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December 03, 1978 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1978-12-03

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The Michigan Daily-Sunday, December 3, 1978-Page 5

'Renaldo & Clara'-
It ain 't much, Babe,

Acoustic Cameron electrifying

but it


Poor Bob Dylan. His career more
ften than not resembles an economic
oom and bust cycle. First recognized
as a masterful folk singer in the early
'60s, he was scorned when he went elec-
ric a few years later, even though the
legacy from that period-Imonde on
plonde and Highway 61 Revisited-now


lwe gotI
Cut to a deejay. He mutters some wor-
ds, and is gone. Cut to a truckstop. A
trucker is making a pick-up-the
human kind. To me, this is the strongest
scene so far, and Dylan seems to take it
most seriously. The woman, dull and
one-dimensional, as all the women are
in this film, resists, and then gives in.
Neuwirth beats up Ronee Blakley, who
plays "Mrs. Dylan." Later in the
movie, Joan Baez appears as a par-
ticularly seductive woman in a room
where all the women seem to have
nothing better to do than sit around and
look vacant. Baez gives a splendidly
comic performance; with mole near
lip, a "continental" accent, and frills
around her neck, she makes a hokey
Baez later turns up as "The Woman
in White." Clad from head to toe in
white, she is a cold, unspeaking
creature. Yet she is vying with Clara
(Sara Dylan) for Renaldo.(Bob Dylan).
Poor Joan. When she sits down on a bed
with Clara and Renaldo, Renaldo mut-
ters "I was just getting up" and leaves
the room.
In a crucial segment, Dylan and Baez
meet in a stable. They reminisce about
old times :
* Baez: "What do you think it would be
like if we'd gotten married ten years
Dylan: "I don't know. I haven't
changed that much-have you?"
THE MEN in Renaldo & Clara come
off as intelligent people who know what
they want. Neuwirth is in control and on
top, in the bar scene and the bathroom
scene. Ronnie Hawkins is a force to be
reckoned with as "Mr Dylan." Roger
McGuinn is at ease as he moves
through a moving version of "Chestnut
Mare." Allen Ginsberg entrances
crowds with his poetry and singing.
Ginsberg=and Dylan stand at Jack
Kerouac's grave in Lowell, Mass.
reading poetry to each other. Suddenly,
they're comparing graves they've seen.
Dylan says triumphantly, "I've been to
Victor Hugo's grave." Ginsberg is
The concert sequences are filmed
with great sensitivity and warmth. The
camera zooms in on the
emotions-Dylan's agonizing face
during "Isis," Ronee Blakley's lithe
frame during "Need a New Sun
Rising," Dylan and Baez, huddled
close during "Never Let Me Go," the
movement and tension within the band,
especially between Dylan and
See DYLAN'S, Page 7

Just the other day a national television
network offered folksinget John Allan
Cameron his own regular program, and
the thirty-nine year old Canadian thinks,
he'll accept the offer. Donny and
Marie . don't have to worry just yet sin-
ce Cameron will be working with the
Canadian Broadcasting Company,
where he is an old favorite, but one day
this personable entertainer is going to
make his mark on the American public.
"I want to be an internationalist," he
said during a break in his Friday night
concert at the Ark. "I'll appear on
Canadian television, but most of my
concerts will be in this country."
Cameron, who hails from Cape Breton
island in the Maritime Provinces, loves
the challenge of playing to "unconver-
ted" American audiences, and has been
building his reputation with each sub-
sequent crossing of the border.
ONLY ABOUT thirty curious folk
fans turned out to hear John Allan when
he played his first Ark concert in early
April of this year; this time through
Ann Arbor, the management reported,
he more than doubled that record.
Though Cameron is a major celebrity in
Canada and has appeared in front of
crowds as large as ten thousand, he
says he loves the intimate surroundings
of a coffeehouse: "We'll play for hours
for any sized group as long as they'll
The ebullient troubador, wearing a
Canadian hockey jersey, was a regular
live-wire as he opened the concert. His
high energy conversation and im-
mediate attempts at sing-alongs threw
most of the audience for a loss.
Cameron admitted it's not easy to make
the transition to a small crowd just in
from the early December snows from
the large, warmed up audiences back
-home who know his material. For-
tunately he checked his early excesses
with a few down tempo instrumentals,
and brought things along slowly after

Director Dylan

old Scottish and Irish tunes, English
folk songs, Canadian and American
favorites, humorous ballads, and his
own compositions, accompanying him-
self on the twelve string guitar. Dave
Maclssac from Halifax is touring with
John this year, and flat picks lead
guitar when he's not spinning out some
jigs or reels on the fiddle.
"Now we're going to do a more
serious number," said Cameron to in-
troduce a hauntingly beautiful tribute
to Nova Scotia. "Did you ever notice
how singers like to speak in the first
person plural in an attempt to identify
themselves with the pope? Well, people
joke a lot about the pope-call him J-2
P-2 and so on-but I feel free since I'm
Cameron sang Eric Bogel's classic
anti-war ballad "And The Band Played
Waltzing Matilda" with a tear in his
eye, but MacIssac's tasteless backup
vamping on the guitar was distracting
and irritating. There are songs in which
one simply does not put on the Peter
Frampton: Good judgment is as im-
portant as technical skill in all types of
THE LAST PART of the first set saw
a medley of sing-alongs for the finally
prepared audience, and a version of
"The Wild Rover" in which the right
half of the room punctuated the chorus
with shouts of "Right up your kilt!"
Cameron had everyone back up to his
"The Broadcaster," a Canadian
publication, says "John Allan Cameron
has the potential to be the next great
Canadian superstar." "I've got a chan-
ce in Canada because folk music is
always on T.V.," he said. "It's not clear
that an American- traditional musician
could ever go very far since the media
would not be behind him. People are
mesmerized by television. It's a very
powerful medium, and a great way to
reach a lot of people with whatever
message you've got.
"There are an awful lot of people in
Ameica who deserve more attention
from the media," Cameron said. "Per-
sonalities who do absolutely nothing for
you are seen time after time; super-
stars are built from nothing; success or
failure of programs depends only on
what folks watch in those big
metropolitan areas." Cameron added,
"The Gong, Show-sheer public
humiliation-is on fifteen channels six-
teen times a day. They took Martin Mull
off the air because he made people
think. What does that tell you?"
CAMERON SAYS that the reason you°
never find folk music on the American
airwaves is because it has a rotten
Year End Sale
Cookbooks, bowls, chopping knives,
dry goods, canned goods.
2001 off with $10 or more purchase.
407 N. Fifth, Kerrytown Mall

name. "Ask Mike Douglas about folk in -
this country and he'll say, 'Oh, it used to
be Bob Dylan, and, uh, let's see, now
it's Eric Anderson.' Only through
television can we convince people that
traditional music does not mean
horrible old people plunking on out of
tune guitars."
Along with extensive television work,
Cameron has been aggressively touring
all over the world. For the past five
years he's been the opening act for
Canadian recording star Anne "You
Needed Me" Murray. "There's nothing
like the blessed experience of the
road," Cameron remarked, pointing
out that the reason he doesn't tire of
travelling is because he's "not a
boozer." He has learned how to read an
audience and play to them, drawing
them into his show and charming new
CAMERON CHATS with the people
sitting out in front of him, teasing them,
trading jokes, fielding comments and
inviting them to sing verses for him.

The Michigan Quarterly Review

"We're going to do a fiddle medley
here, and if any of you feel like dancing
. forget it!" he quipped. A few
minutes later a young man in the
second row sneezed and Cameron stop-
ped the show: "God! Bless you!
Sneezing is a form of sexual expression,
I've heard. That's all you're going to
get tonight."
Once Cameron broke down the
barrier between audience and perfor
mer, back-chat flew thick and fast.
Years of experience have given him
an, aggressive charisma which elec-
trifies his performances. He is un-
pretentious and refuses to be spoiled by
the attention heaped upon him back in
Canada: "I realize really anyone in the
states has asked of me," he says. "And
that's okay for right now."
Cameron said he hates the word
"star," but it's going to be one of those
things he'll have to get used to hearing,
because they'll still be saying it about
him when Donny and Marie are selling
pencils door to door.

ies in rock and roll's hall of fame.
He was down again at the turn of the
ecade, when he made the appalling
elf Portrait, a numbing collection of
ountry-muzak songs, but he fought his
ay back, through New Morning, Pat
arret & Billy The Kid, and Planet
ayes, reaching the top again with
lood On The Tracks. Two years later,
he was still at his peak, enchanting
East coast audiences with a rock and
roll circus called the Rolling Thunder
THIS YEAR, it began to fall apart-
again. He released Renaldo & Clara, a
four-hour cinematic souvenir from
Rolling Thunder, to universal pans.
"Diffuse . . . confusing . . . meaning-
less . . . egotistical"-it seemed no one
would say anything good about the film.
So it quietly died. Then came Street-
Legal, arguably Dylan's worst album
since Self Portrait. Hopelessly shallow,
pointlessly pretty, it had the energy of a
snail. Dylan's third strike came with
his fall tour, a garish parody of his own
classics, all performed without a hint of
sincerity or feeling.
Thus, it is unfortunate that Renaldo &
Clara has finally arrived in Ann Arbor.
Though Dylan has cut the film to an
hour and forty minutes, and though it
seems that much of what the critics
said about it is true, it remains the only
record we have of Dylan's most recent
moment of glory. The Rolling Thunder
Revue was one of the most rambun-
ctious undertakings in recent rock and
roll history, bringing together the talen-
ts of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mick Ron-
son, Roger McGuinn, Bobby Neuwirth,
Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Allen Ginsberg,
Ronee Blakley, Ronnie Hawkins, Joni
Mit hell, Richie Havens, and Arlo
Guthrie for evenings of memorable
madness. It deserved to be preserved.
SO, FOR ANY fan of contemporary
music, Renaldo & Clara is meaty stuff.
Dylan and his pals perform dozens of
songs, sometimes on camera,
sometimes simply to accompany other
scenes. Ah . . these "other scenes." If
Dylan ever intended Renaldo & Clara to
tell a story,: then he has failed
miserably. But I think he simply wan-
ted to place his characters in a series of
vignettes, some related, some not. A
theme? Tension between the sexes,
perhaps. You see, there are these male
characters and these female charac-
ters, and they don't always get along
quite right. It has been said that Bob
Dylan takes a dim view of women.
Renaldo & Clara confirms it.
The film opens with a series of frantic
images, voices, and music-what an
"Intro to Film" class might call a
collage. First it's Dylan, hidden behind
a transparent plastic mask, singing
"When I Paint My Masterpiece" (is he
trying to hint something?). Cut to a bar,
where Bobby Neuwirth, hidden behind
a black mask, is reading to a rowdy
crowd. Cut to Dylan, strumming a pret-
ty tune. The camera zooms in. Sud-
denly, fingers are as big as zeppelins.
Out to a highway. A truck is rolling by.

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