It would be an understatement to say that I don’t often sound off at length about rock and roll, but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in it, and I recently made a very big exception: I’m the guest on the latest episode of Political Beats, the National Review podcast in which “Scot Bertram and Jeff Blehar ask guests from the world of politics about their musical passions.” It isn’t quite right to say that I hail from the world of politics—that’s putting it mildly—but it’s true that I’ve been writing for NR for most of my adult life, and when I was asked to talk about the Band, my favorite rock group, I couldn’t very well say no, and didn’t.
Here’s how Scot and Jeff describe the episode:
This week the gang hops on board the mystery train and takes a journey deep into the unknowable heart of America as they discuss The Band, one of the true sui generis phenomena of the rock era. The Band is a rock group that, despite their relatively short (and variable) major-label career, has called forth more profound verbiage from music and cultural critics than most other North American artists save Bob Dylan, so the gang understands that they are walking paths already trodden solidly into shape by others (hello, Greil Marcus!). Nevertheless, attention must be paid: Terry, a child of the ’50s growing up in southeast Missouri, tells the story of growing up in a non-“rock” household and suddenly becoming cognizant of the great cultural ferment playing out on the radio and on vinyl. An early ’70s purchase of the original edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide having piqued his interest, he mail-ordered The Band’s first two albums and nothing was the same after that.
The three of us did some serious talking on line last week, and the result is a lengthy episode (it runs for two and a half hours, including generous helpings of music) in which we work our way through the recorded output of the Band and express a wealth of strong opinions.
Along the way, it hit me that I’d been listening to the Band for nearly half a century—I discovered Music from Big Pink and The Band in 1971, give or take a year or two—and that I love their music as much now as I did when I was a boy. That’s staying power.
To listen online, download the podcast, or subscribe to “Political Beats,” go here.
To read more about my youthful discovery of rock, go here.