Pod Dylan #129 – 6th Avenue Heartache


Episode 129 - 6th Avenue Heartache

For Father's Day, Rob welcomes fellow podcaster Sean Ross to discuss Jakob Dylan's song "6th Avenue Heartache" from the 1997 Wallflowers album BRINGING DOWN THE HORSE.

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8 responses to “Pod Dylan #129 – 6th Avenue Heartache

  1. Great episode. Always nice to hear Sean Ross on our network. I wonder if he does any other podcasts of his own…

    I might be the only person who is more familiar with The Wallflowers’ first album than the sophomore outing that spawned this song as well as “One Headlight”, and “The Difference”. As soon as I heard “Sixth Avenue Heartache”, I asked my dad if he knew Bob Dylan had a son who was in a band, thinking I would surprise him. As you would expect if you listened to the Father’s Day episode of Fire and Water Records, my dad already knew and, in fact, bought The Wallflowers’ first album when it came out for that reason.

    So I actually listened THE WALLFLOWERS a couple times during that era. None of the songs really leap out the way the singles from BRINGING DOWN THE HORSE do, but as a total album it’s really great to kind of mellow out to. That’s an album I would listen to when I was doing homework or writing. The best way to describe the sound, the dingy sort-of bluesy guitar rock, is it’s New York bar sound. (Another band that captures that sound, one of the few bands that I’ve gotten into over the last ten years, is the Gaslight Anthem, who, by the way, do an amazing rock cover of “Changing of the Guard”.)

    1. Ryan, not sure if you remember this but I happened to see The Wallflowers early as well. Probably around 93-94 when they had a regular (almost weekly) gig at the Viper Room. They were giving away their first CD to anyone in attendance and probably only had 50 people there. But I’ll never forget how “Asleep at the Wheel” was amazing live in such a small, intimate setting. And I’m
      Pretty sure I had that same conversation you did with dad the next day.

  2. Sean’s library clearly consists exclusively of Now that’s that I call music compilations and Best of/greatest hits packages.

  3. I remember when this song was blowing up and everyone was talking about the second coming of a Dylan, back when my knowledge of the paterfamilias was strictly soccer mom level, and just kinda going “okay?” And over two decades later, following a slew of hits and my expanded knowledge of Lucky Wilbury, I can honestly say without reservations that the most succinct summation of the evolution of my initial reaction to the Wallflowers would almost certainly remain, “okay?”

    “One Headlight” is a pretty swell song; the only one I ever heard from the band that I could say deserved to be spoken of in the same breath as Bob Dylan’s work. I’m as prone to singing along with it as “Molly (16 Candles Down the Drain)” by Sponge, which came out a couple years earlier, but neither makes me actually weep like “The Freshmen” by The Verve Pipe, which was released a few months before Bringing Down the Horse.

    The band I’ve seen the most live is Toadies, partly because they’re Texans who heavily canvass the state, but also because Rubberneck is one of the great unsung albums of the era. They were not well regarded critically, and I have always remembered one particular review that referred to them dismissively as “bubble-grunge.” Given the persistent grim themes of the album (it literally ends in self-immolation and likely eternal damnation,) it struck me that it was such a catchy diss that the reviewer hurried to apply it somewhere to call dibs, regardless of appropriateness. By 1996, there was a ton of material that I felt was crying out for the portmanteau, and certainly the Wallflowers were a candidate.

    Their four big hits played unobtrusively in the background at my comic shop on the “modern rock” station for years. I have no animosity toward The Wallflowers, but they were so of the sound of that period that it was like they fell out of a mold marked “post-grunge adult contemporary.” They made Dave Matthews Band look challenging. “6th Avenue Heartache” especially sounds like a rousing ode to a rousing ode. I don’t believe it’s about anything, besides constructing a commercially viable product. It’s like a mad libs of “heavy” references, a prop hobo and a stock nomadic musician, without any of it connecting to anything. It’s sonic Monkey Christ, a vague semblance of an artful thing that’s most notable for being tacky and mercenary. It’s mock meaningful, not the actual thing with the meaning.

    But hey, I was about as ignorant of David Bowie as I was Dylan, so thanks for being my introduction to “Heroes,” Godzilla soundtrack.

    I hope someday to have nice things to say about Sean Ross’ music collection. I promise that I am not secretly a rabid Imagine Dragons / Mike + The Mechanics fan with an unhealthy grudge.

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