Wednesday, April 26, 1978

The Band’s concert film, The Last Waltz, premiered

The Last Waltz

The Band

Recorded: November 25, 1976

Released: April 7, 1978 (soundtrack)

Released: April 26, 1978 (movie)

Peak: 16 US, 39 UK, 13 CN, 11 AU

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: Americana/classic rock

Tracks, Disc 1:

Song Title (date of single release for original studio versions, chart peaks of studio versions) Click for codes to charts.

  1. Theme from The Last Waltz
  2. Up on Cripple Creek (10/18/69, 25 BB, 26 CB, 4 CL, 10 CN, 7 DF)
  3. Who Do You Love? (with Ronnie Hawkins)
  4. Helpless (with Neil Young & Joni Mitchell)
  5. Stage Fright (9/5/70, 12 CL)
  6. Coyote (with Joni Mitchell)
  7. Dry Your Eyes (with Neil Diamond)
  8. It Makes No Difference (12/13/75, 19 CL)
  9. Such a Sight (with Dr. John)
  10. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (9/22/69, 7 CL, 10 CN, 3 DF)
  11. Mystery Train (with Paul Butterfield)
  12. Mannish Boy (with Muddy Waters)
  13. Further on Up the Road (with Eric Clapton)

Tracks, Disc 2:

  1. Shape I’m In (1/2/71, 9 CL)
  2. Down South in New Orleans (with Bobby Charles)
  3. Ophelia (3/20/76, 62 BB, 66 CB, 23 CL)
  4. Tura-Lura-Lural (That’s an Irish Lullaby) (with Van Morrison)
  5. Caravan (with Van Morrison)
  6. Life Is a Carnival (10/16/71, 72 BB, 80 CB, 11 CL)
  7. Baby, Let Me Follow You Down (with Bob Dylan)
  8. I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) (with Bob Dylan)
  9. Forever Young (with Bob Dylan) (1/17/74, 12 CL, 1 DF)
  10. Baby, Let Me Follow You Down (Reprise) (with Bob Dylan)
  11. I Shall Be Released (with ensemble) (8/10/68, 32 CL)

    The Last Waltz Suite (studio recordings):

  12. The Well
  13. Evangeline (with Emmylou Harris)
  14. Out of the Blue
  15. The Weight (with The Staple Singers) (8/16/68, 63 BB, 52 CB, 2 CL, 21 UK, 36 CN, 2 DF)
  16. The Last Waltz Refrain
  17. Theme from the Last Waltz (with orchestra)

Total Running Time: 129:06

The Players:

  • Rick Danko (bass, fiddle, vocals)
  • Levon Helm (drums, mandolin, vocals)
  • Garth Hudson (keyboards, accordion, clavinet, saxophone)
  • Richard Manuel (piano, drums, organ, clavinet, Dobro, vocals)
  • Robbie Robertson (guitar, piano, vocals)
  • Guests: Paul Butterfield, Bobby Charles, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Ronnie Hawkins, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Pinetop Perkins, the Staple Singers, Ringo Starr, Muddy Waters, Ronnie Wood, Neil Young, et al


3.814 out of 5.00 (average of 12 ratings)


“The greatest rock concert movie ever made – and maybe the best rock movie, period.” – Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune


(Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Sparked by a boating accident which left Richard Manuel seriously injured and Robbie Robertson’s desires to stop touring, WK The Band decided in 1976 to call it quits with a farewell concert appearance. It was held on Thanksgiving Day on November 25, 1976 at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom. “Everything about the event was over the top” TB for “this marketing-man’s dream” TB with “a 38-piece orchestra, three teams of ballroom dancers” TB and “more than a baker’s dozen guest stars.” AMG

Director Martin Scorsese filmed the concert and made it into a documentary which also featured studio segments and interviews with the band. Released in 1978, it was “one of the first (and still one of the few) rock concert documentaries that was directed by a filmmaker who understood both the look and the sound of rock & roll, and executed with enough technical craft to capture all the nooks and crannies of a great live show.” AMG

The film is “listed among the greatest concert films. Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Wilmington calls it ‘the greatest rock concert movie ever made – and maybe the best rock movie, period.’” WKTotal Film concurs, calling it “the greatest concert film ever shot.” WK It received 36 out of 37 positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes for a 97% rating. WK

“But as an album, The Last Waltz soundtrack had to compete with the Band’s earlier live album, Rock of Ages, with which it bears a certain superficial resemblance – both found the group trying to create something grander than the standard-issue live double, and both featured the group beefed up by additional musicians.” AMG Also, “Rock of Ages found the Band swinging along with the help of a horn section arranged by Allen Toussaint [and] The Last Waltz boasts a horn section (using Toussaint’s earlier arrangements on a few cuts).” AMG

“The Band are in fine if not exceptional form here; on most cuts, they don’t sound quite as fiery as they did on Rock of Ages, though their performances are never less than expert, and the high points are dazzling, especially an impassioned version of It Makes No Difference and blazing readings of Up on Cripple Creek and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Levon Helm has made no secret that he felt breaking up the Band was a bad idea, and here it sounds if he was determined to prove how much they still had to offer).” AMG

In the original concert, The Band performed a set and then were joined by a series of guest artists, starting with Ronnie Hawkins, whom The Band used to back. “Ultimately, it’s the Band’s ‘special guests’ who really make this set stand out.” AMG After Hawkins, “Dr. John took a seat at the piano for his signature song, Such a Night. He then switched to guitar and joined Bobby Charles on Down South in New Orleans.” WK “A blues set was next with harmonica player Paul Butterfield, Muddy Waters, pianist Pinetop Perkins and Eric Clapton.” WK “Waters’ ferocious version of Mannish Boy would have been a wonder from a man half his age.” AMG

“Neil Young followed, singing Helpless with backing vocals by Joni Mitchell…Mitchell came on after Young and sang three songs, two with the backing of Dr. John on congas.” WK Neil Diamond followed with Dry Your Eyes, which was from his Robbie Robertson-produced Beautiful Noise album. “Van Morrison then performed two songs, a special arrangement of Tura Lura Lural (That's an Irish Lullaby) as a duet with Richard Manuel and his own show-stopper, CaravanWK on which he “sounds positively joyous.” WK

“Canadians Young and Mitchell were then invited back out to help The Band perform Acadian Driftwood, an ode to the Acadians of Canadian history. The Band then performed a short set of some more of its songs before Bob Dylan came on stage to lead his former backing band through four songs” WK which find “him in admirably loose and rollicking form.” AMG “The Band and all its guests, with the addition of Ringo Starr on drums and Ronnie Wood on guitar, then sang I Shall Be Released as a closing number.” WK

In the original concert, two jam sessions followed and then The Band came out for a final encore of Marvin Gaye’s Don’t Do It at around 2:15 a.m. It was the last time the group’s classic lineup performed together. WK

Some songs didn’t make the film, but were on the soundtrack, such as “Down South in New Orleans,” “Tura Lura Lural (That's an Irish Lullaby)”, “Life is a Carnival” by The Band, and “I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)” by Bob Dylan. WK

For the album, “the closing studio-recorded Last Waltz Suite sounds like padding, [but] the contributions from Emmylou Harris and the Staple Singers are beautiful indeed. It could be argued that you’re better off watching The Last Waltz on video than listening to it on CD, but either way it's a show well worth checking out.” AMG It “remains a landmark not just for its consistently superb music but for…brilliantly manipulative marketing. Sold on the back of one event, we got the triple album, the movie, the home video, the double-CD reissue, the DVD, and the boxset-set four-CD reissue.” TB


“For the concert’s 25th anniversary in 2002, the film was remastered and a new theatrical print was made for a limited release to promote the release of the DVD and four-CD box set of the film soundtrack.” WK In addition, a four-CD box set, produced by Robbie Robertson, remastered all the songs and included “16 previously unreleased songs from the concert, as well as takes from rehearsals. Among the additions are Louis Jordan’s ‘Caldonia’ by Muddy Waters, the concert version of ‘The Weight’, ‘Jam #1’ and ‘Jam #2’ in their entirety, and extended sets with Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan.” WK

Resources and Related Links:

  • Dave’s Music Database: “The Top 50 Music Movies of All Time
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Mark Deming
  • PR Paul Roland (2001). CD Guide to Pop & Rock. B.T. Batsford LTD: London.
  • TB Thunder Bay (2005). Albums: The Stories Behind 50 Years of Great Recordings. Thunder Bay Press; San Diego, CA. Page 197.
  • WK Wikipedia

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 4/26/2012; last updated 11/24/2023.

Monday, April 3, 1978

Today in Music (1968): Simon & Garfunkel Bookends released


Simon & Garfunkel

Released: April 3, 1968

Peak: 17 US, 17 UK, -- CN, 3 AU

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.06 UK, 6.5 world (includes US + UK)

Genre: folk rock


Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to charts.

  1. Bookends Theme
  2. Save the Life of My Child
  3. America (10/7/72, 97 BB, 5 CL, 25 UK, 7 DF)
  4. Overs
  5. Voices of Old People
  6. Old Friends
  7. Bookends Theme (reprise)
  8. Fakin’ It (7/21/67, 23 BB, 15 CB, 10 GR, 15 HR, 27 CL)
  9. Punky’s Dilemma
  10. Mrs. Robinson (4/5/68, 13 BB, 14 CB, 11 GR, 13 HR, 4 AC, 1 CL, 4 UK, 12 CN, 8 AU, 1 DF)
  11. A Hazy Shade of Winter (11/4/66, 13 BB, 17 CB, 7 GR, 13 HR, 8 CL, 30 UK, 19 DF)
  12. At the Zoo (3/11/67, 16 BB, 15 CB, 10 GR, 13 HR, 26 CL)

Total Running Time: 29:51


4.243 out of 5.00 (average of 14 ratings)


(Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

“By 1968, it had become obvious that there was a dark flip side to the sunny ideals that characterized the first half of the decade – the boundless optimism of the Camelot era and the intoxicating freedoms ushered in by the psychedelic explosion. With riots in the streets, the mounting toll of a bloody war and a flurry of assassinations filling the headlines, it seemed as if the center wasn’t holding, as New Journalist Joan Didion famously observed. America was lost and ‘getting loster,’ and few artists captured that vibe of anxious uncertainty better than genteel crooners turned melodic folk-rockers Simon & Garfunkel.” JD

“Simon, who wrote the vast majority of material, was always capable of crafting a memorable melody…and Garfunkel’s high-tenor harmonies were never short of amazing. But the pair could also be annoyingly twee and cutesy…or unbearably smug, pretentious and self-important.” JD

“The duo recorded Bookends, their “fourth and best album,” JD “with producer Roy Halee, a trumpeter who had become a staff engineer at Columbia Records, recording ‘Like a Rolling Stone,’ among other Dylan songs. ‘It was never a challenge to get that blend as long as they were singing on one microphone,’ Halee said in 1990 of working with Simon & Garfunkel two decades earlier. ‘The blend of their sound hitting that microphone was very unique; it changed it, and it sounded separated when they didn’t do it together. It was never quite the same’.” JD

“Though Bookends was, in fact, a collection blending previously released singles with new material, the album…was perceived as a concept effort – at least through the first half” JD – that “chart[s] the life cycle.” JD

The album kicks off with “the most minimal of openings.” TJ “with the quiet Bookends Theme,” JD “an acoustic guitar stating itself slowly and plaintively.” TJ The song “also closes what would have been Side 1 in the vinyl days.” JD

The opening “erupt[s] into the wash of synthesizers and dissonance that is Save the Life of My ChildTJ which is about “birth and childhood.” JD With its “odd synthesizers…[it is] one of the weirdest songs the duo ever recorded.” JD

From there, the duo travel through “the teenage years [on] ‘America’ and Overs, which finds the couple portrayed in the previous song splitting up) through old age (Old Friends).” JD

America is “one of several standout tracks.” JD It is “a folk song with a lilting soprano saxophone in the refrain and a small pipe organ painting the acoustic guitars in the more poignant verses. The song relies on pop structures to carry its message of hope and disillusionment.” TJ It “can be heard as a baby-boomer’s update of the central crusade that was the theme of many of the Beats’ best writings, starting with Jack Kerouac’s immortal On the Road.” JD

The song “quietly introduces two playful, daydreaming lovers” JD who “travel the American landscape searching for” TJ “‘the heart of America’ by hitchhiking through Michigan and taking the Greyhound bus out of Pittsburgh.” JD The “tune builds to a beautiful, tastefully orchestrated climax as Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s vocals join together for the ultimate verse” JD in which “it dawns on them that everyone else on the freeway is doing the same thing:” TJ “‘Kathy, I’m lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping/I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why/Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike/They’ve all come to look for America’.” JD

“Nothing is resolved, but the musical coda of Garfunkel’s amazingly pure and soaring vocals and Simon’s soothing guitar and organ indicate that maybe, just maybe, our heroes and their many peers will eventually find what they’re looking for.” JD

“The album’s most famous track…[is] the rhythmically galloping and wildly hummable Mrs. Robinson became a smash hit after it appeared on the soundtrack for The Graduate. But even beyond the theme of sexual tension, it is timelessly poetic in its evocation of lost innocence: ‘Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?’ Simon sings of an icon from the previous generation. ‘A nation turns its lonely eyes to you’.” JD

“The notoriously cantankerous baseball legend was said to have been offended by the line, but Simon has disputed this, citing a meeting several years after the song's release. "I said that I didn't mean the lines literally, that I thought of him as an American hero and that genuine heroes were in short supply," Simon wrote in an op-ed piece for the New York Times. "He accepted the explanation and thanked me’.” JD

“The…undeniably great…A Hazy Shade of Winter…stands not only as an indelible East Coast answer to ‘California Dreamin’,’ but as a production tour de force, with electric rock instruments joining symphonic touches to create a psychedelic-rock classic. Psychedelic popsters the Bangles recorded a memorable cover in the ‘80s, just as progressive-rockers Yes claimed ‘America’ as their own in the '70s – two diverse testaments to the enduring strength of these tunes.” JD

“Simon’s flair for surrealist wordplay flourishes on Punky’s Dilemma (‘Wish I was a Kellogg’s cornflake/Floatin’ in my bowl, takin’ movies,’ he sings while banging on a toy piano).” JD

Voices of Old People serves as a pointless collage of sounds and conversations that Garfunkel taped on the street, and Simon’s tendency to overreach as a lyricist comes to the fore on the album-closing At the Zoo, a wannabe Orwellian allegory. (‘Zebras are reactionaries /Antelopes are missionaries /Pigeons plot in secrecy/And hamsters turn on frequently’).” JD

“‘Mrs. Robinson’…, ‘A Hazy Shade of Winter’, and …‘At the Zoo’ offer as tremblingly bleak a vision for the future as any thing done by the Velvet Underground, but rooted in the lives of everyday people, not in the decadent underground personages of New York’s Factory studio. But the album is also a warning that to pay attention is to take as much control of one’s fate as possible.” TJ

“After Bookends, Simon & Garfunkel began to drift apart. Halee was heartbroken when they started insisting on recording their vocals separately. Simon wanted to strike out on his own without a collaborator, and Garfunkel was branching out into acting. After one last great studio album, Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970), they took a "break" that has been interrupted only occasionally for reunions…On Bookends, though, the strength of their collaboration is apparent, and neither has ever topped it.” JD

Resources and Related Links:

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 5/5/2011; last updated 10/9/2023.

Saturday, April 1, 1978

Journey “Wheel in the Sky” released

Wheel in the Sky


Writer(s): Robert Fleischman, Neal Schon, Diane Valory (see lyrics here)

First Charted: April 1, 1978

Peak: 57 US, 52 CB, 52 HR, 3 CL, 45 CN, 3 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 33.2 video, 66.15 streaming

About the Song:

This is the song that introduced Steve Perry as the future lead singer of Journey. When he came on board for the 1978 Infinity album, Gregg Rolie was still handling some vocal duties, but moving forward Journey would be the Steve Perry show. On that same album, the songs “Feeling That Way/Anytime” provided the perfect showcase of old and new. For “Wheel in the Sky,” however, it is all about Steve Perry.

Interestingly, Perry does not have a co-write on the song as he would with every Journey hit moving forward. The song originated as a poem called “Wheel in My Mind” written by Diane Valory, the wife of Journey’s bassist Ross Valory. WK The lyrics explore a narrator lamenting about being gone from home and hoping to reconnect with a girl once home. The term “wheel in the sky” can be interpreted as a metaphor fo “the various twists and turns of the narrator’s life on the road” WK and “how life goes on no matter our personal struggles.” SF

Guitarist Neal Schon and short-lived lead singer Robert Fleischman shaped it into a song with Fleischman writing new lyrics and Schon writing the melody on acoustic guitar. SF Fleischman had been recruited by Journey with the intent of going “a new direction into an edgier sound and…recording simple hard rock pieces.” WK While he was gone by the time the album was released, he still got songwriting credits, such as on “Wheel in the Sky.”

The song became Journey’s first entry on the Billboard Hot 100. Although its #57 peak didn’t light the music world on fire, it did introduce the band who would, over the next few years, take the world by storm. Cash Box said of the song that it had “tight lick guitar work and effective lead and backing vocals.” WK


Related Links:

First posted 7/8/2022.