Thursday, June 1, 2017

"Atlantic City" The Band

The older I get the more I feel the need to be closer to the people and things I loved when I was young. As things change, I need them to stay the same too. People change, places change, but music never does. Music has that crazy ability to bring back a memory or a feeling so strong that you'd swear it was yesterday.


If you're looking for my heart you'll find it in a dive ba
Every time I hear "Copperhead Road," by Steve Earle I'm driving down the back roads in a pickup. When "Don't Stop Believing," by Journey comes on I'm dancing at the hometown dive bar with my childhood best friends. I can tell you every detail of those moments, and the way that I felt while I was in them. I had one of these moments on my recent trip to Nashville where I ended up at a house party with a group of musicians who casually played every song I ever wanted to hear. I requested "Atlantic City," the version by Levon Helm/The Band, on the off chance that they knew it. And while I listened to them play my own private concert I found my own little piece of heaven, that tasted a lot like cheap vodka and smelled like Marlborough Golds.

As an artistic/creative person you'll understand that we're built a little bit different than the rest. We feel a little bit deeper, love a little bit harder and hurt a little bit more. The sunrises are a little bit more breathtaking and the sunsets are a little bit more tragic. On account of having to pose as a functioning, productive human from 9-5, I try to curb these feelings. It feels kind of like i'm standing on the edge of the shoreline in the shallow water,  hesitant to dive into the deeper water. Where it's a whole lot darker but where I feel weightless and alive. 

Every once in awhile I need to cut myself to make sure that I still bleed (not literally, just metaphorically, so you can save the anonymous call to a crisis hotline for me). So for the moment I'm indulging in all of the things that give me all the feels like writing and listening/playing music. If you know me you'll know that my obsession with music runs deep and I try to keep it in check mostly, if only not to annoy the hell out of everyone around with my endless ramblings.

In Nashville I wandered into the second floor of the Country Music Hall of fame and was surprised to find an entire exhibit and tribute to Bob Dylan. It felt like unexpectedly running into an old boyfriend that broke my heart. And maybe it was the beginning onset of drinking depression, or the level of alcohol in my blood at the time, but as I wandered around reading about his time in Nashville recording "Nashville Skyline" I felt 80 proof tears trickle down my cheeks. Not because I was sad, but because I forgot how much things like this mean to me.

I first heard the version of  Bruce Springsteen's, "Atlantic City" by The Band/ Levon Helm a few summers ago and I played it on repeat until I remembered every chord of the guitar and every break in his voice.
Levon at the Last Waltz – photo by Larry Hulst

The song was first released on Springsteen's album, "Nebraska." The raw, stripped down songs, which Springsteen roughly recorded at his house with minimal production, told hopeless, dark stories of blue collar folk characters; murderers, criminals, outsiders. While his previous albums echoed themes of salvation, redemption and grace critics lashed out at the lack of either found on the desolate "Nebraska." 

"The album's uncompromising sound and mood combined with its dark lyrical content has been described by music critic William Ruhlmann as "one of the most challenging albums ever released by a major star on a major record label."[5] Because of the album's somber content, Springsteen chose not to tour in support of the album, making it Springsteen's only major release that was not supported by a tour."

The song follows a young guy tied up in organized crime, as he heads down to Atlantic City, New Jersey with his girlfriend, in hopes of finding a better life. His personal struggle parallels Atlantic City's struggle at the time with crime, riots and gambling.


"Atlantic City" has been covered by countless artists, including "The Band" in 1993, and Levon Helm on his own album again in 1999.




Well, they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night
And they blew up his house, too.
Down on the boardwalk they're ready for a fight
Gonna see what them racket boys can do.

Now there's trouble busin' in from outta state
And the d.a. can't get no relief.
Gonna be a rumble on the promenade
And the gamblin' commissioner's hangin' on by the skin of his teeth.

Everything dies, baby that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies some day comes back.
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic city.

Well, I got a job and I put my money away
But I got the kind of debts that no honest man can pay.
So I drew out what I had from the central trust
And I bought us two tickets on that coast city bus.

Everything dies, baby that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies some day comes back.
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic city.

Now our luck may have died and our love may be cold
But with you forever I'll stay.
We'll be goin' out where the sands turn to gold
But put your stockings on 'cause it might get cold.

Oh, everything dies, baby that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies some day comes back.
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic city.

Now I've been a-lookin' for a job, but it's hard to find
There's winners and there's losers
And I am south of the line.
Well, I'm tired of gettin' caught out on the losin' end
But I talked to a man last night,
Gonna do a little favor for him.

Well, everything dies, baby that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies some day comes back.
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic city.
Oh, meet me tonight in Atlantic city,
Oh, meet me tonight in Atlantic city.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebraska_(album)

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