Saturday, 15 October 2016


Image result for bob dylan the freewheelin' bob dylan songs

Wondering why Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize? Perhaps this is the reason:

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

Our 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' all 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 forget
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
Do what they do just 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 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 goals, 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.

Obscenity, who really cares propaganda, all is phony. That line alone is worth a Nobel Prize.

Poetry I think is what other people make of it. But with Dylan it is often the dry, bitter quality of his voice that supplies the dimension that written/narrated poetry cannot always reach. Not for a moment am I suggesting that his work doesn’t stand up to being read, rather than performed but it doesn’t  have to rely on meter, assonance and consonance that say Auden or Heaney must do to achieve the same impact. Do we need the tunes? Mr Tambourine Man is a lovely tune and the lyrics are exceptional too but there is a guy whose name I can’t remember, who takes every interview opportunity he can find to say, ‘Dylan never wrote a tune in his life’.
Me, I couldn’t care less. He is and was a sponge, soaking up tunes, structure, devices that could be used to express himself. Girl from North Country is note for note the same as Scarborough Fair: no acknowledgement of course. Boots of Spanish Leather, probably my single all-time favourite Dylan song is a note for note copy of a song he heard Martin Carthy sing around the time of his visit to London in 1962, called Black Jack Davey. But better: better phrasing: better lyrically; more melodic [its faster] and quite possibly despite Carthy’s outstanding vocal talents, deeper and sadder . . . Lord Franklin, another song from Carthy’s repertoire became The Times They Are A’Changin’. Again, no acknowledgement. After England, Carthy and the English folk scene he went home and composed the second half of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan: Masters of War, with its Brendan Behan structure that he probably got from seeing the Clancy Brothers in London; Hard Rain, from possibly, probably, Louis Killen, an older traditional practitioner around the clubs at that time.
One more thing: Americans are not allowed to criticise America, not even covertly and I wonder, in fact I always wondered if the reason he gave up singing protest songs was not that there were other things in life he needed to explore, Watch Towers, etc but that he had taken protest to the edge of all-out criticism of his country. In some ways it became a discipline, show not tell rather than naming names but as it happened, it was a brilliant career move.

I don’t take much interest in him now. He is probably still writing great stuff, more apposite for his generation. The fault is all mine and one of these days I intend to correct it.

So, I am glad we are celebrating his achievements this weekend, not his death as we seem to have been doing with so many others this year.

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