Monday, July 20, 2020

Mergers: Dylan's Shooting Star Blends NIcely with Ring Them Bells

On Saturday my mother, whom I call each Saturday morning, mentioned that there is a comet visible in the night sky right now. She didn't recall the name but Google has answers for everything, and it is called Neowise, after the telescope that first sighted it. It is the largest comet since Hale-Bopp, located beneath the Big Dipper in the North sky.

Saturday evening we had thunderstorms and you can't see comets through the clouds. Last night at 2:00 a.m., however, the clarity was spectacular.

We live on a rural patch outside Duluth with no light pollution to fog up the night sky. Unfortunately, with the current tilt of the earth, theBig Dipper is lying in the treetops. I walked out to the road, which runs North-South, and found the famous constellation still too low on the horizon.

As I headed back to the house I saw a shooting star, and yes, it made me think of someone. And naturally, that flying spark across the sky brought this song to mind.

Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of you
You were trying to break into another world
A world I never knew
I always kind of wondered
If you ever made it through
Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of you

* * * *

Well, what happened next was quite intriguing. As I began singing Shooting Star in my head, I simultaneously began hearing Ring Them Bells.

Remember when we were children learning to sing parts and rounds? "Row row row your boat" was my first introduction to the concept of different tunes and words blending harmoniously. "Merrily merrily merrily merrily" life was such a dream.

So in the middle of the night I began composing, or re-shuffling, the two songs into one.

Ring them bells ye heathen from the city that dreams
Seen a shooting star tonight and I thought of you
Ring them bells from the sanctuaries cross the valleys and streams
You were trying to break into another world a world I never knew
For they're deep and they're wide and the world is on its side
I always kind of wondered if you ever made it through
And time is running backwards and so is the bride
Seen a shooting star tonight and I thought of you

* * * *

It helps if you've already listened to Oh Mercy a gazillion times and have internalized the words and melodies, but if not, you can put the album on one song and sing the other to see how they fit together. Is it a coincidence, or was there some form of intentionality here? Or perhaps,

As it turns out, this wasn't the first time I paired these two songs in my mind. In 2017 as I explored the content of "Shooting Star" I similarly compared it with "Ring Them Bells," not the tune and rhythm of the words, but rather the themes. You can read that effort here: Shooting Star: Bookend on Dylan's Monumental Oh Mercy.

Have you ever done this sort of thing?

* * * *

In the Meantime, Philip Hale shared a link to this Wall of Power Radio Hour in which Paul Metsa talks with Ann Margaret Daniel about Dylan's latest double-CD of original songs, Rough and Rowdy Ways.  R&RW has a LOT to digest, and like so many of Dylan previous work, it's gets more rewarding with each listen. You can expect to read more about that when the buds are ripe and ready to bloom.

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