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The Bleecker Street Tapes: Echoes of Greenwich Village by Bruce Pollock (available from Trouser Press Books) (by Lee Zimmerman)
Beyond his credentials as a veteran music journalist, Bruce Pollock was an integral part of the early 1960’s Folk music explosion. As with any crucial music scene, the performer on stage needs an audience. As a Greenwich Village resident and willing participant, Bruce sat in clubs and coffee houses, soaking in the music and appreciating the talent. In The Bleecker Street Tapes, Bruce Pollock shares his experiences through essays and interviews. Both observer and musicologist, he shares his words as much as connecting the dots between the purity of early Folk singers, the industry carrot dangled when record companies came calling, and the subsequent shifts in the scene.
In today’s music history, The Folk music period is as delicate as fine china, still held with reverence for its music and for the intentions of the musicians changing the world through song. As the 1950’s singers of the popular song gave up Top 40 chart positions to men and women armed with just a guitar and a message, the charts themselves became more of a newspaper than positioning tracks that offered idle pastimes. Folk singers got people thinking. The subjects of the stories varied however the greeting card verses of love songs were left in the notebook as messages became the goal.
Speaking in the voice of a true Folkie, Bruce Pollock paints a picture of a vibrant scene, a collection of men and women that twisted the music business from its past and into the future. Promises of a better world, DIY guides of how to be a part of the changes occurring every day, those were the topics. In the introduction, Bruce Pollock sums up the book as ‘the interviews and articles collected here speak for themselves, about the highs and lows of the era as experienced by those on the ground, just as the music they gave us still speaks to a dimming memory as frustrating as a dream lost to the daylight.’
The were several mecca’s for Folk music: Berkeley, California, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and NYC’s Greenwich Village. Maybe it was the makeup of narrow side streets and alleyways connecting the musicians with the venues and the fans. Richie Havens gave gratitude for his timing when he shares in the book that ‘I was fortunate to come to The Village when music was the communication business rather than the music business’.
Stretching from marquee names that have continued to grace billboards to those musicians that were relegated to a certain time, The Bleecker Street Tapes shares stories from Dave Van Ronk (the mayor of Greenwich Village), Peter, Paul & Mary, The Roches, Don McLean, Janis Ian, Tuli Kupferberg (The Fugs), John Sebastian, Roger McGuinn, Phil Ochs, Melanie, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Peter Tork, Maria Muldaur, Harry Chapin, Leonard Cohen, and many more.
Many of the musicians went on to form bands that took their music to the top of the charts, such as John Sebastian (The Lovin’ Spoonful), Roger McGuinn (The Byrds), and Peter Tork (The Monkees) while others stayed in a Folk music section of the record store. The success is chronicled in The Bleecker Street Tapes thought the real story is what the Folk music scene in Greenwich Village set in motion. The Folk scene politics became a torch that lit the way into the tumultuous 1960’s America. Bruce Pollock does an admiral job of showing the Roots of a society at the beginning stages of cultural change that we enjoy today.
Buy The Bleecker Street Tapes from AMAZON
For more information, please visit the Bruce Pollock website
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