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6 Classic Recordings That Have No Business Existing (Part Two)

More beloved records that were made under bizarre circumstances.

Kathy Shaidle


February 26, 2013 - 7:00 am
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#2 — “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” (1969) by The Band

When I spoke to Robertson more recently, he added, “It just seemed to fit in with the combination of flavors in the music and the time period we were dealing with at that time. It was like that record was in sepia tone or something. To this day, people ask me, ‘Whatever possessed you to write that song?’ And the answer is, I don’t really know; it’s the only thing I could think of at the time.” (Robertson says the group’s resident Southerner, Levon Helm, nixed a verse about Abraham Lincoln. The song’s Robert E. Lee reference — more appropriate to Virgil Caine’s viewpoint — survived.)

When I was part of the Reagan-era no-nukes movement, we youngsters used to make fun of our older, hippie comrades by skipping behind them during marches, singing the “Aaaaand… aaaannnd… AAANNNDDDD” part from “The Weight.”

They didn’t get it. But to us, those three notes embodied the entire Age of Aquarius, which we thought of as corny ancient history.

And indeed, for many people, The Band are the 60s — the 1860s, that is.

Their Southern fried rock contemporaries, Creedence Clearwater Revival, have been called “Andrew Jackson’s house band.” With “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” The Band could’ve landed that job in the Jefferson Davis “administration.”

But The Band’s apparent determination to look like Lincoln assassination “wanted” posters  wasn’t just a flaky fashion statement, or a smug one, like the hippies’ later embrace of that morbid hicksville sideshow Wisconsin Death Trip.

Quite the opposite. Maybe The Band was, consciously or otherwise, trying to recalibrate their furious, spoiled generation’s perspective.

As one historian noted recently:

There were race riots (the “Red Summer of 1919″), worker insurrections, and an Italian anarchist terrorist campaign aimed directly at the elites. The worst incident in US labour history was the West Virginia Mine War of 1920—21, culminating in the Battle of Blair Mountain. Although it started as a workers’ dispute, the Mine War eventually turned into the largest armed insurrection that the US has ever seen, the Civil War excepted. Between 10,000 and 15,000 miners armed with rifles battled against thousands of strikebreakers and sheriff deputies. … Add to all this the rise of the Soviet Union and the wave of socialist revolutions that swept Europe after the First World War, triggering the Red Scare of 1921, and you get a sense of the atmosphere. Quantitative data indicate that this period was the most violent in US history, second only to the Civil War. It was much, much worse than the 1960s.

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All Comments   (8)
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"The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" was one of my favorite songs from the 60's and "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is maybe the best tear jerking feel sorry for yourself song about unrequited love ever recorded.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The ironic thing is, probably the best known version of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" is Joan Baez' cover.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ugh. BTO was (is) god-awful.
There isn't much (besides rap) that can make me change radio stations faster than "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" with it's rip-off of The Who's stutter from "My Generation," made all the worse by the singer's nasal delivery.

I saw them in concert once when they were opening for Van Halen (this was a long time ago). Seeing three fat beer guts rolling around the stage didn't improve my opinion, especially when they were barely competent at playing that three-chord garbage.

And before I forget, the Guess Who sucked, too.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm confused. The Band recorded their album in Woodstock, New York. which was a "15-minute drive from where Sharon Tate got murdered?" The SR-71 Blackbird couldn't get cross-country that fast!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Only Radar Love is a worse expression of pop trash than Takin' Care of Business. Bachmann was a fine song writer and the Guess Who were never the same after he left, but for me, this is not a shining moment.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
American Woman really pisses me off. It fully encapsulates the the hypocrisy of anti-Americans.

You don't like America, then fine, don't tour here. Don't license your music to play on American radio stations.

But hey, wait, I guess you do need America after all.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Listening to The band is slow death by monotony- this is the "music" you get by encouraging heroin addicts.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Enjoyed Bachman very much. Excellent raconteur. It is nice to hear that special ed teachers benefit from his fine song -- TCB.

I have always their music with Motorcycle Clubs.
2 years ago
2 years ago Link To Comment
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