Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"The French Girl"--the tale of the tune.

Do you know the song, "The French Girl", written by Ian Tyson of Ian and Sylvia and released on their 1966 album, Play One More?
Well, apparently the song quickly made waves all around the folk+pop scene. It is indeed a beautiful melody and tells a timeless, evocative tale of an exotic and poetic one night stand/one-that-got-away that any romantic type would fall for (and any songwriter would be glad to have dreamed up).


Lyrics | Ian & Sylvia lyrics - French Girl lyrics

Bob Dylan never officially recorded this song or performed it in concert.
But he did rehearse it, 20 years apart, with two different back up bands that he loved and trusted and who probably shared his love for the song. Here's a mini-doc I made about that, merging the two versions,  followed by some supplemental video clips which connect many surprising (and not so) dots.





And now, let's begin the supplemental material with Ian and Sylvia's original (1966):




Here's Gene Clark's lovely version (recorded as a solo single in 1967, unreleased until 1991):




The Daily Flash's equally lovely Version (also 1967):



And now, let's bring it full circle: In 1970, Ian and Sylvia, The Band and The Grateful Dead all took part in the famous Train Across Canada Tour (or whatever it was officially called), documented in the film Festival Express. Both on and off stage, the bands intermingled and generally had a crazy time. The only thing missing was Dylan, who was still more or less hiding out in Woodstock, playing husband and father. (Bonus connections: if you click that Festival Express link, the song you hear is Woody Guthrie's "Goin Down the Road Feeling Bad", which The Grateful Dead played a zillion times, but ALSO, which Dylan and The Band rehearsed in the winter/spring of 1967).

Here's Sylvia Tyson and Jerry Garcia doing a version of the spiritual "Cold Jordan" aboard a train in 1970 (from the film Festival Express). 





..and Garcia playing with Ian and Sylvia on that same tour




...and from the same film, Ian and Sylvia covering Dylan's "Tears of Rage", which he wrote, you guessed it, in 1967 during his semi-retirement. 







And of course, to connect the Band/Dead dots, this famous clip of the oddest version of "Ain't No More Cane" you'll ever hear. You get a contact buzz just from watching Rick Danko.


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