June 7, 2017

"Have you ever watched those old clips of Steve Allen interviewing people, when he plays the piano?"

Bob Dylan's business manager asked Alan Pasqua, the jazz pianist who ended up providing the background music for Dylan's Nobel speech. Pasqua said yeah, and Dylan's business manager said, "Well, we need some of that kind of music."

Here's the audio of Bob Dylan's speech, with Pasqua playing in the background.

Here's what Steve Allen was like, interviewing while playing the piano. I picked the one where he's interviewing Jack Kerouac:



The first tinkling notes and I thought: "If Dogs Run Free." That's the spoken-word piece on the great 1970 Dylan album, "New Morning." That's Al Kooper on the piano, perhaps taking instruction to play like Steve Allen. Or... it says here the Dylan wrote that the piano playing was in the style of Teddy Wilson, and it seems that Steve Allen learned some things from Teddy Wilson.

That last link goes to a Rolling Stone list of the 10 worst Bob Dylan songs (based on a reader poll), which put "If Dogs Run Free" in 6th place.

21 comments:

madAsHell said...

Can you imagine a talk show host being that well versed in prose, poetry, and piano?

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Jazzy. Could be that's Bob Dylan's secret sauce.

rcocean said...

That must be one of the 1,000 songs Steve Allen wrote.

rcocean said...

Here a whack, there a whack, everywhere a Kerouac.

traditionalguy said...

Allen started the Tonight Show, and did it in in black and white. He was the show. A very nice man.

eddie willers said...

One of my favorite lines from The Simpsons [Krusty]: "If this is anyone but Steve Allen, you're stealing my bit!"

Michael K said...

Steve Allen's son Steve Jr was my intern long ago.

Char Char Binks said...

It's funny that Steve Allen could be so hip to jazz and beat, and yet simultaneously seem so square. I guess he was a bridge to the cool world for the audience. I used to watch his show when I was a little kid, I think when I was in kindergarten, if not before. I enjoyed it.

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

Thanks so much for this - I'd been wondering who it was and tried googling with no success - also, I was really struck by the way the early part of the talk, especially about Buddy Holly, sounds so much like "Brownsville Girl" - that same conversational tone.

gadfly said...

Steve and Teddy

Temujin said...

That was great. This is why I love your blog. Where else am I going to get a bit of Jack Kerouac and Steve Allen? Steve Allen was so talented in so many ways. Brilliant and laugh out-loud funny. A musician. A writer. A one-man show. Today's late night guys wouldn't have made it on his staff of writers, let alone have their own shows.

There have been so many great developments over the past 50 years, but so much has been lost.

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

Steve Allen was brilliant. I used to watch Meeting of the Minds on PBS when I was getting ready to go out on Saturday nights while I was in high school. It seems like it may have come on right before or after William F. Buckley Jr.'s Firing Line.

The Godfather said...

Thanks @Althouse. I liked Steve Allen back in the day, but this was news to me. It was also a reminder that Kerouac wasn't the freak that some people imagine the beats to have been. I should go to some re-reading.

Marc Puckett said...

I've managed to mostly ignore Kerouac for fifty years. Don't know how much use Steve Allen had for politicians but can you imagine his interviews with Mr Trump? Mrs Clinton? Mr Obama? It's true enough that Mr Trump hasn't spent his entire public life being a professional politician, so that'd be the one I'd look out for, were such a thing possible.

eddie willers said...

Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno and whoever the fuck they have now.

Earnest Prole said...

Genius. The only way it possibly could have been better is if they had both fondled cigarettes in a nicotine haze the way they used to do.

sykes.1 said...

I am old enough to have watched Steve Allen (and the Man in the Street) and even Jack Paar. Carson and Leno were worth successors, but nowadays the networks confuse snark and sarcasm with actual humor.

Virtually Unknown said...

Steve Allen did a talk radio show that lasted about five minutes. I listened to it once until he honked a bicycle horn and said something like "that aught to get their attention." I think he believed all of the stuff his Hollywood friends were saying about talk radio and how Rush really despised his audience and only did it for the money. The kind of stuff that was going around then. Anyway, it was pretty clear that Allen despised his talk radio audience.

tcrosse said...

It's funny that Steve Allen could be so hip to jazz and beat, and yet simultaneously seem so square.

Look at Dave Brubeck. There was a Nerdy Intellectual strain of Jazz back then.
Incidentally, Steve once had Lenny Bruce on his Sunday night variety show.

Amexpat said...

"If Dogs Run Free" was a favorite of mine when I was 19 and hitchhiking in foreign lands. The song has its flaws, but some bits work very well.

I didn't like the jazz background in Dylan's speech. It didn't relate to his cadence and was disconcerting. Enjoyed reading the speech though.

Robert Cook said...

I've tried to read ON THE ROAD twice and I can't get past the first 30 or 40 pages...Kerouac's voice is just not to my taste. (Of somewhat kindred writers, I much prefer Henry Miller. Probably because Miller is more hard-boiled.) However, seeing this clip--which I saw years ago in black and white--I'm struck by how good a reader of his work Kerouac is. This isn't true with all writers, and some do their own writing a disservice when they read before audiences.