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Dylan's drummer

Music | Winston Watson tells of his "incredible journey"

Issue: "The schools that Arne built," April 11, 2009

Anyone who saw Bob Dylan perform from 1992 to 1996 will remember the energy and free-flying, shoulder-length hair of the drummer Winston Watson. Now, in Bob Dylan: Never Ending Tour Diaries (Highway 61 Entertainment), the latest DVD from the documentarian Joel Gilbert, Watson speaks.

Subtitled "Drummer Winston Watson's Incredible Journey," the 100-minute film is both an anecdotal exposé of the chaos of nonstop touring and a firsthand account of what it's like to go from being an anonymous bar-band drummer in Arizona one night to playing before thousands of the world's most demanding rock 'n' roll fans the next.

With ebullience and a gift for vocal mimicry (and with recourse only to a smattering of PG-13 language), Watson relives his amazement at finding himself in the backstage company of his heroes (Carlos Santana, Jerry Garcia, Levon Helm), the challenge of responding to Dylan's oblique onstage cues, and the times he was moved to tears by a heartfelt compliment or word of encouragement from Dylan himself.

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Not every superstar encounter was pleasant. Although Dylan did not take the advice, Van Morrison's recommendation that he "get rid of [the] drummer" cut Watson to the quick.

He is discreet about drugs and groupies, although he does mention buying pot in Denmark (then having most of it smoked by the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards and Ron Wood) and that "there were always women around." But he also says, "Rock 'n' roll ain't what it used to be" and implies that it wasn't debauchery but his long absences from home that led to the end of his marriage.

Watson's only other regret is that, despite the hundreds of Dylan songs he got to perform, two that never made the set lists were the Rubin Carter tribute "Hurricane" and the apocalyptic "Slow Train." "That train," he says, laughing, "never came."

Talent and class

Petula Clark DVD shows the strengths of the 1960s pop star

By Arsenio Orteza

Roberts/BIPs/Getty Images

The year was 1969, and Petula Clark-then 37 and with 15 years of hit singles to her credit-was the world's preeminent female superstar. A performer since her childhood, she was at home not only on stage and screen (Finian's Rainbow, the soon-to-be-released Goodbye, Mr. Chips) but also atop the international pop charts at a time when much scruffier company was all the rage. Having already earned high ratings with an NBC television special in 1968, she was a natural choice to host another.

Infinity Entertainment has marked this second NBC special's 40th anniversary with the DVD Portrait of Petula Clark (Infinity), adding two bonus videos ("Without a Song," "Walk Through the World with Me") and recent interviews.

Although nearly every detail of the broadcast dates it as a period piece (none more so than the gown Clark wears during the opening medley, in which she looks as if she'd accidentally gotten the tablecloth from the pre-show dinner caught in her brooch), it also proves that once upon a time popularity, talent, and class were not mutually exclusive.

Solo and with her guests Andy Williams, Ron Moody (Oliver!), and Sacha Distel, she performs an astonishing array of songs, from the ridiculous ("You Can't Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd," "Knees Up Mother Brown") to the sublime ("My Funny Valentine," "When I Was a Child," "Visions of Sugar Plums"), each with that combination of youthful enthusiasm and primness unique to British performers of her era.

The result is that for every moment that Clark's "hipper" attempts at dancing make her look stiff and unnatural, there are two if not a dozen in which the quality of her voice combines with the joy on her face to all but obliterate one's latest memory of Madonna or Britney Spears.

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