great Divide.'
  11. The name is almost as long as that of all five Band members as presented on the label of Big Pink
  12. Guinness Encylopedia of Popular Music, ed. Colin Larkin
  13. information from Joseph Murrells `Million Selling Records from the 1900s to the 1980s' 1984
  14. Greil Marcus, `Mystery Train'
  15. Greil Marcus: `The Promised Land. Thirty Records About America.' Rolling Stone #787, May 1998
  16. Chuck Berry, `The Autobiography', 1987
  17. Dave Marsh, `The Heart of Rock & Soul', 1989. `The Weight' only makes #616!
  18. Quoted in Fred Bronson, `The Billboard Book of Number One Hits' 1985
  19. Robert Palmer, sleeve notes to CD, `Anthology II' (Capitol)
  20. Claes Olafsson, sleeve notes to LaVern Baker `Blues Side of Rock & Roll', Star Club, Sweden 1993
  21. Greil Marcus: `The Promised Land. Thirty Records About America.' Rolling Stone #787, May 1998
  22. Dave Marsh, `The Heart of Rock & Soul', 1989
  23. Gerri Hirshey, `Nowhere to Run - The story of soul music' 1984
  24. Gerri Hirshey, `Nowhere to Run - The story of soul music' 1984
  25. The Sam Cooke version on the compilation `The Man & His Music' (RCA) is the original 3 minute plus album cut.
  26. `The Shape I'm In - The Very Best of The Band', Capitol, August 1998. Sleeve notes by Barney Hoskyns
  27. The problem with 1974 Dylan / Band tour tapes and bootlegs is that most are prepared by Dylan fans, and to keep it to one CD or even one C90 cassette they have to cut - and they invariably cut The Band segments. It is said that EVERY show was bootlegged.
  28. Chris Morris, sleeve notes to CD reissue of `Moondog Matinee' 1990
  29. Typed it in, put ``1973'' didn't annotate it further! Probably a `Rolling Stone' q uote.
  30. Levon Helm / Stephen Davis, `This Wheel's On Fire'
  31. Ralph J. Gleason, The Band, review of Winterland concert, `Rolling Stone' May 17 1969 (also reprinted in `The Rolling Stone Rock `n' Roll reader') - Gleason was following Greil Marcus who had been impressed by Levon's writing credit on `You Cheated You Lied' - which we now know was spurious. Gleason also hadn't had access to setlists or collectors tapes, so was completely off the mark.
  32. Rob Bowman, sleeve notes to the `To Kingdom Come' compilation
  33. Greil Marcus `Mystery Train' 3rd ed. 1990
  34. Interviewed by John Bauldie in `The Telegraph #44, Winter 199
  35. Greil Marcus `Mystery Train'
  36. Doin' The Twist at The Peppermint Lounge' / `Back At The Peppermint Lounge - Twistin' by Joey Dee & The Starliters. Shared tracks are `Honky Tonk' and `Money' but the tone of the set is very similar (Kansas City, Long Tall Sally, C.C. Rider, Talkin' About You, Fanny Mae, Sticks & Stones, Shout)
  37. They were long said to have cut `Little Red Rooster' and `Going To the River' for an LP called `Transfusion' but it transpires that this was a subsequent line-up of Hawkins' Hawks. Neither appear on the definitive 2CD anthology.
  38. In Joe Smith `Off The Record: An Oral History of Popular Music' (1989)
  39. From `The Rolling Stone Record Guide' 1st edition, 1979. By the 1992 edition that opinion had been revised: `an album of muted if expert covers of the early rock & roll that formed the group's roots'
  40. Christgau's Guide: Rock Albums of the 70s, 1982. I couldn't agree less with the sting-in-the-tail!
  41. Mick Gold, `The Band: A Tree With Roots' Let It Rock, 1974
  42. Barney Hoskyns `Across The Great Divide'
  43. Interviewed by Harvey Kubernick, Crawdaddy, 1976

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