I used to wonder if I loved Al Tuck’s music so much was because he was a friend. Now that I’m almost fifty, however, I know for certain that it’s not the case. I just don’t have the time to spend with stuff I’m not totally invested in checking out. And these days I listen to Al’s recordings as much or more than anything else.
Not only is he one of Canada’s best songwriters—right up there with Hank Snow, Gord, Joni, Leonard or Gene MacLellan—he’s also a stand-up guy. An old friend of Barry’s, he jumped right in so that I could use a couple of his instrumentals to video-promote my novel, The Men Who Killed Oates.
Next to their sophisticated sense of personal style, one of the things that I’d always loved about the Grateful Dead was Fire on the Mountain and I got to see them perform this in Buffalo. Jerry Garcia or Bob Weir promised the crowd that it never rained on July 4 just prior to the downpour and wind letting loose. Few in the crowd seemed to mind this after baking under the hot sun in that convection bowl for five hours.
Bob Dylan performed a lovely version of this Ry Cooder/John Hiatt/Jim Dickinson tune at the show. Of course, I wasn’t there to witness it (see below), but later found the performances on YouTube and was able to see parts of the concert for the first time. My two traveling pals might remember why I’m posting this: I should’ve stuck it out and listened closely! To this day, the memory of crossing the border after the show affects my religious views…
There’s a place where I’ve been told
Every street is paved with gold
And it’s just across the borderline
And when it’s time to take your turn
Here’s one lesson you must learn
You could lose more than you’ll ever hope to find
When you reach the broken promised land
Every dream slips through your hands
And you’ll know it’s too late to change your mind
Cause you pay the price to come so far
Just to wind up where you are
After Bob Dylan’s performance at Farm Aid I, which featured Mr. Petty and the Heartbreakers as his backing band, all parties decided to formally head out onto the road together the following year. The result was the “True Confessions Tour.” What confessions were offered, and whether these were true or not, will be left for posterity (and Stan Lynch) to decide.
The True Confessions tour began in February, 1986 with a series of concerts in New Zealand, Australia, and Japan.
More shows in the United States for the summer were announced that spring. The July 4 show at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, NY was the highest-grossing, single-day take for that summer—although this gig (along with three other locations) also featured the Dead as well.
Mr. Dylan performed many songs written by others during the TC tour including “That Lucky Old Sun” which he recently released on the album of Sinatra “un-covers” Shadows in the Night.
Although Bob Dylan received top-billing, the culture inside and outside the event was dominated by Grateful Dead fans. In fact, my memory is that a fairly large exodus of people occurred after the Dead’s set concluded. This may have been due to the fact that the start of the show had sound-mix problems or maybe Mr. Dylan’s voice did not jive well with the psychotropic effects of LSD on that particular day.
Having said that, to me it seemed, at the time, that Tom Petty and his band were placed in a really difficult situation: they were sandwiched between two acts that had generated an obsessive mythology over the previous twenty years. I remember thinking that it was a hell of a way for a guy to make a living. Not only for Mr. Petty, but for all those people up there on the stage.
Of course, that was before I grew up and realized that there were probably tougher ways to go: hanging from an oil rig or jumping out of a plane over the Great White North for example.
Still, there is something gutsy about putting yourself out in front of 70,000 people and facing them down with a couple of ditties that you’ve put together with some pals. Sure, the chances of having a limb sliced off or losing a testicle are slim (unless you were in the Pretenders), but there’s still some kind of risk involved.
Years later in an interview, Bob Dylan described Tom Petty’s act in a very complimentary way: something along the lines that people have always compared Mr. Petty to Roger McGuinn, but Dylan thought of him along the same lines as Bob Marley in the way he worked an audience. That’s my memory of Tom Petty from the Rich Stadium show: he almost physically wrestled the audience into place and forced them to play along.
Here is another video clip to promote my book, The Men Who Killed Oates. This is another one of Al Tuck’s: a cover of a Skip James tune featuring saxophone by Dani Oore (who uses pedals to great effect.) Very cool!
THE MEN WHO KILLED OATES
This is for Jerry Garcia. By the time the show started, my nerves were shot from the traveling, the bourbon, the lack of sleep, the waiting in the heat, and the dehydration. When the Grateful Dead began this tune, Garcia looked out with a gigantic smile and it made my day.
On July 10, only six days after this show, Mr. Garcia fell into a diabetic coma for five days.
Here is the song from a 1987 concert in Colorado. The timeline of this particular gig is just prior to the legendary “Change of Clothing Concert” the Dead performed in February of ’88. Thirty years later, the thought of 20,000 people dropping acid and getting together to dance while the Dead played somehow seems quite innocent. The So You Think You Can Dance? (featuring—I think—a young John Daly) portion begins at the two-minute mark: