Friday, October 09, 2009

*“Tangled Up In Blue”- The Mid-Career Crisis Of One Bob Dylan-The Trans-Atlantic View

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Bob Dylan Performing His "If You See Her, Say Hello" From The "Blood On The Tracks" Album.

DVD Review

Bob Dylan: 1966-1978: After The Crash, Chrome Dreams, 2006


The first paragraph just below was used in some recent CD reviews of Bob Dylan’s later, post-1990’s work, like “Love And Theft” but also, generally, apply to this DVD review of what now amounts to his “middle” period from 1966 to 1978, the period from his ‘disappearance’ into the wilds of Woodstock, New York through to his reemergence with, arguably, his master work “Blood On The Tracks” and on through the famous “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour of the mid-1970’s:

“Okay, okay I have gone on and one over the past year or so about the influence of Bob Dylan’s music (and lyrics) on me, and on my generation, the Generation of ’68. But, please, don’t blame me. Blame Bob. After all he could very easily have gone into retirement and enjoyed the fallout from his youthful fame and impressed one and all at his local AARP chapter. But, no, he had to go out on the road continuously, seemingly forever, keeping his name and music front and center. Moreover, the son of a gun has done more reinventions of himself than one could shake a stick at (folk troubadour, symbolic poet in the manner of Rimbaud and Verlaine, heavy metal rocker, blues man, etc.) So, WE are left with forty or so years of work to go through to try to sort it out. In short, can I (or anyone else) help it if he is restless and acts, well, …. like a rolling stone?”

Frankly, I have covered so much Bob Dylan material, early, middle and late, over the past year I am beginning to feel like the guy interviewed in this DVD who made something of a ‘journalistic’ career (if also a nuisance) of going through Dylan’s garbage to see if he could find the “Rosetta Stone” to decode the meaning of his lyrics. Whew! At least I am not that bad off. I “merely” write reviews of what, as is the case here, Trans-Atlantic (meaning from the British Isles and their environs) professional music reviewers think Dylan was up to and his place in the folk/rock/pop pantheons.

I will just quickly run through the main points that are presented here as the “talking heads’ who dominate this documentary are fully capable of taking you through the highlights and lowlights of this period in Dylan’ career. Of course it makes no sense to have made this documentary if one does not recognize that after Dylan‘s motorcycle crash in 1966 and subsequent seclusion that this was a watershed event of some proportions in his life and career. This mysterious period, of which I will make a short comment on at the end, is obviously ripe for all kinds of speculation even to this day. What is not up for speculation is that Dylan emerges from this period with a different persona that the early folk troubadour and the subsequent highly poetic folk rock idol of the pre-1966 period.

This, in short, is the period of the various “basement, bootleg and borrowed” tapes of the Woodstock farm time, the seminal American roots/outlaw tribute album, “John Wesley Harding”, various minor albums leading up to a shifting back to rock with the “Planet Wave” album (which has “Forever Young” on it, that can now serve as something of an anthem for the “Generation of ‘68”), the mystical master work “Blood On The Tracks” and the almost equally masterful “Desire” album that served to advertise the “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour. When one puts the whole period together ,as one of the commentators mentioned, this is a remarkable, perhaps unique, amount of work from a guy who was left for dead, musically and culturally, if not physically. And all the time Dylan was ‘reinventing’ himself he was shedding that “folk oracle’ role from the early 1960’s that he was desperately running away from.

To finish up, I want make a comment on Dylan’s place in the music and cultural pantheon of the late 20th century. Much is made in this film, and elsewhere in other commentaries about the shifts in Dylan’s work, about his seeming hatred for the role of folk oracle/leader/messiah of what we were trying accomplish in the 1960’s. No question the folk troubadour Bob Dylan of the early 1960’s, the one who told us “The Times They Are A-Changin’”, that the answer was “Blowin’ In The Wind” and that we were “Like A Rolling Stone” has something to say , and something that we wanted, in some cases desperately, to hear about. That voice carried us through, rather nicely, the civil rights period and the period of questioning where we wanted to see American power and culture go.

However, when the deal went down and the American government and its various security agencies ratcheted up the heat on us during the anti-Vietnam period of the late 1960’s and Dylan was nowhere to found we did not fall apart in dismay or disorder. We heard other, more directly political voices, all the way from Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy to Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin and then on to Karx Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Mao and Leon Trotsky to name a few. Frankly, at least in the circles that I ran in, we did not miss Dylan even if we wondered, off-handedly, where the hell he was. But each man to his calling- “Tangled Up In Blue”, "Idiot Wind”, "Shelter From The Storm” and many other songs from this period still stand the test of musical time. In the end that is what he wanted to do, and that will endure.

*******

"Shelter from The Storm"

twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form.
Come in, she said,
Ill give you shelter from the storm.

And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
Ill always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm.
Come in, she said,
Ill give you shelter from the storm.

Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved.
Try imagining a place where its always safe and warm.
Come in, she said,
Ill give you shelter from the storm.

I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail,
Poisoned in the bushes an blown out on the trail,
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn.
Come in, she said,
Ill give you shelter from the storm.

Suddenly I turned around and she was standin there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair.
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns.
Come in, she said,
Ill give you shelter from the storm.

Now theres a wall between us, somethin theres been lost
I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed.
Just to think that it all began on a long-forgotten morn.
Come in, she said,
Ill give you shelter from the storm.

Well, the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount
But nothing really matters much, its doom alone that counts
And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn.
Come in, she said,
Ill give you shelter from the storm.

Ive heard newborn babies wailin like a mournin dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love.
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?
Come in, she said,
Ill give you shelter from the storm.

In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
I bargained for salvation an they gave me a lethal dose.
I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn.
Come in, she said,
Ill give you shelter from the storm.

Well, Im livin in a foreign country but Im bound to cross the line
Beauty walks a razors edge, someday Ill make it mine.
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born.
Come in, she said,
Ill give you shelter from the storm.

"If You See Her, Say Hello"

If you see her, say hello, she might be in tangier
She left here last early spring, is livin there, I hear
Say for me that Im all right though things get kind of slow
She might think that Ive forgotten her, dont tell her it isnt so.

We had a falling-out, like lovers often will
And to think of how she left that night, it still brings me a chill
And though our separation, it pierced me to the heart
She still lives inside of me, weve never been apart.

If you get close to her, kiss her once for me
I always have respected her for busting out and gettin free
Oh, whatever makes her happy, I wont stand in the way
Though the bitter taste still lingers on from the night I tried to make her stay.

I see a lot of people as I make the rounds
And I hear her name here and there as I go from town to town
And Ive never gotten used to it, Ive just learned to turn it off
Either Im too sensitive or else Im gettin soft.

Sundown, yellow moon, I replay the past
I know every scene by heart, they all went by so fast
If shes passin back this way, Im not that hard to find
Tell her she can look me up if shes got the time.

1 comment:

Brett said...

Hi Markin, Good site! I'll try to get to see this doco soon.

You can have a look at my Dylan CD reviews at my site:

http://www.bretthetherington.net/default.aspx?pageId=123

Keep up the good fight! More kids listening to Dylan would be a very good thing!