Monday, May 26, 2014

Just Thinking... of a Series of Dreams

One of the recurring themes in David Kinney's The Dylanologists is how Dylan's fans and followers are forever trying to figure him out. Who is the real Bob Dylan? Some have read the books and studied the lyrics, but have even gone further. This weekend while at the Howard Street Booksellers during Dylan Days in Hibbing I came across Alan Weberman's concordance of the words of Bob Dylan's songs.

In my experience, a concordance is a reference tool that Bible scholars use, the most famous being Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, which included interpretations of the original Greek and Hebrew words of Scripture. The very idea of a Dylan-themed index to his lyrics struck me as somewhat far out. But then again, if one uses it as a tool, and does not imply any equivalence in import between Dylan's words and the Bible, then I can accept such a volume. My guess is that it's a very small audience that this book is written for.

Even with all these tools, the task of "who he is" has to be an impossibility. As Kinney concludes near the end of his book, Dylan goes out of his way to hide himself. "Dylan... preferred to leave people wondering. He preferred the mask. You could even argue that Dylan considered the mask the point of the whole enterprise."

Even his autobiographical Chronicles is rife with deceptions, according to sources I cannot at this time reveal.

Bob and Scarlet, mid-1970's
Whereas some Dylan songs have a straight-up presentation, there are countless others steeped in obscurity, yet sometimes even these have meanings that extend beyond the pale. In my recent interview with the famed violinist I asked Scarlet Rivera what her favorite Dylan songs were. She included Series of Dreams on her short list. Last Tuesday Ms. Rivera unexpectedly attended our Dylan Fest poetry event, so I had a chance to affirm that this was also a favorite of mine. She then said something interesting. She said that her image appeared two times in in the song and the viewer can interpret and decipher what those two appearances mean within this Series of very personal Dreams.

In other words, maybe the Dylanologists who dig for meanings are onto something. There's more than meets the eye. Then again, if there's a lack of clarity,maybe it's intentional. You get out of it what you need to get. If it flies past your comprehension, it is what it is.

* * * *

I get asked from time to time which is my favorite Dylan song, and I laugh. Not possible to list one. I do, however, have lists of favorites. Favorite acoustic, favorite lyrics, favorites that get most played over the years, favorite live versions, favorites for their significance.... Series of Dreams would make a few lists. It has certainly received plenty of playtime in my life. What impresses me in part is how the music conveys the hauntedness of the lyrics. Both -- music and lyrics -- emerge and merge in surrealistic streams from a nebulous center somewhere in the deep places of Dylan's soul, and connect with my own deep places.

The poetic phrasings are woven throughout with an originality that is completely Dylan. Who else would write a song like this? "I was thinking of a series of dreams..." From this matter of fact opening statement everything flows out. It's a mature Dylan making life observations from a place further down the road.

I, too, relate to this imagery because there is an unreal quality to dreams, and in this instance, to memory and ultimately life. There are times when one is older that our memories and experiences are something akin to a series of dreams made of tissue being disintegrated by time. And like the images in the song we try to grasp their meanings which, like dreams, are uniquely our own and not always understood, if there are meanings at all.

* * * *

While preparing for a book signing in Tampa a couple months ago it dawned on me that my own writing career began with a series of dreams. Like many of us I found my dreams fascinating and in seventh grade I decided to begin recording my dreams. My justification may have been that my dreams were more interesting than my real life. As time went on my ability to recollect these subterranean subconscious experiences became very advanced. I could recall up to five fully developed episodes and record them in detail upon waking.

This habit of writing out my dreams resulted in a daily discipline of putting words on paper. After college I began a regular journal, and in 2007 this daily habit morphed into the blog which you are now reading. But it began with...

A Series of Dreams

I was thinking of a series of dreams
Where nothing comes up to the top
Everything stays down where it's rooted
And comes to a permanent stop

Wasn't thinking of anything specific
Like in a dream, where someone wakes up and screams
Nothing too very scientific
Just thinking of a series of dreams.

Thinking of a series of dreams
Where the time and the tempo drag
And there's no exit in any direction
'Cept the one that you can't see with your eyes

Wasn't making any great connection
Wasn't falling for any intricate schemes
Nothing that would pass inspection
Just thinking of a series of dreams

Dreams where the umbrella is open
And into the path you are hurled
And the cards are no good that you're holding
Unless they're from another world

In one, the surface was frozen
In another, I witnessed a crime
In one, I was running and in another
All I seemed to be doing was climb

Wasn't looking for any special assistance
Nor going to any great extremes
I'd already gone the distance
Just thinking of a series of dreams

Dreams where the umbrella is open
And into the path you are hurled
And the cards are no good that you're holding
Unless they're from other world

I'd already gone the distance
Just thinking of a series of dreams
Just thinking of a series of dreams
Just thinking of a series of dreams



Anonymous said...

I just found your blog post via Expecting Rain, and wanted to add a comment.

It would seem Ms. Rivera is not aware that Bob himself had virtually no involvement whatsoever in the creation or editing of the music video for "Series of Dreams," which I can only assume is what you and she were talking about when she mentioned that her image appeared two times in "the song."

Starting with the promo video for "Series of Dreams," and continuing till the present (save for a few notable exceptions), Dylan began completely abdicating any and all responsibilities for such things and entrusting his confidant/manager Jeff Rosen to simply hire filmmakers to compile "collage videos" out of the piles of footage in Bob's archives.

For "Series of Dreams," there were two versions of the video made: one in B&W and the other in color, with slight content/stylistic differences between the two.

Dylan's sole participation in either/both videos, was to show up in an urban industrial area for about 4 hours one day, wearing motorcycle boots, a heavy, hooded sweatshirt and aviator shades, and wander around some alleyways while being filmed.

A scant few seconds' worth of grainy, random images from that "shoot" found their way into the song's finished promo videos.

The only likely reason (if there even is one) that Ms. Rivera's image is included in the melange of flashing visuals in those videos is that the convoluted mashup of different clips from the entire course of Dylan's career up to that point relied heavily on footage from the "lost" feature film Renaldo & Clara, which was shot on the Rolling Thunder Revue Tour during the one time in which Ms. Rivera was consistently around Dylan.

As that footage is some of the least accessible and most rarely seen in Dylan's vault, the filmmaker relied on it heavily to make the "Series of Dreams" video of particular interest for fans, who would no doubt watch it over and over again, searching for nonexistent "clues" as to its "real meaning," as, it seems, did Ms. Rivera.

I'm not trying to be dismissive, or rude at all. Just pointing out that her appearance in the video is essentially random, and, more to the point, had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any directive or input from Dylan.

Hope this information is helpful.

- Lonesomefetter

ENNYMAN said...

Yes, on many levels.