The viewer is hit with a ten-thousand-ton wave of sheer joy.
December 11, 2014 8:33 AM   Subscribe

We Never Have to Be Alone is a blog post by Will Sheff of the band Okkervil River about Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show: Live, a 10-dollar import DVD of a live-for-German-TV performance sometime in 1974.

Sheff concludes the post by admitting to feeling "very silly writing twenty pages about" Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show because they "weren’t really that important. They weren’t really unsung heroes. They weren’t the Van Goghs of mid-70s rock. They weren’t the greatest rock and roll band in the world, except for one night when they were."
posted by ND¢ (17 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
The cover article of the Rolling Stone?

Man I love Will Sheff.
posted by yerfatma at 8:36 AM on December 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

My favorite part of the post:
When I was at my very best as an artist, I wasn’t looking for prestige or adulation or money or stability, I was playing, and I didn’t care what people thought because they were just an abstraction – like some German insomniac TV viewer in 1974 or some still photographer whose name you forgot because you’re too stoned – and the time just flew by, just disappeared, and I don’t know where it went. At the heart of it, this is what I find deeply beautiful and touching about Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show: Live, and essentially it’s why I really do like it more than better movies by better directors about better bands. In those movies, it’s almost impossible to escape artifice, self-importance, the desire for prestige. Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show: Live is completely unguarded, and there is something fresh and childlike in that unguardedness. Whatever hopelessness or despair or inter-member strife Dr. Hook was feeling on that night in 1974, somehow out of luck or skill they managed to leave it behind for 45 minutes and enter into an enchanted space of pure play.
posted by ND¢ at 8:38 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wow. Great find. These guys along with the Holy Modal Rounders set me on the proper course in life I think.
posted by pipoquinha at 8:43 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm blown away by Will Sheff's writing chops and want to read more by him.
posted by Flashman at 8:52 AM on December 11, 2014

I swear to god this was on Metafilter before, but the tape says no.
posted by josher71 at 9:00 AM on December 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

As a result of this post, I discovered that they did indeed make the cover of the Rolling Stone, on March 29 1973 (just before I discovered them in my brother's discarded, no-longer-cool-enough-for-him 45 collection).

It was subtitled, What's-Their-Names Make the Cover

Well played, RS.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:09 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

We were making something, but mostly we were playing, and in that playing the entire world disappeared and we forgot ourselves.

This line. Right here, this nails it. Whatever it is, which I'm open to debate about, this smacks of some great truth.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:36 AM on December 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Scroll down.

Both Dennis Locorriere and Rik Elswit responded to the article.

Dennis Locorriere:
I have to say that you have given our performance a lot more thought than we did on the night…or maybe ever. Funny how you seemed to love it, hate it, mistrust it and love it again.

For the record, we were not a very ‘calculated’ act at all, but we were rehearsed enough to allow us the freedom to let it hang loose and grab it back again when we were ready.

. . . thanks for all the time and attention you gave to something I haven’t thought about since we left that TV station in Germany almost 40 years ago.

By the way, Cummings was genuinely not very fond of the rest of us.
We just decided to let it be part of the show.

Very Zappa of us, no?
Rik Elswit:
The truth is, we were just doing the only thing any of us were any good at, at the time. And the shows were about the only time where we could forget the hassles we were dealing with the rest of the time. . . .

It sounded a bit as if you’re still not quite sure what to make of us. Which is OK. I’m right there with you.
posted by Herodios at 10:32 AM on December 11, 2014 [15 favorites]

I think it took longer to read that fascinating story than to watch the video.

The story is a total trainwreck and I'm at 12:10 in the video and it is too.
posted by bendy at 11:05 AM on December 11, 2014

I wonder how many Mefites discovered these guys in their older brothers' pile of 45s.

My little brother and sister and I used to dance around to "Queen of the Silver Dollar", too.
posted by allthinky at 11:29 AM on December 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

For one long summer in the arse end of Swedish nowhere a tape of theirs was the only music I had to listen to. This is so very oddly nostalgic. Rik Elswit was always interesting and fun on the Well, too; and when I revisited the place in Sweden, twenty years on, I stayed in a B&B. There was a tape on the sideboard ...
posted by alloneword at 2:24 PM on December 11, 2014

How's this for a Mefi coincidence: That blog post talks a lot about Sam Cooke's Live at the Harlem Square Club. As amarynth pointed out, just 5 posts later, I did a post about the 50th anniversary of Sam Cooke's death, and I linked to a track from that album, "Bring it on Home to Me." I hadn't seen this post.
posted by John Cohen at 4:46 PM on December 11, 2014

This comment about Shel Silverstein is just fantastic:

Fantastic article, thank you. Some years ago I met Ray Sawyer when he was touring in Australia. I was backstage with the band. I asked Sawyer what Silverstein was like, and he told me that “Shel was like no one you’ve ever met before in your life”.

Sawyer, an infinitely warm and engaging person, told me the story of the creation of the Cover of the Rolling Stone song:

“I was with Shel at a diner, we were almost finished.
Shel said “Wait here, I need to go to the bathroom.”
The check came, and I paid, but Shel hadn’t come back.
I went to the bathroom to look for him, and there was an open window and no Shel – he’d just gone.
About 12 months later, out of the blue I got a call from Shel.
“Do you have a pencil?” He didn’t say hello.
“Why? And where’d you go to?” I asked.
“It doesn’t matter – I’m in a payphone and the time is running out – quick Ray, do you have a pencil?”
Because I … DON’T … have … a pencil – So: DO YOU HAVE A PENCIL?” he shouted.
So I put down the phone and grabbed a pencil and asked what the hell he wanted.
Shel said “I have a song in my head – write these words and the tune down, before I lose it.”
He then sang ‘Cover of the Rolling Stone’ – the tune, with the first verse and chorus.
When it was done, he told me to record it, it will be a hit, then he hung-up the phone.”

It made top ten in 1973.

posted by jason_steakums at 6:17 PM on December 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

josher71: I swear to god this was on Metafilter before, but the tape says no.

I posted a comment about it once a while back. MAN, i love that show. Made me a lifetime Dr. Hook fan after just one viewing.

Okay, check this out. It's a live performance of Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show - notable for their hit "Cover of the Rolling Stone". A bunch of their lyrics were written by Shel Silverstein.

This show is - well, it's something else. Everyone seems to be stoned, intoxicated, or on some cocktail of drugs. The songs lurch all over the place, but then come back together again. Dennis Locorriere stops the first song, insisting that the viewers have already heard it too much. You wonder how they're even going to tune their instruments. Band members wander off behind the amps, or take nips out of a flask. I've seen other footage from Der Musikladen where there's a crowd - Dr. Hook appears to be playing to an empty soundstage, although at one point, someone who i think is one of the roadies throws a towel at them. The symbolism is lost on them - or, at least, they keep playing.

Worth watching for the between-song banter alone. Plus the pedal steel player looks like Alan Moore.

Here's a clip:
posted by dubold at 15:25 on December 1, 2009

posted by dubold at 5:14 AM on December 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Thank you! I knew I'd found out about it here, somehow.
posted by josher71 at 7:02 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Made my wife suffer through some clips this weekend and really enjoyed it. It has all the flaws Sheff mentions (and some of it does seem contrived at a glance) but there's joy there and it was fun to watch. Thanks so much for this post.
posted by yerfatma at 8:33 AM on December 15, 2014

That was an *amazing* essay; thanks for posting.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:40 AM on December 15, 2014

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