Well I’m sitting here wonderin’
Will a matchbox hold my clothes
I didn’t buy “Something New.” I already had all the “Hard Day’s Night” songs on the soundtrack album. And I certainly didn’t need a German version of “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” But there were a couple of new tracks that I played whenever I went to someone’s house and they had it. I needed to hear “When I Got Home.”
But dropping the needle on the third cut, I’d end up hearing “Slow Down” and then “Matchbox.”
I was three when the Carl Perkins original came out, needless to say I’d never heard it. Hell, Carl Perkins was just a name to me, his comeback didn’t happen for decades. But for some reason I knew “Blue Suede Shoes.”
Well it’s one for the money…
Talk about rock and roll! “Blue Suede Shoes” was the essence, but it was years before I heard the Carl Perkins original, I think I was more familiar with the Elvis take, not that I remember ever hearing it, it just permeated my consciousness.
So, as time went by, I began to appreciate Carl Perkins. He was part of the bedrock of rock and roll. Hell, I was just playing “Matchbox” the other day. And then…
I decided to listen to the new Dylan “Bootleg,” you know, the one with Johnny Cash.
Now I’ve got nothing against Johnny Cash, but I must say the endless adulation recently bugs me. As if there’s nobody else to venerate.
And to tell you the truth, “Nashville Skyline” is not my favorite Dylan LP, I’m more into “John Wesley Harding” or “New Morning.”
Now one of the bad things about these new Dylan releases is they’re condensed on streaming services, in other words you’ve got to buy them to hear them complete, which just plain sucks. I know, I know, it’s about the money. But if you’re not on streaming services, your music is lost to history. Why should these cuts sit in the hands of a few collectors, essentially unheard, believe me, if there were streaming services in the sixties I’d know all of the Carl Perkins originals.
And there’s some interesting stuff on this new “Bootleg,” stuff in the condensed version, on streaming services, like “I Am A Lonesome Hobo.” And “I Pity The Poor Immigrant,” which the Small Faces did such a delicious version of on their first album with Rod Stewart (it wasn’t until later that they changed the artwork on that LP to say “Faces”).
Actually, both of those are from “John Wesley Harding.” And I dig the rollicking version of “Country Pie” on “Bootleg,” but what blew my mind was the version of MATCHBOX!
A duet between Dylan and Cash. Not the usual stuff we’re aware of, from the TV show, it’s as if they’re in the studio on a lark, warming up, having fun, that’s what playing music is all about, fun, when you turn it into science, when you employ a zillion writers in hopes of a hit, you eviscerate the fun. But when no one is paying attention, when it’s just the players and maybe a few people in the control room, you can let loose, show your roots, let the music take you away.
And unlike so much of the stuff Dylan did with Cash, this ain’t slow, this is a train rolling down the track, and you’d better hang on to your hat or it’s gonna blow right off.
These are the surprises we’re looking for.
These days, the publicity departments go to the usual subjects and have them print a press release saying the project is out, and that’s the last you hear of it. Used to be you had a friend with the album, you’d hear a cut on the radio, stuff would percolate in the marketplace, but today if it’s classic rock, forget about it.
Maybe because the classic rockers can’t stop bitching about streaming music payments, maybe because the audience for this music is out of touch technologically, but this iteration of “Matchbox” is exactly what they’re looking for. Johnny Cash is not cast in amber, this is the guy before he was canonized, when he was just a musician, when he had runway in front of him and was less worried about getting it right than just doing it. Yup, when done right music is here and then gone, you had to be there, that’s one of the reasons live is such a big deal these days.
Now doing some research I was stunned to find out that Carl Perkins essentially stole the song from Ma Rainey. And then Blind Lemon Jefferson did a version. Could it be that Carl Perkins was white?
This is the history boomers live for, context, that which the internet provides, if you can find an entry point.
There have been some stellar albums in the “Bootleg” series. My favorite is the “Live 1964” project…maybe because it’s so alive, Dylan even forgets lyrics, he’s at the peak of his initial fame, the folk king before he went all rock and roll.
And this version of “Matchbox” is minus the sneer, minus the attitude, Dylan is confident in his skills, this is long before his voice became a croak, Bob’s all over the scale and it’s a joy.