Album: The Lost Weekend
“Danny” was Dan Stuart of Green on Red, and “Dusty” was Steve Wynn of The Dream Syndicate, and in early 1985, they convened in a studio in Los Angeles with a bunch of their friends and spend 36 beer-and-whiskey fueled hours recording one of my all-time favorite one-off records, The Lost Weekend.
Populating the album with an endless series of boozers, dreamers and losers, Danny & Dusty — along with ringers Sid Griffin, Stephen McCarthy & Tom Stevens from The Long Ryders, Dennis Duck of The Dream Syndicate & MVP Chris Cavacas of Green on Red — cobbled together an album that sounded like The Replacements decided to follow Let it Be with a boozy, fucked-up version of Let it Bleed.
Album: New American Language
In a weird way, “God Said No” just might be the ultimate Dan Bern song. For a guy who (tongue-in-cheek) sang “I am The Messiah” on the first song on he debut album, writing a whole song about a conversation where he basically asks God to let him alter history isn’t out of the pale.
That said, “God Said No” shows unusual pathos about human weaknesses and God’s understanding as such. The result is a lyric that resonates regardless of your personal belief system. After all, he could be making the exact same requests of The Doctor.
Album: Smartie Mine
Dan Bern’s most ambitious move to date was 1999’s two-CD Smartie Mine, a rock-solid collection of folk-punk tunes that also allowed him to stretch out with remakes and covers and craft great songs on subjects like Pete Rose, Marilyn Manson, Vincent Van Gogh, Tiger Woods and his own feelings about being a “New Dylan.”
Two discs meant that he also could stretch the song lengths, with songs establishing a riff and riding it for several minutes, like the two songs that end the first-disc, the piano-driven “Ballerina” and slide-guitar-filled “Simple.”
Album: Dan Bern
They don’t really make “New Dylans” any more, do they? That was a big thing for a very long time: the singer-songwriter who was going to somehow takeover the mythical place in the cosmos previously occupied by Bob Dylan.
However, after a half-century of getting their asses kicked by the old Dylan, that concept has pretty much fallen by the wayside.
There were a lot of singer-songwriters who got the “New Dylan” hype were pretty awesome. For example, Bruce Springsteen, who you might have heard of. Or Dan Bern, who had the temerity to actually sound like Dylan.
Album: Super Fly
Back in the mid-70s, whenever this song came on KYNO 1300 AM, it always kinda weirded me out.
While the Super Fly soundtrack was a huge enough cultural phenomenon to land two hard funk songs into the pop top ten, the first of those singles, “Freddie’s Dead,” at least felt like other R&B hit singles I’d heard by folks like Marvin Gaye & Isaac Hayes.
But “Superfly” made no damn sense to me at all.