Monday, November 27, 2006

By popular demand: The Freewheelin' Mark Arm

Although hundreds of thousands of Americans opposed Papa Bush’s initial invasion of Iraq in 1991, for the most part, it enjoyed massive popular support—something like 90% of the public sided with the President. I recall attending a protest in downtown Seattle that included thousands and thousands of participants; while walking from Capitol Hill to the Federal Building, several adults yelled at me and flipped me off, even though I was a teenager. Needless to say, the general public had little interest in dissent or even skepticism of any kind.

Slightly more than a month after Hussein tipped the first domino with his invasion of the emirate of Kuwait, Mark Arm headed to Reciprocal Recording to record a cover of Robert “Bob Dylan” Zimmerman’s “Masters of War.” The recording session lasted a day, and Sub Pop had the record on the shelves by the first of November 1990. Two months later, the bombing started.

Although the speed of the recording and release indicate the urgency of the situation, it’s hard to take this single too seriously as a form of protest. I don’t doubt Mark Arm’s sincerity, but the American public felt determined to invade Iraq, and rightly or wrongly (I think wrongly) had rendered all protest quaint and futile. The single seems to acknowledge this situation: although Arm performs the Dylan cover earnestly, the B-side is a shuffling novelty called “My Life with Rickets,” jokingly credited to “M. Arm/B. Diddley” and featuring a “Who Do You Love”-like riff and the refrain “she beats the shit out of me.” Sub Pop released the record under the moniker “The Freewheelin’ Mark Arm,” and the cover ever goes so far as to parody Bob Dylan’s Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan record from the early 60s.

How are the songs themselves? While nobody would place them in the pantheon beside “Touch Me (I’m Sick)” or “You Got It,” they have a semiserious charm of their own, and Arm’s voice shares a distinctive, enjoyable imperfection with Dylan’s voice that suits the cover well. Several people have asked us to post these songs (by several, I mean two), but I think that’s mostly because of their orphan status. They aren’t like to be appended to any Mudhoney records, so until Mark Arm records a proper, bonus-ready solo record, they’re likely not to see the light of day anytime soon.

Incidentally, while all this was happening, the real Bob Dylan was banging out such classics as “She’s My Baby” and “Wilbury Twist” with his “super” group, The Travelling Wilburys. The late 80s and early 90s were not kind to Mr. Dylan.

“Wilbury Twist” . . . I mean, Jesus Christ. . . .

The Freewheelin’ Mark Arm—“Masters of War”
The Freewheelin’ Mark Arm—“My Life with Rickets”

--William

14 comments:

Matt said...

This rocks :D pity i can't download it :P
thanks

Lamestain HQ said...

Hmm, that's odd. What kind of problems are you having?

Matt said...

it just plays it on another windiw when iclick and when i right click, nothing happens :P

Lamestain HQ said...

Strange . . . when I right-click it, a box opens with the option "save link as."

What browser are you using? It seems to work in Firefox.

Lamestain HQ said...

My bro just tried redoing the links in Internet Explorer. Let us know if they're still not working.

Steve said...

Hey Lamestain --

Or should I call you "Casey Kasem," 'cause you posted my request?

Not to pile on, but I'm having trouble playing those songs too -- I can only hear about half of the first one, and about five seconds of the second.

Later dudes -- Steve

Matt said...

Got it to work! Thanks alot man! :D

Yannick said...

Seattle sound sounds "Great" songs

Lamestain HQ said...

Steve--could you get the songs to work? Did you try downloading them?

sebastian j said...

wow this single is great. Particulary I love My Life with Rickets. Thanx for everything William! Now I wonder, is it listed on the credits who's playing the other instruments, or everything was done by Mark?

caseybarlow said...

what a blog! I was doing a search for the Sleze lineup for a Seattle/Grunge Family Tree I'm building/re-building and found this place. Awesome stuff!

I have a few rare demos from big bands in the grunge era. I would be happy to contribute!

If you are interested in my demos e-mail me at casey.barlow@gmail.com to get my full list.

Excellent work!

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