Thursday, March 3, 2011

Suze Rotolo, Vanilla Sky and 4th Time Around

The other night I was talking with a magazine publisher about music and movies. He asked me what I thought of the film Vanilla Sky which he had recently watched twice. I said it was a favorite. He said not everyone feels that way. He especially liked the soundtrack which ultimately led to a discussion of Dylan's 4th Time Around which is equally cryptic as the film but, like Vanilla Sky, is a story that can be figured out.

You may recall the scene where David Aames (Tom Cruise) and Sofia (Penelope Cruz) are walking down a New York City avenue dressed in the manner of the cover photo on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. It's a poignant moment in the film and was a fertile period in young Bob Dylan's career, this being his second album.

The next morning, I woke to learn that the girl on Dylan's arm, Suze Rotolo, Dylan's girl friend and significant early influence, died this week at age 67 after a long illness.

According to a Wall Street Journal article by Stephen Miller, Ms. Rotolo had more to offer the young singer than good looks. She introduced him to the works of Picasso, Kandinsky, and Red Grooms. She gave Mr. Dylan his first exposure to poets such as Byron and Rimbaud and the songs of Brecht and Weill. She brought him to meetings of the Congress of Racial Equality and to protest marches.

Before too long, they moved in together in an apartment on West 4th Street. The relationship was close but occasionally tumultuous. Ms. Rotolo wrote that as Mr. Dylan's fame grew, their relationship diminished. "I was very young, I was still forming myself, but I did know I wasn't a musician, nor was I a musician's 'chick,' " she wrote.

In 1964 they separated and she later went on to have a career as an artist and designer.

What I find especially interesting about the scene in Vanilla Sky is that many, if not most, people who saw the album cover in the film perhaps connected 4th Time Around with that album. but in reality the song is from the double album Blonde On Blonde. It's delicate guitar and laconic harmonica make a deliciously memorable accompaniment.

4th Time Around

When she said
“Don’t waste your words, they’re just lies”
I cried she was deaf
And she worked on my face until breaking my eyes
Then said, “What else you got left?”
It was then that I got up to leave
But she said, “Don’t forget
Everybody must give something back
For something they get”

I stood there and hummed
I tapped on her drum and asked her how come
And she buttoned her boot
And straightened her suit
Then she said, “Don’t get cute”
So I forced my hands in my pockets
And felt with my thumbs
And gallantly handed her
My very last piece of gum

She threw me outside
I stood in the dirt where evryone walked
And after finding I’d
Forgotten my shirt
I went back and knocked
I waited in the hallway, she went to get it
And I tried to make sense
Out of that picture of you in your wheelchair
That leaned up against . . .

Her Jamaican rum
And when she did come, I asked her for some
She said, “No, dear”
I said, “Your words aren’t clear
You’d better spit out your gum”
She screamed till her face got so red
Then she fell on the floor
And I covered her up and then
Thought I’d go look through her drawer

And when I was through
I filled up my shoe
And brought it to you
And you, you took me in
You loved me then
You didn’t waste time
And I, I never took much
I never asked for your crutch
Now don’t ask for mine

Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music

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