Wednesday, January 28, 2009

dignity was the first to leave

dignity is one of my favorite latter day dylan
songs. originally recorded in 1989 for oh mercy,
it's official release would wait five more years,
appearing in '94 on greatest hits vol.3, then a
live version from 1995's mtv unplugged set.
twenty years ago, bob dylan was on the verge.
to many he was on the verge of has been, what
was no longer, let alone what might be.
but there was something else in the wind, that
being the unexpected success of the traveling
wilbury's and oh mercy. while not a return to
any of the previous vintages, it could be called
a "brand new bob dylan."
dignity is a tune that draws you in with a driving
rhythm, and lyrics of world weary searching:
"I went down where the vultures feed
I would've gone deeper, but there wasn't any need
Heard the tongues of angels and the tongues of men
Wasn't any difference to me"
the vultures had tried to feed on dylan many times.
maybe that's part of the reason he kept moving,
changing, even keeping some of his best work from
release, perhaps sabotaging some of his later studio
recordings, to remain, in a way, under the radar.
dignity and the electric blind willie mctell(left off of
infidels) are only two prime examples. because even
in the 80's a new bob dylan album MEANT SOMETHING
to the critics and fans who wanted the most out of bob
every time, and probably expected a return to the glories
of past achievements. this kind of hunger was something
that the free man in bob dylan never wanted any part of.
it could be said that dylan had been looking for dignity
throughout his career, only to find that his art became
another thing entirely in the rabid hands of the public.
and i guess i'm just as guilty as anyone on that score.

"Someone showed me  a picture and I just laughed
Dignity never been photographed
I went into the red, went into the black
Into the valley of dry bone dreams

So many roads, so much at stake
So many dead ends, I'm at the edge of the lake
Sometimes I wonder what it's gonna take
To find dignity"
in other words,"name me someone who's
not a parasite, and i'll go out and say a
prayer for him."

if you want to read an excellent book on
the recordings of bob dylan, check out
"Bob Dylan: The Recording Sessions" by
Clinton Heylin. it's still in print and was
recently updated into the new millenium.

Monday, January 19, 2009

ghost of anonymity

most casual dylan fans probably didn't know
"i'm not there" (the song), before the release
of the film of the same name,but this tiny gem,
hidden deep within the basement tapes(not the
officially released basement tapes), reveals its
beauty and passion quietly, while placing itself
firmly into the "haunted by love and confusion"
canon evidenced throughout bob's career.

"no i don't belong to her
i don't belong to anybody
she's my prize forsaken angel
but she don't care she cries
she's a lone-hearted mystic and she can carry on"

the idea that freedom has it's price in the hunger of
longing, all the while knowing that love is not possession,
and loss can make you both weak and strong , all themes
explored on blood on the tracks, time out of mind, desire,etc.

"now i'll cry tonight, like i cried the night before
and i'll feast on her eyes
but i'll dream about the door
so long, jesus, savior, blind faith worth to tell
it don't have consolation she's my fair thee well"

much like the narrator(s) of don't think twice and isis,
the storyteller wanders once again through time
and space and mind, knowing that loneliness
and emptiness can be self-imposed, and choices
are not always bad or good, right or wrong, coupled
with the hope that he'll get back there one day, and the
next time it will work out, or at least work out differently.
as in "like a rolling stone" the question is directed inward,
"how does it feel?"

"and i'm also hesitating by temptation lest it runs
which it don't follow me
but i'm not there, i'm gone"

in other words,"the only thing i knew how to do..."

if you have yet to rundown a copy of the five disc
genuine basement tapes, make it a priority. if you
love dylan, it's absolutely essential.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Captain Arab's Pick

Well my ship's been split to splinters and it's sinking fast
I'm drownin' in the poison, got no future, got no past
But my heart is not weary, it's light and it's free
I've got nothin' but affection for all those who've sailed with me

Mississippi - Love and Theft - 2001

Many iconic artists are great for a decade or two and legendary artists are great for three, but Dylan crafted this gem in his fourth decade (nearly his fifth!).

His much maligned late career voice is clear and expressive and really I don't think he could make this song work earlier in his career. It has that feeling of infinite experience, of a man who's been through it all and just keeps on keeping on. Its the best explanation of why he keeps performing at such a breakneck speed with so little to accomplish, like MJ in basketball, its his element, where things makes sense and he can communicate who he is and what he believes in.

As for this lyric, it encapsulates my place in life right now perfectly. For better or worse I'm in the District of Columbia (moving from the east village), a place I don't really belong but I feel light and free for I can see the depth of possibility ahead of me and the friends I have are as good as it gets. If I'm going to go down, I'm atleast happy with the boat I'm on.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Rebellion Continued

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They'd probably put my head in a guillotine
But it's alright, Ma, it's life, and life only.

It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) - Bringing it All Back Home - 1965

Haha. Enough Said.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Let Him Be

I don't want to fake you out,
Take or shake or forsake you out,
I ain't lookin' for you to feel like me,
See like me or be like me.
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you.

All I Really Want To Do - Another Side of Bob Dylan - 1964

The lyrics here resonate with me on a daily basis. Its not so much leave me alone, as it is let me be who I am. There is so much pressure (direct and indirect) applied from work, friends, family and society to conform in every possible way. We're only allowed to be "different" in ways that are pre-screened and safe to express to the world. Why do we allow ourselves to be so conveniently boxed and sold?

Its not that I'm all that radical or crazy but my method of doing things differs from time to time and the judgment of those differences is so maddeningly constant, I can count on one hand the amount of people in this world I can express a thought to without having to think twice how they'll interpret that thought and how it will reflect upon me.

Worse yet, some days I find myself boxing people.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Serve Yourself

You may be an ambassador to England or France,
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance,
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world,
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

Gotta Serve Somebody - Slow Train Coming - 1979

I'm sure many people take this in the religious sense or just in the general sense that everyone has a boss or someone they have to report to at the end of the day. This interpretation makes sense but not what I see. I think if we read deeper we see the idea that even those seemingly perfect people (the socialite with the pearls) in life are dealing with their own sets of demons.

Sometimes the world can seem overwhelming, especially when your someone who is very self-aware about their own weaknesses and shortcomings. But lets not forget the doctor, the lawyer, the businessman all have their demons too.

Parents Just Don't Understand

"Although the masters make the rules,
For the wise men and the fools,
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to"

It's Alright Ma, (I'm Only Bleeding)-Bringing It All Back Home-1965

Of course this is one of Dylan's most complex and discussed poems/songs. So many symbolic interpretations and political analysis can be ripped out of every line, however for me this song reflects a personal struggle in satisfying the generations before me. Every time I am asked the golden question "What will you do with your life?", these lines are my response. In fact its the only response that will keep people off my back because for a moment they realize and agree with me that we are all fucked in the end so you should live your life the way you want to. Being under the radar is simply the way to go, though it may break your mother's heart you never became a doctor or lawyer, at least you have control of your own soul, something Americans have sacrificed to be one of the Jones'.  I will not be a pawn, and if I have to I will destroy the system before destroying myself.

Monday, January 5, 2009

That Makes No Sense at All

"She knows there's no success like failure
And that failure's no success at all."

Love Minus Zero/No Limit - Bringing It All Back Home - 1965

I've been turning this phrase over in my head for the last two weeks and like many Dylan lyrics it sounds right but it just doesn't hit me quite square yet. My thesis at the moment is that Dylan is saying that perhaps there is no such thing as true success for we are only successful when we push ourselves to the point where we fail in our achievements. And, at that point, you are not succeeding but merely able to comprehend your own shortcomings. Not sure I agree or even that Bob agrees but interesting thought on a dreary day.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Kissing and Telling

Though we kissed through the wild blazing nighttime,
She said she would never forget.
But now mornin's clear,
It's like I ain't here,
She just acts like we never have met.

I Don't Believe You - (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) - Another Side of Bob Dylan - 1964

Sometimes you encounter a moment of transcendence and you know something is happening at the time but its not until about 20 minutes or 20 hours or 20 days later when the full bounding magnitude of the thing hits you.

I got kissed by a girl on New Years Eve and it was without a doubt one of the top-5 kisses of my life. I don't mean to brag or boast but I've had my share of kisses but if there was ever a kiss that defined the word "spark" this kiss was it.

It was a hungry kiss that sent shivers down my spine, the kinda kiss someone saves up for awhile and just unleashes with stunning feracity. She just unloaded on me and I may have been just as hungry to receive it. I'm not sure how else to describe it except here I am 48 hours later thinking about it - so it must have been damn good.

I hope I see that girl again because if she's bringing that to the table, I want more then one.


Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

- The Times They Are A-Changin' - The Times They Are A-Changin' - 1963

Its time that we stopped talking about change and started achieving it. I'm not really talking about political or social change but rather what we want to do in the world. I'm kind of sick of this existential funk I've been in since the end of college and yes, I realize the irony of posting Dylan lyrics as being exactly that kind of mental masturbation but, I think I've turned that corner. If its grad school or a new job or a new girl I'm just gonna stop asking why or how come and just do. Whats the worst that can happen, we flame out? We reach rock-bottom? So be it. Let's at least go down swinging.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bobstradamaus ?

"All that foreign oil controlling American soil,
Look around you, it's just bound to make you embarrassed.
Sheiks walkin' around like kings, wearing fancy jewels and nose rings,
Deciding America's future from Amsterdam and to Paris
And there's a slow, slow train comin' up around the bend."

Slow Train - Slow Train Coming - 1979

Written in 1979 it remains timeless in discussing our current situation. Very difficult to choose a great set of lyrics from this tune...