Bringing It All Back Home
February 3, 2011 10:55 AM   Subscribe

And then what?
posted by mazola at 10:58 AM on February 3, 2011

He was so much older then he's yuunggeer thaan theet neooeeoooeee.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:06 AM on February 3, 2011 [12 favorites]

I love that memoir of his. It's just so gloriously ramshackle.
posted by blucevalo at 11:09 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

And then what?

He sold out.
posted by NoMich at 11:19 AM on February 3, 2011

And then my folks saw him play in the neighborhood clubs while she was pregnant with me. They said he was OK.
posted by dglynn at 11:29 AM on February 3, 2011

He sold out.

Should have stayed in Minnesota and been the guy at the bar who can play the guitar pretty good but sounds kinda funny and is a pretty good guy to toss back a few with in the parking lot after 2nd shift.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:29 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

I love that memoir of his. It's just so gloriously ramshackle.

Exactly. And thatshaggy aspect, all the loops and ellipses of a rambling storyteller, somehow make it more vivid.

I'm reading Guralnick's Elvis biography right now, and one of the great things about it is how he manages to take this massively overexposed icon and strip away everything you know about it and place this young kid on the streets of Memphis and make him just some kid again.

It's somehow even more impressive that in Chronicles Dylan manages to do this to himself.

Thanks for this, Xurando - I'm pretty sure the playlist I'm building from the links on that site will go into heavy rotation for the rest of the winter.
posted by gompa at 11:50 AM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

great link, xurando, don't let a few astonishingly stupid comments discourage you
posted by kitchenrat at 11:56 AM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

50 Years Ago This Week, Bob Dylan Arrived in New York City and was taken in by the immensely talented and underappreciated Dave Van Ronk.
posted by horsemuth at 11:57 AM on February 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

In fact, here is them playing a Woody Guthrie song together.
posted by horsemuth at 12:04 PM on February 3, 2011

I'm actually a fan. What is astonishing is there is a Cafe Wha? pretending to be the same place in the building next door, 50 years later.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:10 PM on February 3, 2011

It's somehow even more impressive that in Chronicles Dylan manages to do this to himself.

That's all he's done these past five decades, again and again and again.

Thanks for the post!
posted by docgonzo at 12:30 PM on February 3, 2011

Reflecting on 1961 ... Dylan as shapeshifter.

Interesting stuff.
posted by philip-random at 12:39 PM on February 3, 2011

That's all he's done these past five decades, again and again and again.

I think I know what you're driving at, docgonzo, and I don't disagree with that point - roughly that for 50 years he's been painting incomparably vivid soundscapes of a particular moment or feeling, yes? - but my point was something else.

On the subject of himself, Dylan's legendarily elusive, nonspecific, self-contradictory and self-mythologizing. I mean, the whole premise of the film I'm Not There was that you couldn't tell Dylan's biography straight, either because the myth has so fully overtaken whatever the truth once was or because he reveals more by who he pretends to be. Or both. Killer movie, anyway.

So that's what was so amazing to me about Chronicles. Even though the frame flickered, faded in and out and jumped around in time, you could see him in there, fully revealed, maybe for the first time ever - this guy who used to be called Robert Zimmerman, this guy who doesn't really have any better idea than anyone else how it is he managed to tap the songwriting vein he did and ride it to one of the greatest bodies of work in the history of pop music.
posted by gompa at 12:54 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

On a related note, in a thread about Dylan, best not to have someone tap a vein and then ride it. He managed to tap that songwriting vein and then mine it. Is what I meant.

posted by gompa at 12:58 PM on February 3, 2011

Visions of Johanna vs. Wiggle Wiggle.
posted by swift at 1:03 PM on February 3, 2011

Thanks for the link. I've always loved these two melancholy tracks from his second album, because--at least in terms of the songs I know--it's the last time he really seems to sing straight about his home in Minnesota:

Girl from the North Country
Bob Dylan's Dream.
posted by colfax at 1:06 PM on February 3, 2011

it's the last time he really seems to sing straight about his home in Minnesota:

Wouldn't be a proper Dylan thread without some serious nerd-action. From the song "Something There Is About You" (Planet Waves, 1974):

Thought I'd shaken the wonder and the phantoms of my youth
Rainy days on the Great Lakes, walking the hills of old Duluth
There was me and Danny Lopez, cold eyes, black night and then there was Ruth
Something there is about you that brings back a long forgotten truth.

posted by philip-random at 1:21 PM on February 3, 2011

Scorcese's No Direction Home nails him, too, in its way, hiis ineffitude and his sublimity. The extended interview with him shows him for exactly what he is: in the words of Ginsberg, a column of solid air, indistinguishable from his breath. Forever himself. It's what makes him so maddening and so spectacular. Look for it in his eyes and in how he shapes his mouth when he speaks.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:24 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speaking of Ginsberg, I recall reading his response to people who said Dylan sang with a sneer. He's not sneering, claimed Ginsberg, he's enunciating, making damned sure that we get every syllable.

Which to this day informs how I rate a given Dylan performance (usually heard via bootleg). If he's mumbling, I conclude he's drunk (or whatever) and couldn't give a shit. But when the words cut through, I'm all ears.
posted by philip-random at 1:33 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is this the post where I get to say how fucking amazing the song, Went to See the Gypsy, is? Great, I've been waiting nearly six years for this thread. This is Dylan revealing himself:

Went to see the gypsy
Stayin’ in a big hotel
He smiled when he saw me coming
And he said, “Well, well, well”
His room was dark and crowded
Lights were low and dim
“How are you?” he said to me
I said it back to him

I went down to the lobby
To make a small call out
A pretty dancing girl was there
And she began to shout
“Go on back to see the gypsy
He can move you from the rear
Drive you from your fear
Bring you through the mirror
He did it in Las Vegas
And he can do it here”

Outside the lights were shining
On the river of tears
I watched them from the distance
With music in my ears

I went back to see the gypsy
It was nearly early dawn
The gypsy’s door was open wide
But the gypsy was gone
And that pretty dancing girl
She could not be found
So I watched that sun come rising
From that little Minnesota town

Fucking genius.
posted by Elmore at 1:40 PM on February 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting at a corner table at the Cafe Whooo?, on my 17th cup of coffee, furiously scribbling the notes for my epic poem Upending the Redundant Conundrum, when the door swung open. The light from outside was momentarily blinding, but after a second we saw him there, a silhouette in the doorway, carrying his electric hot pink sousaphone. We all knew this was the man who, 50 years later, would inspire a blog post about this moment.

He walked in like he owned the place. Went straight to the bar and ordered 4 bloody marys. Pete Seeger saddled up beside him and said, "you gonna play that horn boy, or just balance it on your nose while you tap dance?". Dylan shrugged, mumbled something about Leadbelly's younger sister, and downed three of the bloody marys.

Now, he was such a slight, wiry little guy, he could hardly hold that big pink horn. But that didn't stop him. He took the stage, and in his best 'just-blew-in-from-the-coal-country' voice he announced: "My name is Bob Dylan, and I'm a-here to blow this pink sousaphone." It was then I noticed the message painted in sloppy letters on the bell of the horn: THIS MACHINE SLIGHTLY IRRITATES UNDECIDED VOTERS.

He started blowing, and immediately, the room was his. Peter, Paul and Mary were there, and Paul, upon hearing Dylan hit those low, flatulent notes so brilliantly, took his own sousaphone and threw it out the window. John Hammond, A&R man for Columbia records, quickly typed up a contract for a 5-record deal, folded it into a paper airplane, and sent it sailing toward Dylan onstage. Dylan caught it, signed the contract and launched it back to Hammond, all without missing a note. Ten minutes later, Dylan left with my girlfriend, and I never saw either one of them again.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:57 PM on February 3, 2011 [8 favorites]

Drove through northern Minnesota on the way to Ely a few years ago. As we approached Hibbing I looked for signs that somebody knew about Mr. Zimmerman out there. Any signs. You know the kind of signs that small towns use to announce their connections to "bigness". Nothing. Not a damn thing. Just red ore hills and trees and raw beauty.

I wondered whether Bob maybe paid them to shut up about it. It was weird that no one there seemed to acknowledge his connection to them. Weirdly perfect.
posted by kneecapped at 5:49 PM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Some comic, I don't remember who, astutely noted that this decade is going to be a bit ridiculous with all the fiftieth anniversaries of pretty much the entire sixties. IT BEGINS!

(not that I mind.)
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 5:30 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

When my Dad would take me to New York almost every coffee shop and apartment in the Villiage claimed some kinship with Dylan.

Not that I mind. The man is a living god, and he deserves to be mythologized both by himself and by everybody else.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:37 AM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

What a silly picture of him, it almost looks like he's wearing a unionsuit. Definitely no Gorgeous George
posted by sweetmarie at 9:51 AM on February 4, 2011

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