By Paul Beston
November 3, 2018
In 1976, in front of a fireplace at his rustic training camp in Deer Lake, Pa., Muhammad Ali sat with Howard Cosell for a Wide World of Sports special on great heavyweight champions. As black-and-white footage ran of his illustrious predecessors, Ali was mostly dismissive: Jack Dempsey had no science; Joe Louis was too slow afoot; fighters from the turn of the century were too primitive. Then Cosell got to Rocky Marciano.
Saturday, November 03, 2018
Friday, November 02, 2018
By Jeff Slate
October 31, 2018
The New York sessions for Bob Dylan’s 1975 album, “Blood on the Tracks,” have always been ground zero for Dylan’s reputation as a cipher and a curmudgeon in the recording studio, intent on speeding through the proceedings and capturing lightning in a bottle, quality control be damned. As the story has been told—mostly by musicians who no doubt felt that they didn’t get a fair shake during the biggest moment of their careers—Dylan started sessions for “Blood on the Tracks” on September 16, 1974, on Rosh Hashanah, with a band of New York session “cats” who couldn’t hear what Dylan was doing on songs that he hadn’t bothered to teach them. He waved them off, one by one, as the day wore on, essentially firing them before they had a chance to prove themselves. The problem is, it simply isn’t true.
As the author of the liner notes for “More Blood, More Tracks,” the latest entry in Dylan’s “Bootleg Series,” I was one of the first people to hear the raw session tapes in chronological order. I listened while perusing Dylan’s fabled “red notebook,” in which he’d written the lyrics to the ten songs on “Blood on the Tracks” in his tiny, precise scrawl. What I quickly realized turned the legend upside down: Dylan entered the studio early on the sixteenth, long before any of the session musicians had arrived, intent on cutting an acoustic album—a sort of “Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” for the mid-seventies. Contrary to most accounts, Dylan was supremely prepared, and immediately went about delivering aching versions of some of the best—and most intimate—songs that he had ever written. In the era of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell and so many others unjustly or unfortunately dubbed “the New Dylan,” and after a clutch of albums that fans had found less than satisfying, Dylan was throwing down the gauntlet, showing himself once again to be the master singer-songwriter and performer.
By the time the musicians who’d been hired to back Dylan arrived that afternoon, he had already cut eleven songs. Dylan would record another fifteen that day—including five takes of “Idiot Wind,” alone again, save for the bassist Tony Brown—for a total of thirty-six, an epic amount by any standard. But it’s clear as you listen that instead of things getting better as the sessions progressed, with the musicians finding their groove with Dylan, the atmosphere in the room degenerated. Most interesting, while Dylan gamely puts the band through their paces on the seemingly easy blues of “Call Letter Blues” and “Meet Me in the Morning” (after attempts at “Simple Twist of Fate” failed miserably), he never lets them near what he surely senses must be his latest masterpiece: “Tangled Up in Blue.” And so, on the afternoon of September 17th, Dylan steps up to the microphone and delivers a hushed, intense, and powerfully intimate version of that song, accompanied only by Brown on bass.
There’s a plaintiveness in that very first version of “Tangled Up in Blue” that’s unusual. It’s the earliest version we have of the now-familiar tale—of the star-crossed couple and their travels and travails, that jumps from the first to third person and back again—and while Dylan doesn’t necessarily sound tentative, the way he often did on “The Cutting Edge: 1965-1966,” the “Bootleg Series” entry that chronicled his “thin wild mercury music” years, he does seem more vulnerable than he ever had before, or ever would be again. “There’s a lot of honesty there,” Jeff Burger, the author of “Dylan on Dylan,” said. “It’s raw and heartfelt, with less posing than he’d done on some of his earlier songs. Of course, many great songs had come before, like ‘Desolation Row’ and so many others, but he was showing off his way with words and painting a picture of another world, not necessarily telling a whole lot about himself. But here he really gets down to the personal, even if it isn’t completely direct.”
While he was writing the songs for “Blood on the Tracks,” Dylan had taken up painting classes with the New York artist Norman Raeben. By all accounts, Raeben was a taskmaster, but he imparted in his students a sense both that life itself was the art, with their creations being merely the by-product of that experience, and, significantly for Dylan, that past, present, and future could all coexist in their work. “He put my mind and my hand and my eye together, in a way that allowed me to do consciously what I unconsciously felt,” Dylan told Rolling Stone in 1978, of Raeben’s influence on his songwriting approach.
While Dylan is known to endlessly and brutally edit his lyrics until the very last minute in the studio, and the epic “Idiot Wind” transformed in the course of the “Blood on the Tracks” sessions, “Tangled Up in Blue” is the one song in Dylan’s vast catalogue that he has never seemed to be finished with. There are eight takes from the New York sessions, and the slightest lyrical change, shift in tempo, or variation in delivery causes the song to reveal itself in unexpected ways. When Dylan launches into take two of the song, it’s bouncy, with punchy vocals and organ flourishes, making it, already, a different tale altogether. Further takes seem to split the difference between dark and light. By the time Dylan and Brown attempt the song for the last time in New York, in a remarkable version recorded at the eleventh hour of those sessions, Dylan has seemingly wrung all he can out of “Tangled Up in Blue.”
Still, Dylan would revisit the song just three months later—this time in Minneapolis—in the version that we would all come to love and obsess over. His voice was already transformed, more akin to the carnival-barker delivery that he’d employ on 1975’s “Desire” and the Rolling Thunder Review tour. The version Dylan performed less than a year later on that tour was yet again vastly reworked, and he would continue tinkering with it over the years. A decade later, in 1984, on the album “Real Live,” Dylan felt he’d finally found the song he’d been looking for. “On ‘Real Live’ it is more like it should have been,” Dylan toldRolling Stone in 1985. “I was never really happy with it. I guess I was just trying to make it like a painting where you can see the different parts, but then you also see the whole of it. With that particular song, that’s what I was trying to do . . . with the concept of time, and the way the characters change from the first person to the third person, and you’re never quite sure if the third person is talking or the first person is talking. But as you look at the whole thing it really doesn’t matter. On ‘Real Live,’ the imagery is better and more the way I would have liked it than on the original recording.”
Dylan has performed “Tangled Up in Blue” 1,546 times during his Never Ending Tour, which began in 1988 and is still going. Like any good Dylan obsessive, I’ve seen many of those performances. It’s a guilty pleasure of Dylanologists to trainspot the tweaks—both large and small—that Dylan makes to the lyrics from year to year, or sometimes from night to night. Still, when I was presented with Dylan’s latest revision, written in his own hand—which is part of the “Mondo Scripto” exhibition of his art currently on display at the Halcyon Gallery in London— it was like seeing an old, dear friend, whom you know intimately, but who’s no doubt changed and grown over the years, adapting with the times.
Fans who have seen Dylan in concert recently will recognize some of the changes, of how “he let the law take its course” has taken the place of using “a little too much force,” or how instead of “fishing outside Delacroix,” “everybody’d gone somewhere.” Of course, the past is still close behind, “following me like a shadow that couldn’t get out of my mind / sticking like glue / Tangled up in blue,” but she isn’t working in a topless bar anymore but at the Moonlight Lounge, “where men put money in her hand.” “There’s always been a certain truth about money that I never did understand,” this new version of Dylan’s classic tells us. “You put things to bed and you’ll call it a day / Sometimes you go along for the ride / You pick your brains and you bury the hatchet / Then you walk on the wild side / Towns are ruined and cities burns and images disappear / Weep with all of your heart if you would / I too cried a tear / Nothing you can do / If you’re tangled up in blue.” It recasts the song in the spirit of our times, in the same way the original was so much a product of the Vietnam and Watergate era.
While researching the sessions for “Blood on the Tracks,” I spoke to the writer Larry (Ratso) Sloman, who got to know Dylan around the time and has remained friends with him ever since. He told me a fascinating story of an artist who is perhaps oblivious to how seriously we all take him, but also at peace with his creative process. “I was around during the sessions for ‘Infidels,’ and I fell in love with the song ‘Blind Willie McTell,’ ” Sloman said, referring to a song that’s considered one of Dylan’s best but didn’t find a home on a release until the first volume of his “Bootleg Series,” in 1991. “When the album was finished, Bob called me up and asked me if I wanted to come over to hear it. He played it for me, but no ‘Blind Willie McTell.’ I asked him, ‘What gives, Bob? Where’s ‘Blind Willie McTell?’ And, without missing a beat, he goes, ‘It’s no big deal, Ratso. It’s just an album. I’ve made twenty-two. And I’ll make more.’ ”
Unlike, say, Paul Simon, a presenter who toils over his records, perfecting every nuance until everything is just so, Dylan is restless, visceral, mercurial, always seemingly on the way to his next creation. “More Blood, More Tracks,” and especially its centerpiece, the constantly evolving, shifting, changing “Tangled Up in Blue,” is pure Dylan, a portrait of an artist who never seems to tire of the chase.
“Tangled Up in Blue” copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music, renewed in 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. Additional lyrics copyright © 2018 Ram’s Horn Music. Courtesy of the MondoScripto exhibit at the Halcyon Gallery, London.
By Jon Pareles
October 30, 2018
By Gerard DeGroot
13 October 2018
As Zamoyski argues, the narrative that Napoleon spun eventually “deformed his sense of reality, leading him to believe that he really did have the power to make things happen simply because he willed it”. He forgot the special skills that had once made him formidable, relying instead on simple self-belief. The one-time master of technology was defeated by commanders more adept at exploiting technological progress. They had learnt from him, but he refused to learn from them.
By Bret Scher
September 19, 2018
Ethan Calabrese (Delish)
I'm a cardiologist — and I encourage patients to eat red meat.
This advice defies conventional wisdom. For decades, nutritionists and physicians have urged people to limit consumption of red meat and other fatty foods, which were thought to cause heart disease.
But new studies debunk this conventional wisdom. Indeed, it now looks like low-quality carbohydrates — not saturated fats — are driving America's heart disease epidemic. It's time to stop demonizing steak.
The medical community frowns upon the kinds of saturated fats found in meat, dairy and coconut oil. The American Heart Association recommends avoiding red meat — and if people insist on eating it, they should “select the leanest cuts available.” Federal nutritional guidelines suggest that less than 10 percent of one's daily calories come from saturated fats, while the AHA recommends even less.
These recommendations have never been supported by rigorous research. The idea that saturated fats cause heart disease stems from decades-old observational studies. Researchers asked participants to complete lengthy questionnaires about their eating habits and then tracked their health over time.
Researchers noticed that people who ate lots of saturated fats were more likely to contract heart disease. They concluded that meat and dairy were the root of all our chronic diseases, especially heart disease. Yet subsequent researchers found that in many cases, scientists cherry-picked data to support that conclusion.
More importantly, these kinds of observational claims are weak science. In 2011, a comprehensive analysis of 52 separate claims made in observational studies concluded that none — that's right, zero — could be confirmed in a clinical trial — a more rigorous type of science.
Observational studies can only show correlation, not prove causation. Vegetarians, for example, have lower rates of heart disease. Is this due to their meatless diet? Or because they smoke less and exercise more regularly than people who eat large amounts of meat? Observational studies cannot sort out these kinds of issues.
In recent years, numerous teams of researchers worldwide have reviewed all the data on saturated fats — and concluded that these fats do not have any effect on cardiovascular mortality.
A recent, comprehensive review of two dozen high-quality studies conducted by Purdue University researchers found no link between red meat intake and any negative cardiovascular outcome. In a separate 2014 analysis that examined 72 different observational and clinical trials involving more than 650,000 people, the lead researcher concluded that “[I]t’s not saturated fat that we should worry about.”
So what should we worry about? Carbohydrates.
Consider how the American diet has evolved. The most recent government data reveals that from 1970 to 2014, the availability of red meat fell 28 percent. Whole milk availability declined 79 percent. And animal fats — like butter and lard — dropped 27 percent.
If saturated fats were truly unhealthy, then obesity, diabetes and heart disease rates should have plummeted alongside this drop in saturated fat consumption.
Instead, disease rates have skyrocketed — largely because Americans replaced saturated fats with carbohydrate-rich grains. From 1970 to 2014, grain availability surged 28 percent. The body converts these carbohydrates to glucose, thereby raising blood sugar levels which — over time — can contribute to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
New research supports this idea. The largest-ever analysis of diet, which included 135,000 people in 18 countries, revealed that people who consumed high-carb diets were 28 percent more likely to die during the study than people with lower carbohydrate intake. By contrast, those who consumed the highest amounts of saturated fats had the lowest rates of stroke.
While this is observational data, it’s not alone in contradicting government recommendations.
Even more revealing is a recent controlled clinical study on people with Type 2 diabetes conducted with high-quality evidence. Researchers from Indiana University found that minimizing carbohydrates while encouraging fat — including saturated fat — actually reversed diabetes in 60 percent of patients after 1 year. The diet also reduced inflammation and triglycerides, and increased HDL — so-called good cholesterol — all strong indicators of improving cardiac and metabolic health.
Additional research points specifically to the potential benefits of eating red meat while decreasing carbs. Two studies led by researchers at the University of Western Australia found that substituting carbohydrate-rich foods with red meat reduced inflammation and blood pressure.
Medical experts have long dispensed unproven advice about meat. But newer, better research indicates that red meat and saturated fats aren't harmful when combined with a lower carbohydrate diet.
So if you're looking to safeguard your heart, fire up the grill and cook that burger — but skip the bun and the pasta salad.
Bret Scher is a cardiologist in San Diego.