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3 Frequently Asked Questions to the Owner of Big Pink
August 27, 2015
Q1. Did you know its history when you bought it?
Answer: Of course! Here’s how it was. It was my Woodstock buddy who told me it was for sale by owner – there was an advert in the Woodstock Times saying, “Famous Rock-n-Roll House for Sale By Owner”. I wanted to look at it, so we figured we’d pose as purchasers just to have a look-see. But when I called the owner up, I hit it off with him, went to see his band in NYC, and started thinking maybe somehow we could get the funds up. When Sue, my friend and I finally went up to look at it, we fell in love with the natural beauty and peace of the location. There was this large ‘Lunar Moth’ on the side of the house, as big as a dinner plate. It was so quiet back there in the pines, just a gentle breeze whispering its secrets. Magic!
Though the Band’s first album looms large these days, there were many groups I was listening to in 1969 at age 15. I was learning leads off of Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland (saw Jimi in Philadelphia that year) and Cream’s ‘Wheels of Fire’ ( named from a Basement Tapes tune); the Stone’s ‘Beggar’s Banquet’, Taj Mahal’s ‘Natch’l Blues’, digesting Albert King’s ‘Live Wire’, and of course tunes from Dylan’s ‘John Wesley Harding’.
I had purchased ‘Music From Big Pink’ (as did many other back then) mainly because of the Dylan/co-written tunes (and his cool cover-art painting). I quickly learned ‘The Weight’ and ‘Long Black Veil’. I marveled at what my buddies and I took to be an ironic picture of the tacky Big Pink house on the back cover: the unbeknownst destined-to-be owner in 30 years thence, puzzling over such strange album photos!
I (and many others) really got to really truly love the Band with their Brown album onward. As a 15 year-old rock-n-roller with a taste for west-coast psychedelia and the blues, I really didn’t quite ‘get’ where they were coming from yet! But we still played it, along with a lot of other things we were trying to understand: we put Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ on’ the same turntable, too! So it’s not like I was a crazed Band fan-boy wanting to own the place – I’d just moved back from SF, CA where famous rock-n-roll & jazz places abounded. Sue and I really fell in love with the land and the place, kept dreaming about being in the woods there until we owned it: though I did see the Basement as being the best rehearsal-space a garage-blues rocker could ever hope for!
Q2. Do you feel there are any ghosts?
Answer: No. But there is a real energy afoot here, and many of our creative folks who stay here say they feel it. We’ve lived almost 2 decades through the seasons and all hours of quiet nights alone, in winter where the sounds mostly are the wind through the pines, the woodstove crackle and owls calling in the night. There is an occasional building creak, but I, and my very sensitive wife have not experienced any strange, scary phenomena (I have at other places, so I know what it seems like)!
The vibe I got from Rick Danko, with whom I had a long conversation after a show in his latter days: it was a place of great joy and fun for them! He positively twinkled in his mirthful recounting of their times there. I have heard similar reports from visitors who had just come from Levon’s and heard his laughing stories as well. For our own part, we have had very positive celebrations and ecstatic times. I suppose the sensitive among us might find vibe traces of all that: it’s easy to feel the natural energies of the peaceful landscape. Hey, we had a baby deer wander into the basement as a buddy & I were playing acoustic guitars & vocal harmonizing. It came right up to us: a safe and peaceful place. We had just played Garcia/Hunter’s Ripple: “…Let it be know/There is a fountain/That was not made/By the hands of men…”
Q3. Has Bob Dylan come to visit; would you like him to visit?
Answer: Not that I know of and it makes no difference to us. He might have made an unknown drive-up to view the outside, but I really doubt it. He isn’t exactly noted for ‘looking back’. Personally, I think people are too obsessed with celebrity-hood and the past.
Bob Dylan is a busy guy, doing hundreds of live shows a year while still in these latter days creating great albums that IMHO are some of his finest work – ‘Love and Theft’, the recent ‘Shadows In the Night’ and others. As a guy who worked live pro-sound with well-known musical artists: I know a little bit of what they go through, and can say I am just happy the guy is out still there somewhere, still surprising us with interesting music & utterances. If he did come by, I wouldn’t tell you one way or the other: privacy is hard to come by these days, and it wouldn’t feel right to me to publicize such an occurrence. Big Pink was always a sanctuary of sorts, and he of all people deserves some peace and freedom from the public eye and folk’s attempts to gain from proximity to him. So in the very unlikely event that he did come by, don’t expect any pictures, videos or ‘posting’ from me saying anything about it or him, unless he wanted to for some unimaginable reason or other. Let Bob just be, that’s good enough for me!