The Band, “The Weight” and a Bit of a Puzzler.

A while back I featured this song by Abba in one of my posts, and it led to a new discovery for me. I wouldn’t have spotted it myself, but in the comments boxes at the time, The Swede pointed out that one of the albums Agnetha was sadly storing away, post-divorce in her new abode, was Music From Big Pink recorded in 1968 by The Band (all happens very quickly at 0:58).

Back in 1968 I definitely wouldn’t have known about The Band and to be honest even in 1981 when the Abba video came out, all I knew of them was that they used to play with Bob Dylan and made a documentary movie called The Last Waltz.

Since having their great album cover pointed out to me however, I have been bombarded with references to it, especially after asking for song suggestions for the state of Pennsylvania for my American Odyssey series. Turns out their song The Weight, written by Band member Robbie Robertson, is about a traveller’s experiences arriving, visiting, and departing a town called Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Robbie chose this town  because it was the home of Martin Guitars, and he had written the guitar parts for Music From Big Pink on a 1951 Martin D-28. The Weight has been named as one of the best songs of the ’60s and is named as one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

The Weight by The Band:

The song was also featured the other week over at Rich Kamerman’s place, his Satur-debut post having been dedicated to Music From Big Pink. I of course had to point out my discovery that the album puts in an appearance in that 1981 Abba video, but after checking the exact location (0:58 as it turns out), I noticed that Agnetha places a second album on the shelf straight afterwards. For the last fortnight or so I have been driving myself mad trying to work out what it is, so if anyone can help me out I would be most grateful? At one point I thought it was Boz Scaggs Silk Degrees, but on closer inspection, definitely not. A bench it seems, and people in white clothing, but other than that I’m stumped. It has to be from earlier than 1981 otherwise we would be having a weird wibbly wobbly timey wimey kind of thing going on, but as I say, any help in identifying it would be much appreciated.

As for the title of the album Music From Big Pink, I have now discovered it’s because the music was composed partly in “Big Pink”, the house shared by several of the band members in West Saugerties, New York. The cover artwork is a painting by Bob Dylan. I am no art expert, so it could either be a work of genius or the daubs of a child, but whatever it is considered to be, it certainly does make for memorable cover art.

250px-The_Big_Pink_(crop)
Big Pink with its pastel siding

So, “What’s It All About?” – So many songs make reference to other songs in their lyrics but it also seems that reference is made to other albums in videos. Makes sense as in the giant oak that is rock and pop’s family tree, everyone is influenced by someone else. Where did it all begin? Who knows, but like human life itself, I suspect it all came Out of Africa.

Bit of a heavy ending there so going to add some footage from the Martin Scorsese film The Last Waltz, the song this time being The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. The Last Waltz was originally the name of a concert held on Thanksgiving Day 1976, at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. It was advertised as The Band’s “farewell concert appearance”, and they were joined by more than a dozen special guests, including Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Ronnie Wood, Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, and The Staple Singers. The event was filmed and made into a documentary of the same title, released in 1978.

Before next time, I hope someone can help me out with the puzzler?

The Weight Lyrics
(Song by Robbie Robertson)

I pulled into Nazareth, was feelin’ about half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head
“Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed?”
He just grinned and shook my hand, “no” was all he said

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

I picked up my bag, I went lookin’ for a place to hide
When I saw Carmen and the Devil walkin’ side by side
I said, “Hey, Carmen, come on let’s go downtown.”
She said, “I gotta go but my friend can stick around.”

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Go down, Miss Moses, there’s nothin’ you can say
It’s just old Luke and Luke’s waitin’ on the Judgment Day
“Well, Luke, my friend, what about young Anna Lee?”
He said, “Do me a favor, son, won’t you stay and keep Anna Lee company?”

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Crazy Chester followed me and he caught me in the fog
He said, “I will fix your rack if you take Jack, my dog.”
I said, “Wait a minute, Chester, you know I’m a peaceful man.”
He said, “That’s OK, boy, won’t you feed him when you can?”

Yeah, take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Catch a cannon ball now to take me down the line
My bag is sinkin’ low and I do believe it’s time
To get back to Miss Annie, you know she’s the only one
Who sent me here with her regards for everyone

Take a load off, Annie
Take a load for free
Take a load off, Annie
And (and, and) you put the load right on me
(You put the load right on me)

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

20 thoughts on “The Band, “The Weight” and a Bit of a Puzzler.”

    1. Thanks for the attempts at trying to work it out but I think C has got it right, it’s a Scandinavian ladies choir so unless we really dig deep, it will never be worked out. Felt sure it was something iconic.

      Like

  1. Ooh, I do like a good puzzle!
    Like you, I suspect, have been playing/pausing over and over to get a better look but can’t get much from that other than it does appear to be several people – women mostly I think – lined up in long white/blue dresses with their hands clasped in front of them, like a choir perhaps? Perhaps it’s a Swedish choral album, in which case I’ve very little chance of knowing it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re right, it looks as if it could be a choir or something so no chance of getting it right. You mastered the play/pause technique better than me it seems as I was convinced it was an iconic album cover at first, which would have made sense as a follow up to Music From Big Pink. Oh well, thanks very much for trying to help with it all. Note to self – will have to do better when it comes to setting a puzzle 🤭

      Like

  2. For a brief moment, the blur of the LP sleeve reminded me of ‘Japanese Whispers’ by The Cure…until I realised that it wasn’t released until 1983, two years after the Abba video was made. After a second and third freeze-framed look I reckon C is absolutely right about it being some sort of choral album. We’ll probably never know for sure.
    As you know, I’m a massive fan of Bob & The Band and actually made a pilgrimage to Big Pink when I visited Woodstock over 20 years ago. The house is well off the beaten track and privately owned, so I just jumped out of the car, looked at it in awe for a few seconds and jumped back into the car again – I didn’t even take a photo!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, eagle-eyed C has nailed it I think, an album none of us are ever going to work out (although I did try googling Swedish lady choirs of the 1970s earlier!) – It just looked really familiar but too fleeting for me to identify it.

      How great that you saw the actual “Big Pink” – For music fans, these are the kind of places worth making a pilgramage for. Yet for those not in the know it’s just any other house. Shame you didn’t get a picture though!

      Like

    1. It is rather cryptic isn’t it and don’t think it’s really supposed to make sense but here’s what I found out – The song tells the story of a guy who arrives in Nazareth, and is asked by his friend Annie to visit several of her friends. “The Weight” that is his load are all these strange people he promised he would check in on. Robbie Robertson claims the song was influenced by the work of Luis Buñuel, a Mexican director who made some of the first movies dealing with surrealism. Robertson was intrigued by the characters in his films, who were often good people who did bad things.
      There has been more than a little debate over the real meaning of this song, however Robertson has insisted time and again there is no biblical subtext, but many people think he may be deflecting.

      Don’t know if you really wanted the full works but there you go! Personally I just like the whole sound of it but each to their own.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, Alyson. I love how a conversation regarding an earlier post provided inspiration for this one, and it had you digging deeper into the Abba video. I suspect “C” is correct and hopefully someone will eventually find the actual album. Thanks for the shout-out to my Music From Big Pink post. If you’re ever interested in diving further into The Band’s music, they were one of the first artists whose discographies I wrote about when I started my blog in 2011, so feel free to check out that series. They made a lot of amazing music together in a relatively short amount of time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, since following the other blogs, I’ve discovered so much music that I missed first time around, as I was just too young at the time for it. I love that late ’60s period when everything changed – the style of music, the clothes, the subject matter…. Still loads of “new” discoveries to be made no doubt. I will check out that earlier post of yours. Talking of which, I don’t know if it’s because I linked to your blog here at my place, but I can no longer “follow” you – I re-followed you again yesterday but you’re off my Reader list yet again today (I did worry you might have blocked me after jumping in with just one too many “couthy” anecdotes but the fact you’ve just dropped by my place means we’re probably still “cool”?). Will try to add you in again.

      Like

        1. Ha ha – So I wasn’t blocked then – phew!

          Just re-followed you again and left a comment on last Saturday’s post. Perhaps by tomorrow your blog will have dropped out of the Reader again, but for now, we’re all cool.

          Like

  4. I never did “get” The Band, much less why many musicians like them. They’re OK, but not extraordinary. And the lyrics above—what is the purpose? Dylan can be cryptic, but at least it’s poetry. 🙂

    Many know the band because that is why Clapton left Cream (when he was 22 or whatever, and already “God”—that puts some things in perspective). In a Rolling Stone interview, he said that he had heard Music From Big Pink and thought that that was what he wanted to play, not “extended solos and maestro bullshit”, but just good funky songs. And, famously, he started playing a Stratocaster.

    The irony is that when Robbie Robertson heard this story, he said “What a bummer! I’m a big fan of Cream”. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gosh Phillip – So many interesting bits of information here. You are a veritable font of knowledge.

      As for not really liking them, why should you as we all have different preferences, but lots of people do seem to have liked their particular blend of old country, folk and blues and I’m now one of those people. You are right though, those lyrics are cryptic indeed, but like with poetry it doesn’t always have to make sense as you can make of it what you want. The particular rhythm of the words and the chorus just seems to work well with the music. I will admit they didn’t come up with a very original name though did they? They had spent a fair bit of time acting as the backing band for other artists so when the time came it seemed appropriate just to call themselves The Band – Think that’s why they didn’t really register with me way back when I was a teenager. I probably thought friends were talking about a generic band, and not The Band.

      Thanks for dropping by.

      Like

        1. Another interesting snippet Phillip. I think I know what you mean about the pun in ELO (the Light Orchestra), so hope it isn’t another one of those rude one I have until now missed – Story of my life!

          Like

Leave a Reply to Alyson Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s