Listen to this track by mercurial singer-songwriter who likes a good jam as much as the next guy, Bob Dylan. It’s “Jokerman” a cut that is featured on his 1983 record Infidels. On that album, the song is presented in a tasteful reggae-seasoned arrangement. But, Bob being Bob, when it came time to play it on David Letterman in March of 1984, he had other ideas.
Bob was living in Malibu around this time, and still very interested in exploring some musical alchemy with local musicians. I imagine the ride he’d been trying to get off since his early days as a would-be folk-rock messiah had a lot to do with that, trying to stretch himself as a player and a performer as the times were beginning to do some a-changin’ as the eighties began in earnest. Among some of the attendees at Bob’s house jams during this period was bassist Tony Marsico and drummer Charlie Quintana of the L.A punk band The Plugz, the first recognized Latino punk band active in a field of mostly white groups on that scene, and who in fact had gone indie during a time when that wasn’t really a thing yet, forming their own record label. The alchemy Bob sought must have become adequately manifest by their gumption, but also their playing.
In short order along with punkily-monikered guitarist Justin Jesting (aka J.J Holiday) , they were to be Dylan’s backing group on the Letterman appearance. The performance would be both a triumph and a tragedy in equal measure. Read more