Wednesday, November 22, 2017

If I was Bob Dylan, I would have decided, "Okay, I'm done" right after "Blood On The Tracks." But then 25 years after that, he writes what is arguably his greatest song, "Mississippi." I've loved "Mississippi" since it was first released on September 11, 2001. My store was about to open at 10AM, but I had already been there for two hours, getting all the new releases unboxed and priced. Then, the calls started coming in. "Did you hear?" "Did you see?" "Did you get the new Dylan?" It was surreal, alright. By the time the second plane hit and NYC was in the throes of full chaos and terror, there were people on the Upper West Side, who still hadn't a clue as to what was going down downtown. They'd been out walking their dogs or shopping at Fairway, news free. We had the radio tuned in to WINS, all news radio, so anyone walking into the shop was taken aback. No music was playing, which never happened.

"What's going on with the radio?" 
"Didn't you hear?" 
 "What?! REALLY?! OH MY GOD! I gotta make a call. Oh wait, can I get the new Dylan?"
We sold about 50 copies of "Love & Theft" to people in some state of neo-catatonia. The store became a saloon without the alcohol. Regulars and walk-ins, just hung around, not knowing what to do, or what to say, desperately trying to keep it together. They browsed without really looking. Some were just standing around in tears. And through it all, many were still choking out, "So how is it, the Dylan?"
Sixteen years and five records worth of standards later, it is easy to dismiss Bob Dylan. People could barely understand what he was saying when he was 40. At 76, it really is too much work to pay attention. But I could not let another string of NYC concerts go by without seeing him one more time. When I secured the ticket, I felt something take over my body, a spirit of calm. Nothing else seemed to matter at the moment because I knew I was going to see Bob Dylan sing "Blowin' In The Wind."
If you could take your eyes off of Bob just for a minute, you will see Charlie Sexton playing some truly amazing licks on lead guitar. If you could stop dwelling on the fact that "Tangled Up In Blue" sounded nothing at all like "Tangled Up In Blue," you would have noticed an absolute monster rhythm section of Tony Garnier on bass and George Recile on drums. And if you just breathe out every so often, you will have seen Bob Dylan, stand like Elvis while singing Tony Bennett's hit "Once Upon A Time" and then pose with his hand on his hip during the guitar solo, as if to say, "You wanna say something about this?" I watched in amazement and listened with both my head and heart, to "It Ain't Me Babe" and "Desolation Row" and "Love Sick" and "Autumn Fucking Leaves!" NO, Bob! I don't wanna say anything. You keep on doing what you want. I'm good.

Back to "Mississippi" for a moment. I thought I knew that song and maybe I wasn't truly listening in the days after it was released. Those were some days. But last week, something happened. Something made me look up the lyrics and read along. And I was shaken, yet again. I keep reading, as if "Mississippi" is the new Serenity Prayer. At this moment, I can't think of any song more beautiful, more honest, more profound.

Back to last night's performance, if you're thinking, "Why bother?" Think again. It's Bob Dylan. I'd go every night for a month, if I could.


JWDen said...

Me too, Sal. Me too.

A walk in the woods said...

Great post. Dylan is the top of my musical pyramid and always will be, so of course I agree with your assessment. I mean, I got bored of what BobFanatics call The Set of recent years - the over-reliance on Sinatra songs - but the current version of The Set is a steamroller, at least when it's not being an amazing ballad performance.

Yes - if you're lucky to be in NYC right now, go see him during his 5-night Beacon stand. You could go tonight. Or Friday. Or Saturday. Or all. But definitely - GO.

Mr. Baez said...

Very good post. As always, thank you for your astute observations. If given a chance, the standard albums have some choice gems to offer, especially the "Fallen Angels" (check out "On a Little Street in Singapore"). I always go and see Dylan when he's in town. Always. That band of his is so tight and on some nights its just magical. And occasionally, some nights are like an idiosyncratic performance art piece a la Andy Kaufman.

dogbreath said...

I'm not a Dylan fan by any means (shock, horror, leave now!) but I have been entranced from time to time over the years by the sheer lyrical poetry of his wordsmithery. From acerbic to poignant to amusing. "Mississippi" is a good case in point. As is "Tangled Up In Blue", I think. And your comment about people not being able to understand what he's saying had me laughing because I've long held that Mr Dylan should record a duets album with Mr Van Morrison and that would flummox us all. Cheers!

peabody nobis said...

I didn't really appreciate Dylan until I was in my early 40's, starting with "Time Out Of Mind", and then I flipped backwards to "Blood On The Tracks", which led to the entire catalogue, of course. I anxiously awaited "Love And Theft", and then it was overshadowed by that horrific event. A damn shame, too. It was brilliant.
But I've been left cold by his 'crooning' records. "Together Through Life" and "Tempest" were the last Dylan records, for me at least.