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I’m not understanding what the controversy is regarding Chrysler’s super-bowl halftime ad featuring Bob Dylan. I’ve read in several places now that Dylan is a sell-out (I don’t think he is) and that a lot of people are genuinely surprised by his “pro-rah rah America” stance. As if it were somehow a surprise to them that really, Bob Dylan is just about the most American thing going – he is not only uniquely American at his very core from iron-ore land, he’s a real and true cowboy (and I can’t think of any others except maybe Willie Nelson). In the sixties, he performed with an American flag behind him… Bob Dylan, and Bob Dylan’s lyrics, not only draw on so many cultural sources past and present, Dylan himself has become part of what my friend journalist Phil Gounis calls a sort of cultural loop with the culture referencing Dylan, Dylan referencing the culture and so on. He’s right. The answer is blowing in the wind…. A phrase I see everywhere all the time.
The song Red River Valley is said to have been first sung during the Wolseley Expedition in 1870 as part of the Red River Rebellion in a military expedition lead by foreign soldiers to fight the Metis Indians. It was a terribly long, difficult expedition that started in Ontario with a troop lead by a man named Garnet Wolseley, who lead his men hundreds of miles over rough terrain, terrible heat, and through swarms of mosquitos and flies.
So I am beginning in poetry, my spoken-sung litany with Dylan - as I listen to him; I write and read between the lines for specific songs. I feel we've had this dialogue for years anyway, he and I (which is really between "I and I") so why not make it official more than it is - which again is between the self and the self, for that is what Dylan does best, a reflection of the self allowing us to see deeper and then deeper, almost insisting on it. I am reflecting back to him; saying, Now you look here.... So here is one - this one is Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. I'm gathering them all together for what I pray will be a good and solid collection, an excellent book I hope - but here is the beginning, or the first that I am sharing. I listened to the song while I wrote - you could listen to the song while you read or have it in the background.
Thanks for reading
TD Bank sits atop Boston’s old North Station from where you can catch a trains to just about anywhere on the Northern Shore of Massachusetts. The station and the venue on top of it (which has been there for years: the name just keeps changing) lies on the fringe of Boston’s North End, known for great Italian restaurants and culture and festivals. North Station isn’t in the North End, but just outside of it and it’s there that Bob Dylan and Mark Knopler are playing tonight in about two and half hours. As Dylan says, It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there. The sky is dipping into a darker winter blue and I’m sitting in Caffe Vittorria which is already decked for Christmas, large windows adorned with red and white candy cane streamers and pinwheel wreaths. When I take a photo of one and message it to a friend he writes back, “I think the photo you sent is hypnotizing me…”
You'll find it all here on Dylan's new album, "Tempest", about which much has already been said about the pre-release of the video for Duquesne Whistle video and the other video, also pre-release, New Roman Kings. Whatever you read or think or decided about either, try to listen to the music and the lyrics without those images and listen anew because it's Dylan and it's always worth a fresh look again and again. You'll find the moon shines bright on this album, appearing all over the place lyrically. This latest, aptly named Tempest, is really not for the faint of heart. In fact, some of it is frankly a little scary. He is the raconteur and cowboy. He is Dylan who is of course saved, and he is Dylan who is pissed off again and in love and is both
I've often thought of becoming a foreign correspondent/journalist, for my love of the world, my sense of adventure. My trouble perhaps, or my strength, depending on who would or would not hire me, would be that I would become involved with my subject. I would be in the trenches. I would "Deal with dying" which is exactly what Dylan advises us not to do in his song "To Ramona", although he "cannot explain that in rhyme." I know that, regardless of what he says, I would make some attempt to make sense of it. That no, I would not try to make "rhyme" of it: not that. I would try to explain it in lines. Yet I would absolutely try to extrapolate some theorem or some equation: I would try to find the variables and plug them in and any missing variables, those I would seek out.
I have long liked Dylan's song, Mr. Tambourine Man, in particular the Royal Albert Hall recording of it, which, I heard an ethereal echo of it drifting out the windows of a car in the underground parking lot as I was leaving a Dylan show at Foxwood's MGM Grand several years
To note from the start, I have always been drawn to this particular song ("A song about marriage," Dylan says before performing it at The Rolling Thunder Revue - "This is a song about marriage - ". I connect fully because of the notion of reuniting (which is the legend of Osiris and Isis) with one who is in some way kindred and part of us is really what marriage is all about in Kabbalistic terms and ideally, what marriage is about. The other half.
Perhaps it has to do with the hat that I am wearing around those days. Those early Spring days. It is a straw hat but it is a cowboy hat with a rope draw and leather pull. Or perhaps it is that I wear this with my ultra suede skirt and my suede boots and my long ponytails. Perhaps it is that i feel like a cowgirl and I feel part angel too. No matter what we believe in, how vivid our visions, and I have had some lately that are so intense, I do realize that they all fall with a "crashing but meaningless blow" because as Dylan tells us, "No sound ever comes from the Gates of Eden." And of course, there are no truths outside the Gates of Eden. All of our vision and sound then outside of this place amounts to naught. I'm also well aware that to a great many the Cowboy Angel is none other than the Holy Ghost. Well, I make no claims on holiness. Ghost, perhaps. Holiness no. Angelic, at times. Cowgirl, at times. These days, Cowgirl Angel - "Most of the Time" and all of the words that are in that song apply likewise.
I want to write a whole piece about one piece of music. I want to write a whole piece about one track labelled, or mislabeled, (whichever the case may be - either iTunes is right and the bootleg printing is wrong, I don't really know) but the track is on the bootleg, "Now Your Mouth Cries Wolf", the track labelled "CO81315", or on iTunes (corrected by iTunes) the track is "CO83185", which is how I've always known it. I still don't know which is correct.
Here we go. I’ve been grossly unfair, but I have to cut myself some slack for my pissiness and unfairness was dictated by mood. In a recent article that I wrote and that was featured on bobdylan.com, a late review of Dylan’s Christmas album, Christmas In The Heart, I wrote (and I believe) that Dylan’s album skipped all of the steps and went straight from pressing to being an instant classic. I think he knew it would. In the same article I said that I felt Aimee Mann’s Christmas album, Another Drifter In The Snow, was not the sound of Christmas at all. It was not, I wrote, in my view the sound of “rockin’ around the Christmas tree.” It was, I wrote, the sound of my maybe-future-would-be could-be suicide.
Friday November 13th, The Wang Theater, Boston
This is not intended as a timely review of Bob Dylan’s show at Boston’s Wang Theater on Friday, November 13th 2009.
When pondering what Dylan album might be crying out in the wilderness for celebration, reappraisal and re-imagining, Nashville Skyline very well might not register much of a blip on the radar screen. Its relative brevity and generalized Music City tone make it easy to overlook despite its genuine moments of poetry, pathos and paradox. Certainly, Dylan’s earlier catalogue or a smattering from the middle or late career suggest themselves as ripe pickins for a semi-major overhaul in the hands of a smart musician and producer.
Why is is that we cannot get enough of Bob Dylan? Why are we such voracious consumers of all that he produces – hell, even if we loathe the vehicle, even if, like me, you saw a CD of songs sold through Starbucks that has, we are told, influenced Dylan, you bought it anyway, maybe hating yourself the whole time for buying into anything that had anything to do with Starbucks and music, and in particular with Dylan - not because he’s some saint, but because part of you somehow figured he was above that fray. Mind you, if you’re in there in the first place, the question to ask yourself is why the hell he should be “above” something that clearly you are not. You are there: you are buying it while you sip your chai latte. Or maybe you did not. Maybe you’re above all that. I’m not.
Walking north chasing the ghosts of my city and cities past
Strange addresses on yellow post-its lead me to forgotten backwater haunts
You may never find this but right now that’s not important. The important thing is that I get this down on paper, filed away somewhere because otherwise, the historical record will be inaccurate and that pisses me off and frankly, it just seems wrong and I hate that. I studied ethics and philosophy. It bothers me that something that ought be said would be left unsaid. This may or may not be of import.
Bob Dylan and the Cultural Loop | An Interview with Journalist Phil Gounis by Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti
Interview Date: August 7, 2008
An Interview with Poet, Critic, Publisher, the popular and the always waxing poetic, especially on all matters Dylan, Phil Gounis.
Phil Gounis was first drawn toward the songs of Bob Dylan in the early 1960's and never lost interest. Dylan’s work through its many changes has continued to intrigue him and influence his oeuvre as it has that of millions of inspired artists worldwide. Gounis is an American poet, novelist, archivist, filmmaker, publisher and critic. His work has been published in various media, and Gounis is well known for his Blues radio program that was popular during the 1970s, “Crackerbox” on KCLC. In the 1980s, Gounis co-founded a magazine of politics and popular culture – Steamshovel Press – with the impetus of publishing an interview with Ram Dass. His work has also appeared in River Styx Magazine. You can find out more about Phil Gounis on Wikipedia by typing in “Philip Gounis”.
For reasons unknown, and while I was almost all alone this New Year's Eve, I found myself listening, between doses of Handel and Beethoven countdowns on the radio, to my vinyl copy of Planet Waves.
It’s not a surprise to anyone who knows Dylan or has seen him live that he has now, and always has had, a playful side. It’s there in person, and it’s clearly very present in his lyrics. I could name many, but right now, I have one song in mind, and that is One More Weekend. If you’ve read me before, then you already know the disclaimer, which is that I never try to interpret Dylan’s lyrics or seek any hidden meaning because I’m not Dylan and I hate that shit – and it’s been done to death. So I’m just me, and I hear what I hear and I see what I see, so it’s what Dylan means to me. That’s the best I can offer; the best, the most, I can do.
So you want to know if it’s worth buying the boxed set Tell-Tale Signs? It’s worth every penny and not simply for a die-hard Dylan fan, but if you don’t know bootlegs or like the rest of us until now, know the alternate takes of many of the songs (particularly from Oh Mercy), then you’re in for a real treat. Buy it. Get it. This is worth the time because it’s Dylan at his recent best, covering the 90s through the recent-present.