Pass it Around

"If I made records for my own pleasure, I would only record Charley Patton songs." - Bob Dylan

Tom Wilson, Bob Dylan and DION Norton Records major release

Bingo. Norton Records has done what they do again, and it should be of considerable interest to Bob Dylan fans. 

Dion was the sound of late night on transistors nation-wide. An unearthly voice from the Telstar days. He had a once in a lifetime voice and that's why his songs received so much airplay.  Ruby Baby jumped out of local radio stations for years and no one ever tired of it  because it was so fucking good. Ruby Baby is slippery, skulky and magical. Dion slurs the melody into a swirl of hormones and young lust. 

Everyone should know the clips linked here. Dion lives down in the serious roots of the rock and roll pole.  A tough kid who transcended Doo-Wop at the time the form was helping to create rock and roll. Dion is critical.

Runaround Sue details a precocious young woman who does what she wants and with who she wants.  Without apology.  A woman capable of turning two fists of iron to street rust.

Then there is The Wanderer.  Dion is a proto-stud with all the sexual boasting of a rap song from the same Bronx decades later. The Wanderer is all New York, but it is not show tunes or Broadway.  New York?  Well, Lou Reed inducted Dion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The two alone make good any claim that NYC rocked. The Wanderer is timeless sexual bravado with a tight-pants strut. One YouTube listener recently added the comment  "I'm 15 and fuck my generation, I love it!"  It is a chewed-up and spit-out risqué pop song for the increasingly sullen teen generation. Lay a good share of suburban juvenile delinquency on Dion. That is a very good thing. He churned things up seriously.

There were millions upon millions of kids who would never walk the streets of the Bronx.  For that matter, there were plenty of guys who would never have "Flo on the left and Mary on my right."  If only. Listen to Dion's unholy trio of demented doo-wop today and you will see why he is STILL not even close to nostalgia and PBS pledge drives.

What WAS Dion up to after these three shells dropped? The time between between the first wave of hits and his later Abraham, Martin and John?   

When you get down to it, who wouldn't love to hear Dion with the Columbia studio musicians who played on Dylan's 1965 - 1966 era albums?  In the same studio and with the same producer?  Dion and Tom Wilson?  Who would be better?  What COULD be better?  It is every bit as good as you might hope.

The two certainly knew of each other.  Dylan had seen Dion perform on a tour "way back" and there are quotes in the liner notes here which detail Bob's admiration for the singer.

Kickin' Child is a rocker.  "Tramp me down like a wild ragweed" indeed.  Now is the best Everly Brothers harmony you never heard.  It is heartbreaking and thrilling at the same time, and Tom Wilson brings off a urgent crescendo like a rolling stone. 

My Love anticipates LA studio flower power.  A Tom Paxton cover follows. This is Dion growing into places the generation would soon follow. One Mort Shuman song to reference Tin Pan Alley.  Dion knows good songwriting.  On this LP, most of the songs are written by himself, but there are three Dylan songs.

Baby I'm in the Mood for You is the first Dylan original he covers.  He blue notes it.  Dion usually sings between the lines on a chart and he does here. He also covers It's All Over Now, Baby Biue which young Bob was recording in the same place around the same time.
The most Dylan influenced track (other than the Dylan written songs) is the wacky Two Ton Feather which is part Sitting on a Barb Wire Fence and a bit Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat.  This sound is the sound one hears on the "Seems like a Freeze Out" era Dylan bootlegs…tentative experimental white blues with lyrics which mattered.  I believe Al Kooper is around.  Stinging electric guitar is followed by a Little Richard piano fill. 

Maybe it is time to recognize it was producer Tom Wilson who "went electric" after all.  Columbia had a history of signing adventurous artists despite Mitch Miller's distaste for the sound.  John Hammond knew talent, but Mitch knew how to play the oboe.  He was the worst.  To Mitch, songs were novelties…gimmicks one turned into cash.  His idea of a folk song was Tzena, Tzena Tzena or The Yellow Rose of Texas. It was Wilson who knew the times were changing.  He turned Paul Simon's Sounds of Silence into a poetic rocker, and was hip enough to know the Animal's treatment of The House of the Rising Son could form the basis of a revolution.  Mitch?  Suited better for the nascent television market of already bored parents and grandparents.  Follow the bouncing ball.

Kickin' Child is but the latest genius release from Norton Records.  If you believe Rock and Roll HAS history, this is an essential transitional release from one of the best performers. For Dylan fans, you can go purchase Dylan's latest big set of crooning standards, or you can go right back to where it mattered.  Here.  Highly recommended. Choose from LP or CD.

Order KICKIN' CHILD direct from Norton Records. While there, browse the back catalog.  I suspect you will purchase a few others too…don't forget the hit 45 disc by Dion with Too Much Monkey Business of the flip side!
For those of you who do not know Norton,  the label is home to "the frantic sounds of Hasil Adkins, Link Wray, the Pretty Things, the Flamin' Groovies, the Alarm Clocks, the Sonics, the Wailers, Question Mark and the Mysterians, Dale Hawkins, Ron Haydock, the Rockin' R's, Esquerita, Andre Williams, Jack Starr, the Flat Duo Jets, the Untamed Youth, the Phantom Surfers, King Uszniewicz, the Hentchmen, Wade Curtiss, Jackie & the Cedrics, the Church Keys, The Dictators and loads more wildies!"  30 YEARS ON, Mirian Linna and the late, great Billy Miller are still teaching and preaching rock truth.