I heard this as I had another of my many nights of insomnia last night. I have a vast collection of Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio shows and this track came on in one themed on the bible. It’s Wynonie Harris lamenting woman trouble. I loved the lyrics.
If I have to go on a car trip of an hour or so, I’ll more often than not put on one of the Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio shows which a friend kindly put the whole series of on MP3 for me a couple of years ago. The shows sometimes feature well known material but they are also a treasure trove of obscure gems from the great American songbook.
Rock n roll, R&B, bluegrass, country and folk is all there. Listening on the journey is so much better than just sticking on the radio or a disc.
This is all punctuated by Bob’s laid back, dry, sometimes sardonic (and educational) style of broadcasting. The theme of the show I listened to yesterday was “Head to Toe” and featured songs which included parts of the body in their lyric.
This Loretta Lynn track was featured. The coal miner’s daughter had a particular way of cutting to the chase with her lyrics.
This is a cracker.
This posting combines two staples of TBLFP i.e. Tom Waits and the Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio Hour. Of course the whole Dylan radio show is the kind of thing that would be right up Tom’s street. He’d like the music for a start and both he and Bob are not averse to pulling the odd leg or two.
The whole radio show is in fact a series of audio illusions and delusions. The Abernathy Building, your announcer Pierre Mancini, the letters (and emails) and the callers are all abstract motifs which produce the ambience of old time radio USA.
One “caller” to the show though was our old friend Tom and the following vignettes contain the type of information that Bob himself likes to disseminate . Click on each one to listen.
I have heard it mentioned that Bob doesn’t intend to do any more radio shows and that Tom has been approached to do a show along the same lines. So far this is unsubstantiated. Listening to them on air together is to hear Statler and Waldorf in their more reflective moments.
A while back my friend Alastair gave me a couple of discs containing just about all the Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio Hour shows up to that point. I downloaded them all on to my MP3 gadget and often listen to them. I particularly enjoy listening to one on a trip to Glasgow in the car. The hour is then taken up with not only fantastic music spanning much of the twentieth century but also a wealth of comment and quirky information from the Bobmeister.
For instance yesterday on my way to Cambuslang I was treated to a show initially broadcast in January 2008 on the theme of walking. As well as music from Waylon Jennings, Fats Domino, Lou Reed, Jimmy Rogers, Count Baisie and others, (you can download the very show here ) Bob treated me to some fascinating information and two things in particular caught my ear.
Firstly he was talking about Murder Incorporated which was the name given by the FBI to the organised crime groups in the 1920′s to 1940′s responsible for 100′s of murders on behalf of the Mafia and Jewish crime groups. The hit men apparently had conditions of employment, holidays and a pension scheme! (or maybe that was Bob’s little joke). However the irony was that one of the founders of Murder Inc., Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegal was also one of its victims.
Ever wondered where the expression “jakey” came from? It is of course a derogatory term here in Scotland for a habitual irredeemable heavy drinker. I’d guess it came from another subject on the show I listened to. Jamaican ginger extract (known in the United States by the slang name Jake) was a late 19th century patent medicine that provided a convenient way to bypass Prohibition laws, since it contained between 70-80% ethanol by weight.
Jake was not itself dangerous, but the U.S. Treasury Department, which administered the Prohibition laws, recognized its potential as an illicit alcohol source and required changes in the solids content of jake to discourage drinking. The minimum requirement of ginger solids per cubic centimeter of alcohol resulted in a fluid that was extremely bitter and difficult to drink. Occasionally, Department of Agriculture inspectors would test shipments of jake by boiling the solution and weighing the remaining solid residue. In an effort to trick regulators, bootleggers replaced the ginger solids with a small amount of ginger and either castor oil or molasses.
A pair of amateur chemists and bootleggers, Harry Gross and Max Reisman, worked to develop an alternative adulterant that would pass the tests, but still be somewhat palatable. They settled on a plasticizer, tri-o-tolyl phosphate (also known as tri-ortho cresyl phosphate, TOCP, or Tricresyl phosphate), that was able to pass the Treasury Department’s tests but preserved jake’s drinkability. TOCP was originally thought to be non-toxic; however, it was later determined to be a neurotoxin that causes axonal damage to the nerve cells in the nervous system of human beings, especially those located in the spinal cord. The resulting type of paralysis is now referred to as organophosphate-induced delayed neuropathy (OPIDN).
In 1930, large numbers of jake users began to lose the use of their hands and feet. Some victims could walk, but they had no control over the muscles which would normally have enabled them to point their toes upward. Therefore, they would raise their feet high with the toes flopping downward, which would touch the pavement first followed by their heels. The toe first, heel second pattern made a distinctive “tap-click, tap-click” sound as they walked. This very peculiar gait became known as the jake walk and those afflicted were said to have jake leg, jake foot, or jake paralysis. Additionally, the calves of the legs would soften and hang down and the muscles between the thumbs and fingers would atrophy.
Within a few months, the TOCP-adulterated jake was identified as the cause of the paralysis and the contaminated jake was recovered, but it was too late for many victims. Some users recovered full or partial use of their limbs, but for most, the loss was permanent. The total number of victims was never accurately determined, but is frequently quoted as between 30,000 and 50,000. Many victims were immigrants to the United States and most were poor with little political or social influence. The victims received very little assistance, and aside from being the subject of a few blues songs recorded in the early 1930s (e.g. “Jake Walk Papa” by Asa Martin and “Jake Leg Blues” by the Mississippi Sheiks), they were almost completely forgotten.
Dylan played another record, Jake Walk Blues by the Allen Brothers.
If you’ve never heard a Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio Hour make the effort. There are complete shows and clips all over the internet.
They are a absolute joy.
One of the delights of my MP3 player is listening to my downloaded podcasts of the Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio Hour. I’ll take the dog out for a walk and get lost in a world of blues, R&B, country, gospel and jazz punctuated by Dylan’s oblique sardonic comments.
The top of the show is one of my favourite parts, brief vignettes announced by a woman presenter with a husky, smoky voice e.g.
“It’s night time in the big city. Three homeless men share a bottle around a trash can inferno. A rock goes through a window on 12th St. It’s time for Theme Time Radio Hour with your host Bob Dylan”
Dylan’s intros are brilliant too
“For the next hour we are going to examine the involuntary, unconscious activity known as laughter. We can consciously inhibit it, but we can’t consciously produce it. It’s impossible to laugh on command. You can fake an orgasm, but you can’t fake laughter.”
If you’re quick you can listen to The Cops and Robbers show but if you look carefully there are plenty places they can be downloaded.
Sometimes tracks will come on which I feel are personally directed at me! For example how about this from The Bailes Brothers?
Or for Haloween how about “The Charmer” alias Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in a previous incarnation singing Zombie Jamboree? This time including Dylan’s voiceover.