The ghost of Belle Star she hands down her wits/ To Jezebel the nun she violently knits/ A bald wig for Jack the Ripper who sits/ At the head of the chamber of commerce.” *
Now, it’s not just the imagery, which no one else alive could have come up with, but look at the rhyming pattern. It’s AAAC/ BBBC, which is really pretty unusual. Here’s some more.
“The geometry of innocent flesh on the bone/ Causes Galileo's math book to get thrown/ At Delilah who's sitting worthlessly alone/ But the tears on her cheeks are from laughter.”
“Where Ma Raney and Beethoven once unwrapped a bed roll/ Tuba players now rehearse around the flagpole/ And the National Bank at a profit sells road maps for the soul/ To the old folks home and the college.” *
These are some of my favorite Dylan lyrics, but there are countless examples of this kind of thing in his work. In this one song that I’ve quoted, “Tombstone Blues”, Bob rhymes “sick in” with “chicken” and “boys in” with “poison”. Not exactly June/ moon/ spoon stuff.
Now, I’ve written quite a few songs myself, and they’ve been very well received by the people who’ve heard them, but I could never come up with anything remotely resembling the kind of writing Bob Dylan did in his early–mid years, and I don’t think anyone else could either, although a few have tried, most notably Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith. Neither they, nor anyone else, have come anywhere close to The Master. There’s just no frame of reference for this stuff, or, at least there wasn’t before Bob Dylan. And let’s also not forget that Bob writes alone, unlike other great songwriters of our age, like Lennon-McCartney or Jagger-Richard, and NO ONE, does this kind of word association like Bob. He invented it!
I think Bob, himself, summed it up best (as usual), when one of the Stones asked Bob who was the better songwriter. Bob’s reply was, “Well, I could have written “Satisfaction”, but you never could have written “Mister Tambourine Man”. Nuff said. Bob Dylan, Poet Laureate of the 20th Century (and probably beyond). Next time you’re someplace and one of Bob’s songs from this period comes on, stop and listen, really listen, to the lyrics and what they mean, and ask yourself, “Where does this come from, and what does it mean?” It’s mind boggling!
Recommended shows for this week are:
Tonight, Thursday, August 25th, we kick off the weekend with THREE OF A PERFECT PAIR, featuring TONY LEVIN, ADRIAN BELEW, and PAT MASTELOTTO. This show is prog-rock paradise. Separately and together, these guys have played and recorded with the likes of John Lennon, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, Mr Mister, XTC, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, NIN, David Sylvian, Laurie Anderson and of course, King Crimson.
Friday, August 26 is the start of the three day BLUESTOCK FESTIVAL at Hunter Mountain. Headliners are BUDDY GUY, ROBERT CRAY, and ELVIN BISHOP, plus about twenty more great acts, including our own Bruce Katz and Alexis P. Suter. Also of note, Shemika Copeland and “Steady Rollin’” Bob Margolin, who played with Muddy Waters for years. Should be a good one, and I’m gonna try to get there for at least one day. More info at www.bluestock.com.
If you’re not heading up to Hunter, there’s an interesting show at the Falcon Friday night. It’s BERNARD ‘PRETTY’ PURDIE, who drummed on thousands of hit records over a 40 year period, including, it’s rumored, a few Beatles sessions. Purdie was one of the busiest drummers on the East Coast back in the day. Catch him while you can!
Saturday, August 27, we’ve got two great shows to pick from. BADFINGER rolls in to The Bearsville Theater, and ROBBIE FULKS returns to Marbletown Multi-Arts in Stone Ridge. Robbie is one of America's most multi-faceted and imaginative songwriters and singers. His unique combination of the smartest parts of country, rock and folk is even more apparent in a live setting. Fulks' music is intelligent, funny, dark, beautiful and honest. It lives at the intersection of George Jones, Elvis Costello and Shel Silverstein. And Badfinger, I’m sure, need no introduction, owing to their string of hit records like “No Matter What”. And let’s not forget that in their former incarnation as The Ivies, they were the first band signed to The Beatles’ Apple label.
If you’re not plumb tuckered out by Monday, head on over to The Bearsville Theater for a taste of the bayou with local favorites, VOODELIC. Last year, they were on the short list of local acts to appear at Mountain Jam, and even though I voted for them, they didn’t win, but this year, they were at Mountain Jam. This venue is a touch more intimate!
If you work in the city, or just happen to be there on Tuesday and/or Wednesday, CROSBY, STILLS, and NASH will be at The Beacon Theater for two shows, sans Young. Still very worth checking out, especially if you’re in the neighborhood anyway.
Have a great week!
* All quoted lyrics from “Tombstone Blues” by Bob Dylan. Used by permission.