Why no George Harrison at The Last Waltz?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Interpolantics, Mar 7, 2018.

  1. After George’s 74 tour, I really doubt anyone would think that. :tiphat:
  2. czeskleba

    czeskleba Senior Member

    It's been over 20 years since I read Levon's book, so I didn't remember the exact details of the story, but I found the anecdote online and reread it. Levon doesn't clearly say that Robertson was involved. He says the "studio manager" was the one who came and talked to him two days before the show, asking if they could drop Muddy Waters. He says he got a sense that the guy had been delegated to bring up the subject, and he quotes him as saying "we've all discussed it." He implies Robertson was one of the "we" who had discussed it, but he doesn't clearly say it. So even if this did actually happen as described, it's possible Robertson was not involved and not the one behind the suggestion to drop Waters.

    At any rate, it just doesn't seem plausible to me. The show ran about 5 1/2 hours (not counting the 4 hours of Thanksgiving dinner and dancing beforehand), and they ended with a big aimless jam. It doesn't seem like they were too worried about time constraints or that they had any specific time they needed to be done. And in a show that long, would dropping one artist really make much of a difference? It also seems unlikely to me that Robertson would suggest Muddy Waters as being the first to go. I'm sure he admired Waters as much as anyone in the group. If they really were that concerned about time, I would think they'd either look at dropping a lesser name or perhaps cutting back on the amount of songs in their own set, or maybe limiting everyone else to two songs each. Or perhaps starting the show earlier and allowing less time for dinner. There were lots of options if time really was a big concern.

    Below are Robertson's comments on the matter. He denies anything of the sort happened. It's interesting that he gets the story wrong, mistakenly believing that the claim was that he wanted Muddy be dropped from the film, rather than the show itself. That at least makes some sense as a possibility, which further underscores the unlikelihood that they'd be worried about running long in an open-ended multi-hour show with no clear limits or parameters. Pointedly, he avoids mentioning Levon as the source of the "absurd claims":

    There’s been a misconception over the years that I should clearly straighten out.

    While we were inviting musical guests to join us for the Band’s Last Waltz concert, Levon suggested Muddy Waters. We had always been big admirers of his music, and were unquestionably influenced by him. There was a period in the early 60’s when Muddy’s records rarely left the turntable. The only concern amongst the members of the Band was- could we do justice and play his songs as well as we knew them from those amazing Chess recordings?
    Muddy originally came from the Mississippi Delta in an area just across the river from where Levon grew up. Levon’s ties to the blues of his homeland were a strong bond and I completely understood his desire to have Muddy join us. Levon was totally confident in our ability to play with Muddy, so we completely embraced the idea.

    At our rehearsal before the concert, Muddy brought along his piano man Pinetop Perkins and guitarist Bob Margolin. We also invited Paul Butterfield, the master blues harp player, to join us. Muddy had been up to Levon’s barn in Woodstock NY and recorded the old classic song, “Caledonia”, so he suggested we do that one. I asked about Muddy’s amazing “Mannish Boy” track, and Bob Margolin thought was a great choice, and gave us the lowdown on the arrangement. Playing with Muddy and these guys at the concert was definitely one of the highlights of the night for us.

    Someone claimed years later that there had been a dispute over whether Muddy’s performance would be included in the Last Waltz movie. This is absolutely untrue. Then, to top it off, I heard that we’d contemplated replacing Muddy’s performance in the film with Neil Diamond’s. Ridiculously false. No one involved, not Marty, nor any of us, ever considered not including Muddy in the film. His performance in The Last Waltz is phenomenal and speaks for itself.

    I seriously needed to dispel these absurd claims.
    ohnothimagen, kevywevy and chacha like this.
  3. mrjinks

    mrjinks Optimistically Challenged

    Boise, ID.
    Huh? So they dubbed in audience applause? On the bootlegs (with Rock Island Line and Bye Bye Love), too?
    Pretty convincing “fake” audience, wouldn’t you say?
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
  4. the pope ondine

    the pope ondine Forum Resident

    van shouldve kept using that lion tamer outfit, he was killin' it
    Dark Horse 77 and chacha like this.
  5. chacha

    chacha Forum Resident

    mill valley CA USA
    I never believed that story about Robbie wanting to drop Muddy from the show. That made no sense to me when I read Levon’s book.
    savemenow and czeskleba like this.
  6. chacha

    chacha Forum Resident

    mill valley CA USA
    Might be the best performance he’s ever given. Never seen him like that again.
    the pope ondine likes this.
  7. chacha

    chacha Forum Resident

    mill valley CA USA
    I never even dreamed about the possibility of George at The Last Waltz until this thread. And I was at the Gig. Can’t imagine it ever happening.
    NaturalD and Hey Vinyl Man like this.
  8. DmitriKaramazov

    DmitriKaramazov Forum Resident

    I say, AG, have you tried The Internet? (Sorry that’s what happens when I drunk post.). :help:

    (James Mason impersonation voice)
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
    RayS likes this.
  9. RayS

    RayS Paying attention like a rattlesnake does

    As pointed out below ... not quite. Yes, he met them during his November visit, when he also presumably wrote and recorded demos for "I'd Have You Any Time" and "Nowhere To Go" with Dylan.
    WilliamWes likes this.
  10. RayS

    RayS Paying attention like a rattlesnake does

    You do Mason better than Rodney Burke! (Or was it Lee Peters?)
    PhoffiFozz likes this.
  11. Hey Vinyl Man

    Hey Vinyl Man Forum Resident

    I believe in the DVD voiceover of the movie, Martin Scorcese says something to the effect that when Muddy was performing, he (Scorcese) didn't know the cameras were running (and was tremendously relieved that they were). I don't know what to make of that vis a vis Robbie's comments that you quoted, but it does sound like there was at least some question about including him in the movie even after he was confirmed for the concert.
  12. Mal

    Mal Phorum Physicist

    According to the notes by Rob Bowman for A Musical History (2005), "Jemima Surrender", "Up On Cripple Creek" and "Whispering Pines" were recorded at The Hit Factory in New York in May/June 1969, after the rest of the songs had been recorded in LA (at Sammy Davis Jr.'s pool house) in March/April.
  13. czeskleba

    czeskleba Senior Member

    Well, Robbie vigorously denies there was ever any question about putting him in the movie, so I don't see how it makes sense to conclude there actually was uncertainty about it. Particularly since neither Levon (nor anyone else) has ever claimed that, and Levon wouldn't have been in any position to know anything about decisions regarding the film's content anyway (since he had no involvement in the compilation and editing of it).

    If there's any grain of truth to Levon's story, I would guess maybe someone who wasn't familiar with Muddy Waters floated the idea of dropping him from the show to Levon, and Levon jumped to the erroneous conclusion that Robertson was behind the idea.
    savemenow and chacha like this.
  14. Brother Maynard

    Brother Maynard Forum Resident

    Dallas, TX
    Presumeably recorded prior to the live show but with the audience present. At least that's how I interpret it.
    Bern likes this.
  15. notesfrom

    notesfrom Forum Resident

    NC USA
    Robbie was co-Producer of the The Last Waltz with someone named Jonathan Taplin (who produced Scorsese's Mean Streets). They probably figured they had enough start with who they already had onboard. Do you really need Dylan, Morrison, Young, Diamond and two Beatles? They already had one. Might as well have John and Paul onboard for 'Don't Let Me Down' and 'Let It Be'.

    As far as notions of a 'communal' approach to music being conceptually pasted onto the Band - Danko, Hudson, and Manuel might have lived in the same house where the Band usually jammed for a period (Big Pink) - but the songwriting credits controversy regarding the Band's published music is hardly within the realm of 'communal' (Robertson took all/most of the credit). And with Dylan, they were essentially his backing band when they played with him, even in the Basement (though Dylan shared the odd songwriting credit with individual Band members when warranted). Did they live in the same area? Well, most bands have to to get any work done - especially back then.

    Bands like U2 and R.E.M. are/were way more 'communal'/band-centric in their approach to music-making and credit-sharing, in this respect - where all the members get shared songwriting credit for just being there and playing in the band.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
  16. alchemy

    alchemy Forum Resident

    Sterling, VA
    Ringo was on Atlantic Records at the time of The Last Waltz. I think Ringo was livimg in LA at the time and they were most likely members of the same party scene. Since The Last Waltz project was being funded by Warner Brothers, it not a big stretch to have Ringo there.

    Ronnie Wood Is a Rolling Stone, I think Atlantic distributed their records. Also Ronnie's solo and Faces LPs had the Atlantic/Warner Brothers connection, I don't think Ronnie has missed too many parties in his life.
  17. alchemy

    alchemy Forum Resident

    Sterling, VA
    Perhaps it was ment, that the "nebulous they" want to drop Muddy segment from the filming at the time to save film.

    As for Robbie's "dispute over whether Muddy's performance would be included in the Last Waltz movie", perhaps that was more of a timing and pacing issue for the completed film. Not all the performance's made the film. I would have liked more Richard Manual featured songs. Also Neil with Four Strong Winds and Acadian Dritwood. All Our Past Times was written by Eric Capton & Rick Danko, most of The Band is on the studio recording, and it didn't make the cut either.
  18. Kingsley Fats

    Kingsley Fats Forum Resident

    Acadian Dritwood probably my favourite song by The Band. All Our Past Times one of my favourite tracks from one of my favourite Eric Clapton albums.
    alchemy likes this.
  19. Kermit27

    Kermit27 Forum Resident

    Yeah, the dress rehearsal has an audience at it.
    PhoffiFozz likes this.
  20. czeskleba

    czeskleba Senior Member

    I don't think there was ever any discussion of not including Muddy Waters in the film. Robbie says there wasn't, and the only reason he was even responding to that notion is because he mistakenly thought that's what Levon claimed in his book. But Levon never said that, nor did anyone else. Beyond the lack of evidence, it seems unlikely they would have considered excluding Muddy completely. It's true not every performance made the film, but every artist who was featured (aside from Bobby Charles) did make it into the film with at least one performance. And Muddy is a far bigger name than Bobby Charles.

    Looking over the setlist of the performance, I realized I'd forgotten about the sequence of dopey poems that came in the middle of the show. That really puts the lie to Levon's claim that there was any talk of dropping Muddy from the show. There's no way they would have looked at dropping Muddy ahead of the mid-show poetry slam.
    savemenow likes this.
  21. the pope ondine

    the pope ondine Forum Resident

    was George present at the actual live show then? (not the dress rehearsal)....might've just been a scheduling conflict and they recorded the songs beforhand
  22. Being a San Francisco native and loving the North Beach City Lights Books Beat Poet scene, I actually enjoyed seeing and hearing them, especially Michael McClure. These guys would pop up now and again at a bunch of the SF Ballroom and Winterland Shows. They were a perfect break during the equipment and change shuffling.
    Hey Vinyl Man likes this.
  23. Say It Right

    Say It Right Forum Resident

    Niagara Falls
    That and the turkey dinner.
  24. Mike Visco

    Mike Visco Forum Resident

    Newark, NJ
    Dilly Dilly!!!!!!!
  25. owlshead

    owlshead Forum Resident

    Philly burbs
    hard to argue that... :cheers:
    Mike Visco likes this.

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