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Phil Och's "Gunfight At Carnegie Hall" Revisited

The Man With The Golden Suit




















With Neil Young name checking Phil Och’s Gunfight At Carnegie Hall, recorded March 27, 1970 this week, I thought I’d go back and give it another shot and I must admit, it doesn’t work for me. At the concert, two actually, an afternoon and an evening show, Phil “went electric’. The Dylan contemporary brought rock and roll to bear behind the folk icons persona, claiming Buddy Holly’s influence on “I Ain’t Marching Anymore’.

All well and good but not only was 1970 a little late to be going rock and roll, he also wasn’t singing new rock and roll songs. At Carnegie hall on Monday, Neil claimed that the business side of popular music killed him and maybe so, but if the album I’ve heard – 50 minutes from the first set, truncated by a bomb threat.

Apparently the story of the evening was the second concert which started at midnight and when Carnegie hall pulled the electricity, Ochs lead the audience in a chant till the electricity was put back on.

All of which is fine but we are dealing with the album we want, 1974’s Gunfight At Carnegie Hall and if there is anything other than irony on “I Ain’t Marching Any More” being followed by “Okie From Muskogee” I can’t hear it. I don’t dislike Och’s version but I don’t really care one way or the other. And while I admit it might have meant more in 1970, I kinda think the timing is off even for 1970.

The album ends with a Presley album followed by “A Fool Such As I”, and it is fine for what it is, but what it is it? What does allegiance to Presley mean in 1970? That fight was well won; this ain’t Dylan, it is Ricky Nelson, it Is “Garden Party.’

In its own way the Och’s story is as tragic as Kurt Cobain. The man was a great writer of folk songs and protest song and a true voice for freedom . If A&M would release the entire two shows, I bet it would be a true revelation and a story in motion: from the sober listen to this of the first show, to the drunker we’re all in this together, Ochs with a bandaged hand after he bust Carnegie Hall’s box office window and get some audience members on the guest list for the second set.

By the end Och’s was told he would never play Carnegie Hall again but that was at 4am in the morning and that’s the album I wanna hear because it sure ain’t here.

Grade: B-

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