Riff Raff

Big Winners In a flash of apathy unwitnessed since the early 1990s, Riff Raff's First-Ever Big Contest ended last week with three entries -- and three winners. We are ashamed. Pittsburg's Rick Pyle made nine guesses at the list of incredibly stupid things said on live concert records and got three of them right. Daniel Holliman from Berkeley guessed five and also got three right. Together, they win 90 promotional CDs, some rock books, a bunch of bizarre videos, and a load of cheap promotional crap lying around our offices. Congratulations, guys. San Francisco's Chris Dodson nailed 11 entries -- including the very tough Bad Manners cut off of Dance Craze -- and will walk with the grand prize. He's getting an evening out with Night Crawler, six free concert tickets, and an awesome opportunity to appear in this column once again when he writes his own Riff Raff item. (Don't worry Chris, it's easy -- just line up an easy target and get out the tank gun.) We're impressed. Here's the answer key for anyone who didn't play along. (J.S.)

"I mean this guy's a real moron. He doesn't even understand fashion."
Jane's Addiction, Classic Girl EP/
Kettle Whistle

"Does anybody remember laughter?"
Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains the Same

"If you like to see beautiful girls driving fast sports cars and breaking joculatory-type he-men men's spines. Boo!"

Cramps, Smell of Female

"Am I buggin' ya? Didn't mean to bug ya."
U2, Rattle and Hum

"If there was ever a musician who was an honorary member of San Francisco society ...."

Peter Frampton, Frampton Comes Alive

"We've forgotten Billy Preston."
George Harrison, Concert for Bangladesh

"I think I busted a button on my trousers. Hope they don't fall down. You don't want my trousers to fall down now, do ya?"

Rolling Stones, Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!

"This is the first song off our new album."
Cheap Trick, At Budokan/Beastie Boys, Check Your Head

"This is a song about a Welsh witch."
Fleetwood Mac, Fleetwood Mac Live

"We're not doin' it for the money. I'm doin' it for you people because I love you."

The Damned, Another Damned
Seattle Compilation

"I guarantee you I will screw this song up."
Nirvana, MTV Unplugged in New York

"When I say Diedra's a slag, you say, 'Slag, slag, slag.' "
Toy Dolls, 22 Tunes From Tokyo

"This one is the latest uh ... the title track to our latest album I should say .... This is uh ... what? This is called 'Another Per-fect Hangover.' "

Motsrhead, King Biscuit Flower Hour
Presents Motsrhead
"We'd like to play three selected hit singles -- the three easiest."
The Who, Live at Leeds (reissue)

"Tired, so tired, tired of listening to gossip."
Bauhaus, Press the Eject and Give Me
the Tape

"This part's real simple: 'Wa do dig, wa do dig.' 'Cause anyone can make a record, ya know."

Creedence Clearwater Revival, Royal Albert Hall Concert (aka The Concert)

"C'mon. Get in time with us."
Loggins & Messina, On Stage

"There's nothing wrong with being fat is there? No!"
Bad Manners, Dance Craze

"Oh here it goes again. As soon as he starts talkin' about sex, he starts talkin' about Nietzsche."

NoMeansNo, Live and Cuddly

"I want everything a little louder than everything else."
Deep Purple, Made in Japan

"For the record, we never broke up. We just took a 14-year vacation."
The Eagles, Hell Freezes Over

The Greatest Voice of the 20th Century The first half of Bob Dylan's show in San Jose last week -- you know, the one that had Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell as opening acts -- combined with the passing of Frank Sinatra, whose albums we've been listening to lately, reminded us of a lot of things: why we like Dylan, why we don't like Sinatra, and how cool rock 'n' roll can be. Frank Sinatra made a lot of halfway pleasurable music over his career (we don't even mind "New York, New York"), but as we listened we kept thinking that he just didn't have much taste. Even taking into account the fact that these tracks were recorded many years ago, what passes for subtlety on them struck us as a little obvious, and all that talk about phrasing and so forth in the obituaries is basically a nice way of saying his delivery was stentorian and overwrought. And leaving aside his icky personal life, we don't like what all that bombast came in the service of. Like Playboy, like all those commercials that make gambling seem glamorous, and like every emotionally stunted would-be ladies' man, Sinatra's mission was to romanticize the life of the aging barfly in order to make a lot of money. (And for him it worked pretty well.) Now let's look at Dylan: In a career that has extended now for more than 35-plus years, he has never told his audience what they wanted to hear. He's canny, sure, has made a lot of money, and has done some dubious stuff (like selling the occasional song for use in a commercial). But when he sings, the resonances are as complex and deep as Sinatra's, and he puts them solely at the service of his extraordinary songs. Here's an example: We've always thought "Just Like a Woman" was a bit flawed, both because of its overall harshness and the heavy-handedness of the chorus ("... and she breaks just like a little girl"). But its melodies still sing in our ears, and a lot of its pop poetry -- "her fog, her amphetamines, and her pearls" -- is still alluring. But take the song's key line; Dylan sang it originally like this: "She fine-ly sees/ That she's like all the rest." Thirty years on, he sings it much differently: The gloating, strident rhythm is gone, and he breaks the line another way: "She sees finally that/ She's like all the rest," with "finally that" almost in falsetto, a melodic fillip of regret and compassion. It's so easy to be a star -- easy to lapse into the grinning glad-handing and never come out, the way Sinatra and so many other stars have; it's so much harder -- and it takes a much higher psychic toll -- to be true to a voice inside and spend your life trying to communicate it faithfully, whether people listen or not. That's what Dylan did, and in the process challenged -- and changed, arguably for the better -- a generation. As the San Jose show reminded us, Dylan's journey rigors on to this day; indeed, it reminded us that the songs of his we like best are the ones that feature journeys. A guy gets up, goes out, and comes back: That's the deceptively simple precis of some of the most elaborate and complex songs in history: "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall," "Tangled Up in Blue," "Isis," many more. Dylan's latter-day career has kept him on buses almost uninterruptedly for the last 10 years; over the course of the dozen or so shows we've attended since 1978 we've seen more careless, irritating performances than we'd like to remember. But we keep going for this reason: Frank Sinatra died a long way from home. Dylan, whenever his never-ending tour comes to an end, will be at a place much different -- he'll be somewhere quite close to the uncompromising, clangorous, promising place he started. (B.W.)

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