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Why Can’t I Touch It? Live Recorded Music

Why spend your life obsessed with music? July 8th, 2003 at Madison Square Garden and Pearl Jam are playing one of those concerts that are just rumors unless you’re there and you can see it youself. Eddie Vedder has been swigging from a bottle of red all night long and it is first Pearl Jam’s first time in NYC since 9/11 and the Buzzcocks -pop punk masters- and opening. Things are just alligning right. So it is maybe fifteen songs in, the heart of the night, and eddie performs a song I never much cared for, “Wishlist” off “Yield” but he is getting it so right and I can hear it for the first time ever mostly because Mike McCready is on fire all through the song and then Vedder says, “Fuck the pessimists” to the screams of the audience before segueing into a Steve Diggle song: “well it seems so real i can see it and it seems so real i can feel it and it seems so real i can taste it and it seems so real i can hear it,” Vedder is swaying in the spotlight, his face beaded in sweat, “Sing New York,” like he was sharing his bottle with us, “you know you want to…” and New York does, indeed New York won’t give it back and it feels like part of the healing process. I have never been sure what the song means but now tonight it is about sharing a loss and feeling a loss and a loss of people to sudden death sure, but also a loss of a certain sort of innocent. A loss the way a child might lose when he discovers he is not invulnerable to the happenstance of life or a father when his son is pulled to his death by the undertow of the sea. It is the why of the why. It is our complete ability to be lost for a lifetime, to lose a girl, to see how things are so temporary and like the past, like a day that is gone , it is ephemeral and gone. “So why, ” New York asked “So why can’t I touch it? It helped heal us.
Transcendental and I wasn’t there. I had cheap seats for the night and was offered awesome seats for Metallica at Giant’s Stadium and made a big mistake. Metallica were pretty good that night and they had a moment or two too but it wasn’t this. The next day I got a call from Christine Babiak telling me what a fool I was and I listened and I read the reviews but I didn’t really believe them. But in Virgin Records a coupla years later I picked up the Pearl Jam official bootleg of the night (along with a concert in Manchester) and I was shocked to hear how great they were that night.
Live albums and boots are not the same. The Stones (Kings of the live album as tour souvenirs) have released album after album of live stiffs from “Get Yer Yayas Out” thru “Still Life” to “No Security” and “Shine A Light” haven’t managed to do what Pearl Jam did. Live rock albums don’t rock very well. A jazz album, a “Dark Magus” is a record of Miles Davis improvising at Carnegie Hall with a rock band -it functions as experimental art-jazz, as a moment, like “On The Corner,” both completely singular and also a recorded artificate. But live rock albums are more like studio recorded rock albums: they are attempts to fashion a conceptually connected series of songs DESPITE THE CONCEPT IN THE SEQUENTIAL PLAYING AT A SINGLE MOMENT. A great live album, say Van Morrison’s “It’s Too Late To Stop Now” would be better if they had recorded a single concert and this despite them sequencing a double vinyl that mirrord the live shows. This is what Christgau said about “It’s Too Late To Stop Now”: “Songs that wore poorly or were just lame in the first place have more force and rightness on this exemplary live album than in their studio versions, and “Here Comes the Night” sounds fresher than it did in 1965. In addition, Morrison documents his debt to blues and r&b definitively–you can hear Bobby Bland all over the record, and cover tributes are paid as well to Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, and Sam Cooke.”
So a great live rock album like “Too Late” enhances what we knew about a band before and adds to their backstory but it is a true rarity. I haven’t heard a great Beatle or ex-Beatle live album with the exception of “Harrison In Japan.” The truth is a great pop band is going to be a great produced pop band and in the past the sound couldn’t be reproduced live and in the present it isn’t helped by an exact replication live and even if it is, what’s the point in listening to it again…???
The triple vinyl Woodstock suffers from every possible problem you can imagine. As an artifate, as a souvenir, it has value but as music it doesn’t really. I saw the Who on their “Quadrophenia” tour and except missing Keith Moon (a big except I admit it) they were ten times better than at Woodstock. CSN&Y were great in 02, crap in 69. Hendrix was not a revelation though he wasn’t bad -still, Hendrix was an improvisation artists (there is rumors of a holy grail Miles Davis Hendrix” session somewhere. Sha Na Na? John Sebastian? The Sly and the Family Stone is excellent and Sly -though zonked out of his mind, and “(We’re Gonna take you) Higher” reaches a euphoric height I don’t hear often enough on the album but, as somebody mentioned to me, he doesn’t get you high enough.
There is an awareness of history and having seen the movie there is an awareness of what is going on in front of the stage that when you listen to the album gives the album the feel of preservation of an important moment in American history though we can debate how important. The album is interrupted with stuff like “Breakfast in bed for 500,000 people” and “It’s official we’re a disaster area” and we the listener are keenly aware the hundreds of thousands of kids right behind him and further along the world Country Joe was singing to: “Put away your school books, pick up a gun…” Which does give the music an unearned resonance. Just what the world needs: Mountain with an unearned resonance.
This Tuesday every single song available (ie none of The Band) on tape from the Woodstock festival (77 tracks) will be released and I am deciding how much of it to buy if any. Whatever I do buy I think I want the whole set by a particular group or artist.
The great thing about the Pearl Jam official boot is it takes you deep inside the set and you can hear Vedder getting tipsy and getting deep into the contours of the set. As an experiment I downloaded the Regina Spektor concert at the beacon theatre from June 17th of this year. I thought the concert was brilliant, the download less so. It is fascinating listening to it a couple of months later. “Ink Stains” so overwhelmed me I had forgotten nearly everything else -how many songs are there about the Holocaust. Dylan referenced it all the time but it was deep background. How can you sing about the Holocaust without trivializing it? Yhe “Ink Stains” refer to the tattoo’s on the victim’s of the German’s genocide by which they were numbered. This is how politics and pain is transmogrified into art.
As a download everything pales in comparisons and the sound is very rough (though not as rough as my Dylan CD from Roseland in 93). Reminds me of how good “Bopping For Apples” was with regina solo on electric guitar and reminds me how songs that passed me by with the passing of time. It teaches me how she did what she did, how well “Folding Chairs” (which she’s been playing live for years before releasing it on “Far”) opens and how two songs later she chooses “Time Is All Around” (which shouldn’t have been available only on the deluxe edition) a perfect pop song. There is a longevity here and also a longing for the release she’ll provide 5 songs later with “On The Radio”.
Still, if nothing was lost having the songs from the concert, except for “Ink Stain” which isn’t available elsewhere, nothing was gained.
Leads me to the conclusion that for every Louis Armstrong Live At Town Hall there’s a thousand Bob Dylan’s Live At Budokon and
that, with exceptions, live rock doesn’t record well. By the way, the other Pearl Jam official boot I bought? The live in Manchester? Was a snooze.
Track Listing –
Disc 1
1. “Handsome Johnny” — Richie Havens
2. “Freedom (Motherless Child)” — Richie Havens
3. “Choppity Choppity” — John Morris
4. “Look Out” — Sweetwater
5. “Two Worlds” — Sweetwater *
6. “Jennifer” — Bert Sommer *
7. “And When It’s Over” — Bert Sommer *
8. “Smile” — Bert Sommer *
9. “There Goes Marilyn!” — John Morris
10. “Hang On To A Dream” — Tim Hardin
*11. “Simple Song Of Freedom” — Tim Hardin *
12. “Flat Blue Acid” — John Morris
13. “Raga Puriya-Dhanashri/Gat In Sawarital” — Ravi Shankar *
14. “Momma Momma” — Melanie *
15. “Beautiful People” — Melanie
16. “Birthday Of The Sun” — Melanie
17. “Coming Into Los Angeles” — Arlo Guthrie ***
18. “Wheel Of Fortune” — Arlo Guthrie*
19. “Every Hand In The Land” — Arlo Guthrie *
20. “All You Funny People” — John Morris

Disc 2
1. “Joe Hill” — Joan Baez
2. “Sweet Sir Galahad”– Joan Baez
3. “Hickory Wind” — Joan Baez *
4. “Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man” — Joan Baez w/Jeffrey Shurtleff
5. “Bring Scully His Asthma Pills” — John Morris
6. “Insulin” & Quill Intro — John Morris
7. “They Live The Life” — Quill *
8. “That’s How I Eat” — Quill *
9. “I Understand Your Wife Is Having A Baby” — Chip Monck
10. “Donovan’s Reef” — Country Joe McDonald *
11. “The ‘Fish’ Cheer”/”I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag” — Country Joe McDonald
12. “Persuasion” — Santana
13. “Soul Sacrifice” — Santana
14. “How Have You Been” — John B. Sebastian
15. “Rainbows All Over Your Blues” — John B. Sebastian
16. “I Had A Dream” — John B. Sebastian
17. “The Letter” — Incredible String Band *
18. “When You Find Out Who You Are” — Incredible String Band *
19. “She Is Lost” — Chip Monck

Disc 3
1. “We’re In Pretty Good Shape” — Chip Monck
2. “Going Up The Country” — Canned Heat
3. “Woodstock Boogie” — Canned Heat **
4. “The Brown Acid Is Not Specifically Too Good” — Chip Monck
5. “Blood Of The Sun” — Mountain ***
6. “Theme For An Imaginary Western” — Mountain ***
7. “For Yasgur’s Farm” — Mountain *
8. “For Those Of You Who Have Partaken Of The Green Acid” — Chip Monck
9. “Green Acid Advice” — Jerry Garcia & Country Joe McDonald
10. “Dark Star” — Grateful Dead *
11. “Green River” — Creedence Clearwater Revival
12. “Bad Moon Rising” — Creedence Clearwater Revival *
13. “I Put A Spell On You” — Creedence Clearwater Revival

Disc 4
1. “Work Me, Lord” — Janis Joplin
2. “Ball And Chain” — Janis Joplin
3. Medley: “Dance To The Music”/”Music Lover”/”I Want To Take You Higher” — Sly & The Family Stone
4. “The Politics Of The Situation” — Abbie Hoffman
5. “Amazing Journey” — The Who *
6. “Pinball Wizard” — The Who *
7. Abbie Hoffman vs. Pete Townshend
8. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” — The Who **
9. “The Other Side Of This Life” — Jefferson Airplane *
10. “Somebody To Love” — Jefferson Airplane
11. “Won’t You Try”/ “Saturday Afternoon” — Jefferson Airplane
12. “We Got A Whole Lot Of Orange” — Grace Slick
13. “Volunteers” — Jefferson Airplane
14. “Breakfast In Bed For 400,000” — Wavy Gravy
15. “It Just Keeps Goin'” — John Morris
16. Max Yasgur Speaks
Disc 5
1. “Feelin’ Alright” — Joe Cocker *
2. “Let’s Go Get Stoned” — Joe Cocker
3. “With A Little Help From My Friends” — Joe Cocker
4. The Rainstorm
5. “Rock & Soul Music” — Country Joe & The Fish
6. “Love” — Country Joe & The Fish *
7. “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine” — Country Joe & The Fish *
8. “Summer Dresses” — Country Joe & The Fish *
9. “Silver and Gold” — Country Joe & The Fish *
10. “Rock & Soul Music” (Reprise) — Country Joe & The Fish *
11. “Leland Mississippi Blues” — Johnny Winter *
12. “Mean Town Blues” — Johnny Winter
13. “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” — Blood Sweat & Tears *

Disc 6
1. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” — Crosby Stills & Nash
2. “Guinnevere” — Crosby Stills & Nash
3. “Marrakesh Express” — Crosby Stills & Nash
4. “4 + 20” — Crosby Stills & Nash
5. “Sea Of Madness” — Crosby Stills Nash & Young
6. “Wooden Ships” — Crosby Stills Nash & Young
7. “No Amount Of Loving” — The Butterfield Blues Band *
8. “Love March” — The Butterfield Blues Band
9. “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” — The Butterfield Blues Band
10. “Get A Job” — Sha Na Na *
11. “At The Hop” — Sha Na Na
12. “Get A Job” (Reprise) — Sha Na Na *
13. “The Star Spangled Banner” — Jimi Hendrix
14. “Purple Haze” — Jimi Hendrix”Woodstock Improvisation” — Jimi Hendrix
15. “Woodstock Farewell” — Chip Monck

*Previously Unissued = never before released
**Previously Unissued Full-Length Version = previously released on a Woodstock title in edited form.
***Previously Unissued Woodstock Recording = presenting the actual Woodstock performances here for the first time.

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