Re: Tellin' It

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I don't listen to a lot of music, certainly not a lot of Dylan, but the man still strikes me as astonishing. I think of him in the same way I think of Van Gogh: if even I can tell that he's something extraordinary, he's something really extraordinary.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:07 AM
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Dylan was very nearly a poet. Early Bob Marley is also quite good; I never understood why Corner Stone wasn't a famous song. Perhaps this is shameful, but I have a soft spot for Steely Dan's lyrics; I have a hard time articulating why, but the feel like Weill pretty often, with the overtly theatrical presentation and underlying irony tinged with contempt. Similarly, I find the Nouvelle Vague recordings of great 80s songs moving; the cover of the Buzzcocks' "Ever fallen in love" is wonderful. Also, PJ Harvey is really wonderful, music and lyrics both. Echh, this is just my last.fm page, perhaps unsuitable without a mixtape.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:22 AM
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1 gets it right.

I try to write poetry from time to time. I try to switch back and forth between seemingly nonsensical images and very straightforward statements of emotion.

This is the kind of thing I like.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:26 AM
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That song has another line that I could have used in the post: "Some things last longer than you think they will."


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:32 AM
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"Words make you think thoughts. Music makes you feel a feeling. But a song makes you feel a thought." -- Yip Harburg

Part of the power of song is to use music to move elaborate on the words.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:35 AM
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Have you seen Dylan live, ogged?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:47 AM
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Yeah, a few times. Once in a merely very large gymnasium. So great.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:50 AM
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David Markson appears to think that Dylan is crap.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:53 AM
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Dylan was my first concert (Natalie Merchant opening act - she dances nonstop during performances, making it more fun than I expected). It was great, but it's not like I could tell what he was saying over the PA system.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:53 AM
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David Markson appears to think that Dylan is crap.

Yeah, that made me laugh. How are you liking the book?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:54 AM
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I freakin' love Dylan. Sometimes he shoots blanks and says weird, weird stuff, but the guy swings for the fence.

Just one example of his brilliance:

"Perhaps it's the color of the sun cut flat
An' cov'rin' the crossroads I'm standing at,
Or maybe it's the weather or something like that,
But mama, you been on my mind.

I don't mean trouble, please don't put me down or get upset,
I am not pleadin' or sayin', "I can't forget."
I do not walk the floor bowed down an' bent, but yet,
Mama, you been on my mind.

Even though my mind is hazy an' my thoughts they might be narrow,
Where you been don't bother me nor bring me down in sorrow.
It don't even matter to me where you're wakin' up tomorrow,
But mama, you're just on my mind.

I am not askin' you to say words like "yes" or "no,"
Please understand me, I got no place for you t' go.
I'm just breathin' to myself, pretendin' not that I don't know,
Mama, you been on my mind.

When you wake up in the mornin', baby, look inside your mirror.
You know I won't be next to you, you know I won't be near.
I'd just be curious to know if you can see yourself as clear
As someone who has had you on his mind."


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:59 AM
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Still and all, it seems like part of genius or profundity (or a kind of genius or profundity) is knowing what's important to say, and Dylan's still got that in spades, if you ask me.

This seems basically correct to me, but insufficient. Following up on the Harburg quote, I think performance matters. There are a million cliches that are interesting, when taken seriously, but are still cliches. I mean, something like Chicken Soup for the Soul is probably saying things that are important to say, it's just saying them in a way that fails to illuminate the emotional core of the idea.

Second thought is the ways in which songs can use archetypes and generalities in powerful ways. I'm thinking of lyrics that are like horoscopes in being sufficiently general that anyone can think of equivilent experiences/emotions in their own life.

The song that I now stuck in my head is the TVZ cover of "Dublin Blues" which has both a completely archetypal chorus

Forgive me all my anger / Forgive me all my faults / There's no need to forgive me / For thinkin' what I thought. ...

and a final verse that has a nice juxtuposition of cultural references

I have been to Fort Worth / I have been to Spain / I have been to proud / To come in out of the rain
I have seen the David / I've seen the Mona Lisa too / I have heard Doc Watson / Play Columbus Stockade Blues

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:59 AM
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I know I've mentioned before that I'm not a Dylan fan, but not sure if I've tried to explain why.

I have enormous respect for his talent and genius, but, when listening to him I have a strong feeling of being in the presence of an enormous and compelling ego that does not have my best interests at heart. In many ways I think that reaction is a tribute to his ability. Most music that I don't like I find boring, but there's something about Dylan that scares me -- not that it is literally frightening, but part of my brain just keeps saying "don't trust him."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 10:10 AM
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I do not understand that NickS.

I see Dylan as someone who evokes beautiful images or throws out powerful thoughts, but isn't asking you to follow him anywhere.

Perhaps Shelter From the Storm is a good example.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 10:43 AM
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How are you liking the book?

I like it a lot, and will almost certainly finish it on the train today, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't call it a novel.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 10:47 AM
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I'm pretty sure I wouldn't call it a novel

Well, yes, there is that question (for you philosophy types).


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 10:49 AM
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I do not understand that NickS.

I wouldn't try to convince anyone of the validity of my reaction; I hesitate to analyze it too much because it doesn't make really make sense to me.

But let me try. During a period of unhappiness a while ago I commented to a friend that, if we were honest, everyone would come with a warning label that would say either "danger to self" or "danger to self and others." I am very strongly a "danger to self" person; I channel negative emotions inwardly. From that perspective I am suspicious of "danger to self an others" people who I see as too willing to inflict the fallout from their own moods on the people around them. Dylan triggers the "danger to others" warning in me. I listen to him and think, "this is a person who would not be careful about the people around him."

What confuses me is why Dylan, specifically, would trigger that reaction when it describes the personality of so many performers that don't prompt that reaction.

Again, I don't want to put too much weight on that explanation, just trying to describe how it is that I react to Dylan with caution and waryness.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 10:57 AM
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As another author given to brief sections commented once:

It was my intention at first to bring all this together in a book whose form I pictured differently at different times … After several unsuccessful attempts to weld my results together into such a whole, I realized that I should never succeed.…

The same or almost the same points were always being made afresh from different directions, and new sketches made. Very many of these were badly drawn or uncharacteristic, marked by all the faults of a weak draughtsman. And when they were rejected a number of tolerable ones were left, which now had to be arranged and sometimes cut down, so that if you looked at them you could get a picture of the landscape. Thus this book is really only an album.

I should have liked to produce a good book. This has not come about, but the time is past in which I could improve it.


An album or, for that matter, a commonplace book.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 10:59 AM
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too willing to inflict the fallout from their own moods on the people around them.

Well, he certainly does that. Interesting perspective. Thanks for explaining it.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 11:30 AM
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Oh, I could write a whole post on Dylan lyrics. Maybe I will. Every now and then he does write something brilliant, like: Señor / Señor / Can you tell me where we're heading / Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?

But a lot of his lyrics seem like random crap he's throwing out off the top of his head: Now I do not feel that good / when I see the heartaches you embrace / If I were a master thief, perhaps I'd rob them...

Isn't English your first language, Bob?


Posted by: alif sikkiin | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 11:56 AM
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But a lot of his lyrics seem like random crap he's throwing out off the top of his head

For me, it always feels like he is trying to hit a home run. Sometimes, that involves huge misses where I am thinking "WTF!??!??!"

But, I forget about those horrible lyrics when he comes up with something amazing.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 12:00 PM
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For me, it always feels like he is trying to hit a home run. Sometimes, that involves huge misses where I am thinking "WTF!??!??!"

It's never been clear to me, even within a single song, if he thinks any of it is filler. I mean, when you have 8 rambling verses with 3 nice turns of phrase and one sparkling insight/reinvigorated cliche, did he know that he had 4 worthwhile things and write 8 verses around them, or does he know what he's got before it's complete, and he's just throwing shit against the wall?

Also: how much consensus is there on "the good bits?" Like, does everyone agree on the 4 worthwhile things, and that the rest is filler/"elusive," or does everyone hear a different Bob Dylan? The obvious, standard answer is the latter, and of course there'll be variation, but it seems to me likely that there would be broad agreement on the best bits, which would suggest that the rest really is, on some level, filler.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 12:11 PM
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13 and 17 are really illuminating to me. Thanks, Nix. For me, that elaborates on why a trickster sensibility in art is often misread as harmless and playful, when it's really kind of demonic and playful.

Neil Gaiman's version of Puck in the Sandman's retelling of Midsummer Night's Dream gets at this.

"Don't Think Twice It's All Right" illuminates it too. The singer's clearly wounded, but when the whip cracks back, the damage is far more than might have been inflicted in the first place.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 12:11 PM
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11 reminds me of one of my favorite tunes, also Dylan:

I've seen love go by my door
It's never been this close before
Never been so easy or so slow
Been shooting in the dark too long
When something's not right it's wrong
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go

Dragon clouds so high above
I've only known careless love,
It's always hit me from below.
This time around it's more correct
Right on target, so direct,
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go

Purple clover, Queen Anne lace,
Crimson hair across your face,
You could make me cry if you don't know.
Can't remember what I was thinkin' of
You might be spoilin' me too much, love,
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go

Flowers on the hillside, bloomin' crazy,
Crickets talkin' back and forth in rhyme,
Blue river runnin' slow and lazy,
I could stay with you forever
And never realize the time.

Situations have ended sad,
Relationships have all been bad.
Mine've been like Verlaine's and Rimbaud.
But there's no way I can compare
All those scenes to this affair,
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go

You're gonna make me wonder what I'm doing,
Staying far behind without you.
You're gonna make me wonder what I'm saying,
You're gonna make me give myself a good talking to.

I'll look for you in old Honolulu,
San Francisco and Ashtabula,
You're gonna have to leave me now, I know.
But I'll see you in the sky above,
In the tall grass, in the ones I love,
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 12:13 PM
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JRoth:

I've never really thought of it from his perspective.

My thought is that I would rather a musician put out 10 songs where he thought 3 were great, 3 were pretty good, 1 was bad, and 3 were mediocre than I would have a musician only put out 1 song because the rest didn't meet his standard of perfection.

I may not love every single line of it, but a guy who write Blowing in the Wind can afford some lame songs:

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea?
Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 12:23 PM
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I've never listened to much Dylan, but 11 is something.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 12:31 PM
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11 is very good.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 12:36 PM
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my daughter's favorite song:

If not for you,
Babe, I couldn't find the door,
Couldn't even see the floor,
I'd be sad and blue,
If not for you.

If not for you,
Babe, I'd lay awake all night,
Wait for the mornin' light
To shine in through,
But it would not be new,
If not for you.

If not for you
My sky would fall,
Rain would gather too.
Without your love I'd be nowhere at all,
I'd be lost if not for you,
And you know it's true.

If not for you
My sky would fall,
Rain would gather too.
Without your love I'd be nowhere at all,
Oh! What would I do
If not for you.

If not for you,
Winter would have no spring,
Couldn't hear the robin sing,
I just wouldn't have a clue,
Anyway it wouldn't ring true,
If not for you.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 12:37 PM
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a shout-out to my old homey yip harburg!

dylan--i got to say that the songs i can listen to forty years later now are the ones where somebody managed to sneak a *rhythm section* in behind the old man.

things like "sad eyed lady of the low-lands"--unlistenable.

but "memphis blues again"? it rocks.

so i'd say: the guy didn't have much by way of an intrinsic mastery of beat. but when they got a beat behind him, it held together pretty well.

part of why he was smart to buddy up with the band for awhile.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 12:42 PM
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This just makes me want to post songs by other songwriters that I like. One of my favorites:

I watch you reading a book
I get to thinking our
Love's a polished stone
You give me a long drawn look
I know pretty soon
You're gonna leave our home
And of course I mind
Especially when I'm
Thinking from my heart
But life don't clickety-clack
Down a straight-line track
It comes together and it comes apart
You say you hope I'm not the kind
To make you feel obliged
To go ticking through your time
With a pained look in your eyes
You give me the furniture
Well divide the photographs
Go out to dinner one more time
Have ourselves a bottle of wine
And a couple of laughs


When first you left I stayed so sad
I wouldn't sleep
I know love's a gift
I thought yours was mine
And something
That I could keep
Now I realize
Time is not the only compromise
A bird in the hand
Could be an all-night stand
Between a blazing fire
And a pocket of skies
So I hope I'm not the kind
To make you feel obliged
To go ticking through your time
With a pained look in your eyes
I covered the furniture
I framed the photographs
Went out to dinner one more time
Had myself a bottle of wine
And a couple of laughs
Just the other day
I got your letter in the mail
I'm happy for you
It's been so long
You've been wanting
A cabin and a backwoods trail
And I think that's great
Me I seem to find myself in school
It's all okay
I just want to say
I'm so relieved
We didn't do it cruel


But ain't life a brook
Just when I get to
Feeling like a polished stone
I get me a long drawn look
It's kind of a drag
To find yourself alone
And sometimes I mind
Especially when I'm
Waiting on your heart
But life don't clickety-clack
Down a straight-line track
It comes together
And it comes apart
'Cause I know you're not the kind
To make me feel obliged
To go ticking through my time
With a pained look in my eyes
I sold the furniture
I put away the photographs
Went out to dinner one last time
Had myseff a bottle of wine
And a couple of laughs
For wasn't it fine


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 12:43 PM
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Kid bitzer:

I agree about the Band. But, I enjoy the Rolling Thunder Tour musicians a little more:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHhFIsS1zJY


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 12:48 PM
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,Also: how much consensus is there on "the good bits?" Like, does everyone agree on the 4 worthwhile things, and that the rest is filler/"elusive," or does everyone hear a different Bob Dylan? The obvious, standard answer is the latter, and of course there'll be variation, but it seems to me likely that there would be broad agreement on the best bits, which would suggest that the rest really is, on some level, filler.

Well, the other day I was looked at the list of the 20 Worst Rhymes in Pop History on Cracked.com and at #1 they had these lines from Ballad of a Thin Man:
You have many contacts
Among the lumberjacks
To get you facts
When someone attacks your imagination
But nobody has any respect
Anyway they already expect you
To just give a check
To tax-deductible charity organizations

They call this "nonsensical jibberish".

This is actually one of my favorite Dylan rhymes, and to me in the context of the song the meaning is perfectly plain.

One the other hand I agree with alif sikkin about the "master thief" lines in "Positively 4th Street". They are especially strange because except for those lines the song is so clear and direct -- almost like Dylan felt he needed to put something in the song that would puzzle people.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 12:52 PM
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Last lyrics, I promise. Great song of pain and anger:

Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
You're an idiot, babe.
It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe.

I can't feel you anymore, I can't even touch the books you've read
Every time I crawl past your door, I been wishin' I was somebody else instead.
Down the highway, down the tracks, down the road to ecstasy,
I followed you beneath the stars, hounded by your memory
And all your ragin' glory.

I been double-crossed now for the very last time and now I'm finally free,
I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline which separated you from me.
You'll never know the hurt I suffered nor the pain I rise above,
And I'll never know the same about you, your holiness or your kind of love,
And it makes me feel so sorry.

Idiot wind, blowing through the buttons of our coats,
Blowing through the letters that we wrote.
Idiot wind, blowing through the dust upon our shelves,
We're idiots, babe.
It's a wonder we can even feed ourselves.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 12:58 PM
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They call this "nonsensical jibberish".

The funny thing is that it hadn't even occurred to me that there'd be a lot of disagreement about which parts meant something, just which parts were worthwhile. I mean, of course some jibberish-ey bits will appeal to some and not others, but whether or not a sensible meaning is apparent...? For instance, in the various "Bob Dylan's Dream" songs (I can think of 2 - are there more?), there's a clear split between throwaway/jokey lines ("I yelled for Captain Arab") and meaningful ones ("I said 'you know they refused Jesus, too;' he said, 'you're not him'"). There might be some debate at the edges about which lines are which, but I'd expect 20 different people to all agree about at least 2/3 of the lyrics.

almost like Dylan felt he needed to put something in the song that would puzzle people.

I'd be surprised if something like this wasn't the case.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 1:08 PM
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The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face

-->

Idiot wind, blowing through the flowers on your tomb,
Blowing through the curtains in your room.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth.

Two different women. Five or ten years apart. Different phases of the respective relationships. Or was Dylan going bad?

Bob Dylan's cousin from Minneapolis hinks of Dylan as an extremely talented and productive but unpleasant person.

He's never met Dylan and is about a third cousin, but I never miss a chance to name drop.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 1:25 PM
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Young songwriters get in trouble following Dylan's model, because you have to use the far-fetched images just right or they're awful and silly.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 1:27 PM
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This is strange. I always thought there was universal consensus that Dylan is a giant prick.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 1:29 PM
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Young songwriters get in trouble following Dylan's model

I didn't think anyone was that dumb anymore. It's not entirely clear whether or not Dylan pulled of being Dylan; it's damn clear that no one else can.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 1:32 PM
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37: Doesn't keep guys everywhere from idolizing him.

Or is it just the guys I know? Maybe this is the problem.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 1:34 PM
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Is a nice guy's music more enjoyable?
A mathematician's proofs more amazing if she is nice?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 1:36 PM
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The music's not the problem, it's the wanting to be Dylan.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 1:38 PM
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41: Yeah, that is a problem.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 1:45 PM
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39: No, I know some Dylan idolizers too. If you value coolness over morality, he's your man.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 1:45 PM
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If you value coolness over morality, he's your man.

What?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 1:48 PM
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44: I don't understand.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 1:51 PM
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All right, I'll take the bait and admit that I think Dylan's lyrics are, for the most part, both ludicrous and uninspired.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 1:52 PM
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His rhymes (as rhymes) actually are pretty crap; it takes his delivery to salvage them, when it does salvage them.

His lyrics are certainly easy to mock.


Posted by: elemund | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 1:54 PM
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44-45: We'll need an argument saying that Dylan stands for those who value coolness over morality. Additionally, I'd like to request one that says that if he's on the list of Moral over Cool, that he's anywhere near the top fifty musical artists you should get into, if that's your bag.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 1:58 PM
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How many rock musicians have any morality to speak of? Mick Jagger? Ted Nugent?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 2:02 PM
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For me it's not just that the lyrics are utterly goofy than the sense that all he's doing is rooting through a rhyming dictionary. "Jones, Jones, what else rhymes with Jones... I know, earphones!" He wasn't writing great poetry full of deep insight; it was doggerel.

I actually think Dylan's raspy, wheezy voice is the best thing about his songs (at least until he got old and genuinely froggish-sounding), so I dissent from the common "he can't sing" put down. It's not his singing, it's the fact that what he's singing is often kind of stupid.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 2:05 PM
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With Dylan, I see a sort of fractured development of a lot of themes from rock and traditional music he was thoroughly familiar with. (Oddly, very little jazz influence, almost none.)

Younger songwriters for whom Dylan (or Tom Waits, or Leonard Cohen, etc.) is primary, the fractured images, etc., can seem derivative and weak.

I've read that Dylan picked up the surrealism from Angel Flores' bilingual anthology of French poetry, which he got from Allen Ginsberg.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 2:08 PM
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48: I'm afraid I don't have much to go on except a general impression from his lyrics and public appearances, much like 13. If we're looking for empirical evidence, it might be interesting to see how often Dylan admits culpability for whatever personal crises he is singing about, and compare it with how often he blames other people.

As for the second part (I'm presuming you meant Cool over Moral), he certainly makes the top fifty musical artists who value Coolness over Morality if (crucially), the desired coolness includes genius, artistic credibility, etc. Most of the Dylan-idolizers I know consider themselves fantastically talented people, and tend to aggressively dismiss other people if they get in the way of their self-development. I think a distinction can be made between this and straight-up egoism because of the nature of their desired self-development, but if I'm going to defend that claim we'll have to start defining "cool," which would be exceedingly strange (although maybe a little fun?).


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 2:11 PM
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52 was me.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 2:13 PM
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To me, Dylan = great songwriter, almost total crap as a singer.


Posted by: tweedledopey | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 2:17 PM
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Well, Dylan has had a fairly constant interest in questions of morality from "Let me ask you one question/ Is your money that good? / Can it buy you forgiveness? / Do you think that it should?"
to songs like"Foot of Pride", "What Good Am I?", "Dignity" etc.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 2:27 PM
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To me, Dylan = great songwriter, almost total crap as a singer.

I strongly disagree with that. You can say what you like about his voice, but his ability as a performer to convey emotion and meaning is extraordinarily good.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 2:27 PM
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Dylan is not responsible for the idiocy of white boys who idolize him.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 2:35 PM
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I'm still waitin for the example of one single moral rock n roller. Their being shits is a given, I thought.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:02 PM
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58: What about Bono?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:03 PM
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58: Sort of kidding in 59, but I do wonder what public figure John Emerson would consider moral.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:08 PM
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The thing about Dylan is he's a shit in such an interesting way: the self-mythologizing is fascinating. Reading the first section of his autobiography, I was constantly shuttling between shaking my head at his audacity and mooning over how wonderful it must be to be Bob Dylan.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:10 PM
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58: Michael Stipe? The dudes in Green Day? Kurt Cobain?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:12 PM
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OK, Bono. Don't understand the guy, and he seems to be sort of a chump when it comes to bigtime politics, but seemingly not a shit.

Most very successful people have enormous egos and are viciously competitive. Even the nice guys and the gentleman usually are pretty conceited and used to being catered to. And in rock n roll and Hollywood there's another level of jerkiness due to the sexual privileges.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:18 PM
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Meh, a lot of people think Bono is a clueless self-promoter. I just don't really understand the category or why it's relevant. It seems particularly strange to single out Dylan for not being "moral," given that his initial fame was for his protest songs. But who the hell cares?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:23 PM
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I got the impression from a couple biographies that both inventing a persona and writing protest songs were things Dylan did because he was in a milieu where everyone did those things. He's written what, like three protest songs since 1964?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:26 PM
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The Bob does not repeat himself. What's he going to do, top the ones from the sixties?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:29 PM
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I'm with Stras in 46.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:29 PM
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Most of the morality in rock and roll comes from its oppositionality. This manifests explicitly and positively in early Dylan, a lot of 60s stuff, riot grrl, Public Enemy, Nirvana. After Nirvana, there's a lot of whiny white stuff that can largely be discarded with the Tom Frank argument about Be Your Own Dog culture.

Joseph Kugelmass's argument about Elliot Smith and "the devastating core of caring" is eloquent and perhaps a different approach to this.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:30 PM
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65: I'm okay with that. They were good protest songs.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:33 PM
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the Tom Frank argument about Be Your Own Dog culture

? What is this, it sounds intriguing.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:34 PM
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I'm still waitin for the example of one single moral rock n roller.

Billy Bragg seems like a nice bloke. And he's an awesome lyricist.


Posted by: alif sikkiin | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:34 PM
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Does it have to do with that Red Dog beer slogan?


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:36 PM
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Heebie, isn't there a lonely armadillo out there somewhere. Armadillos need love too, you know.

Sorry, but someone has to say it: mathematicians just don't understand lyrics. I bet Stras is a mathematician too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:36 PM
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70: Frank, who wrote What's The Matter With Kansas, had a great run in the 90s of drawing out the way that commercial culture imagined consumer products as the answer to some kind of stifling individuality, and by doing so had hijacked a great deal of oppositional energy away from social movements and into individual expression.

His particular genius in this regard was going back to the roots of the counterculture in the 1960s and showing that, where other people imagined that commercial culture had co-opted the vitality of the youth movement, the protest against "the man in the grey flannel suit" could be traced every bit as much to the younger generation in ad agencies as to the fighting in the streets. They didn't co-opt it; it was every bit as much theirs as it was the kids'.

In his dismissal of the counterculture I think he goes too far, but it's a needed corrective in a society that thinks that punk rock is more radical than labor unionism.

("Be Your Own Dog" was a slogan on some beer or energy drink or energy beer that he referred to a number of times.)

The Baffler website has fallen, but if you can get your hands on some old Bafflers or the collection Commodify Your Dissent there are some terrific essays in there.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:40 PM
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An interview with Thomas Frank.

His website.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:43 PM
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mathematicians just don't understand lyrics.

Do too.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:44 PM
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It may seem like old hat now -- especially when there do seem to be considerable protest, or at least politically oppositional, energies in the air -- but he and the Baffler crew were really great at savaging the business-revolutionism of the 90s.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:46 PM
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Don't! Don't! Don't! Don't! Don't!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:46 PM
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N't!Do N't!Do N't!Do N't!Do N't!Do N't!Do

Emerson is totally unintelligible sometimes.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 3:58 PM
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You're hearing "Undo! Undo! Undo!" He's taking back the last five things he said, including 73.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 4:00 PM
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Makes sense.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 4:01 PM
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N't!Do N't!Do N't!Do N't!Do N't!Do N't!Do

Oontz oontz oontz oontz oontz.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 4:05 PM
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I've heard that armadillos are really sexy and passionate but carry a terrible virus. Ecstasy or sanity? A hard choice.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 4:07 PM
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71: Devastatingly attractive, too, or at least he was the last time I saw him perform.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 4:13 PM
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I'm definitely a fan. The man's no saint (either in a moral sense or an artistic), I suppose, but then who is.

My second cousin from MN played on BOTT, as I never tire of saying, and wrote a book about it. The book isn't particularly flattering of Dylan the man.

I've known the pre-1980 canon quite well, and so enyoy the alternate takes from No Direction Home. You get a sense of the fluidity of so many of the lyrics -- significant word changes between takes. This from an article:

Other times the changes are entirely wholesale, even when they're dialed back, as in the switching of "they're spoon-feeding Casanova the boiled guts of birds" for the more-demure "they're spoon-feeding Casanova to get him to feel more assured...."

Dylan-haters are invited to post something they'd stack against Desolation Row, or the entirety of BOTT.



Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 4:41 PM
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85 - That's easy. "Me So Horny".


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 5:05 PM
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I thought so.

Directed verdict.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 5:11 PM
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Dylan-haters are invited to post something they'd stack against Desolation Row, or the entirety of BOTT.

Oh e-z. "She swallowed it! (Don't matter, just don't bite it.)"


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 5:20 PM
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I really don't like "Tangled Up in Blue". Thank you.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 5:26 PM
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Ben, no one was talking about Hootie.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 5:27 PM
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89: Just to be contrary, or on grounds you can state?

De gustibus and all, but without an explanation I'm going to have to assume you object to it because when you started in dealin' with slaves, nothing inside of you died.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 5:47 PM
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The formatting's borked but I think I expressed myself pretty eloquently here.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 5:50 PM
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I also said it was "one of the adult-contemporariest of Dylan's songs".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 5:52 PM
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BW: you don't like the opening guitar part in TUIB? I pity you.

HG: Tell you what -- mark your calendar 20 years from today to send me an email. If you feels the same, I'll cook you a carp dinner.

Or sockeye, if you prefer.


I'm at something of a loss for the appropriate lyric for the moment. I am in a hurry to get home as my houseguest is cooking me a chicken curry dinner, and the road is blocked for a motorcade of some kind. For a long time already. Maybe it's something more serious, though . . .


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 5:56 PM
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you don't like the opening guitar part in TUIB?

I guess I never paid attention to it before. It's inoffensive enough, I suppose.

If you want to listen to a good song on a similar theme, whose opening instrumental part is fantastic, you'll listen to Tim Buckley's "Buzzin' Fly".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 5:59 PM
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He's a slaver, CharleyCarp. Don't argue with him. Pray for him.

w-lfs-n: You might appreciate the song more if you consider that at no point after the lyric "She was dancing in a topless place / when I stopped in for a beer" does the main character put her shirt back on.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:00 PM
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A Bob Dylan thread feels like an invitation to troll, but I'm trying to resist. Let me just say that while I'm prone to say things like "he sounds like he's got a mouth full of shit," I loved the guy's music back in the day. While I now can't listen to more than a handful of his songs (generally from those among despised by his ardent fans), I've come to accept that Dylan's music is perfectly fine as part of a phase one goes through in life. The problem is with staying there, or lingering too long.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:10 PM
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Hey, can anyone find out what is happening in DC right now and send me an email. Handle at gmail dot com.

Mass ave is shut down from Dupont to the British Embassy, and the folks on the bus are arguing which way we should go. It's getting kind of ugly.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:15 PM
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Not that I really care if you like Dylan, but I still havent read anyone critique the lyrics of the songs that I posted.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:25 PM
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I'm not seeing any news about it, Charley.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:29 PM
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Yeah, the Washington Post actually has traffic cameras, and they look as if traffic were moving on Mass Ave at Dupont.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:31 PM
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Dylan has a jillion songs. I certainly haven't listened to all of them. Plenty of them are meh or just bad, but a lot of the lines, and actually a lot from him recent albums, jump out at me. Part of the point of the post was that it's easy to see why people don't like him.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:31 PM
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Well, "Idiot Wind"--the first Bob Dylan song I ever liked; a friend had been trying to get me to listen to him for months but I resisted, until finally one night we were getting loaded and he put BotT on and then left to answer the phone when it came on, finding me hooked when he came back--is pretty misogynistic. Not that a lot of great rock songs aren't, but since you're looking for criticisms (and since this is Unfogged.)


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:32 PM
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Dylan is not responsible for the idiocy of white boys who idolize him.

The Asians, though? Totally his fault.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:32 PM
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I think a lot of people dislike Dylan in order to try to be cool.

Yea, Dylan-haters, your rebellion is just plain old conforming.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:32 PM
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JL:
He ends with

We're idiots, babe.
It's a wonder we can even feed ourselves.

I'm not seeing the woman hating.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:34 PM
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It's in the other 7 minutes of the song.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:37 PM
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According to my sources, Charley, the evildoers have launched a massive attack by traveling home from their jobs, changing lanes in a vain effort to save time, underfunding the public transit system, and discouraging the co-location of jobs and housing. You are feeling the effects.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:38 PM
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I'm not seeing it, JL (not that this seems like a particularly fruitful argument); the songs seems to be addressed to a person who is, probably, a woman, but the expression doesn't strike me as misogynistic. Lyrics are here.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:39 PM
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A song hating on one particular woman would be misogynistic if it harnessed stereotypes about all women. to make the point about the one. But if you imagine the lyrics as directed to a man, none of them sound silly -- that's usually a good tipoff. I'm with will. I don't see it.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:41 PM
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I should also note that Billy Bragg, whom I'd rather listen to than Dylan any day, opens his great song "Accident Waiting to Happen" with an almost unbelievable (for him) blast of misogyny. Doesn't mean it's not a great song, or that he's a horrible person.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:41 PM
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I mostly object to Idiot Wind because the song's main character is not necessarily topless at any point.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:43 PM
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You might get a peek when the wind blows through the buttons on her coat.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:45 PM
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111: again, help us out. Do you find "I've always been impressed with a girl / Who could sing for her supper and get breakfast as well" slut-shaming?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:46 PM
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I am not suggesting that his style should be everyone's favorite or that there are not particular songs that are crap. But take his top ten songs and match them with any two other musicians.

Just off the top of my head, I'll start with

Mama, You've been on My Mind
If You See Her Say Hello
Desolation Row
Shelter From the Storm
You're Going to Make me Lonesome
Idiot Wind
Blowing In The Wind
I Shall Be Released
All Along the WatchTower
Knocking on Heaven's Door


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:49 PM
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I'm about to leave for a while, so I have to be brief until I get back: yes, the song is ostensibly directed toward a single person (who, for all we know, was a total pain in the ass); still, in practice it's directed toward an unstated third (female) party, inviting listeners to put themselves in the place of Dylan's rage against, you know, whomever. Add to that when, in the penultimate verse, he comes up to acknowledging her pain, admitting that "I'll never know the same about you," and then sneers, "And it makes me feel so sorry" with utter contempt--well, I admit it's satisfying, but whatever you want to call it, it's not exactly an empathetic sentiment.

Gesturing wildly as heading for the exit: Don't forget the power imbalances! And listener reception! And Dylan's history of songs putting women in their place!


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:49 PM
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111: again, help us out. Do you find "I've always been impressed with a girl / Who could sing for her supper and get breakfast as well" slut-shaming?

Yes. Especially when--as I believe, based on the song and Bragg's own authorized biography--to be about a particular woman whom he unsuccessfully pursued.

Gotta go.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:51 PM
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How could I have forgotten: It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) ?

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child's balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying.

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool's gold mouthpiece
The hollow horn plays wasted words
Proves to warn
That he not busy being born
Is busy dying.

Temptation's page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover
That you'd just be
One more person crying.

So don't fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It's alright, Ma, I'm only sighing.

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don't hate nothing at all
Except hatred.

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Made everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It's easy to see without looking too far
That not much
Is really sacred.

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have
To stand naked.

An' though the rules of the road have been lodged
It's only people's games that you got to dodge
And it's alright, Ma, I can make it.

Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you're the one
That can do what's never been done
That can win what's never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you.

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks
They really found you.

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit to satisfy
Insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not fergit
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to.

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

For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something
They invest in.

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God bless him.

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society's pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he's in.

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it's alright, Ma, if I can't please him.

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn't talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony.

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer's pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death's honesty
Won't fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes
Must get lonely.

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed graveyards
False gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough
What else can you show me?

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.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:55 PM
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Will, have you listened to any of the later stuff? Time Out of Mind might actually be my favorite of his. Not a pick-me-up, exactly.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:56 PM
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It's Alright Ma video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bjqYPH7rAo


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:57 PM
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Ogged:

I like Time Out of Mind.

Make me Feel Your Love is probably my favorite.

The guy may be a jerk. People may try to imitate him. He might fall flat on ocassion, but his catalog is simply amazing.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 6:59 PM
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116: You know, I can see how listening as a woman and finding oneself addressed in that tone could feel obliterating. Similar to what I understood about Nick S's 13 and 17 in 23 above. But I also think of very few pop songs as sung to me; even hearing songs sung from a female to a male, I reflexively identify with the singer.

At the end of my marriage, I sent my wife a song a day throughout June, and there were some where I thought the song was more sung from someone in her position to someone in mine (one was the duet that leads off "Set Yourself On Fire", and I went back and forth about hearing the female part sung to or by me). But mostly it was me identifying with the singer, regardless of gender.

Just before our love got lost you said
I am as constant as the northern star
Constant in the darkness
where's that at?
if you want me I'll be in the bar

That stings.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:02 PM
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Blue is another amazing album. Filled with amazing lyrics.

A Case of You and All I Want have amazing lines for love or fading love:

Oh you are in my blood like holy wine
Oh and you taste so bitter but you taste so sweet
Oh I could drink a case of you
I could drink a case of you darling
And I would still be on my feet
Oh Id still be on my feet


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:05 PM
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117: Maybe "hurt and mean about sex and love" can't truly exist independent of misogyny, but as someone who's written some pretty h&m-a-s&l songs in the wake of a breakup, I think you gotta wring your art from your dark places. It's good to point it out, and it's important to say how you feel hearing it, but my gut is that with these two examples, impugning the biases of the singer yields diminishing returns.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:08 PM
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Wait, "All I Want" is about fading love? Fuck, I had that sung in my wedding ceremony!


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:11 PM
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125: get Alanis on the horn! This is money.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:15 PM
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Will, the total meaning of "take his top ten songs and match them with any two other musicians" is "I like Dylan a whole bunch, and since the mental states of other people are inaccessible to me I can't really understand the subjective opinions of other people". I can probably name ten songs I like better by: Price, Elvis Costello, the Who, Pink Floyd, Randy Newman, and Leonard Cohen, but what would be the point?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:16 PM
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Re: spouting random gibberish. This is also known as using your voice as an instrument. Beck does this a lot, too. One can just enjoy the way words sound thrown against each other. But ifferent storks for different porks, I guess.

Dylan aside, I picked up Solomon Burke's Nashville the other day, and it's just unbelievably great. One of the best albums I've heard in a long, long time.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:18 PM
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Keep in mind, Will, that the people Walt lists in 127 recorded those ten songs all together on one terrific album. It was called "Traveling Wilburys III".


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:20 PM
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WaltSomeguy:

I am not suggesting that you have to agree that Dylan's songs are more enjoyable to everyone than ten by those other artists, (They are, but I cannot fix your bad taste.)

Newman is another songwriting God whose voice has great emotion.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:27 PM
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Back now, for a bit.

To tell the truth, I actually agree mostly with 124. When I was calling those songs misogynist, or at least in part misogynist, I wasn't saying that it meant they were bad songs--"Accident Waiting to Happen" is a favorite--just that it was part of what they were, or meant, or how they functioned. Nor did it mean that Bragg, who as others have mentioned seems like a thoroughly decent guy, was somehow a tainted, bad person. A lot of rock music, including some of the best of it, includes misogynist passages. How could it not, created in large part by and for teenaged to just post-teenaged young males? And as Wrongshore says, putting one's hurt and anger over love and sex into a song--frequently abstracted enough from the directly personal to gain the listener's identification--is going to ring differently in different ears.

Now I gotta go cook dinner.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:28 PM
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Randy Newman at his finest:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xE5k2euahDI


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:29 PM
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Solomon Burke's Nashville

Thanks apo; one song in and this is very promising.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:29 PM
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The comity feels pleasurable, but somehow disappointing. I blame women.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:31 PM
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Wait, "All I Want" is about fading love? Fuck, I had that sung in my wedding ceremony!

Well, you are divorced now, right?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:31 PM
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135: I'm saying, maybe I should have paid more attention.

Nah. It's still our song. And upon reviewing the lyrics, it's not at all about fading love -- that's "A Case Of You". Though it is not about ease in love either.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:33 PM
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130: I cry every time I hear "You've Got A Friend In Me"

It's just so raw, so immediate, a cheating lover speaking mournfully to his true love as the anal penetration happens.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:38 PM
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Tweety is banned!


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:39 PM
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Apo: Great recommendation. I'm going to buy it.


FYI, there is a good special on STAX right now. Some excellent Redding, Sam& Dave, I believe Tower of Power. Great stuff.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:39 PM
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The Wattstax movie?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:40 PM
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On August 14, 2027, Charleycarp is going to cook me dinner! Cannabilistic on his end, though.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:44 PM
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ah, the poor innocent youth. Sweet naive Heebie.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:46 PM
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You think that before I turn 50 I'll find Bob Dylan's lyrics non-ludicrous and inspired?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 7:51 PM
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heebie is 29? Wow, I feel old now. I feel bad about looking at your imaginary nice butt.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:03 PM
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I can't tell if that means you thought I was twelve or fifty-five.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:11 PM
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Wow, I feel old now.

There's almost certainly older here.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:11 PM
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But they're ridiculously old.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:12 PM
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JFTR, when does one become ridiculously old? Just so I know.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:14 PM
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29 is just barely not a teenager. I thought heebie was older. Is Jammies a teenie booper too?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:15 PM
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JFTR, when does one become ridiculously old? Just so I know.

29 and three-quarters, those old fucks.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:17 PM
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29 is just barely not a teenager. I thought heebie was older. Is Jammies a teenie booper too?

I'm deceptively wise for my years. Jammies turned 30 last week.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:18 PM
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Was there cake? Why wasnt I asked to sing Happy Birthday?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:19 PM
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I take comfort in being younger than B and apo.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:19 PM
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Do Canadian years count the same as USA ones?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:22 PM
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Will, you would see that I have achieved total victory on every point of disagreement, but since my mental states are inaccessible to you, you must remain tragically mired in your Dylan man-love.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:23 PM
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Was there cake? Why wasnt I asked to sing Happy Birthday?

I call foul, dear Will. I methodically documented the entire event in my blog. Including (but not limited to) an account of me being so drunk that I did a faceplant off a barstool, onto the linoleum, when my high heels got caught in the rungs, and an old photo of Jammies being so drunk that he got trapped in a lawn chair and looking like he's going to cry.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:23 PM
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For the record, his birthday was August 4th.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:25 PM
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WaltSomeguy must be 19 or 20 years old. That can be the only excuse. His failures are redeemed by his knowledge of the existence of Elvis Costello, The Who, and Randy Newman.

Heebie: I think I remember reading about that. But, I am old and forgetful. I'll send the wav file of me seeing asap.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:30 PM
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Happy Birthday, heebie screebie.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:44 PM
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Well, I didn't imagine the road being closed, and my 6 mile commute taking 90 minutes. (And no, I couldn't have walked or biked it, the road was closed, with police cars all over the place). The bus riders divided into two camps -- those who thought Georgetwon was the best way, and those who thought Cleveland Park was better.

I have no idea which group favored Dylan.

We went through GT, eventually.

It's too bad there's no YouTube of k d lang singing Case of You. O Canada


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 8:45 PM
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If you can't hear the deep (if pained) respect for the woman in "Idiot Wind", indeed in that whole album, then you're missing something.

Dylan's autobiography, "Chronicles Part I" is a great book about being an artist. Very much worth reading if you're at all a fan.

Dylan always seemed to me to be a pretty moral man for a rock star, indeed thoughtful about morality, and his off-putting attitude to the public was an attempt to preserve a private life. He's had long-lasting marriages and his kids speak well of him, not easy in that world. I think it's even harder than normal to be a rock star when you simultaneously have to manage being an actual genius.

It's worth listening to his XM radio show, "Theme Time Radio Hour", it gives a sense of him as a person.

Some definitive early Dylan off Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xO0gSJGJ7Fs


Posted by: marcus | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:03 PM
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Let's all read Mystery Train and pick this thread up again.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:22 PM
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But take his top ten songs and match them with any two other musicians.

Will, I agree that Dylan's best fall into the category of, "cannot be exceded, can only be equalled" but I do think there are people who can equal him. I've already mentioned Ferron, Leon Rosselson and Ewan McColl are both favorites, Michael Smith (the Chicago singer, not Michael W Smith), Leonard Cohen, and Townes Van Zandt are very good. Joni Mitchel has been mentioned, Patti Smith, at her best, is amazing. Other than Patti Smith, that's just covering the singer-songwriter genre.

But, reading your list of people you like, I suspect I could put together a bunch of songs that you haven't heard before that you would really like. E-mail me if you're interested.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:32 PM
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It's worth listening to his XM radio show, "Theme Time Radio Hour"

This is great stuff. Can be downloaded if you hunt for it. He plays a lot of great stuff (other people's).


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:34 PM
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Great stuff.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:35 PM
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The music is pretty terrific, his narration I could sometimes do without. And the messed up mp3 metadata is irksome.


Posted by: Lunar Rockette | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:56 PM
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I'm heebie's little brother. I'm ten. I've never heard of Elvis Costello, The Who, or Randy Newman, but I have read Mystery Train, which allows me to fake it.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 9:59 PM
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Actually, I think I figured out what I find creepy about Dylan: if you listen to him talk, or even sing, he just has no inflection at all. Like, if you've ever amused a kid by having a conversation out of nonsense words and just communicated by delivery, tone, inflection, etc etc, Dylan is the exact opposite of that; the only information his voice conveys is in the precise pronunciation of the words, and it is really fucking creepy.


Posted by: Lunar Rockette | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 10:02 PM
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I love Dylan and all his dark works. This was always my impression as well: Dylan always seemed to me to be a pretty moral man for a rock star, indeed thoughtful about morality, and his off-putting attitude to the public was an attempt to preserve a private life. I mean, what are you supposed to do when you're, what, 25 and widely described broadly as the voice of your generation? Or when your former community seems to round on you with hate when you change musically?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 10:05 PM
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Heebie is in fact 13, but sophisticated for her age. Jammies is a very old cat or ferret, or possibly a youngish turtle, or maybe an average pelican. In her innocence Heebie cannot appreciate the truth of misogyny.

Also, armadillos.

Will is a divorce lawyer, my ally in the war against relationships. No wonder he loves Dylan.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 10:13 PM
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one song in and this is very promising.

I haven't been able to listen to much else since I got it. He's seventy years old on that album, which is completely flooring me.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 11:00 PM
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To follow up on Will's request, here are lyrics to 10 songs, by two artists that I think are completely top quality.

First Ferron, who's ain't life a brook" I posted above.

Ain't Life a Brook
Girl on a Road
Shadows on a Dime
As soon as I find my shoes I'm gone.
Misty Mountain

The first three of those, in particular are just amazing examples of narrative in song. All three cover emotional journey that span years, and make them coherent and compact. "Ain't life a brook" is my favorite, but look at "Shadows on a dime" which is organized by major life changes -- 15 years ago I worked in a factory, 10 years ago I started playing this guitar, 5 years ago I met her.

Or read the opening lines of "Girl on a Road" -- "My momma was a waitress, my daddy a truckdriver. The thing that kept their power from them slowed me down a while. I remember the morning that was the closing of my youth, when I said goodbye to no one and in that way faced my truth."

(I'm sure it helps that I can hear her singing it as I read the words, the meter may not be obvious from the words alone, but I trust they will still work.)

And, for a second songwriter, I'll take Leon Rosselson, who is difficult to find online, but who is a master of a very cutting, very leftist british wit. He is occasionally over dogmatic but an amazing writer. The first song linked below is so good it is almost unfair. It is a song about israel, based on travels in the early 70's. Leon is Jewish, but not zionist, and has written a number of songs about the israeli/palestinian conflict. This was his first and, I would just say, from listening to it, that it's very personal and, if it isn't obvious from the lyrics, he very much hoped that it would be possible to imagine an israel that wasn't based on violence.

The Last Chance
Don't get Married Girls (off the '77 album Love, Loneliness & Laundry)
The Ant and the Grasshopper (a familiar story told with a slight change in emphasis)
Barney's Epic Homer
We Sell Everything (scroll down to the bottom of the page -- an example of Leon at his most wordy)

Both very different from Dylan, and from each other, and selected partially because they aren't songwriters that you are likely to have heard.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 11:39 PM
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It's probably worth mentioning that all of the Rosselson songs are from the 70's and that you should adjust your political reference points appropriately.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-15-07 11:45 PM
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I am so much older than heebie. It is amazing.

I am so much younger than B, apo, ogged. It is amazing.

I am, finally (barely 25 hours ago!), free of the confines of birthdays within one year of the last of the pleasantly meaningful birthdays. The last birthday milestone (the ability to run for President) lies blessedly in the future.

On my birthday, I danced to authentic disco: this cannot be improved upon.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:02 AM
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Townes Van Zandt?

He is a drunken angel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXbn1-aVQw8

NickS: I'd love to see your list

wilsontuck2001@yahoo.com


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 6:09 AM
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If you can't hear the deep (if pained) respect for the woman in "Idiot Wind", indeed in that whole album, then you're missing something.

I'm not talking about the whole album. Nor am I saying that misogyny is the only thing in "Idiot Wind." And we've already been over his gesture in the final lines, but still: no backsies. Apart from what I've already said, there's something about a song in which the singer goes on at length about what a stupid bitch the woman he formerly was involved with actually is, even if he finally acknowledges she's not the only fool, that doesn't bring the word "respect" to mind. And so across the years, and not intended as a direct reply to Dylan, Liz Phair sings

And it's true that I stole your lighter
And it's also true that I lost the map
But when you said that I wasn't worth talking to
I had to take your word on that


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 7:32 AM
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128: I love Solomon Burke. Very exciting to learn about this one--he's always been great with country material. Love this quote from him, in Gerri Hirshey's wonderful but sad book, Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music:

Ahmet would come in to a session and ask you if you wanted a pastrami sandwich. He'd order it from the Jewish deli, then start yakking in French on another phone. Some wheezy cat from Bogalusa's on tenor sax, working at a carton of takeout Cantonese. A pleasant Jewish man name of Wexler is cussing out a late drummer with some mighty greasy Lenox Avenue jive. Me, the black preacher, the apprentice mortician from Philadelphia, standing at the mike. Singing country and western. Now what would I call those years at Atlantic? Broadway fricassee.

Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 7:37 AM
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I starting to see that Idiot Wind is on the same moral plane as Gin & Juice.

I kid. I kid.

With regard to soul, I enjoyed the PBS show about STAX.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 7:45 AM
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What a great thread, so much to follow. Thanks, all.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 8:12 AM
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NickS: I'd love to see your list

I'll start thnking about it but, before taking it to e-mail, I have a couple questions.

1) We've been talking about imagery, how do you feel about narrative or storytelling? Take a look at the songs linked in 172

2) Any genres that I should stay away from? How do you feel about "person with a guitar" acoustic music? Would you be offended if I included some bluegrass (thinking of John Hartford here)

3) All of the music you've mentioned on this thread is at least 30 years old, but it is a thread about Dylan, should I avoid anything with a more contemporary feel.

4) What do you think of humor? A discussion of "great" [songs,books,movies] usually tends toward the serious, but levity is important as well (having been looking up Leon Rosselson songs, I am thinking of The neighbor's Cat for example)


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 9:02 AM
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Count me in for the list. I previewed some Ferron and Rosselson last night; didn't press buy, but might come back.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 9:20 AM
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And yes please to humor.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 9:23 AM
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I previewed some Ferron and Rosselson last night

I will warn you that Ferron, in particular is inconsistant. I would definitely recommend starting with songs from either Testimony (a very feminist singer-songwriter album) or Driver (more recent, harder to categorize). Shadows on a Dime has a number of good songs but I feel like the production burries their strengths a little bit. If you're listening to individual songs I would also recommend "White Wing Mercy" and "Harmless Love" from Phantom Center

I talk Ferron up here partially because I think she fits the unfogged spirit, and I would hope that there are at least a few people here would be very glad to know about her, and because, unlike many of the people I mention, she's contemporary, still performing (I saw her playing to a very small crowd at Pride last year), still recording, and very much worth knowing about.

(hmmm, looking up reviews I see that, contrary to my recommendations, Penguin Eggs called Shadows on a Dime "one of the greatest records ever to come out of Canada" for what that's worth)


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 10:35 AM
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Regarding a post way up thread, the "tax deductible charity organisations" line is in fact one of the greatest bits of song writing ever, and I mean that absolutely seriously. It's impossible to judge it on paper - you have to hear it delivered by him. Nobody else could get that phrase into a song and make it seem perfectly natural.

Anyway, I'm glad Ogged cited a Love And Theft song. It's an amazingly good album, better than Time Out Of Mind if you ask me, although nothing on it quite reaches the peak of Not Dark Yet. High Water, Mississippi, Sugar Baby and Po' Boy are all fantastic. There's only one or two filler type songs and even those have some great lines.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:22 PM
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One of the few Dylan songs I like to listen to nowadays is "Neighborhood Bully."

(I nearly posted the above this afternoon, but didn't. Now at home, a drink or two in me, it seems funnier, so there you go.)

Regarding misogyny, how could I have forgotten Ian Dury's "If I Was With a Woman." A classic.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 5:52 PM
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NickS has a great list.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 6:59 PM
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Regarding new music, I enjoy Old Crow Medicine Show and I am buying Apo's recomendation this weekend.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 7:00 PM
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And yes please to humor.

Randy Newman's Faust is, probably, the funniest album I own.

When you have James Taylor as the Lord singing things like "My ways are mysterious /
Sometimes even to myself" funny.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-17-07 8:31 AM
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Nick, why don't you have a music blog?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-17-07 8:42 AM
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189: I was just wondering that myself. What was your verdict on the Burke album, Ogged?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-17-07 8:44 AM
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I didn't listen to the whole thing, but what I heard, plus this, were really great.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-17-07 8:45 AM
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NickS, is that your real name and initial? I think there is an outside chance I might know you.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 08-17-07 8:50 AM
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Nick, why don't you have a music blog?

Because writing about music is a lot of work and I would neglect it for weeks or months at a time.

I think from time to time about trying to find co-bloggersand that would be amusing if you did. for a group music blog.

NickS, is that your real name and initial? I think there is an outside chance I might know you.

It is. Feel free to e-mail at this address.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-17-07 8:55 AM
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I didn't listen to the whole thing, but what I heard, plus this, were really great.

Huh. I don't know how many times I've listened to "Cry to Me" and never noticed that. Not that I care much about lyrics, but still.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 08-17-07 9:08 AM
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One of my favorite songwriters:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5axlwCBXC8


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-17-07 12:00 PM
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One last one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FikZwgj89HI


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-17-07 12:02 PM
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More Iris DeMent


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-17-07 12:14 PM
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"The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face"

You've done it again. It's "ghost electricity".

Must I tell you three times?


Posted by: dave heasman | Link to this comment | 08-20-07 8:05 AM
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Google agrees with you 57 to 8, but Bob was pretty mumbly. I'll take another listen sometime.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-20-07 8:11 AM
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Randy Newman's "Faust" is one of the 78 CDs I own but haven't yet played. I guess I ought.

The first time I heard Bob Dylan it was March or April of 1963, it was French radio (I was in England) and it was fading in and out, it was "Don't Think Twice It's Alright" and I had never heard anything like it in my life before. I should say that I was 16 and I already had the two Snooks Eaglin records and Paul Oliver's "Blues fell This Morning".

I hadn't heard anything from the pop idiom with such a complicated rhyme-scheme nor such ambivalent lyrics. In 1963 aged 16 listening to a pop-song one didn't normally have to ask "Does he mean it? What are the verbal clues that he's faking?" I didn't know anyone who'd had a relationship like that, and it was obvious it was his song, noone else had written it. The French guy on the radio was as excited as I was, he played it a lot. (His name was Daniel Filipacchi, he became quite famous).
The damn record didn't get released in England until July and even then didn't get into provincial record shops.


Posted by: dave heasman | Link to this comment | 08-20-07 8:30 AM
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Randy Newman's family were professional composers from decadent Berlin or Vienna. They did Hollywood movie music and I'd be surprised if they weren't part of the crew that took care of Schoenberg and Adorno and the others.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-20-07 8:40 AM
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Alfred Newman was the brother of Lionel Newman, the father of David Newman and Thomas Newman, and the uncle of Randy Newman.

American film composer/conductor/adaptor Alfred Newman was a child prodigy -- and none too modest about the fact. Making his professional debut at seven (after taking private lessons from the great Arnold Schoenberg), Newman was billed as "the Marvelous Boy Pianist."

I was wrong, though -- the Newmans were all born in the US.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-20-07 8:44 AM
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One of my current favorite videos:
Rain in Gatehouse of Fleet to Bryan Ferry singing "Positively 4th Street."


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08-20-07 9:06 AM
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199: I just listened again and it's definitely "ghost electricity".


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-20-07 11:09 AM
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203: Is there a movement for "distortions" like that? Does the term have a non-obvious, possibly legal meaning?

I really liked that.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-20-07 11:16 AM
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I'm a huge Randy fan but never quite got into Faust. I did love the casting of James Taylor as the Devil, however. That was inspired.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-20-07 11:46 AM
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