Tuesday, May 25, 2010


So Bob Dylan is 69 plus one day today. I mention this only because, because... because I wanted to.

I missed the party last night. I was busy out in my studio finishing the first of two or three compositions I'm devising for the Bob Dylan Way Manhole Art Contest. I did get a few more details. You can submit more than one design. Also, these will be regular manhole covers, one color, embossed, not mini-murals. These are practical manhole covers, to be cast in iron.

Speaking of Dylan, this morning I remembered the first time I saw one of his albums. Ed Hilliker, whom I rode school bus with in junior high school, had The Freelwheelin' Bob Dylan with that iconic image of young Dylan walking through the streets of New York, head tilted forward against the wind, with a smiling woman in a green coat tightly clutching his arm. The liner notes were by Nat Hentoff, who followed the music scene and wrote for the Village Voice. Hentoff's fame stemmed from his intimate portraits of obscure jazz greats who were producing incredible sounds during the fertile fifties and sixties, before jazz filtered into the masses.

Hentoff's Liner Notes begin like this...

Of all the precipitously emergent singers of folk songs in the continuing renascence of that self-assertive tradition, none has equaled Bob Dylan singularity of impact. As Harry Jackson, a cowboy singer and a painter, has exclaimed: "He's so goddamned real it's unbelievable!" The irrepressible reality of Bob Dylan is a compound of spontaneity, candor, slicing wit and an uncommonly perceptive eye and ear for the way many of us constrict our capacity for living while a few of us don't.

Not yet twenty-two at the time of this album's release, Dylan is growing at a swift, experience-hungry rate. In these performances, there is already a marked change from his first album ("Bob Dylan," Columbia CL 1779/CS 8579), and there will surely be many further dimensions of Dylan to come. What makes this collection particularly arresting is that it consists in large part of Dylan's own compositions The resurgence of topical folk songs has become a pervasive part of the folk movement among city singers, but few of the young bards so far have demonstrated a knowledge of the difference between well-intentioned pamphleteering and the creation of a valid musical experience. Dylan has. As the highly critical editors of "Little Sandy Review" have noted, "...right now, he is certainly our finest contemporary folk song writer. Nobody else really even comes close."

The highlighted observation above proved to be dead on as far a prescience goes. Who would have thunk it? Dylan has appeared in more forms than a Hindu god.

This memorable album cover actually becomes a scene in the eternally recurring happy dream gone awry of Tom Cruise in the film Vanilla Sky. What's interesting to me is that the song which Cameron Crowe chooses to play while these Dylan-in-love copycat images are being displayed is not from Freewheelin', but rather is the song Fourth Time Around from Blonde On Blonde. Fourth Time Around implies "over and over again." Very interesting, and it's about something good gone bad.

Well, we're taking Dylan back to the streets again here in Duluth with a few new manhole covers for Bob Dylan Way. Deadline is just around the corner.


Mary Sheehan Winn said...

My first Dylan album was Bringin' it all Back Home. My parents were horrified!
I still love that record.

ENNYMAN said...

I still remember my dad listening to the music I was listening to... I don't think I can recall them ever being "horrified"... I do remember my dad seriously enjoying Slop John B by the Beach Boys. I vividly remember him listening in while we played the Rolling Stones' Their Satanic Majesty's Request. I think the title of the album was more shocking than the music.