–We are to be making one hundred copies.
–A hundred?? I could go out on the street right now with a cardboard box of 200 of these, wave one over my head, ask 25 dollars cash– whatever, 30 euros, and the box’d be empty by noon.
–Your enthusiasm is engaging, but business is what is being run here.
–Stencil his name on the cardboard box and someone’ll give you 20 bucks for it! These’ll be hawked on line in minutes for stupid amounts of money! A hundred! We might as well have put out ten…
—We..? Excuse me–that is the badge of an intern around your neck, no? Are there not two pieces of paper somewhere in this building that require your stapling them one to the other? How is it that you are in this room? Randolph! Randolph! Where is the special room of these interns? And Randolph–were you able to procure that particular tie I wish to wear to the Grammy television ceremonies? That’s it! Splendid–the same fabric as Miss Taylor Swift’s new video pajamas.
No, of course I don’t have the copyright extension CD and I don’t want to be patronized by having explained to me the technical commercial legality justifying the quantity of one mere hundred. And although I already have nearly all the songs in question scattered about bootlegs, I still feel left out and petulant. Not only left out and petulant about being empty-handed at a fairly exciting CD event, and being curmudgeonly in my ignorance of intellectual property law. I’m also feeling the weight of years embedded in this copyright extension stuff. Bob Dylan and I will never be so young again. I never did hear these songs with young ears. And somehow all this petulance seems of a piece with the petulance I’m still feeling from Tempest‘s being dissed at the Grammy nominations. A dark and bygone album that rides deeper rails of greatness every time I hear it is passed over in the here and now, and Bob Dylan and I will never be so young again.
I know the antidote to all this feeling left out and sour is in that Duquesne whistle. Let the train go by, whatever’s on it, everyone’s on it. Let it go, toot toot, even if it kills me dead. If no one remembers next time round. Let the train go. . .There’s a lot I’m not learning from this song at the moment.
Soundin’ like it’s on a final run. Maybe it takes decades to hear that whistle. Between Stealin’ and Tempest could be an entire story of young and not young, and that seems to be the story that interests me right now. So I’m turning to the Witmark demos with my old ears and asking them what they can teach me about young and not young, me and Bob Dylan.
Re: Not having young ears or eyes.I’ve never been taken in by this painting. The vulnerable stripling with his budding honest body. I think the painting is the moment right before his consciousness comes of age and he realizes that he controls the horse he believed until this moment was his friend. Perhaps this is the last moment the boy will know the world as his own, where pants and shoes and saddles are unnecessary and the sky and earth are as bare and free as he is. This is to me the last dream of Youth. Right before Innocence wakes up to knowledge, power and desires that can’t be fulfilled by just breathing alongside the beloved creature you’re going to discover in a minute isn’t really talking with you.
I just don’t cherish this dream, this moment–the last pulses of youth whose beauty and potency are unconscious. And I bring this not-being-available-to-the-enchanting-poignant-dream-of-youth to all the flourishings of Dylan’s early songs. I can hear in some of them the honest ugliness of growing pains, and the leaps into maturity that can cover so much ground so quickly you get a chill from the passing breeze.
Mr. Bartender, I ain’t too young…He played it so well–the scrawny critter lost in old jeans, with his laughing grin and sharp cagey eyes, the voice singing more than this person could possibly know of death and pain and poverty, and using all his boychick righteousness to make his audience see their own stained souls and love him for it. The moment of this real life seduction is gone. I can’t pretend that anything compensates for real seduction in real time.
We don’t do nostalgia for an unlived past here in the garden and we sure don’t do the *Golden Age envy* thing either. That Blowin’ in the Wind may be now and in 3129 an occasion for reflection, for pleasure, for wonder, isn’t the point. That song masters and deepens a form and defends the truism of timelessness. And even if timelessness can be right here and now 50 years after the song was born, in living sweat when we get Blowin’ in the Wind as an encore, that’s still not what I’m after here. I’m after the force that through the green fuse…. And I hear it and feel it in stumbles and growth spurts, not in the anthems.
Emmett Till stumbles all over itself with mismatched voices. There’s the childlike language of a naif shocked at atrocity and the justice not served: a dreadful tragedy…too evil to repeat….I’m sure it ain’t no lie. . .if you can’t speak out against this kind of thing...so godawful low. And there are the sudden spikes of elegance and maturity in the imagery, the rhyme, the meter: rolled his body down a gulf amidst a blood red rain/And they threw him in the waters wide to cease his screaming pain.. .floats the foam of a Jim Crow southern sea. . .eyes are filled with dead men’s dirt, mind is filled with dust. . .ghost-robed Ku Klux Klan. The fineness of these phrases turns the ingenuous moral appeals into forced naivete. Into the righteous outcry erupts a newfound joy in the sound and playfulness of language. There’s real sensual and immodest pleasure in inventing and performing these phrases that’s at odds with the song’s framing persona– if all of us folks that thinks alike about violence and injustice. . .well, some of us decent folk are guiltily relishing and repeating to ourselves the sheer prettiness of float the foam of a Jim Crow southern sea. Art can be beautiful and moral, and by Hattie Carroll, Dylan will have figured out how to make that work without hiccups. But I hear the hiccups in Emmett Till. The song is badly controlled, awkward, and always fresh. Growth spurts.
Long Ago, Far Away is one of those leaps, where you can feel the leaping. Here he’s got it all–youthful moral outrage, tightwoven phrasing, spiky smart and agile imagery, and the language simple and deft and never clashing with its voice: chains of slaves they dragged the ground/With heads and hearts hung low. . .the whole world bled its blood. . .people cheered with bloodshot grins. . . The song has the infectious energy and purpose of great gospel. It’s also got its own delectation of language and you can feel the singer discovering the joy of making all this happen each time you listen. He’s reined in that growling shrieking timbre that’s rather out of hand in Gospel Plow. He seems surprised by his own wild ride, we’re surprised too. One big growth spurt, I think–a leap.
Blowin’ like she’s blowin’ right on time and Blowin’ like she ain’t gonna blow no more. Not far from the Dusquesne whistle he sings, It’s now or never. Tempest is my real-time seduction, my green fuse–gnarled and murky and juicy for all that. I’ll try to listen for the whistle and Sony can go to hell.