Lennon and Dylan share a spot of nutty chit chat in the back of a taxi in 1966, clearly a bit inspired by an illicit substance or two. Of course, they “talk” about music and riff on Johnny Cash, while Dylan tries to convince Lennon that he should live in Texas. Funny stuff
There’s no other way to put it: Donovan Leitch is cool. With a cool dad (‘60s folkie Donovan), a cool sister (actress Ione Skye), a cool brother-in-law (singer Ben Lee), and even a cool ex-brother-in-law (Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz). Leitch is an actor who plays quirky characters in wonderfully offbeat movies, like the Xanadu-obssessed Darius in Allison Anders’ Gas, Food, Lodging, and Gerard Malanga in I Shot Andy Warhol. Hell, he was in Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. His wife is supermodel Kirsty Hume, and they have been married for over 12 years, which is ridiculously cool, and practically unheard of by Hollywood standards.
Leitch is the longtime lead singer for Camp Freddy, a loose amalgamation of L.A. musicians that has hosted every cool artist under the sun, from Chrissie Hynde to Ozzy. In the mid-1990s, Leitch fronted a band called Nancy Boy that recorded one brilliant self-titled record and was never heard from again, but what a record it is. Almost 15 years later I still listen to it all the time, and marvel at how fresh and contemporary it is, how visionary, how ahead of its time.
A cheeky mish-mash of Britpop, power pop, glam, and new wave, all served up with a load of lipstick and Leitch’s way-over-the-top English accent, it’s full of hooks and fabulously wonky lyrics like “I’m disappointed / The wolf was good to Riding Hood / It’s co-dependency / He’s more human than Gary Numan.” One can just imagine a pimply Brandon Flowers conjuring such a band in his daydreams years before he went on to form the Killers. If Nancy Boy emerged today, they could play Coachella tomorrow and the hipsters would run there as fast as their ironic white jazz shoes could carry them.
The video for “Deep Sleep Motel” was directed by Roman Coppola, of course. Because for Nancy Boy, only a future elder statesmen of cool video directors would do.
I remember looking through a friend’s Rolling Stone as a freshman in college. It was the issue that touted the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. Being a list fiend and a music geek, I devoured the list, skimming through 500 - 101. The top 100 was what I really cared about. Hell, the Top 25 was I all I really cared about. I wanted to make sure I had every one in my music library so I could make my own iTunes playlist based on the Rolling Stone list.
There were a few songs I didn’t have, so I bought them on iTunes to complete my playlist. However, there was one song I didn’t own that I was completely blown away by and that was #12, Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”. For some odd reason, I had NEVER heard the song until 2005, when the list came out. The first time I did hear it, in my stuffy college dorm room, I was nearly moved to tears. Since then, the song seems to have become a staple of American cultural literacy. President Obama even referred to the song directly in a speech after he was elected as President of the United States in 2008, saying “It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, change has come to America.”
Below are various versions of the song, in chronological order. First, Sam Cooke’s original recording, released after his death in 1964. Otis Redding included the song as “Change Gonna Come” on his 1965 album Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul. In 1971, Chicago underground soul legend Baby Huey recorded his version of the song that was released posthumously in 1971 on The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend.
“I Shall Be Released” is an iconic, universal anthem. It’s been covered by everyone under the sun, from Nina Simone to the Deftones. Below I’ve included several variations on the tune, starting of course with Bob Dylan’s original 1967 version from The Basement Tapes. Dylan’s original (where he is joined by the Band) is followed by the Band’s own rendition from their 1968 classic Music From Big Pink. It’s set to a socially motivated Vietnam YouTube video. The British Beatlesesque outfit, the Tremeloes, recorded their own version of the tune, which reached number 29 on the UK charts.
Nina Simone’s take on the song is from her 1969 album To Love Somebody. I also had to include a 1969 version from the Mama Cass television program featuring the Mama herself, Joni Mitchell and Mary Travers. Joan Baez’s live performance of the song at Sing Sing Prison in 1972 follows.