Never one to favor flash over substance, Andy Summers may very well be the most underrated guitarist of the rock era. Summers took a minimalist approach with his work for the juggernaut pop-alternative trio known as The Police, letting atmospherics and not pyrotechnics fuel such indelible hits as “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “Every Breath You Take.” His echoing, chorused, chordal-centric technique schooled a generation of players from U2’s The Edge to The Fixx’s Jamie West-Oram. Even a player as accomplished as Rush’s Alex Lifeson added a Summersesque “less is more” dimension to his repertoire during the ’80s.
The bottom end has never been quite the same since Jack Bruce picked up his first bass over 6 decades ago. The vaunted Cream bassist wrote the book on the art of the low-end hook, as his syncopated approach to playing bass helped shift pop music’s bottom-end emphasis away from just laying down root notes and fifths, in turn opening the door to a more adventurous yet melodically inclined style that laid the foundation for the rock explosion of the ’60s. Turns in both Manfred Mann and John Mayall’s bands set the table for Bruce to connect with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker and forge Cream, wherein the super Scotsman set the heavy-blues power-trio standard with epic runs and full-band interplay in songs like “I Feel Free,” “Spoonful,” “Politician,” and “Sunshine of Your Love.”
As iconic as it remains a full half-century later, when Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back (apostrophe very deliberately missing) was being shot by director D.A. Pennebaker during the Bard’s whirlwind tour of England in May 1965, there were literally no rules to follow. “It’s the idea of the home movie, the kind of movie that was always made by one person,” says Pennebaker, still as sharp as ever at age 90. “I had gotten the notion in my head not to make a pure music film. I decided to make it about him, right at the time he was he was trying to figure out who he was.” Here in Part I of our exclusive interview, D.A. and I discuss how he gained Dylan’s trust, the way he predicted the selfie culture, and why he had to get on his back to shoot certain live performances.
When it came to the final edit of D.A. Pennebaker's groundbreaking 1967 documentary Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back, everything was destined to fit exactly how it fit. "It wanted to happen," says Pennebaker. "When you think about films, some of them want to happen, and some of them aren’t too sure." Dont Look Back is as sure as it gets, as the 90-year-old director and I discussed in Part I of our extensive interview. Here in Part II, Pennebaker shares his thoughts on surround sound when it comes to film soundtracks, that missing apostrophe, and the origin of the film’s legendary opening cue-card sequence.
Three Dog Night is a band that brings together the best of many worlds. They have one of those storied catalogs that just won’t quit, so you might be forgiven for forgetting how many of their songs you automatically know. A sampling of TDN’s 21 Top 40 hits includes the No. 1 singles “Joy to the World,” “Black and White,” and “Mama Told Me (Not to Come),” along with other instant-sing-along favorites like “One,” “Liar,” and “An Old Fashioned Love Song.” (See? Toldja you knew ’em all.) I called TDN vocalist Danny Hutton while he was sitting outside his Laurel Canyon home enjoying a short touring break to discuss Three Dog Night’s unique approach to making albums, why singing harmony comes naturally to him, and his view of the band’s enduring legacy. No doubt it will all be joy to you and me.