The Band Former Tour Supervisor Jonathan Taplin Remembers Robbie Robertson: A Genuine Original

The Band’s Former Tour Manager Jonathan Taplin Remembers Robbie Robertson: ‘A Genuine Original’

Jonathan Taplin, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker who produced Martin Scorcese’s first movie, Imply Streets, and has written books together with The Finish of Actuality: How 4 Billionaires Are Promoting a Fantasy Way forward for the Metaverse, Mars and Crypto, served as tour supervisor for The Band from 1969 via 1976’s The Final Waltz. Taplin remained shut with Robertson via the guitarist’s demise Wednesday at 81. Reached by cellphone at his dwelling in Los Angeles, beneath he discusses Robertson’s profession and legacy.

I used to be producing a tribute to Woody Guthrie in New York for Harold Leventhal, who had been Woody’s supervisor, with Judy Collins and Arlo Guthrie and Joan Baez. Harold managed to get to Bob Dylan instantly, going round Albert Grossman, who was Bob’s supervisor on the time. Bob stated, “Yeah, I’ll do it, but I’m going to bring my band, Levon and the Hawks, with me.” They got here down and I used to be the manufacturing man. And I met all of them and we did a soundcheck.

Robbie Robertson, Co-Founding father of The Band, Dies at 80


When it was throughout — and so they did an incredible job, they performed three songs and it was actually the very best factor in the entire thing — Robbie stated, “We’re going to go out on the road to support this album Music from Big Pink, would you want to be our tour manager?” I stated, “Absolutely.” I used to be nonetheless at Princeton [University] on the time, and that didn’t cease me. Then [The Band’s] Rick Danko drove his automotive off the street right into a ditch and broke his neck, in order that tour by no means occurred.

About six months later, Albert referred to as me and stated, “The Band is going to go to California to record their second album and Robbie would like you to be their tour manager, and after that they’re going to go on the road.” We moved all of the stuff out to Sammy Davis Jr.’s home on Sundown Plaza and arrange a recording studio in his poolhouse, and that was referred to as the brown album, or the second album. That was an enormous breakthrough file for them.

Then we went and performed Winterland [in San Francisco]. That’s the well-known incident the place [Robertson] was working a 104 [degree] temperature the day of the live performance and Albert didn’t wish to cancel and [promoter] Invoice Graham acquired a hypnotist to return in and hypnotize Robbie to persuade him he wasn’t sick. In some way, we managed to get him on stage, and Robbie performed, and we performed two extra nights at Winterland, and it was unbelievable. And we went to the Fillmore East and performed there. No one had seen these guys. They had been like an enormous thriller as a result of they hadn’t gone on the street to help Music From Massive Pink. It was like, “Who are these people, these mountain men?” They wore fits onstage and so they didn’t appear to be psychedelic rock stars.

I used to be their tour supervisor for 3 extra years. I graduated from Princeton, went on the street with them, and George Harrison requested me to supply The Live performance for Bangladesh, so I left The Band, did that and got here to California. The Band had stopped touring for some time and Bob didn’t wish to tour and George Harrison didn’t wish to tour. I got here out right here and met a younger movie director named Martin Scorsese and we made a movie referred to as Imply Streets.

Robbie moved out to California and the remainder of The Band adopted. When Robbie determined to name it a day and have The Final Waltz [The Band’s final concert], he stated, “I’d like you to produce this with me” and “Who should direct it?” I stated, “Marty would love to direct it, but there’s one problem: He’s doing a movie called New York, New York, and I’m sure he can’t do it.” Robbie stated, “Let’s go talk to him about it.” Marty stated, “Nobody’s going to do this but me.”

The live performance was scheduled for Thanksgiving Day. … We had been capable of get away and fly Marty as much as San Francisco and did the live performance and the remaining is historical past.

Robbie Robertson

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Apart from the well-known Neil Younger cocaine incident, no one was uncontrolled in any respect. The truth is, I’d say all people realized they needed to be on their finest habits. Should you take a look at that solo guitar battle between Robbie and Eric Clapton on “Further on Down the Road,” that’s the very best stage of guitar-playing that you simply’ll ever see. There was some partying afterwards, however, man, when the factor was happening, everybody who wasn’t on stage was within the wings watching what was on stage, as a result of it was so rattling superb.

Robbie was form of a really contained individual. He acquired up early within the morning and went to work, such as you would do — within the sense of, like, a newspaperman. He would begin writing at 9 within the morning in his little studio. The management place developed. Keep in mind, The Band initially was referred to as Levon and the Hawks. Then Levon [Helm] stop the Dylan excursions as a result of he was bored with getting booed on a regular basis. When Levon got here again — as a result of Albert acquired Robbie and the remainder of the fellows a file deal — one thing had shifted. It was now extra Robbie’s deal, and Robbie was the one who handled Albert Grossman rather a lot. He was extra business-oriented than the remainder of the fellows.

Over time, Robbie ended up being the one songwriter. That was simply default. By Stage Fright, Richard [Manuel] and Rick [Danko] had stopped writing. [Manuel co-wrote two songs on that 1970 album.] So it wasn’t that Robbie needed to be the one songwriter. It was form of no one else was displaying up on the social gathering. You turn into a form of pure chief. To carry the songs into the studio, you play them for the opposite guys to determine their half and then you definately file them.

I see Robbie as a good friend on a regular basis. I used to be concerned with that movie they did [in 2019], As soon as Had been Brothers. We had been going to get collectively two weeks in the past. He’s been sick for some time, however I didn’t know he was that sick.

He was a real unique. Not solely in his guitar enjoying however in his songwriting. Right here we’re confronting this notion that a pc can write a track, and that’s not true. Nice music comes from the guts of a genius, and there aren’t a variety of them round, and so they aren’t going to return from synthetic intelligence. He was a kind of geniuses. “The Weight” will stand, and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” will stand. The Latin [quote] stated, “Art is long and life is short.”

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