How sacred the big pink house recording space in upstate New York was to the dudes then known as Bob Dylan‘s touring backing band, when they cemented themselves as THE Band, is irrelevant to the classic rock gods at this point. Dropped on this day in 1968, Levon Helm and crew spent the summer in its sweaty basement, cutting midnight homages to Southern blues and Americana, and plainly named the product Music From Big Pink.
A lot of critical thought since has gone into some of the biblical references spread out across its 11 tracks. Not that the record’s not worthy of it, but the simple breaks go like so – five guys and myriad friends channel a jam spirit wrought with the incessant need of each generation worth remembering to redefine their connection with some sense of spirituality, religious or not. Closing side one of the record, the rambling man poetics of Robbie Robertson’s “The Weight,” and its characters’ wrong-place-at-the-right-time quests are still touchstones of any set in need of a closing sing-along:
I pulled into Nazareth, was feeling ’bout half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head
Hey, mister, can you tell me, where a man might find a bed?
He just grinned and shook my hand, “No” was all he said
Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny, and you put the load right on me