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Fact #98348


Short story:

The Band record The Weight at A And R Recording, New York City, USA. It will appear on their debut album, Music From Big Pink.

Full article:

"I was thinking of it as maybe a fallback," remembers Robbie Robertson of the song The Band recorded for their debut album, Music From Big Pink. "The Weight was like, if we ran out of songs, I had an extra one there just in case."

When Bob Dylan broke his neck in 1966, his backing band had found itself twiddling its thumbs. To pass the time more productively, they rented a house at 2188 Stoll Road, near Saugerties just outside Woodstock, for $125 a month, and started to create their own music.

"We were holed up in that pink house trying to discover a musicality that was, I guess, a combination of what we had picked up from along the side of the road over all those years, gigging with Ronnie Hawkins, playing as Levon and the Hawks, working with Dylan," says Robertson. "Music From Big Pink was a culmination of everything we'd learned."

"There were about three of us who stayed there at the house," recalls drummer Levon Helm. "We had three or four houses between us all. We weren't on top of one another but there was a certain type of clubhouse atmosphere. Everybody showed up, ate breakfast, and went into the studio to rehearse."

Even though no record deal had been fixed, producer John Simon was already on board and he remembers how "I went to the Big Pink basement which was a tiny little room, maybe 12 x 12 ft. And Garth had a little primitive reel-to-reel machine set up there, and they played me some things they had done on the machine and they played me some things live. Richard was playing drums sometimes and sometimes there was no drums. I said I liked it and I worked with them a little bit. I helped them rearrange things like "Tears Of Rage" and "Chest Fever." And then Albert got some seed money from Capitol to go and do a session in the city. Then Levon showed up. Dylan would come by almost every day. Levon was always trying to get Bob to throw a football with him - kind of a silk purse-sow's ear trip - but it was funny. Big Pink was a wonderful clubhouse, with good meals and beer and pot and laughter and hard, focused work."

Robertson still vividly remembers how the album's centrepiece song, The Weight, came about. "At that time, a lot of my inspiration was coming from films. I became quite addicted to movies and, in particular, I was going through this period of infatuation with the work of Luis Bunuel. I was fascinated by a theme in his movies about people trying to do good for others but something would happen and it would get turned around."

And like a movie, as Levon Helm has recalled, the song was peopled with intriguing characters. "Luke was Jimmy Ray Paulman. Young Anna Lee was Anna Lee Williams from Turkey Scratch. Crazy Chester was a guy we all knew from Fayetteville who came into town on Saturdays wearing a full set of cap guns and walked around town to help keep the peace. He was like Hopalong Cassidy