In light of today’s monumental news that Bob Dylan’s complete Basement Tapes will be released in November, we thought we’d take a moment to honor the men who made it all happen: The Band.
Their sartorial style was as singular and thought-provoking as their music—not to mention, pretty damn cool when it comes right down to it.
Every Wednesday from here on out, we’re giving you a piece of our minds. Actually, more like five pieces. It’s a chance to get a deeper look into what makes the minds behind Kempt tick—you know, beyond the usual Internet handsomeness we’re serving up daily. So welcome to our most personal weekly feature: The Kempt Five.
The civil rights movement was born out of an ugly time in US history, but we’ll be damned if it didn’t make for some good-looking protesters.
With the always-impeccable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. leading the way, a sea of crisp suits, skinny ties and Wayfarers led our country into equality. In honor of the great man and movement, we dug through the archives and were surprised to find a handsome lot of style icons also heading up the charge for civil rights—a veritable who’s who of impossibly cool gentlemen—everyone from Brando and Newman to Belafonte, Dylan and Davis Jr. Hell, even Charlton Heston got in on the action. It’s as if somehow impassioned, selfless endeavoring has a way of adding an extra layer of dapperness—not to mention being on the right side of history.
On the heels of yesterday’s Zuccotti troubles (captured in gloriously cheeky video here), we thought we’d take a moment to recognize the unique style of the American protestor.
It’s not flashy, of course, but there’s plenty to admire here, from the black suits of the civil rights era to the Oakie uniform of work shirts and weathered khakis. They weren’t wearing them to make a statement—they had signs for that—but it was part of the message nonetheless.
As it turns out, charisma has a way of making its own style, and they were never short on charisma.
It looks like we’re about to get one last Hank Williams album. The story starts with the Hillbilly Shakespeare’s legendary songwriting notebooks, which somehow found their way to Bob Dylan. Apparently Dylan’s spent the past few years rounding up fans like Jack White and Merle Haggard to set the lyrics to music, Mermaid Avenue-style. The resulting album arrives October 4th with the first new Williams songs in 50 years. If you’re not clear on why that’s a big deal, we’d direct you here. It’s everything that’s great about Americana: tragic, brilliant and scary as hell. Enjoy.
The Watchmen movie was never going to be a fan favorite, but our current feelings about it can be expressed through the following tidbit of news, courtesy of our friends at Complex: For the closing credits, emo kids My Chemical Romance have recorded a cover of Bob Dylan’s eleven-minute opus “Desolation Row.”
Please please please no.
This is everything that’s wrong with the Watchmen project and Hollywood in general. Start with a genuinely interesting, prickly subject matter, then churn out an “update” with a stylistic overhaul, a dumbstruck, glib reverence, and almost none of the sinister ambiguity of the original. Isn’t there some way we can use the credit crisis to stop all of this?
After four solid decades outrunning his public persona, Bob Dylan has settled into a comfortable self-chronicling period, both with increasingly generous live shows and a seemingly never-ending Bootleg Series. Lucky for us, he’s feeling generous with that too: He’s letting NPR stream the latest release for free from their website before the record drops next Tuesday.
It’s called *Tell Tale Signs*, and covers outtakes from his most recent creative burst, from *Oh Mercy* to *Modern Times*, or 1989 to present. It’s not the best of the series—that honor goes to either the 1964 or 1975 live recordings—but the piano demo of “Dignity” and the bluesier version of “Mississippi” are both worth the price of admission. And it’s always nice to hear from an old friend.
They may seem quaint and horribly rural, but the appeal of the circus has never quite disappeared. And, as Thom Browne recently reminded us, their influence is far from disappearing.
Taschen has just come out with a book that should be the perfect primer if you’re looking to brush up on your clowns. It’s called *The Circus, 1870-1950*, covering 80 years of traveling entertainment, complete with its own posters, stars and sense of style.
New York has changed a lot in the past thirty years, and though there’s a lot more glass and concrete than there used to be, there are still a few dinosaurs creaking around.
For instance, the Chelsea Hotel. Founded in 1883, the hotel was a favorite of Mark Twain, and in more counter-cultural days was host to Jack Kerouac, Leonard Cohen, Marilyn Monroe and Bob Dylan, gaining notoriety with the stabbing death of Nancy Spungen.
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