Bob Dylan in performance: song, stage, and screen 2019009412, 9781498582636, 9781498582643, 149858263X

This study of Bob Dylan's art employs a performance studies lens, exploring the distinctive ways he brings words an

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Bob Dylan in Performance

Bob Dylan in Performance Song, Stage, and Screen

By Keith Nainby and John M. Radosta

LEXINGTON BOOKS

Lanham • Boulder • New York • London

Published by Lexington Books An imprint of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. 4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706 www.rowman.com 6 Tinworth Street, London SE11 5AL, United Kingdom Copyright © 2019 The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Nainby, Keith, author. | Radosta, John M. author. Title: Bob Dylan in performance : song, stage, and screen / Keith Nainby and John M. Radosta. Description: Lanham : Lexington Books, [2019] | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2019009412| ISBN 9781498582636 (cloth : alk. paper) | ISBN 9781498582643 (electronic) Subjects: LCSH: Dylan, Bob, 1941—Criticism and interpretation. | Dylan, Bob, 1941—Performances. Classification: LCC ML420.D98 N25 2019 | DDC 782.42164092--dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019009412 The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992. Printed in the United States of America

Contents

Credits vii Acknowledgments xv

Part I: Formations

1

 1 Eternal Circle:

3

Dylan and Performance

 2 About the Songs (what they’re about):

31

Dylan and the Popular Song Tradition

 3 Like a Rolling Stone:

59

Dylan and the Rock Tradition

 4 Hero Blues:

101

Dylan and the Bardic Tradition

 5 The Wicked Messenger:

127

Dylan’s Vocal Resources

v

vi

Contents

Part II: Transformations

143

 6 Simple Twist of Fate:

145

Dylan (re)working songs live

 7 Bob Dylan’s Dream:

161

Reworking Songs in the Studio

 8 Tempest:

181

Bob Dylan’s Personae Spanning Two Centuries

 9 Masked and Anonymous:

209

Bob Dylan and Cinema

10 Gonna Change My Way of Thinking:

245

Bob Dylan and the Evangelical Tradition Coda: An Idiosyncratic Guide to a Bob Dylan Concert

259

Bibliography, Discography, and Videography

267

Index 287 About the Authors

000

Credits

We want to thank Special Rider Music for allowing us to include song lyrics from the following Bob Dylan compositions.

  1. “Eternal Circle,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1963, 1964, by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992, by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission.   2. “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1963, 1964, by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992, by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission.   3. “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission.   4. “Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood),” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1967 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1995 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission.   5. “I Am a Lonesome Hobo,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1968 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1996 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission.   6. “All I Really Want to Do,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission.  7. “No Time to Think,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1978 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission.

vii

viii

Credits

 8. “Most of the Time,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1989 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission.   9. “Make You Feel My Love,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1997 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 10. “Moonlight,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2001 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 11. “Workingman’s Blues #2,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2006 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 12. “Like a Rolling Stone,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 13. “Outlaw Blues,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 14. “Ballad of a Thin Man,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 15. “Queen Jane Approximately,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 16. “Maggie’s Farm,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 17. “Tombstone Blues,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 18. “From a Buick 6,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 19. “Highway 61 Revisited,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 20. “Desolation Row,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 21. “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission.



Credits

ix

22. “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later),” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 23. “I Want You,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 24. “Pledging My Time,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 25. “In the Garden,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1980 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 26. “Roll On John,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 27. “If You See Her, Say Hello,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 28. “Shelter from the Storm,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 29. “My Back Pages,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 30. “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 31. “Golden Loom,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1975 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2003 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 32. “Lonesome Day Blues,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2001 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 33. “Idiot Wind,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 34. “Soon after Midnight,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 35. “I Shall Be Free #10,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1971 by Special Rider Music; renewed 1999 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission.

x

Credits

36. “Day of the Locusts,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1970 by Big Sky Music; renewed 1998 by Big Sky Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 37. “I Shall Be Free,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1963, 1967, by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1995, by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 38.  “Floater (Too Much to Ask),” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2001 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 39. “Tell Me, Momma,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1971 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1999 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 40. “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below),” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1975, 1976, by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2003, 2004, by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 41. “Clean Cut Kid,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1984 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 42.  “Drifter’s Escape,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1968 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1996 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 43.  “Ain’t Talkin’,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2006 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 44. “Nettie Moore,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2006 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 45. “Spirit on the Water,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2006 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 46. “Tempest,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 47. “Sugar Baby,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2001 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 48. “It’s All Good,” written by Bob Dylan with Robert Hunter. Copyright © 2009 by Special Rider Music and Ice Nine Publishing. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 49.  “Brownsville Girl,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1986 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission.



Credits

xi

50. “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” written by Bob Dylan with Robert Hunter. Copyright © 2009 by Special Rider Music and Ice Nine Publishing. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 51. “Solid Rock,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1980 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 52.  “Caribbean Wind,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1985 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 53. “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1981 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 54. “Every Grain of Sand,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1981 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 55. “Gotta Serve Somebody,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 56. “I Believe In You,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 57.  “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1962, 1965, by Duchess Music Corporation; renewed 1990, 1993, by MCA. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 58. “When He Returns,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 59.  “When You Gonna Wake Up,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 60. “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 61. “Things Have Changed,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1999 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 62. “Summer Days,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2001 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 63. “Pay in Blood,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission.

xii

Credits

64. “Scarlet Town,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 65.  “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1964, 1966 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992, 1994, by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 66. “Mr. Tambourine Man,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1964, 1965, by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992, 1993, by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 67. “Visions of Johanna,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 68. “Tangled Up in Blue,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 69. “You’re a Big Girl Now,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 70. “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 71. “On the Road Again,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 72. “Positively 4th Street,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 73. “Early Roman Kings,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 74. “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 75. “Slow Train,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 76. “The Walls of Red Wing,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 77. “Walking Down the Line,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1963, 1965, by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1993, by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission.



Credits

xiii

78. “I Feel a Change Comin’ On,” written by Bob Dylan with Robert Hunter. Copyright © 2009 by Special Rider Music and Ice Nine Publishing. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 79. “Under Your Spell,” written by Bob Dylan and Carol Bayer Sager. Copyright © 1986 by Special Rider Music and Carol Bayer Sager Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 80. “Black Diamond Bay,” written by Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy. Copyright © 1975 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2003 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. 81. “Love Sick,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1997 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission.

Acknowledgments

The

authors would like to thank our spouses, Amy Kilgard and Mayre Plunkett, for broad-ranging forms of care and support that we cannot fully articulate in this space. Two writers could not possibly be more fortunate than we are to have such loving, thoughtful, precise, and wise readers sharing the journey of this book with us. Nick Radosta, too, provided time, encouragement, and understanding that were greatly needed and appreciated. We would like to thank Matt McSorley and Jonathan Sherer for their loyal friendship over more than three decades and for helping us become the listeners we are. Shelton Hall’s Writers Floor can add another book to its shelves. We would like to thank our editors at Lexington, Courtney Morales and Lindsey Porambo Falk, for initially encouraging our project and for providing consistent guidance and support; David Beal at Special Rider Music for his timely and good-humored efforts to help us secure permissions; the librarians and staff at the Boston Public Library for expert research assistance, as well as J Troy at the Milton High School library for extraordinary creative problem-solving; Jeff Stoodt for his help with the American Songbook; Kristine Weglarz and Josh Toth for supporting earlier research on Dylan; and Peter Vernezze for his insightful and supportive review of our manuscript. We would like to thank Bob Dylan for inspiring us through his art. We have done our best to frame in words just some of the ways his art moves us and moves through us. It has been a fascinating journey through his history and ours. Finally, we would like to thank Sir Christopher Ricks for sharing his wisdom, insights, and humor with us when we were barely old enough to begin to recognize the enduring impact they would have on our lives. Our fervent hope is that he might take a small measure of pride in this book and perceive his great influence on it. xv

I FORMATIONS

1 “Eternal Circle” Dylan and Performance

We begin our examination of Bob Dylan’s performances, and their impact,

with a brief discussion, not of a song by Dylan but of one by his early contemporaries, the Beatles. Dylan and the Beatles were each at the vanguard of the transformation of leading popular musicians that took place in the 1960s, from “idols” sold to a particular fan base to multimedia-marketed icons with widespread cultural influence extending even beyond the entertainment industry—they were, in essence, early versions of the “rock star” archetype.1 Furthermore, Dylan is acknowledged as a key influence in the Beatles’ own transformation, through their efforts to create album‑length artistic statements that might become meaningful for listeners beyond the immediate stimulation of the two‑and‑a‑half‑minute single for radio airplay.2 Yet this transformation was still in the Beatles’ future when, in December 1963, “I Saw Her Standing There” was released in the United States as the B side of what would be a number one single for the group, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”3 “I Saw Her Standing There” was ranked #140 in the list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” by Rolling Stone in 2004.4 The opening three lines of the Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There,” in conjunction with the music in the song (characterized by MacDonald as “most representative of their [early] Liverpool club songs” that established their hit‑making sound), illustrate what Johnson describes as the primary performance approach of popular music, especially pop and rock in the mid‑twentieth century as mass‑marketed commercial singles flourished: the goal of making an immediate, easy‑to‑internalize and easy‑to‑communally‑embrace impression on listeners:5

3

4

Chapter 1

She was just seventeen Well, you know what I mean

Here, the narrator relies on precise framing of the object of his6 affections, ascribing to her certain implications dependent on her age followed directly with a verbal wink at listeners by indicating shared knowledge of these very implications. The narrator then strives to affirm listeners’ expectations of him and of the object of his affections: That before too long I’d fall in love with her

This narrator thereby directs the vector of his feeling toward the endpoint of the altered state of “love” he ascribes to himself. Dylan, provocatively, moves in his performances to flout each of these three postures—the precise framing, the expectation of shared knowledge, the narrative arc that drives toward a recognizable endpoint—on a consistent basis. McDonald claims that the choice of “just seventeen,” the liminally‑described age of the “she” in these lines, suggests in the context of early 1960s British culture not a young woman who has barely attained this age but, specifically, a young woman who is now on the cusp of the worldly wise, no longer innocent, moving into the adult world of sexual knowledge rooted in the gyrations of the dancing body.7 She represents, according to McDonald, the danger and thrill of that sexual knowledge. This implication depends on the precision of the age, of its cusp, of its relevance in the cultural context McDonald describes—and the narrator embraces this shared understanding; “Well, you know what I mean” marks the sharing between narrator and listener as effective (“well, you know”) and also bears the tone of an inside joke. As in so many pop songs, gravitational pull becomes the metaphor for the inevitability of the outcome: once our narrator has come into relation with a young woman whose nature we, the listeners, collectively grasp, the result is assured—the “fall” into “love.” In Dylan’s work, as we will demonstrate throughout this book, we do not encounter precise links of narrators’ paramours to easily available, comfortable cultural tropes. We do not find an embrace of shared knowledge between narrators and listeners, nor do we find narrators who lurch into love affairs that follow predetermined arcs. Instead, we encounter characters described in ways that confound our expectations. Meanings are deferred, and narrative closure consistently frustrated. Our central claim is that Dylan’s art confounds and defers and resists, that it works through mystery and multiplicity to challenge us as listeners.



“Eternal Circle”

5

Dylan accomplishes this most powerfully through his distinctive performance choices as a singer. John Doe of the band X claims, “Bob Dylan is not just a great songwriter, he’s a great singer. . . . Every time he stands at the microphone he treats it like it’s his last performance.”8 Williams, rebutting “that old canard about Dylan being good in spite of his singing,” insists, “People don’t know what singing is. It’s delivery. . . . [W]hat I want to know is, how much do I hear when that voice speaks to me? Is there an audible, complex consciousness present in the enunciation of every noun, verb, and pronoun? When there is, it’s not because of the words.”9 We contend that “it,” the complexity of Dylan’s art, is partly because of the words, as well as the musical settings of the songs. But we agree that his vocal performance choices make the most important difference, given that the words reach us through creative singing, and we make these choices a primary focus in our study. As we do so, we identify the ways in which Dylan’s choices—as songwriter, performer and musician—are products of particular cultural environments and, in turn, help to reconstitute these cultural environments as influential texts. Treating Dylan not merely as poet nor songwriter but as performer is an approach advocated by scholars before us, especially Bowden, Williams and Marshall.10 Bowden emphasizes Dylan’s voice in aural recordings, while Williams primarily explores his live concert performances and Marshall frames the development of his “star image” within evolving cultural settings. Our goal is to build on their work by attending closely to the artist’s array of performance choices across a variety of texts—aural recordings, visual recordings, live performances—and situating these within the cultural contexts that shape their meaning and that they, in turn, shape by becoming meaningful to listeners. We consider Dylan, in this book, as a performing artist who works on us by working on our ears (and occasionally our eyes) on his way into our minds and hearts. In the remainder of this introductory chapter, we first suggest some points of entry to a performance‑based lens on Dylan’s narrators’ distinct engagements with listeners, and simultaneously provide an example of his embrace of ambiguity and resistance to narrative closure, by exploring the song “Eternal Circle.” We then frame Dylan as a contemporary culture figure and provide a brief overview of his career. We follow this with a section describing how and why we adopt a performance‑based lens to examine Dylan’s body of work, and we conclude with a description of the organizational plan of the book. “Eternal Circle” is a relatively obscure Dylan recording from a 1964 session that was released for the first time more than a quarter of a century

6

Chapter 1

later, on The Bootleg Series: Volume Two. Its lyrics, on the surface, figure the narrator’s fleeting erotic connection with a woman listening raptly in his audience. But these lyrics also offer a compelling, imagistic reading of performative arts—of their engagement with particular times and places, of their complex dimensions of power and paucity. In this way, they serve as an excellent introduction to our design in this book, which is to consider how Dylan’s performance choices are a vital component of his musical legacy. In the first line of “Eternal Circle” the narrator defines both the nature and pace of his performative act: “I sang the song slowly.”11 By beginning this way, he throws us into an interactional context wholly defined by the act of performance, by the mode and manner in which it unfolds. This precise, performance‑based frame is reinforced immediately in the remainder of the opening stanza by his nameless interlocutor’s move toward him, their windows to one another’s souls (“eyes”) and their own senses of identity (“I’s”) each entwined in time through song: “She called with her eyes / To the tune I’s a playin’.”12 Here, her movement is not only impelled by the song’s rhythm but borne upon it continuously, inescapably, as the move is from “she stood in the shadows” to “she stepped to the light,”13 with the choice of “to the light” rather than “into the light” casting her movement into relief as an ongoing action, as a fluid vector betwixt darkness and brightness rather than an arrival at an already‑illuminated, fated endpoint. The totality, the boundedness in time and place of this performance frame will eventually be clinched by the closing lines, “So I picked up my guitar / And began the next song” as the final act in response to the narrator’s failed “searchin’” for “her shadow”;14 but this short song (2:38 in the released recording) is indeed “long” in meaning and has after this first stanza, like its narrator and his interlocutor with their “I’s” called into being by the tune, “only begun.”15 This introduction to the interlocutor is shadowy in both the visual and conceptual senses. We know nothing about her other than her gender; we will not learn her name nor her age, and no physical description of any of her permanent features or attire will be forthcoming. Throughout the song even her actions are conveyed, not as if they reveal an independent set of motivations, but as if they are recognizable solely in relation to the narrator, defined solely within the contours of the sung performance recounted by the narrator—a practice common to many characters in the worlds sung into being by Dylan. In his own comments, in resistance to others’ efforts to define him as a poet or a spokesperson for political causes, Dylan defines himself as a “song and dance man”—foregrounding the act of performance as circumscribing his relevance and purpose.16 He has also suggested that his songs are meant not to be read but to be sung;17 that he began writing songs because he “needed to sing” them;18 that he does not, when recording, attempt to commit to posterity



“Eternal Circle”

7

any definitive version of any song but merely to sketch songs aurally so he can move on to a new performance and new songwriting, a vision of studio process as aural journal;19 and that his continuing practice of extensively touring each year since 1989 without linking his tours to the promotion of any specific album, a pattern widely labeled the “Never Ending Tour,” is linked to his experience that “playing music is a full‑time job . . . it’s hard to shut it off and on again like a faucet.”20 These remarks and other, similar claims by the artist, while not necessarily a key to the cypher of Dylan’s recording art, collectively encourage us to confront that art, not as a collection of calcified texts, but as a series of performative moments, constituted through their enactment, like the interaction dramatized so gorgeously in “Eternal Circle.” The song’s second stanza indexes the ability of performative acts to move across broad spans of time and of space. In the stanza’s first line, a technology designed to tear through extraordinary temporal and spatial barriers, the “bullet,” is metaphorically shot through with “light,”21 a natural phenomenon that explodes through these same barriers with even greater power than the bullet itself. Is the thrill of their imagined connection here illuminating for the narrator? Is it wounding? Both at once? Perhaps necessarily both at once, as Scarry suggests that experiences of unutterable pain through which we confront our embodied separation from one another, at the outer barrier of our skin, are also foundations for our efforts to bridge these gulfs with communication.22 The second line maintains this ambiguity of solipsistic pain and recognition‑based knowledge, as the vulnerable skin of “her face” mentioned next as if in peril from the weapon is immediately enriched, enlivened as a surface capable of “reflectin’” later in the same line.23 Dylan executes here a comparatively denser etching of one single verbal image by juxtaposing it with a second, more delicate or translucent one—“her face” resolving a bit for us amid the murk when it begins “reflectin’.” This is a literary device Scarry traces authors using across several important texts.24 Here, there is a poetic reward for the unresolved tension between the surface wholeness of the interlocutor’s face and the comparative ephemerality of its reflection, between the fear of knowledge marked by the bullet and the yearning for knowledge marked by the light. Conceptual ambiguity, like characterological ambiguity, is a common approach in Dylan’s work. Time, too, like light, can both conjoin us and tear away at us in the ephemeral world of this performance, as the third line of the second stanza laments the narrator’s “fast fading words”;25 space shares these same two capacities for conjunction and disjunction in the fourth line’s marking of the interlocutor’s “long distance look.”26 What physical materials enable these dualities of time and space in performance? Through what means do they press upon our skin even from afar, like the bullet that was fired to signal the start of this

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stanza? Suggestions later in the stanza include the vibrating columns of air on which breath and sound travel, through the description of the “words” having “rolled from my tongue,” and the heat associated with both breath and light in the trope of “fire” in “her eyes”—a trope that closes the “bullet” stanza’s figurative circle.27 Hot breath here suggests a kiss, but in this song the kiss is eternally withdrawn. The fourth and fifth stanzas draw the narrator and interlocutor closer together, tantalizingly: At the start of the fourth, the narrator’s performance remains rooted in music but more closely, precisely responsive to her, as he “danced a circle / Across her clear outline.”28 Sounds undulate now like the compress of an accordion, as “the tune” has “drifted out,”29 extending between them so that their voices are separated in time but still relationally rooted enough that the narrator can feel their force against the surface of air: “She breathed hard through the echo.”30 The onomatopoeia of “echo,” with its weakly‑stressed second syllable dissipating and decaying even further by the open vocalization of the long “o” vowel that signals a connection already starting to lapse even in the moment of meeting, is reechoed in a long‑distance rhyme in the same position of the fifth stanza—the piercing weapon no longer the instantaneous, time‑and‑space‑pinching bullet but the weightier, deliberate, rigidly structured intimacy of an “arrow.”31 This pressure is felt as a repetition in this fifth stanza, the “hard” breath of the echo a reified conception as “her thoughts pounded hard,”32 narrator and interlocutor now as close as two people can get: one’s thoughts interlacing another’s. Yet the interlocutor here is, of course, not an independent subject but an object of the narrator’s imagination (or recollection, but within the song an object of that recollection nevertheless). However “hard” her thoughts pounded, the narrator distances the pain of that pounding through this act of (re)imagining, the key distinction between the experience of our limited bodies in pain and that of our outward‑projecting imagination according to Scarry.33 She argues that acts of imaginative creation like this have the ability “to remake human sentience; by means of the poem [or song], he or she enters into and in some way alters the alive percipience of other persons,” a process that she maintains depends on reciprocity between artist and audience.34 Perhaps this reciprocity between singer and listener is the “eternal circle” that lends the song its name. The physical experience of our bodies, captured in description of air and sound and interaction and performance in the fourth and fifth stanzas, is reemphasized at the start of the sixth and final stanza, as “the tune” did not end nor fade but “finally folded.”35 The metaphor of the “fold” connotes a drawing inward, a retreat from the fulsomeness of knowledge‑based extension we have been taught to expect as a reward for listening—the narrative will not



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close its arc but will, instead, “fold.” The connection made possible through the performative act of the song bends upon itself at the end, layering itself until it is ready to “roll [out again] from” the narrator’s “tongue,” this song linked in a chain of utterances to the next in its final line, “And began the next song.”36 What we address throughout this book is the set of engagements we allow ourselves, as listeners (and occasionally, viewers) when we interact with Dylan’s recorded art. In this sense, this book is a work, not of musicology nor music theory, but of phenomenology. Our interest is in the way we hear Dylan taking up language, breathing into the air with and through that language,37 using recording technologies to meet us as the narrator of “Eternal Circle” presses his heat and light onto the skin and into the thoughts of “she.” This book is our response, our effort to step “to the light.” DYLAN AS A CULTURAL FIGURE Bob Dylan’s stature as a performer and songwriter of transformative cultural significance from 1963 forward, especially within the United States and the United Kingdom, has been outlined by scholars within formal disciplines who describe his impact from the scholarly perspectives of American history,38 English literature,39 and political movements.40 His profound effects on musical culture—on the audiences who have responded to music over the past sixty years—have been similarly explored by scholars whose bodies of work developed through journalistic publications and the popular press, in a more systematic manner than in traditional disciplines associated with music.41 In this book, we examine Dylan’s lasting influence within popular music and the cultures that have emerged in response to popular music, using research from performance studies, sound studies and literary criticism. Extending the research approaches described above, we situate him not as a sociopolitical catalyst, nor as a text‑based poet of the sort who might earn Nobel Laureate recognition (as he did in 2016). Instead, we situate him as a performing artist who articulates songs—his own and others’—in distinctive, and distinctively compelling, ways that help shape our understanding of our contemporary culture. Our endeavor is, from the outset, an ambitious one: we strive to sketch here the figure of an artist whose most extraordinary and successful quality is his own ongoing, apparently ceaseless trickster‑like refiguring of himself and the very cultural ground on which he finds himself, a process we trace across his long career. Clues to Dylan’s self‑aware and persistent embrace of this artistic process of refiguration abound, but they are perhaps most cogent in his statement at his 1964 Halloween concert in New York City42 that, “I’ve

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got my Bob Dylan mask on”; in the harlequin‑style makeup he dons in the filmed recordings of “Rolling Thunder Revue” tours of 1975 and 1976;43 in the reassignment of the role of a character named “Bob Dylan” in the 1978 film Renaldo and Clara; and in the similar reassignment of roles in the self‑referential 2003 film Masked and Anonymous. The 2007 film I’m Not There, which was not produced by Dylan, relies on this same trope of multiple masks by casting a range of different actors to portray him over separate periods of time, and scholars such as Day and Scobie have explored the theme of multiple personae in his work, as we do in chapter 8 of this book.44 Dylan is a performing artist whose mimetic activities, though ephemeral in some respects as time distances us from them and as we no longer have access to those “live” elements once present in the shared spaces of concerts, are nevertheless extensively archived in a series of studio and live audio recordings as well as in films and videos. In these documented acts of articulation, he takes up texts from their broader cultural contexts and reworks them; given his immense as the twenty-fifth best‑selling artist of all time tracked by album sales,45 his (re)articulations are taken up again by listeners (and often by Dylan himself in some self‑referential moments) and become woven within these freshly‑enlivened cultural contexts. The present writers each were introduced to Dylan’s work in the 1980s, during the so‑called nadir of his creative output. Though John was born only a few weeks before the Woodstock Festival, the site of which was ostensibly held as an homage to the “retired” Dylan, he had been raised in a bubble of 1970s soft rock. That bubble was popped only with the advent of MTV: a steady stream of British techno‑pop and New Wave albums found their way onto his turntable. The stream bent in September of 1984, when a friend had an extra ticket to see Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” tour. Even then, though, John’s focus was on popular music, not “classic” rock. It was only with the release of USA for Africa’s video for “We Are the World” that everything changed. When he asked who the guy with the scratchy voice was, his father produced a mono recording of Highway 61 Revisited from the console stereo. After the rich textures of “Like a Rolling Stone” and the heady imagery of “Desolation Row,” the tunes of Duran Duran and New Order seemed to be only jingles. “Emo” music had nothing on the intense alienation described in “Ballad of a Thin Man.” Dylan’s Biograph, the first boxed set (with a different version of “Mixed‑Up Confusion” than what was on the later CD release), came out soon after that, and then his tour with Tom Petty came to town. That was the first of forty-seven shows John has seen so far. Dylan’s work has led him through the byzantine world of blues and the Anthology of American Folk Music, through Beat literature and a deeper understanding of



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history. It led him into the classroom as a high school English teacher, and to become a writer himself. Keith was born in 1970, four years after the motorcycle crash that resulted in Dylan’s withdrawal from the vanguard of 1960s culture, by which time his place at the center of twentieth-century popular music was already assured.46 In about 1984, he became a serious listener to “classic rock” music as well as the contemporary music most directly influenced by “classic rock” radio’s pantheon of deities, who included the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and—if we mean only ever actually playing on the air “Like a Rolling Stone” or “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35”—Bob Dylan. When he arrived at college, certain of Dylan’s secure place in the canon of serious rock music, he still knew only those two songs. He had heard the Peter, Paul and Mary version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” and the Byrds’ version of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” but was unfamiliar with Dylan’s performances of these songs or with Dylan’s larger repertoire. His passionate—all right, perhaps obsessive—interest in Dylan’s work began later, kindled by two roommates who were hardcore Dylan lovers (and lifelong friends, it turned out). These friends—one of them John—urged him to enroll in a Shakespeare course taught by Christopher Ricks because Ricks was known to cite Dylan in his lectures; this course changed his life in several ways. He saw his first Dylan concert in Santa Rosa in April 2006, and has seen two more since. This personal history puts us both in an interesting position as analysts of the artist’s impact: we were born, raised, and educated as listeners and citizens in a society in which our rock musicians and our rock listening have not merely been influenced by Dylan, but in which our very conceptions of the possibilities of political work through rock performance have been defined by his impossible‑to‑supplant primacy. Even leaving aside his artistic impact, this primacy was permanently secured by Dylan’s iconic presence at the dawn of modern rock and the 1960s counterculture that paralleled it.47 The story of Bob Dylan’s role in the politics of rock is very much an origin story; in wrestling with it, we wrestle with mythos. Any attempt to “solve” or “pin down” Dylan’s myth must necessarily be futile. Nevertheless, the struggle can lead to deeper understanding not only of the artist, but ourselves, and so we choose to delve, as others have before us, into his songs and his legacy.

A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF DYLAN’S CAREER Bob Dylan certainly did not begin as an establishment figure; indeed, he did not even begin as “Bob Dylan.” Robert Allan Zimmerman was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, on May 24, 1941, to middle‑class parents in a mining town.

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He had a typical childhood, in contrast to the claims he would make as a very young celebrity in the early 1960s. He initially became a significant artist in New York City in 1963, playing clubs and coffee houses in Greenwich Village, and recording two albums after being signed by John Hammond, a famous talent scout, to Columbia Records: Bob Dylan and The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. These albums, as well as his appearance at a number of high‑profile protests such as the March on Washington, were key factors in establishing his mainstream celebrity and encouraging pundits to describe him as the “voice of a generation.” Dylan actively challenged this label and refused to directly support, after 1964, any particular left‑wing position. His performing style also challenged the folk tradition that had given him his start, and so his next several albums, especially the trio of Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde, featured more oblique, surrealist lyrics than his earlier works. His further addition of electrified instruments stirred controversy, both at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, and on his raucous world tour the following year with its famous “Judas!” taunt, as we discuss in chapter 6. We will show that Dylan’s response to the heckling—intensifying the rock qualities of his performances—was an important and deliberate step in his educating the audiences that this, in fact, must be the next step in rock music’s development. Dylan’s career took a turn in 1966, one that was unexpected even to him. A motorcycle accident nearly killed him, and the forced “retirement” led to a period of reflective work.48 His study of Americana, especially in the never‑meant‑to‑be‑released “Basement Tapes” recorded with the Band, ushered in the “bootlegging” industry; pirated recordings have been an important source of music for Dylan’s fans ever since. His artistic styles and personal stances continued to evolve at a rapid pace throughout the 1970s, including his using a large horn section on Street Legal and emphasizing evangelical concerns on several albums following his 1978 conversion to Christianity. Each iteration, like Dylan’s early repudiation of the New Left connection, has initially confounded his audiences, who have struggled, not always successfully, to keep up.49 Dylan’s career as an influential artist appeared to be waning through most of the 1980s and 1990s, despite the critical acclaim afforded occasional albums like 1983’s Infidels and 1989’s Oh Mercy. Nevertheless, Dylan continued to maintain his connection to this fan base through a demanding series of concerts (actually dating back to 1988) known to the Dylan community as the “Never Ending Tour.”50 As the twentieth century gave way to the twenty-first, the “Never Ending Tour” continued full steam (it now encompasses twenty‑nine years and num-



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bers nearly 2900 stops). Dylan has become not only an established star, but perhaps the embodiment of American music as a whole. Once thought to have expended his artistic talents, he stunned us all when 1997’s Time Out of Mind ushered in yet another, and perhaps his most important, period of cultural relevance. Its follow‑up, 2001’s “Love and Theft,” was widely embraced by critics as well as old and new fans. Dylan intensified his impact by lending his name and DJ‑ing voice to the archival program Theme Time Radio Hour, which offered a musical tour of a huge range of influential songs ranging from blues, to country, to folk, to gospel, to ballads. In rapid succession we have seen the release of original material in Modern Times, Together Through Life, and the astounding Tempest. There have also been surprising and well‑received cover albums (his Christmas album notwithstanding) that have brought Frank Sinatra and the American Songbook back to contemporary ears, and massive compilations in the Bootlegs series that number more than twenty discs. Well aware of the reputation he has earned as a performer, Dylan also acknowledges his place as an artist, not just in America over the past half century, but across all time and history. Dylan has always been clear about his indebtedness to past masters—“Song to Woody,” the only original song on his first album, was dedicated to Woody Guthrie, and it was this song he chose to sing solo at the thirtieth anniversary celebration of his career in 1992—but since the release of “Love and Theft” in 2001, he has been working to teach his audience how to consider the contribution he has woven into the design in the tapestry of performing art, stretching back straight to Homer. Rock music today continues to bear the legacy of its origins as a music of youthful impatience and impetuousness. As we discuss more extensively in chapter 3, this legacy predates Dylan: Gould maintains that “early rock ’n’ roll songs accentuated this [Presley and blues‑derived] intense physicality.”51 Riley elaborates on the relevance of Presley, in particular, for the same counterculture generation spurred by Dylan: they were taught “not to settle for the security their parents had fought for but to take advantage of what the new world had to offer; . . . the richness they felt from their own experience—and heard in Presley’s singing—demanded something more.”52 This thread of analysis shows that key 1960s artists such as the Beatles reshaped rock ’n’ roll. Dylan did so as well by making rock not merely a music for the young, the vaguely not‑yet‑mature, but a music that is of youth, that channels the music’s rhythmic push into a quite specific aesthetic marked by pushes back against expectations and pushes forward to create new ones. The legacy of rock as a music of expressive youth is complicated in these ways, but rock remains an influential discourse, and, as we will show, has grown beyond a youthful expression to one that can encompass the whole of human experience, much as Homer’s epic poems and Shakespeare’s dramas do.

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Dylan’s impact, in particular, however, is more lasting than a “regular cultural revolt” because it permanently transformed the urgency of 1950s rock ’n’ roll, giving it gravitas by broadening its complexity. This aesthetic is first evident in mid‑1960s albums such as Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. Both of these albums deploy aesthetic methods dependent on rock’s “intense physicality” to sketch effective portraits of contemporary urban America from the perspective of a young, hip performer swept into mainstream cultural currents: Gitlin labels these portraits “nightmare surrealism.”53 Dylan valorizes the sound of Blonde on Blonde as “the closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind . . . that thin, that wild mercury sound. It’s metallic and bright gold.”54 These records are impossible to imagine without their anchoring in the physical power of rock music, a music with qualities like “wild” and “metallic.” The same can certainly be said of other artists’ later rock‑based depictions of alienation and resistance on such records as Never Mind the Bollocks, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and Nevermind. Dylan’s contemporary art continues this process, as Marcus names 1997’s Time Out of Mind “a state‑by‑state, city‑by‑city guided tour of an America that has used itself up and a portrait of an American who has used up his country.”55 Robert Zimmerman’s treatment of “Bob Dylan” as a text decoupled from his own personhood began early and extended beyond his adoption of this “stage” name: he created an entire imagined biography that he passed on to, among others, Nat Hentoff—who published it in the New Yorker in 1964.56 This publication went forward despite the fact that nearly a year earlier, an article in Newsweek had provided evidence of the falsity of this same imagined biography: “In a niche of show business where ‘authenticity’ greatly mattered to the audience, Bob Dylan had been exposed as a mountebank,” indicating not only that the “authenticity” of the folk movement was irrelevant in Dylan’s deliberate construction of his public image, but that truth itself, as established in the journalistic record, was as well.57 Dylan actively helped the entertainment industry create the complex cultural text Marshall refers to as Dylan’s “mythologized past” and his “star‑image.”58 Several members of the Greenwich Village scene early in his career independently choose Charlie Chaplin, one of the first movie stars, as a comparison for Dylan’s persona even then.59 Tamarin contends that “before our eyes, he fashioned himself into our first rock icon.”60 Tamarin’s insight here is that, like Chaplin, Dylan was special in “fashioning himself” rather than being passively fashioned by an industry. Epstein notes Dylan’s embrace of electrified arena rock: “Dylan tried to explain to interviewers—and there were many that year [1965]—that the band provided not only musical support for new songs, but moral support in the vulnerable posture one as-



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sumes in live performing.”61 Marshall also emphasizes the performative and controlling dimensions of Dylan’s iconic presence: “The great singers have ‘authoritative voices,’ by which I mean that they demonstrate a total control over the song, to the point of domination or ownership. . . . The great singers are those that can consistently ‘take over’ the song they are singing, their personality shines through the song rather than being subsumed within it.”62 These gifts for authoritative command of his artistic and mediated presence enabled Dylan to forge, as with his use of rock and poetry, a place at the inception of rock stardom. Despite his resistance to specific political stances, Dylan has consciously used this enduring place as a star to force action on a number of fronts. One notable example is the creation, and to this point continuation, of the Farm Aid concert series as a result of Dylan’s onstage comment (Farm Aid: Keep America Growing!). Dylan has provided a foundation for cause‑based mobilization for such later rock star activists as Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Bono, and Thom Yorke by insisting on his personal role in constituting the star/audience relationship. He characterizes himself as distinct from other contemporary musicians because of his own historical relation to musical tradition: “My situation is peculiar. I didn’t come out of the same environment. My tradition is older than all that. I came out of the environment of folk music.”63 He underscores the significance of this historical position for public musical performance: “Folk music is where it all starts and in many ways ends. If you don’t have that foundation, or if you’re not knowledgeable about it and you don’t know how to control that, and you don’t feel historically tied to it, then what you’re doing is not going to be as strong as it could be.”64 Dylan’s concern with origins and their weight thus pervades his approach to music. They also pervade his approach to his audience. Dylan has always known where he is leading us, even if we hesitated to follow. Thus “Judas!” and the head‑scratching and lamentations both at the start of his gospel tours in the 1970s, and with his Sinatra‑heavy setlists in 2016. And so, in what may turn out to be his final major persona—though of course, he may still surprise us—the scholar‑storyteller, transmitting our culture to the next generation. Arguably, it may have been a part of his agenda from the start, and his pair of acoustic albums in the 1990s, Good as I Been to You and World Gone Wrong in which he revisited the early folk and blues traditions were early signs. But he began in earnest during the period that concerns us here. Dylan showed us how “right now” these songs are by sketching, in public performance via his role as “host” of Theme Time Radio Hour, a history of Anglo‑American music. The format of the program, in which themes are introduced that unite songs from a very wide range of eras and genres, encouraged listeners to

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consider fresh juxtapositions among artist, art, and context. The history of Anglo‑American music—and, correlatively, the history of those of us who inherit this music—is thus treated as constantly in process, giving us another historicizing frame by yet another Dylan narrative voice. With the arrival of his most recent quartet of original material, “Love and Theft,” Modern Times, Together Through Life, and Tempest, he shows us that he—and we, if we choose—can manipulate those lessons to create new music, and more deeply understand our own place in the artistic tradition. And in his Nobel Lecture, which in many ways stands as a musical performance in itself, he makes clear that this is a goal worth pursuing. PERFORMANCES IN CONTEXT Our project in this book follows the historicizing, creative impulses modeled by Dylan’s aesthetic. In this section, we identify ideas in performance studies and in sound studies that provide points of conceptual origin for our study of Dylan’s work. These ideas, combined with literary studies, form the framework for our claims throughout the book. We also sketch here the cultural milieux of two key early songs, “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” to exemplify how we understand texts in context as items of analysis. An excellent example of Dylan creating a text from a collage of culturally contextual sources, and that text subsequently shaping culture—so that its force cannot be wholly grasped in an examination of its consequent moment of articulation—is Dylan’s recording of his song “Blowin’ in the Wind” for his 1963 album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. This song was central in catapulting Dylan to widespread prominence as a songwriter associated with the folk/protest song movement in 1963—not primarily through sales of Dylan’s album but through its publication in Broadside magazine, its widespread circulation within “underground” folk musical spaces and its recordings and release, with great commercial success, by Peter, Paul and Mary.65 Yet, Dylan himself stridently downplayed contemporary responses that valorized this song in particular, and him as a songwriter more generally, as icons of youthful political protest.66 In terms of its development as a text, the song’s melody was described by Dylan67 as being based on the folk standard “No More Auction Block,” a song Harvey describes as “widely performed by folk revivalists” associated with the folk scene of which Dylan himself was a part.68 Friesen suggests that an allusion to a line from an Emerson poem may account for the title phrase.69 However, Dylan owns copyright to the song and has published it with no attribution of prior authorship, an ethically question-



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able practice some interviewees from that era’s folk scene lament as common by Dylan and other young songwriters.70 Furthermore, a Newsweek article from 1963 notes a rumor that a New Jersey high school student had written the song, despite neither independent substantiation nor legal documentation of this claim.71 “Blowin’ in the Wind” remains, fifty-six years since its first recording and publication, a significant component of Dylan’s legacy as a prominent cultural figure linking popular music to political stances questioning the values and authority of traditional patriarchal moral institutions and corporate capitalism.72 Nevertheless, the song has since been used in an advertisement by a company in the United Kingdom, creating additional questions about this first‑ever approval by Dylan of commercial use of “Blowin’ in the Wind”; these questions prompted his publisher to comment upon the ethical standards of the company licensing the song.73 These elements that strongly complicate the relationship of “Blowin’ in the Wind” as text to the cultural contexts of its origins and influence are prevalent among many of Dylan’s recorded texts. Our study of Dylan’s work therefore consistently explores its roots within, and ongoing nourishment of, cultural formations. Our daunting task, figuring this artist who notably creates through refiguring, befits a performance studies lens. Such a lens focuses on the complex and dynamic relationships among performer, performed text, and performative context. Taylor describes these relationships as the subject matter of performance studies, and as she does so she outlines how the term “performance” is used in multiple ways within performance studies research: “Performances function as vital acts of transfer, transmitting social knowledge, memory, and a sense of identity . . . ‘Performance,’ on one level, constitutes the object/ process of analysis in performance studies, that is, . . . practices and events . . . that involve theatrical, rehearsed, or conventional/event‑appropriate behaviors. . . . On another level, performance also constitutes the methodological lens that enables scholars to analyze events as performance.”74 Taylor’s definitions have three implications, paralleling the three levels she identifies, and these implications are the foundation of our study in this book: First, when listeners engage his work, we are participating in a process through which we are partly reshaped; Dylan himself is not only a specific performing artist producing records, films, and concert events that we might consume, but also a part of the vast fabric of culture by which we come to know and enact ourselves and our relationship to one another. Second, his work consists of audible (and, occasionally, visible) aesthetic choices that reflect his own engagement with that fabric of culture; by examining these choices, even though our examination will, like his choices, inevitably be partial and frayed rather than seamless transferences of cultural materials, we can ourselves engage culture in a more complicated way. Third, our oppor-

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tunity to make sense of culture in and through Dylan’s work is not limited to a study of formal aesthetic choices that are bounded by the aesthetic artifacts of mediated recordings nor by the temporal episodes of concerts or listening sessions; the term “performance” extends to the myriad everyday practices by which we communicate with ourselves and with one another. Hamera discusses these three implications at once: The social work of aesthetics is especially central to performance, where the labors of creation and the dynamics of consumption are explicitly communal and corporeal, and where corporeality and sociality are remade as surely as a formal event may be produced. Performance exposes aesthetics’ social work as embodied, processual, rhetorical, and political and, especially, as daily, as routine, a practice of everyday life.75

We contend that close study of Dylan’s art, through our perspectives as listeners grappling with its complexity, reveals these very characteristics: it is embodied and processual, depending on performance (not merely writing) for its force; it is rhetorical and political, enacting and celebrating certain forms of life while obfuscating or denigrating others; and it is a result of a lifetime of routine practice across Dylan’s adult life. Taylor distinguishes two forms of lasting, researchable traces of performance practices we might study, with “archive” referring to those performances that can be accessed repeatedly over time in a comparatively (though never entirely) fixed form, such as media, and “repertoire” referring to those performances that are routinely taken up by performers engaged in acts of creation (whether aestheticized or otherwise).76 Given his stature as a performing artist, Dylan’s repertoire—his use of performances that take up the cultural practices that have helped form his art and that survive not only in his own concerts but in the cultural work of others, musical and beyond—is a worthy subject of analysis that guides our efforts in this book to situate Dylan’s texts in relation to their contexts. Dylan’s archive, which is uncommonly large among commercially recorded artists, offers us an opportunity to broadly access his performances and to trace their status as mediated artifacts, a second dimension of our work here. As we examine both archive and repertoire throughout the book, we attend to the relationship of Dylan’s archived performances to the cultural formations that helped shape them and to those they have also been a force in shaping. We strive to develop in our analyses a dialectical hearing of the artifacts in Dylan’s archive that situates each artifact both in the times and places of its emergence and in its current cultural position from our points of view. As Taylor observes, “Performances travel, challenging and influencing other performances. Yet they are, in a sense, always in situ: intelligible in the framework of the immediate environment



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and the issues surrounding them. The is/as underlines the understanding of performance as simultaneously ‘real’ and ‘constructed.’”77 Artifacts within Dylan’s archive of performances are an appropriate focus in part because the musical culture that shaped Dylan, and that he has helped shaped, has been constituted in profound and irreducible ways by recorded media. Wald shows how contemporary rock culture is a product of mass reproduction and commercialization of recordings.78 Auslander claims of postmodern art forms that “postmodernism itself would not exist were it not for the increased capacity for storing and distributing information created by these technologies, forming information banks and image banks that become sources for postmodern aesthetic practices based on image appropriation.”79 While we do not claim that Dylan can be described easily as a postmodern artist, he has throughout his career woven together a variety of personae in creating a series of complex, ironic public identities (as we explore in chapter 8) and narrative perspectives in songs (as we explore throughout the book). In the respects of engaging in pastiches of character and subjectivity and in complicating narrative and semantic closure, his art has important postmodern dimensions. Our exploration of his archive allows us to trace the relationships of Dylan’s recorded texts to those of others and to place these in contextual relation to one another. Considering Dylan’s art from the postmodern perspective of texts that reflect, distort, and help re-create their contexts raises the question of what consequences result from his performances—from their particular situation in places and times, as Taylor suggests.80 For example, the song analyzed above, “Eternal Circle,” cannot be said to stage merely an interaction between narrator/singer and character/listener in the culturally blank, ahistorical void of an imaginary club or café, despite the sparseness of its environmental descriptions; the histories of patriarchy and heteronormativity assuredly frame this interaction as well. These are recognizable in our (the authors of this book) hearing of the narrator as male, based on Dylan’s vocal qualities and the implication of mutual desire in the narrator’s hailing of the female character (gendered through pronouns); in the narrator’s erasure of much of his interlocutor’s agency, with his own subjectivity and action wholly dominating the interaction in the song; in the physical positionality of her beginning from darkness and approaching the light from which the male narrator seems to originate without complication; in the violence of images such as “bullet,” “arrow,” and “pierced”; and in other ways the authors of this book cannot immediately recognize given the limits of our own subject positions and historical formations. For Auslander, such questions are grounded in the politics of representation and their connection to a performer’s “presence.”81 Auslander uses the phrase “charismatic Other” to describe 1960s political theater, and Dylan’s

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stature in musical culture combines with his historical role as a figure in 1960s counterculture to suggest that “charismatic Other” would describe his performative presence as well.82 Intersubjective contact through performance, whether live or mediated, shapes how we collectively make meaning of one another and the world. However, the aesthetic means of representation that performing artists utilize, and any effects we might postulate for these means of representation, are necessarily contextual—privileging certain bodies, gestures, and points of view.83 Auslander writes, “I do not believe that postmodern critical art can, or need, escape representation, though it must always deconstruct its own representational means. . . . It is, of necessity, an elusive and fragile discourse that is always forced to walk a tightrope between complicity and critique.”84 Returning to our assertion above that Dylan cannot easily be described as a postmodern artist, we find that Dylan’s consistent disruptions of narrative and semantic closure do reflect elements of postmodernist art. However, Dylan’s art also depends heavily on representational means that are not deconstructed within his work—especially, his voice. The prominence of Dylan’s voice, the most distinctive element of his performance archive and our principle subject here, serves as an example of the kind of taken‑for‑granted “presence,” that Auslander advocates performance scholars complicating and helping to critique. Riley describes Dylan as “among the great singers of his generation, but his skill lies more in twisting meanings and snarling ironies; he sings with an ear for hidden inferences and innuendos.”85 Boucher and Browning note “the remarkable talent he had for changing the mood, or point of songs, by different inflections.”86 From these perspectives, Dylan’s distinctive uses of his voice, especially in song, has the power when used in conjunction with musical and other aesthetic practices to create the impression that a singular voice reflecting a unitary consciousness and speaking a kind of subjective “truth.” Johnson holds: “Music has a particularly powerful link to subjective experience. It relates directly to the experience of our subjectivity because it mirrors the way our own sense of identity is established through time.”87 Yet this link between subjective experience and musical identity can function to naturalize the cultural fissures and displacements of systems of domination, such as patriarchy and heteronormativity, that we describe above in relation to “Eternal Circle.” This book’s central goal is an examination of Dylan’s artistic discourse that highlights how this discourse is “elusive and fragile,” how its truths are not unitary but multiple and contested, how Dylan “walks” the “tightrope between complicity and critique.”88 Two focal points of performance studies scholarship help ground our efforts: First, performers draw creatively upon particular resources in the cultural fields within which they perform and from which they emerge; per-



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formance studies scholarship seeks to unearth and examine these resources in order to more fully understand performed texts. Second, performances are at once bound by time and constitutive elements of our shared sense of time; performance studies scholarship identifies the junctures across which performed texts unfold in history. Auslander contends that a given performer who develops a performing persona within a given cultural and music industry context, and who uses that persona to create a particular character in a particular performative act such as a recording of a song, must rely on a range of musical expressions in order to ultimately communicate any of these performance elements to an audience.89 In this book, we situate Dylan’s performance choices within the array of cultural contexts in which they are communicatively salient. We consider Dylan’s performances in relation to the particular places and times that helped to constitute them and that they, in turn, continue to help constitute in musical culture. Resources within a cultural field that imbue a text with meaning are sometimes explicitly cited (not in the academic sense but in the indexical sense) within the text itself. Dylan’s “Only a Pawn in Their Game” from 1963 is an example of such an aesthetic citation practice. The method of “Only a Pawn in Their Game” involves its refusal to become a “finger‑pointing song” (Dylan’s label for the protest songs he described himself as having left behind during a recording session for Another Side of Bob Dylan in 1964),90 with the penultimate line of each verse except for the last stating “it ain’t him to blame.” Ricks describes Dylan as showing “courage” in performing this song in front of a “mostly black” audience in Mississippi at a voter registration rally within the civil rights movement, given the risk of not casting enough “blame” nor showing enough “anger” at the murder of Evers—an African‑American NAACP field secretary—less than a month earlier in this same state.91 Ricks observes that Evers is the only person named in the song, a choice that takes the killer’s name away and leaves this person92 merely with “not only his epitome but his epitaph,” the song’s title, in the final verse.93 But even among these compelling ellipses, the song’s force depends on its many explicit references to the then‑current news of the murder that would have been clear to many contemporary listeners, ranging beyond Evers’s name to include “trigger” (the murder was committed by a sniper), “hid out in the dark” (Evers was killed at night in his own driveway), “South politician” (indexing the then‑controversial civil rights battles over registering African‑American voters in that region), “hoofbeats . . . to hang and to lynch, to hide ’neath the hood” (references to Ku Klux Klan terrorism practices), and repeated hints of “behind” and “caboose” in the first two verses that are made plain in “shoot in the back” in the fourth verse (Evers was shot in the back).94

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Such cultural indexing as we find in this song affects Dylan’s art throughout his body of work and is not limited to the so‑called “finger‑pointing” period. However, an even more common practice among performers, including Dylan, is the creative reuse of cultural resources in more implicit ways that benefit from scholarly archaeology such as that undertaken by Gray in his analysis of “Only a Pawn in Their Game.” Gray traces Dylan’s vocal style in this song (audible in both the Greenwood performance and on the recording on The Times They Are a Changin’) to the “Yankee” regional folk song tradition by describing his voice as “hard, monotonous, high‑pitched, nasal” and the accompanying music as “decorated melod[y] in gapped scale structure.”95 He further describes both the thematic stance in the song as a whole and the pattern of staccato monosyllabic rhyme in its fourth verse as deriving from black spirituals.96 Though these explications of cultural roots may not be necessary for a deep appreciation of the strength of “Only a Pawn in Their Game” (Ricks dismisses Gray’s reading of the song as a self‑serving “infection”),97 they do exemplify one method we use in this book to situate Dylan as a culturally creative and culturally significant artist. “Only a Pawn in Their Game” also helps show the double nature of temporalization in performance. The impact of the Greenwood performance in Mississippi, less than a hundred miles from the site of Evers’s murder and less than a month later, depended on both local and national immediacy in the context and is documented by scholars who address Dylan’s political and social relevance at the time.98 Such immediacy was in important respects already dwindling when the studio recording was released in January 1964; only weeks later Dylan, who was then concentrating on developing his personal, symbolist writing, publicly noted his desire to leave political protest songs behind.99 The song has become a historicized artifact of its time and place. This ephemeral quality of performance, its anchoring in the moment of articulation, is a vital dimension of Dylan’s art—leading Williams to spend several decades and four books carefully chronicling the nuances of his evolving concert engagements within specific cultural contexts.100 Nevertheless, textured details of Evers’s murder are carried forward through their inclusion in “Only a Pawn in Their Game.” We might otherwise learn, through narratives of the civil rights movement, of Evers’s race, his primacy as the first African‑American field secretary of the NAACP in Mississippi, his murder and its status as a flashpoint within voter registration struggles and federal intervention in southern states. Outrage would be a reasonable response. But the outrage is differently felt when textured by the cowardice of a furtive, hidden, anonymous shooter who did not confront Evers directly, who thereby serves as a metonym for hooded, nighttime Klan terrorism of African‑American communities, and who in his metaphorical role of “pawn”



“Eternal Circle”

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refigures the confusion and angst of a nation in upheaval—these are features not of the story but of the song as performed with the matter‑of‑fact, hard‑edged, unsentimental vocal staccato Gray describes. The song thus also historicizes the story each time Dylan performs it again and each time we listeners play its recordings. The relationship of performed texts to performative contexts infuses several of Dylan’s statements about music and songwriting, and it is similarly resonant with his working methods in the studio. Prior to a performance of “Blowin’ in the Wind” in April 1962, he told the audience, “I’m just writing it as something to be said, for somebody, by somebody.”101 Explaining in 1976 what was distinctive for him about the immediate, communal feeling of musical performance in New York City early in his career, he reflected, “so Washington Square was a place where people you knew or met congregated every Sunday and it was like a world of music. . . . It was all street. . . . Mass communication killed it all.”102 These comments, collectively, characterize musical texts and their performances as emergent from and embedded within particular cultural positions and situations, rather than as distinct products of a singular, inspired artistic consciousness. Dylan’s studio recording practices similarly reflect his treatment of recorded performances, destined for commercial release, as snapshots of songs as they burst forth in the moment of recording and not as artifacts separable from the acts of their performance. His reputation was for recording new songs he’d written quickly, in few takes, and typically in relatively complete takes, instead of using splicing techniques and overdubs.103 Recalling the process of recording his debut album and its absence of multiple takes despite it being the twenty‑year‑old’s first major recording session, Dylan said, “Mr. Hammond [the album’s producer] asked me if I wanted to sing any of them over again but I said no. I can’t see myself singing the same song twice in a row. That’s terrible.”104 In these approaches to performance, Dylan indicates a high regard for the sound of a song as it emerges in the moment that the song is played and sung—sound as a feature primarily of the performative moment rather than as a stable feature of the text or of artist(s) involved. Dylan recalls his own engagement, as a young radio listener, to sound as a primary feature: “It was the sound that got to me . . . it wasn’t who it was, it was the sound of it.”105 This high regard for the sound of a song parallels claims in sound studies, a discipline in which sound is researched as an object in itself rather than as a product leading to analysis of the body that produces it (as in most studies of auditory art forms, such as musical performances) or as a physical phenomenon (as in the science of acoustics).106 From the standpoint of sound‑as‑object, we note the signal importance of the artist’s voice as a foundation for

24

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our study in this book. Chion observes “that the conscious auditory of a human being is not directed indiscriminately to any and all sounds. Above all, it is vococentric. I use the term vococentrism to name the process by which, given a set of sounds, the voice attracts and centers our attention in the same way that the human face does for the eye in a film shot.”107 Moylan describes how this tendency of the human voice to play a primary role in our listening attention, especially in musical forms and hierarchies learned by Western listeners, shapes recording practices that musical artists use in constructing the sound worlds we hear on records.108 In chapter 3, we explore more fully how Dylan creates distinctive sound worlds in his germinal mid‑1960s recordings. Throughout the book, however, our research is structured by our sense that his voice draws our attention more prominently than do the other musical elements of his archive. In this book’s first half, titled Formations, we consider how Dylan engages particular cultural contexts and resources as a performer. Chapter 2 explores these resources through the lens of the American popular song tradition, chapter 3 through that of rock ’n’ roll music, and chapter 4 through that of the oral literature legacy of the rhapsode. In chapter 5 we attend to his use of vocal choices that take up and playfully rework the articulation and phrasing patterns of everyday American English speech. In the book’s second half, titled Transformations, we shift our focus to distinctive aspects of Dylan’s archive. Chapter 6 centers on how his performance choices are reflected in recordings of concerts that capture songs as they evolve in live settings, while chapter 7 parallels this by studying how performance choices are reflected in songs that have evolved across a series of studio recordings. In chapter 8 we examine the shifting personae emergent in Dylan’s performances, and in chapter 9 we extend our research beyond aural performance to discuss the audiovisual texts featuring Dylan in cinema. Chapter 10 and our concluding coda each offer a more personal reading of a specific aspect of Dylan’s work, his evangelical period in chapter 10 and a recent concert performance in the coda. As we also note in chapter 8, Dylan’s Nobel Lecture includes the claim, “Our songs are alive in the land of the living.”109 We engage his performances as active listeners striving to account for how these performances move through the air, through recorded media, and through us, and in doing so remain “alive.”



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NOTES   1. Lee Marshall, The Never Ending Star (Cambridge: Polity, 2007), 6; McDonald, Revolution in the Head, 25–27.   2.  Jonathan Gould, Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2007), 330.   3. Mark Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Chronicle, 350.   4.  https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music‑lists/500‑greatest‑songs‑of ‑all‑time‑151127/the‑beatles‑i‑saw‑her‑standing‑there‑65377/.   5.  Ian MacDonald, Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties (New York: Henry Holt, 1994), 49; Julian Johnson, Who Needs Classical Music, 33–42.   6.  Presumably, the narrator is male, given the heteronormative frame ubiquitous in musical tropes of this era and style.   7.  MacDonald, Revolution in the Head, 49–50.   8.  Ben Rollins and Jeff Slate, “Liner Notes,” More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Volume 14 (Deluxe Edition), 15.   9.  Paul Williams, Bob Dylan: Watching the River Flow: Observations on His Art‑in‑Progress (London: Omnibus Press, 1996), 38.  10.  Betsy Bowden, Performed Literature: Words and Music by Bob Dylan, 2nd ed. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2001); Williams, Bob Dylan Per‑ forming Artist (three volumes) (London: Omnibus, 2004, 2005); Marshall, The Never Ending Star.  11.  “Eternal Circle,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1963, 1964, by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992, by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/ eternal‑circle/.  12.  Ibid.  13.  Ibid.  14.  Ibid.  15.  Ibid.  16.  Jonathan Cott, Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews (New York: Wenner Books, 2006), 62.  17.  Bob Dylan, The Nobel Lecture (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017), 23.  18.  Martin Scorsese, No Direction Home (Hollywood, CA: Paramount, 2005).  19. Marshall, The Never Ending Star, 192–93.  20.  Andrew Muir, Razor’s Edge: Bob Dylan and The Never Ending Tour (London: Helter Skelter, 2001), 82.  21.  “Eternal Circle,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1963, 1964, by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992, by Special Rider Music. International copyright

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secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/ eternal‑circle/.  22.  Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 19.  23.  “Eternal Circle,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1963, 1964, by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992, by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/ eternal‑circle/.  24.  Elaine Scarry, Dreaming by the Book (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999).  25.  “Eternal Circle,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1963, 1964, by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992, by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/ eternal‑circle/.  26.  Ibid.  27.  Ibid.  28.  Ibid.  29.  Ibid.  30.  Ibid.  31.  Ibid.  32.  Ibid.  33.  Scarry, The Body in Pain, 162.  34.  Scarry, The Body in Pain, 307–8.  35.  “Eternal Circle,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1963, 1964, by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992, by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/ eternal‑circle/.  36.  Ibid.  37.  This image follows John Durham Peters’s Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1999).  38.  Sean Wilentz, Bob Dylan in America (New York: Doubleday, 2010).  39.  Bowden, Performed Literature; Christopher Ricks, Dylan’s Visions of Sin (New York: HarperCollins, 2003); Richard F. Thomas, Why Bob Dylan Matters (New York: HarperCollins, 2017).  40.  David Boucher and Gary Browning, The Political Art of Bob Dylan, 2nd ed. (Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2009).  41.  Greil Marcus, Bob Dylan: Writings 1968–2010 (New York: Public Affairs Press, 2010); Greil Marcus, Like a Rolling Stone (New York: Public Affairs, 2005); Tim Riley, Hard Rain; Michael Gray, Song and Dance Man III: The Art of Bob Dylan (London: Continuum, 2000); Mike Marqusee, Wicked Messenger: Bob Dylan and the 1960s (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2005); Williams, Bob Dylan Performing Artist (three volumes).  42.  Published as The Bootleg Series, Volume 6: Bob Dylan Live, 1964.



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 43.  Published as a bonus promotional disc to accompany the release of The Boot‑ leg Series, Volume 5 and also viewable in the television broadcast Hard Rain and the film Renaldo and Clara.  44.  Aidan Day, Jokerman: Reading the Lyrics of Bob Dylan (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988); Stephen Scobie, Alias Bob Dylan: Revisited (Calgary: Red Deer Press, 2003).  45.  https://www.businessinsider.com/best‑selling‑artists‑all‑time‑ranked‑by ‑platinum‑albums‑2017‑7#25‑bob‑dylan‑15–6.  46.  Kevin J. H. Dettmar, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 116–21.  47.  Howard Zinn, The Twentieth Century: A People’s History (New York: Harper & Row, 1984), 238; Peter Doggett, There’s A Riot Going On: Revolutionaries, Rock Stars and the Rise and Fall of the 60s (New York: Canongate, 2007), 6.  48.  Greil Marcus, Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes (New York: Henry Holt, 1997), xii.  49.  Marshall, The Never Ending Star, 145–48.  50.  Muir, Razor’s Edge, 17–22.  51.  Gould, Can’t Buy Me Love, 103.  52.  Tim Riley, Tell Me Why: The Beatles—Album by Album, Song by Song, the Sixties and After (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2002), 15–16.  53.  Todd Gitlin, The Whole World is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 202.  54.  Cott, The Essential Interviews, 208.  55.  Greil Marcus, The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice (London: Faber and Faber, 2006), 43.  56.  Cott, The Essential Interviews, 20.  57.  Daniel Mark Epstein, The Ballad of Bob Dylan: A Portrait (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), 113.  58.  Marshall, The Never Ending Star, 152.  59.  Hedin, Studio A, 17; Epstein, The Ballad of Bob Dylan, 91; Scorsese, No Direction Home.  60.  Dettmar, The Cambridge Companion, 132.  61.  Epstein, The Ballad of Bob Dylan, 163–64.  62.  Marshall, The Never Ending Star, 30–31.  63.  Cott, The Essential Interviews, 401.  64.  Cott, The Essential Interviews, 423.  65.  Marqusee, Wicked Messenger, 59–62; Boucher and Browning, Political Art, 240.  66.  Marqusee, Wicked Messenger, 61; Doggett, There’s a Riot Going On, 26.  67.  John Bauldie, “Liner Notes.” Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series, Volumes 1–3 (New York: Columbia, 1991), 7.  68.  Todd Harvey, The Formative Dylan: Transmission and Stylistic Influences 1961–1963 (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2001), 14.

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 69.  Harvey, The Formative Dylan, 15.  70.  Scorsese, No Direction Home.  71.  Anthony Scaduto, Bob Dylan (London: Helter Skelter, 1996), 159.  72.  Boucher and Browning, The Political Art of Bob Dylan; Doggett, There’s a Riot Going On; Marqusee, Wicked Messenger; Marshall, The Never Ending Star.  73. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2009/jan/27/bob‑dylan‑song‑co‑op ‑tv‑ad‑commercial.  74.  Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Durham: Duke University, 2003), 2–3.  75.  Judith Hamera, “Performance, Performativity, and Cultural Poiesis in Practices of Everyday Life,” in The SAGE Handbook of Performance Studies, edited by D. Soyini Madison and Judith Hamera (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2006), 47.  76.  Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire, 19–20.  77.  Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire, 3.  78.  Elijah Wald, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ’n’ Roll: An Alternative History of Popular Music (Oxford: Oxford University, 2009).  79.  Philip Auslander, Presence and Resistance: Postmodernism and Cultural Politics in Contemporary American Performance (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1994), 17.  80.  Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire, 3.  81.  Auslander, Presence and Resistance, 42–44.  82.  Auslander, Presence and Resistance, 44; Doggett, There’s a Riot Going On, 6.  83.  Auslander, Presence and Resistance, 30.  84.  Auslander, Presence and Resistance, 31.  85.  Riley, Hard Rain, 141.  86.  Boucher and Browning, The Political Art of Bob Dylan, 9.  87.  Julian Johnson, Who Needs Classical Music: Cultural Choice and Musical Value (Oxford: Oxford University, 2002), 66.  88.  Auslander, Presence and Resistance, 31.  89.  Philip Auslander, Performance Analysis and Popular Music: A Manifesto.” Contemporary Theatre Review 14, no. 1: 1–13, 2004.  90.  Cott, The Essential Interviews, 15.  91.  Ricks, Dylan’s Visions of Sin, 171; Time, 2/15/15.  92.  Byron de la Beckwith was convicted of this crime 31 years later (Time, ibid.).  93.  Ricks, Dylan’s Visions of Sin, 172, 175.  94.  “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1963, 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992, by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www .bobdylan.com/songs/only‑pawn‑their‑game/.  95.  Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 24.  96.  Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 35.  97.  Ricks, Dylan’s Visions of Sin, 173.  98. Marqusee, Wicked Messenger, 78–83; Wilentz, Bob Dylan in America, 152; Boucher and Browning, The Political Art of Bob Dylan, 258; Doggett, There’s a Riot Going On, 459.



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 99.  Clinton Heylin, Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades Revisited (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 142. 100.  Williams, Bob Dylan Performing Artist (three volumes). 101.  Heylin, Shades, 93. 102. Bob Dylan, Younger Than That Now: The Collected Interviews with Bob Dylan (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press., 2004), 114. 103.  Gill and Odegard, Simple Twist of Fate, 71–72; Clinton Heylin, Trouble in Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years—What Really Happened (New York: Lesser Gods, 2016), 43 and 46–47. 104. Gill, Bob Dylan, 11. 105.  Scorsese, No Direction Home. 106.  Michel Chion, Sound: An Acoulogical Treatise, translated by James A. Steintrager (Durham: Duke University, 2016), 193. 107.  Chion, Sound, 156 (emphasis in original). 108.  William Moylan, Understanding and Crafting the Mix: The Art of Recording, 3rd edition (New York: Focal, 2015), 60–68. 109.  Dylan, Nobel Lecture, 23.

2 About

the

Songs (what they’re about)

Dylan and the Popular Song Tradition

The

sale of sheet music, which had dominated American popular culture since at least the nineteenth century and had produced a massive and enduring body of work sung everywhere from music halls to front parlors, suddenly collapsed in the 1920s. Up until that time, the business model of the music industry had been to pay songwriters a nominal fee, and reams of paper bearing their music and lyrics would be sold from every conceivable venue, with the vast majority of profits going to the music companies. Anyone and everyone sang these songs, with varying degrees of talent and training. Yagoda describes the practice of “plugging”1 by which an agent of the music company would popularize the songs their publishers would churn out by using just about any means necessary to encourage vaudeville and similar performers to use the songs in their shows, which would lead to the purchase of the sheet music so folk could keep the songs alive through their private performances. It was the start of a practice that would have world‑changing implications in the next half‑century. At the same time, thanks in part to the arrival in the United States of Antonin Dvořák in 1892, who renewed interest in a nationalistic school of music,2 led to the embrace of folk music and the recognition that the very songs that mechanization was killing needed to be preserved. John Lomax’s Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads was one of the first attempts to do this. A later collection, compiled with the help of his son Alan, had even more impact: American Ballads and Folk Songs incorporated much of the previous book, and expanded its range to include work songs, spirituals (both “White” and “Negro”), children’s songs, and many others.3 Despairing that wax recordings already were “crumbled with age,”4 the Lomaxes proposed to “present the best examples of the most noteworthy types, words and tunes.”5 Including variant lyrics and music, American Bal‑ 31

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lads and Folk Songs provides copious material for any performer or scholar. The editors feared that ballad collectors were “worse than thieves . . . for when they capture and imprison in cold type a folk song, at the same time they kill it.”6 But they were not justified in that fear; as we shall see, their collection, far from killing songs, allowed them to “change and grow” in ways they could not foresee. Another preservation force that grew out of Dvořák’s influence was the Federal Music Project, instituted in the 1930s under the guidance of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. As part of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration, the FMP sought to foster a sense of inclusion among disparate groups of Americans. Gough writes extensively on the democratic ideals that compelled “folksong collectors . . . to gather these compositions, hundreds of which had no written music, before the persons in whose memories they resided had passed away.”7 The result was a store of some two thousand five hundred songs. Moreover, the collection of songs itself seems to have inspired many WPA workers to write new songs in the spirit of the old.8 A number of familiar names were integral to the FMP. When wartime priorities threatened to discontinue the work of the FMP, composer Aaron Copland (whose “Hoedown” from the “Rodeo Suite” Dylan often used as pre‑concert entertainment during the 1990s legs of the Never Ending Tour) wrote persuasively to retain its funding, at least until 1943. During a short but productive stint as assistant director of the FMP, Charles Seeger, father to Pete, expanded the educational mission of the program, instituting music festivals, orchestras dedicated to new arrangements of folk songs, and increasing the collection of African‑American songs and spirituals.9 One other influential product of the nationalistic music fervor, released after the Second World War, was Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music. Drawn from his personal collection of folk records, and reflecting his personal tastes (much as the Lomaxes admitted regarding their own anthology), the three‑volume, six‑disc compendium comprises “Ballads,” “Social Music” and general “Songs.” The Anthology was released by Folkways in 1952, and included many recordings of songs in the Lomax collection, and exemplified the inclusionary attitude of the Federal Music Project. Smith chose a catholic blend of American styles, but culled a number of his cuts from lesser‑known traditions such as Cajun, Appalachian, and gospel. He designed and wrote an idiosyncratic and esoteric “Handbook” for the Anthol‑ ogy. It lists discographies for each song, encouraging dedicated listeners to dig more deeply into the recordings of the performers and, like the Lomax book, alternate versions of songs. Serving as a “starter kit” for those embarking on a journey into what Marcus calls “the old, weird America,”10 the Anthology, in the words of Dave Van Ronk, is “very important for my generation . . . Without



About the Songs (what they’re about)

33

the Harry Smith Anthology, we could not have existed, because there was no other way for us to get hold of that material.”11 Each of these seeds came to fruition just as the payola scandal cleared the way for radio stations to start playing a wider range of music. In 1961, Yagoda points out,12 rock ’n’ roll’s first iteration was already playing out, making way for a new aspect of the youth culture. Influenced by the gritty, “authentic” folk songs of the anthology, as well as other Folkways collections and giants such as Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, a new crop of sanitized, euphonious harmonies, typified by the Weavers (featuring Charles Seeger’s son Pete), the Kingston Trio, and Harry Belafonte (who would provide Dylan with his first professional recording gig)13 blossomed on the airwaves. Based in New York City’s Greenwich Village, the new folk scene would be the landing spot for the newly‑minted Bob Dylan, arriving from Minnesota. Though he had started his musical ambitions hoping to be a rock star,14 he correctly read the trends and adjusted his sights. Having soaked up the old hillbilly music he heard on the radio and on “borrowed” discs,15 and having learned not only the songs, but the styles of each performance on the Anthology, Dylan cadged whatever scrap of insight he could find. He became a scholar and a sponge, rapidly conquering the scene. Dylan’s time in Greenwich Village, his rise through the ranks there, and his pre‑rock period have been covered extensively, and are not the focus here. Instead, we want to examine the various approaches he has made over the past six decades regarding a cache of songs that were deposited like alluvial soil beneath the separate streams of the preservationist philosophy, which flowed together just as he began his career. At that time, his performance style was that of a mimic, by which we mean that he consciously (and inauthentically) adopted a persona connecting himself to Guthrie, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and the songs Lomax had collected in American Ballads and Songs.16 His initial performances were direct copies of their deliveries. On the Gaslight performance of “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” Dylan channels Blind Lemon Jefferson’s southern moan, as he barks out “that coughin’/ coffin sound” with a roughness he hasn’t actually acquired yet. Without Odetta’s version of “No More Auction Block” (Lomax’s “Many T’ousands Go”),17 we might not have Dylan’s mournful rendition,18 though he rearranges and cuts lines to make it his own. These recordings are successful as performances, and faithful to the source material, which was required in the folk milieu, in the name of “authenticity.”19 But for a nineteen‑year‑old white boy from Minnesota to speak in the voice of “Hezekiah Jones,” though it is a compelling song, can in no way be considered “authentic” and, in fact, is closer to the cultural appropriation Lott discusses in identifying minstrel shows as “a manifestation of the particular desire to try on the accents of

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‘blackness’ and demonstrates the permeability of the color line.”20 Yet this style of performance was required given Dylan’s apprenticeship in the world of folk music. Without demonstrating his ability to replicate those that were considered the masters and founders of the genre, he would not have been able to move forward as a journeyman toward his own mastery. In his notes to “The Waggoner’s Lad” in the Anthology, Harry Smith cites Belden’s concept of a “folk‑lyric,” which is a song made up of verbal fragments that have no relation to each other, but are “word clusters and entire verses . . . often used interchangeably with each other.” In this way, folk and blues songs are not so much written or composed, but accreted from formulaic phrases and images.21 As Dylan moved from singing covers of older songs to writing his own, he drew from a number of pools, combining and recombining tunes, phrases, and lines from any source that supplied what he needed. Thus, Guthrie’s “Talking Columbia” supplies not only the music to “Talkin’ New York,” but also Dylan’s harmonica riffs, phrasing, and even his Okie accent, especially in the ironic line, “You sound like a hillbilly. We want folk singers here.”22 Though he performed only a handful of songs from the Anthology during this period, it would become more of a songbook for him much later, and it did provide ample structures and lyrics to hang on them. The most well‑known example is the use of the music from Bentley Boys’ “Down On Penny’s Farm” for Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm.” As we mention in chapter 7, Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s selection, “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground,” is the source of the line “Drink up your blood like wine” in “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.” There are a number of more subtle influences as well. “Frankie,” by Mississippi John Hurt, one of many versions relating the true‑life murder of Allen Britt by his girlfriend Frankie Baker (Dylan sings a very similar rendition, “Frankie and Albert,” on his 1992 album Good as I Been to You) has an interesting structure, in that it tells the familiar story of Frankie’s search for her man, and finds that he “done her wrong” with another woman. But the last verse, instead of describing Frankie’s guilty feelings, or the (historically inaccurate) description of her on the scaffold, as Dylan sings, is a throwback to an early part of the story, in which the bartender says to the searching Frankie, that he’s gone with Alice Pryor and that “he’s your man, and he done you wrong.” Dylan would use this disrupted sequencing of verses to dizzying effect when he reversed the scenes in “All Along the Watchtower,” so that, having already ridden with the joker and thief, the listener ends the song with the Princes watching them approach, with the result that the scene becomes an endless and frightening loop. Dylan’s encyclopedic knowledge of songs has been gleaned from many sources, and he describes his experiences listening to records in the back



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room of the Folklore Center and going through Izzy Young’s “antediluvian folk scrolls.”23 The Mississippi Sheiks laid down the track “Sweet Maggie” (and its variant “Alberta Blues”), which Dylan took for “Corrina, Corrina” on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and again for the various takes of “Alberta” on Self Portrait and on the larger boxed set Another Self Portrait. He also may have been inspired by the reduplicative verse “stop knock‑knocking on my door” in their song “Too Long” when he would write “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” for Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Perhaps it was at the Folklore Center, or maybe even before he left home, that he came across fellow Minnesotan M. C. Dean’s compilation known as Flying Cloud, which contains the title song along with “One Hundred and Fifty other Old Time Songs and Ballads of Outdoor Men, Sailors, Lumber Jacks, Soldiers, Men of the Great Lakes, Railroadmen, Minders, etc.”24 Originally compiled in 1922, like the Lomaxes’ American Ballads, it sought to provide the words to as many folk songs as Dean could find in the state. The first song, “Flying Cloud,” tells the story of one Willie Hollander, who ships aboard the Flying Cloud, a “clipper ship of five hundred tons or more.” The crew’s adventures include a slaving run from Africa to Cuba. The narrator surely has a conscience, though, as he relates, It would have been better for those poor souls if they’d been in their graves; For the plague and fever came on board, swept half their number away.

His Captain Moore, though, has no such scruples, and convinces his men to hoist a pirate flag, until they are defeated and captured by Spanish sailors, to die “a shameful death out in some foreign land.” “Flying Cloud” bears more than a passing similarity to “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” which also describes a voyage that forces us to consider the ramifications of colonialism and rampant greed. To start, the meter of the two songs is identical, and in fact some of the rhymes are close as well. Dylan’s begins: I was riding on the Mayflower When I thought I spied some land25

while Dean’s begins: My name is Willie Hollander, as you may understand, I was born in the County Waterford in Erin’s happy land.26

Notice that the opening of Dean’s entry is inverted by Dylan’s, and in both, there is the theme of immigrating to America, as Dylan’s continues: I yelled for Captain Arab I have yuh understand27

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But in both cases, that immigration leads not to freedom and riches, but to devastation. For example, on the African shore, Dean’s “five hundred of those poor slaves from their native land we bore” prefigures the satirical attack on native peoples in Dylan’s “Captain Arab he started / Writing up some deeds / He said, ‘Let’s set up a fort / And start buying the place with beads.’” Even some of the surreal imagery in Dylan’s song has antecedents in the earlier one. Dylan sings, “Ran out to the street / When a bowling ball came down the road / And knocked me off my feet.” Willie Hollander and his piratical comrades meet their doom when a Spanish ship, a man‑of‑war, the Dungeon, hove in view, And fired a shot across our boys as a signal to heave to; We gave to her no answer, but sailed before the wind, Until a chain shot broke our mizzen mast and then we fell behind.28

Finally, each song ends on a warning note. While Willie is heading to the New Gate gallows he cautions, “youths beware of my sad fate and my curse on Piracy.” Dylan’s narrator, though, has a more modern critique of society. After having been robbed by a prostitute, thrown into jail, and witnessed protests “[w]here people carried signs around / Saying, ‘Ban the bums,’”29 (his pronunciation of the last word perfectly lands between the printed word and the original “bomb,” allowing for interpretation from either end of the political spectrum), the erstwhile sailor decides he’s had enough of the new country. His admonition isn’t to rambunctious boys looking for adventure, but to yet another wave of colonialism in the form of a captain in charge of “three ships a‑sailin’” who “said his name was Columbus.” For him, the singer has only the wish: “Good luck.” While Willie Hollander exposes the inhumanity of the slave trade, Dylan uses the song as a template in order to indict the entire military‑industrial complex that has colonized America’s very culture. The only significant difference is that, even though they share a meter, Dean’s song, at least as presented by Waltz, is slow and mournful, while Dylan’s is energetic, even inviting laughter with the addition (from a separate take) of Dylan and producer Tom Wilson breaking up in hysterics at the ludicrous first line.30 Nevertheless, the end result is just as disparaging to industries that continue to haunt our nation. In sum, throughout the first part of Dylan’s work as a performer and in his early songwriting, he approached the material either as a conscientious student, or as an impish maker of verbal collages. But after the climactic events of the 1966 tour, and Dylan’s subsequent motorcycle accident, his apparent attitude toward the musical heritage he had absorbed took a very hard turn. Holed up in Woodstock, New York, Dylan’s contemplative mode of writing and recording reveals an attempt to recast the traditional songs and themes to



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fit into a modern sphere. Informally recording what would become The Base‑ ment Tapes: Complete! in the summer of 1967, Dylan and the Band traded massive music halls for a home studio. Sid Griffin points out that “[a]s the volume was turned down, so was the aggression.”31 Without the burred edges of stadium‑sized amplifiers, they were free to craft delicate, but still electric, renditions of songs that included traditional, recent, and brand‑new compositions. In this fashion, a variant of the Lomax‑collected song “The Buffalo Skinners,” here called “The Hills of Mexico,” emerges with a twangy metronomic electric guitar with subtly menacing organ twirls in the background. It’s an arrangement that Dylan would return to more than two decades later, when he resurrected it as “Trail of the Buffalo” for the Never Ending Tour in the late 1980s and 1990s. Though John Lee Hooker’s “Tupelo” is performed as a goof, with Dylan sending up Hooker’s suspenseful slow build up to the flood by ironically slurring his words and reveling a little too much in the spelling of “Mississippi,” the effect is equally a send up of Dylan’s own inauthentic delivery of blues from his first arrival in Greenwich Village. Other songs are presented in a similarly‑parodic fashion, such as “Kickin’ My Dog Around” (with its “Dog, dog, dog” chorus) and “See You Later Allen Ginsberg,” and “I’m Your Teenage Prayer.” But the vast majority of these sessions are earnest investigations into the songscape that encompasses the musicians’ American and Canadian roots. In addition to the many traditional songs, Dylan’s original compositions are products of the “folk‑lyric” style (and in some cases, recording quality) that pervades the Anthology.32 Some lines float from that collection to this one, as in the verse Well, it’s sugar for sugar And salt for salt If you go down in the flood It’s gonna be your fault33

from “Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood),” which Richard Rabitt Brown sings as I’ll give you sugar for sugar, next you get salt for salt. And if you can’t get ’long with me, well it’s your own fault

in “James Alley Blues.”34 Dylan would continue this investigation, penning and recording his own songs in a similar vein. Beginning with John Wesley Harding, which he recorded soon after his Basement Tapes sessions, though none of the Band joined him on that record. All of the songs are original, except that the lyric

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of “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” is based on the old union song, “Joe Hill” by Alfred Hays. Dylan’s voice is smooth, with no trace of the wailing he’d done on his 1966 tour. Yet the lyrics are unmistakably influenced by the Americana that Dylan had been immersed in. Take, for example, these lines from the closing stanza of “I Am a Lonesome Hobo”: Kind ladies and kind gentlemen . . . Before I do pass on . . .35

Similar in tone and meaning to Willie Hollander’s advice at the end of “Flying Cloud,” Dylan’s dictive register is not at all what one would expect just after the Summer of Love. Instead, he reaches back to archaically formal phrasings such as “Kind ladies and kind gentlemen” and “Before I do pass on.” The stanza continues: Live by no man’s code . . . Lest you wind up on this road.36

The imagery of “no man’s code” and “Lest you wind up on this road” hearkens to nineteenth century ballads, blues, and laments. The rough and ready sound of the Basements Tapes and John Wesley Harding, paired with Dylan’s uncharacteristically melodious voice, was a warm-up for the sessions that produced Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, and New Morning. Throughout the period, his immersion in the sound and structure of early American song forms deepened. As in the earlier sessions, he revisits Anthology tunes, such as Clarence Ashley’s “House Carpenter,” which Dylan had recorded as early as 1962 (and finally released on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3) and gives it a country shine that hadn’t existed before. Lomax lists a song in the section “Negro Bad Men” called “Railroad Bill” that is clearly related to the version Dylan released on Another Self Por‑ trait, though the racist lyrics have been cut and Dylan uses the “Ride, ride, ride” chorus that Ramblin’ Jack Elliott recorded in 1961. But Dylan’s version sounds less like Elliott’s picking style, which he might have used himself in the early 1960s. Now he is ushering in the era of the singer‑songwriter and the smooth soft rock of the early 1970s typified by Jim Croce, Paul Simon, and America. His harmonica and vocals are bouncy, as if he’s at a country sing‑along. Even the violent images, of guns and Bill’s stealing the singer’s wife, are sung for fun, anticipating “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown” by three years. After New Morning, which ended his sojourn through Americana, fully electrifying again, though without the overwhelming sound of 1966, Dylan would turn his attention to other styles and projects. But he never fully abandons anything, he merely turns to focus on another aspect of the greater



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whole. It wouldn’t be until 1988’s Down in the Groove that Dylan would again focus on early American songs. It is an uneven album, to say the least, and hails from the period when he was considering himself past his prime.37 Perhaps an attempt to remind himself of where he had found inspiration, he returns to traditional ballads like “Shenandoah” and Albert E. Brumley’s “Rank Strangers to Me,” but the overall effect is lacking, a rough draft in need of polish. In the spring of 1992, he again made an assay at these traditional songs, working with David Bromberg and a full band in Chicago.38 The result, heard only in a few released tracks on volume 8 of the Bootleg series, Tell Tale Signs and some circulated bootlegs, were extraordinary. “Duncan and Brady” revitalizes Leadbelly as well as Dylan’s approach to ballads, while the unreleased “Polly Vaughn” soulfully updates a traditional tune that includes a ghostly testimony that prefigures the baleful haunting by Billy Lyons in “Stack A Lee,” released on World Gone Wrong. Sloman recounts that, despite recording a full album’s worth of songs with Bromberg, Dylan felt, “that the potential he felt at the beginning was never realized.”39 The potential is certainly realized on Good as I Been to You. No longer simply mimicking the old performers, or trying to pour new wine into old bottles, at this point Dylan has grown into the material that has fascinated him since he began collecting songs. His command of the songs is absolute. Without changing so much as the pitch of his voice, he conveys the personalities of each of the characters (as well as the narrator) in “Blackjack Davey” by tumbling the words off his tongue. When Davey calls the girl “my honey” the sickening sweetness is on his breath, and she laps it up “with a loving smile”, as blinded as Juliet first seeing her Romeo. When the seduced girl forsakes her baby, Dylan rolls that word around his mouth as if to suggest she is about to spit it out, yet she languidly drawls her new lover’s name while she lies in his arms, “love my Blackjack Daaavey.” His guitar echoes the horse riders’ pounding, until that last line, when it stumbles to a close, suggesting just how far this fifteen‑year‑old mother and adulteress has fallen, and what the future holds for her. It’s a future Dylan revisits in “Tin Angel” on Tempest, which depicts a similar love triangle that may be set in the American West, as “Blackjack Davey” suggests, or a film noir, or even in the palace of Mycenae, where Clytmenestra slaughtered her husband Agamemnon upon his return from Troy. But unlike the embrace that ends this song, the unfaithful wife kills herself, leaving “all three together in a heap.” Dylan inhabits each of the characters throughout the album. It is this, more than anything else, that allows him to achieve what he had set out to do so long before, in transmitting the old songs into a new setting. It isn’t about affecting the voice of the elders, as he had at the start, or gussying

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up the music to fit the period, as he had done during his Americana period. It is, simply, finding the humanity in the song, and presenting it truthfully, from one who has lived the words and music. That is why this album, and its follow‑up World Gone Wrong, speak so eloquently. Though these are not songs Dylan wrote, they are all aspects of the artistic identity he creates through performing them. Songs’ narrators across his career reflect his commitments to intertextual anchoring of songs in rich cultural contexts and to concomitantly nuanced vocal performances. Williams notes that in “Arthur McBride,” Dylan employs an accent that is “not Irish nor American but is born rather of the song itself, its key and chords and musical texture.”40 The same holds true for any of the other personae he portrays, as when his voice vibrates as he sings, “she’s gone to stay” as he tries to have us believe he’s “Sittin’ on Top of the World.” Now Dylan can make allusions to, instead of merely copying, Smith and Lomax. When he sings “Little Maggie,” it’s a version of Dock Boggs’s Country Blues on the Anthology, but it’s Dylan’s version. No one else’s voice can so subtly match the guitar strumming that lends this song such a tragic tone, especially when “she’s drinking down her troubles over courting some other man.” He can end the album with the Lomax‑collected “Froggy Went A‑Courtin’” and let us see and feel the love as “Uncle Rat laughed and he shook his fat sides” and the sadness of how the cow “tried to dance and didn’t know how.” And keeping in mind it is a children’s song, he withholds the original ending, in which the snake that swallows Mr. Frog is in turn killed “by a Negro man.”41 Good as I Been to You laid the foundation, and World Gone Wrong built upon it. Having primed his audience with a variety of entertaining performance styles and accessible songs, the journeyman artist produced a master work in the selection and tone in his presentation of songs. In contrast to the folk heroism of “Arthur McBride” and childish fun of “Froggie Went A‑Courtin’,” World Gone Wrong evokes a dark world of murder ballads such as “Love Henry,” “Delia” and “Stack A Lee.” In the title track, Dylan’s voice soars mournfully on the last word before the chorus as he sings, “I can’t be good, babyyyyy,” denoting a shift from the innocence Blackjack Davey’s conquest thought she had in her drawling of his name to bitter experience in a single drawn‑out syllable. In his liner notes for the song, Dylan channels Harry Smith with the staggering insight: strange things alright—strange things like courage becoming befuddled & nonfundamental. evil charlatans masquerading in pullover vests & tuxedos talking gobbledygook, monstrous pompous superficial pageantry parading down lonely streets on limited access highways.42



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The style of Dylan’s guitar playing is more spare on this album than its predecessor, often shrinking into the background except to emphasize an emotional beat. One exception is on the Blind Willie McTell song “Broke Down Engine,” which begins with a flurry that sounds like a steam whistle, and then raggedly echoes the train without a driving wheel. Dylan bangs on the body of the instrument as he sings, “Can’t you hear me, baby, rapping on your door,” just as he had heard Blind Lemon Jefferson replicate the “tollin’ sound” of a bell on the Anthology performance of “Two White Horses” (which he had not duplicated when he recorded it as “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” on his first album). But in the closing song, “Lone Pilgrim,” it is subtle to the point of being nearly inaudible, giving the impression of an a cappella lament that fades like the ghost who narrates it. “MELANCHOLY MOOD”: DYLAN AND THE AMERICAN SONGBOOK In the 1950s, the composer Leonard Bernstein aired a series of “Young People’s Concerts” on CBS television in order to educate not only children, but their families as well, on aspects of classical music. His daughter Jamie writes, “you had the sense that he was letting you in on a wonderful secret, rather than drumming facts into you that might prove useful later.”43 It’s likely that, growing up in Hibbing, young Robert Zimmerman saw at least some of those concerts. Half a century later, he performed a similar role as a curator and educator, hosting the Theme Time Radio Hour on satellite radio. Over the course of three seasons and one hundred episodes (plus a bonus “lost episode”), Dylan curated, commented on, and spun discs, all in support of a weekly theme, anything from “Marriage” to “Divorce” to “Numbers 11 and Up.” In the first episode, “Weather,” Dylan presented, as he would throughout the run of the show, a mixture of blues, early rock, and American standards, including Judy Garland’s “Come Rain or Come Shine” and Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind.” In between songs, he would provide background information and insights into the songs and performers. In the “Thanksgiving Leftovers” episode, he describes Dinah Washington as “one of the greatest of the jazz singers, and her throaty sass, soulful vocal dips, and end of the lyric growls make this version . . . an invitation that’s almost impossible to resist.” In “Shoes,” he explains the meaning behind the title to Boozoo Chavis’s “Paper in My Shoes” (it’s a voodoo practice, for deploying charm “for any number of reasons”) then rails against people who consider Run DMC’s raps songs as “oldies.”

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Theme Time Radio Hour introduced hundreds of obscure and forgotten performers to listeners in the new millennium. Dylan clearly enjoyed his work, which he recorded, even as he was touring and putting out three new recordings, over the course of three years. His inter‑song monologues, as with Harry Smith, purvey esoterica, sly jokes, interviews, and serious musical insights. Researching and listening to the songs allowed him and his listeners to explore the previous century of recorded music, in keeping with Dylan’s new mantle of keeper of the culture. It is a purpose that he continues to fulfill as he has moved on to explore a separate, but no less influential, song style, the American Standard. Even as the inventions of mechanical reproduction of music, in the form of wax cylinders and, later, shellac and then vinyl discs, brought about the collapse of the sheet music, the recording formats, of necessity, limited the length of a recorded performance. Simultaneously, as we mention above, the advent of radio allowed people to tune in to professionally‑recorded renditions of the songs that poured out of New York’s Brill Building, the center of Tin Pan Alley. As Howard and Bellows44 and Yagoda45 point out, this obviated the necessity of simple tunes aimed at amateurs, and allowed for more complex writing that professionals could pull off with ease. Simultaneously, changes in copyright laws46 and fee structures led to the creation of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), which collected royalties from live and “mechanical” performances of its members’ songs for distribution. This in turn created even more complex membership and fee‑payment structures, and when ASCAP’s royalty demands to radio became too onerous, the radio networks formed a competing association, BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.). The war between the two escalated until radio networks ultimately banned ASCAP‑related songs from the airwaves entirely, beginning on January 1, 1941, and continuing for ten months. It was during this time, when a huge catalogue of music was effectively eradicated from the consciousness of the population, that what has become known as the American Songbook began to take shape. And about halfway through the boycott, Robert Allen Zimmerman was born in Duluth, Minnesota, to Beatrice (Stone) and Abram Zimmerman, who sold radios at his electric appliance store.47 With new material much more difficult to procure, big bands, jazz performers, and recording artists turned to songs in the public domain, as well as show tunes. A renewed interest in regional styles like the blues and international folk songs48 also provided content. Tin Pan Alley continued to contribute to their repertoire, too, but even these several streams were not enough to sate the industry’s appetite. With such a small pool of songs, but a wide range of performing styles, the same composition could live a varied life, often being recorded many times in just a span of months. When the United States entered



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the war at the end of 1941, performers reached back to the previous war for songs of leave‑taking and homesickness, the nostalgia being ready‑built into the lyrics. All of this helped to build the idea of a “standard.” Into this second creation of uniquely “American” musical styles entered a young singer, Frank Sinatra. Singing with band leaders such as Harry James and Tommy Dorsey and recording with them and Bob Chester, he rapidly made a name for himself, crooning in front of audiences, over the airwaves, and on recordings. Throughout his career, Sinatra pioneered a number of industry practices that are now standard. For example, he is generally credited with creating the “concept album,” releasing collections based on a particular mood such as Songs for Young Lovers, In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers! and Trilogy: Past Present Future. Through his collaborative work with Nelson Riddle, Billy May, and Gordon Jenkins, he produced a body of work that emphasized a supreme control over his voice, and multiple renditions of songs, much as Dylan has after him. In laying the groundwork to discuss Dylan’s late interpretations of songs that Sinatra popularized (though Dylan does not always use Sinatra’s recordings as a model, as we will discuss below), it would be helpful to see what his biographer, Will Friedwald, characterized as the “Sinatra style”: What he has substituted for pure technique in the very good years since his youth has proved far more meaningful. His ability to tell a story has consistently gotten sharper even as the voice grew deeper and the textures surrounding it richer. Generally, rhythm and dynamics are discussed as if they are two distinct qualities, but with Sinatra they’re inseparable. They amount to the primary tools through which he affords varying degrees of weight to key phrases. That weight of emphasis can be applied in terms of both duration—the length of time that he holds the note (rhythm)—or in the volume level at which he chooses to hit it (dynamics). Before Sinatra, loud generally tended to mean long, but The Voice opened up a whole new world of rhythmic‑dynamic thinking in which soft notes could be indefinitely extended for greater emotional effect.49

As we show throughout this book, many of these attributes are ones that Dylan has also evinced. Elsewhere, we discuss how Dylan’s control of both rhythm and dynamics allows him to express many varied meanings and emotions, often in performances of the same song. His dedication to story is unparalleled, whether it be in his recordings of archaic ballads, his cinematic songs such as “Black Diamond Bay” and “Brownsville Girl,” his extensive (if quixotic) film career, and his curation of songs in the long‑running Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio Hour. The American Songbook, much like the country it represents, is a loosely‑ defined corpus of songs, drawn as it is from Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, Holly-

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wood, and folk tunes from around the world. However, in general, it comprises songs with certain distinctive qualities. One is an inherent suaveness, characteristic of Cole Porter and George and Ira Gershwin. The wit and light touch that they, along with Harold Arlen and Irving Berlin, bring to songwriting would allow for endless interpretations and styles, even almost a century later. Having come to typify the society set of New York City, Songbook standards often contain surprising, clever rhymes and urbane themes, perfect for radio listeners hundreds, or thousands, of miles away from Manhattan, even as far as the Mesabi Iron Range of Minnesota. As described by Yagoda, another distinction is the structure of Tin Pan Alley songs, which was extremely rigid: “four sections of eight bars each, most commonly in AABA form, with the B section, known as the bridge or release, sometimes modulating to another key.”50 This, he explains, was the result of the popularity of the phonograph, which limited songs on a 78 rpm disc to about four minutes.51 While a sonnet has to create an entire world in only 140 syllables, the Tin Pan Alley song must do the same in about half the space. Furia notes that, while this restrictive structure often resulted in “banal, box‑like phrases,” it also could “spark the inventiveness of a lyricist like Gershwin, who could cleverly make the syntax of his lyric spill over the musical boundaries.”52 For example, consider the cascading rhyme of “But Not for Me”: I’ve found more clouds of gray than any Russian play,53

a couplet that is clinched, after the intervention of two non‑rhyming lines, by And get that way.54

Similarly, Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You” is even more inventive, beginning: Some get a kick from cocaine. I’m sure that if I took even one sniff,55

and concluding the stanza with a rich set of internal rhymes and instances of assonance and consonance: That would bore me terrific’ly, too, Yet I get a kick out of you.56

We can see Dylan’s picking up on this playful tradition in a number of performances as well. For example, in “All I Really Want to Do” he gives us:



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No, and I ain’t lookin’ to fight with you, Frighten you, or tighten you.57

And “Mozambique” gives the throw‑away Irving Berlin allusion to “dancing cheek to cheek.” In “No Time to Think,” which no one would confuse with a Frank Sinatra performance, he staggers the rhymes so they fall, sometimes, at the ends of lines, and sometimes, not: Betrayed by a kiss on a cool night of bliss In the valley of the missing link58

and, later in the same song, I’ve seen all these decoys through a set of deep turquoise eyes And I feel so depressed.59

Having grown up listening to radio in the 1940s and ’50s, it is likely that, sponge that he is, the attentive performer Dylan soaked up these phrasings and felicitous pairings, inserting them into his own work, even as he rebelled against the old crooners. When he finally came around to revisiting them, the jaunty rhythms were already a part of him. “My roots go back to the Thirties, not the Fifties,” Dylan told Jonathan Cott of Rolling Stone in 1978.60 They were discussing his “bigger sound” and the recording of Street Legal, but it just as well might have been for Shadows in the Night, or Triplicate. It was on Street Legal that Dylan first used a full horn section, fusing arena rock with a big band sound. In a way, it was the incipient point of the transformation that would gain momentum in the 1990s and then the new millennium, leading Bill Flanagan to ask, in a 2017 interview to promote Triplicate, if singing with a live horn section was a challenge (“No challenge,” he replied).61 After his sojourn in the valley of evangelical music, many of Dylan’s subsequent songs reached back to those earlier days, either with references to film (as we discuss in chapter 9), or in songs that are lyrically or thematically reminiscent of that era. In “Most of the Time,” Dylan’s insistence that Most of the time I wouldn’t change it if I could62

makes it perfectly clear that when he says “most,” what he really means is “none,” as he continues with: I can make it all match up, I can hold my own I can deal with the situation right down to the bone.63

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He follows this with the brave claim that: I can survive, I can endure64

but concludes with a faltering protest that clinches the stanza’s and the song’s irony: And I don’t even think about her Most of the time.65

Surely he is rewriting the song written by Hoagy Carmichael (based on a poem by Jane Brown Thompson) “I Get Along Very Well without You (Except Sometimes)” and performed by Sinatra in 1955, which also insists on emotional separation: I’ve forgotten you, just like I should, of course I have66

but follows this with a contradictory exception: except to hear your name or someone’s laugh that is the same. But I’ve forgotten67

and concludes with a now‑troubled reaffirmation: you just like I should.68

It’s also possible, given Dylan’s focus on quoting film noir, especially on the recent Empire Burlesque, he was thinking of the performance by Jane Russell and Carmichael in the 1952 film The Las Vegas Story. One of the takes included on Tell Tale Signs (“Alternate Version #2” on disc three) is played in the same slow, spare manner as theirs. The homages came more quickly as the turn of the century approached. In “Make You Feel My Love,” which Flanagan points out has become a standard in its own right,69 Dylan’s bridge begins: The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea And on the highway of regret,70

calling to mind Harold Arlen’s release in “Stormy Weather,” (which Dylan would later perform himself on Triplicate) in imagery like this: The winds of change are blowing wild and free You ain’t seen nothing like me yet.71



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Dylan seems to channel Cole Porter’s rhyming technique on “Love and Theft” when, in “Moonlight” he sings: The clouds are turnin’ crimson—the leaves fall from the limbs an’ The branches cast their shadows over stone.72

Compare this to Mitchell Parish’s lyrics for Glenn Miller’s similarly‑titled “Moonlight Serenade” (performed by Sinatra on Moonlight Sinatra in 1966): Let us stray till break of day in love’s valley of dreams. Just you and I, a summer sky, a heavenly breeze kissin’ the trees.73

Beyond these samples, in each song, the singer uses flower imagery, fading light, a springtime setting to coax a lover into a moonlight stroll. Dylan increases the big band feeling by also referencing films that bookend his time within the era: For Whom The Bell Tolls and To Catch a Thief. Throughout the rest of his albums of original work, Dylan would scatter such references, such as mentioning Bing Crosby’s “The Bells of Saint Mary’s” in the Songbook‑feeling “Beyond the Horizon” on Modern Times. On the same album, the middle line of the last verse of “Someday Baby” is “Why was I born to love you?” This is the closing line of “Why Was I Born,” written by Oscar Hammerstein II and the closing song on Triplicate. Dylan points out himself that Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” is the basis for the intro to “Duquesne Whistle” on Tempest.74 He recalls fondly any number of crooners, from Nat King Cole, to the Andrews Sisters, to Crosby, again in his throwback Christmas in the Heart, which we consider, along with Shadows in the Night, Fallen Angels, and Triplicate, an integral part of his standards reinterpretations. Christmas in the Heart was a safe, but by no means tentative, foray into classic songs. Released with little fanfare in 2009, the collection is a mixture of traditional songs such as “O, Come All Ye Faithful” (sung partially in Latin, though Dylan seems to have forgotten his high school pronunciation lessons) and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” along with mid‑twentieth-century gems such as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “Winter Wonderland.” The arrangements, as Dylan tells Bill Flanagan, are traditional because, “there wasn’t any other way to play it. These songs are part of my life, just like folk songs. You have to play them straight, too.”75 Had the album failed, it could have been dismissed as a one‑off, easily forgotten among hundreds of other unexpected rocker holiday collections such as those by Chicago, Canned Heat, and Billy Idol. Instead, by using those traditional arrangements, Dylan calls attention to a number of performers and lyricists that he would highlight on his later, more

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secular, American Songbook releases. The little known “Christmas Island” was first sung by the Andrews Sisters in 1946 (it’s unlikely Dylan didn’t know this, though he claims otherwise in his interview with Flanagan, since he performed the song at Dobell’s Jazz Record Shop in London in 1963).76 Its jaunty, Pacific island rhythms hew close to their rendition, and the backing vocalists echo their close harmonies. By adding hula‑inspired strumming on a mandolin masquerading as a ukulele, Dylan recalls the tiki craze that took hold in the United States after World War II. And while Ken Tucker of National Public Radio says that he “does make his slow, deliberate version of ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ sound more like a threat than a promise,”77 Dylan takes on Nat King Cole head‑on by singing “The Christmas Song.” He distinguishes his version by adding the little‑heard intro that Mel Tormé performed with Judy Garland in 196378 because “it definitely creates tension.”79 Unlike Cole’s smooth, seductively‑slow delivery, Dylan’s attack on the song is triumphant, rising to multiple crescendoes and then a subsiding finish that reminds you first of sleds crashing through the snow, and then hot cocoa by the fire. A number of songs on Christmas in the Heart highlight specific artists. Several songs were made famous by Bing Crosby. Besides “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” there can also be found “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and “Silver Bells.” And while he recorded “The Little Drummer Boy” by himself in 1962, Crosby also joined with David Bowie fifteen years later to do it. Dylan performs it in a stately, quiet manner that emphasizes the simplicity of the gift the drummer offers, and its gracious acceptance. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Dylan delivers a delirious version of “Must Be Santa” (its music video depicts what must be the worst Christmas party Santa ever attended). Mitch Miller, who collaborated with Frank Sinatra on many of his early songs, is credited with writing the song and released it in 1960, but Dylan’s rendition is in the classic holiday tradition of the Eisenhower era, with a children’s choir and prosaic listing of Santa’s attributes. But as Dylan declares in the interview with Bill Flanagan, he’s following the version of the regional Texas band Brave Combo, trading out their trumpets for an accordion that moves the vibe from Mexico to Minnesota. Overall, Dylan’s style on this disc is to blend his signature gravel with a more familiar musical arrangement. The result is uneven, with the lugubrious “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “The First Noel” failing to deliver, but gems like “The Christmas Blues” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” evoking the periods from which they sprung. The range of choices provides Dylan with enough experimentation with pitch and tempo on which to pattern his later Songbook releases. It would be three years before his next, and to date last, release of original material, and another three more before Dylan produced,



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in rapid sequence, Shadows in the Night, Fallen Angels, and Triplicate, for a total of fifty loving homages to the music of his youth, augmented by the rainbow‑supporting “He’s Funny That Way” that he contributed to the compilation Universal Love. A drought of studio work followed Tempest, but Dylan surprised everyone with his new direction by releasing the single “Full Moon and Open Arms” in May of 2014. Over Donny Herron’s eerie pedal steel guitar, Dylan sings a slow, smooth, and clear paean to a lost love. Not afraid of silence, he allows entire moments to pass without a sound, emphasizing the emptiness of the arms he sings of. His phrasing is markedly similar to Frank Sinatra’s 1945 recording, though he doesn’t attempt the soaring crescendo in the second verse that Sinatra intones. Instead, he keeps the levels low and even, resulting in a rich, gorgeously‑sung preview of an album that would not appear for another nine months. In late October, at Los Angeles, he added “Stay With Me” as the closing song of his concerts, a choice that remained until the end of that leg of the tour, in New York, that December.80 These were the only two songs that blew aside the dust of rumor that swirled around the upcoming release. When Shadows in the Night finally materialized in February of 2015, it was to nearly universal praise, despite the trepidation that it would be a desecration of Sinatra and the American Songbook, in general. In fact, Al Schmitt, who recorded and mixed the album, says that each session began by listening “to the old Frank Sinatra recording of the song [they] were going to record, not to approach it in the same way, but to get an interpretation,”81 and Dylan certainly makes the songs his own. Dylan’s selection of songs on this first collection avoids the light, urbane lyrics characteristic of Porter or Gershwin (neither of whom is represented among these songs, and in fact, not on any of the subsequent releases). Instead, he chooses more somber mood pieces that evoke film noir (especially on “The Night We Called It a Day,” the video to which is itself an homage to those B‑films) and despair. He inhabits these songs as if they were simply waiting for him to grow into them, as indeed he has. For one thing, anyone expecting Dylan to sing with the full orchestrations that Sinatra and other crooners of the era would have used would have been quite wrong. His plan, once he was “brave enough” was “to approach 30‑piece complicated arrangements and refine them down for a five‑piece band.”82 The minimalist backing allows Dylan to showcase his ability to find the emotional core in a song. This is clearly heard when he sings in “I’m A Fool to Want You”: Take me back, I love you Pity me, I need you.83

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The pauses after “again” and “words,” the sudden drop in tone for “Take me back” are devastating in their finality and sincerity. He finds a lighter, but no less honest, note in “Some Enchanted Evening.” Here, the pause in the first verse, also after “again,” evokes not finality, but a wistful hope, a word of advice from an old uncle to a young lover. During his 1986 True Confessions Tour with Tom Petty, Dylan often sang “That Lucky Old Sun,” especially during the Australian dates. At that time, he sang it as a slow song, but clearly in a rock vein. Backed by the Heartbreakers, and with the Queens of Rhythm providing soulful vocals, Dylan turned the song into a power ballad, albeit one sung with respect and an unusually clear voice. Still, it was a commodity, one that he might swap out for “We Had it All,” by Donnie Fritts and Troy Seals and made popular by Waylon Jennings. In other words, it filled the slot in the setlist for a nod to his past, but there was no apparent emotional truth to it. On Shadows in the Night, however, “That Lucky Old Sun” is given the honor of closing out the album. The majestic opening fanfare is nearly identical to Sinatra’s 1949 version, except that the newer version employs rumbling kettle drums and a french horn, while the earlier one is trumpets, strings, and a clarinet, giving it a lighter, wistful opening, suggestive of sunrise. Friedwald discusses Sinatra’s vocal technique of using longer phrases and conversational tone to allow for “greater leeway to stress the words that were the most important in the context of the story,”84 a technique that likely led to Columbia’s need to invent the microgroove85 to accommodate longer takes (and which Dylan memorializes on the labeling of his American Songbooks CDs). It is readily apparent here, such as when he sings, “Sweat till I’m wrinkled and gray, / While that lucky old sun got nothing to do, / But roll around Heaven all day.”86 He draws out “wrinkled and gray,” putting the maximum amount of heartache to them, takes a breath, then sings the entirety of the next two lines to a crescendo. But he’s not done. When he repeats the line, “Lift me to Paradise,” his voice soars for five seconds on the last word alone, then, hitting the highest point of the crescendo, accompanied by a dizzying trumpet, he swoops without pause to the other end of the register, lightly gliding into “Show me that river, take me across, / Wash all my troubles away.” Dylan’s rendition is sung by an older, wearier old man than Sinatra had been. The lower tones of the french horn and ominous kettle drums signal that, as well as the bass that plays behind him. Whereas Sinatra’s persona is that of a tired laborer, Dylan’s is someone who has seen more than his share of sunrises, and none lately that have been encouraging. The line “toil for my kids” is shaking, ready to collapse with pain and suffering. Like Sinatra, he builds to a crescendo on “Lift me to Paradise,” but its resolution is no tri-



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umph. It’s a prayer for release. In the dying strains of the final line, Dylan’s voice, which had been as melodious as he’s ever been throughout the rest of the album, shudders and cracks amidst the resounding horns, which carry the listener, it seems, across that final border where he cannot follow. Despite its foreboding title, Fallen Angels highlights the joyful and loving songs Dylan had eschewed on the previous disc. From the opening twangs of “Young At Heart” where Dylan pronounces the words trippingly on the tongue, to the country dance tune “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” that recalls and softens the farmer with the “brand new suit and a brand new wife” on “Workingman’s Blues #2,”87 this album is playful and lighthearted. In “Skylark,” a song Sinatra never recorded, Dylan glides along gently, reaching high notes that challenge him, but allowing him to gyrate gleefully through the lines, “Faint as a ‘will‑o‑the‑wisp,’ / Crazy as a loon, / Sad as a gypsy serenading the moon.” Though his live performances in recent years have relied heavily on short phrasings, Dylan utilizes exceptional breath control, as Sinatra was known for, on this album. He models his “All or Nothing At All” on Sinatra’s recording with the Harry James Orchestra in 1939, but while it is a very young Frank at the microphone, it is an aged Dylan. Nevertheless, Dylan holds the phrases to their sweetest ends, without any strain, especially as he allowed in “That Lucky Old Sun.” Here, he sings “The kiss in your eyes, the touch of your hand makes me weak” in two breaths, yes, but slides evenly along the notes to get there. Frank Sinatra’s Trilogy: Past Present Future was not his last release, but it was his most ambitious, comprising three separate collections with three different arrangers. Focusing on standards on the first disc, recent pop hits on the middle, and a suite of songs by arranger George Jenkins on the last, Sinatra’s album can be seen as a capstone to a half century of recording. Similarly, Dylan released Triplicate in 2017, fifty‑five years to the month after his first album, Bob Dylan, in March of 1962. While he does not repeat Sinatra’s concept, he does give each disc its own title: “’Til the Sun Goes Down,” “Devil Doll,” and “Comin’ Home Late.” Dylan said, “I was thinking in triads anyway, like Aeschylus, The Oresteia, the three linked Greek plays. I envisioned something like that.”88 In that trilogy, Aeschylus depicts the murder of King Agamemnon by his unfaithful wife Clytmenestra, the homecoming of their son Orsestes, whose sister Electra encourages him to kill their mother in revenge, and his trial. Ultimately, Athena herself exonerates the young man, making him the first hero of the post‑Trojan War generation. It’s a theme Dylan examines in his own song “Tin Angel,” as we discuss in chapter 8. The actual plot Dylan alludes to is not so clear. It does suggest a triangle, though it is certainly not a Greek tragedy. A closer analogy might be Shake-

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speare’s sonnet sequence, in which the narrator starts by praising the beauty of a young man, encouraging him to marry, then falls prey to his own flattering remarks, only to then be torn from that romance at the hands of a mysterious “dark lady,” a dilemma that is never clearly resolved. Dylan’s approach to storytelling, here and elsewhere, is focused primarily on moods, symbols, impressions, instead of linear plots, typified by songs such as “Tangled Up in Blue.” Dylan’s personal associations of these songs is impossible to know, but a loose plot is discernible. Disc one, “’Til the Sun Goes Down,” like an epic poem, begins in medias res: with “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plans,” we meet a lover stymied in his attempts to woo “the one girl I’d found.” Who they are, how another man has interposed himself between them, is less important than the despair the man has experienced, and, like the plot of any romantic comedy, he plumbs the depths of sadness, in such songs as “I Could Have Told You” and, of course, “Stormy Weather.” But part one ends on a high note: first in “My One and Only Love,” the lover finds either a new girl, or perhaps the old one returns, and then in “Trade Winds” she “traded her name” and they marry. If this were in fact a romantic comedy, such as High Society, the remake of The Philadelphia Story starring Sinatra, Grace Kelly, and Bing Crosby (and music by Cole Porter), that would be the end, and a happy one. But for the realist Dylan, who always has an unusual take on a situation, it is only the beginning. Given Dylan’s penchant for film and musical allusions, “Devil Doll” may take its name from a 1936 horror film starring Lionel Barrymore and Maureen O’Sullivan, or the band fronted by Colleen Duffy, whose rockabilly tunes also harkens back to the 1950s. A fellow Traveling Wilbury has a song “Devil Doll” on his first Sun Records album, 1961’s Roy Orbison at the Rock House. The song tells the story, common in Orbison’s work, of a love gone wrong, leaving the singer alone and bereft. This seems to be the closest analogue to the story on this disc: it begins in an effusive mood, with “Braggin’,” then segues directly into the song that will forever be associated with Bogart and Bergman, “As Time Goes By.” Through that intertextuality, Dylan calls back to the love triangle introduced in “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plans” and intensifies it to the point that we know there is a Rick or Sydney Carton in the picture. Yet as with Rick or Carton there is heartbreak on the horizon. Despite the optimism of  “The Best Is Yet to Come,” the middle portion of Triplicate careens toward misery, culminating in a trio of songs of loss: “Here’s That Rainy Day,” “Where Is the One?” and the humorously if misleadingly titled, “There’s a Flaw in My Flue,” where he laments, “From every beautiful ember a memory arose.” The second act closes not with the cheerfulness of When Harry Met Sally . . ., which introduced a new



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generation to the American Songbook by way of Harry Connick Jr., but the loss of Casablanca. Dylan said, “The themes were decided beforehand in a theatrical sense.”89 The film references continue on “Comin’ Home Late,” which could betoken either a swell party or the reluctance to return to a sad situation at home. The song selection here suggests the latter. In contrast with the opening of the first volume, “Day In, Day Out” provides a bouncing, hopeful mood, one that is immediately countered by the fighting in “I Couldn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night.” The relationship, such as it is, slides into regret and wistful nostalgia, especially in “These Foolish Things.” But instead of the expected reversal and redemption, the initial hope is dashed when his love does to him as she (or another) did at the start: drops him for another man. The story has come full circle, leaving him to ask, in the closing notes, as Dylan did in “Someday Baby,” “Why was I born to love you?” The recurring images Dylan turns to on Triplicate, such as weather and time, are ones that have haunted him throughout his career. They stand in for his views on mortality, the natural tendency to look back on a half‑century and more of creativity, and a search for meaning. Dreams are especially prevalent in his writing. Half a dozen or more of his compositions have the word simply in the title, and many more describe nighttime visions. “Bob Dylan’s Dream” is an early exercise in nostalgia, recounting lost friends and an innocence that can never be regained. In 2009’s “This Dream of You,” Dylan’s lyrics are reminiscent of Johnny Mercer or Hoagy Carmichael’s songs of faded loves. On Triplicate, Dylan explores dreamscapes in “I Could Have Told You,” “This Nearly Was Mine,” “Here’s That Rainy Day,” “Day In, Day Out,” “I Couldn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night,” and “Stardust.” As with the obscure symbolism of masks and flowers in Renaldo and Clara, dreams, here, allow Dylan to present images without comment, for the audience to find meaning, or not, as they will. To turn at the twilight of his career to the collection of songs made famous, for the most part, by another giant, is for Dylan to tie together the story of the American culture. Having started with folk music that reached back a century or more to America’s musical roots, then to have single‑handedly diverted that movement to arena rock ’n’ roll, and finally, years later, to return to that same well, shows less of a fitful, meandering journey for one itinerant singer‑songwriter, but more of a grand culmination of all that he has absorbed and personified as a performing scholar and translator of culture. Considering the vast number of influences, allusions, and interpretations he has given us, it is clear that Dylan’s work over the years has been one of expansive celebration of a vast but single fabric, woven of many threads, but whole and intact.

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NOTES  1. Ben Yagoda, The B‑Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of the Great American Song (New York: Riverhead, 2015), 34.   2.  John Tasker Howard and George Kent Bellows, A Short History of Music in America (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1960), 165; Peter Gough, Sounds of the New Deal: The Federal Music Project in the West (Chicago: UIP, 2015), 34–35.   3.  John Lomax and Alan Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs (New York: Macmillan, 1934).   4.  Lomax and Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs, xii.   5.  Lomax and Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs, xxviii.   6.  Lomax and Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs, xxxv.  7. Gough, Sounds of the New Deal, 168.  8. Ibid.  9. Gough, Sounds of the New Deal, 173–74. 10. Marcus, Invisible Republic, 89. 11.  Dave Van Ronk, The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir (Cambridge: Da Capo, 2005), 47. 12. Yagoda, The B‑Side, 211. 13. Scaduto, Bob Dylan, 86–87. 14. Scaduto, Bob Dylan, 7. 15. Scorsese, No Direction Home. 16. Scaduto, Bob Dylan, 67. 17.  Lomax and Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs, 577. 18.  Bauldie, “Liner Notes,” 6. 19.  Elijah Wald, Dylan Goes Electric! (New York: HarperCollins, 2015), 45. 20.  Eric Lott, Love and Theft (Oxford: University Press, 2013), 6. 21.  M. G. McGeachy, Lonesome Words: The Poetics of the Old English Lament and the African‑American Blues Song (New York: Palgrave, 2006). 22.  Woodie Guthrie, “Talking Columbia.” Track 12 on disc 1 of Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection (Washington: Smithsonian, 2012). 23.  Bob Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), 20. 24.  Robert B. Waltz, The Minnesota Heritage Songbook, https://mnheritagesong book.net/other‑resources/the‑flying‑cloud/. 25.  “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs /bob‑dylans‑115th‑dream/. 26.  Waltz, The Minnesota Heritage Songbook. 27.  “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs /bob‑dylans‑115th‑dream/. 28.  Waltz, The Minnesota Heritage Songbook.



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29.  “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs /bob‑dylans‑115th‑dream/. 30.  Bill Flanagan and Sean Wilentz, “Liner Notes.” The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: Bob Dylan 1965–1966; The Cutting Edge; Deluxe Edition. New York: Sony, 2015, 42; according to the liner notes in the boxed set The Cutting Edge, the introductory passage with the producer’s laughter was spliced onto the master from an earlier take. 31.  Sid Griffin, “Notes.” The Basement Tapes: Complete! (New York: Sony, 2014). 32.  Marcus, Invisible Republic, 115. 33.  “Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood),” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1967 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1995 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs /crash‑levee‑down‑flood/. 34.  Folk and Traditional Song Lyrics, http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk /folk‑song‑lyrics/James_Alley_Blues.htm. 35.  “I Am a Lonesome Hobo,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1968 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1996 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/i‑am‑lonesome‑hobo/. 36.  Ibid. 37.  Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One, 146. 38.  Larry Sloman, “Liner Notes.” The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs (New York: Sony, 2008), 25. 39.  Sloman, “Liner Notes,” Tell Tale Signs. 25. 40.  Williams, Watching the River Flow, 175. 41.  Lomax and Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs, 313. 42.  Bob Dylan, “About the Songs (what they’re about)” Liner notes to World Gone Wrong (New York: Columbia, 1993), 5. 43.  Jamie Bernstein, “Leonard Bernstein: A Born Teacher,” Leonard Bernstein at 100, https://leonardbernstein.com/about/educator. 44.  Howard and Bellows, A Short History of Music, 194. 45.  Yagoda, The B‑Side, 43–44. 46.  Howard and Bellows, A Short History of Music, 201. 47.  Cameron Crowe, “Liner Notes.” Biograph (New York: Columbia, 1985), 7. 48.  Howard and Bellows, A Short History of Music, 313. 49.  Will Friedwald, Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer’s Art (New York: Da Capo, 1997), 19. 50.  Yagoda, The B‑Side, 39. 51.  Ibid. 52.  Philip Furia, The Poets of Tin Pan Alley (Oxford: UOP, 1992), 14. 53.  Gottlieb and Kimball, Reading Lyrics, 288. 54.  Ibid. 55.  Gottlieb and Kimball, Reading Lyrics, 109. 56.  Ibid.

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57.  “All I Really Want to Do,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs /all‑i‑really‑want‑do/. 58.  “No Time To Think,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1978 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan .com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/no‑time‑think/. 59.  Ibid. 60.  Cott, “Rolling Stone interview,” 283. 61.  Bill Flanagan, “Q & A With Bill Flanagan,” 22 March 2017, Bobdylan.com. 62.  “Most of the Time,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1989 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/most‑time/. 63.  Ibid. 64.  Ibid. 65.  Ibid. 66.  Frank Sinatra Anthology, Volume 2, 119–120. 67.  Ibid. 68.  Ibid. 69.  Flanagan, “Q & A.” 70.  “Make You Feel My Love,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1997 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/make‑you‑feel‑my‑love/. 71.  Ibid. 72.  “Moonlight,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2001 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http:// www.bobdylan.com/songs/moonlight/. 73.  http://www.allthelyrics.com/fr/lyrics/frank_sinatra/moonlight_serenade ‑lyrics‑150061.html. 74.  Flanagan, “Q & A.” 75.  Bill Flanagan, “Bob Dylan Discusses Holiday Music, Christmas and Feeding the Hungry with Bill Flanagan, October, 2009, accessed 5 July 2018, https://street newspapers.wordpress.com/2009/11/23/sns‑exclusive‑bob‑dylan‑interview/. 76.  Bobdylan.com, “Setlists.” 77.  Ken Tucker, “Is Dylan’s Heart Really in This ‘Christmas’?” 27 October 2009, Fresh Air, https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114204279. 78.  Mel Tormé and Judy Garland, “The Christmas Song,” The Judy Garland Show, December 6, 1963, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYcwg31ZYcI. 79.  Flanagan, “Bob Dylan Discusses Holiday Music.” 80.  Bobdylan.com, “Setlists.” 81.  Paul Tingen, “Al Schmitt: Recording Bob Dylan’s Shadows in the Night,” Sound on Sound, May, 2015, https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques /al‑schmitt‑recording‑bob‑dylans‑shadows‑night.



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82.  Andy Greene, “Bob Dylan Will ‘Uncover’ Frank Sinatra Classics on New Album,” Rolling Stone, 9 December 2014, https://www.rollingstone.com/music /news/bob‑dylan‑frank‑sinatra‑new‑album‑20141209. 83.  Leonard, The Frank Sinatra Anthology, 172–73. 84.  Friedwald, Sinatra!, 146–47. 85.  Friedwald, Sinatra!, 177. 86.  Gottlieb and Kimball, Reading Lyrics, 70. 87.  “Workingman’s Blues #2,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2006 Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/workingmans‑blues‑2/. 88.  Flanagan, “Q & A.” 89.  Flanagan, “Q & A.”

3 “Like a Rolling Stone” Dylan and the Rock Tradition

On September 7, 1965, Bob Dylan released a single titled “Positively 4th

Street.” This single would spend nine weeks on the popular singles charts, peaking at number nine, and would eventually be identified by Rolling Stone as the 206th song on its list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”1 Its vocal performance approach offers us a pleading urgency, its second‑person mode of address complementing its confrontational sound world. The song is a good example of how Dylan’s performance choices helped enliven the rock tradition he inherited and transformed, our subject in this chapter. Consistent with his approach throughout his career, these performance choices consistently push against listener identification with particular characters, including the narrator, against narrative closure, and against direct resolutions of meaning. Dylan’s rock performances enrich the genre’s tradition by cultivating a resistant stance for listeners, not only to the chaotic and troubling characters and locales they depict lyrically but also to the sensory experiences they enact for us aurally. The song stands, chronologically, right at the leading edge of Dylan’s then‑new embrace of the rock performance idiom. It was his second single release to feature this idiom, following the release, two months earlier, of “Like a Rolling Stone,” which attained a peak chart position of number two just three days before the release of “Positively 4th Street.”2 Dylan’s first full album of rock‑style performance with an electrically amplified band, Highway 61 Revisited, had been released just eight days before.3 In short, in early September of 1965 the contemporary popular music culture into which “Positively 4th Street” was released was infused with a fresh Dylan rock ’n’ roll sound, one strongly marked by controversy due to a pair of notorious then‑recent concert performances. 59

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The first of these, at the Newport Folk Festival six weeks earlier, resulted from Dylan’s appearance with an electrically‑amplified backing band. This choice of ensemble was not in and of itself unique at the festival;4 nevertheless, Dylan’s electrical performance prompted immediate negative reactions from some of those in attendance, including prominent artists in the folk music scene such as Pete Seeger.5 The motivations for these negative reactions are difficult to precisely identify and have prompted speculation as well as distortions of events as this concert has been repeatedly narrated over the years,6 but the immediate impact of the Newport performance was to enhance the notoriety of Dylan’s move away from the folk performance idiom that was predominant across both his studio releases and his live performances prior to the summer of 1965. In the case of Dylan’s vocal performances on studio recordings prior to 1965, the folk performance idiom features aural evidence of close positioning of the microphone to the singer. This recording practice marks the singing voice on these recordings as a primary voice in the musical texture, enhancing its presence within the audible soundstage (an impression of physical space and distinct musical voices within it that conveys acoustic distances of width, depth, and height among these voices; a soundstage is analogous to how a listener might experience a physical relation to various assembled musical voices spread across a stage).7 The instrumental accompaniment, usually just an acoustic guitar played by Dylan on these recordings, by contrast takes on a relatively secondary role within these musical textures. Dylan’s singing voice, as the primary voice in the texture and as the voice that sounds notably closest to the listener in terms of the aural soundstage, engages the listener in an intimate sonic manner on these recordings. Compared to the guitar accompaniment on these recordings, his voice has greater audible breadth of timbre, which is the discernible presence of harmonic overtones that range beyond the simple, precise notes sung or played by a musical voice.8 The musical content prior to 1965 is less prominent, relative to the singer’s vocal performance choices and to the lyrics, in another sense as well: the melodic content of songs from this period was frequently taken with little or no modification by Dylan the songwriter from traditional melodies that widely circulated in the New York area folk performance scene, of which Dylan was a member.9 The musical context for many of Dylan’s songs from this era can be described as familiar, rather than challenging, to listeners. A direct consequence of these recording practices, for us as listeners, is that we experience most tracks from this period as having song forms that emphasize the singing voice and its nuances of tone, phrasing, breath, and dynamics—again, in an intimate relation to us as listeners.10 These recording practices match well with the musical values of the folk performance genre



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of that era,11 in which, as Jones explains, the primary value of a performance was held to be the singer’s ability to create music that communicated to audiences the everyday experiences of members of particular communities, often marginalized communities (though such an aesthetic value depended on nostalgic representations of history and society that distorted material realities).12 These aural choices on recordings resonate with the subject matter of the songs themselves, at least in Dylan’s most celebrated work prior to 1965, as we can see through songs included on the albums The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and The Times They Are A‑Changin’. Songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “A Hard Rain’s A‑Gonna Fall,” “The Times They Are A‑Changin’,” and “When the Ship Comes In” herald future transformations of social hierarchies that promise to elevate oppressed (though only broadly defined) groups. Songs such as “Oxford Town,” “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” and “The Ballad of Hollis Brown” detail the plights of marginalized individuals struggling within entrenched systems of racism, sexism, and generational poverty. By the summer of 1965, Dylan’s status as a major performing artist with a devoted fan base had been predominantly founded upon songs (and recordings) of this type.13 Given these writing and recording processes, the typical performance stance of each song from folk‑era Dylan features a narrator presenting subject matter —narratives, characters, images, feelings, some straightforward and others more oblique or puzzling—like a fellow traveler, an aurally prominent voice accompanying us as we share a journey through the narrator’s world. Performers encouraging psychological identification with narrators or characters, among audience members, reflect an important value shaping historical practices in theater and in performances of nondramatic literature.14 In Dylan’s recorded performances, up to the summer of 1965, we are sometimes invited to empathize with—or at least to understand the consequences of—series of events in the lives of marginalized others, as in the songs from Freewheelin’ and Times noted above. In other recordings from this era we are sometimes invited to empathize with—or at least be attuned to the emotional experiences of—distinct narrators, as in songs like “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” “Spanish Harlem Incident” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Performance practices encouraging narrative or emotional identification among listeners are not an exclusive approach in Dylan’s work up to this point in his career; songs such as “I Shall Be Free” (Freewheelin’), “Boots of Spanish Leather” (Times) and several of those on Another Side of Bob Dylan and Bringing It All Back Home involve more complicated, less narratively‑coherent or emotionally‑direct engagements of listeners. We can, nevertheless, recognize a strong and important aural transition to a new foundational performance practice with the two concerts of the summer of

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1965. A key element of this transition involves Dylan emphasizing sounds that challenge listeners not only in terms of the ideas they communicate but in their engagement of our bodies, especially our ears. Scholars such as Chion and Sun Eidsheim advocate studying sonic experiences, as much as we can, by treating the sounds as objects rather than in the taken‑for‑granted sense of a medium through which meanings are conveyed. Both Chion and Sun Eidsheim explore the physical properties of sound as undulating compressions of air, ones that deform the structures of the ear that have evolved to parse them as well as other parts of our bodies, such as our skin.15 A direct analogy to the conception of sound‑as‑object is the phenomenon of hearing a parrot imitate human sentences: though these birds can mimic the phonemes of speech with uncanny accuracy, in their case we understand that the sounds do not carry meaning as speech does, even though these sounds’ origins in the bodies of birds might be unnerving. Sun Edisheim describes performances in which artists deliberately create sound objects designed to challenge our easy association of sound not only with meaning (the equivalent of human speech in the parrot example) but also with directionality and intentionality (a persistent orientation when we hear parrots, hence the unnerving feeling).16 This treatment of sound‑as‑object fits with Dylan’s description of listening to records played on the radio as a young person and also quoted in chapter one: “It was the sound that got to me . . . it wasn’t who it was, it was the sound of it.”17 The two concerts in the summer of 1965 signaled Dylan’s embrace of much more confrontational sound worlds that consistently discourage narrative and emotional identification among listeners. In this performance style, sound‑as‑object becomes as important as sound‑as‑medium, a shift that extends, as we will show, to the albums Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, and to the single “Positively 4th Street.” We will explore multiple performances on both albums but concentrate especially on one key song from each, “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” that exemplify Dylan’s approaches. Our discussion of how he achieves these confrontational sound worlds is best heard on the mono versions of these albums, rather than on the stereo versions, as Dylan’s voice on the mono versions has (to our ears) greater presence in the mix among the electrically amplified backing band. On the mono versions, the tracks, as a whole, resonate with a greater sonic impact befitting their confrontational sound worlds than on the stereo versions. The mono mixes were those, at the time, treated with greater production care than the stereo versions, given the norms for consumer home sound systems at the time.18 Dylan’s pre‑summer‑1965 approach, on recordings made while he was associated with the folk music culture in New York City in the early 1960s, fits with folk performance traditions as Lloyd describes them. Within these



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traditions performers were valorized for anchoring their musical practices within local, historical folk communities—even though such aesthetics were typically far removed from actual historical communities of practice within the folk revival culture in which Dylan was immersed.19 Such performance expectations persist, and are sometimes even more greatly amplified, when the performer is not a member of a particular community from which the performance practices themselves are said to be derived—especially communities marginalized within larger systems of classism, racism, and sexism.20 The responses at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, and the intense responses of betrayal offered by audience members during and after Dylan’s concerts in his 1966 tour of England, reflect such orthodoxy of folk performance practice.21 One famous exchange at Manchester Free Trade Hall (incorrectly identified for decades as Royal Albert Hall) on May 17, 1966, illustrates the moralizing fervor of these performance expectations: Anonymous audience member from deep in the crowd: “Judas!” Dylan: “I don’t believe you. You’re a liar!” Dylan’s response here is fascinating, as he does not reply directly to the charge of betrayal conveyed by the audience member’s indexing of the most infamous traitor in Christian culture. Instead, he challenges the underlying norm that entails mutual truthfulness at the foundation of any dialogic exchange. In other words, Dylan’s response suggests that one frame of authentic communication, the nostalgic performative authenticity mandated by the folk performance community as represented by the “Judas!” shouter, must by its very assumptions defer to a deeper frame of authentic communication on which it rests, the frame of truthfulness. His response to the shouter calls into question the different measures of authenticity, and their relative values, in play in the moment. Just after the “Judas” exchange, Dylan turned to his band and directed, “Play fuckin’ loud!”22 Given the preceding exchange, we can infer that the dynamic harshness and rhythmic intensity of the following performance, of “Like a Rolling Stone,” indicates that the performer holds expressive sonic bombast, providing a certain kind of sound experience for the audience, as a more truthful form of utterance in this moment than what the “Judas!” shouter requests through offering the accusation: folk‑style authenticity. This is a good example of the shift in Dylan’s performance practice in this era being a shift from sound‑as‑medium to sound‑as‑object. Nine months before this exchange, in New York City, in August 1965, Dylan’s second concert appearance of that summer—like the first half of his appearance at the July Newport Folk Festival a month earlier—had also featured a performance style quite distinct from folk, one associated with the rock tradition: an electrically amplified backing band and a vocal approach

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with more extreme dynamics and enunciation choices fitting the louder overall mix. A contemporary account of the New York City concert published in Variety characterizes these performance choices like actions in a battle, describing “hostile” audience members and an artist who would “pound” them with his material.23 These claims suggest a response to Dylan’s performance along confrontational lines in their foregrounding of the visceral relationship between performer and audience and its impact on the writer’s understanding of performance choices and their relevance. From this viewpoint, the measure of a performance is not in how the sounds had effectively (or not) conveyed the subjects of songs to interested audience members, but in the sounds’ forceful engaging of the audience with a distinctive aural salvo—as in the “Positively 4th Street” single. During the height of this furor, the release of “Positively 4th Street”—just ten days after the New York City concert and just over a week after the electrically‑amplified Highway 61 Revisited—gave listeners another dose of the more intense sonic dynamics and distorted enunciation choices that had inspired heated reactions at his two most recent concerts. The recorded single’s stance, both aurally and lyrically, befits the “battle” trope used in the Variety review: The instrumental arrangement, while gentler than most of the rock arrangements on Highway 61 Revisited (the most prominent instrument in the “Positively 4th Street” mix is an organ rather than an electric guitar), is jaggedly textured, with the organ ringing harshly against the drums and guitars rather than blending with them. The lyrical mode is one of ceaseless accusation: each verse, apart from the sixth, constitutes a derisive declaration of an attitude or action that the narrator attributes to the “you” addressed; tellingly, in both a formal and a figurative sense there is no refrain in the song. The vocal performance complements this combative posture: Several of the attitudes and actions ascribed to “you” are sung with pauses and dramatically elongated vowels that suggest the galling persistence of these actions and beliefs (“you just stood there . . . [pause, pushing against the rhythm of the song] gri‑i‑i‑i‑nning”). Moreover, nearly every line ends with the barbed sting of a sudden and sharp increase in both volume and pitch. These upward leaps place unnatural stress on the penultimate syllable of the line (“and you know it”; “it’s not my problem”). These vocalizations are, themselves, aggressive in form because we hear them as eruptions within the texture of the vocal line. They do not just speak of being aggrieved in language the narrator chooses, they embody a sonic relation to the listeners that feels like a series of jabs and feints in our ears. The marked deviation of these stress patterns from those of everyday speech thereby communicate the narrator’s effort to stridently put his point across to the (evidently recalcitrant) listener. The narrator’s feelings of te-



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dious exhaustion with “you” are vocally dramatized as the singer reaches the end of each declamation, with the unstressed final syllable bringing each vocal line to a close that tugs dissonantly against the straight‑ahead rhythm of the musical accompaniment. The confrontational stance is complicated, even undercut, in the final stanza, however. Here, Dylan elongates the final “you” in an aggrieved, accusatory fashion that fits the rest of the confrontational performance choices. Yet after having placed himself in an apparently superior position to “you” throughout the song by offering a series of lyrical upbraids and vocalized barbs, and after repeatedly insisting that he is able to understand exactly what the listener’s thoughts and motivations are while simultaneously denying the listener’s reciprocal grasp of these truths, the singer now offers in this final stanza an unusual wish: Yes, I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes You’d know what a drag it is to see you.24

We often say things like “If I were you,” or, in teaching empathy, encourage someone to stand in another’s shoes. But rarely, if ever, would we not only offer to stand in someone else’s shoes, as he does here, but to take such a position so that the listener would “know what a drag it is / to see you.” Theroux scorns the phrase “inside my shoes” because the shoes would need to be “big as Mother Hubbard’s”; he ascribes to Dylan that he “intended to say . . . in my shoes” but wrote “inside” because of his habit of rushing his songwriting.25 We find this claim outrageous for two reasons: First, of course Theroux cannot know what Dylan intended, nor reliably trace the particular consequences of his temporal songwriting labor. Second and more interestingly with respect to Dylan’s approach in “Positively 4th Street,” “inside” rather than “in” can affect us as an absurd image that lends power to the thrust of the song as a whole: “Inside” captures the sense of the bounded relational sweep with respect to the addressee, a boundedness that dominates this narrator’s feeling. The impossibility of moving “inside” a shoe suggests the drama, the difficulty, and the disparity that the narrator’s wished‑for change of perspective would entail. This whiplash change of perspective invites the listener to experience a feeling that is, for the first time in the song, a kind of empathy. It is not typical empathy, though, both because of this linguistic switch of positions and also because of the sonic punishment of the vocal lines themselves, an approach that persists even in this final stanza. The result is a more complicated feeling that abruptly puts the aggrieved singer in the previously subordinate position. Here the singer purports an inordinately refined understanding of the other’s psychological state, buttressed by the willingness to receive the contempt the singer is showing to that person, the howled‑at “you‑oo‑oo” in this final

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stanza. It is an entirely novel embrace of an idiosyncratic stance that puts the listener in two places at once, hearing, as it were, through both sides of the aural opening between the interlocutors at the same time. Potential identification by the listener with the narrator’s emotional position is triply ruptured in this song—first by the confrontational sound of the vocal lines, second by the dismissive overall mode of second‑person address throughout the song, and finally by this vertiginous final wish for the “stand inside” that keeps us off‑kilter with respect to one another’s position. Writers analyzing “Positively 4th Street” have interpreted its aggressive stance toward a nameless “you” as one directed at those who reacted negatively to Dylan’s rock‑based performances in Newport, which took place just before the song was written and recorded.26 In this respect the performance posture of the song befits not only its lyrical content but also its cultural context. Its rock style conveys a willful embrace of the very performance tradition that appalled the critics said to have inspired it. This nose‑thumbing posture interestingly echoes the “oppositional” stance toward mainstream music traditions that Fox describes as “fundamental” to all musical revival movements.27 According to Fox, musical revival movements share the common goal of attempting to “correct” the arc of mainstream musical trends by educating listeners about unexamined or marginalized perspectives germane to the music of local community members outside the center.28 Wald notes: “From the beginning . . . one of the appeals of rock ’n’ roll was its air of authenticity, the idea . . . that there was something ‘honest’ . . . that was missing from the polished studio hits.”29 But Dylan is in an interesting position here, as the mainstream popular musical trends of 1965 would have included rock ’n’ roll music near their center, and indeed these trends depended on the production cycles of mass‑market corporate capitalism that would be quite far from the values of a particularist “revival” movement.30 Indeed, a disgruntled fan expecting folk‑style performance responded to a 1966 performance by describing Dylan’s band as “corny pop.”31 Can Dylan, then, be said to be a musical revivalist committed to “correcting” the arc of mainstream trends through his insistence on a new rock performance idiom? In our view, he can, if we consider two sets of performance practices we hear across his first two fully rock‑based LPs, Highway 61 Revisited (as noted, released eight days before the “Positively 4th Street” single) and Blonde On Blonde (released just seven months later):32 First, Dylan on these albums frequently offers vocal performances that reassert the oppositional sociocultural stance at the root of rock ’n’ roll, even as that music was by 1965 integrated in many ways into the less threatening, more predictably remunerative mainstream music industry through radio airplay and record sales. Second, on these albums he also transfigures the rock ’n’ roll



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performance tradition through his engagement of fresh stances of narrative personae and aesthetic form, to which listeners can (and have) responded with fresh forms of identification that expand the cultural scope of rock music. “HOW DOES IT FEEL?”: ROCK AS PERFORMANCE OF OPPOSITION The central question of “Like a Rolling Stone” is “How does it feel?”—or, more orthographically honestly, “How does it feeeel?” as sung on the opening track of Highway 61 Revisited, with its leaned‑into long “e” sound. This sound requires a performer to at once grit and bare the teeth, and it became even more elongated (“How does it feeeeeeel?”) in recorded live performances on the 1966 tour.33 The gritting and baring actions on this lengthened vowel sound shape the performer’s face, and affect us as listeners, in ways that go beyond the phrasing choice and vocal attack on “feel”: The face itself is distorted by the act of singing the word in the manner in which Dylan sings it, and listeners singing along at home remain far removed from the sense conveyed by the vocal performance unless we clench our jaw, unless we draw our lips back, holding those movements for an unusual period of time that has enough duration to make us feel the muscles and nerves in our face, to feel their tension, feel their uncomfortable firing.34 Even if we’re not singing along, the force of Dylan’s engagement with this word “feel” each time he sings it is an audibly intense event that creates meaning well beyond the word’s use as a mere linguistic symbol. “How does it feel” indeed—it feels, if we honor these performance choices as they confront us aurally, like we’re on edge, like we cannot exist comfortably in this moment for long. We do not, it turns out, hold within this condition, despite its feeling prolonged in each iteration of the chorus. We move in each chorus beyond the frozen moment of our teeth gritted against what’s to come and bared in threat to what imposes upon us. We’re moved, by the sounds of the rest of the chorus, to an opening of the mouth on the final vowels of each ensuing phrase, with pauses and elongation of the “o” sound again holding us in place but now with jaw unhinged, lips rounded, throat exposed to the world: “ooown,” “hooome,” “unknooown,” “stooone.” Once again, however, the impact of Dylan’s performances of these vowels is multivalent. These sounds do not only suggest gaping surrender to this troubled condition of abandonment in their discursive message, they also assault our ears with pained responses to the abandonment: the long “o” sounds produce an audible howl on the Highway 61 Revisited track and, again, howl even more notably on live performances from 1966. Sound, in all of the performances of this song, is certainly as much object as it is medium.

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Dylan’s performances that extend vowel sounds in this chorus emphasize the chorus’s sonic contrast with the verses. In the four lines that make up the first half of each of the four verses, the rate of his phrasing is much more rapid, paralleling the performance style he established with a track from earlier in the year, “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” This track was also released as a single and also occupied the position of opening track on an album, the previous album Bringing It All Back Home. We will return to this track later in the chapter, but the performance style established in “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is one Dylan takes up again at the start of each verse of “Like a Rolling Stone.” His voice moves across syllables in a manner similar to patter‑ singing, with vowels clipped in duration as the singer moves to connect each word’s sound to those that follow rather than to highlight the singularity of any particular sound (“threw‑the‑bums‑a‑dime . . . in‑your‑prime”; “never‑understood . . . that‑it‑ain’t‑no‑good”). But the second half of each verse shifts from this approach, featuring audible pauses after each line and a phrasing style that sharply attacks the final phrase of each line; these abrupt vocal attacks frame the final phrase as a whole unit by using a small pause before it, a quickening of the pace as the singer moves across the line to its end, and a descent in pitch: “As you stare into the vacuum . . . of his eyes”; “Ain’t it hard when you . . . discover that.” As listeners, we thereby move aurally through each verse from a barrage of descriptions about the current circumstances in the life of “you,” in the patter‑sung first half of the verse, to a more pointed, accusatory tone in the second half, with pauses and with predicates underscored vocally, an accusatory tone that centers on the responses “you” are said to have offered to these unsettling conditions. The pattered phrasing choices in the second halves of each verse feel, aurally, through their sluggish slowing compared to the earlier patter‑singing and through their sharp launches into key phrases, like audible digs at “you.” This digging quality is especially audible once Dylan changed how he sung the second half of the first verse on the 1966 tour, which begins with an accusatory taunt: You used to laugh about Everybody that was hangin’ out35

that is turned immediately around on the addressee in song’s addressee: Now you don’t talk so loud Now you don’t seem so proud36

His change during the tour was adding a word to the final line of the stanza, which originally read: About having to be scrounging for your next meal.37



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Placing “around” immediately after “scrounging,” a choice that combines with the gradually building prolongation of “ow” vowels sung in the second half of the verse, allows him to grind his jaw (the jaw that has not yet clenched in “feeeel”; that is yet moments away in the song structure) through this series of sounds. These are performed with ever‑greater leaning into the depth of the vowel sound in each iteration in the performance at Manchester Free Trade Hall: “laugh abowt . . . hangin owt . . . so lowwwd . . . so prowwwd . . . scrowwwwnging arowwwwwnd.” These extended sounds, digging ever more deeply at “you,” drawing on lengthier and lengthier expressions of breath, take us through Dylan’s performance below the face, into the gut, emanating from a body audibly involved in the song in its lower regions—a form of sexual involvement of our bodies in the sound world of the song. This involvement of the lower body in performance by both artists and dancing listeners is associated, historically in American music, with the intersecting racialized and sexualized perceived dangers to white, middle‑class, patriarchal society that trace their lineage to minstrel performances (minstrel performances are also discussed in chapter 2 and chapter 9), then to performances designed to be heard and enjoyed by dancers in rural and urban bars, and finally to the recording industry through blues, rhythm and blues, and, eventually, rock ’n’ roll records. Put simply, a vital element of rock ’n’ roll is the vigorous involvement of the body in the engagement of the music.38 The body’s hungers, its fluids and their capacity for transforming our lives, are suggested, too, by the sense these “owwwww” sounds convey of chewing, of a narrator ruminating on the ideas he offers us. Moreover, the unanchored sensation of roaming in the titular image of the song, the “rolling stone,” is also complicated by the way Dylan sings it. The “stone” is slowed, held onto a bit in the singer’s mouth. In Dylan’s performance, the stone does not sound like it’s “rolling” smoothly; it’s “ro‑ohling,” the hitch in the middle of the first syllabus each time “rolling” is sung forestalling the sense of an aural roll over the rounded “o.” What these performed vowels set up for us is a shift in the sense of who “you” might be, paralleling the shift at the end of “Positively 4th Street.” Other‑focused patter slows to excavation of response, then slows further in each chorus to deep digging, to extended rumination that might produce revelations fitting the open‑mouthed “ohs” voiced in “own/home/unknown/stone.” As the interrogation of feeling shifts in response to the current conditions described at the head of each verse, the performances draw us as listeners, through each iteration of these performance choices across verse and chorus, into an increasingly direct— though certainly not comfortable—relation with the narrator. Lloyd observes that Dylan, in performance on this track, offers an approach that contrasts with those of the folk style with which he was previously associated as he

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prolongs the duration of some notes to create a tension that is then released by the exuberant return of regular vocal cadences. This technique causes a non‑folk kind of commotion within the song, draws the listener’s attention away from the sorrows being recounted, and fixes it instead upon the whimsy of the performer.39

Based on the performances analyzed above, we contend, in an extension of Lloyd’s insight, that the shift in Dylan’s performance style signaled by “Like a Rolling Stone” is not merely from the “recounted sorrows” of folk to “the whimsy of the performer,” but from “fellow‑feeling” to the “felt feeling” emphasized in rock ’n’ roll. The narrator urges us to attend primarily to the embodied experience of the song’s sound world rather than to what is retold within it. Marcus and Heylin have each argued that the finger Dylan points as he directs his, and our, attention in “Like a Rolling Stone” is pointed at least in part toward himself, as he endeavors to redefine himself in relation to his own past, to the folk community away from whom he seems to be turning and to the burgeoning context of his cultural position as a star performer.40 In an interview published in the documentary film No Direction Home, Dylan characterizes his own career as parallel to the Odyssey in that he’s always been “on my way home,” an interesting phrasing of the claim that also affirms a reading of “Like a Rolling Stone” as perhaps connecting to the performer’s sense in 1965 of his own nascent journey in its yet‑indeterminate stage of “no direction home.”41 While this reading fits with the performance choices’ urgent grind, their sense of tense rumination, there is another possible feeling here: given that the lyrics maintain the second‑person mode of address, each of us, as listeners, may be encouraged to consider our own responsibility for ourselves amid the collapsing world of appearances described in the song, a world that manifestly presses upon the narrator just as the howling “owwws” press upon our ears, just as the gritted “eees” press tangibly upon the bones and teeth even through the distance of recorded sound. These howls, this clenching, are quite a contrast to the sound world of Dylan’s earlier recordings. They constitute a different kind of intimacy than the folk performance style, an intimacy suggested in part through the visceral consequences on the face that we hear, as described above. But they are certainly not “intimate” in the sense of inviting communion; the words, sped past early in each verse and then attacked with urgency afterward and in the chorus, resound harshly in their tones as if hissed or spat toward us. The sound world is at least as significant, in this song, as the lyrics themselves, as it communicates disdain and disconnection.42 “Miss Lonely” is an interesting name in this light, as “miss” may suggest not only the youth and femininity ascribed to “you” but also the sense that to be “lonely” is to “miss” the companionship of another. The society depicted lyrically in “Like a Rolling Stone” is marked



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by a history (“once upon a time”) of superficial appearances that, when they eventually fall away, reveal a more threatening and alienating underlying set of underlying relationships, as Gray and Irwin have held.43 Threat and alienation are rooted in the recorded performances of the song as well, through the distortions of elongated vowels, striking phrasing, and aggressive intonation. Alienation from society is central to the affective stance of rock ’n’ roll at its inception. Early rock ’n’ roll performers used vocal techniques such as shouts, scooped notes, guttural sounds, and assertive phrasing in ways that worked in conjunction with electrically amplified instruments and insistent, repetitive rhythms that pushed against musical norms of consonant, smoothly flowing tunes. These norms were replaced with sound worlds emphasizing urgency and vigor among dancing young audiences, especially in sexualized movements in the pelvis that were shocking to older generations.44 One way that technology helped to accelerate this shift away from a mainstream sonic norm of mellifluous sound, in the middle of the twentieth century, was the “demise of national radio broadcasting” as a consequence of the rise of television in most homes, which was in turn a “boon for fans of classical, country, jazz, and ethnic styles” on radio stations—though this shift was not a unitary linear vector, certainly, as Wald has shown: The span from disparate, localized musical forms and styles involving live, active creation in homes and communities to producer‑managed commercial sounds involving passive listening lasted only for a few decades, was always partial and chaotic rather than a total shift in practices, and was engaged differently by different listeners putting music to different uses.45 The diversification of radio formats both reflected and further encouraged these broad uses by listeners. Dylan notes in the No Direction Home interview: “The first time I heard rock ’n’ roll on the radio, I felt it was pretty similar to the country music I’d been listening to.”46 In the context of this interview, his observation underscores the way that both country songs and rock ’n’ roll songs of the 1950s, as they reached him via radio, were alike in that they helped him identify with a resistant outlook that chimed with his alienation from the cultural norms of his hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota. Scholars of both country and rock ’n’ roll outline how each form features an appeal to authenticity—to artistic engagement that resonates more closely with day‑to‑day life as experienced by listeners than the engagement available through other established musical forms, such as European art music or Tin Pan Alley popular songs.47 Wald situates mainstream, mass‑marketed American music in this era: At a time when unprecedented prosperity was balanced by unprecedented fears, the pop mainstream was aiming for the same appeal as the suburbs: a modern, cosmopolitan future with all the comfort and security of an idyllic, small town past.48

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However, Dylan suggests in the No Direction Home interview that this “balance” was not in the air for him as a young radio listener. He laments that from his point of view, the themes of the music then popular in his hometown (he gives “How Much Is that Doggie in the Window?” as an example) did not fit with the day‑to‑day concerns he describes—especially the “paranoia” of the atomic age that resulted from fear that nuclear warfare would destroy the world in its entirety. For young Dylan, the nostalgia for a simpler, less troubled time rang hollow, while the “strange” (in his words) rock ’n’ roll and country songs that reached him over the radio were more fulsome in their connection to his experience.49 Jackson, drawing on the work of Kivy, situates musical‑performance‑based appeals to authenticity. He describes how these appeals to a nostalgic set of past performances emerge within particular musical forms that exist within, or at least in some relation to, a perceived contemporary mainstream. An example would be the country songs that reached Dylan via radio airplay as a young man: Though these were enough a part of the mainstream commercial industry to have been recorded and widely broadcast, they were recognizably distinct, even to a young man, in the “strange” qualities of their sound world. Within such contexts, appeals to authentic performance practices that honor purportedly authentic musical histories can function to agitate within this mainstream; musicians and other stakeholders can, through appeals to authenticity, advocate for attention to nuanced musical performances that diversify the mainstream sound. The purpose of an appeal to authenticity in performance practice, then, is to complicate and differentiate an amalgam of styles that are presumed to have been once distinct (and locally meritorious); these styles are presumed to have, in the present, become diminished through homogenization processes—by time and by pressure to efficiently produce music for consumption. Dylan fictionalized his “biography” during interviews very early in his career by inaccurately linking himself to marginalized communities such as orphans and foster children, traveling carnival troupes, and the rural Gallup, New Mexico; he suggested that through these experiences he learned cowboy songs and other folk music.50 As an emerging star, Dylan chose to valorize the local musical traditions he considered significant to his aesthetic development by fictionally situating himself among them, minimizing (at the time) the importance of his truthfully more indirect access to these musical traditions through radio airplay and records. Jackson describes the emphasis on authenticity in latter‑day performances as linked to the ethos of “musical revival” movements. These movements resist the mainstream musical status quo in any given context by teaching contemporary mainstream audiences (and, often, producers and distributors of music) about historical performance practices through adopting the prac-



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tices with as much fidelity as possible.51 Jackson observes that these musical revival movements are both pedagogical, through their careful teaching of established performance practices, and historicizing, through their clarification of the genealogies of musical forms within a given contemporary mainstream.52 While Jackson’s focus is on the “classical” music tradition (Western European art music), his ideas about the valorization of authenticity, and the pedagogical and historicizing functions of revivalist movements, are a strong match for the ethos of the “folk music” revival that surged in popularity in the early 1960s. Gray notes that in the lead‑up to this era, “folk music moved to the media,” necessitating the canonization of certain performance practices within the mass‑marketed music industry in order to preserve the sheen of authenticity in the genre of folk.53 This musical movement’s policing of performance practices is, again, recognizable in the reactions to Dylan’s electrically amplified performance at the 1965 Newport Festival.54 Yet Dylan’s performative responses to this folk music community and its hailing of authenticity are evident not only in his famous flouting of its conventions in the two concerts described above, but also in how he put to use particular performance practices he inherited from the rock ’n’ roll tradition he was lambasted for taking up—a tradition that, as Marshall notes, is also rooted in an appeal to authenticity. Such authenticity in rock depends on nostalgia that is not necessarily grounded in historical realities, but its appeal has significant consequences for consumer and star success nevertheless.55 For instance, the patter‑singing style of the verses’ first halves in “Like a Rolling Stone,” traceable through the lineage of Dylan’s own previous “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” is historically grounded as a vocal approach not only in the work of one of his folk performance heroes, Woody Guthrie,56 but also in Chuck Berry’s work57 and in several scat‑influenced early rock ’n’ roll recordings in the doo‑wop genre.58 Yet this is a historical tradition complicated by Dylan’s performances, such that those performances teach us how we might differently understand his work as he engages into the rock performance idiom. The repeated shifts in each verse in “Like a Rolling Stone,” out of this Guthrie/Berry/doo‑wop style, are important signals to this song’s narrator’s distinct mode of engagement. The “Like a Rolling Stone” performance expands the rock ’n’ roll tradition by rooting the visceral response characteristic of the genre in a survey of contemporary life that implicates narrator and listeners and yokes us to this form of life, suggesting no escape from it in the lively mode of dance nor the humorous mode of observation even when lyrics themselves are alive and laced with humor. “Like a Rolling Stone” shares with “Subterranean Homesick Blues” the second‑person mode of address, but in “Subterranean Homesick Blues” the

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narrator directly and persistently addresses “you” through a series of warnings and pieces of advice throughout the entire second half of the song (its third and fourth verses), such as in the third verse, which begins: Get sick, get well Hang around a ink well59

and which concludes with a recommendation that consigns the addressee into the most rigid of institutions, the military: Get jailed, jump bail Join the army, if you fail.60

The narrator addresses “you” throughout the longer second half of each of the first two verses as well; in other words, the song is primarily delivered through second‑person address, even though forms of the word “you” appear in only eleven of the song’s seventy‑one lines.61 But the distinct vocal performance in “Subterranean Homesick Blues” indicates primary focus on the objects, places, and (occasionally) third‑person people described in the song rather than on “you”: the stress and phrasing choices in each short line consistently highlights the noun phrase that ends the line (“basement,” “medicine,” “pavement,” “government”) and never on any adjectival descriptions nor any beliefs held by “you.” The narrator in this song, therefore, remains in the position of fellow traveler with listeners, despite the urgent, cynical attitude the narrator takes toward the world therein depicted—and this position is aurally conveyed through his singing choices. The vocal stance of “Like a Rolling Stone,” by contrast, is perhaps chastising us, perhaps chastising a character (“Miss Lonely”) addressed in second‑person for artistic purposes, and perhaps chastising of self—but in no audible sense is it inviting a shared experience of the events it depicts. It persistently engages those events, as discussed above, with gritting, howling, snarling, and struggling. This opening track of Highway 61 Revisited thus encourages a more complex mode of listening than that of its predecessor, Bringing It All Back Home, which opens with “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” The pedagogical dimension of “Like a Rolling Stone” as a performance lies in its position leading off Dylan’s full‑scale embrace of rock music, both as a single released in advance of Highway 61 Revisited and in its place as the opening track of that album. The song provides a framework for listeners, a way to grasp the aural argument in the tracks that follow. Miller describes the influence of Elvis Presley’s voice on early rock ’n’ roll as emerging from its distinctive sound, a “spark of spontaneous feeling” that was captured in his recordings.62 Dylan, too, brings this spontaneous feeling to many of his recorded vocal per-



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formances, especially those on Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, which gives the songs the quality that they are lived in the moment of singing— that they are not merely documents of an experience but constitute, themselves, an experience in the aural engagement of listeners. The sense we have of living through a performative act characterized in “Eternal Circle,” discussed in chapter 1, shapes our listening experience today, even on these two studio albums recorded more than fifty years ago, because Dylan’s vocal choices consistently catch us off guard and bring the lyrical world to life with each listen. One example of this results from the singer’s frequent complication of the second‑person mode of address, the engagement of “you,” as evident in the contrast described above of the sound world of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” with that of “Like a Rolling Stone.” Side A of Bringing It All Back Home, the side of that album with an electrically amplified backing band, opens with the former song as noted above and includes one additional song, “On the Road Again,” using the second‑person mode of address.63 The vocal performance on “On the Road Again” is audibly comedic, like that of other songs on Side A of Bringing It All Back Home such as “Outlaw Blues,” “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” and “Maggie’s Farm” (the last of which we discuss in chapter 2 and again below). The performer adopts a coarse, wry tone and sings many ordinary, simple vowels more like diphthongs (“frah‑awgs inside my sah‑awks”), thereby bringing a rural, “cowboy” style to the song. Lyrically, the song also suggests comedy, so the vocal performance complements its images rather than complicating them. Its content, lyrically at least, is similar to many of those on the two ensuing rock albums by Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, in that it describes a series of absurd behaviors and events that frustrate the narrator and lead him to troubling conclusions about the world in which he finds himself (“Honey, I can’t believe that you’re for real”).64 However, when two such songs meet our ears on the full‑on rock performance album Highway 61 Revisited, “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “Queen Jane Approximately,” these songs do not come across as comedic. Dylan instead offers vocal performances that complicate their off‑kilter lyrical imagery in productive ways, creating sound worlds that suggest anxious anticipation of events to come. In these two Highway 61 Revisited songs’ early verses, though his vocal quality maintains the nasal roughness with which he is so strongly associated, Dylan’s use of vocal choices across the lines—phrasing, vowel lengths, and dynamic variation—all follow much more closely the patterns common to everyday English speech and those of popular singing far removed from the rock ’n’ roll style. This emphasis on understated, everyday speech patterns and more gently sung notes is a notable contrast with the surrounding songs in the sequence of the album, with the “Ballad of a Thin Man” ending Side A

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immediately after the intensely rhythmic and dynamic rock‑singing of “From a Buick 6” and with “Queen Jane Approximately” starting Side B immediately before the comic, almost gasping, vocal attack of the album’s title track. The snarling, sardonic voice established in “Like a Rolling Stone” returns in “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “Queen Jane Approximately” only for one single lyric in one of the songs, the repeated one that forms the chorus of “Ballad of a Thin Man”: “Because something is happening here / But you don’t know what it is / Do you, Mr. Jones?”65 Each of these two songs also slowly builds as the song progresses, from verse to verse, away from vocal patterns of calm observation toward those of more strident shocks (“And he screams back, ‘you’re a cow’”; “And you’re sick . . . of all this repetition”).66 The uneasy, gradually failing juxtaposition of the ordinary (vocally) with the extraordinary (lyrically) encourages us to experience these two songs, following “Like a Rolling Stone” as they do, as freshly wrought, incisive observations of a startling and complex contemporary world that the narrator is actively struggling, in vain, to put across in performance to potentially dubious listeners/addressees. Notably, while “Like a Rolling Stone” only names “you” once (“Miss Lonely”), “Ballad of a Thin Man” (“Mr. Jones”) and “Queen Jane Approximately” (“Queen Jane”) each incessantly identify “you,” with multiple uses of the name within each iteration of their choruses. Each of these latter two songs has a “you” with a more formal title, “Mister” and “Queen” providing a lyrical tone that engages more established people in the social hierarchy. In this way, too, “Like a Rolling Stone” through omission of the name of its “you” and through the diminutive “Miss,” has taught us to feel the latter two songs on the album as comparatively precise identifications of the sources of strife in contemporary life, as engagements of society in which the narrators are “exposing and confronting like a laser beam in surgery, descending from outside the sickness” (in Gray’s description of the album Blonde on Blonde).67 Dylan deploys one performance practice consistently across Highway 61 Revisited that supports our hearing the portraits in this album as observational and immediate, even though surreal. This practice combines the extensive use of proper names or official positions, well beyond “Mister” and “Queen,” with a vocal attack that delivers these people to us as if they were recognized by the narrator in the moment of singing itself. Nearly every time across this album when we encounter a person, their arrival is dramatized with (1) an audible pause within the phrase, (2) a swell of breath that subtly increases the dynamics and timbral breadth of the sounds that name the person, and (3) a paired variation in dynamics, pitch, and phrasing that packages the person’s actions or impact in a form closely linked to their name. “Cinematic” is the adjective that perhaps best describes the singer’s approach to the people who inhabit this album, in part because the incommensurateness of using a visu-



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ally‑centered adjective to describe aural aesthetics helps capture the complex and unnerving experience of vividly encountering these interlocutors across the album (and, indeed, across many Dylan albums, which often feature characters and locations that confound us and that enrich our emotional engagement with the music). The vocal performance is the key element in this aural cinematic sweep because it provides each character with an audible entrance into the imagined frame and an emotional response by the narrator that signals unquiet rather than a smooth integration into a narrative arc. Dylan’s approach to combining named and labeled people with patterned vocal choices has an analogue in written poetics. Longenbach describes how the poet Donne uses varying structures of word choice and phrase structure that play against his poems’ lineation, with the result that the voice within many poems reads as interactively responsive to immediately unfolding experience rather than as engaged merely in an act of telling through writing. He explains: [A] poem’s sentences will feel increasingly dramatic to the degree that we’re made to attend to the pattern of their syllables unfolding in time, and more precisely constituent of a poem’s degree of spokenness . . . is the strategic interplay between different kinds of diction and syntax.68

Diction that creatively identifies people by title, role, and notoriety; syntax that is phrased through singing in the patterned ways described above—this is the “strategic interplay” that makes Highway 61 Revisited sound like an immediate and startling series of encounters by a set of nine narrators who are uncertain of what any of these mean but certain that they are meaningful. We can recognize the impact of this evolving performance practice by considering another pair of songs in parallel positions across the transitional Bring‑ ing It All Back Home and the rock‑styled Highway 61 Revisited, each second on the album: “Maggie’s Farm” and “Tombstone Blues.” The two songs share a wry set of observations supplied by a narrator who consistently links each image to family members (“Maggie’s Ma”; Maggie’s Pa”;69 “Mama’s in the fact’ry”; “Daddy’s in the alley”).70 In the earlier “Maggie’s Farm,” the vocal tone is primarily comedic, sharing with “On the Road Again” the exaggerated “cowboy” tone with added diphthongs. Its narrator comes across aurally as poking fun, and perhaps discontented in addition but not unrelievedly so—as the possibility of escape is not only held out but celebrated as the subject of the song’s refrain. Appropriately given the possibility of escape therefrom, at the single location in the song of “Maggie’s Farm” we only meet the people in Maggie’s family, and the emphasis in phrasing throughout the song is on the unpleasant actions and motivations of these family members (“Well he . . . puts his cigar / Out in your . . . face just for kicks”)71 that the narrator repeatedly professes to avoid moving forward (“I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no

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more”). However, in the refrain of “Tombstone Blues” the narrator locates himself in “the kitchen,” a less precise location but one with sufficient connotations of domesticity to suggest that the characters and actions depicted reach to the core of his sense of place. The phrasing is much more consistent throughout the song than in “Maggie’s Farm,” with the slight pauses framing the entrances of characters and the reports of their speech, but with their actions not stridently underscored by the voice as they are in “Maggie’s Farm.” The characters’ actions in “Tombstone Blues,” as bizarre as those in “Maggie’s Farm,” are sung as if they follow inevitably from each of the people to whom they are linked. The few strongly‑emphasized phrases in “Tombstone Blues,” sung with a slowed pace and a broadening of timbre, are not actions nor motivations but objects (“a fantastic collection of stamps”; “the tears on her cheeks”).72 This creates a sense that the narrator’s world is one in which the confusion and chaos depend not on location nor on peculiar behavior but on the nature of this world and of all those who populate it, on what they are bound to choose—thus, there is no way out. The narrator is doomed in this world that is already a “tomb.” We meet far more people in “Tombstone Blues” than we did in “Maggie’s Farm,” yet these wide‑ranging characters greet our ears with a greater degree of precision despite their swift movement in the song because many of them are named cultural figures, historical or imagined (“Paul Revere”; “Jezebel”; “Jack the Ripper”; “John the Baptist”; “the pied piper”; “Gypsy Davey”; “Galileo”; “Delilah”; “Cecil B. DeMille”; “Ma Rainey”; “Beethoven”) and others described by their social roles (“the city fathers”; “the chamber of commerce”; “the hysterical bride”; “the doctor”; “the medicine man”; “the Commander in Chief ”; “the king of the Philistines”; “the slaves”; “his uncle”; “Brother Bill”; “tuba players”; “the National Bank”; “the old folks home”; “the college”).73 This is what lends the song a cinematic quality and helps to bolster its vocalized sense of a narrator living in the moment of singing through the world he is putting across to us. The sound world in “From a Buick 6” also reflects a fresh approach compared with its lyrical parallels on previous albums. The qualities and behaviors of “this graveyard woman”74 form the entire subject of the song. She is similar in her peculiar demonstrations of extraordinary loyalty to the narrator, odd patterns of silence, and imaginatively described yet still mysterious attributes to women depicted in earlier songs such as “I Shall Be Free,” “Motorpsycho Nightmare,” “She Belongs to Me,” and “Love Minus Zero/No Limit.” But the “graveyard woman” leaps viscerally through the air toward us when we listen to “From a Buick 6”; she may not be a more important or more creatively sketched lyrical character than the women from the earlier songs, but she is certainly more directly thrust “in our ears,” not to say “in our faces,” by Dylan’s singing. He leans into several of the lyrics by phrasing against the accompani-



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ment’s intense, upbeat rock music. He lurches with dynamic and timbral swells into several key words, the best example of which is in the single‑line refrain, when each time “she . . . bound to put a blanket on my beehhd.” Yet perhaps the most thrilling payoff for this vocal style again relies on an invocation of a cultural figure, this one more firmly rooted in the foundations of rock ’n’ roll itself: “She walks like Bo diddley and she . . . don’t need no crutch.”75 To our ears, this moment, this phrase—which is vague and irrational in the literal sense but astonishingly evocative in the poetic sense, in part because of the rhythmic sound of the syllables in Bo Diddley’s name and in part because of the use of “crutch” to paradoxically animate the verb “walks” that still rings in our ears at the end of the line yet seems also to burst the limits of the crutch image it has already exceeded in the temporal flow of the vocal line—is as charming as any vocal moment in Dylan’s recorded career. The most famous cultural figures invoked on Highway 61 Revisited appear in the first stanza of the title track, and they are sufficiently important as to risk blasphemy: “God” and “Abraham.” The casual, informal language Dylan uses to re-create the biblical story of God’s order to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac might constitute blasphemy even on the page as it frames first Abraham’s cavalier response: Abe says, “Man, you must be puttin’ me on” God say, “No.” Abe say, “What?”76

and, even more shockingly, frames God’s response in equally mundane terms: God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but The next time you see me comin’ you better run.”77

But the vocals enrich the irreverence here through their characterization, with God’s lines of dialogue sung as arrogantly and demandingly as the initial command “Kill me a son” throughout the stanza and Abraham’s responses similarly sung, throughout, as incredulously and petulantly as the anthropomorphizing reduction of “Man, you must be puttin’ me on.” This stanza works pedagogically on us, just as “Like a Rolling Stone” does, by indicating that the fusion between human history and culture this narrator means to accomplish is not limited by norms of devotion nor of scope. His hubris here is to situate one of the defining interactions in Judeo‑Christian culture on the same tawdry highway where fellow travelers are bloodied and naked, seeking tans, gambling, and making a game of war. This gives listeners a key to understanding the endeavor of the full album that matches this title track’s name, which is to telescopically evoke the totality of human experience so

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that we might recognize ourselves in the songs of these narrators as they live, through their singing, in the madness of the present day. “Desolation Row” is the most extreme example on Highway 61 Revisited, and indeed in Dylan’s archive, of the proliferation of interlocutors who we hear introduced with a sense of continuous unquiet. This song features seventeen different precisely named figures from cultural sites ranging from the Bible to literature (for the young and old), to the stage (dramatic and musical), to popular science, to film, including Noah, Cinderella, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Ophelia, the Phantom of the Opera, Einstein, and Bette Davis, among others. Beyond these, another twenty‑one titles belonging to people based on hierarchical roles, jobs, or groups are named in the song. The start of the fourth verse exemplifies the vocal choices that animate this overflowing scene: Now Ophelia, she’s ’neath the window For her I feel so afraid78

“Now” introduces “Ophelia” so that the shift from the “ow” vowel to the long “o” at the start of her name requires the singer to audibly round out his mouth and draw in a bit of breath, in order to execute the second vowel. This breathy arrival at her image is reinforced by the assonance of the parallel long “o” sounds in “window” at the line’s end and in “so” in the next line, which combine to suggest that she’s fixed where we find her, fate enclosing her like the window’s frame and like the three consonant sounds starting each “f ” syllable across the second line. The long “o” in “so” is slightly elongated in the performance on the album, underscoring the word’s heightening of the narrator’s feeling of being “afraid” and, in the lengthening, at once underscoring the persistent dread associated with her fate that the next two lines articulate: On her twenty‑second birthday She already is an old maid.79

Yet, even amid these performance choices, the singing of “old maid” gives this short phrase, this socially determined role that apparently tells us more about her than her individual name, the greatest impact among these four lines: The fourth line is phrased like a tumbling toward that final pair of words, the pace of the singing voice quickening across the syllables of the line and deepening in pitch until the pair of words itself is attacked with the breath, the voice swelling in volume and broadening in timbre, sounding like it’s engaged in discovery of what’s reported, with a tone poised between dismay and disdain. Does this narrator find the “old maid” role to which Ophelia’s consigned a tragedy? A fitting end? A mockery? We hear all of these



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possibilities because of the way these four lines are performed—Dylan’s vocals making the phrase more complex than it is on the printed page. The use of so many culturally and socially specific figures is importantly distinct from the famous collection of characters associated with the rock ’n’ roll tradition Dylan was taking up. Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” “Aunt Mary,” “Uncle John,” “Rudy,” and “Daisy,” along with other rock ’n’ roll names like “Little Susie,” “Runaround Sue,” “Maybellene,” and “Johnny B. Goode”—these populated the genre in its early days. Extending Berry’s use of “Beethoven” and “Tchaikovsky,” Dylan integrates a range of figures with deeper and broader literary and cultural currency, and in doing so he invigorates both rock music and the cultural backdrop from which these figures come. Gray claims that a point of development in Dylan’s use of language from the period of the folk‑protest songs to the rock songs of 1965–1966 is a movement away from “lack of trust in the listener” that had caused the folk‑protest songs to often rely on “cliché” and toward language that is “a most formidable art.”80 However, we find that the proliferation of famous names and roles on Highway 61 Revisited constitutes a widespread use of “cliché” but in a different, creatively robust sense, not in the sense of cliché as “weak use of language” that Gray implies. Both Ricks and Bowden highlight Dylan’s unique gift for imbuing his lyrics with vigor through enlivening previously dead clichés.81 We find that the juxtaposition of these culturally significant figures, lyrically, with the urgent contemporaneity of rock ’n’ roll, musically, serves to draw the wider, older, cultural context into relation with the popular genre, thereby enlivening both. However, this relation is not a smooth one: Dylan’s vocal performances of this invasion of narrators’ lived experience by a plethora of cultural figures signals the weight of history and the anxiety they produce through their speech and action across this album. They are not woven into rock by Dylan so much as fused upon it, the heat and pain of this metaphor of fusion befitting both the singer’s oppositional, tumultuous enactment of responses and the rock ’n’ roll tradition’s highlighting of young people’s ill‑at‑ease feeling with the post‑World‑War‑Two modernity they were inheriting.82 “CAN THIS REALLY BE?”: COMPLEX ROCK SUBJECTIVITIES In the No Direction Home interview as discussed above, Dylan reflects on his alienation not only from the cultural elements of his hometown but from the deeper ideological commitments on which they rested—commitments to the middle‑class American values of capitalist meritocracy that were so deep as to be invisible: “It looked like any other town in the ’40s or ’50s . . . It was on the

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way to nowhere and you probably couldn’t find it on a map . . . There really wasn’t any philosophy, any idiom, any ideology to really go against.”83 He follows these reflections with a narrative of being made, as a boy, to sweep up inside his father’s electrical store: “I was supposed to learn the discipline of hard work or something and the merits of ahh . . . ahh of employment.”84 His facial expressions and speaking tone, especially on the final phrase “merits of employment,” are quite funny in the filmed interview and characterize the aging (sixty-four at the time the interview was published) performer’s dismissive stance toward the social expectations placed upon young people, especially boys within patriarchy, that direct us toward hard work and economic reward as the primary value structure in our assessment of ourselves. We might recognize this stance as more complex than mere dismissal, however, even keeping in mind the distinction between artist and narrator, if we also consider a line from a song released within a year of this interview, “Workingman’s Blues #2” from 2006’s Modern Times. In the last two lines of the verse portion of this song the narrator sings, “Some people never worked a day in their life / Don’t know what work even means.”85 There is irony even on the page when an extremely wealthy artist with worldwide fame—one who dropped out of college to come to New York City at age nineteen, one who had by age twenty signed his first recording contract and secured publishing royalties as a songwriter that would ensure him a rich income for his entire life— writes this line for himself to sing. But in the singing, the irony is more richly layered, as the narrator sounds convincing as an observer of working‑class struggles throughout the song and sounds compassionate and wistful on the “some people never worked” line. As sung, this line gives us the chance to hear “don’t know what work even means” as another instance of Dylan enlivening a cliché: we can hear it not only as a use of the hackneyed idiom “don’t know what X even means” to connote “have no idea how to appreciate X,” but also a genuine acknowledgment that those who “never work a day in their life” understand work, and indeed many aspects of human life, quite differently—perhaps even less effectively—as a result of the ways they’ve lived. We digress to this song on an album from forty years after 1966’s Blonde on Blonde to highlight how, throughout his career, Dylan has used vocal performance strategies that powerfully complicate listeners’ identification with narrators and with the events and feelings these narrators describe. In the case of his turn to rock music, this is significant because the rock ’n’ roll tradition he inherited was one in which performers had typically used a variety of strategies to cultivate a strong bond of identification with listeners—a bond quite different from the one cultivated by folk genre performers and described earlier in this chapter. One such rock ’n’ roll strategy hailed listeners as fellows through modes of address that emphasized simple treatments



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of easily recognizable daily experiences, especially romantic yearning—lyrical tropes summarized derisively by Gray under the parody term “luhrve” (a degradation of “love”) that he celebrates Dylan for having avoided prior to the mid‑1980s.86 A second strategy involved record companies, in the early era of rock ’n’ roll records being played on the radio by genre‑promoting disc jockeys, capitalizing more remuneratively than ever on the dance beats long popular with consumer audiences by offering radio listeners frequent airplay repetition of catchy, well‑known tracks. Miller observes that in this context, “really big hits were drummed into every listener. As never before, music could be passively absorbed. The collective unconscious acquired a new sonic dimension.”87 Miller continues by linking this “collective unconscious” to an instant nostalgia made possible by the “infinite repeatability of the sounds stored on recordings.”88 Rock ’n’ roll as a culture, by the start of the 1960s, was already embedded in this nostalgia despite the genre’s relatively recent vintage, as demonstrated by the performance practices of up‑and‑coming young artists of that time, including those who would go on to become significant stars. Neil Young recalls in his autobiography that in that era, even the rock acts who secured reliable gigs typically performed cover songs written and made famous by others, with original songwriting being rare.89 We can see the impact of Dylan’s break with this tradition by considering his relation to his contemporaries at the pinnacle of mid‑1960s popular music superstardom, the Beatles. Doggett writes of this band’s place in the extraordinarily widespread popularizing of the rock ’n’ roll tradition: “In the course of a decade, popular music had mutated from a form of entertainment into the exclusive language of a generation and a (counter‑) culture. . . . No rock act was followed more fanatically than the Beatles.”90 The Beatles helped reshape the popular music landscape by being young, energetic, and marketable stage performers who were a distinctive band in having not just one, but two, members who were also prolific original songwriters.91 This capacity to generate original songs set Dylan apart within the folk‑protest context as well.92 However, Dylan’s distinctive approach to songwriting, especially his approach to complicating subjectivity and challenging listeners’ sense of narrators’ positions rather than reassuring them of common feelings of romance and excitement, had a profound influence on the Beatles’ songwriters. This influence extended not only to Lennon and McCartney but to Harrison as well, as traced by Gould across several songs on their album Rubber Soul.93 Gould characterizes Dylan’s songwriting departure from the popular tradition the Beatles had also inherited, the departure that transformed the Beatles’ own approach, as “a new genre of ‘anti‑love’ songs,” and paralleling Gray he cites Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me, Babe” (also discussed in chapter 7) from 1964 as the first example of this lyrical genre.94

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Gould criticizes both the Beatles and Dylan (and also the Rolling Stones) for song lyrics of this type. He holds that in their notable break from lyrical themes in the blues tradition that helped form the basis for rock ’n’ roll, such lyrics are misogynistic because they “ridicule the sensitivities and vulnerabilities of women as avidly as their strengths.”95 We would certainly agree that charges of misogynistic lyrics are appropriate to level against these three celebrated rock acts, and assuredly many other acts as well. Yet later in this same chapter, Gould acknowledges what we contend is a more complex consequence of Dylan’s influence on John Lennon in particular, maintaining of Lennon’s evolving songwriting practice: This austere standard of authenticity was derived from his study of Bob Dylan, whose influence John took so personally, and who by 1966 was intimidating all of his contemporaries with the intense subjectivity of his songs. Yet what Lennon failed to appreciate was that Dylan was, if anything, the most overtly fictional of popular songwriters: a master at projecting himself into a situation and writing a story about it, and a consummate musical actor who had never let the limits of his own experience inhibit what he wanted to say.96

This description of Dylan’s impact as a songwriter, from a scholar primarily concerned not with Dylan but with the Beatles, is as astute and provocative as any we have read from the many scholars whose subject of study is Dylan. Gould’s claims here certainly chime with the young interviewee Dylan who, as discussed earlier in this chapter, created a fictional history for himself of orphanages and itinerant cowboy singers who taught him songs at their knees. Moreover, we insist that the “intense subjectivity” that Gould hears in Dylan combines with his performance (and not merely lyric‑writing) practice as a “consummate musical actor” to bring a fresh voice to rock music—a voice that transformed the genre permanently, as we will show. Christgau insists that despite several authors’ efforts to laud Dylan as a unique modern poet, “Dylan’s only [poetic] innovation is that he sings, a good way to control ‘tone of voice’ but not enough to revolutionize.”97 However, “that he sings”—especially as a performer marketed as a solo act like Elvis Presley or Chuck Berry and unlike his only contemporary rivals for significance, the Beatles—is perhaps the paramount instrument of revolution from within rock ’n’ roll, a musical genre based so deeply in listener identification with singers/narrators. Doggett recognizes the power Dylan had to complicate, rather than merely reinforce, the rock audience’s engagement with songs and their cultural status, noting that “no one symbolised the ambiguous relationship between music and revolution more accurately than Bob Dylan.”98 Dylan notoriously disavowed contemporary efforts to situate him as a cultural (or countercultural) spokesperson.99 His resistant stance within



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interviews, however, is much less important as a transformative performance than his complex vocal stances of disidentification on recordings. Muñoz describes performances of disidentification as based in “identities‑in‑difference [that] emerge from a failed interpellation within the dominant public sphere.”100 For Muñoz, performances of disidentification are complications of identity that develop within the moment of performance itself, as performers’ art indexes worlds familiar to performers and audience members. Within these same performances, performers enact a relation to those worlds that reveals and revels in difference and in ruptures of expectation, rather than confirming audience members’ understanding of those worlds or reassuring them that performers’ identities are stable and fixed. Muñoz develops the concept of performances of disidentification by analyzing the work of performers from marginalized positions, such as queer performers and performers of color, and we do not hold that Dylan’s identity positions are equivalent to these nor that he can be appropriately described as a marginalized person. We do, nevertheless, find the concept of disidentification compelling as a foundation for exploring how Dylan positions himself with respect to listeners on his rock recordings. Prior to his adoption of a rock‑grounded performance style, Dylan had already helped reshape the folk‑protest context by creating narrative personae that featured markedly idiosyncratic voices and engagements of events and characters, such as the narrator in “It Ain’t Me, Babe” whose attitude Gould describes in the above quotation as “anti‑love.”101 When overtly discussing the power of performance in the No Direction Home interview, Dylan repeatedly embraces a conception of a “self” that emerges in the process of creation, describing “performing” as a means of refusing to stand still and refusing to merely speak in ways that others demand; characterizing “becoming” as what is essential to an artist; and maintaining that “I needed to write that song [‘Song to Woody’] because I needed to sing that song, and . . . it hadn’t been written yet,” adding, “I wrote those songs because I needed to perform those songs . . . in that language.”102 The Dylan of 1965 demonstrates similar commitments to identity negotiations emerging through performance. From this foundation he creatively engages and extends rock ’n’ roll’s tradition of identification with listeners by emphasizing disidentification. Blonde on Blonde, the follow‑up to Highway 61 Revisited and released the next year, features an opening track that, like its predecessor, helps set the tone for the sound worlds to come on the album. “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35” is not what we consider a major song, but the infamous lyric “everybody must get stoned” is set up to be heard in an ambiguous manner ranging beyond its simple drug connotation by the verse lines, each of which begins with “they’ll stone ya.” (In 1986, Dylan said, “I wrote that song so that it

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could be taken like a couple of different ways. That’s one of ’em.”)103 This is an image of society pressing upon the narrator, committing violence upon him, and the image provides the opportunity to read the refrain as an unsteady linking of the escapist mandate “must get stoned” to inevitability, to a passive acceptance of a violent fate from which there is no escape. The sound world emphasizes the sense of struggle between self and society, between the effort to do as one pleases and the risk that one will do too much of what one pleases: the carnivalesque timbre of the backing band, the comedic lead vocal tone (including several audible Dylan laughs) and the accompanying vocal chattering from other voices combine to convey the lightness and silliness of one who is “stoned” on marijuana and enjoying oneself, but the rhythms of both the instrumental lines and the vocal phrasing lurch crazily from phrase to phrase much more like someone who is drunken and out of control or, if using drugs, on a not‑very‑controlled high that will not likely end comfortably. Blonde on Blonde will continue to offer us a series of songs in which narrators’ relationships to the worlds in which they find themselves involve not simply alienation but also immersion, like vortexes from which they cannot free themselves despite their incessant writhing. Contrasting Blonde on Blonde with Highway 61 Revisited, Gray finds that the newer album “offers a persona awash inside the chaos and speaking to others who are acceptedly in the same boat—or, rather, the same ocean. We’re tossed from song to song.”104 We are indeed tossed, as Gray suggests, and we are hailed by these narrators as if we’re in “the same ocean”—but “acceptedly” does not fit, to our ears, the performance of disidentification on this album that resounds with conflict and that confounds listeners’ effort to relate. In “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” the sixth song among fourteen on the album, we are “stuck” in the middle of the totality of this work of art. This narrator roots himself to particular places in the song by invoking two cities in the refrain: “Oh, Mama, can this really be the end / To be stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again?”105 He asks this question repeatedly, insistently—nine separate times, each time as a conclusion to a single verse. This refrain shapes not just the structure of the song but its narrator’s relationship to listeners and to himself as well: First, each of nine verses is a brief tale told in first person about the narrator’s responses to events and interactions in his surroundings, while the refrain is a contrasting mode of direct address to the listener. Second, the characters and events in each verse neither persist across verses nor bear any explicit relationship to one another, while the refrain (with one small exception in phrasing in the fifth verse) is repeated identically—so singing it serves as the only apparent connective thread in this alienated narrator’s life. Third, because the question is never answered, and because we are never given any hint of who “Mama” might be,



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the mode of direct address is itself “stuck” somehow. The narrator is never able to escape this sphere and reach communion with his intended audience— indeed, the possibility arises that the narrator, who controls when it will “really be the end” of the song, is actually posing this question as a mantra for himself as he searches again and again for a fitting end to his encounters. In this light, the term “refrain” suggests an interesting double meaning that renders the narrator’s plight in sharp relief, as he tries to make himself bring an end to his tale but is unable to do so, unable to refrain from going on for nine long verses. Ricks notes the resonance of the end-rhyme of “end” and “again” in this repeated couplet: “‘end’ and ‘again’ are metaphorically a rhyme because every rhyme is both an endness and an againness. That’s what a rhyme is, intrinsically, a form of again (a gain, too), and a form of an ending.”106 What is it, then, that this narrator enacts for us in searching for an end again and again—what kind of world compels him to sing of it, re-creating it for himself and for us even as he strives to escape it? For Gray, this song can best be understood in the context of the cultural critique of Blonde on Blonde as a complete work of art. The album, according to Gray, was born of the young Dylan’s immersion in the special time and place of the mid‑1960s, when existing orders were being called into question and the musical landscape Dylan and others explored reflected “our whole out‑of‑control, nervous‑energy‑fuelled, chaotic civilization.”107 He argues that it is “against the spirit of the double‑album’s cumulative effect to single out particular songs.”108 The song itself is a good example of this “cumulative effect,” in that the scenes deployed within the verses become powerful in their juxtaposition to one another as separate stories, even separate worlds, each one ending with the narrator’s rhyme of “end” with “again” as the next verse, the next world, is thereby ushered in. Dylan’s vocal performance is nuanced in this refrain, as he subtly changes the phrasing and emphasis each time he sings its two lines, suggesting that this search is not quite a standing in place but more like a repeated but unwelcome revisiting of the same point of view—more like being lost and going in circles than like pacing. We disagree, for this reason, with Scobie, who posits “Memphis Blues Again” as one example among others of a Dylan song in which verses could be omitted without changing the meaning of the song itself; perhaps the verses could be rearranged in their stanza order, given their lack of direct connection to one another, but the length of the song, at just over seven minutes, is part of its meaning—eliminating verses, and reducing the number of times Dylan creatively sings the refrain, would reduce the impact of the repeated search for the “end again.”109 Marqusee focuses his reading of “Memphis Blues Again” on its encapsulation of Dylan’s attitudes toward the counterculture movement with which he had been, often unwillingly, linked. Marqusee locates Dylan’s “perplexed,

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impotent ambivalence” about drug‑taking, including the absence of “moralism” about drugs, in the song’s seventh verse, when the “two cures” of the “rainman” are mixed by our “fool” narrator with the result that “it strangled up my mind.”110 For Marqusee, the core themes of the song, its vain, obsessive search for an end, reflect the cultural spirit of the times: “Here thwarted escapism blends with a sense of impending doom.”111 This resonates with the themes we discuss above in the album’s opening track. Marqusee notes Dylan’s integration of American geography and history in the song’s use of place‑based imagery, claiming that “urban and rural, tradition and innovation are held in churning stasis.”112 Two or more distinct vantage points simultaneously “held in churning stasis” is the defining quality of what Rorty calls the “ironist” perspective, a perspective that acknowledges the ways that human lives always involve a clash of radically incommensurate experiences.113 The core of “Memphis Blues Again” as sung by Dylan is the interplay among a set of incommensurate experiences, experiences often fraught with a sense of absurd overdetermination that renders the incommensurate as not merely ironic but painfully crazy‑making. Dylan’s vocal performance communicates the feeling of being lost in a world that presses upon its narrator in ways that demand that he extricate himself, though he will attempt to do so in vain. The song’s second stanza exemplifies this and also features, lyrically, a layering of incommensurate images culminating in absurd overdetermination; this stanza includes these lines: With his pointed shoes and his bells Speaking to some French girl.114

The lines “his pointed shoes and his bells” and “some French girl” parallel the singing approach established on the previous album, Highway 61 Revisited, in their eruptions that give the narrator the sound of one living and reacting in the moment of his observations. But the final four lines of the stanza feature the contrasting sounds of exhausted disappointment, the first two of these featuring an impotent wish to send a message: And I would send a message To find out if she’s talked115

with dynamics falling and timbre narrowing as each line is sung, each of the four lines ending with an audible strain of the singer’s throat, the stanza concluding: But the post office has been stolen And the mailbox is locked.116



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The narrator who laments, in another stanza, that “two cures . . . strangled up my mind” sounds like he’s being strangled as he progresses through many of this song’s verses. This second stanza, fittingly, includes the greatest of all ironist writers, Shakespeare, not on the page or even at the Globe but in “the alley,” dressed in the jester’s garb appropriate for an ironist writer who is here being knocked, like so many of his fool characters, from the pinnacle to the gutter. There is a point to these pointed shoes: they point us back to language, as in the next four lines we hear “speaking,” “says,” “message,” and “talked” layered upon one another. But we are pointed first not to the country whose language Shakespeare did so much to enrich, but across the channel to “some French girl.” This girl says she knows the narrator well, yet in the next couplet the narrator isn’t sure if she’s “talked.” We’re left to wonder if “talked” here might connote something more like “snitched” or “spilled the beans” about this narrator she claims to know well; listeners, on the other hand, are never told the secret, and so the narrator’s nature and intent, as well as that of the French girl, is left unresolved. The message, too, provides no resolution, in the following couplet, because messages have become moot as “the post office has been stolen, and the mailbox is locked.” This odd couplet, with its cartoonish, overdetermined enactment of a message never received, does resolve in some ways the ironies of this verse just before we move to the refrain: The narrator ponders sending a message, not to a particular person but to “some French girl” making claims about him. He finds, to his audible dismay, not just that his own message but the entire post office has been pilfered—yet the message and its location still matter to the narrator, enough that he closes the verse by reporting the more focused detail that a small mailbox within an entire stolen post office is “locked.” What’s happened to the message here, as it has been obfuscated at the multiple levels of content, recipient, and two layers of containers, each with its own status of removal from our efforts to parse it (theft, lock)? The one clear message for listeners is that systems of logical relationship and emotional valence do not align themselves in this narrator’s world; the foundational systems of this world are inadequate at every turn as balm to the narrator performed by Dylan. The closing couplet of each verse proper, before the refrain, functions similarly, pointing up a clash of incommensurate realities in which what we’re set up to expect to feel doesn’t fit with the epic magnitude of overdetermined physical or emotional pressures nor with the logical relationship among events. For instance, in the fourth stanza the narrator describes “Grandpa,” who the narrator brags he had recognized as having “lost control” because Grandpa “built a fire on Main Street / And shot it full of holes.”117 In the fifth stanza, the narrator forebodes that he may be “caught without a ticket and be discovered

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beneath a truck.” In the sixth stanza, “you see, you’re just like me” taunts listeners with the knowledge that we aren’t as far from the narrator’s illogical world as we might flatter ourselves to be. He then marvelously clinches this couplet with the cliché “I hope you’re satisfied”118—usually the ultimate “I told you so” in most contexts, indicating that the addressee got just what they, and not the speaker, deserved—but not quite so when it follows “you see, you’re just like me.” This tricky juxtaposition, similar to the end of “Positively 4th Street” and another instance of an enlivened cliché, turns back on the traditional “I told you so” to link narrator and listener as alike in not being satisfied despite our hopes, in never getting quite what we want when we are stuck inside of Mobile. Though each one of the nine proper verses of “Memphis Blues Again” closes with such strange rubbings together of meaning and response, the cycle back to each verse moves inexorably through that two‑line question: “Oh, Mama, can this really be the end / To be stuck inside of Mobile / With the Memphis blues again.”119 Here the narrator enacts the central claim of the song through refusing to give himself and listeners an expected end, playing against the typical emotional, narrative, and structural expectations of the rock ’n’ roll idiom of 1966. The song is structured to encourage us to actively await the end, the end of each verse and of the song itself: the verses are long (eight full lines each prior to the refrain, rather than the usual four), and unusually verbose in popular song, like much of Dylan’s work—here, words with tumbling four‑and‑five syllables communicate the narrator’s slack‑ jawed amazement. There is, moreover, no bridge either lyrically or musically to relieve the insistence of the long verse‑and‑refrain structure of “Memphis Blues Again.” One way the performance conveys the feeling of not being satisfied, of getting what we neither expect nor want, is in its enacting of thwarted desire for a verse/refrain structure we can hold in our heads, sing with our own mouths, and feel coming to an end. Dylan’s creative vocal interpretation is a key factor in frustrating our desire for an end as listeners. One common way to signal the close of a song or a poem is to offer a minor change to repeated refrain or chorus; Dylan leads us to expect the end by singing “Oh, Mama, is this really the end” rather than “can this really be the end” at the close of the fifth verse. This would have brought the song to its end at a much‑more‑typical four minutes, so his choice here plays against our felt sense of how long most songs will be. Then, when he returns to the “is this really the end” phrasing once more, in the ninth verse, at nearly seven minutes in, we are left, like the narrator, with a puzzle: surely, we think, the song must end by now, and yet last time we heard this phrase it was not, in fact, really the end; when, we wonder, will it be? Our wonder is also stirred by Dylan’s wondering through varying stress patterns from refrain to refrain; each time he sings “Oh, Mama, can this really be the



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end,” he places strong emphasis on a different syllable—until the penultimate eighth verse, that is, when he sings the entire line with no strong emphasis on any syllable, as if exhausted or resigned to being stuck. The line about being stuck is itself a place where Dylan’s interpretive work sticks with us and sticks it to us: here, though his choices of emphasis are strong, they are very similar in each refrain, interpretively stuck. Each of the major vowel sounds is subjected to a pleading upturned pitch and exasperated lengthening, especially the second syllables of “inside” and “Mobile,” as Dylan stretches and distorts these two words about location like a mime exploring the contours of an imagined box. The refrain thus serves as an incisive reframing of the playful yet befuddled subjectivity of the narrative persona, who waits for the comprehensible and never gets it, who laments that no sense is to be made. Our expectations as listeners are also performatively disrupted on levels other than song structure across several songs on Blonde on Blonde. A strategy Dylan deploys widely across this album is elongating and compressing vowels to complicate the denotative meanings of words, as described in chapter 4 with respect to “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later).” A second example of this strategy and its challenging of listener identification within the song is in the lines, “An’ I told you, as you clawed out my eyes / That I never really meant to do you any harm.”120 “Harm” is sung with exaggerated length as “haaaaaaaaarrrmmm” and with a tone that sharpens across the word so that the “r” sound near the end of the word reaches a snarl underscored by the open‑throated guttural manner in which he hums the closing “m” sound. This vocal choice turns the word “harm” into one that does not greet our ears gently, thereby offering a sonic contrast to its meaning— his singing is not painful to listeners, but it’s certainly not consonant with harmlessness. The choice also calls into question the narrator’s claim about his intentions, as the act of singing itself in this manner reflects a decisive aural attack on, and extension of, the very word representing the malice he disavows. The incommensurate juxtapositions central to the next two songs, “I Want You” and “Memphis Blues Again,” also affect us in these two lines in “One of Us Must Know,” as “harm” no matter how sharply sung feels like a feeble response to having one’s eyes clawed out—especially given that this event is described in the past tense. The weight of the incommensurate infuses “I Want You” through Dylan’s use of a languid tone and phrasing style within this song that lyrically insists, in its refrain, “I want you, I want you / I want you so bad.”121 In contrast to so much of his work at this point in Dylan’s embrace of rock performance, in this song he uses comparatively flat dynamics and stress patterns that are much closer to those of ordinary speech. Rather than stridently attacking any phrases in the ways described earlier in this chapter, he maintains a slackened

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pace that sounds like it’s lagging just a fraction behind the beat of the accompaniment; this is especially audible on multi‑syllable words at the ends of lines that are sung as if to slide their syllables in before the song’s structure drags the singer to the next line, such as “interrupt” and “chambermaid.” This is a jarring vocalization of the feeling that the refrain purports, as the narrator sounds throughout as if he wants nothing other than to be done with this song and its addressee from the moment it starts. Given its vocal performance, “I Want You” is an interesting follow‑up to “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” the “anti‑love” song characterized by both Gould and Gray as so influential in offering listeners a challenge to the common subjective position of eager romantic and sexual yearning by rock ’n’ roll narrators.122 It is also a fresh approach to the sound world typical of rock in its presentation of a singing voice of such audible languor, and an especially peculiar choice in this way for a single release, in which form it was issued beyond the album.123 “Pledging My Time” is another song from Blonde on Blonde in which the style of vocal performance Dylan sustains throughout the song tugs against the lyrics, creating an uneasy pairing of emotional response and denotative meaning that complicates listeners’ identification with its narrator. He deploys a swaggering vocal tone with phrasing patterns marked by abrupt attacks on each phrase. In the case of this song, the vocal approach matches, rather than contrasting with, the instrumental music and song form, which are in the blues tradition. The images depicted in the lyrics, however, involve the narrator recounting his bad feelings (“a poison headache”; “I can hardly breathe”) and his concerns about frustrated personal and social relationships (“if it don’t work out”; “I can’t be the last to leave”).124 These images of worry do not fit with the swagger of the song’s vocal and instrumental tone, a tone that also seems oppositional to spirit of devotion to “you” in the title phrase “pledging my time” from the refrain. Bowden, in her compelling analysis of this album’s “Just Like a Woman,” describes the power of vocal performance to bring listeners into shared emotional states with singers in ways more complex than a narrative or cinematic reading of lyrical images: “A listener, rather than visualizing external action or overhearing dialogue, shares in one after another violent internal state—the feeling of saying what knows will hurt, for instance, or of meeting a former lover in public.”125 We agree with her assessment of vocal performance as an enriching of the subjective feeling conveyed by lyrics, especially when that performance is as innovative as Dylan’s often is on Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. This fits with Chion’s enumeration of several reasons it is hard to hear sound as an object, which include that “it seems difficult to take up a disinterested attitude when faced with sounds” and “sound stubbornly refers us to something other than itself.”126 However, we find that the conse-



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quences of the tendency of sound to push toward identification turn instead toward disidentification in Dylan’s case, when we consider how he reimagined the rock tradition he inherited and was newly choosing to work within. Early rock ’n’ roll lyrics were often populated with the dancing young girls, fast cars, and rebellious juvenile behavior that Miller associates with an older generation’s fears about rock ’n’ roll, in part because such panic was marketable as an appealing dimension of the “dangerous” genre to consumers.127 But in Dylan’s early rock music, particularly in nearly every song on Blonde on Blonde, narrators observe characters, objects, and behaviors that they cannot control, that are overdetermined and that inspire sounds of cynicism and dread rather than ecstatic release. His vocal performances communicate the restlessness and strangeness of these conditions, thereby opening up a much broader range of subject matter—lyrically, as has often been noted, but also aesthetically—for rock music. Dylan’s release of the albums Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde resulted in his rise to superstar status within the contemporary culture, a process Lloyd and Lee trace.128 His rock star status had enduring effects on American social history and on mediated portrayals of rock stars, as Wilentz and Marshall, respectively, describe.129 Marqusee’s monograph and Boucher and Browning’s edited collection each offer book‑length explorations of how Dylan’s music has helped shape political action, while Doggett details a unique interpretation of Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man” by the radical activist group, the Black Panthers.130 Dylan’s embrace of performances of opposition and disidentification continue to make an impact of a different kind, as aesthetic forces that influence rock music to this day. Gould and MacDonald each show how Dylan’s approach to identification (and disidentification, though they do not use the term) was a key factor in transforming the songwriting of the Beatles.131 Marcus describes the competitive songwriting and musical production values emerging in the mid‑1960s between Dylan and the Beatles.132 Jimi Hendrix’s cover of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” was so compelling that Dylan no longer plays the original acoustic version of the song live, conceding that Hendrix’s rocked‑out rendition is the proper one. Williams ascribes the distinctive persona Hendrix inhabits in performing the song so powerfully to “Dylan’s song structure and vision and imagery.”133 Neil Young remembers that during his early days onstage in Toronto, “I felt connected to him in a moment. . . . Bob left his mark.” He continues, “I had to avoid listening to him for a long time in the late sixties and early seventies because I thought I would assimilate so much that I would suddenly be copying him.”134 The Beatles, the Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young—these are among a small handful of the most germinal artists in the flowering of rock music as a worldwide artistic phenomenon,

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and what unites each of their responses to Dylan’s work, according to these authors, is a deeply felt sense of the subjectivity of voice, of the particularity of a performer’s position within a rock song. Dylan’s reinvigorating of an oppositional stance within rock music is recognizable in the aesthetic foundations of the punk, grunge, and emo genres. His lyrical complexity is an obvious influence on Nick Cave, but a less obvious yet just as profound influence rests in Cave’s performances of disidentification—most clearly manifest in songs like “The Mercy Seat” and “Deanna” and throughout the extraordinary album Murder Ballads. Progressive rock scholars Weinstein and Holm‑Hudson each find that Dylan, through his aesthetic richness within rock, played a vital role in the proliferation of narrow styles and subgenres of which progressive rock is among the first examples.135 This proliferation continues to accelerate today through the technological means of streaming services and other forms of digital production and distribution of rock music. The lasting importance of Dylan’s distinctive aesthetic engagement with the rock tradition depended not only on the artist’s own choices, of course, but on these choices’ relation to their particular time and place in mid‑1960s America. Lloyd writes: Taken as a whole, Dylan’s new material—formally innovative songs, rock and roll romps, surreal ballads—represents a sustained effort by a working artist to assume responsibility, in matters of the heart and the head all at once, for that kind of liberation. Dylan’s rock albums, not his folk or “protest” songs, carved one channel along which the anti‑dualism bred in the coffeehouses was communicated to the next generation.136

Thus, the performer who stridently resisted being held up as the voice of a generation when he was at the vanguard of the folk‑protest musical movement became, through his performances that served as a kind of musical revival of rock ’n’ roll, a voice that has resounded through several generations.

NOTES   1. Rolling Stone, https://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/the‑500‑great est‑songs‑of‑all‑time‑20110407/bob‑dylan‑positively‑4th‑street‑20110527.   2. Billboard, https://www.billboard.com/music/bob‑dylan/chart‑history /hot‑100/song/575620.   3. Bob Shelton, No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan (New York: Beech Tree, 1986), 277.   4. Murray Lerner, The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live at the Newport Folk Festival 1963–1965 (New York: Sony, 2007).



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  5. Shelton, No Direction Home, 301–2.   6. Scorsese, No Direction Home.   7. Moylan, Understanding and Crafting the Mix.   8. Ibid.    9.  Flanagan and Wilentz, “Liner Notes,” 44; Scorsese, No Direction Home.  10. Moylan, Understanding and Crafting the Mix.   11.  We use “folk” here to refer to a genre of popular music of the early 1960s, with its set of performance norms, rather than to the particular musical tradition of any one community; see the discussion of the work by Jackson and Fox on “authenticity” later in this chapter.   12.  Boucher and Browning, The Political Art of Bob Dylan, 78–89.   13.  Brian Lloyd, “The Form Is the Message: Bob Dylan and the 1960s” (2014, Rock Music Studies 1 no. 1: 58–76), 66–67.  14. José Esteban Muñoz, Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Perfor‑ mance of Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1999), 5–8.  15. Chion, Sound, 12–15; Nina Sun Eidsheim, Sensing Sound: Singing and Lis‑ tening as Vibrational Practice (Durham, NC: Duke University, 2015), 8–22.  16. Sun Eidsheim, Sensing Sound, 27–31.  17. Scorsese, No Direction Home.  18. Marcus, The Original Mono Recordings liner notes, 10, 16.   19.  Lloyd, “The Form Is the Message,” 59–63.  20. Pamela Fox, Natural Acts: Gender, Race, and Rusticity in Country Music (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2009), 8.  21. Lee, Like the Night; No Direction Home  22. Scorsese, No Direction Home.   23.  Tony Glover, “Liner Notes.” Bob Dylan Live 1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (New York: Sony, 1998).   24.  “Positively 4th Street,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /positively‑4th‑street/.  25. Theroux, The Grammar of Rock, 123.  26. Colin Irwin, Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited (New York: Billboard, 2008), 129–32; Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 180; Flanagan, The Cutting Edge liner notes, 23.  27. Fox, Natural Acts, 148.  28. Fox, Natural Acts, 148–9.  29. Wald, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ’n’ Roll, 179.  30. Marshall, The Never Ending Star, 98.  31. Scorsese, No Direction Home.  32. Shelton, No Direction Home, 548.  33. Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan: The 1966 Live Recordings (New York: Sony); Scorsese, No Direction Home.   34.  Thanks to Jnan Blau for this insight on the face in performance.

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  35.  “Like a Rolling Stone,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /rolling‑stone/  36. Ibid.   37.  Ibid. In the performance on Highway 61 Revisited, the word “for” is not sung in the final line, but it is added to subsequent performances heard on The 1966 Live Recordings.  38. James Miller, Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and Roll 1947–1977 (New York: Fireside, 1999), 82–83.   39.  Lloyd, “The Form Is the Message,” 63.  40. Marshall, The Never Ending Star, 97–98.  41. Scorsese, No Direction Home.  42. Marcus, Like a Rolling Stone, 97–99.  43. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 139; Irwin, Highway 61 Revisited, 51–57.  44. Miller, Flowers in the Dustbin, 133–37.  45. Wald, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ’n’ Roll, 172–74.  46. Scorsese, No Direction Home.  47. Fox, Natural Acts, 6; Wald, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ’n’ Roll, 170–71.  48. Wald, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ’n’ Roll, 165.  49. Scorsese, No Direction Home.  50. Scaduto, Bob Dylan, 67; Bob Dylan, interview by Cynthia Gooding, WBAI, March 11, 1962, audio, 55:01, https://soundcloud.com/pacificaradioarchives /iz1211‑bob‑dylan‑and‑cynthia‑gooding‑march‑11‑1962.  51. Roland Jackson, “Authenticity or Authenticities?—Performance Practice and the Mainstream” (Performance Practice Review 10, no. 1 (1997): 1–10), 4–5.  52. Jackson, “Authenticity or Authenticities?,” 6–7.  53. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 23.  54. Shelton, No Direction Home, 257–61.  55. Marshall, The Never Ending Star, 103.   56.  Via the Guthrie‑Seeger song “Taking It Easy.”  57. Wilentz, Bob Dylan in America, 103.  58. Miller, Flowers in the Dustbin, 73–74.  59. “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /subterranean‑homesick‑blues/.  60. Ibid.  61. Ibid.  62. Miller, Flowers in the Dustbin, 73.  63. All four of the magnificent songs on Side B of Bringing It All Back Home include at least one lyric in the second‑person mode of address; these songs are accompanied only by acoustic guitar and thus are not as obviously part of the transition to rock music. We discuss the first three of these in chapter 7.



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 64. “On the Road Again,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /road‑again/.  65. “Ballad of a Thin Man,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs /ballad‑thin‑man/. Dylan sings this line differently on Highway 61 Revisited.  66. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/queen‑jane‑approximately/.  67. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 5.  68. James Longenbach, “So to Speak” (Raritan 36, no. 3 [2017]: 71–80), 75.  69. “Maggie’s Farm,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/maggies‑farm/.  70. “Tombstone Blues,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/tomb stone‑blues/.  71. “Maggie’s Farm,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/maggies‑farm/.  72. “Tombstone Blues,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/tomb stone‑blues/.  73. Ibid.  74. “From a Buick 6,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/buick‑6/.  75. Ibid.  76. “Highway 61 Revisited,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /highway‑61‑revisited/.  77. Ibid.  78. “Desolation Row,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/desolation‑row/.  79. Ibid.  80. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 22–23.  81. Christopher Ricks, The Force of Poetry, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 366; Bowden, Performed Literature, 56–57.  82. Gould, Can’t Buy Me Love, 165–66; MacDonald, Revolution in the Head, 5–8.  83. Scorsese, No Direction Home.

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 84. Scorsese, No Direction Home.  85. “Workingman’s Blues #2,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2006 Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan .com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/workingmans‑blues‑2/.  86. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 807.  87. Miller, Flowers in the Dustbin, 56–57.  88. Miller, Flowers in the Dustbin, 57.  89. Neil Young, Waging Heavy Peace (New York: Plume, 2012), 60.  90. Doggett, There’s a Riot Going On, 15.  91. Gould, Can’t Buy Me Love, 169.  92. Marqusee, Wicked Messenger, 53–55.  93. Gould, Can’t Buy Me Love, 299–300.  94. Gould, Can’t Buy Me Love, 300; Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 30.  95. Gould, Can’t Buy Me Love, 300.  96. Gould, Can’t Buy Me Love, 323.  97. McKeen, Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay, 563.  98. Doggett, There’s a Riot Going On, 6.  99. Doggett, There’s a Riot Going On, 6–7; Marqusee, Wicked Messenger, 114–20; Boucher and Browning, The Political Art of Bob Dylan, 3–9. 100.  Muñoz, Disidentifications, 7. 101. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 30. 102.  Scorsese, No Direction Home. 103.  Bob Dylan and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Across the Borderline. Sydney Australia, February 1986 (No city: Sonic Boom, 2016). 104.  Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 5. 105.  “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www .bobdylan.com/songs/stuck‑inside‑mobile‑memphis‑blues‑again/. 106.  Ricks, Visions, 31–32. 107.  Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 5. 108.  Ibid. 109.  Scobie, Alias Bob Dylan, 97. 110.  Marqusee, Wicked Messenger, 199; “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/stuck‑inside‑mo bile‑memphis‑blues‑again/. 111.  Marqusee, Wicked Messenger, 205. 112.  Marqusee, Wicked Messenger, 206. 113. Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. 114.  “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www .bobdylan.com/songs/stuck‑inside‑mobile‑memphis‑blues‑again/.



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115.  Ibid. 116.  Ibid. 117.  Ibid. 118.  Ibid. 119.  Ibid. 120.  “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later),” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs /one‑us‑must‑know‑sooner‑or‑later/. 121.  “I Want You,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/i‑want‑you/. 122. Gould, Can’t Buy Me Love, 323; Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 30. 123.  Bill Flanagan, “Liner Notes.” Bob Dylan 1965–1966: The Bootleg Series Volume 12; The Cutting Edge Deluxe Edition (New York: Sony, 2016), 54. 124.  “Pledging My Time,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/pledging‑my‑time/. 125.  Bowden, Performed Literature, 54. 126.  Chion, Sound, 201. 127.  Miller, Flowers in the Dustbin, 87–90. 128.  Lloyd, “The Form Is the Message,” 71–74; Lee, Like the Night, 51–58. 129. Wilentz, Bob Dylan in America; Marshall, The Never Ending Star. 130. Marqusee, Wicked Messenger; Boucher and Browning, The Political Art of Bob Dylan; Doggett, There’s a Riot Going On, 78–79. 131. Gould, Can’t Buy Me Love, 252–53, 258–59; MacDonald, Revolution in the Head, 97–99. 132. Marcus, Like a Rolling Stone, 6. 133.  William McKeen, ed., Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay: An Anthology (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000), 569. 134.  Young, Waging Heavy Peace, 123–24. 135.  Holm‑Hudson, Reconsidered; Kevin Holm‑Hudson, Genesis and the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (London: Routledge, 2008). 136.  Lloyd, “The Form Is the Message,” 74–75.

4 Hero Blues Dylan and the Bardic Tradition

As a performer, Bob Dylan often dons the mantle of the bard, the keeper of civilization’s stories and wisdom. A dedicated student of poetic traditions, he has shown an uncanny facility with the rhythms and formulae of widely disparate musical and other artistic media. It is his prodigious ability to synthesize and reanimate such formulae that has allowed Dylan to become a master of several distinct genres, especially folk, blues, and gospel. For that reason, he may be considered the American embodiment of the rhapsodes, the ancient Greek storytellers who performed epic poems such as the Odyssey and many others. Rhapsodes, much as Dylan has in the many iterations of his performative styles, made their reputations on their ability to read, respond to, and so hold an audience. The oral tradition stretches back many thousands of years, to the times when tribal priests were the repositories of their cultures’ histories and legends, of planting and harvesting times as predicted by the movement of the stars. These priests, who began learning the tales as children, were by all accounts illiterate, yet stored vast swaths of text in their heads, and could recite for days on end entire cycles of epic poems, which contained within them the whole of that society’s wisdom and values. The heroes of the tales were personifications of those values, and to know the hero’s exploits was to know what it meant to be a full member of that tribe. These priests were consulted on everything, from how to build a boat, to how to care for a sick animal. Truly, the society formed the epic, and simultaneously the epic formed the society. That these memories and cures were sung points to the evolutionary importance of song and music to the human brain. The rhythms and line structure became storage and retrieval devices by which the anointed were able to remember such massive amounts of text, and to accurately transmit them to 101

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others, even years after learning them. Dalrymple asked a bard, or bhopa, in India how he accomplished such a feat as memorizing the hundred thousand slokas (stanzas) of the Mahabharata: “The minstrel replied that each stanza was written on a pebble in his mind. He simply had to recall the order of the pebbles and ‘read’ from one after another.”1 This also accounts for the fact that the stories and songs remained stable to generations before being written down—an action that coincides with the dying out of the bardic practices. Watts retells the story of Milman Parry and Albert Bates Lord, ground-breaking scholars of the oral tradition, working with twentieth century Yugoslavian oral poets, knows as Guslars: [T]hey requested a Guslar to sing while a scribe took down his words. At first the singer felt the awkwardness of a slow pace forced upon him by the scribe; furthermore, since writing has no rhythm, the singer was compelled to put down his gusla [a one‑ or two‑stringed, bowed instrument], his time‑keeper, and as a result some of his lines were metrically faulty.2

However, they also found that, when the Guslars took the time to consider their work, they were apt to find better phrasings, resulting in “longer and better epic songs.”3 The earliest Western epic we have is the story of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian king who lived some time between 2800 and 2500 BCE. In The Buried Book, Damrosch explains that scribes had been recording trade and political history since about 3300 BCE, but it was “only between 2600 and 2500 BCE, a century or two after Gilgamesh’s death, that texts appear that can be called literature in something like the modern sense—poems employing figurative language to portray imagined events.”4 By this time, those tales had become exaggerated and mythically powerful. The literary Gilgamesh is described as a giant, and with his wild man sidekick Enkidu, he slays the Guardian of the Forest, the dreadful monster Huwawa (or Humbaba, depending on the translation). After that period of unknowable oral versions, his adventures now exist in the form of five shorter stories, which were combined, enlarged upon, and organized by a single writer known as Sin‑leqe‑unninni in about 1200 BCE. But before he took it upon himself to create a standardized coherent tale, independent stories of the king from Uruk were told in many separate times and places. Once the historical king died and was replaced by his mythical twin, he became the hero of untold numbers of adventures. An analogous character from modern‑day traditions is DC Comics’ Superman. Since his first appearance in Action Comics in 1938, he has figured in countless comic books, newspaper strips, movie serials, cartoons, television shows, and films. Though the basic outline of his biography remains, for the



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most part, stable—the ultimate immigrant tale of arriving in Kansas as a refugee, growing up on a farm and then moving to Metropolis, where he works, under the assumed identity of Clark Kent, as a newspaper reporter—there is no way that all of the various versions and timelines can be reconciled into a unified whole. Each iteration reflects the worries and hopes of its time. He is first seen fighting Nazis, while in the 1950s television show, he works with G‑men against gangsters. In the Christopher Reeve films of the late 1970s and 1980s, he confronts computer programers and nuclear weapons. The latest films, with Henry Cavill wearing the red cape, are gritty and dark, as many people see the post‑9/11 world. Musically, such tropes, characters, and tales exist in the multiplicity of versions of folk and blues songs. As we will show, Dylan makes extensive use of this fluid universe of associations, especially, but not exclusively, in his earlier recordings. For example, any number of Child Ballads appear whole or in part in Dylan’s first compositions, notably “Lord Randall” as the basis for “A Hard Rain’s A‑Gonna Fall,” and the many versions of the “Stack A Lee” and “Frankie and Johnny” ballads that have circulated since the beginning of the last century. With each recording or live performance, a singer would add a new interpretive angle to the song, to the point where no single version of a song could be called the “definitive” rendition. Van Ronk goes into particular detail of this process, recounting the contretemps between himself and Dylan regarding the latter’s recording of Van Ronk’s arrangement of “House of the Rising Sun,” and how each of them in turn was forced to drop it from his repertoire because of subsequent recordings by other artists. Van Ronk himself was surprised to learn that the story of a woman forced to work in a brothel was in fact about a woman going to prison.5 Even the hit‑makers have no definitive renditions. This is what the stories of Gilgamesh were like to the Sumerians. After more than a century, Sin‑leqe‑unninni, a Mesopotamian asiputu, or exorcist, who used magic and incantations to treat maladies in the same way the bhopas Dalrymple met still do6 brought together disparate versions and episodes, curating them into a coherent whole, and committing them to a dozen tablets. Some of these stories turned out to be precursors to the biblical tales of Eden and the Flood. The battle with Huwawa is clearly the foundation, if not Homer’s immediate inspiration, for both Odysseus’s confrontation with the Cyclops and Menelaus’s struggle with the shape‑shifting sea god Proteus (hence “protean”) whose watery bed is in Egypt. As Damrosch puts it, “The early Greek bards were illiterate, and no passages in Homer are direct translations of anything in Gilgamesh, but many people in the region were bilingual (indeed, multilingual). Hearing Gilgamesh performed, it is likely that the Homeric poets found themes they could adapt to their own purposes.”7

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Dylan’s method of appropriation is exactly the same, which he has long shown in his own writing, from rewriting “Lord Randall” as “It’s a Hard Rain’s A‑Gonna Fall” to creating the mythic “Scarlet Town,” which is inhabited not only by Bonnie Barbara Allen, but also Little Boy Blue, Uncle Tom, and untold others. In this way, he makes contemporaries of the ancient and the living, giving them and us the sheen of timelessness. Gilgamesh’s final adventures are particularly interesting. On a quest for immortality, Gilgamesh meets Utnapishtim, who survived a Great Flood. Utnapishtim explains to Gilgamesh that, having been favored by one of the gods, he was told to build a huge boat in which to save his family and animals, from which the present race of humanity is descended. After seven days on the water, Utnapishtim lets loose a raven and a dove to look for dry land. As a gift for surviving, Utnapishtim was granted immortality. Utnapishtim offers to pass the gift along to Gilgamesh, if the hero passes the test of staying awake for seven days. Gilgamesh agrees, and promptly falls asleep for the test period. Interestingly, two separate “clocks” are provided: Utnapishtim directs his wife to draw marks on the wall each day Gilgamesh sleeps, and he also tells her to bake a loaf of bread each day, so that when Gilgamesh awakens and lies that he never went to sleep, the marks and (more convincingly to our minds) the loaves in predictable stages of staleness and rot (signifying the corruption of the human body) will bear witness to his mendacity. In despair, Gilgamesh ask for a second chance, and Utnapishtim grants it to him: he must retrieve a magic plant from the bottom of the ocean. This he does, but a snake comes along and takes it. Gilgamesh returns home, wiser and kinder to his people. He also achieves a sort of immortality: having invented writing (perhaps from the markings Utnapishtim’s wife put on the wall), he writes the whole story down, which is why he lives on in 2018, three thousand two hundred years later. The series of doubles—two birds, two clocks, two tests, as well as others that appear throughout the twelve tablets—suggest that Sin‑leqe‑unninni was working with multiple well‑known stories, and felt obliged to work them in somehow. We can imagine a young Babylonian at bedtime listening to her mother tell the story of the sleeping Gilgamesh (not coincidentally to our minds is that the flood was designed as a punishment because the squabble of humans prevented the gods from sleeping), only to complain, “That’s not how daddy tells it. What about the flower in the sea?” Sin‑leqe‑unninni provided parents and epic fans everywhere with a modicum of peace and tranquility. In the same way, Ferry, whose “rendering” of Gilgamesh (he makes it clear it’s not an actual translation, but based on several literal translations) appeared in 1992, describes his poetic choices: “Some scholars think that Ishtar, in Tablet VI, turned Ishullanu into a mole; others think he



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was turned into a frog. I like both possibilities, so I turned the scholars into ancient gossips whose stories, as usual with gossips, don’t quite match.”8 Looking at the dates of composition of the Odyssey (c. 700 BCE), and of the biblical Genesis (c. 600 BCE), we can literally trace the course of these stories from one shore of the Mediterranean to the other and back again, likely through trade routes and taverns and religious festivals. In Greece, the religious aspects of the priest fell away, and the human story‑banks became entertaining minstrels. The oral tradition divided into separate types of storytellers.9 First, there were minstrels, like Homer himself, who sang tales of gods and heroes to the tune of a stringed instrument such as a lyre, or cithara. Minstrels would travel from one royal court to another, where they would entertain at drinking parties or in public markets. In the Odyssey, Homer recounts such a drinking party, where Demódokos, the blind bard (and perhaps the foundation for the traditional belief that Homer himself was blind), tells a story of Aphrodite and Ares cuckolding Hephaestus, only to be captured and put on display to the other Olympians. The goddesses refuse to come, “for shame,” while each of the gods wishes he could be the one trapped in golden chains with the goddess of love and beauty. Homer describes how Demódokos, “the faithful bard the Muse adored / above all others,”10 receives such treatment from the royal guests as a fine chair and choice food and wine. Later, according to Bahn and Bahn, popular demand for more stories led to the development of the rhapsode, or “singers of stitched lays,” gorgeously‑ arrayed performers who recited tales, though often without the lyre. Instead, “they are credited not only with replacing song with recitation, but also with divorcing narrative verse from music, a development which had widespread effects in freeing the spoken word . . . Instead of the lyre, the symbol of their profession came to be the myrtle or laurel staff which they perhaps used to emphasize the rhythm or to give grandeur to their gestures.”11 The mark of a successful and popular rhapsode was his ability to spontaneously reflect the mood and desires of the audience, and to produce in response recitations most likely to please that particular group. This ability, among the best rhapsodes, apparently allowed them to tell their own versions of stories, and even to wholly create some of their own. Is this in any way different from the modern performer who employs costumers to convey to the audience a particular mood, as Dylan’s cowboy‑band outfits for the past several years have, or how singers punctuate their words with a microphone and stand? The creativity of rhapsodes, though, was tightly controlled by the rules of epic composition. Watts simplifies (and anglicizes) Parry’s 1928 doctoral dissertation L’Épithète traditionnelle dans Homère, by starting with Homer’s use of noun‑epithets, then discussing the use of formulae:

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By means of a complete catalogue of several of the epithets for heroes or gods, as well as for things and places, Parry isolated but one determining condition: the meter, the demands of the dactylic hexameter. Odysseus is not “of many devices” or “long‑suffering god‑like” merely by whim: the first phrase, πολύμητις Όδυσσεύς [polymetis Odusseus], occurs fifty times at the end of a line in Homer, and always fills out the verse from the caesura after the first syllable in the fourth foot: the use of the phrase “of many devices” is determined by metrical necessity.12

Watts continues: A steady beat, however, does not determine the pace of the singer’s composition. In order to compose with his mind on the story rather than on the language, the singer needs a stock of ready‑made phrases that fit specific metrical patterns and specific situations, characters, and events. Such a ready‑made phrase is the formula, a term Parry defined as “a group of words which is regularly employed under the same metrical conditions to express a given essential idea.”13

These formulae become the building blocks of composition in epic poetry, as well as later forms such as folk music and, as we will see, African‑American blues. Oral tales were not, of course, limited to the warmer climes of the Mediterranean. The epic poem Beowulf, whose author (or authors) is lost to time and history, is considered to be the first piece of literature in English. Written in a Germanic runic language now known as Old English, it weaves a complex web of tales of monster‑killing, mythology (much of it, like the authors themselves, utterly lost), and oral history. However, not a single action within the poem’s three main tales is set on the island that would become England. Indeed, when Scandinavian raiders crossed the North Sea in open boats during the eighth and ninth centuries,14 it is likely a version of the epic was carried by them along with their swords and shields. These raiders brought their Viking culture to a land that had been inhabited by Germanic tribes, Angles and Saxons, who themselves had arrived in England in the fifth century15 when Roman legions were called back to the capital to protect the City of the Seven Hills from raiding barbarians—some of them related to those Vikings.16 The one version that now exists was written down much later by monks who inserted their Christian cosmology into the action—an early version of the rebranding of the old stories to fit the sensibilities and experiences of a new audience. The Scandinavian scops who told the tales of Beowulf were raiders and sailors the same as their comrades. What was different about them was that they were steeped in stories, knew all the legends, and could fit formulaic phrases into a rigid verse scheme as easily as they could breathe.17 Each time they told



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a story, it was both ancient and new, like the knots of a fishing net repaired on any shore along the North Sea. In Raffel’s translation, we are told how such a bard might compose a heroic tale celebrating Beowulf’s latest triumph: And sometimes a proud old soldier . . . Would weave a net of words . . .18

What flows through each of these tales, their common pulse, is that each embodies what Campbell terms the “Hero’s Journey,” a series of archetypal and allegorical steps that describe the growth and ultimate transformation of a character. Steeped in tales from throughout antiquity and around the globe, Campbell distilled the multifaceted and disparate tales into a general pattern universal to human experience. To begin, the hero candidate, a mortal with untapped powers in a mundane setting is “called to adventure,” to begin some sort of quest that will challenge his (or her) sensibilities and skills. Crossing the threshold from this world to another, where all of the previous rules are changed, the hero candidate must battle monsters of various sorts as well as himself to prove his worth. Along the way, he usually fails at tests of that worthiness, descending into “the whale’s belly” or the harrowing of hell, a crucible at the nadir of existence where he is reduced to a single elemental identity, the identity that supplies his strength and ability to continue, where, presented again with similar tests, he overcomes the obstacles, winning through to save his people, gain a physical icon to symbolize his inner transformation, and returns to his own world, a changed figure, now the master of both worlds. Common fixtures along this journey include magical helpers, dragons literal or figurative, attainment of secret knowledge, and marriage to a sacred goddess.19 The evolution of Minnesotan Robert Zimmerman into the artist Bob Dylan who is the subject of our present study encompasses not one, but a multitude of such journeys, each distinct and yet part of an overarching development that itself represents a journey not just of an individual but of a society, worthy of comparison alongside each of the ancient epics.20 Dylan describes his call by none other than Buddy Holly himself: “He looked at me right straight dead in the eye, and he transmitted something. Something I didn’t know what. And it gave me the chills.”21 Whether an actual event or a metaphorical one in his own self‑mythologized tale, Dylan conveys through this a sense that he was, from the start, destined to transmit to us, his audience in particular and his culture in general, some wisdom or knowledge. The oral tradition, in the form of epic poets, troubadours, and minstrels, survived in Europe and elsewhere through the Middle Ages, and, as we’ve seen in the work of Lord and Parry, and Dalrymple, it continued through the twentieth century to the present day. They have produced a massive volume of

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work. Some of it survives in folk music, and some of it, such as Old English laments, and the epic Beowulf, exist now only in written form. This world‑ spanning catalogue is available to anyone to listen to, or even to work with, but it takes the refracting genius of a Bob Dylan to transmute it into something relevant to and in the vernacular of a twenty-first century audience. BLUES AND THE ORAL TRADITION In her book Lonesome Words, McGeachy uses the concept of formulae to draw a strong line connecting Old English laments, particularly those found in Beowulf, and African‑American blues songs. Using the Parry‑Lord theory, she writes that both genres are defined by particular formulaic phrases and clusters that construct not only the melancholy associated with each but also its mode of communication. The seemingly restrictive formal conventions of both genres contain the chaos of emotion and desire providing a protected space in which the speaker is allowed to express thought unacceptable in any other public forum.22

She cites Taft’s theory of half‑line compositional practice in blues songs, whose lines, in general, hold “two half‑lines, separated by a caesura.”23 McGeachy goes on to discuss Taft’s “x‑formula,” which opens a line, and the rhyming “r‑formula,” which ends it. Some of the x‑formulae she cites include “Now I’m going back to Brownsville,” “I’m going back to Tampa,” “Well now I have a woman,” “Got a man,” and of course, “I got the blues.”24 A sampling of r‑formulae include, “everywhere I go,” “my baby was coming back home,” “trying to treat you right,” “I stoled away and cried,” and a multitude of variations on “I got the blues.”25 By choosing from these menus, and adding some topical or metaphorical flourishes, a blues singer can construct lines that are both familiar and novel. Even when it comes to the innovative work of Robert Johnson, she says, “70 percent of his lyrics employ conventional blues formulas found in the recordings of other singers.”26 Gray makes a similar study of Dylan’s influences by blues artists, emphasizing the extent to which Dylan has steeped himself in the raw material of blues, that vast collection of half‑line formulae. As he puts it, “far from casting around for tenuous echoes and throwing in anything, however faint its echo may be, the problem is to stop the ears from hearing these echoes everywhere, as one allusion met down the highway of Bob Dylan’s blues is so often at once surrounded by other echoes clamoring for space and attention.”27 Gray distinguishes between Dylan’s “twisting” of blues formulae in his blues compositions, such as changing the more common “killing me dead” to the



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novel “killing me alive”28 in “Sitting on a Barbed Wire Fence” (though the official lyrics on bobdylan.com read differently), and his unchanged allusions in his non‑blues songs. Charges of plagiarism notwithstanding, when Dylan incorporates these unchanged borrowings, he does call attention to them. Robert Frost once told an audience, “You can always tell when it [the poem] reaches the point of special meaning, where the ulterior meaning is . . . just nicked. It’s nicked for the ulterior meaning.”29 Most often, Dylan signals these “nicks” by subtly changing his vocal attack on the line. There are several such examples to be found on Tempest. “Soon after Midnight,” presents itself as a gentle American Songbook‑style love song, with such rhymes as “searching for phrases to sing you praises.”30 But in the third stanza, the lyric takes a sharp turn when the singer announces, “My heart is cheerful, it’s never fearful / I been down on the killing floors.”31 The sudden introduction of not just mortality, but slaughter stops the listener cold. Only then does one turn to Howlin’ Wolf’s song “Killing Floor” and its suggestion of murder, which adds a new and disturbing facet to Dylan’s otherwise sweet tune. Similarly, “Long and Wasted Years” uses the unanticipated image of “two trains running” calling to mind Muddy Waters’s “Still a Fool.” Gray says of Howlin’ Wolf that his song “Goin’ Down Slow” proves him to be “a great singer about imminent death, which will certainly have recommended him to Bob Dylan.”32 It’s certainly a song that Dylan returns to several times on Tempest. For instance, he uses the line “I’ve had my fun” in the Muddy Waters‑influenced “Early Roman Kings”33 (slipping loose from Gray’s distinction of formulae in blues and non‑blues songs). But he provides a “nick” for the title in the epic “Tempest” as he shifts his tempo as he sings, “The host was pouring brandy” in a moderate tempo, but shifts in the succeeding line, “He was going down slow”34 to a more deliberate tempo in which he enunciates each syllable in such a way that calls attention to more than the host’s duel sinking into his cups and the sea. Imminent death indeed: Dylan’s callback to Howlin’ Wolf here not only highlights mortality, but the entire song, in which the singer compares himself to millionaires and kings and queens, who yet all share the same fate. But it is only Howlin’ Wolf who begs for forgiveness in the end. Interestingly, Schwemer identifies a similar formula‑based compositional structure to Akkadian anti‑witchcraft incantations. In his study, he lists a number of formulaic phrases used to construct spells for whatever particular ailment or curse a person suffered from. Some of them, including the following incantation he cites, sound almost familiar: The Sutean is surrounding me, the Elamite is pursuing me, a wave is covering me, the flood is overwhelming me!

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The witch is a Sutean—her grip is strong, the sorceress is an Elamite—her grip is death.35

It seems that we humans have always had the blues. As the Viking and Old English world gave way to the Normans of the Middle Ages, so too did wandering minstrels and scops step aside for French troubadours and English balladeers. From the twelfth to the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries, these performers left a legacy of Romantic tales such as those of King Arthur (who, in a case of cultural inversion, was historically a warlord who fought against the French and is now ironically known through the Frankified romances extolling the virtues of chivalry and courage as in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” and Le Morte d’Arthur) and many of the fabliaux that are preserved in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The traditional British ballads were born at about this time, producing such enduring songs as “Lord Randall,” “Bonny Barbara Allen,” and many others. In the sixteenth century, many were transmitted on cheaply‑printed “broadside” sheets, and performed by any number of singers. In the eighteenth century, Robert Burns, as part of the Romantic movement, added to this tradition, and later the Harvard professor Francis James Child collected hundreds of variations of ballads, published in a massive collection The English and Scottish Popular Ballads in 1860. This collection would eventually help fuel the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s.36 By the time Bob Dylan arrived in New York City, in 1961, the folk revival was in full swing, and he wasted no time immersing himself in its “vernacular,” as he calls it in his Nobel Lecture. His earliest setlists, in 1960 and 1961,37 show a preponderance of currently popular blues and folk songs, many by Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, as well as Jesse Fuller, whom we’ll discuss below. Dylan’s physical journey across half a continent to New York, where, true to Campbell’s schema, he is renamed and forges a new identity, is his most obvious connection to the Hero’s Journey. If we were to put any stock in popular celebrity watching, we might claim that his relationship with Joan Baez would constitute the “marriage to the sacred goddess,” though that is surely being too literal. In any event, by all accounts and as we discuss below, Dylan conquered the folk world, until he faced quite a formidable dragon. Campbell writes, “the dragon to be slain . . . is precisely the monster of the status quo: Holdfast, the keeper of the past . . . He is Holdfast not because he keeps the past, but because he keeps.”38 This perfectly describes the folk movement Dylan came to embody and subsequently, at Newport in 1965, ultimately repudiated. It would be the first in a series of such apparent betrayals that the world would come to recognize as heroic rescues from tyrannical artistic conservatism. But at his start, in 1962, Dylan was just beginning to incorporate much older songs into his performances. On October 15, at the Gaslight Café, he opened with Child Ballad 84, “Barbara Allen,” one of the most enduring



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influences on his setlist (though he performed it only sixty times and hasn’t performed it since July 20, 1991,39 its characters live on in “Scarlet Town” from 2014’s Tempest and performed on his latest tour). This was followed by his own composition, “A Hard Rain’s A‑Gonna Fall,” which is rewritten from the Child Ballad 12, “Lord Randall.” Later in the set, he also included the Civil War‑era “No More Auction Block” and Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” which would appear on his first album, Bob Dylan. Clearly, he was diving deep into the historical record, beginning a habit of his artistic form by learning everything there is to know about a form, and then redirecting it to a new audience in a new form. One song that exemplifies McGeachy’s discussion of formulaic composition is Jesse Fuller’s “You’re No Good,” which Dylan recorded for Bob Dylan, though he has never performed it live. Fuller was famous for his one‑man band performances on the “fotdella,” an instrument of his own invention, and numerous songs that were later performed by others, from the Grateful Dead to Paul McCartney (Dylan also performed his “San Francisco Bay Blues” in several early shows). In Fuller’s performance, you can hear the same cheerful rhythm and rough voice that the young Dylan copied on his debut album (indeed, it’s the same basic rhythm as “San Francisco Bay Blues”). The lyrics belie the jaunty music, though. The song describes the singer’s tortured relationship with a woman who at turns is “as sweet as anybody can be” and has “got the ways of a devil sleeping in a lion’s den.” She frustrates the singer with her seductive ways and her serial betrayals, despite his having saved her when she “had no shoes on [her] feet . . . no food to eat.” In the second line of the first stanza, he says, “Nobody in the world can get along with you” but he finishes the stanza pointing out, “last night you wouldn’t even let me in,” presumably because she was with “the other man” to whom she’s been giving all the singer’s money, as described in stanza three. Fuller’s version goes so far as saying she can “make a preacher lay his Bible down.” Unfortunately, Dylan leaves out that line. By the end of the song, the singer not only has been barred from his house, he’s been driven insane, too, and he just “wanna lay down and die.” There’s no available story of how Fuller came to write “You’re No Good” (also known as “Crazy About a Woman”) except his pre‑song announcement: “Here’s a new song I wrote about, crazy about a woman who livin’ in the neighborhood, but she don’t mean nobody no good.” As with other traditional blues songs, it shares its music with others, so that you’d have to hear the words to know which song you’re hearing. This is one way performers in the oral tradition embody the work well beyond the bounds of one particular performance, and one way in a performative tradition that bonds of community between performer and audience are created and sustained. When

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Dylan played that song with G. E. Smith at the Oakland Coliseum Arena on December 4, 1988, at a benefit concert for the Bridge School, we imagine the audience may have recognized the tune, tried to sing along, and then realized he was singing a completely different song. It’s an experience many Dylan audiences have had throughout his career. Once Fuller announces his song, you know that you’re listening to a song that plays on the formulae McGeachy describes. The opening half line, “Well, I’m crazy ’bout a woman,” is a variation on the third x‑formula, “I love you.” In the third line he uses x‑formula #2, “I’m gonna leave her.” In the second stanza, he echoes Robert Johnson’s “Come on in My Kitchen” when he opens the line, “When it rain outdoors,” which McGeachy identifies as a rhyming r‑formula original to that song.40 “When you wake up in the morning’,” in the second stanza is a close version of the “Revelation” formula “I woke up this morning.” In the penultimate line, he uses the classic “Well, you give me the blues.” Other r‑formulae that Fuller’s song carries over from previous compositions include the closing of the second line, that she’s the kind of woman “don’t mean nobody no good,” an inversion of the fourth major r‑formula McGeachy gives, “I treat you right” (and used by Dylan in “Restless Farewell”). At least four times he ends a line with what McGeachy calls a “vocatory element,” or direct address, to the subject of the song: once he calls her “baby,” then, despite the hard feelings of the song, three times “lovin’ baby.” Fuller’s singing makes the ordeal of the song’s narrator sound like fun. He opens with a few spirited blasts on the harmonica, and the fotdella keeps a beat you want to clap along with. When he ends the first line, he sings it as if we’re on a sped‑up merry‑go‑round: “she live in the neighbor‑ hooOOD! baby!” His voice is round and fruity, and when he starts on the kazoo, it’s hard to feel the pain of “You taken all my money, give it to another man.” DYLAN TIES THE KNOT Dylan chose this song to open his debut album. However, he has never sung it live—the tension of the Guslars as related by Watts. Its rumbling guitar opening was the first thing a national audience heard. Perhaps at the behest of the Columbia brass, since larger recording companies preferred music that was “sanitized and pasteurized,”41 the lyrics have been truncated and given a good scrub: Dylan starts after Fuller’s first couplet (reserving, as mentioned above, “don’t mean nobody no good” for later use), changes “dirty notion” to “crazy notion,” and leaves the preacher and his abandoned Bible entirely out of the picture, giving instead a preview of the closing lines, which takes the spontaneous feel of Fuller’s performance and creates a more regularized,



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literary feel to the song. Fuller makes the woman’s promiscuity blatant in the couplet, “When you wake up in the mornin’, always wake up late. / Right down to the corner, tryin’ to get yourself a date.” Instead of toning it down, Dylan replaces it entirely with a new pair of verses: “Well you’re the kinda woman makes a man lose his brain / You’re the kinda woman drives a man insane.” Even the rhyme is gone, except maybe the assonance of “date” and “brain.” The vocatory element of “lovin’ baby” becomes “pretty mama.” Dylan’s voice gets a workout as he charges through the song. Singing against only his acoustic guitar and harmonica, instead of the bigger sound of Fuller’s carnivalesque treatment, Dylan uses a deliberately inarticulate voice that leaves out most of the consonants in the first line: “Well I don’ know why I love ya li’ I do.” At the end of that stanza, he laughs through parts of each half‑line, giving “night” and “let me in” the sound of a car hitting the rumble strip on the side of the highway. Though we know from other performances, even on this album, that Dylan at this time could be careful and clear in his pronunciation, he chooses to do a variation on Fuller’s voice, which captures the older man’s earned rasp but for the debut artist is just an affectation. “What I was playing at the time,” he says in Chronicles: Volume One, “were hard‑lipped folk songs with fire and brimstone servings.”42 He uses similar growls on Bukka White’s “Fixin’ to Die” and Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” and tries some yodeling on “Pretty Peggy‑O,” but is closer to his own voice in “Man of Constant Sorrow” and “House of the Rising Sun,” two songs that were old and well‑known but not attributed to any one particular writer. As he soaked up more of the old texts and tunes, Dylan’s life as a “musical expeditionary,” as he calls himself,43 became more intense, more focused. Already he was breaking with the folk movement he was soon to embody, in that his goal was not to add sweet melodic tones that performers such as Joan Baez; Judy Collins; and Peter, Paul, and Mary used, but to strive for the “authentic” sound of the ancient bluesmen and the performers on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music—even if it meant using an “inauthentic” voice. What Dylan attempted, and largely succeeded at, was to channel to a new generation the feel and feelings of generations that were by then largely gone, but still vital in understanding what it truly meant to be an American. This was not about singing “This Land Is Your Land” at a hootenanny, but reaching back to the Civil War marching song that became “No More Auction Block,” a choice that made the current Civil Rights Movement that he would be early associated with all the more urgent. Dylan’s protean singing styles, wide‑ranging song choices, and experimentation with voice portray him as the incipient musical and cultural scholar he is now known for being. Other people knew what they needed him to be, but only he knew what he sought.

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Dylan’s ongoing quest has been a search for the expression of his artistic vision. Each of his seeming detours from that path has been decried by critics and fans as apostasy. Campbell discusses this phenomenon in terms of crucifixion‑resurrection, a metaphor to which Dylan is no stranger, not least apparent when he sings in “Shelter from the Storm,” “I offered up my innocence, and got repaid with scorn.”44 But in actuality, these creative deaths have led to unexpected epiphanies. As Campbell points out, “after a moment of apparent havoc, the creative value of the new factor comes to view, and the world takes shape again in unsuspected glory.”45 Thus, in retrospect, his chaotic 1966 tour gave birth to arena rock, and his most misunderstood evangelical period, which we discuss in chapter 10, produced some of his most explosive and influential musical performances. In the late 1970s, what he wanted, much as the rest of the country, was a new form of truth, or a return to an earlier one. As he turned to his so‑called Christian or gospel period, which we would term the evangelical period, Dylan set out to learn and assimilate a vernacular that spoke to him across the centuries, that had, as with folk music, a rich and resonant history with its own shibboleths and arcane knowledge. This performance tradition traces back at least to camp meetings near the turn of the eighteenth century, as Bloom and Mosher show. Hughes finds that Dylan’s reworking of this tradition fits with his career‑long exploration of fresh performative resources and reinvention through resistance and confrontation, holding that he “converted the impetus of aversion and estrangement into eventual self‑renewal.”46 His studies deeply affected his approach to song lyrics. As he released first Slow Train Coming, then Saved and finally Shot of Love, his songs progressively shed Dylan’s signature devices of obscure metaphors, folk references, and twentieth‑century concerns. To be sure, the opening track, “Gotta Serve Somebody” lists the many types of debauchery found in modern society. But that serves more as an entry to Dylan’s new understanding, as the rest of the album (Slow Train Coming) is almost exclusively religious in its subject matter and tone. By the time we get to side two, there’s a last reference to the Middle East, not so much to visit Jesus’s birthplace, but to confront the oil crisis, in the title song. But we also get the Sunday School lesson of “Man Gave Names to All the Animals” and the apocalyptic album‑closer “When He Returns” (where he even calls on his audience to “take off your mask”). By the time he compiled the songs, mostly debuted on the road, that form Saved, Dylan had almost completely eradicated any hint of modernity in his lyrics. Instead, he adopted the tone, rhythm, and vocabulary of a preacher. For example, the title song is comprised almost entirely of the type of exultant phrases one would expect to hear in the testifying of an evangelical at the pulpit. The only similes to be found in “Covenant Woman” are “shining like



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a morning star” and “shattered like an empty cup,” both lacking in Dylan’s usual poetic power. But what these songs lack in novelty is offset by the touchstones Dylan provides, whose comforting familiarity and knowing allusions put us in the proper attitude and atmosphere, much as McGeachy says that the formulae of Blues and Old English laments do. This can best be seen in one of the few songs Dylan continued to play even after his “moving on” from the shows that were primarily religious in nature. The song “In the Garden” shares a title, but apparently no lyrics or musicality, with a hymn written by C. Austin Miles in 1912, recorded by such diverse performers as Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Ernie Ford, Elvis Presley, and, just before Dylan wrote his own, Willie Nelson. But while Miles’s song depicts the narrator walking with the Lord in a garden, being encouraged and beloved, Dylan’s is quite the opposite. Drawn mostly from the Gospel of John, Dylan’s song focuses on a number of times when Jesus was threatened with death, or faced violence. He uses a series of anaphoric questions that echo “A Hard Rain’s A‑Gonna Fall,” (“did they see? . . . did they hear?”) but instead of interrogating an adventurous traveller, he asks increasingly insistent rhetorical questions that culminate in asking about the reactions of those who beheld Jesus and His miracles (“Did they dare?” and “Did they believe?”). All but one of the five stanzas are built around one or two of His statements, packed between the rhetorical questions that are repeated in a hypnotic, catechistic fashion. Beginning with His final betrayal, “when they came for him,” “He told Peter, ‘Peter put up your sword.’”47 Interestingly, Dylan doesn’t mention the detail, found in Luke, that Jesus healed the ear that Peter has cut from the servant. In the second stanza, Dylan brings Nicodemus at night (the phrase “seen by men” seems to come from Matthew’s excoriation of hypocrites),48 to sarcastically interrogate Jesus’s idea of being born again. Ricks points out in The Lyrics that the original first line of this stanza reads, “When they heard Him speak in the city, did they hear?”49 the only place where the repetition breaks down. In fact, the passive voice works awkwardly here, breaking the listener out of the enchantment of the concatenation of the lines. It was a wise choice to slip back into the regular scheme. In the third stanza, Dylan takes two separate lines from John 5, when the people wanted to kill Jesus for working on the Sabbath. But all of the violence countermanded by Christ’s resurrection after the crucifixion: “All power is given to me in heaven and on earth” is essentially from Matthew 28:18. Interestingly, nowhere does Dylan name the actual betrayer: after the Manchester Free Trade Hall show in 1966, Judas appears only in “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest.”

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On the page, “In the Garden” offers little in terms of literary devices. The intensity derives not from the words, but from the rising force of Dylan’s performance. We discuss one performance of this song from the evangelical period tours in chapter 9. The song was a perennial go‑to throughout the 1980s, and played occasionally into the early years of the twenty‑first century, even as many other songs from the Christian period fell away (Dylan played it at John’s first show in Mansfield, Massachusetts, on July 22, 1986). During that 1986 tour with Tom Petty, Dylan introduced it by talking about heroes, listing such figures as Mel Gibson (who had an early movie called The Hero), Richard Nixon (who is declared to not be “the one” in “Jesus Is the One”),50 Michael Jackson, and Bruce Springsteen as possible heroes. Sometimes he opined on Clark Gable and John Wayne. On a tour that even Dylan listed as a low point in his career (“Tom was at the top of his game and I was at the bottom of mine . . . My own songs had become strangers to me”)51 the song had a rousing, driving quality. It rocked hard and fast. But during the 1980 tour, the song built up with the slow burn of a sermon. Dylan’s voice is clear, with none of the affected bluesman’s tone he used in his early recordings. In the liner notes for Trouble No More, the collection of gospel performances released in 2017, Bowman writes of the January 27, 1980, performance in Kansas City, “The brilliance lies in the chord progression as each of the lyric lines . . . has an identical chord progression that each time modulates a whole tone higher, brilliantly underscoring the idea of the question and the gravitas of the scene, song and the end of the concert.”52 This is more dramatically heard later in the collection, and later in the year, at the Massey Hall show in Toronto on April 20. Here, Dylan starts out with a slight hint of a church organ behind him, and a few strums on a guitar. The backup singers—Clydie King, Gwen Evans, Mary Elizabeth Bridges, Regina McCrary, and Mona Lisa Young—come in after Jesus tells Peter to put up his sword, but only briefly. For the first stanza and a half, it’s almost an a cap‑ pella performance. There’s a small build up on the guitar when Nicodemus appears, and the bass takes on an insistent rhythm of marching footsteps. Interpolations of “Oh, Jesus!” and “My Lord!” but then it dies down again, only for the organ to take control of the bridge, pushing higher toward the third stanza, where Dylan is so overcome by the story that in the second line he has to repeat himself: “When He . . . He healed the blind and crippled, did they seeee?” Dylan practically screams Jesus’s words to “Pick up your bed and walk, why must you criticize?” By now, the backup singers are on an equal footing with him, and each stanza gets louder and faster. The beat presses on, as if leading the audience up a broad stair to an altar. The instruments meld together in an orchestral crescendo, working toward an ecstatic climax. As with Jonathan Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of Angry God,” the listener



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is mesmerized as the guitar licks and triumphant pounding drums show that there is no earthly power that can contend with the Lord’s. After Dylan says “thank you,” the music continues to build, and the backup singers hit ever higher and more joyous notes. These shows, as discussed in chapter 9, were designed to use Dylan’s supreme talent and showmanship to deliver an honest and sincere love of God to his audience. No longer “the voice of a generation,” Bob Dylan sought to bring salvation to his fans, whether they were prepared for it or not. A familiar reaction: those who could not say yes when he asked, “Are You Ready?” left in droves, but at the same time he gained new listeners, and reached more deeply into the psyche of a country riven by divisions over oil, nukes, the Moral Majority, the threat of the Soviet Union. His shows were old time Revivals, mixing age‑old call‑and‑response with hard‑driving rock chords, not so different, in retrospect, from the way he “went electric” in 1965. And while it can’t be said that the world followed with the inevitability that the earlier change of course brought, even those who left eventually came back, recognizing that it was during this time that Dylan produced some of his best music and performances, whether they accepted the message or not. His song‑writing habits and older vocabulary would come back with his next album, but throughout Saved, there is no doubt that he was able to repress those other influences in favor of the new one he set out to explore, and ultimately master. It is a generally‑accepted truism that Dylan suffered a creative collapse after this evangelical period, and that his career in the 1980s was moribund at best (such gems as “Brownsville Girl” and “Blind Willie McTell” notwithstanding). Certainly, to look at his career as a single iteration of the Hero’s Journey, this period would be his visit to the land of the dead. “It had become monotonous,” Dylan writes of this time. “My performances were an act, the rituals were boring me.”53 Note his use of the word “rituals,” imbuing his philosophy regarding performances with a greater importance than simply entertainment. Yet it seemed his worship at “an altar that’s been long abandoned”54 was no more than Macbeth’s “mouth honor.” He had clearly reached his professional, and perhaps personal, nadir. Campbell says of heroes on quests that, “Such a one’s visions, ideas, and inspirations come pristine from the primary springs of human life and thought. Hence they are eloquent, not of the present, disintegrating society and the psyche, but of the unquenched source through which society is reborn.”55 Dylan describes such a transfiguration, pinpointing his artistic rebirth to a single concert in Locarno, Switzerland, on October 5, 1987, a night of wild weather befitting what was about to happen. After discovering that he had lost his ability to produce any words at all, Dylan writes, “Figuring I had nothing to lose . . . I conjured up some different type of mechanism . . . cast my

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own spell to cast out the devil.”56 The imagery he employs here could come straight from Campbell: reaching the absolute lowest point, wrestling with the devil, casting a magic spell. It all speaks of our most primal experiences. Then, he relates, “Everything came back, and it came back in multidimension . . . I had a new faculty and it seemed to surpass all the other human requirements . . . In thirty years of performing, I had never seen this place before, never been here.”57 Video of this show is available on‑line,58 and though Dylan never specifies during what song his transfiguration became manifest, many fans agree it is during the second song, “Like a Rolling Stone.” Certainly, the show’s opener, “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35,” is a pedestrian rocker, heavily reliant on repetition of the crowd‑pleasing line, “Everybody must get stoned.” “Rolling Stone” begins no better, and Dylan flubs much of the first verse. But then he suddenly appears not only energized, but happy. Unwonted smiles break across his face, and he plays the guitar with one hand waving free. The rest of the concert is clearly inspired, with such nuggets as “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” and “Tomorrow is a Long Time” played lovingly. It seems he hasn’t stopped since. On March 11, 1962, Bob Dylan played a song called “Roll On, John” on Cynthia Gooding’s radio show on WBAI in New York. It’s an old prison song, sung by James “Ironhead” Baker and recorded by John and Alan Lomax in 1933. In his intro, Dylan says he learned it from Ralph Rinzler, who was a member of the Greenbriar Boys. “This isn’t the blues, but . . .”59 he says, as he begins a mournful rendition of a romance gone wrong, full of drawn‑out words (twice the word “sun” goes past ten seconds) and soulful picking of the guitar. He had been in New York only about a year at the time, and his first album would be released about a week later. Fifty years later, in September, 2012, Bob Dylan released Tempest, to date the last collection of original songs. The coda of the album, possibly the last “new” song we’ll hear from him, is also called “Roll On John.” Ostensibly a paean to John Lennon, it describes the December 8, 1980, murder of the former Beatle and legendary songwriter. At first, the song seems an odd choice for Dylan to have written, with so many allusions to Beatles’ performances. Only on the Springsteen‑goof “Tweeter and the Monkeyman,” the Traveling Wilburys tune from 1988 (which, as Gray points out has its own connections to blues through the allusion to the “monkey man,” “a dupe who would give [another man’s woman] money and gifts in the mistaken belief that he alone was her love‑object”),60 has he previously incorporated so many allusions to a single performer’s songs. But here, the lyrics are respectful, sad, introspective. Dylan seems to have resigned himself to the finality of it all: “Cover him over, and let him sleep.”61



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The lyrical callbacks to Lennon, as well as to lines from Dylan’s own songs and other poets, serve as familiar formulae in McGeachy’s sense. They cover Lennon’s career with the Beatles, reaching as far back as the “Liverpool docks [and] the red light Hamburg streets,” through one of their earliest covers, Larry Williams’s “Slow Down,” to the band’s last single, “The Ballad of John and Yoko.” Cutting back and forth between depictions of Lennon’s last breaths and memories of his God‑like status in the 1960s, Dylan never mentions any of the explicit connections between them, such as the infamous limo ride they shared in 1966, seen in D. A. Pennebaker’s Eat the Document, or the subtle war of words and music between “Norwegian Wood” and “Fourth Time Around.” Instead, Dylan name‑checks a series of popular and memorable lines from the Fab Four’s later albums, often focusing on finality. While “Come Together” is the opening track of Abbey Road, the bulk of the borrowed lines suggest closings: there are several references to “A Day in the Life,” the closer to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. And the line, “The sooner you go, the quicker you’ll be back,” takes us to the last song, “Get Back” on the last Beatles album, Let it Be. “Lord, you know how hard that it can be,” of course is from “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” which didn’t even find a place on an album. From May to October, 1969, the Beatles released three of their last five singles in the United States: “Get Back”/“Don’t Let Me Down,” “The Ballad of John and Yoko”/“Old Brown Shoe,” and “Something” (covered by Dylan several times)/“Come Together.” The end times were and are nigh. But why would Bob Dylan end (apparently) his song‑writing career by focusing so much on his late contemporary? Because it’s only part, and maybe a small one, of the song’s concerns. In fact, from the first line to the last, Dylan follows his own career in almost the same kind of detail. The opening line is a reference not to John Lennon, but the bluesman whose name is almost an inversion of Lennon’s, Lonnie Johnson. Dylan met Johnson while he was earning his reputation in Greenwich Village, as he tells Cameron Crowe in the liner notes of Biograph: “I was lucky to meet Lonnie Johnson at the same club I was working . . . I used to watch him every chance I got, and sometimes he’d let me play with him”62 The song “Oh! Doctor the Blues” begins, Oh doctor, doctor, tell me the time day. . . . All I wants is a good drink of whiskey, to drive my blues away.63

Later, Dylan would record “Tomorrow Night,” for Good as I Been to You, playing it very much as Johnson had. The song’s chorus, with the line, “Shine your light,” has a multifaceted purpose. First, it brings us right back to the chorus of “Precious Angel,” and so to the midpoint of Dylan’s career. It also alludes to William Blake’s “The

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Tyger,” which is more firmly heard in the closing stanza, where Blake’s Songs of Experience, not Lennon, has pride of place. First, he combines Blake with the innocence of the Child’s Prayer: Tyger, tyger, burning bright I pray the Lord my soul to keep.64

He then concludes the verse by cinching the connection between the forest where Blake’s tiger prowls and the death each child fears: In the forest of the night Cover him over, and let him sleep.65

Blake’s collection, it should be pointed out, opens with this call: Hear the voice of the Bard! Who Present, Past, and Future sees.66

Words that could just as easily refer to one Bob Dylan. Finally, the closing stanza is also a reference to Allen Ginsberg, who passed away in 1997, and with whom Dylan recorded a number of Blake poems, including “The Tyger” in 1971. Ginsberg was long associated with Dylan, appearing in the early and influential video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” traveling with the Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975, and even, it turns out, acting as an early bootlegger of Dylan’s shows.67 And it was a Triumph Tiger 100 that Dylan was driving when he had his infamous and storied motorcycle accident in 1966. The classicist Thomas discusses Dylan’s fascination with ancient poets in Why Bob Dylan Matters. One of his major insights is that, especially on Tem‑ pest, but also on Modern Times, “Love and Theft,” and others, Dylan makes liberal use of classical poets. Thomas contends that Dylan has “transfigured” himself into not just Homer, but Odysseus himself.68 He cites Dylan’s exclusive use of the hero’s words, and not simply Homer’s narrative, in such songs as “Workingman’s Blues #2,” “Tin Angel” and “Pay in Blood.” However, in “Roll On John,” Dylan makes extensive use of the fourth book of Robert Fagles’s translation of the Odyssey, in which Odysseus appears only as a figure in stories, not as an actor. In this book, Odysseus’s son Telemachus is traveling in search of news of Odysseus. After leaving Nestor, and his guide Athena (disguised as Mentor) behind, Telemachus and Nestor’s son Pisistratus approach Menelaus, king of Sparta and husband to Helen, the ostensible cause of the Trojan War. Book Four of the Odyssey is all about speaking: having learned from Athena/



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Mentor’s lessons in Book Three as to how to talk to a king, Telemachus must do it on his own with Menelaus. Throughout the book, Menalaus often compliments him and Helen for their speeches and storytelling, though with his wife, who tells of her meeting Odysseus in disguise, “rags on his back like any slave”69 and regret for having gone to Troy, his approval may be more sarcastic. After Helen slips a drug in their wine (quoted by Dylan in “Pay in Blood”), Menelaus tells a shortened version of the Odyssey, in which he himself is the main character, driven into exile, unable to return home. Here, he lands in Egypt and faces not the Cyclops, but the shape‑shifting sea god Proteus, who gives us the word that describes Dylan so well. As mentioned above, Proteus is likely a relative to Gilgamesh’s foe Huwawa. Instead of Poseidon’s niece Athena to give him guidance, Menelaus is helped by Proteus’s daughter Eidothea (“the knowing goddess”), who says of the Spartan king, “Here you are, cooped up on an island far too long, / with no way out of it, none that you can find.”70 Together, they set an ambush for Proteus, who must, by the rules of heroic tales, tell Menelaus where his comrades ended up. And in recounting the tale, quoting word‑for‑word what the god revealed to him, Menelaus tells Telemachus that Odysseus is trapped by Calypso on her island. Throughout these stories, characters demand of each other, “tell me,” showing the primacy of storytelling as an act of revelation of truth. And it is through his being able to speak so eloquently, without the goddess’s help, that Telemachus gains this knowledge, while Nestor in Book Three, for all his longwindedness, cannot provide it to him, because Athena is guiding that whole conversation. Truly, storytelling is a potent ability, one that Dylan has mastered, and through which he is able to spread, as Homer and Jesus and all their disciples have, powerful truths for the rest of us. “Roll On John” is every bit a review of Dylan’s own career, from his arrival in New York to this moment. As he takes us through it, weaving in historical, classical, and biblical allusions, he shows us what our own history is, and how we should value it. Bob Dylan’s work has always evinced a wide and deep catalogue of influences, and many of his themes have been clear since he first began to play the coffee houses of New York in the 1960s. In his later work, especially in the twenty-first century—the recordings, performances, writings, and even film—he seems to be deliberately “tying knots” that will set him firmly in the vast literary web across time and space for which he has been honored. Though there are many, many threads that form the warp and woof of his output, a few strands are more prominent than the others. Other transfigurations have occurred along the way. While Thomas argues that Dylan, as he wrestles with mortality and a lifetime of adventures, success, and disappointment, has transfigured into no less a figure than Odysseus himself,71 it is by no means the only avatar he has revealed to us. Indeed, by returning to the music of

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his youth, the American Songbook that he once rejected for rock ’n’ roll, Dylan has come full circle, as Campbell’s description of the Hero’s Journey demands, and he is undeniably the master of each of the musical realms where he has sojourned. Yet it still remains to be discovered what this two-century‑spanning journey has accomplished. What secret knowledge has Dylan transmitted to us? What wisdom has he brought down from the mountain to share with the world that he is of yet, simultaneously, beyond? Beckwith suggests, “Dylan’s call to moral or spiritual reformation is a call back to those unchanging truths— those first principles—that we have forgotten, either out of negligence, human weakness, or a willful disdain for the good, the true, and the beautiful.”72 However, he is talking primarily of Dylan’s evangelical period, while we are looking through a wider lens. For us, these transfigurations constitute his ascension to his rightful place among the greatest transmitters of myths Greek, Roman, and biblical. Through his encyclopedic knowledge of the American Songbook, poetry from around the world, and history, and epic journeys both heroic and spiritual, through his facility in digesting and redirecting these bits of culture, Bob Dylan has become as influential as any rhapsode or prophet. As Gray puts it, Dylan is someone “who straddles the oral folkloric cultures of the ballads and the blues and the literary culture, and who moves his own extraordinary fusion of it all forward into the new oral culture.”73 He is, for our time in history, perhaps the greatest conduit of cultural knowledge and understanding, and we are fortunate to be receivers of that wisdom. NOTES   1.  William Dalrymple, “Homer in India,” New Yorker, (20 November, 2006), 50.   2.  Ann Chalmers Watts, The Lyre and the Harp: A Comparative Reconsideration of Oral Tradition in Homer and Old English Epic Poetry (New Haven, CT: Yale, 1969), 34.  3. Watts, The Lyre and the Harp, 34.  4. David Damrosch, The Buried Book (New York: Henry Holt, 2007), 243.  5. Van Ronk, Mayor of MacDougal Street, 175–78.   6.  Daniel Schwemer, “‘Form Follows Function’? Rhetoric and Poetic Language in First Millennium Akkadian Incantations,”  Die Welt Des Orients, vol. 44, no. 2, 2014, pp. 263–288, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/24363454), 263.  7. Damrosch, The Buried Book, 212.  8. David Ferry, Gilgamesh: A New Rendering in English Verse (New York: Farrar, 1993), 94.  9. Eugene Bahn and Margaret L. Bahn, A History of Oral Interpretation (Minneapolis: Burgess, 1970).



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10. Homer, Odyssey, Translated by Robert Fagels (New York: Penguin, 1996), 193. 11.  Bahn and Bahn, A History of Oral Interpretation, 7. 12. Watts, The Lyre and the Harp, 20. 13. Watts, The Lyre and the Harp, 23. 14. Simon Keynes, “The Vikings in England, c. 790–1016,” The Oxford Illus‑ trated History of the Vikings, edited by Peter Sawyer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 50. 15.  C. M. Millward, A Biography of the English Language (Fort Worth, TX: Holt, 1989), 66. 16.  Chester G. Starr, A History of the Ancient World (New York: Oxford, 1991), 701. 17.  Robert P. Creed, Afterword to Beowulf (New York: Signet, 1963), 141. 18.  Beowulf, Translated by Burton Raffel, (New York: Signet, 1999), 867–74. 19.  Campbell, Joseph, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Second Edition, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968), 245–46. 20.  We are grateful to Peter Vernezze for suggesting this line of discussion. 21. Dylan, Nobel Lecture, 2. 22. McGeachy, Lonesome Words, 10. 23. McGeachy, Lonesome Words, 33. 24. McGeachy, Lonesome Words, 36–37. 25. McGeachy, Lonesome Words, 37–38. 26. McGeachy, Lonesome Words, 118. 27. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 333. 28. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 301. 29.  Robert Frost, “Frost Has a Say,” 7 inch recording included with Frost: The Poet and His Poetry, (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967). 30.  “Soon after Midnight,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/soon‑after‑midnight/. 31. Ibid. 32. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 329. 33.  “Early Roman Kings,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/early‑roman‑kings/, Genius, https://genius.com /Howlin‑wolf‑goin‑down‑slow‑lyrics. 34.  “Tempest,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https:// www.bobdylan.com/songs/tempest/. 35. Schwemer, “‘Form Follows Function’?,” 282. 36.  The links between these ballads and the folk movement that shaped Dylan’s early work are explored more extensively in Sean Wilentz and Greil Marcus’s The Rose and the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad (New York: Norton, 2005), and Harvey, The Formative Dylan. 37. Bobdylan.com, “Setlists.”

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38. Campbell, Hero, 337. 39. Bobdylan.com, “Setlists.” 40. McGeachy, Lonesome Words, 50. 41. Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One, 5. 42. Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One, 6. 43. Scorsese, No Direction Home. 44. “Shelter from the Storm,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /shelter‑storm/. 45. Campbell, Hero, 329. 46. John Hughes, “Ain’t Gonna Go to Hell for Anybody: Dylan’s Christian Years,” Popular Music History 8 no. 2 (2013): 205–21, 213. 47.  “In the Garden,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1980 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/garden/. 48.  Bible, Matthew 6:5, Authorized King James Version, (Heirloom, 1964). 49.  Bob Dylan, The Lyrics: 1961–2012. Edited by Christopher Ricks (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2014), 605. 50.  Bob Dylan, Trouble No More (New York: Columbia, 2017), disc 3, track 13. 51. Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One, 148. 52.  Rob Bowman, “Liner Notes.” Trouble No More (New York: Columbia, 2017), 22. 53. Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One, 152. 54. “Ain’t Talkin’,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2006 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/aint‑talkin/. 55. Campbell, Hero, 20. 56. Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One, 153. 57. Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One, 153. 58.  We found it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfjfoTzyehI. 59.  Dylan, interview, 1962. 60. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 353. 61.  Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/roll‑john/. 62.  Crowe, “Liner Notes,” 10. 63.  Songteksten, “Oh! Doctor the Blues.” 64. “Roll On John,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/roll‑john/. 65. Ibid. 66.  William Blake, William Blake: The Complete Poems, edited byAlicia Ostriker (London: Penguin, 1977), 117. 67.  Andy Cush, “Allen Ginsberg Was Once a Bob Dylan Bootleg Taper,” Spin, 7 August 2017, accessed 3 August 2018, https://www.spin.com/2017/08/allen ‑ginsberg‑bob‑dylan‑bootleg‑tapes/.



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68. Thomas, Why Bob Dylan Matters, 255. 69. Homer, Odyssey, 132. 70. Homer, Odyssey, 136. 71. Thomas, Why Bob Dylan Matters, 259. 72. Beckwith, Francis J., “Busy Being Born Again: Bob Dylan’s Christian Philosophy,” Bob Dylan and Philosophy, Peter Vernezze and Carl J. Porter, editors, (Chicago: Open Court, 2006), 87. 73. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 373.

5 The Wicked Messenger Dylan’s Vocal Resources

“If You See Her, Say Hello” includes the line “And to [When I] think of how she left that night, it still brings me a chill”1 The word “chill” offers interesting oral/aural qualities that lend themselves to the possibility of doing disparately poetic things with words: The opening, unvoiced “ch” with its dry, fricative press of sibilant breath near to a hiss can chill us. Its bloodless, cool sound can chime with onomatopoeia given the word’s meaning—a sense clinched if its singer snaps the remaining short “i” vowel sound off with a clean, brittle edge and lets the final voiced “l” decay rapidly in volume and weaken in articulation. Bob Dylan does just this in the version of “If You See Her, Say Hello” that he performs on The Bootleg Series: Volume Three, highlighting the cold distance from a former lover that the song laments. But if the same word is voiced with its singer leaning heavily on the vowel and milking the liquid “l” for its warm, vibrating quality over an extended time, we can hear a more complicated sense: a suggestion of how a chill can linger, can decay, moving over time from bitingly frosty to less keenly felt to, finally at the moment of utterance, perhaps a paradoxical kindling of longed‑for connection—the chill transformed to a thrill, betraying the complicated emotions of the one singing. This is the performance Dylan gives us in the version of this song on Blood on the Tracks. The word “chill” in this performance ends not merely a line but a stanza, lending further weight to the work that duration can do to the memory of “how she left that night” and echoing the ambivalent stance toward lost love and the past that makes this song so compelling. When we consider these two distinct approaches to reliving the narrator’s remembered feeling of a chill, we can recognize the scope of poetic possibility within Dylan’s oeuvre. In his work, poetry depends not merely on the words themselves but on how they are engaged through his performing artistry as a vocalist. 127

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Our purpose in this chapter is to explore the connection between Dylan’s vocal performances and his texts, focusing on how this connection generates meanings for the listener. As we do so, we strive to attend to the ways that Dylan’s vocal performances do not merely inflect but deflect. Durham Peters writes, “The task is to find an account of communication that erases neither the curious fact of otherness at its core nor the possibility of doing things with words,”2 while Dylan writes, “Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved.”3 Both authors suggest, regarding moments when words are spoken between people, that language fixes meanings but also obfuscates them, bringing us together in a shared realm of understanding while throwing our alienation from one another into relief. This paradox is Durham Peters’s central insight as a philosopher of communication, and we find this paradox effectively staged at Dylan’s richly textured performances of his songs. Dylan’s live recordings have been, as is well known, both extensively bootlegged by unlicensed recorders and distributors and, especially recently through such releases as the 36‑disc The 1966 Live Recordings, made copiously available for sale through Dylan’s official record companies (now Sony). However, in this chapter we address studio recordings exclusively because we find the vocal choices more crisply describable and because we hope readers will find them easier to trace as a lens through which to engage our claims. One trace of this insight rests in the quote above, from “Shelter from the Storm.” The inverse of this verse would imply that when words are spoken between at least two people, there is great risk. As we briefly also trace in chapter 1, this view, that verbal articulation involves great risk, is shared by Scarry, who holds that “the story of expressing physical pain eventually opens into the wider frame of invention . . . we make ourselves (and the original interior facts of sentience) available to one another through verbal and material artifacts, as . . . derealization of artifacts may assist in taking away another person’s visibility” (emphasis in original).4 In developing this argument, Scarry links (1) human efforts to bridge across the differences among our felt experiences of our separate bodies, which we do through sharing symbolic invention with one another, to (2) the great promise, but ultimate impossibility of fully sustaining such bridges. Even though the aim for shared sentience will always be dashed, those moments when we are denied the chance to strive for this aim (in Scarry’s analysis, situations of extreme political violence such as torture and lengthy imprisonment) are the least humanizing of all. Again we have a paradox, the one implied in “Shelter from the Storm”: we must seek shelter with, and in, one another in order to be fully human—yet to do so is also to risk our own humanity, because in the seeking we come to know that we will inevitably remain cut off from one another as well.



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As Dylan reflects consistently in his performances, communication both conjoins and confounds. This claim needs some clarification given the concerns regarding performance authenticity and analysis of popular music that scholars have raised. Kivy holds that any particular musical performance can be described according to the authenticity of the performance along four dimensions: first, with respect to the original composer’s intent; second, with respect to the historical performance context of the original work; third, with respect to the performer’s expressive palette; and fourth, with respect to the audience’s reception of the work. Our interest in this chapter lies with the third and fourth dimensions: How do listeners engaging Dylan’s sung performances (part of his “expressive palette” or, if you like, “expressive palate”) make meaning based on the choices he employs—specifically, his vocal choices? We aim to pin down no particular intention to Dylan the composer nor to Dylan the performer, but to consider how Dylan as a performer of his own compositions offers us, through patterned vocal choices, a wealth of poetic treasures whose depths we listeners can plumb to our delight. We attempt throughout the chapter to further contextualize our claims about vocal choices by considering: (1) the sense of the words as we hear them sung; (2) the images and themes in the songs themselves; and (3) occasionally, these elements in relation to Dylan’s media/star-image as an exceptionally popular, influential and valorized musical artist. Dylan’s body of work has historically been treated by scholars in one of three distinct ways: as poetry,5 as the musicological product of a set of specific song traditions,6 or as a textualization of his image as a cultural icon.7 One scholar who combines these three lenses is Gray;8 and Gray, Williams,9 and Bowden10 each take up in their own ways the question of how Dylan as performing artist offers a profusion of meanings through his oral/ aural choices, with Bowden putting the matter most closely to how we also understand it: But it was not Dylan’s lyrics alone, nor his guitar and harmonica, that sent our parents clutching their ears and climbing their respective suburban walls in the sixties. It was that voice—that whining, grating, snarling voice that can drip scorn or comfort, can stretch or snap off words in disregard of their meaning or in fulfillment of it, can say for the listener what she has not quite yet said for herself.11

Alas, though Bowden’s excellent book‑length study of Dylan’s vocal performances was published in 1982 (its later revision did not include research on additional songs), in the third of a century since then, scholars have not returned to an analysis of these vocal performances. Williams comes closest through attending carefully to the aural and sensual experiences of Dylan’s

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concerts, but his focus is much more strongly on the qualities of the total live performance as experienced by the audience across particular Dylan tours; he treats vocal choices in some passages, as we note below, but these are not his primary concern. In this chapter, our central purpose is to trace the forms of Dylan’s vocal choices and some of their impact on meaning. We do not undertake here the scientific analysis of rhythmic and tonal perception described by Patel, though such research is quite provocative and potentially informative for future studies of popular music performance.12 Instead, we approach listening carefully as Bowden recommends, trusting that what we hear combined with our efforts to put what we hear into words will prompt readers to listen and judge our conclusions.13 In their studies, both Williams and Ricks model the same close listening approach when addressing Dylan’s vocal choices and the ways that songs’ poetry depends not only on words but on how they are sung.14 A few simple, lively, and amusing examples of the effect Dylan’s singing can have on how we make meaning as listeners include those from three songs issued on The Bootleg Series Volume 1. On “Man on the Street” Dylan slurs the vowel in “billy club” so that it can be heard as “bully club,” fittingly given the narrative of a police officer brutalizing a homeless person; on “Walking Down the Line” the lyric is “My feet’ll be flyin’” but “feet” has its long central vowel softened to “fate,” the primary subject of the simple song conveyed by its oft‑repeated title; and on “Walls of Red Wing” in the line “To be lawyers and things” the word “lawyers” is distorted to sound like “liars,” again befitting the song’s tale of a young person confined to a boarding school that is effectively a prison by a callous institutional process.15 Durham Peters is one author who can help us articulate what’s at stake when poetic language like Dylan’s breathes through the audible voice of the recorded performing artist and is engaged by audience members. He offers a compelling synthesis of significant conceptions of communication, as distinct from conceptions of language, writing, or persuasion. In that synthesis Durham Peters describes two key conceptions of communication: One devotes pragmatic attention to how we make meanings and sustain communities through interactions that accumulate over time and in particular spaces. The other devotes metaphysical attention to how meanings are deferred and human contact mystified through our attempts to come to know through systems of language.16 These two views of communication, (1) meanings shaped in context and (2) meanings clouded in contact, are each embodied in Dylan’s assuredly Laureate‑worthy poetics throughout his full body of recorded work. We suggest that Dylan’s vocal performances make these two types of aesthetic moves on us, his listeners, as he moves through the songs—stretching



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images by his stretching of vowels, inspiring through his respirating, condensing language poetically while condensing syllables and words, attacking sensory recall in attacking the eruption of consonants.

VARYING VOWELS “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” is a song with a title linking duration of experience to epistemological outcomes. The ending phrase of one line from this song is about the narrator’s decision whether to leave with the song’s second‑person addressee or with someone else, and Dylan sings it—“I didn’t realize how young you weeeeeeeeere”—over several beats of music. He thereby thickens the ironic barb directed by the narrator at a (presumably by now uncomfortably older, less naïve, less gossip‑ inducing) past lover. Dylan leans on the vowel to lengthen the time of our listening and enact through performance what both this line and the song’s title insist: that when we take time, time takes us and changes us by changing how and what we know about ourselves, our relationships, and our responsibility for one another. This is one instance of vocal performance working with a listener over the fabric of the music’s measuring of time—in a way distinct from how printed lines of text work with a reader—to shape possible resonances of meaning in context. But meanings are also clouded by listener‑performer contact in this same instance, as the second‑person narrative mode suggests a double irony: Can a listener addressed by “how young you were,” who presumably has always known her or his own age, be drawn into the narrator’s surprise and effort to make retrospective sense by the lengthening of “were”? Or is the narrator’s performance instead here an inevitable failure of contact (one more time), a failure enacted by the choice of second‑person address and by his reproducing his own confusion, the very lack of past knowledge he laments, as he sings the song now with its lengthened verb? One epistemological implication here about what “one of us must know” is that chronological age is as irrelevantly yoked to genuine experience of youth as musical beat and syllabic sound are irreverently uncoupled in Dylan’s performance, a notion that picks up on the refrain from the earlier song “My Back Pages”: “but I was so much older then / I’m younger than that now.”17 In “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” Dylan also uses the vowel lengthening maneuver, as he indeed does frequently in his recorded work, in these same two complex ways at once: he sings, “The door to the dressing room burst open and a cold revolver cliiiiiiiiicked,” the vowel again stretching over several musical beats. As Ricks observes, this vocal choice enacts

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the experience a person frozen in fear might have, the moment of the trigger’s being pulled seeming in its terror to stand outside time.18 In this respect it might serve to share, from singer to listener, a felt experience, a textured moment of embodiment. But this song is relentless in its elision of actors and roles from start to finish; surely a song unfolding in this complex way will not allow singer and listener to rest easy ourselves. By its end (when one character hangs for another’s murder, the weapon is not a revolver but a penknife) we do not learn clearly who pulled this trigger nor at whom the gun was aimed. Our desire for narrative closure is not all that is thwarted, however; as Scarry suggests and as discussed in chapter 1, to enter into shared sentient contact with another is never a simple choice but one always fraught with the risk of confronting our own enduring difference from one another. We are entailed ethically the moment we take aim at any listener, for each of us through the act of articulation becomes responsible for navigating the ultimately unnavigable, the space from one body to another.19 The elongated vowel here might remind us that when we are holding the gun, the impact of our action may “click” for us only as it draws us, in that infinite agentic moment, into eternal ethical contact with the intended targets. Elongated vocal technique also works poetically in Dylan’s performances to draw our attention to the sensory and temporal experience that music provides, an effect importantly different from how a poet might use phonemes or syntax to elongate experience given the necessity of time’s passing within a song. “Golden Loom” contains end‑rhymes that consistently land on images that engage the senses. Interestingly, in a pair of cases of nouns that might seem semantically like images directly and bluntly indexing the senses, “light” and “taste,” Dylan comes off these end‑rhymes quickly, keeping the vowel sounds in each monosyllabic word brief; but in more oblique, finely threaded images that bring to our memory more delicate sensations (and which Dylan pairs with active verbs that recall how we might come upon these sensations in the world), he luxuriates in the central vowels: we “drink the wiiiiine”; “wildflowers bloooooom”; “I lift your veil” (as “vayayaal”); “you’re gone and then all I seem to recall is the smell of perfuuuuuume.”20 The song’s subject, also oblique, appears to be a distantly remembered and mysterious wedding ritual, though the narrator’s use of present rather than past tense suggests this “memory” may instead be a dream. Assuredly, the song centers on longing for lost and achingly‑thinly‑felt connection, whether real or dreamt. Dylan’s vocal performance reminds us that wine lingers on the tongue, that flowers and veils leave the traces of their remembered softness on the skin even after they are no longer touched, that the smell of these flowers and of perfume can root itself for a long while in our noses. His oral performance, capturing the feeling of delicate filaments of sense



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beyond the visual and aural (taste, touch, smell), has much in common with the writing practice Scarry describes (also discussed in chapter 1), in which authors deliberately juxtapose their more finely‑wrought, gossamer‑like imagery of ephemeral objects with their weighty etchings of sharp‑edged, voluminous architecture, landscape, or still life in order to lend the weighty elements a greater sense of realness and gravity through contrast.21 We find that Dylan does the converse in “Golden Loom,” giving us casual sketches of the “stars,” “boats,” “trees,” “feet,” and “cars” in this dream world that we might expect to hear in a popular song (well, perhaps not “feet”) so that we might feel the ache the narrator feels for the bride who is now gone—an excellent example of how, in Dylan’s mouth, we can hear language conjoining by necessarily confounding. Constriction of vowels within a single syllable, too, plays its role in Dylan’s performance choices. In “Lonesome Day Blues” Dylan, echoing Twain’s Huck Finn,22 twice sings the word “whispering” as a two‑syllable word, “whisp’r’n,” a common enough elision in everyday language and in song: Last night the wind was whisperin’, I was trying to make out what it was Last night the wind was whisperin’ something, I was trying to make out what it was.23

But what makes this choice compelling is how, with it, Dylan tightens his grip on the meaning of both the word “whispering” itself (a sound deliberately harder for our ears to hold because of the way a speaker articulates it) and the marvelous twist at the end of the stanza in which he deploys the sound: I tell myself something’s comin’ But it never does.24

As Ricks observes, one of Dylan’s poetic devices involves enlivening hoary clichés.25 Here, the similarly hoary warning “something’s coming” is enlivened as Dylan sets us up to expect something will indeed come, the music telling us something’s coming even as the narrator tells himself the same thing. This telling is a product of the rhythm the song has already established—despite Dylan’s long pause (which sets up the twist). We know that “something’s comin’” cannot be the end of the verbal structure; there are too many measures in the song left. Time and expectation are inextricable here, and the singer is playing with our expectations of vowel length, phrase length, and narrative revelation. And what comes (or, more precisely, what never comes in this clever turn of phrase) turns the warning on its head; we’re left grasping to hear in Dylan’s constriction, in this lyric, the reminder that Scarry and Durham Peters also give us: that expectations, like dreamt lovers, like

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younger past lovers at whom we might sneer, like mysterious interlocutors at whom we might aim our weapons or our warnings, will sometimes withdraw into nothingness despite our efforts at vigilant communion.

RESHAPING IN RESPIRATING “Idiot Wind” exemplifies both Dylan’s vowel stretching and his use of breath as a performer.26 In the song’s refrain he repeatedly sings the title adjective as “eeedeeot,” enacting the poor articulation named by the word itself. He simultaneously grits his own teeth in a performative move resonant with the assonance at the heart of the refrain’s end-rhymes of “teeth” and “breathe,”27 spitting out the closing “th” fricatives with what sounds like an audibly clenched jaw embodying the very recalcitrance this narrator has the temerity to call out in the addressee. Yet this wind he creates through clenching also clenches him tightly to the second‑person addressee—a wind far too clever to be merely idiotic, because it blows through the song as the singer blows his voice on the recording through a varied line concerning complex and tenuous human contact. The contact of this breath/wind sensuously marks vibrant skin or its lack—skin being the one organ that can feel breath’s repeated flow on its surface. Each time the refrain starts anew, such contact (or its lack) is evoked: it blows first by hinting at both kiss and bite “every time you move your mouth,” then with a gesture toward softly silken life blooming in the face of death “through the flowers of your tomb,” then with a macabre scalping of its narrator that still prompts a vigorous thrash of geometric knowledge (“like a circle around my skull”) and finally embracing an image of snug yet temporary warm conjoining “through the buttons of our coats.”28 This final refrain thus closes by at last admitting of both narrator and addressee at once: “We are eeedeeots.” Dylan’s figuring of breath here thus, ultimately draws narrator and addressee together, in shared sentience experience of this wind—and, at the same time, stops the flow of the song on an image not of mutual understanding but mutual misunderstanding, an image at the heart of the hair‑raising paradox of communication. In “Soon after Midnight,” we can hear Dylan again breathe poetic life into a simple phrase, this time “she was passing by,” which he sings with an audible inhale, pause, and exhale between the third and fourth words: “she was passing . . . by.”29 Is he also bidding her farewell by using the space in the phrase to contextualize “by” as both sustained vector of movement and oral wave? Is he gesturing to us, as he does so often in his later work, reminding us that his sense of his own nearing end is abbreviating his syntactic vim, challenging his ability to sustain the breath he needs to move through phrases?



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Is “she” the one whose life is at stake, the one who risks her own death as a character by coldly moving out of range of the narrator’s breath? Once more here we have an image of “coming together” prompting a paired image of “unbecoming” in Dylan’s poetic performance. Dylan explores the relationship between breath for singing and breath for life quite often in his work from 1997 forward, using his breathing in close‑miked studio recordings to allow us to hear him aspirate consonants, take in short bursts of breath between words, and dwindle in articulation and volume as a given breath leaves his lungs. Studio conditions allow us to hear precise choices such as those resulting from close‑miking. One of the best examples of Dylan’s creative use of nuances in breathing, from start to finish on a single track, is “Spirit on the Water.” Each of the three “breath as limited life force” performance choices we describe above (aspirated consonants, short bursts of breath, and phrases that exhaust breath) is audible at multiple points on this recording, and these breathing choices suck us into a sound world of delicate instrumentation and a lyrical world in which the narrator addresses a murky love who is called both “spirit” and “baby” in the first stanza—and therefore associated with the end of life and its beginning. Indeed, each verse includes an image of either temporal or physical spans, spans that are consistently framed as both too distant to reach and too near to ignore. Though we typically hear Dylan’s “breath as limited life force” style of vocal performances, given their burgeoning on works of the last twenty years, as connected to his sense of his own mortality as a person past middle age, the complex dialectic throughout “Spirit on the Water” reminds us that the three vocal choices we note here (aspirated consonants, short bursts of breath, and phrases that exhaust breath) are also qualities of young speakers. Thus, Dylan suggests that we learn and relearn to use our voices just as he has done throughout his diverse career, reshaping ourselves each time we reach out to others by—to use Durham Peters’s phrase—“speaking into the air.” CONVIVIAL CONDENSING Meanings complicated by context and confounded by contact move throughout Dylan’s recordings via his very common vocal device of condensing entire syllables and, thereby, turning elaborated syntax into something more poetically vibrant. His approach to vocal performance as a significant dimension of his poetic efforts is apt in two ways: First, Dylan is a distinctive type of poet whose work has been initially accessed in its primary form not as printed word but as oral performance. Second, the fact that Dylan’s reputation

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rests first and foremost on oral performance is significant in light of Dylan’s repeated deflection of the label “poet” and its associated academic cachet. This thread of deflection began ironically in 1964 with the winking line “Yippee! I’m a poet, I know it, hope I don’t blow it”30 in “I Shall Be Free #10”; continued in 1965 with the sardonic rhyming of “old folks home and the college” with “your useless and pointless knowledge” in “Tombstone Blues”; in 1970 with his derisive distancing of his own alienated affective experience from the grandiose pomp into which he was thrown, as he received an honorary degree from Princeton in “Day of the Locusts”; in his career‑spanning series of acknowledgments in interviews of performances (on record and onstage) rather than writing as the primary force driving his work;31 and most recently echoing quite loudly in his absence at the scheduled Nobel Prize award ceremony in December 2016. (He eventually accepted the award at a private ceremony in April of 2017.) A prime example of Dylan’s vocally directed poetics stretches across two songs, one from his middle period, in “Tangled Up in Blue,” and one from his early work, in “I Shall Be Free.” In both recordings Dylan sings “I was” as “I’sa.”32 In “Tangled Up in Blue” the coupling runs like this: “Later on when the crowd thinned out / I’sa just about to do the same.” The homophony here of “I’s”—as in “I was” and “eyes”—is telling; the issue of sight is rooted in this verse’s context of a “topless place” with its fulsomely‑bodied crowd about to “thin out” in front of our watchful narrator. This homophony of “I’sa” and “eyes” resonates again in his interlocutor’s taking up in the very next line of a position at the “back o’ my chair” that forecloses his chance to look at her then and there. In “I Shall Be Free” Dylan writes: Well, I took me a woman late last night I’s three‑fourths drunk, she looked uptight.33

However, the authors hear him singing on The Freewheelin Bob Dylan the second line as: “I’sa three‑fourths drunk, she looked alright” and the close of the stanza, in parallel, as: “I’sa high‑flyin’.” He also condenses the space between words poetically in this verse, rushing both times through the phrase “off her” to slyly remind us of the sexual invitation (“offer”) suggested by these removals. The first “I’sa” here again chimes with the “eyes” the narrator has clouded with booze and the eyes we need to imagine exactly what “onion gook” layering might have been necessary for this woman to create a desired “look.” But both here and in “Tangled Up in Blue” the condensing of “I was” into “I’sa” works to confound verb tense and ontology: “I was” rings instead in our ears with an ending “a,” as tales of the narrator’s past metonymically link to an article that names him as an object of his own observation in the present and thereby distances himself from himself and from us—as “a” one



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who may yet thin out, “a” one who may yet defenestrate himself in shock, a narrator on whom we cannot depend to stay thickly grounded in predictable relation to us, his listeners. In his vocal condensing on these phrases, then, Dylan suggests that the paradox of articulation—its capacity to both conjoin and confound—works not only in our efforts to relate to one another but also to our efforts to relate to ourselves.

TACTICS OF ATTACK Dylan’s use of vocal attack—the rate at which he breathes sound into the microphone and the rate at which he allows that sound to decay—throughout his recorded work reminds us that his early huffing as a harmonica‑saddled folk singer has poetic echoes in his creative use of his singing voice. Decay works interestingly in the line “I can survive and I can endure / And I don’t even think about her”34 from “Most of the Time”—though the effect is clearer in Dylan’s singing in the performance of this song on disc one of Tell Tale Signs, a compilation released as The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8. Williams writes persuasively about Dylan’s use of breath in this song (in its Oh Mercy version),35 but we find that the quality of decay (and, conversely, of attack) as consonants are begun and rounded off is a vocal choice worth distinguishing from his use of breath and from condensation of entire syllables. The rhyming words “endure” and “her” at the ends of these phrases audibly decay; Dylan refuses to round the words off. Instead he squares their sound with the song’s theme about a desiccated relationship that the speaker keeps trying to cast aside but just cannot. This is a poetic insight we can hear in his weak voicing of the halting promise to “endure” even as the sound of the word itself cannot, and an insight we can hear in the pained‑sounding closing of his lips as if in a defense against the simple pronoun “her.” In “Floater (Too Much to Ask),” the rapid decay at the end of nearly every line of this song resonates with the lyrics and with the sunny, gentle, mid‑tempo swaying music to conjure a sense of a summer day in the south spent on a rickety porch—perhaps by some old codger reflecting on both his own past and on what he witnesses around him. But this is not the “exhausted breath” Dylan, whose vocal choices we described in the “Reshaping in Respirating” section; in “Floater,” the singer retains what sounds like a powerful force of breath, and he controls the decay of his voice. This works especially well in complicating meaning in lines such as “But old, young, age don’t carry weight / It doesn’t matter in the end,” the voice suggesting that the line is not merely about the universality of mortality (as the words alone might indicate) but about the narrator’s unwillingness to be defined in a limited

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way by his age.36 Likewise, the voice that sings “Try to bully ya—strong‑arm ya—inspire you with fear / It has the opposite effect”37 suggests that one way to live within the ambiguity the text allows (is the “opposite effect” to cause one to shrink with “fear”? To “inspire” one with rage? With self‑ assurance?) is to consider that the narrator withdraws his breath of his own volition and that we, the second‑person addressee, also have the existential responsibility to be inspired or fearful only as we so choose. This playful narrator, then, performs this text in a way that reminds us of the paradox and risk of articulate contact as surely as the mysterious pistol‑wielder in “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.” This vocal device of rapid decay works in the other direction, rapid attack, as well: Returning to “I Shall Be Free,” when the narrator responds to President Kennedy’s telephoned question about how to “make the country grow,” he sings the second and third names in his list of foreign movie star sex symbols—Anita Ekberg, Sophia Loren—by exploding onto the first syllable of each last name, raising his volume and broadening the fullness of his vocal timbre very sharply and abruptly as he intones “EKberg” and “LOren.”38 By these names, after Bridgette Bardot has glided past our ears already, Dylan has planted the seed of synecdoche: He is coyly suggesting that “grow” (when referring to a population) might signal not only the migration across borders of European women to the United States (presumably to Hollywood), nor only the procreative impulse presumably impelled among at least some listeners by looking at these women, but also the phallic tumescence of a reproductive organ on a path to being productive of new citizens—a conception that swells with the abrupt, exhilarated explosions of his singing of the initial syllables of their names. Returning to where this chapter began: “Shelter From the Storm” tells us that “Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved.”39 Dylan’s creative uses of his voice in how he stretches vowels, how he breathes, how he condenses syllables and how he attacks words reminds us that there is indeed great risk in speaking words. His performances show that when we speak words we create fresh meanings within the contexts in which we speak, and that in this way words always join us to one another but also stand between us, keeping us at some distance from one another—a poetic parallel to the philosophical conceptions Durham Peters traces. NOTES   1.  “If You See Her, Say Hello,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright



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secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /if‑you‑see‑her‑say‑hello/; Dylan sings the line differently on the recordings on Blood on the Tracks and The Bootleg Series Vol. Three.  2. Durham Peters, Speaking Into the Air, 21.  3. “Shelter from the Storm,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /shelter‑storm/.  4. Scarry, The Body in Pain, 22.  5. John Herdman, Voice without Restraint: Bob Dylan’s Lyrics and Their Back‑ ground (New York: Delilah Books, 1981); Day, Jokerman; John Gibbons, The Night‑ ingale’s Code: A Poetic Study of Bob Dylan (London: Touched Press, 2001); Scobie, Alias Bob Dylan; Ricks, Dylan’s Visions of Sin.  6. Marcus, Invisible Republic; Harvey, The Formative Dylan; Lloyd, “The Form Is the Message.”  7. Marqusee, Wicked Messenger; Marshall, The Never Ending Star; Boucher and Browning, The Political Art of Bob Dylan; Wilentz, Bob Dylan in America.  8. Gray, Song and Dance Man III.  9. Gray, Song and Dance Man III; Paul Williams, Watching the River Flow; Performing Artist 1960–1973; Performing Artist 1974–1986; Performing Artist 1986–1990 and Beyond. 10.  Bowden, Performed Literature. 11.  Bowden, Performed Literature, 3 12.  Aniruddh D. Patel, Music, Language, and the Brain (Oxford: Oxford University, 2008), 118–79. 13.  Bowden, Performed Literature, 2–3. 14.  Williams, Bob Dylan Performing Artist (three volumes); Ricks, Dylan’s Visions of Sin. 15.  The first song includes no lyrics on the BobDylan.com website as of 8/31/18 access; “Walking Down the Line,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1963, 1965, by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1993, by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan .com/songs/walkin‑down‑line/; “The Walls of Red Wing,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https:// www.bobdylan.com/songs/walls‑red‑wing/. 16.  Peters, Speaking into the Air, 16–22. 17.  “My Back Pages,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /my‑back‑pages/. 18.  “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan .com/songs/lily‑rosemary‑and‑jack‑hearts/.

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19.  Scarry, The Body in Pain. 20.  “Golden Loom,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1975 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2003 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /golden‑loom/. 21.  Scarry, Dreaming by the Book. 22.  Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (New York: Bantam, 1981), 5. 23.  “Lonesome Day Blues,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2001 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan .com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/lonesome‑day‑blues/. 24. Ibid. 25.  Ricks, The Force of Poetry, 365. 26.  “Idiot Wind,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/idiot‑wind/. 27. Ibid. 28. Ibid. 29.  “Soon after Midnight,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan .com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/soon‑after‑midnight/. 30.  In The Lyrics, page 146, the lines read, “Yippee! I’m a poet / And I know it / Hope I don’t blow it.” 31.  Some examples: “Oh, I think of myself more as a song and dance man” (Cott, The Essential Interviews, 62); “I began writing because I was singing” (n.e., Young Than That Now, 222); “I found out I could do it effortlessly—that I could sing night after night after night and never get tired” (Cott, The Essential Interviews, 422). 32.  The lyrics to “Tangled Up in Blue” and “I Shall Be Free” as published on the official Bob Dylan website, and sometimes in the Ricks‑edited Lyrics book, differ from the vocal sounds that we hear on the studio recordings Blood on the Tracks and The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, respectively; our descriptions rely on aural, not visual, sources. 33.  “I Shall Be Free,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1963, 1967, by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1995, by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /i‑shall‑be‑free/. 34.  “Most of the Time,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1989 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/most‑time/. 35.  Williams, Performing Artist. 36.  “Floater (Too Much To Ask),” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2001 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/floater‑too‑much‑ask/. 37. Ibid.



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38.  “I Shall Be Free,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1963, 1967, by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1995, by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /i‑shall‑be‑free/. 39.  “Shelter from the Storm,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /shelter‑storm/.

II TRANSFORMATIONS

6 Simple Twist of Fate Dylan (re)working songs live

A hallmark for fans of Dylan’s live performances is the knowledge that they are likely to hear an entirely different rendition of a song—likely all of them. Oftentimes, since the music is a new arrangement altogether, one must wait until the first lines are sung before knowing what song is being performed. To be sure, casual fans or people hoping to hear their favorite tunes from decades ago are more often than not disappointed, even scandalized, to discover that their beloved memories have not been preserved in amber, but instead have been radically transformed. One well‑known example of this “Tangled Up in Blue,” which has seen changes that beggar belief: Dylan has changed the point of view from first to third, changed the story line, introduced entirely new narrative sections. The music has evolved from a simple, single electric guitar, as heard on the Rolling Thunder Revue, to the heavy rock arrangement on Real Live. In the mid‑nineties, the song started acoustic and ended electric. In 2017, Dylan removed any familiar melody from the song, turning it into a talking blues that sounds more like “Clothes Line Saga” from The Basement Tapes than any previous incarnation of the song. The absolute malleability of the song, which nevertheless remains fully “Tangled Up in Blue” at every stage, forces one to consider what the limit to developing a song is. To be sure, he has yet to find that limit. Dylan’s continuous reworking of his catalogue provides a running indicator of his artistic process, his ongoing search to get down in performance what is in his mind. Arrangements, lyrics, entire stanzas can change from tour to tour, sometimes from night to night. Rings traces Dylan’s performances of “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” from its original recording on Bringing It All Back Home in 1965 through the Never Ending Tour into 2009. Using spectrographic imag145

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ing, he identifies not only shifts in style throughout Dylan’s various tours, but also the precision of Dylan’s attack on words in relation to the backing music, down to the millisecond.1 Such exactitude is outside the parameters of this study, but it is a testament to Dylan’s overall control of his voice, belying critical claims that while his words may be interesting, “he can’t sing them.” One song in particular offers a unique opportunity for study. “Tell Me, Momma” has long been known as the first song in Dylan’s electric set at the Manchester Free Trade Hall on May 17, 1966 (formerly incorrectly thought to be the Royal Albert Hall show). Dylan never recorded it in the studio, nor has it ever been covered by another artist. Its entire existence consists of the post‑Newport tour: after the (actual) Royal Albert Hall show on 27 May 1966, he never performed it again. With the release of the complete recordings of the tour, including audience tapes from shows in New York and Australia before the better‑known English shows, we are able to hear nearly every performance of “Tell Me, Momma” (there are discrepancies within the Dylan camp: while the CD boxed set offers twenty performances, the “Setlists” page on bobdylan.com claims it has been performed only fifteen times.2 Moreover, that site lists performances in Copenhagen and Stockholm, but those shows’ recordings are incomplete and don’t include it). The written lyrics were copyrighted in 1971, five years after Dylan last performed “Tell Me, Momma,” and Ricks adds an additional variant from the Manchester show.3 However, none of the extant performances match up to either of those published lyrics, including the Manchester show itself: many of the lines are incomprehensible, but even with the suggestion of the written word, the voiced syllables are clearly not the same. Transcription is particularly difficult in these situations for a number of reasons. First, some of the recordings are based on audience tapes that were probably not very good to start with, and have degraded over the years (the boxed set includes five concerts, including the “Tell Me, Momma” performances at the White Plains—where “Tell Me, Momma” debuted—and Hampstead shows, with the caveat that “the sound detracts from the overall listening experience.”4 Another recording difficulty is that, as Dylan himself says in No Direc‑ tion Home, “the stages were created for people who stood on stage reciting Shakespearian plays, they weren’t made for this kind of music we were playing. The sound was pretty archaic, really . . . The sound quality hadn’t been perfected until many years after that.”5 Simply put, no one was prepared to record such a forward‑thinking show at the time. But the last reason is one that has dogged Dylan fans and detractors since this moment: there are times when a person just can’t hear what he’s saying; as Heylin argues, it was a “deliberately garbled vocal.”6 With these obstacles, the best we can do is



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guess at what he is singing. However, there is little doubt as to what he is saying through the song: “Get ready for the future.” Throughout the tour, Dylan played an unvarying setlist. Each show opened with a seven‑song solo acoustic set, drawn entirely from the albums Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde. Though the choice of songs eschewed his earlier compositions, the sight of Dylan with his guitar and harp would have been familiar to his audience. His reserved, nearly immobile stance accentuated the carefully‑enunciated words. Recordings, especially of the UK‑portion of the tour, reveal nearly‑silent audiences who would have been able to react to each individual word. Polite but enthusiastic applause follows each offering. After the intermission, though, fans were subject to the blistering array of electric guitars, heavy drums, and organ played by Dylan and the Hawks. Each night, it was “Tell Me, Momma” that ripped open the second half. The purpose was not to provide dense, ponderable lyrics, but to demonstrate the awesome power of a backing band on his new psychedelic lyrics. The communication is in the attack on the words, not the words themselves, which changed every night, to no apparent detriment to the message. Though the published lyrics present as a series of non sequiturs, the overall tenor of the song is that of a break‑up or kiss‑off song. The opening stanza has the singer looking back to a fraught time with the listener: “You say you love with what may be love / Don’t you remember makin’ baby love?” But now they’ve each moved on, he points out, and you’ve “[g]ot your steam drill built and you’re lookin’ for some kid / To get it to work for you like your nine‑pound hammer did.”7 The second stanza also reads like dummy lyrics, except there’s a concern for when the addressee’s “friendship’s gonna end,” while in the closing stanza, he tells the former lover, “Yes, I see you on your window ledge / But I can’t tell just how far away you are from the edge.” What ties each of these hazy glimpses together is the chorus Tell me momma [repeated three times], what is it? What’s wrong with you this time?8

While the first three lines suggest solicitude, the resolution of the final line veers toward anger and resentment, though the degree changes throughout the tour; more often than not it’s delivered noncommittally, but early on, in Hampstead on February 26, he puts a decided emphasis on this: the singer has had enough, and we’ve just gotten started. Overall, though, the line’s purpose is to give Dylan a final vowel sound to draw out according to the intensity he’s feeling on any given night, and that intensity varies a great deal. In performance, “Tell Me, Momma” is extremely fluid, both in passion and in its lyrics. While the words are often lost in the buzz of the music

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and Dylan’s roar, what is clear is that each line is broken into three parts: a three‑syllable phrase, a single syllable, and then another three syllables. Between each element is a long pause. This structure allows Dylan to experiment each night with assortments of vowel and consonantal rhythms, focusing on the attack, not the literal sense. At most shows, the first stanza is played fairly faithfully (and discernibly) to the published lyrics. The first couplet, Ol’ black Bascom, don’t break no mirrors Cold black water dog, make no tears,

though, when heard, has significant differences that change some of the sense. First, instead of “Bascom” there is almost certainly an alliterative “bl‑” word after “black,” (on some recordings, it could be a “gl” word, which is borne out in the video clip seen in No Direction Home) and there is only ever one “o” syllable—most likely “don’t”—which precludes the “Bascom, don’t” combination as printed. Next, the published word “break” is more likely “make,” matching the verb in the second line (which, in complementary fashion, seems to change “dog” to “don’t” as well). This results in a first verse that sounds more like, Ol’ black bla . . . don’t make no mirror. Cold black dog don’t make no tears.

During the second performance of the song, in Hampstead on February 26, it is sung almost certainly as Ol’ black blas (?) don’t make no mirror. Cold black water don’t make no tears.

The water images in the second line invite a retrospective hearing of the first, suggesting that, to work with “mirror” might be “Ol’ black glass.” While satisfying the idea of a pair of paired images, though, there is still little discernible meaning behind them. Dylan’s writing (or an intern’s transcribing) of “Bascom,” though, even if it was only in retrospect once the song had been retired, seems to be a reference to Bascom Lamar Lunsford. He appears twice on the Anthology of American Folk Music, and his song there, “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground” provided Dylan with the line “drink up your blood like wine” for “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.” In combination with the ending image, though, there may be a deeper logic at work. The stanza’s closing couplet, published as:



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Got your steam drill built and you’re lookin’ for some kid To get it to work for you like your nine‑pound hammer did,

but sung each night as, Yes, you got your steam drill, now you’re lookin’ for some kid To get it to work for you like your nine‑pound hammer did,

recalls to listeners, especially those who followed American folk, Merle Travis’s “Nine Pound Hammer,” which provided some lyrics to Dylan’s 1962 “Roll On John.” These fractured allusions, especially in the opening song of the blistering electric set, are certainly evidence of Dylan’s own taking a hatchet to his connections with the folk movement. They are a sizzling shot across the bow signaling that everything has been returned which was owed. The second and third stanzas, though, undergo radical changes each night. The only relatively stable portions are mentions of cemeteries and graveyards, an ended friendship, and making people “jump and roar” for being at, on, or near a window ledge. The published lyrics for the alternate second stanza’s first rhyme, Hey, John, that has candy, don’t eat and run Shucks, it sure feels like it’s in the woods9

bears no aural similarity to any of the performances, nor does it scan well. On most recordings, the actual words are completely unintelligible, even with the suggested readings, but never is there a suggestion of that rhyme. But on April 13, in Sydney, some words, if not sense, take shape: Got your dark sunglasses on your, baby, no chest Penny’s on time but you know what’s best.

The first line breaks up the established 3‑1‑3 syllabic structure, though with Dylan’s unique phrasing, he fits it in nevertheless. These lines are followed with: Penny she’s laggin’ but she’s cemetery grips Facing the border with your graveyard lips.

The images still fail to gel, but there is the germ of an idea: Everybody’s soldier, when your friendship ends But come on baby, I’m your friend

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and Dylan spends the tour flailing and flinging words at it, like these that close the April 13 verse: Sometime, right time’s the right time to go And I . . . What’s resting on your miiiiiiind?

A week later, the ‑est rhyme is gone, replaced by two lines whose beginnings are lost to unintelligibility, but end with “. . . won’t make pony run / . . . can’t get it done.” Variations of this pairing continue until a month later, when in Liverpool on May 14, Dylan sings, Hold your gasses can’t make your . . . get it done Painted face on, can’t make pony run

then follows these with lines that introduce a named character linked to description: Village Tom time you got cemetery hips Rollin’ upside of your graveyard lips

and returns us to the declamation of the narrator’s loyalty: Yes I know, wonderin’ when your friendship ends But come on, baby, I’m your friend!

For the first time, he has introduced a semblance of a narrative, though it’s up to the listener to figure out how to imagine “cemetery hips.” At the infamous May 17 Manchester Free Trade Hall show (aka “The Royal Albert Hall” bootleg), Dylan is particularly parsimonious with his enunciation. He spends almost a full minute tuning his guitar, picking out a tune, making several false starts. Rick Saunders says, “The long tune‑ups were [an act of] defiance. Very calculated,”10 and there is no question the atmosphere is tense, anticipating the cry of “Judas!” that we all know is to come. Once the Hawks pick up speed and Garth Hudson’s organ‑playing explodes, Ricks hears (despite its non‑scanning first line): Hey, John, that has candy, don’t eat and run Tombstone Graveyard can get it done.11

However, we tend to hear something more like: Sunglass can’t make pony run Tombstone, baked on, can get it done.



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There’s no qualitative difference, though it makes for an interesting parlor game. But something is clearly lacking, and over the next several nights, Dylan expands on the “pony” image, filling the farm with assorted chickens: chicken yard can’t make your pony run (May 19, Glasgow) chicken don’t get it, can’t make you . . . (May 20, Edinburgh) cold black feather can’t make your pony run (May 21, Newcastle).

Though nothing takes flight from there. The evolving third verse, similarly, fails to cohere, except that the narrative always ends with someone on a window ledge, and the narrator is afraid that “Something is tearing up your mind.” Early in the tour, in Dublin on May 5, the first line ends with “but your face is wet,” which harkens back to the water images of the first stanza, and suggests the tears of a break up. But Dylan never returns to the idea, settling on couplets that rhyme “red” or “read” with random images. In the end, it’s not about a clear narrative, but the attitude. Heylin quotes Dylan from an interview with Frances Taylor of the Long Island Press: “The point is not understanding what I write, but feeling it.”12 It’s that feeling that Dylan drives home. Whether he is exasperated with a lover, or folk music, or his audience in general, the primal scream that introduced the electric sets of 1966 conveyed the feeling that a break must be made. The prominence of the Hawks’ swooping and pounding music varies from night to night, sometimes highlighting the guitar, as on May 5 and 6 in Dublin and Belfast, where the song received strong applause. The piano gets a try a few days later on the 10th in Bristol. The cascading watery notes of the organ take center stage, though, two days after that, in Birmingham. Everything comes home to roost on May 27, the second show at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Dylan steps out to polite applause. As he begins the song, he sounds very tired, and he’s clearly rattled by the previous night’s audience. One gets the sense he’s on the verge of collapse. It is, in fact, the last night of the combative tour. He needs Robbie Robertson to count out the song, and his attack on the first stanza is hesitant and slightly slurred, until he hits the refrain, “tearing up your mind.” From there, he rages against the darkness. The problematic second stanza finally comes together (to the extent that the words are still clear) but introduces a key change: “Yes, you’re wondering when our friendship’s gonna end.” For the first (and last) time, the word “friendship” is introduced not by your but our. Never before had there been a suggestion that the singer and the listener would be parting ways, even if the romance had ended. Only here, the last time that Dylan ever sang the song,

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he implies that that may be the case. To solidify that reading, he changes the voicing of the last line so that it comes out, “What’s wrong with you this time?” so that the question is no longer the exasperation of a harried friend, but the recrimination of a failed companion. Then, by way of introducing the next song, Dylan launches into a sparring philippic, responding to accusations of singing “roobish.” By turns angry, rambling, and joking, he says, “I don’t use that word. It’s not in my vocabulary. I wouldn’t use it if it was there on the street to pick up and use for free.” He goes on to claim, “I like all my old songs, it’s just that things change all the time. Everybody knows that.” It’s the first in a decades‑long line of expostulations to his fans that as an artist, it is his job to push boundaries, to force that change. Otherwise, the art goes stale, becomes gimcrack that audiences may hear but never feel. He finishes, echoing “All I Really Want to Do”: “If there’s something you disagree with, that’s great. But I’m not gonna disagree with you, fight you on it or anything, and discuss it with you. Shhh! Anyway, this happens to be an old song I wrote a long time ago and it’s called, ‘I Don’t Believe You.’ Now it used to go like that, but now it goes like this. And rightfully so.” They are words that offer an insight as to how audiences should experience his performances reaching to today, though it would be eight years before he toured again. SOMEONE TO OPEN EACH AND EVERY DOOR As its name implies, Another Side of Bob Dylan, released in 1964, presented a departure in the artist’s vision. Not quite folk, certainly not pop, the collection reflected Dylan’s growing interest in poetic depictions of contemporary life. Amid flashes of humor in “All I Really Want to Do” and “Motorpsycho Nitemare,” Another Side allows Dylan to become more personal and introspective than his previous three albums. With the exception of “Nitemare,” the second half of the album is entirely an exercise in exorcism: “My Back Pages” rejects his participation in the folk and protest movements; “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)” recounts a break‑up, most likely with Suze Rotolo, whom “Ballad in Plain D” certainly discusses.13 He rounds out the album with “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” which was destined to become the most enduring composition of the lot: between May 1964 and March 2018, he has played it live 982 times, putting it in his top ten most played songs.14 In the original studio version, playing over the spare notes of an acoustic guitar, punctuated by plaintive notes on the harmonica, Dylan tells the story



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of someone gently but mournfully extricating himself from a failed relationship. There are hints that his lover has had unrealistic expectations for him: “I’m not the one you want, babe / I will only let you down,”15 he says in the second stanza. While the vocatory element of “babe” suggests a romantic relationship, it’s a line that fits equally well with the whole movement that he was getting ready to reject. In that respect, there are also stirrings of the leap toward electric rock that appeared on the horizon. Anticipating the closing stanza of “Tell Me, Momma,” this song also positions the rejected love dangerously on a ledge, and warns, “An’ anyway I’m not alone.” Dylan’s voice is clear, his delivery hesitant in a way that suggests the difficulty of the situation. He pauses between “I’m not the” and “one you want” in the first stanza, as if fishing for the right words to convince the other that it is time for her to leave. As he goes on, however, he gains confidence, sureness. Disputing her needs for him to be “Someone to close his eyes for you, / Someone to close his heart,”16 his voice grows stronger, the pauses shorter, and it overwhelms the barely perceptible guitar strums pushed, like her, into the background. In the second stanza, sensing that this moment has come to a crisis, he speeds up, anticipating and rejecting her arguments, until in the last stanza his voice soars with the chorus, changing the gentle “Babe” into an unambiguous rejection as the guitar fades out. Dylan debuted the song live in England in May of 1964, but didn’t sing it in the States until his duet with Joan Baez during her set at the Newport Folk Festival,17 a week before his album was released. This version, except for Baez’s backing voice, is very similar to the recorded one, until the final stanza. There, his voice rises in a curlicue of grace notes on “A lover for your life and nothing mo‑oo‑ooor!” while members of the audience laugh. They immediately plunge into a second rendition of the chorus, while the audience chants ecstatically and ironically, “More! More!” It seems to be this version on which the Turtles modeled their electric rendition, released in the summer of 1965. Their song is more about the guitars, and a harsh rock ’n’ roll rhythm on the chorus, especially on the “no, no, no” line. It debuted on the Billboard charts on August 7 at seventy-six. Sharing the charts were a number of Dylan songs, though only one performance of his own: “Like a Rolling Stone” was in the Top Ten at number 6. Meanwhile, the Byrds had two of his songs there: “Mr. Tamborine Man” stood at number 38, and their version of “All I Really Want to Do” was at 33, while Cher took the same song all the way to 23. Along with Sonny Bono, she also appeared in what is generally considered to be an answer to “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” their pop‑heavy “I Got You, Babe.”18 While ensconced in the hills of Woodstock, he retooled the song with the Band as an electric country song, with soulful organ. But when they

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presented it live at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1969, Dylan sang it solo. On the recording of the show, his rich, haunting voice echoes over an acoustic guitar. The original spirit of the song, lost in the Newport performance, is back. He lingers over the last word of the phrase “Whether you are right or wrong,” fading out on “it ain’t me you’re looking for.” Like a ghost who has just made an appearance after many years, his voice floats in and out of audibility, disappearing entirely so that he never quite says the last word in the line, “someone to close his heart.” It is a performance that excites the audience even as he prepares to step away again, to prepare for a new incarnation. “It Ain’t Me, Babe” was resurrected as a soaring stadium rock song when Dylan and the Band toured in 1974, captured on Down in the Flood. At this point, in keeping with Dylan’s push to larger and louder shows, the song has been remade as a vehicle for the Band’s heavy drums and organ and guitar. Gone are the acoustic and harmonica. The lyrics, delivered by a voice reminiscent of a carnival barker, are now divorced from their meaning, and Dylan delivers the words with relish. Whereas at the Isle of Wight, he couldn’t bear to say the word, he now extends it to “hear‑ar‑eart!” Instead of a regretful tone, the rejection is jubilant, triumphant. The vocatory “babe” is no longer tender at all, and he adds, for emphasis to the chorus, “It still ain’t me, babe.” It continued to accrete bombastic elements during the Rolling Thunder Revue, where it begins simply and slowly, then quickly builds to a crescendo in the first stanza with a blazing guitar and mandolin for good measure. Dylan retains essentially the same lyrics, but his driving delivery requires him to change “each” to the longer “every” and add “a‑” to many of the words, especially in the final stanza, to keep pace with the music, which now takes primary control, until Dylan’s explosive harmonica solo. The song’s harmonica solo became the hallmark of the tune, especially by 1984, where Dylan continued to rearrange the song, stretching it to its breaking point. Unlike the many incarnations of “Tangled Up in Blue,” “It Ain’t Me, Babe” could go only so far before its limits as coherent sound and sense composition fell apart. On Real Live, the harmonica becomes almost the entire song. Returning to the acoustic, but with the heavy hand of a rock song, Dylan whips the audience into a frenzy with a virtuoso performance on the the harp, building to a climax that entirely ignores the meaning of the words. As satisfying as it is as a pure live performance, the song has lost all of its poetic power. The audience doesn’t seem to care: they’re here to see Dylan the rock star, and he delivers. Who listens to lyrics anymore? “It Ain’t Me, Babe” continued its moribund existence through more low points, including in Dylan’s 1986 tour with Tom Petty. In the 1990s, though, Dylan stripped away the layers of accumulated excess that had gathered over



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it, like the enamel of Sam Spade’s Falcon. Below the stadium rock, below the electricity the Turtles had introduced to it, and the pop memories of Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You, Babe,” he found a shining gem. Captured at London’s Hammersmith Apollo on 9 February 1993, Dylan’s performance of the song is the coda to a brilliant show. With just his acoustic and harp, he strums the melody for almost a minute before his aged voice quietly delivers the song. Tony Garnier’s upright bass only hints at rounding out the sound. None of the rest of the band are discernible at all. He isn’t pushing away a casual girlfriend, or an entire audience. His persona is that of a world‑weary and wise lover who knows the end has come. His voice and guitar are well‑matched, neither overwhelming the other. When he gets to the first chorus, he sounds resigned to the truth. The words are a bare whisper, “babe” hardly audible at all. The audience applauds when they recognize the song, but quickly settle into silence. Yes, they do want to listen to the words. Thirty years before, he stood upright and strong, and here he is still doing that, as if the intervening years and performance styles never happened. Now, he dances back and forth a few times, leans into the music; he’s found the groove of the song that had been lost for so long. When John saw him in Boston, in November 2017 (which is discussed in depth in the coda chapter below), Dylan played the song not as an encore, but paired with “Things Have Changed” as an opener, perhaps signaling a different kind of finality. The arrangement has expanded again, with a driving drum by George Recile behind it, Donnie Herron on the pedal steel, and Dylan himself at the keyboards. The music seems to tick like a clock, tapping out the remaining seconds. As is his custom in his most recent shows, Dylan’s phrasing is clipped, holding words back like a dam so that he releases only three or four at a time, or, if he sets more free, they come out in the same four beats, with four or five beats in between: “I’m not the one . . . I’m not the one you want, babe.” In many ways, it’s the culmination of all of those that have gone before. Dylan’s voice is clear, but has the crooning tones he’s fostered since he started covering the American Songbook. The band hints at the various rock versions, while the words slip into the sensical background, less important literally than the tone, the feeling Dylan draws out of them. FOLLOW YOUR OWN AMBITIONS While “Tangled Up in Blue” and “It Ain’t Me Babe” have been performed across Dylan’s lengthy career, we can hear the way he works with songs as they move through a series of iterations in a tighter span of time—one a

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bit broader than the time span of “Tell Me, Momma.” This is possible given the release in November 2017 of the Trouble No More boxed set surveying Dylan’s work from 1978 through 1981 (the so‑called “gospel” period). He began performing his new Christianity‑centered compositions for live concert audiences in November 1979 and continued primarily basing his setlists on these songs for tours taking place over the next two years.19 Two songs that he played often during these two years, “Slow Train” and “Gotta Serve Somebody,” show how the sound of a song could change quite significantly and, in doing so, give the lyrical thrust of each song a distinctive feel in performance. Performances of both of these two songs in San Francisco from November 1979, very early in the songs’ live history, are available on disc one of the Trouble No More set.20 These performances feature a bluesy shuffle by the band, and Dylan’s voice in each performance complements this style. For instance, on “Slow Train” he takes pauses between each phrase in a lyric such as “Man’s ego is inflated, his laws are outdated, they don’t apply no more / You can’t rely no more to be standin’ around waitin’.”21 He uses his attack to lean into the rhythmic pocket of the music, his voice swinging, his tone casual, as if the message he is imparting is one he’s relishing putting across, one he joyfully celebrates in the newness of his conversion. Similarly, on the performance of “Gotta Serve Somebody” Dylan matches a parallel musical style from the band by singing each line with a calm attack through which his voice rolls with ease over, You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage22

with little rise and fall of pitch and dynamics and smooth, even phrasing across lengthy lines like these: You may be a businessman or some high‑degree thief They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief.23

The effect in performance here is that the claim, that we all must “serve somebody,” has been decided and all that’s left for the narrator to do is report this truth. By the time Dylan and the band perform these same two songs in April 1980 in Massey Hall (discs five and six of the Trouble No More set),24 they are a bit more rocked‑up, and his vocal tone has shifted slightly. Though his phrasing choices are similar in each song to those in San Francisco, his dynamics and attack are a bit more declamatory and urgent within this more rock‑based performance feel. The sounds of assurance and relish remain in



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his voice, but the performance has more in common with the vocal tone of his rock performances in 1965–1966 than with that of the crystalline sound world of the album Slow Train Coming or with the earlier concert performances of these songs in San Francisco. Given his voice in these first two sets of performances, we share Hughes’s sense that Dylan’s singing onstage in this era was a public insistence on his faith and its sincerity and endurance, a repeated and deliberate enactment of the born‑again persona he was choosing to delineate in lyrics and interviews. Hughes writes, “On stage this was nightly enacted as a drama of faith in confrontation with the audience, as if his salvation needed to be refreshed and proved each moment, his spiritual fate hostage to this avowal, these words, this inflection.”25 However, we argue that Hughes’s claim needs to be extended when we consider the performances in the summer of 1981 in Europe of “Slow Train” and “Gotta Serve Somebody” (disc two of the Trouble No More boxed set).26 Hughes describes the vocal performances from this tour: “Dylan’s voice often infused both the older and newer material with a strange poignancy. The high point of this was reached in many of the English shows, where Dylan evolved an eloquent, plaintive, imploring singing style.”27 “Eloquent,” “plaintive,” and “imploring” fit the vocal approach in the June 1981 performance of “Slow Train,” but these qualities are sculpted to notable purpose in this rendition: In the song’s verses his voice wails and his phrasing is consistently assertive and rapid, often lurching ahead of the musical accompaniment that’s already laying down a faster tempo and more staccato feel than either of the two earlier performances of this song. In the refrain, Dylan again leads the band rather than following, in these passages slowing his pace dramatically and tugging against the beat with elongated vowels. The overall sound, stoked throughout by Dylan’s voice, is on one level a compelling aural enactment of the train metaphor, with the verses miming a hurtling forward and the refrain capturing the chugging tumble of wheel against rail. On another level, we hear Dylan’s performance in this moment near the end of the Christian‑themed concert period as turning more precisely toward an aesthetic unique to this particular song. No longer is he simply declaiming his faith; here, the lyrical jeremiad of “Slow Train” is staged with sensitivity to the onward rush of time and our efforts to grapple with the inexorable fate that awaits us. “Gotta Serve Somebody,” from a month later on this tour, also offers us a fresh sound that reshapes the song’s sense with greater emphasis on its particular imagery. In this performance, Dylan’s attack is, in great contrast to the earlier performances of these songs, notable for its abruptness; phrases are snapped off, and the singer pauses dramatically in the midst of lines between

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each phrase in the verse. He enunciates the consonants at the ends of each phrase quite crisply. The result is a pugilistic feel; Dylan sings as if sparring with a debate partner, offering each image in the song as a retort. As with “Slow Train,” on this 1981 summer tour “Gotta Serve Somebody” has become a precise statement—it is no longer a mere reiteration of the narrator’s faith but a figuration of the warlike mindset at the foundation of the peculiarly apocalyptic strain of evangelical Christianity that provides much of the text for this era of Dylan’s songwriting. In this way, these two songs have, by the time they’ve been reworked onstage for nearly two years, become more compelling version of themselves. As Dylan’s touring train continues to roll, so do his attempts to revitalize, rework, and re‑examine his catalogue. He can be expected on any given night to pluck a song from relative (or complete) obscurity. Doyle notes that during his late summer tour of 2018, “Gotta Serve Somebody,” along with several other older tunes, was resurrected from a seven‑year hiatus. More notably, he reports that “Like a Rolling Stone,” has been given an entirely new arrangement.28 Through this constant churning of style, vocal and lyrical choices, and arrangements, Dylan challenges us to reconsider where the boundaries of song and art lie, and encourages us to transcend them.

NOTES  1. Steven Rings, “A Foreign Sound to Your Ear: Bob Dylan Performs ‘It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding’ 1964–2009” (MTO, vol. 19, no. 4, December 2013), 9.  2. Bobdylan.com, “Setlists.”  3. Dylan, The Lyrics, 268.  4. Jeff Rosen and Steve Berkowitz, “Producers’ Note,” Bob Dylan: The 1966 Live Recordings (New York: Sony, 2016).  5. Scorsese, No Direction Home.  6. Clinton Heylin, Judas! (New York: Lesser Gods, 2016), 122.  7. “Tell Me, Momma,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1971 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1999 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/tell‑me‑momma/.  8. Ibid.  9. Dylan, The Lyrics, 269. 10.  Clinton Heylin, “Liner Notes,” Bob Dylan: The 1966 Live Recordings (New York: Sony, 2016). 11.  Dylan, The Lyrics, 268. 12.  Heylin, Judas!, 45 13.  Scaduto, Bob Dylan, 181. 14.  Bobdylan.com, “Setlists.”



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15.  “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs /it‑aint‑me‑babe/. 16.  Ibid. 17.  Joan Baez, Live at Newport (New York: Vanguard, 1996). 18.  Billboard, “The Hot 100.” 19.  Heylin, Trouble in Mind, 288–98. 20.  Bowman, Trouble No More liner notes, 13–14. 21.  “Slow Train,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/slow‑train/. 22.  “Gotta Serve Somebody,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan .com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/gotta‑serve‑somebody/. 23.  Ibid. 24.  Bowman, Trouble No More liner notes, 46. 25.  Hughes, “Ain’t Gonna Go to Hell for Anybody,” 213. 26.  Bowman, Trouble No More liner notes, 23. 27.  Hughes, “Ain’t Gonna Go to Hell for Anybody,” 219. 28.  Patrick Doyle, “Bob Dylan’s 2018 Setlists Are Beginning to Get Interesting.” Rolling Stone, 28 August 2018, https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music‑news/bo b‑dylan‑2018‑set‑list‑live‑716633/.

7 Bob Dylan’s Dream Reworking Songs in the Studio

Once he began prolifically writing his own songs, the first part of Dylan’s recording career (until his motorcycle accident in 1966) typically featured him setting down in the studio songs he had already been performing live.1 However, on his very first record, which contains only one original song, this opportunity to perform live prior to recording a song was not yet a reality for him, as Dylan recalls: “When I did make that first record, I used songs which I just knew but I hadn’t really performed them a lot. I wanted just to record stuff that was off the top of my head and see what would happen.”2 The idea that a studio is place where the artist could “see what would happen” is pivotal to Dylan’s work as a recording artist. As we show in this chapter, Dylan consistently uses the studio recording process as a means to explore a single song in a variety of performance contexts, sometimes capturing the fresh energy of a song in a small number of takes (even when these are not sonically “ideal”) and other times using different assemblages of artistic materials (both his songwriting texts and the available musical resources) to bring a song to life in multiple forms. This is illustrated quite clearly in his working methods during the New York City sessions for Blood on the Tracks, in which several of the songs were tried in robust takes in a variety of arrangements—from solo voice/guitar, to just bass added to this instrumentation, to just organ and bass added, to a full band also including piano, drums, and additional guitar.3 Songs from early in these sessions even featured audible clacking of the buttons from Dylan’s jacket but were completed and recorded given the full performance commitment associated with the takes.4 This studio aesthetic fits with Dylan’s widely noted lack of interest in using modern multitrack recording techniques to assemble, from multiple 161

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takes or parts, a definitive version of a song that would be released on a particular permanent medium.5 He claims in a 1978 interview, “I’m a live performer and want to play onstage for the people and not make records that may sound really good.”6 As we discuss in chapter 5, he has consistently marked himself as a live performer first and a songwriter second. In a 1985 interview, Dylan elaborates on this priority: “I began writing because I was singing. I think that’s an important thing. I started writing because things were changing all the time and a certain song needed to be written. I started writing them because I wanted to sing them. If they had been written, I wouldn’t have started to write them.”7 Dylan’s studio processes parallel this series of avowals, reflecting his interest in songs as opportunities for performance rather than as textual objects designed for permanence, as Sloman recalls.8 Musicians who have worked with Dylan also describe his commitment to performative exploration of songs in the studio. Al Kooper, whose playing is aurally prominent in the sound world of “Like a Rolling Stone” on the organ, was not an organist but a guitar player professionally, and was expected to be only an observer rather than a player on the studio sessions for Highway 61 Revisited.9 Harvey Brooks, a bass player on this album, recalls, “Bob worked really spontaneously and fast and we didn’t spend a of time looking for the perfect notes, it just had to feel right.”10 Tom McFaul, a member of the band Deliverance that backed Dylan on the initial Blood on the Tracks sessions in New York in September 1974, maintains that “each take was a performance. Dylan played and sang as if it were a live gig, rather than a recording session.”11 Ramone describes the outcome of this performance practice: not because you’re trying to be a perfectionist, but more because of the way it formed itself when the bass player played the right notes—because there’s no information on paper, the bass player kept his eyes peeled on Dylan’s hands all the time. And sometimes, Bob might go straight into a second verse with no amount of bars that were typical of how music was written, which gives you this incredible, shocking change. That’s an interaction you can feel on the record.12

The recording strategies audible in Dylan’s archive reveal his commitment to performative repertoire, to the songs as opportunities to live in and through musical actions in the moment of creation and re-creation. “SOME KIND”: INTEGRATING VOICES Among the most striking and exhilarating vocal moments, to our ears, in all of Dylan’s archive is his intonation of the phrase “some kind of joke” in



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the final stanza of “Desolation Row.”13 The song, which closes Highway 61 Revisited, is a durational performance for both artist and listener, its unusual length as a single track on a popular music album becoming part of its aesthetic force, as Gray notes—just as was true for the album’s opener, “Like a Rolling Stone,”14 and as we argue in chapter 3 is true for “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” as well. When we reach the end of “Desolation Row,” we’ve been submerged in the song’s world for more than eleven minutes. We’ve been deluged with a bewildering stream of historical and cultural figures engaged in peculiarly threatening acts. But the song’s power in the album version is carried at least as much by its aural tone as by its verbal imagery. This tone is difficult to describe in words. We characterize it as equally poised among scorn, sorrow, and resignation. All three of these affective stances shade how we perceive the characters and events—such as the “old maid” label put to Ophelia that might suggest tragedy, fitting end and mockery, all as valid hearings, as we note in chapter 3. Another example, from the penultimate stanza, is “Between the windows of the sea / Where lovely mermaids flow.”15 This stanza names T. S. Eliot and is thus a key factor in the common claim that “Desolation Row” is Dylan’s grappling with and offering a response to Eliot’s famous poem “The Waste Land.”16 Yet one way musical performances work differently on us than written poetry is that the phrase “lovely mermaids,” as it moves through our ears, is buoyed through exquisite vocal performance by the three affective shades identified above: Are these mermaids, fictional creatures after all, “lovely” because they allow those who see them an escape, at least in the mind/in the delusion, from the mundane tawdriness of Desolation Row? Is that means of the residents’ escape amusing to the narrator because it will not be materially effective? Is it saddening because it demonstrates an ebb of the vigor needed to face Desolation Row’s bleak truths? Is the effort to escape, itself, an inevitable act in this world that the narrator grimly accepts and reports? All these possibilities are audible through the singer’s precision of tone. In another potential reading of “lovely,” are these mermaids, like all of the song’s people, useful not‑mere‑fictions because they are stand‑ins for other people too degraded, too beneath love (“quite lame”)17 to stand up on their own feet in the song? In this verse, at this point, we have yet to learn about the narrator’s substitution technique (“I had to rearrange their faces / And give them all another name”),18 since it’s revealed in the next, concluding stanza; however, as Taylor highlights, elements of the archive are transformed through repeated engagements such as repeated listening, and in this sense we can reasonably hear the mermaids this way, as stand‑ins, as well.19 The brief phrase “lovely mermaids,” in the tide of the song as a whole, sparkles

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with a kaleidoscope of meaningful hearings because it is sung with a vocal tone that maintains a complex ambivalence—a tone that communicates all of these feelings at once. Dylan’s vocalization, in the concluding stanza, of the phrase “some kind of joke” finally, after so much tonal balance for so long, topples over into a bitingly sardonic rejoinder that, for the very first time in the song, directly addresses us as listeners—positioned here as the “you” who penned a letter to the narrator that “asked how I was doing.”20 For the authors, the great drama of the “some kind of joke” moment that rewards attentive listening throughout the song is unlike anything else in Dylan’s canon and in musical experience. This drama has been prepared by the tonal balance among scorn, sorrow, and resignation that we have described here, and by the persistence of this tonal balance up to this key point when it suddenly and strongly shifts. “Some kind of joke” is aurally drenched in scorn, delivered with a withering tone. Its scornful air digs deeper into us through a pitch drop that lowers the vocal melody on this phrase relative to the intervals used on parallel notes in other lines and stanzas, and by the slight lengthening of the central “ooo” vowel. These performance choices, in their contrast with what has come before, have the effect of thrusting the narrator abruptly into relief. The power of this moment depends on this aural thrust and on the use of the phrase “some kind of joke”: “Some kind” is a linguistic idiom marking a surprising indirectness of precision in its referent, while “joke” is an edgy referent for such an idiom given how jokes are paradigmatically surprising and often indirect (even when precise). The word “joke” also rests uneasily against the nauseating tenor of the actions described in the rest of the song. This final stanza is not only the first time that listeners are directly addressed, it is also the first time the narrator refers to himself or his own feelings verbally.21 The claim the narrator makes in the final stanza of having “had to rearrange their faces / And give them all another name” can be understood differently in light of this, as a way the narrator masks not only his Desolation Row interlocutors but himself as well. He is now, at the song’s end, fully exposed at last, shifting into scorn in the moment of direct address of the listener. The change in mode of address, newly indexing both narrator and listener, further complicates matters: scorn may be the affect befitting this narrator’s stance in relation to us, and his choice of the adjective “lame” may be semantically scornful as well, but the “lame” ones whose faces the narrator has had to “rearrange” belong to the listener’s conception, not the narrator’s, according to the line “All these people that you mention.”22 As the song closes, the focus of the scorn that pervades the final stanza is, then, ambiguously rendered with respect to Desolation Row



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itself—but not to us, as listeners. We are separated in the song’s stance from this deeply troubling place; separation ensures that our lack of understanding qualifies us as the only certain targets of scorn in what is, otherwise, a song of dense emotional complexity. The studio process in 1965 through which “Desolation Row” moved reveals an interesting set of takes in connection to what we hear on Highway 61 Revisited, especially in terms of the tonal balance so notable in the album performance. There are three complete takes other than the album master, consistent with Dylan’s recording practice in the era, that now have been officially released. The take from July 29 (issued on No Direction Home: The Bootleg Series Vol. 7) features a strained vocal sound that communicates a mix of anger and sorrow; there is an edge of bitterness audible in this take that negates any prominent hearing of resignation. The next complete take, on August 2 (issued on The Cutting Edge: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12, Deluxe Edition), is the only one that includes a full band playing the accompanying music; this band’s arrangement has a significant impact on the vocal tone, as the band’s colorful timbre and jaunty rhythm create a sound world matched by a singer who now emphasizes a more distant, wry, and somewhat scornful stance in relation to the song’s lyrical material that is far from sorrowful. Finally, the complete take from August 4 (also from Vol. 12) again reduces the instrumentation, to guitar and bass, and the voice here is more carefully controlled than on either of the previous takes, reflecting a more consistent use of breath and phrasing and suggesting, for the first time, the quality of a series of fatalistic sighs. With access to this group of three distinct alternate takes, we can hear that the extraordinary tonal complexity of the album performance is not best described as an endpoint reached through a vector of gradual progress across vocal efforts. Instead, the master take involves the singer’s embodiment of a responsive performance moment; he engages the song in a manner that depends on his having explored already the fulsome sound worlds possible in a set of different prior approaches. His tone on the Highway 61 Revisited master take reflects a synthesis that is as rich as it is because the three affective threads that are braided into it have been prepared, carefully, through full performances in previous takes. Dylan’s singing of the phrase “some kind of joke” that sounds like a culmination of the rich emotional word of this song, however, by contrast, varies little across these takes. The final stanza loses its dramatic potency most audibly in the romping August 2 take with the band, but this is a consequence more of lack of contrast than of intonation of the phrase itself: in this take, the narrator’s attitude has been more prominent throughout, depriving the “some kind of joke” moment of its thrust of the narrative persona. The

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drama carries more effectively through the other two alternate takes in ways that more clearly parallel the master. This combination, persistence of tone among takes in the final stanza and variation in tone among takes across the song as a whole, suggests two conclusions with respect to Dylan’s studio performance work: First, Dylan’s overall conception of the performance includes some guiding elements that anchor each take’s approach, in ways ranging beyond a song’s lyrical or melodic foundation, to include more nuanced performance elements as well. Second, Dylan’s commitment to complete takes allows him to explore performance choices that affect the sensibility of the song as a whole—in effect, learning through performance as process rather than moving toward an idealized outcome. These two dimensions of performance conception are confirmed by the revelatory series of performances newly available (as of this writing) on More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Volume 14, which archive the sessions for the album Blood on the Tracks. We discuss these below. “VISIONS”: FEELING FOR A FEELING When recording “Visions of Johanna” for Blonde on Blonde, Dylan undertook in November 1965 several takes (released on The Cutting Edge: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12) with his then‑backing band the Hawks (later renamed the Band) that were not used as the album master. The album master was recorded in a different city, Nashville, with a completely different backing band, several months later.23 What we can distinctively hear in the set of alternate takes with the Hawks is a musical and vocal style that have much in common with the sounds on the previous album, Highway 61 Revisited. Dylan attacks the ends of each phrase, in these takes, by leaning his voice stridently into the rhythmic patterns of the accompaniment. This phrasing is paralleled with raised dynamics as each lyrical line progresses; extended vowel sounds across most of the second half of each line; and broadening of timbre on the final word of each line’s final word. All of these practices echo the Highway 61 Revisited vocal choices with roots in the rock ’n’ roll genre, as we explore in chapter 3. The album master, however, is significantly different. Musically, the texture of the Nashville band’s sound is more delicate, with greater clarity and less prominent electrical amplification than in any of the alternate take performances by the Hawks. These comparative textural subtleties cast the rhythmic feel of the master take into greater prominence, and this has a pro-



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found effect on the way we hear the text: Though the lyrics are largely consistent across the 1965 alternate takes and the 1966 master, in the master the rhyming pattern of triplets, quatrains, and couplets that constitute each verse (in that sequence, AAA/BBBB/CC) is quite clear, central to the sound of the performance (readers can recognize this rhyme scheme in the printed lyrics online). The triplet/quatrain/couplet rhythm‑and‑rhyme is much less central to the overall sound world in any of the alternate takes with the Hawks, the driving rock texture obfuscating the lyrical pattern. The pattern of three against four that begins each stanza is a juxtaposition that conveys, in the Nashville master take rather than any of the previous takes with the Hawks, a relentless returning back from stanza to stanza. The sound enacts a sense of frustrated efforts to move forward. This sound world marvelously chimes with the lyrical imagery quoted above. The title character, Johanna, returns to haunt the narrator at the close of each stanza, each time leaving him more bereft of independent vigor than before. The Johanna sequence moves from “conquer my mind” (mental obsession) to “have now taken my place” (social marginalization) to “kept me up past the dawn” (physical exhaustion without the respite even of natural diurnal progress) to “make it all seem so cruel” (depriving the world of moral sense) to “now all that remain” (complete domination of the narrator).24 The rhythmic feel of the song as performed on the master take sonically evokes the narrator’s efforts to make sense of the surreal and threatening world in which he finds himself: First, the triplets give us a feeling of movement in circles, the rolling motion of triplet patterns suggesting the courtly and constrained old‑world dances of minuets and waltzes—especially given the softer, less insistent sound world of the Nashville band. Then, the quatrains resonate with a feeling of pacing back and forth, a feeling created in part by the shortening of the quatrain lines compared with the triplet lines—making them sound brisker. This pacing quality is bolstered by Dylan’s more nuanced vocal performance in the master take, as his more controlled dynamics and phrasing allow him to strike the final syllable like a turning footfall, like a pivot on one’s heels. This pattern is varied only in the fifth and final stanza, a variation that thereby signals that the song is nearing its end. In that stanza, the triplet’s third rhyme is one we have to wait for longer than we do in any of the previous stanzas, with more syllables intervening between the second rhyme and the third. The quatrain rhyme scheme is then extended by three lines, an odd number that sounds unstable against the regularity of the end‑rhyme‑emphatic pacing feel established in the even quatrains of previous stanzas. Again in this final stanza, Dylan’s maximally strident vocalization of the end-rhymes in

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each line underscores the contrast with the triplet sections, ensuring that we do not hear the three‑line extension as a fresh dance but much more like a stumble forward after the pacing feel. What is compelling about the Nashville performance, given Dylan’s studio practices, is its revealing of the importance of collaboration in his work. The musicians who performed with him in the Blonde on Blonde sessions audibly transformed “Visions of Johanna.” The musical accompaniment shifts; the feel of the song shifts; and, notably, Dylan’s vocal performances shift. The resulting master is one of the most celebrated tracks in Dylan’s archive. A set of recordings in which collaboration is less evident, but in which Dylan uses the studio process to explore more fully the songs as he performs them, is the set that comprises the first three songs of Side B of Bringing It All Back Home. Dylan performed these songs, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Gates of Eden,” and “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” at Philharmonic Hall in New York in October 1964, more than two months before they would be recorded in the Bringing It All Back Home sessions. In each of these three songs, the studio performance reflects a much tighter fit between the vocal performance and the feel of the musical accompaniment. In the three Philharmonic performances, Dylan’s tone is similar to the one he uses in his Newport Folk Festival concerts, with a gruff timbre that communicates a sense of urgent treatment of the lyrical material, as if he is striving to put key images over to the audience to impress upon them a series of revelations. In his phrasing choices in these Philharmonic performances, Dylan consistently attacks the final phrases of lines sharply, with increases in both tempo and dynamics to match. Perhaps this vocal performance style is a result of the live environment, of his engagement with his audience in the moment—an audience at that time, in that venue and in that city, with a set of expectations grounded in his fame as a folk‑protest singer.25 This is one of the compelling aspects of live performance, its rootedness in the specificity of the relationship of performer to audience in a local time and place. The performances of each of these three songs, by the January 1965 studio session captured on the album, involve a more particularized set of vocal approaches unique to the sound world of the song itself. The phrasing in “Mr. Tambourine Man” in the studio session is notable for a slightly languid attack as the singer moves across the lines of the verses, with the final syllables of each line pressed with audible breath into the air as if the singer arrived at each line’s final image like an adrift sailor cast onto a beach. This phrasing tugs against the jaunt of the musical accompaniment,



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with the intertwining of voice and music paralleling the alternation between long‑lined, metaphorically rich verses and staccato, bluntly declarative refrains—the word “tambourine” contrasting with the rest of the refrain’s even stress patterns. One clue that the sound world of the Bringing It All Back Home performance of this song is not merely a product of the studio environment’s distinction from the live setting of Philharmonic Hall: an earlier studio version, from the summer of 1964 and released on No Direc‑ tion Home: The Bootleg Series Vol. 7, has a vocal performance that is quite a bit further removed from the final album version than the live recording is. This suggests that Dylan understood the vocal needs of the song differently over time. The studio performance of “Gates of Eden” features an icy tone paired with a phrasing style that very sharply leans into the leading edge of the sound of most syllables across the line. It’s an extraordinary vocal style that we would describe as an aural chiaroscuro, sounding as if the singer is repeatedly etching dark lines and murky shadings against a background void of white silence. Like “Gates of Eden,” the studio performance of “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” has one vocal quality that makes it a singular performance in Dylan’s archive. In the case of “It’s Alright, Ma” this is the voice’s matching of the insistent rhythm of the guitar attack that is repeated identically across each line of each verse, the voice varying its rhythm only with each refrain. The Philharmonic performances of both of these two songs embody traces of these singular qualities in each case, but the precision of the distinctive vocal approaches is much greater in the studio performances. We might understand this to reflect the different working conditions of the studio, the opportunity for the performer to extensively rehearse and to perfect performances across multiple takes. However, the Bringing It All Back Home sessions lasted only three days, and these three songs actually resulted in master takes for the album with very minimal rehearsal or retakes.26 The performances we hear on the album, then, are not the culmination of an idealized version of any of the three songs, no matter how successful they may seem (and to us, they seem quite successful). Rather, the performances are fresh iterations of each song each time. The strength of the performances we hear on Bringing It All Back Home derives from the responses of the artist in the moment of recording, and also from our point of view as listeners who have been conditioned to understand the songs largely through repeated attention to the album.

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“SINGING THROUGH THESE TEARS”: PERFORMANCES REVEALING THEIR PASTS One of the most powerful examples of Dylan’s studio process affecting his performances is the album Blood on the Tracks. This album was recorded in 1974, initially in New York City in September, and prepared for release; however, Dylan, dissatisfied with the sound of much of the album, held up the release and rerecorded five of the album’s ten tracks in Minneapolis in December of that same year.27 With access to a (nearly) full range of these two sets on the November 2018 release of More Blood, More Tracks, we can hear the compelling impact of previous performances on the performances recorded three months afterward. The arc of performances across these two sets of sessions results in the second performance, in all four cases, functioning like an aural palimpsest in which traces of earlier performances are revealed in their later incarnations, complicating these latter performances in significant ways. “If You See Her, Say Hello” in its initial version from September features a vocal performance that sounds inwardly directed—Dylan’s tone is reflective, wistful. This quality is consistent across all three of the earlier full takes of this song from New York City. The overall color of all of the New York tracks’ sound world is darker than the later remakes from Minnesota, and there is more space among the instruments in the audible soundstage. These production values shape how we hear the voice; in these New York City versions, Dylan sounds like a lonely and somber singer set apart from the musical foundation and from us as listeners, even on more rhythmically snappy and tonally colorful album tracks from these sessions such as “Meet Me in the Morning,” “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” and “Buckets of Rain.” These sonic qualities persist in the New York recordings even when, on the More Blood, More Tracks release, the echo added by Ramone has been removed.28 “If You See Her, Say Hello” is taken at a more upbeat tempo when Dylan returns to the song in December, and the supporting music has more verve, the song’s rhythms etched with drum snaps and with more pointedly percussive strokes on guitar. Dylan’s vocal performance in this later version mirrors these shifts in tone in many respects; by comparison with the earlier performance, he sings with a much livelier attack in which he bursts rapidly into phrases, and the timbre of his voice is quite a bit richer and brighter. Despite this, however, his voice also consistently conveys, amid all of the liveliness of this new version’s sound world, the feeling of the line “the bitter taste still lingers on.”29 As with the “Desolation Row” vocal described above, we hear a vocal tone deli-



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cately poised between distinct affective stances—now, between celebration and regret. This narrator adopts a lyrical posture in which he strives to move on yet acknowledges his lost lover’s enduring role in his life (“And I’ve never gotten used to it, I’ve just learned to turn it off”) and in which this lover’s effects are complex, painful yet nourishing in constituting him as he is now (“And though our separation, it pierced me to the heart / She still lives inside of me, we’ve never been apart”).30 Claims like these are familiar when it comes to romantic relationships and their dissolution. What makes a song like “If You See Her, Say Hello” sound artistically fresh and inspiring is that the performance of these claims embodies the complex, multidimensional feelings at their core. The New York City performance, with its more inward quality, emphasizes the self‑assessment dimension of this experience, while the Minneapolis performance turns the singer’s attention toward greater regard for others—for our encounters with “her” and with the narrator’s wishes. But the inwardness and the wistfulness come through in the Minneapolis performance and complicate the sound world of the song in its second incarnation. Both sets of vocal performances have a vigorous life; each can stand on its own as a treatment of this narrator’s conditions, and indeed the original performance came quite close (as did all of the New York tracks) to being released on the studio album as they were.31 One way, however, to account for the richness of the version we hear on the actual Blood on the Tracks issue is that its vocal performance is, as suggested above, an aural palimpsest. The lonely tonal elements made possible through the voice’s interaction with the New York City version sound world are remade in Minneapolis, but not quite wholly remade, not quite fully erased. It’s a thrilling outcome. Brooks’s description of Dylan working “spontaneously and fast” in the studio, rather than aspiring to perfection, are evident in the presence of audible asides, chuckles, slurred words and even outright mistakes (incorrectly sung words) on several songs in his archive; examples include “All I Really Want to Do,” “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met),” “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35,” “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below),” and “Lonesome Day Blues.”32 We hear the palimpsest quality at its simplest level in the vocal flubs on the later, Minneapolis version of “Tangled Up in Blue” issued on the Blood on the Tracks album. Two of these are easy to hear and to trace when this album version is compared to the earlier New York recordings: First, Dylan sings the first half of the line “Where I happened to be employed” without articulating a proper verb; his actual utterance here is closer to “I’s luck nuuhh” but is discernible

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as neither “I happened” nor “I was lucky enough” (the latter phrase not the printed lyric but what a listener might hear as a way to make these sounds into a meaningful phrase).33 We hear a similar half‑articulation later on the line “And when finally the bottom fell out,” with the “it” and a micropause of the singer catching himself intruding into Dylan’s singing so that the line sounds like, “when it . . . finally” on the album version.34 These are audible artifacts of lyrics Dylan sung on the New York take in each of these passages that constitutes disc five, track three, of More Blood, More Tracks, the take earmarked for release on the initial version of the album, which were “where he began to try his luck” and “when it all came crashing down,” respectively.35 Such evidence in his archive is interesting with respect to our hearing of the palimpsest‑like quality of the later, Minneapolis performances, but the most profound transformations and compelling instances of the persistent traces of earlier performances is in the songs “You’re a Big Girl Now” and “Idiot Wind.” The vocal performances on both songs in the New York sessions feature the mournful, aching tone common to these sessions. The melodies include pitches that descend at the ends of phrases, a typical melodic contour, but Dylan emphasizes these intervallic descents by attacking phrases quite calmly and allowing them to close softly; this is true on the verses of “Idiot Wind,” and true throughout “You’re a Big Girl Now” apart from the wailing “ooooo” sounds on the last two lines of each verse (the latter song has no true refrain). These choices create an aural narrative perspective in the early versions of “You’re a Big Girl Now” that focuses the lyrics’ imagery—marking lost love and the effort needed to look forward rather than backward—on the self of the singer more clearly than on the lover, despite the second‑person mode of address. In this version, the vocal approach complicates lyrics such as: Oh, I know where I can find you, oh, oh In somebody’s room.36

Though here the narrator focuses verbally on the lost lover in three out of four lines, claims to have knowledge of the lover (“I know where”) and purports to label her moments later in the phrase common to each verse’s refrain (“You’re a big girl”), the vocal performance suggests strongly that the New York iteration of the narrator is searching through the singing for a conclusion, still grasping for understanding, still yearning to situate this relationship in his sense of his own life. Lending support to our claim that Dylan’s reworked versions of five Blood on the Tracks songs in Minnesota are strongly shaped by the lived, felt



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memory of the earlier New York takes is Dylan’s comment audible on disc six, track one, of More Blood, More Tracks, when he dismisses the ongoing efforts to engage in fruitful performance of “You’re a Big Girl Now” with the lament, “I can just keep hearing that organ”—even though the only musicians playing are him and the bass player, and he must be referring to two attempted takes of the song from two days earlier, in which bass and organ both accompanied him.37 In the subsequently‑recorded album version of “You’re a Big Girl Now,” the vocal performance changes markedly: Dylan’s phrasing attack is explosive throughout the song this time, picking up phrases in rapid bursts, and he increases the dynamics of his voice and broadens its timbral overtones as he sings in swells across most phrases. His vocal tone is much harder‑edged, and he leans into several vowels, lengthening them compared with the New York performance. The resultant narrative perspective shifts to one more consistently focused on the second‑person addressee, a complement to the lyrics’ efforts to define her and the scope of her impact on the narrator. Here, the narrator strives for certainty. Yet ambivalence remains in this vocal performance; we can hear in the Minneapolis voice the strain between the effusive framing of the lover and the struggle for assurance in the narrator—he protests too much. The repeated swells of his vocal attack sound throughout the performance like they’re masking a rawness underneath. Then, in the most intense lines of the song, its final verse, that rawness is audible in his singing of these lines: I’m going out of my mind, oh, oh With a pain that stops and starts.

The pain he performs yokes itself, through a vocal fissure, to the ensuing, shockingly vivid image: Like a corkscrew to my heart Ever since we’ve been apart.38

The three end-rhymes “starts/heart/apart” provide an extraordinary aural divot, a descent into the pain stunningly illustrated by the “corkscrew to my heart” metaphor. This metaphor is among the most evocative in a career notable for figurative richness, as (1) the visual image of the corkscrew physicalizes the sense that enduring pain after the end of a powerful romance is not persistent over time but recurs in fits and bursts that swell and decay like this narrator’s singing style, and (2) the link between the cork-

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screw and the heart reminds us, with discomfort, of the truth that our bodies (even their internal parts) are flesh, are meat capable of tearing, rending, deforming through the twists of fate to which they are subjected under stress. So often, popular songs invoke our heart when treating love; rarely do they deal this viscerally with the possibility of the sharp, chaotic press of pain that makes this part of our body such a common locus for suffering. The pain that the Minneapolis performance has masked to this point in the song itself tears through the vocal chords audibly across these three end-rhymes. The singer’s agony is most audible on “heart,” fittingly, his voice cracking, his timbre thinner and his effort to round off the word halting and choking, but the effect begins in “starts” and by “apart” we can hear his voice coming back together again. Hearing the two performances sequentially, the sense that the multilayered Minneapolis performance is breaking apart in this final verse to expose a performance foundation established in the New York session is striking. “Idiot Wind,” in the later version from Minneapolis, reflects similar vocal changes to those in “You’re a Big Girl Now”: The singer’s focus is much more audibly directed toward the “you” who is linked to the “idiot wind” in each refrain rather than to his own feelings as it was in the earlier session. The common Dylan vocal style of sharp phrasing attacks and swells in dynamics and timbral breadth across the line are audible here as well, creating a sense that the Minneapolis narrator is much more prepared than the New York one in this song to adopt a stance beyond his own experience of pain to thrust verbal barbs at his former lover. Again, the impact of Dylan’s performance process in the studio, nearly always taking songs through full‑on takes with their own independent integrity, is easiest to describe in “Idiot Wind” by examining a single, superior moment, in this case the penultimate refrain: Idiot wind, blowing like a circle around my skull From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol.39

Several authors have discussed the unique poetic force of these lines. Ginsberg celebrates the cross‑continental patriotic sweep of the link of the Grand Coulee Dam, in the state of Washington, to the national capital on the Atlantic coast.40 Gill and Odegard note that this constitutes a “geographic pun” given that the Capitol is located in a place also named Washington.41 Ricks relishes the “metaphorical relation” of “skull” and “Capitol” that clinches the assonance between these words (they do not quite rhyme) given the etymological root of “Capitol” and its persistence in the notion of a “head of state” atop the “body politic.”42 Bowden identifies the link of “Grand Coulee Dam” to



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Dylan’s idol Woody Guthrie and to the social reform politics of the New Deal era when it was built that also connect to Dylan’s roots in the folk‑protest community of the early 1960s (see chapter 3), and she hears the disillusionment associated with the mid‑1970s American federal government in Dylan’s pitch drop on “Capitol.”43 We find that the poetic force of these lines depends on how they are sung, and one way to show how we hear this is to contrast these lyrics with those that preceded them in the New York version of the song earmarked for release on the original version of the album.44 There, Dylan sings “Blowing every time you move your jaw / From the Grand Coulee dam to the Mardi Gras.” The power of the revision is partly in the verbal changes, as moving from “Mardi Gras” to “Capitol” extends the geographic sweep and allows for the nuances of the “Washington” and “skull” conceptual resonances. The newer lyrics also emphasize specifically‑American elements like the continental span, the New Deal, and D.C. architecture, which shifts attention away from the cultural diversity and carnivalesque revelry suggested by “Mardi Gras.” As Bowden observes, the revision to “like a circle” allows us to hear, for the only time in the song, a move in the refrain from the “every time you” construction, thereby sculpting this iteration of the refrain into a more prominent place within the song, a point of changing focus for listeners.45 But “like a circle” has aural consequences as well, as sung by Dylan. Bowden hears ambiguity in his articulation of “circle,” linking it to “sucker.”46 We hear this same ambiguity but trace it not to another word but to Dylan’s attack on the word metonymically enacting the wind as described in the lyric; it’s not easy to hear “circle” without reading the lyrics on one’s first several listens to the album version because Dylan’s voice whips and whirls across the word: “Szzzsyrrr‑kuhl” are the sounds he delivers, yet with much more rapid and abrupt phrasing than that phoneticization can capture. This vocal performance makes more audible the assonance across “circle,” “skull,” and “Capitol” in Ricks’s analysis.47 It’s a performance made possible by the sibilant and percussive sound qualities of these words. The ability of the new lyrics to support a distinct vocal performance is also audible in the singing of the phrase “From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol,” as there the musical accompaniment (at is most boisterous at any point in the song) ushers the line in with drums at their highest point in the mix rat‑tat‑tatting and complementing Dylan’s highest dynamic peak in the line; he belts this line out more effusively than any other. His attack on the sounds of the “k” in “Coulee” and “Capitol” and his strong pulsive enunciation of the latter word’s “p” are a radical change from the pulling inward that we could hear in the extended “www” sound concluding “Mardi Gras” on the earlier performance.

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These singing and musical choices combine to make this line feel like a culmination, a figurative moment of arrival to which the song has been building. This makes the “Grand Coulee Dam” a metaphor quite different, aurally, than when paired with “Mardi Gras,” as Dylan’s performance as he moves across these lines on the album version gushes forth like the energy produced when a dam bursts open. Perhaps the previous performance, with “Mardi Gras” and without the swirling “circle” of breath and wind, were no longer present for Dylan, the performer, when he approached “Idiot Wind” in the Minneapolis studio. But the aural evidence on the finished album reveals a complex poetic power in this penultimate refrain that parallels the power common to many of the reworked songs from Blood on the Tracks. Other elements of Dylan’s performance approach revealed by the More Blood, More Tracks release further complicate the long‑enduring notion that Dylan’s choice to rerecord five of the album’s ten songs on the eve of its release was a simple product of his desire to present himself differently than the more vulnerable, presumably “too personal” or “too telling” sound of the New York sessions.48 These elements include a performance of “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” on disc three, track eight, of the set, which features an even more upbeat and jaunty spirit than the version of this song ultimately released on the final album (also from the New York sessions)—suggesting that the tone of the New York sessions was not exclusively one of raw emotional openness later covered over by rerecording but, instead, a range of feeling that emerged from the full performance approach taken to each song. There is also the evidence of reprints (in the deluxe edition) from the small red spiral notebook in which Dylan composed lyrics for the album’s songs, which reflect at least some lyrical revisions (and song re‑imaginings) happening outside the boundaries of live performance. One revelation from these reprints of interest to the authors is that the incredibly swift, exquisitely effective sketch of the physical and behavioral qualities of Big Jim from “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” in these two lines: With his bodyguards and silver cane and every hair in place He took whatever he wanted to and he laid it all to waste,49

a couplet that is a special favorite of ours, was in place in the earliest version of this song’s lyrics in the notebook. As Dylan experimented with songs in the studio and using other means, however, the layers of performance that he developed could, at times, combine to create an incandescent sound within the ephemeral moment of playing. Odegard describes the Minnesota performance of “Tangled Up in Blue” that appears on the finished album, evidently completed in a single full take, as being such a moment recognized by those present as soon as the song



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ended: “and the room went dead quiet.”50 This certainly helps to explain why the vocal flubs discussed above were never corrected with a retake, given the distinctiveness of this single take. “Tangled Up in Blue,” even with the audible cracks in its surface, and indeed the series of aural palimpsests reflected in the album Blood on the Tracks as a whole, stands as a testament in the archive to Dylan’s use of the studio process to perform songs as he would in live settings, in whole and with vigor. In this way, their liveliness on record shapes our understanding of his art.  NOTES  1. Heylin, Trouble in Mind, 18.  2. Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One.   3.  Slate, “Liner Notes,” More Blood, More Tracks, 15–18.   4.  Slate, “Liner Notes,” More Blood, More Tracks, 20.  5. Flanagan, The Cutting Edge liner notes, 17.  6. N.e., Younger Than That Now, 166.  7. Cott, The Essential Interviews, 312.   8.  Slate, “Liner Notes,” More Blood, More Tracks, 38.  9. Marcus, Like a Rolling Stone, 104, 111. 10. Irwin, Highway 61 Revisited, 163, 165. 11.  Gill and Odegard, A Simple Twist of Fate, 74. 12.  Gill and Odegard, 78. 13. “Desolation Row,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/desola tion‑row/. 14. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 5; Marcus, Like a Rolling Stone, 141, 145–46. 15. “Desolation Row,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/desola tion‑row/. 16. Clinton Heylin, Revolution in the Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1957–1973 (Chicago: Chicago Review, 2009), 249; Shelton, No Direction Home, 282; Scobie, Alias Bob Dylan Revisited, 92. 17. “Desolation Row,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/desola tion‑row/. 18. Ibid. 19. Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire, 19. 20. “Desolation Row,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured.

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Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/desola tion‑row/. 21.  As noted by Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 67. 22. “Desolation Row,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/desola tion‑row/. 23. N.a., The Cutting Edge liner notes, 50. 24. “Visions of Johanna,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1966 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1994 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/visions‑johanna/. 25.  Wilentz, The Bootleg Series Vol. 3 liner notes, 18, 33, 37. 26.  Flanagan and Wilentz, The Cutting Edge liner notes, 42. 27.  Gill and Odegard, A Simple Twist of Fate, 90–93. 28.  Rollins, “Liner Notes,” More Blood, More Tracks, 3. 29.  “If You See Her, Say Hello,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /if‑you‑see‑her‑say‑hello/. 30. Ibid. 31.  Slate, “Liner Notes,” More Blood, More Tracks, 37. 32. Irwin, Highway 61 Revisited, 163, 165. 33.  “Tangled Up in Blue,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /tangled‑blue/. 34. Ibid. 35.  Slate, “Liner Notes,” More Blood, More Tracks, 54. 36. “You’re a Big Girl Now,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /youre‑big‑girl‑now/. 37.  Slate, “Liner Notes,” More Blood, More Tracks, 28. 38. “You’re a Big Girl Now,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/ youre‑big‑girl‑now/. 39.  “Idiot Wind,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/idiot‑wind/. 40. Allen Ginsberg, “Liner notes,” Desire (New York: Columbia, 1975). 41.  Gill and Odegard, A Simple Twist of Fate, 157. 42. Ricks, Dylan’s Visions of Sin, 33. 43. Bowden, Performed Literature, 146. 44.  Slate, “Liner Notes,” More Blood, More Tracks, 55.



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45. Bowden, Performed Literature, 145. 46. Bowden, Performed Literature, 145. 47. Ricks, Dylan’s Visions of Sin, 33. 48.  Slate, “Liner Notes,” More Blood, More Tracks, 18; 39–40. 49.  “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan .com/songs/lily‑rosemary‑and‑jack‑hearts/. 50.  Slate, “Liner Notes,” More Blood, More Tracks, 42.

8 Tempest Bob Dylan’s Personae Spanning Two Centuries

As a new arrival on the music scene in the early 1960s, Bob Dylan actively and deliberately built a mythology around himself, wearing and discarding masks at a dizzying pace. It seemed that each time he gave an interview, there was a different story about his origins. He may have been from the South. He may have been a carny. He claims to have seen Buddy Holly days before the music died. Joan Baez called him “the original vagabond.”1 In a 1964 concert, he joked with the audience: “Don’t let that scare ya. It’s just Halloween. I have my Bob Dylan mask on. I’m masquerading!”2 Even his name was borne from the mythologies of television and Welsh poetry. Once his place as an established performer was secured, Dylan began to move through a number of public personae, through a landscape that looks much like Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man. As Daniel Lanois says, he lived a number of lives: “The words were hard, were deep, were desperate, were strong, and they came from having lived a number of lives, which I believe Bob has. So that’s the record I wanted to make.”3 In Greek mythology, the same blessing—or curse—was accorded to the prophet Teiresias, who thus gained such intimate understanding of the vast experience of humanity as to become its spokesperson, even in the Underworld. In what follows, we address Dylan’s shifting performative personae as themselves the most important contribution he offers not only other rock artists, but society as a whole. His shifting performative stances, in response to evolving contexts, are a major example of vigorous resistance in Dylan’s work. Dylan develops a rich and rewarding treatment of our contingent relationships to political contexts, and he does so through engaging a multiplicity of identities. One such persona within which Dylan’s identity was constituted early in his career, often to his express disavowal, was that of the political protest art181

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ist. Reflecting on this identity decades later, he notes that “to be on the side of people who are struggling for something doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being political.”4 Dylan characterizes the aesthetic focus of his performative efforts in that early music scene in this same interview: “You would have to make an impression on somebody. There was so many many singers who were good, but they couldn’t focus their attention on anybody, they couldn’t really get inside somebody’s head. You’ve got to be able to pin somebody down.”5 Also exploring Dylan’s performative stance as an artist in this period, Greil Marcus writes: This person had come onto someone else’s stage, and while in some ways he seemed as ordinary as anyone in the audience, something in his demeanor dared you to pin him down, to sum him up or write him off, and you couldn’t do it. From the way he sounded and the way he moved, you couldn’t tell where he was from, where he’d been, or where he was going—though the way he moved and sang somehow made you want to know all of those things.6

More than forty-eight years after Greil Marcus’s first sight of him as an unnamed, little known onstage guest at a Joan Baez concert in the summer of 1963, Dylan continues to dare all of us in the much more vast, mass mediated audience to “pin him down, to sum him up or write him off.” He acknowledges in his reflections on the early‑1960s music scene the vitality at the heart of live performance, the need to “pin down” a particular audience member and grasp that person’s where and why. Yet he fiercely resists efforts to turn the relational tables by shifting personae rapidly, from song to song and album to album. He actively distances himself from specific parties, causes, or movements that might “pin him down.” He resists playing the songwriting and performing roles and the musical styles and interests that might “sum him up.” He repeatedly freshens his relation to the popular music canon and the currents of critical evaluation that might “write him off.” Yet we can still seek to know more, despite Dylan’s dare and despite his resistant stance, because “the way he moved,” and still moves, has moved us. We have not only been changed in our relation to Dylan during the half century since Marcus first caught sight of him, but also in our relation to the broader public stages on which other rock artists have taken on the roles of musical and political avatars. During these five decades, artists from John Lennon to Thom Yorke have helped define the contours of popular music through innovations in how blues‑based rock ’n’ roll might successfully integrate studio effects, nontraditional song structures, and tone colors that extend well beyond blues chord changes. Such artists have simultaneously



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framed political conversation by using their visibility to highlight unfolding issues that matter to them within song lyrics, interviews and other mediated events. In these senses, important artists can be said to “take the stage” physically by making prominent their musical and political voices. They can also be said to move us, culturally, through “stages” in their successive efforts to transform their musical and political contexts. Dylan’s approach to these musical and political stages, however, is quite complex. His songs persistently treat both musical and political themes by showing how we are most defined not by our individual acts or aims but by our contingent, often ironic relation to one another, to our shared history and society. His work thus reveals that our grandest musical and political stages—physical and temporal—are as indeterminate and mysterious as an encounter with a single other human life. We are, in Dylan’s implied political view, always already on “someone else’s stage”: we are at a place and in a time that we did not create and cannot fully conceptualize. For him, what we must “resist” are two related notions: First, that personal commitments (such as desires to “end racism” or “maintain racial separation”) can reliably guide our political actions. Second, that an idealized vision of society (such as grass‑roots democratic student groups or the election of progressive politicians) can reliably guide our efforts to organize. In this chapter, we examine this view as one of Dylan’s most enduring and overarching contributions to musical performance. Given his struggle against “being political,” it is difficult to produce a definitive reading of Dylan, the political musician. This difficulty arises because struggle in and through popular music is most often staged through fans’ developing identification with the causes, values, and personalities explicitly advocated by our favorite musicians. Indeed, Dylan himself was as strongly linked as any artist before or since to an emerging counterculture that defined itself largely by political dissent from the status quo. Those linkages were deliberate and ranged far beyond Dylan’s protest movement anthems like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Masters of War,” and “The Times They Are A‑Changin’.” A number of acts mark Dylan’s early articulation of popular music to politics: performances at major civil rights events in Mississippi and Washington, D.C. in 1963, within months of Marcus’s first sighting this “ordinary” appearing new artist; his early work on behalf of the Congress on Racial Equality, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Students for a Democratic Society; his edgy speech undercutting even the left‑wing status quo when given an award for his contributions by the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee; and the nascent Black Panther party’s adoption of the language of “Ballad of a Thin Man” in its early

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publication efforts.7 Yet Dylan himself, from the start, has been frequently and stridently critical of suggestions that his performances are authentic representations of his commitment to causes: In a 1963 interview, interrupting Studs Terkel—“No, no, it wasn’t atomic rain. Somebody else thought that too. It’s not atomic rain, it’s just a hard rain.”8 In a 1966 Playboy interview: “my older songs, to say the least, were about nothing. The newer ones are about the same nothing.”9 In a 1968 Sing Out! interview: “That doesn’t really exist. It’s not for or against the war.”10 In a 1978 Rolling Stone interview: “I’ve heard it said that Dylan was never as truthful as when he wrote Blood on the Tracks, but that wasn’t necessarily truth.”11 One of the defining touchstones for Vietnam‑era radicals involved waiting, ever in vain, for Dylan to publicly declare his opposition to the war, part of his “repeatedly denying that he was motivated by political impulses.”12 Dylan’s long‑standing and ongoing disavowal of his work as either political statement or personal history presents challenges for those of us who try to articulate precisely how this body of work stands, now, as an enduring model or resounding call for other popular musicians as political actors. We address this stance by treating Dylan’s shifting performative personae as themselves the most important contribution he offers other musical artists. Shifting performative stances, in response to evolving contexts, are a major example of vigorous resistance in Dylan’s work. Dylan develops a rich and rewarding treatment of our contingent relationships to political contexts, and he does so through engaging a multiplicity of identities. In this chapter, we develop a set of faces—by no means definitive or exhaustive—to analyze his explorations of complex, evolving identities. These faces reflect several important aspects of Dylan’s complexity as an artist. His musical and lyrical approaches have evolved throughout the time span of his career, in many cases at the vanguard of major cultural shifts connected to rock and related music. These shifts include the rekindled activism of the American New Left in the early 1960s, which was connected to topical, folk‑style protest songs; the crystallization of the “counterculture” as resistance to dominant ways of life in the mid‑1960s, which was connected to the widespread emergence of rock as the music of politically aware young people; the growing self‑consciousness of rock as an art form documented by mainstream journalists in magazines such as Rolling Stone at the start of the 1970s, which was connected to the diversification of rock styles that included “roots rock” and country‑rock; and the emergence of a generation of rock “establishment” figures whose work was canonized as “classic rock” beginning in the 1980s, which is still connected today to the fragmentation of



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rock into genres, subgenres and niches reflected in narrowly circumscribed, archival‑style programming across FM, satellite, and Internet radio. We organize our discussion of four “faces” of Dylan by thematically connecting each face to a different one of his songs, exploring tropes within each song as clues to one of the complex dimensions of his mythic persona. In choosing these songs, we explore how each of these streams of Dylan’s enduring influence on music and politics is traceable at its inception to his mid‑twentieth century early work, reaching back into the pasts we write and forward into the futures we imagine. “THE LONESOME DEATH OF HATTIE CARROLL”: THE FACE OF THE PROTEST SINGER In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel . . . Stared at the person who killed for no reason.13

Here, in the final stanza of this great song about an African‑American woman working as a servant who is killed by a wealthy young man in the party she serves, we are introduced to the judge in the case. We then learn of his actions: And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance.14

He takes four separate acts that share a hint of relational violence in their meeting with the interlocutor: first pounded, then stared, then spoke, then handed out. Yet these four acts in this sequence gradually weaken in force, in their potential impact on the accused—the third act (“he spoke”) further weakened by being softened through the judge’s cloak, so that by the time the fourth act is described as “handed out strongly,” we know that whatever is handed out will not be given strongly at all but, indeed, quite weakly, in a spirit of withdrawal from the other. The bitter irony of “handed out strongly” then coils back onto the preceding narrative, pulling down with it the phrase “most deep and distinguished,” urging us to question whether there is any depth at all to this judge, and whether he is distinguished at all or is, rather, along with his cowardice, all too common. The indictment of our pervasive cowardice in moments when we should stand strong, with outrage, is most compelling in this verse portion of the song’s final stanza. When the refrain then follows for the final time, and the line

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“take the rag away from your face” becomes “bury the rag deep in your face,” the poetic force is actually weakened in contrast to the power of the final verse; it is a kind of anticlimax paralleling, just as the weakening sequence of four actions does, the sickening anticlimax of the courtroom resolution itself as well as the anticlimactic poetic tone of most verse lines’ cadences, as Ricks observes.15 The song’s power, then, lies not in the admonitions of the narrator to listeners, his advice to us about when and why to bring the rag to our face, but instead in the characters’ unfolding relation to one another. Here the narrator is clearly on the side of somebody struggling, as he names Carroll’s death as “lonesome”; yet even that naming is reserved only for the title and is not spoken within the song, which is “being political” most cogently not by taking sides but by dramatizing particular characters, side by side. The specific actions or values adopted by victim, defendant, or judge do not shape our understanding of sociopolitical forces in this song; what does so are the institutional structures that bring characters together and the possibilities for actions or values that are thereby created: “And emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level” from the third stanza chimes, again with bitter irony, with “To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level” from the fourth.16 The third stanza centers on how Carroll and her family are distinguished from the song’s other characters, and perhaps from us, by their social position, a position textured by histories of race, gender, and class and defined by constant work cleaning up others’ leavings “on a whole other level” from the lives of defendant and judge. The courts may need to appear “on the level” for the sake of propriety, but on which level, exactly, are courts in the social hierarchy? For whose sake is this veneer of propriety maintained? Again, we are encouraged to reread the previous narrative, which began “At a Baltimore hotel society gath’rin’.”17 Which levels of “society” gather at this hotel and what are we to gather from the song’s positioning of its characters in this historical and social context? Dylan’s early protest songs embed political questions, not answers, in dramatic narratives. Thus, we disagree with DeCurtis, who claims that Dylan’s songs in the protest era are notable for “shifting the focus away from individuals to larger, but inevitably more abstract, social issues. If activists are often seeking to put a ‘human face’ on political issues that can seem difficult to personalize, Dylan often does the opposite.”18 This is an odd claim given that the songs DeCurtis discusses each include sustained attention to individuals and are devoid of large‑scale abstract references such as “justice” or “rights.” We contend that one important narrative approach unites the characters in “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” with the unnamed assassin in “Only a Pawn in Their Game”; the broad‑ranging group of participants associated with the boxing match in “Who Killed Davey Moore?”; the per-



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plexed parent in “Oxford Town”; the nostalgic matriarch in “North Country Blues”; the doomed Brown family in “The Ballad of Hollis Brown”; and the reflective narrator in “With God on Our Side.” Each is carefully positioned within a larger context of historicized social relations that spark the conflict at the dramatic heart of each song. These songs do not shift focus from people to issues. The songs do turn, as DeCurtis suggests, directly away from an investigation of individual intentions and actions. But we contend that this turn in Dylan’s songs dramatizes how life and lifestyle are particular, in the sense that they meaningfully differ (politically and otherwise) from person to person and community to community. Yet life and lifestyle, in these same songs, are simultaneously contingent, in the sense that people and communities cannot be understood, nor serve as spurs to political action, apart from their dependence on a larger fabric of shared histories and shared resources. This is how Dylan bridges the personal and the political, rather than distinguishing them as DeCurtis claims. Dylan’s songs only occasionally, after 1964, feature specific individuals in overtly politicized settings; the most obvious examples are “George Jackson,” from 1974, and “Hurricane,” from 1975. These songs’ narratives reflect a dramatic approach to conflict similar to the approach we describe here, though with (we hold) less poetic force. Dylan’s aesthetic shifts beginning in 1964 are often marked as stylistic watersheds; typical of such claims, Wilentz describes the mid‑1960s period as an “innovation” within Dylan’s career, while Tamarin claims that Dylan’s songs in this period are “more complicated” than those of the protest era.19 We agree that stylistic development happens at this and other points in Dylan’s body of work and are worth marking: in a later section of this chapter we trace the broader political implications of what Gray terms a “complexity of language” in Dylan’s lyrics.20 Yet “discontinuity” would be too strong a way to characterize this stylistic development, because previous songs such as “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” and “Only a Pawn in Their Game” remain keys to making sense of the subsequent mid‑1960s surrealistic work. They teach us how to read oblique, impressionistic narratives such as “Desolation Row” as political rather than idiosyncratically personal, because they teach us how modern sociohistorical conditions—such as those we inherit from Greek mythology, the Catholic Church, Shakespeare, Einstein, Eliot and Pound— form the only valid lenses through which we can make sense of personal experiences. They also teach us that particular, contingent personal perspectives like these, in turn, must anchor our political actions, if by “political” we mean transforming (even when we fail and remain in “desolation”) this world we have inherited.

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Dylan’s approach to historicity can be seen in “Song to Woody,” the first song he wrote. He claims that “I needed to write that song because I needed to sing that song, and . . . it hadn’t been written yet.”21 The narrator of “Song to Woody” perceives a temporalized America in the song. Its possibilities are found in its relation to its own brief history—as this America, like Dylan in taking first step into the vocation of songwriting inspired by Guthrie, is still a work in very early progress: it is “a‑comin’ along . . . it’s hardly been born.” Dylan attends to origins in his exploration of traditional music such as folk, blues, and gospel, as Leeder and Wells note.22 He characterizes himself as distinct from other contemporary musicians because of his own historical relation to musical tradition: “My situation is peculiar. I didn’t come out of the same environment. My tradition is older than all that. I came out of the environment of folk music.”23 He underscores the significance of this historical position for public musical performance: “Folk music is where it all starts and in many ways ends. If you don’t have that foundation, or if you’re not knowledgeable about it and you don’t know how to control that, and you don’t feel historically tied to it, then what you’re doing is not going to be as strong as it could be.”24 Dylan’s concern with origins and their weight thus pervades his approach to music. Dylan, a notorious trickster in interviews, is not necessarily a reliable voice with respect to the political relevance of his work, and again, he is ever wary of being linked to causes. But we find that the artist embodies his stated ideals in the specific case of exploring the enduring relevance of traditional music, and our relationship to it, as foundations for meaningful work. Marcus identifies the political implications of the engagement of traditional music on The Basement Tapes by Dylan and the Band, noting how personal responsibility is linked to history in ways that parallel Dylan’s statements above: “[Dylan] saw a vanishing. He was present to witness an extinction, to see the last members of a species disappear. Thus it was left to him to say what went out of the world when the traditional people left the stage . . . It’s a possibility that instantly raises its own question. What will go out of the world with you?25 Thus, Dylan’s earliest legacy as a songwriter includes developing traditional melodies and images into contemporary songs. Harvey maintains that “through his influence, aspects of traditional music became a part of American popular music. His debt to traditional music, both in process and in repertoire, is clear, and at the same time his influence has permeated American popular culture.”26 The “process” Harvey indexes is working with traditional songs as material, trusting in the resources of such music as a foundation for growth and change, as Marcus and Wilentz stress in discussing the traditional



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ballad “Barbara Allen” and its performance history as a pro‑civil rights song: “Dylan’s whole point . . . is that the song requires no such alterations to have this music speak of the contemporary world.”27 Dylan insists, “songs to me are alive. . . . They’re real songs and they’re right now.”28 At each of the stops along his journey, Dylan has woven himself into the tapestry of American musical expression. Every time, he has changed the pattern; yet, seen from a distance, it coheres into a consistent whole. As he says in “I Feel a Change Comin’ On,” “Some people they tell me / I got the blood of the land in my voice.”29 Since the beginning of the millennium, though, Dylan’s role as a performer has continued to evolve, culminating (though one always hesitates to label a mode in Dylan’s protean shifts as “last”) with the ultimate artistic crown of Nobel Laureate, “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”30 And he has taken on three new personae: the Unceasing Traveller, in the mold of exiled Cain; the Prophet of the Apocalypse; and the scop, or rhapsode, who, having experienced the breadth of humanity’s struggles, transmits a culture to the new generation and brings about a rebirth from the ashes. To that end, we examine three performances in which Dylan stakes out his performative “bona fides” as an artist who has mastered these traditions through taking up specific personae, and who has thereby glimpsed truths of the world we live in, and gives us hope for the future. “AIN’T TALKIN’”: THE FACE OF CAIN Dylan closes Modern Times, as he has on many of his previous albums, with an epic journey. Not for the first time, he puts on the mask (the mark) of Cain, and thence witnesses the whole of creation, from the beginning to the end times. Dylan maps the travels, both physically and emotionally, of a man who cannot die, cannot rest, cannot be known by the rest of the world. A man so thoroughly exiled, even death has washed its hands of him. The Edenic imagery and diction of the lines, “As I walked out tonight in the mystic garden / The wounded flowers were dangling from the vine,” 31 in the opening stanza put us in Genesis, though the narrator’s “I” is not clearly defined. In Genesis 2, it is God who walks in the coolness of the evening, but it is Adam and Eve who are wounded in their Fall. And it is their second‑born Abel who is struck down, in Genesis 4, leading to the exile of fratricidal Cain. By allowing the identity of “I” to shift, the singer Dylan manages to identify with each of the main characters at the start of creation (even the serpent may be present in the “vine”). The ability to enter the psyches of disparate

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characters is key to the artist’s work of building a world inhabited by viable actors. It shows an understanding of the many motives and desires that clash, manipulate, and extend humanity’s struggle, and it establishes the artist as a credible creator. This universal appeal allows trust between the artist and the audience, encouraging them to join in his vision. Such sympathy is necessary for the work that Dylan here cuts out for himself. As the song progresses, though, Dylan’s poetic voice settles on the persona of Cain. In Genesis 4, God lays out the punishment for killing Abel. To start, he is “cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand . . . a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.”32 Then, after Cain expresses his fear that all who meet him will slay him, God further stipulates: “Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.”33 In other words, Cain, for having taken a life, will have his death taken from him. It is a punishment “greater than [he] can bear,”34 yet bear it he must. The speaker moves across a ruined, fallen landscape, unable to rest, unable to stop. Dylan speaks in the guise of Cain, despite his claim that he “ain’t talkin’”: the repeated line, “Heart burnin’, still yearnin’” hearkens to Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, who tells the wedding guest that he is cursed with mysterious fits, “And till my ghastly tale is told / This heart within me burns.”35 Similarly, the singer repeatedly states that he is perpetually “walkin’” and is compelled to rehearse the horrors that man has perpetrated from the beginning. We hear of burning bridges, plague‑ridden cities, slaughtered opponents, all so that he can give us, the audience, the benefit of his hard‑won and painful experience. In keeping with Cain’s inability to die, Dylan moves the speaker in time and space, beyond a Bible‑centric setting to one where religion and science clash: The whole world is filled with speculation The whole wide world which people say is round.36

The flat‑earth debate could be a reference to the received (though not actual) belief of what lay beyond the horizon before Columbus set sail in 1492, but it is just as apt for today, when even basketball players such as Kyrie Irving can be taken seriously when declaring the earth is flat37 (though presumably, one who has wandered the globe for all eternity may have some expertise to share in that regard). The line encapsulates both anti‑religious and anti‑ scientific beliefs that characterized factions in the Renaissance, and are ravaging the current discourse in America, when climate change science is



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deliberately removed from public view, and at the same time a Secretary of Education sees her role as “Furthering God’s kingdom.”38 Dylan takes his Cain beyond the Land of Nod, which is east of Eden. A change in diction suggests an American setting, specifically in the 1850s, as he writes, “Ain’t talkin’, just walkin’ / Eatin’ hog‑eyed grease in a hog‑eyed town,”39 as a “hog‑eye” was a canal barge. One shanty from that time period, “Hog‑eye Man” opens with the line, “Oh hand me down my riding cane”40 which Dylan echoes in the next refrain, and allows for the pun on the homophonic cane/Cain. The narrator’s description of his “loyal and much loved companions” who “share his code” suggests a posse or a band of discarded heroes along the lines of The Magnificent Seven riding with a sick mule and blind horse along a “long and lonesome road” across the dusty American frontier. It could be the Wild West of the nineteenth century, or, given Dylan’s apocalyptic visions, some future that is still in store for us. It is interesting that Dylan refers to these companions as “much loved,” given that the world he envisions has no other love left. Human connections have been lost. He speaks of unfading honor, and the need to “avenge his father’s death” (if it is Cain speaking, on whom would he exact this revenge?), and there is a “gal [he] left behind.” But otherwise there is no relationship that holds the world in check. In an alternate take of the song, released on 2008’s Tell Tale Signs, the eighth volume of the Bootlegs series, there is a line in which the speaker plans to “throw myself upon your loving breast,” but in the next stanza even the Queen of Love is ignored: “None dare call her anything but madam / No one flirts with her or even makes a pass.”41 In the final version, though, any romantic sentiment has been erased. In its stead are debased animal impulses. Azizi Powell, on her Pancocojams blog, cites a secondary meaning for “hogeye”: “2. Hog eye‑ a female’s sexual parts (vulva or vagina); An equivalent African American Blues/Jazz vernacular term is ‘jelly roll.’”42 Alan Lomax bears this out when he cites a “salty rhyme” confided to him by a New England woman: Some for the girl that dresses neat Some for the girl that kisses sweet, But I’m for the girl with the lily white thighs, With a hole in her belly like a dead hog’s eye.43

The evisceration of loving ties from the song provides an insight into what the Cain has seen in his unending suffering, and a clue as to why it has happened. When the only bonds are between men who seek revenge, there can be no renewal on the Earth. Truly, “the gardener is gone.”

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In direct rebuttal of flat‑earthers, Cain’s wanderings circle back toward Eden and creation. Turning on “the wheels [that] are flying,” we learn “The fire’s gone out but the light is never dying” and the speaker complains that he’s “Walkin’ with a toothache in my heel.”44 The image is startling, and at first obscure, until we return to God’s doling out of punishments in Genesis 3:15. He tells the serpent: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” As in the first stanza, Dylan conflates several characters into a single image, so that here he becomes both the seed of Eve, as well as the bruised serpent biting his own foot. The song’s final stanza is a revision of the first, but instead of being hit from behind, “the gardener is gone.” Again, the referent is unclear. Is the gardener Adam, who was created “to till the ground”45 or is it the creator of the garden, God himself, who is now absent? Either way, we have reached “the last outback at the world’s end.” The song ends, not with the Big Bang of creation, but a diminished echo of the chord that begins the album’s opening song “Thunder on the Mountain”: an aural allusion to Eliot’s world‑ending whimper in “The Hollow Men.”46 Dylan himself has wandered the globe, most notably on the twentynine‑year‑and‑counting “Never Ending Tour.” What compels a man who has no financial need to stay on the road for so long? It’s not the fan adoration: though nothing has been as contentious as his 1966 British tour (chronicled exhaustively in a massive release of every known recording), Dylan’s insistence on constantly reworking songs until they are nearly unrecognizable, or refusing to play his biggest hits, or the stint in 2016 during which he played virtually none of his own songs in favor of his covers of Frank Sinatra, as we have shown, have all contributed to complaints and laments from fans. Yet, his 1966 tour ultimately changed the nature of rock ’n’ roll concerts, and Dylan not only survived the “Judas” accusations, but in fact launched the concept of the arena tour that would become the norm in the following decades. Just so, it seems that Dylan’s latest peregrinations are designed to educate us, the audience, in what we should be listening to and how we should receive it. The connection between the literary Cain and the “Never Ending Tour” extend to another Modern Times tune, “Nettie Moore.” In this song, Dylan/ Cain says of himself, I’m the oldest son of a crazy man I’m in a cowboy band.47

The traveling cowboy band, mentioned again as the “loyal and much‑loved companions” in “Ain’t Talkin’,” are Dylan’s cowboy‑hat‑wearing bandmates on the “Never Ending Tour.” In this song, they endure the Revelations‑laced



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blues that are “falling down like hail / Gonna leave a greasy trail.”48 It also bears mentioning that whenever we hear this song, it seems that Dylan is saying not “Nettie Moore” but “Nellie.” In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlow, the author’s Cain‑like figure, forced to tell his story, is on the Nellie, moored on the Thames.49 But what knowledge or wisdom is it that Dylan and his loyal companions want to impart? What form of a pre‑lapsarian state is it that he wants us to return to? We know that Cain has been banished from the world of mortals, and has no hope of Heaven, just as his parents had been banished from Eden. We know he has committed great sins, yet still believes that even he deserves “heavenly aid.” Even so, in “Spirit on the Water” he complains, I can’t go to paradise no more I killed a man back there.50

So again, what is “Paradise”? In the 2014 tome The Lyrics: 1961–2012, Ricks notes that “Paradise” has a number of denotations: Paradise: n. 1. the abode of Adam and Eve before the Fall Genesis; the Garden of Eden. 2. Heaven (poetic.) the abode of God and his angels and the final abode of the righteous. 3. Paradise, Nevada (south of Las Vegas), pop. est. 211,509 in 2005 and 189,958 as of July 1, 2007.51

Any one of these could be relevant, yet the second, the final abode of the righteous, is most likely his goal, whether he believes it is a heavenly or an earthly state will be our discussion in the next section, in which we discuss Dylan as the prophet of the apocalypse. “TEMPEST”: THE FACE OF THE PROPHET OF THE APOCALYPSE From the start, Dylan has chosen to close his albums with a hint of death: “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean,” “I Shall Be Free,” and “Restless Farewell” end his first three releases. But it wasn’t until Highway 61 Revisited closed with the pre‑Cormac McCarthy vision of the apocalypse, “Desolation Row,” that listeners came to expect some sort of “Book of Revelations” with each new entry in his catalogue. To be sure, there were a few between his motorcycle crash in 1966 and his marriage crash in 1974 that were idyllic, even loving, but the norm has been dark and foreboding. Though we survived the Y2K bug, Dylan’s habit has been no less effective in the latest creative burst. A chaotic primordial collection of lines from

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all times and places, that could read as prophecies from the Delphic Oracle or Nostradamus, “Love and Theft” reflects the enormity of the attacks that coincided with the album’s release on September 11, 2001. Its final song, “Sugar Baby,” begins with the narrator’s having his “back to the sun” looking down on “everybody in the world”52 and understanding their plights. This once again connects Dylan to a universal sympathy (the same universe that swallows him whole in “Cold Irons Bound” on Time Out of Mind ). The charms of the world are broken, it’s torn apart, and the angel Gabriel blows his horn to announce Judgment Day. The final song of Together Through Life, from 2009, is yet another eschatological discourse, with a Voltairian twist. The opening line of “It’s All Good,” written with Robert Hunter, “Talk about me babe, if you must / Throw on the dust, pile on the dust,”53 reminds us of “I don’t have any regrets, they can talk about me plenty when I’m gone” in “Brownsville Girl,” written with Sam Shepard.54 What follows there is a cinematic wasteland, with wives leaving husbands, people drowning in teacups, tearing down brick by brick, people too sick to stand, and a cold‑blooded killer stalking the town. But, to paraphrase Candide, “it’s all good.” However, it is in the title track of Dylan’s last (so far) album of original material, Tempest, that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are given free rein (yes, “Tempest” is the penultimate song. “Roll On John” functions more as a coda than an integrated part of the album’s coherent vision). Tempest combines all of the themes Dylan has developed throughout his career into a final noir‑ish, nihilistic screed. The images of death and despair leak out across the tracks. The stormy landscape Dylan travels in Tempest is less biblical than it is literary, particularly focusing on murder ballads and poetic allusions. In fact, Dylan told Mikal Gilmore of Rolling Stone, “I wanted to make something more religious . . . I just didn’t have enough [religious songs]. Intentionally, specifically religious songs is what I wanted to do. That takes a lot more concentration to pull that off 10 times with the same thread—than it does with a record like I ended up with.”55 One can’t help but see the Shakespearean parallel of completion beginning with the title, though Dylan himself denies it: “Shakespeare’s last play was called The Tempest. It wasn’t called just plain Tempest. The name of my record is just plain Tempest. It’s two different titles.”56 However, as we will see, there are sufficient parallels in the lyrics to suggest that he doth protest too much. The song “Tempest” is the culmination of Dylan’s themes, his ultimate apocalyptic vision. Though not as long as 1997’s “Highlands” (Time Out of Mind ), at fourteen minutes and forty-five verses, its length is commensurate with its subject. For now, let a few notes suffice.



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Based on the Carter Family telling of the tale, “Tempest” is equally indebted to James Cameron’s 1997 Titanic, in that one of the main characters is a sketching “Leo,” clearly intended to be Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack Dawson. Its verse opens: The pale moon rose in its glory Out of the western town.57

The next two lines also suggests the movie’s structure: She told a sad, sad story Of the great ship that went down.58

The narrating “she” seems not to have an antecedent, except possibly “moon.” However, one can’t help noticing that the moon “rose,” which, with a capital, names the narrating character of the film. (As Dylan said himself, defending the historical inaccuracies of the song, “But a songwriter doesn’t care about what’s truthful. What he cares about is what should’ve happened, what could’ve happened. That’s its own kind of truth. It’s like people who read Shakespeare plays, but they never see a Shakespeare play. I think they just use his name”).59 Over the bluegrass strains of a country fiddle, Dylan sings each verse of ballad meter with little emotional variation. Nearly all of the details are presented with a neutral tone: it’s what happened. The emotional impact of the song derives from the concatenation of one horror piled upon another. With a metronomic pace similar to the hypnotic tale of the “Sad‑Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” this song avoids a plodding rhythm by moving deftly around the ship, introducing new characters, witnessing tragic tableaux. Three times he interrupts the flow by joining the watchman who “dreamed the Titanic was sinking” and then finishes from the dreamer’s point of view. Besides the dreaming watchman, others who observe the devastation from afar are Cupid, personified Love and Pity, a wizard, the Reaper, Death, angels (who “turned aside”), and God himself: a panoply of supernatural beings. Down below, Dylan describes every level of humanity, from “The rich man Mr. Astor” to “the poor.” There are “Mothers and their daughters” and “Davey the brothel keeper” and his “girls,” and “many, many others / Nameless here forevermore.”60 Nearly every verse paints a different picture, with only Wellington, his guns strapped on, and Jim Dandy, who can’t swim and gave his place to a crippled child, getting consecutive verses. Unlike the first‑person viewpoint Dylan takes on in “Ain’t Talkin’,” and most of the songs on Tempest, here he becomes an impersonal roving cam-

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era. He notices tiny details such as flower petals falling, and the rising of the waters to a three‑foot depth. One by one, the lights of the world are flushed out: by the fifth verse, we have heard the last of music with the orchestra “playing / Songs of faded love.”61 Soon the “Sky [is] splitting all around” and piece by piece the ship, man’s greatest accomplishment, shudders out of existence. For the final time, Dylan ties a knot with Genesis and Revelation, the Alpha and the Omega. “Brother rose up ’gainst brother” is one last nod to his wandering Cain, who, presumably, does not survive this final calamity. The bishop commends his duty “to the heavens / Said, ‘The poor are yours to feed’” and, as at Jesus’s death, “The veil was torn asunder / ’Tween the hours of twelve and one”62 (which could also be a reference to the pagan witching hour, to resonate with the “wizard’s curse” mentioned several stanzas later). The sinking ship motif reaches back to Dylan’s use of the Titanic in “Desolation Row” on Highway 61 Revisited, where we can find “Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot / Fighting in the captain’s tower”63 echoed here with “Calvin, Blake and Wilson / Gambl[ing] in the dark.”64 The scattered vignettes of doomed characters recalls “Black Diamond Bay” on Desire as well. It’s all shown to be a metaphor for Dylan’s view of the world, as the captain (God?), surveying all creation, brings us to the Rapture: In the dark illumination . . . He read the Book of Revelation.65

Dylan’s neutral tone at last gives way to a devastating finality. If the Titanic is meant to be a metaphor for all of the works of man, its sinking generates a power that reaches from the depths of the Atlantic waters to include all of mankind: the scene shifts to the “landing” where the waiting crowd struggles to understand the ship’s disappearance. The next lines, “News came o’er the wires / And struck with deadly force”66 Dylan delivers with such resounding emphasis that it must include all the listeners as well. Like a black hole whose gravity strengthens the more matter it devours, and so can devour even more, the microcosm the Titanic represents grows to swallow even those who were not on it. With that, “all things had run their course” and the ship, named for the original Greek deities, enters the underworld. All forms of creation—pagan, biblical, musical, literary, film—have disintegrated, even as one last day begins to dawn, with “starlight shining / Streaming from the east.”67 Besides its many allusions, “Tempest” works in parallel especially with two texts that depict a hero’s reckoning with his own mortality. First, Dylan



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seems to channel Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” particularly the passage when the Greek hero declares: There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail: There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,  Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me That ever with a frolic welcome took The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old; Old age hath yet his honour and his toil; Death closes all; but something ere the end, Some work of noble note, may yet be done, Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.68

The hubristic imagery of “striving with Gods” is evident throughout the tune and tradition of “Tempest.” and it also ties the hero Ulysses with the narrator of “Ain’t Talkin’” (“All my loyal and much‑loved companions / They approve of me and share my code”)69 and “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’” (“My ship is in the harbor / And the sails are spread”).70 When Dylan sings in “Tempest,” The night was bright with starlight The seas were sharp and clear,71

he echoes these lines from Tennyson’s poem: The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks: The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs.72

Later, the lines that speak of All the lords and ladies Heading for their eternal home,73

recall Tennyson’s The deep Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends, ’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.74

The sense of ending, of refusing to submit to death, is the same unrelenting attitude Dylan shows over the course of his recent albums—always weary, never bowed. You can imagine Dylan proposing a toast to King Odysseus, who decrees,

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for my purpose holds To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths Of all the western stars, until I die.75

The other text, of course, is Shakespeare’s The Tempest. In the play, Prospero, unjustly exiled, brings about the sinking of a ship, which is certainly a “wizard’s curse.” One last time, he exerts his force to right wrongs, restore things to their proper places, and then, in the final act, he reviews his actions and bids farewell to his magic: I have bedimm’d The noontide sun, call’d forth the mutinous winds. And ’twixt the green sea and the azured vault Set roaring war: to the dread rattling thunder Have I given fire, and rifted Jove’s stout oak With his own bolt; the strong‑based promontory Have I made shake, and by the spurs pluck’d up The pine and cedar: graves at my command Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let ’em forth By my so potent art. But this rough magic I here abjure; and when I have required Some heavenly music—which even now I do,— To work mine end upon their senses, that This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff, Bury it certain fathoms in the earth, And deeper than did ever plummet sound I’ll drown my book.76

Shakespeare’s description of storm and sea, of splitting “Jove’s stout oak,” of gaping graves and “heavenly music” all have their resounding echoes in Dylan’s song. So many biblical and street corner prophets have told us the end is nigh. Even as we write, the crisis with North Korea grows, and “Talkin’ World War III Blues” from 1963’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan is entirely current. But as a living link between that Cold War era and our own, Bob Dylan can claim the gravitas and the credibility to give these songs prophetic power. He is no longer a young man trying to make a name for himself by making wild claims or shocking changes in direction. Like Odysseus, “Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds, / many pains he suffered”77 and thus earned the right and the acumen to assess the state of the world. After fifty years of touring, writing, and examining the human condition, Dylan is qualified to make the call: everything, in fact, is broken. As he told us at the 1991 Grammy Ceremony, when he accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award,



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Well, my daddy, he didn’t leave me much, you know he was a very simple man, but what he did tell me was this, he did say, son, he said . . . he say, you know it’s possible to become so defiled in this world that your own father and mother will abandon you, and if that happens, God will always believe in your ability to mend your ways.78

The question is, will we believe in our own ability to mend our ways? Even if we don’t, Dylan must, or else why would he continue to record, and to tour, and to teach us how to look at this fallen and debased world. Since Tempest, Dylan has given us four massive historical sets, including the entirety of his 1966 British tour, and a total of five discs of covers of the American Songbook. While Shakespeare purportedly left the stage after The Tempest, Dylan remains, still producing music. Each disc, each track is a revelation, an insight to another world. In Norse mythology, the Aesir, led by Odin, strive to forestall Ragnarok, the “Twilight of the Gods” that they know must eventually consume even the immortals. But unlike most apocalyptic myths, this one assumes that when all things run their course, new things will emerge to run a new course. Even in devastation, the Scandinavians refused to submit entirely. There is always something new to be discovered beyond the horizon. But those who dare to seek a newer world will need guidance in how to build it. They will need someone who has helped to build a world himself, who has the experience and the wisdom required for such an undertaking. They will need a skilled communicator who can transmit those lessons clearly and memorably. “NOBEL ADDRESS”: THE FACE OF THE RHAPSODE The earliest human communities were built around mutual protection and survival. Compared to the beasts around them, humans were badly designed: their two‑legged gait was slow and unstable; their eyesight paled in comparison to that of their prey—and their predators; their flat snouts were no match for the snapping jaws of a lion or a bear. To overcome these deficiencies, hunter‑gatherers formed packs and worked as teams to bring down increasingly‑large game. By day, they needed to coordinate their actions as they stalked, cornered, and slaughtered their quarry. Everyone had a job, and everyone else depended on its proper execution. Their success meant the pack could eat. Failure meant death, either from slow starvation, or the sudden attack of a wounded animal. By night, though, they were terrifyingly vulnerable. A fire kept some predators at bay, but its light extended only so

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far; just a pace or two away, glittering eyes told of salivating maws. Each hunter needed to literally watch his pack‑mate’s back. To stay awake, and to prepare for the next day’s hunt, they rehashed the day’s victories and dissected its defeats. This is one story of the birth of language, and of poetry. Much as children today reenact experiences until they become rote playlets, these prehistoric hunters were literally creating history. A Far Side comic by Gary Larson shows two cavemen standing by a mammoth felled by an arrow. One says to the other, “We should write that spot down.”79 It isn’t far from wrong in describing the ways in which experience was translated into language and retold until it was memorized. As this vital information was passed on to younger hunters, who in turn passed it on to the next generation, stories became history, became legends, and then, as the tales outlived living memory, they became myths and religions. Rituals grew out of them, and in their codified state, the wisdom of the pack, or at this point, the community, was preserved. The same was true of agricultural societies, who read the patterns in the stars to determine when to plant, when to harvest, when to move to higher ground. In the same way that bread and beer and smoked meat preserved nutrition for hard times, the stories preserved the culture of the society. We are hardwired to remember rhythms, and so it is easiest to transmit information if it is encapsulated in metrical chunks. The first priests were elders who remembered the old stories, and inculcated the community’s youth by drumming their music and their formulaic and formalized lines into their minds. These were origin stories, and monster‑slayer stories, narratives that disguised the “nutritious” information people needed to be a fully‑invested member of the community. Even religious texts like the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita prescribed not only religious ceremonies, but cultural laws as well. From this fertile soil, epic poetry grew to become a “how‑to” manual for the society, and to know the story was to be a member. Thus a society formed the epic. But simultaneously, the epic formed the society. As we show in chapter 4, an ancient Sumerian knew the story of Gilgamesh by heart, and when it came time to bury his father, or to build a boat, or to write a memory down, he could find the instructions within the poem. The Odyssey did the same for the Greeks, and Beowulf for the Anglo‑Saxons. Chaucer not only brought high and low together on a pilgrimage, but his Canterbury Tales also was the first poem written in the dialect of English that, thanks to the poem’s popularity, beat out all of the others to form the foundation of our modern language. Reading this way, one could argue that any lost civilizations whose poems we retain are preserved to this day. And as they pushed past the conservatism of religious belief, providing entertainment more than survival lessons or religious inculcation, storytell-



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ers were free to manipulate narrative elements, and began creating new tales from the building blocks of the old. Yet the cultural blueprint remained, and ever since, the best and most enduring stories have been the ones that reflected and refracted a society’s most deeply‑held beliefs. These are the touchstones that inform generations, that outlast fads, the classics we fall back on in times of fear, and loss, and joy. Almost exactly fifteen years after releasing “Love and Theft,” Bob Dylan was awarded the unprecedented honor of being the only singer‑performer to be given the Nobel Prize for Literature. His Nobel Lecture was, appropriately, a prose poem accompanied by a pianist, similar to performances Jack Kerouac did with many of his poems. Or as the rhapsode Homer did to the strings of a lyre. Dylan stated up front that he wondered how his songs related to literature: I wanted to reflect on it and see where the connection was. I’m going to try to articulate that to you. And most likely it will go in a roundabout way, but I hope that what I say will be worthwhile and purposeful.80

The lecture is as advertised: a rambling meditation that begins with a memory of seeing Buddy Holly just days before the music died: “Three separate strands of music . . . he intertwined and infused into one genre.”81 Then Dylan spotlights three books that have influenced him: Moby Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front, and The Odyssey. Dylan’s lecture weaves in many of the same themes he has explored on his albums. At twenty-seven minutes, it is even of similar length to one (especially his American Songbook albums, which, like a 78 rpm record, are all thirtytwo‑minute discs). When he discusses the “vernacular” of folk music, he says, “you know that Frankie was a good girl,” referring to his cover of “Frankie and Albert” on Good as I Been to You, which is also referenced in “Nettie Moore” when he sings, “Albert’s in the graveyard, Frankie’s raising hell.” Of the three extended riffs he does on influential works, two have masked characters, just as “Bob Dylan” is a mask for Robert Zimmerman: “Ishmael” in Moby Dick, and again, the heroic opposite of wandering Cain, Odysseus as “Nobody” in The Odyssey. And he personalizes the discussion, discussing them in second person as if we, the audience, are Paul, or Odysseus. Dylan makes sly allusions to his work by quoting others. For example, after saying that he never wanted to read another war novel (and never did) after All Quiet on the Western Front, he quotes Charlie Poole’s song “You Ain’t Talkin’ To Me” (emphasis ours), and when Odysseus is escaping, he faces “chilly winds,” just like the singer does in “Worried Blues” on Bootlegs Volume 1. He mentions again the dead Achilles, who would choose to be a living slave, and John Donne. And then Bob Dylan gives us his last (so far)

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original words, in which he connects himself to the greatest knots in Western literature, Shakespeare and Homer: That’s what songs are too. Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read. The words in Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days. I return once again to Homer, who says, “Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.”82

By ending on Homer’s opening words, Dylan closes a loop that is three thousand years in the weaving. His culminating choice to evoke Homer is intriguing. While Beowulf is told by a scop, and Shakespeare is a bard, Homer was a rhapsode. Related to the word “rhapsody,” the term means “weaver” and just as Dylan says he knew all of the “vernacular” of folk music and so naturally drops those references into his songs, Homer knew all of the tales of his day, and wove them into his songs. In that, he is metaphorically the same as the old soldier on Beowulf who “tied the knot of his verses.” Throughout his career, and especially in the last few years, Dylan has travelled from city to city, singing his songs to the accompaniment of a modern lyre, compelled to teach again and again the values of our culture: I had principles and sensibilities and an informed view of the world. And I had had that for a while. Learned it all in grammar school. Don Quixote, Ivanhoe, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, Tale of Two Cities, all the rest—typical grammar school reading that gave you a way of looking at life, an understanding of human nature, and a standard to measure things by. I took all that with me when I started composing lyrics.83

Dylan has also taken on the rhapsode and the scop’s rhythm. In Anglo‑Saxon poetry, the verse line is based not on syllables like the Greek epic hexameter line, but on stress. In Beowulf, for example, a line is made up of four strong beats within any number of unstressed ones, with a caesura separating each pair. Strong alliterative repetition ties each side together: Would weave a net | | of words for Beowulf’s84

In live performance, especially since 2012 when he was touring with Mark Knopfler, Dylan, usually known for his long singing lines, has adopted a shorter line, often with a caesura. Sometimes it comes out in the call‑and‑



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response repetitions of songs like “Summer Days” and “High Water.” The verses of “Tempest” can also be scanned as Anglo‑Saxon poetry: Dead bodies already floating | | In the double bottomed hull.85

It may be that in his advanced age, Dylan has a shorter breath control, but it seems more likely that a man who once claimed, “I’m just as good a singer as [Enrico] Caruso,”86 knows exactly what he is doing, and why. So what does it all mean? Is Dylan prophesying the end times? Is he trying to justify the ways of man to God? Or is he looking back at all of his creations and beaming with pride? Perhaps it is simply that he is the consummate artist, one who knows that everything he has created has been built on the foundations of the artists that have gone before him. Perhaps he is tightening the last few knots that he can contribute to the tapestry of Western culture, acknowledging that he could only have done so by working with others on the great “golden loom” that has stretched back to the dawn of civilization. He has always been aware and conscious of that tradition, seen in his apprenticeship as a folk artist, in his choice to sing “Song to Woody,” both on his first album and at the thirtieth anniversary show in his honor. He continues to fashion those knots in his recent American Songbook albums, as well as in his live performances. Such artists, though, come only a few times in a century, and we have been lucky that he continues to practice his art right in front of us, right now. NOTES   1.  Joan Baez, “Diamonds and Rust,” iTunes audio, 4:45, 1975.  2. Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series, Volume 6: Bob Dylan Live, 1964. (New York: Columbia, 2004).  3. Daniel Lanois, “1998—Awards Show—Grammy Awards—Album of The Year—Bob Dylan.” YouTube. Uploaded by Video Archeology, 12 August 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5HaGgSJRso.  4. Scorsese, No Direction Home.  5. Ibid.  6. Marcus, Bob Dylan: Writings 1968–2010, xiii.  7. Doggett, There’s a Riot Going On, 77–80.  8. Cott, The Essential Interviews, 7. Emphasis is ours based on aural evidence from a bootleg recording of this interview.  9. Cott, The Essential Interviews, 101. 10. Cott, The Essential Interviews, 136. 11. Cott, The Essential Interviews, 259.

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12. Doggett, There’s a Riot Going On, 6, 80. 13.  “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1964, 1966, by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992, 1994, by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www .bobdylan.com/songs/lonesome‑death‑hattie‑carroll/. 14. Ibid. 15. Ricks, Dylan’s Visions of Sin, 226–33. 16.  “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1964, 1966, by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1992, 1994, by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www .bobdylan.com/songs/lonesome‑death‑hattie‑carroll/. 17. Ibid. 18. Dettmar, The Cambridge Companion, 48–49. 19. Wilentz, Bob Dylan in America, 103–4; Dettmar, The Cambridge Companion, 131–32. 20. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 122. 21. Scorsese, No Direction Home. 22.  Leeder and Wells, “Dylan’s Floods,” 211–27. 23. Cott, The Essential Interviews, 401. 24. Cott, The Essential Interviews, 423. 25. Marcus, Invisible Republic, 120. 26. Harvey, The Formative Dylan, xi. 27.  Wilentz and Marcus, Rose and the Briar, 15. 28.  Gundersen, “Dylan on Dylan,” 224. 29. “I Feel a Change Comin’ On,” written by Bob Dylan with Robert Hunter. Copyright © 2009 by Special Rider Music and Ice‑Nine Publishing. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan .com/songs/i‑feel‑change‑comin/. 30. “The Nobel Prize in Literature 2016,” Nobelprize.org, accessed 5 August 2018, https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2016/. 31.  Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/aint‑talkin/. 32.  Bible, Genesis 4:11–12. 33.  Bible, Genesis 4:15. 34.  Bible, Genesis 4:13. 35.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Edited by Paul H. Fry (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999), 73. 36.  “Ain’t Talkin’,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2006 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/aint‑talkin/. 37. Kyle Boone, “Kyrie Irving says the Earth is undeniably flat: ‘This is not even a conspiracy theory.’” Web, 7 Sep 2017, https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news /kyrie‑irving‑says‑the‑earth‑is‑undeniably‑flat‑this‑is‑not‑even‑a‑conspiracy‑theory/. 38. Kristina Rizga, “Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build ‘God’s Kingdom,’” Mother Jones, Mar/Apr 2017. Web, 7 Sep 2017, http://www



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.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/betsy‑devos‑christian‑schools‑vouchers‑char ter‑education‑secretary/. 39.  “Ain’t Talkin’,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2006 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/aint‑talkin/. 40.  Martin Carthy and Family, “Hog‑Eye Man,” iTunes audio, 2:44, 2008. 41. Dylan, The Lyrics, 886. 42.  Azizi Powell, “Various (Somewhat Discreetly Worded) Meanings of ‘Hog‑Eye’ and ‘Hog‑EyeMan,’” Pancocojams, 6 June 2014. Web, 5 Sep 2017, http://pancoco jams.blogspot.com/2014/06/various‑somewhat‑discreetly‑worded.html. 43.  Lomax, “Introduction to Katherine D. Newman, Never without a Song,” Alan Lomax: Selected Writings, 1934–1997. Web, 5 Sep 2017. https://books.google.com /books?id=iqsoOWIqIAsC&pg=PA343&lpg=PA343&dq=hog+eye+jelly+roll&sour ce=bl&ots=ZQtxRGC3dZ&sig=w5WRoLKKPmqluJVFTzb1iyAL_6Y&hl=en&sa= X&ved=0ahUKEwjxppq51ovWAhVk0oMKHWsOCX0Q6AEIYzAP#v=onepage& q=hog%20eye%20jelly%20roll&f=false. 44.  “Ain’t Talkin’,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2006 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/aint‑talkin/. 45.  Bible, Genesis 2:15. 46.  T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men,” Collected Poems 1909–1962 (London: Faber, 1963), 92. 47.  “Nettie Moore,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2006 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/nettie‑moore/. 48. Ibid. 49.  Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, (New York: Signet, 1983), 65. 50.  “Spirit on the Water,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2006 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan .com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/spirit‑water/. 51. Dylan, The Lyrics, 845. 52.  “Sugar Baby,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2001 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http:// www.bobdylan.com/songs/sugar‑baby/. 53.  “It’s All Good,” written by Bob Dylan with Robert Hunter. Copyright © 2009 by Special Rider Music and Ice‑Nine Publishing. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/its‑all‑good/. 54.  “Brownsville Girl,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1986 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/brownsville‑girl/. 55. Mikel Gilmore, “Bob Dylan on His New Dark Album, Tempest,” Rolling Stone, 1 Aug 2012. Web, 5 Sep 2017, http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news /bob‑dylan‑on‑his‑dark‑new‑album‑tempest‑20120801. 56.  Gilmore, “Bob Dylan on His New Dark Album, Tempest.”

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57.  “Tempest,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www .bobdylan.com/songs/tempest/. 58. Ibid. 59.  Gilmore, “Bob Dylan on His New Dark Album, Tempest.” 60.  “Tempest,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www .bobdylan.com/songs/tempest/. 61.  “Tempest,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www .bobdylan.com/songs/tempest/. 62. Ibid. 63. “Desolation Row,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/desola tion‑row/. 64.  “Tempest,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www .bobdylan.com/songs/tempest/. 65. Ibid. 66. Ibid. 67. Ibid. 68.  Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses,” Tennyson’s Early Poems, edited by John Churton Collins (London: Methuen, 1900), 700–701. 69.  “Ain’t Talkin’,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2006 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/aint‑talkin/. 70.  “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’,” written by Bob Dylan with Robert Hunter. Copyright © 2009 by Special Rider Music and Ice Nine Publishing. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs /beyond‑here‑lies‑nothin/. 71.  “Tempest,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http:// www.bobdylan.com/songs/tempest/. 72. Tennyson, Early Poems, 701. 73.  “Tempest,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http:// www.bobdylan.com/songs/tempest/. 74. Tennyson, Early Poems, 701. 75. Ibid. 76.  Shakespeare, “The Tempest.” The Works of William Shakespeare, edited by William George Clark, John Glover, and Blakemore Evans (Cambridge: Macmillan and Co, 1863), V.1.41–57, 1632. 77. Homer, Odyssey, 77.



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78. Expecting Rain, “Bob Dylan’s Grammy Speech 1991,” accessed 5 August 2018, https://www.expectingrain.com/dok/int/grammiesspeech.html. 79.  Gary Larson, “We Should Write That Spot Down,” The Far Side Gallery 3 (Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, 1988), 138. 80. Dylan, Nobel Lecture, 1. 81. Ibid. 82. Dylan, Nobel Lecture, 23. 83. Dylan, Nobel Lecture, 5–6. 84.  Beowulf, 50. 85.  “Tempest,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 2012 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http:// www.bobdylan.com/songs/tempest/. 86.  D. A. Pennebaker, Dont Look Back (New York: Docurama, 1967).

9 Masked and Anonymous Bob Dylan and Cinema

Dylan’s foray into film nearly coincided with his arrival in New York. On the roof of photographer/musician John Cohen’s apartment building in Greenwich Village, the two staged a silent film called “Bed on the Floor” (excerpts are included in Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home), in which Dylan climbs down from a fire escape, only to find a guitar case. Opening the case, he discovers a collection of hats, which he uses as comedic props. The last shot is of Dylan putting on a Chaplinesque bowler. The footage suggests that the newly‑minted Dylan, in addition to changing his name, was experimenting with a wholly invented public persona. Throughout his early years in New York City, Dylan continually updated his past, claiming to have grown up in various places around the country, to have worked carnivals, and to have run away from home any number of times. Later he would adopt the hobo style that he first became known for, with his Huck Finn hat, Charlie Chaplin walk, and Woody Guthrie voice (the connections to Chaplin extend to the other end of his career, as he named his 2006 album after one of the Little Tramp’s films, Modern Times). Having soaked up bits from movies and plays and carnivals he saw back home1 and on television, he reassembled these in entirely novel ways to create the character who would infiltrate the folk world teeming in the Village at that time and so become its most influential member. Like the pretty bird, the cuckoo, which lays its egg in another bird’s nest and pushes out the rightful young, Dylan used the Newport stage to hatch an entirely new persona—one that would change not only music, but the world’s understanding of art and performance altogether. In this chapter, we will examine Dylan’s non‑musical work, mainly in film. For the purpose of this discussion, we will focus on performances in which he is primarily speaking, which precludes screen ap209

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pearances in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz, the NBC concert special of Hard Rain, and several cameos (including a delightful Dharma and Greg appearance in 1999), as well as films which are about him, but in which he doesn’t appear, such as I’m Not There. We describe three core themes emergent in Dylan’s engagement with filmic performance: first, a focus on the star‑image as a meaningful symbol within cinematic art; second, an exploration of the possibilities for nonlinear narrative structures that visual media can support; and third, a disruption of naturalistic mainstream cinema techniques designed to elide the means of filmic production. These themes coalesce initially in Dylan’s collaborative presence as the subject of two documentaries by D. A. Pennebaker on his 1965 and 1966 tours. They sharpen and perhaps reach their creative apex, in terms of his unique engagement with motion pictures, when he has the benefit of working in supporting roles (actor and soundtrack writer/performer) within a company of strong cinematic artists eight years later in the Hollywood film Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. In the two subsequent films in which he had much greater creative control, Renaldo and Clara and Masked and Anonymous, Dylan places these three themes at the forefront in each case. These three themes resonate with Dylan’s creative musical concerns and are a compelling application of such concerns to another performance art form. Dylan began self‑mythologizing from almost the inception of his public performing practice in the early 1960s, as we discuss in chapters 1 and 8 and above in this chapter. “Eternal Circle,” “Day of the Locusts,” and “Jokerman” are three songs that range widely across his career and across distinct musical/lyrical styles but that each exemplify his concern for the relationship of charismatic performer to enraptured audience. “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Tempest” are three songs that are similarly wide‑ranging; each clearly identifies characters, actions, circumstances, and outcomes (something not all songs do) but does so in ways that complicate and frustrate linear narrative expectations. Finally, though the third theme—disruption of naturalistic modes of film production—does not have a direct analogue in musical performance, we can identify Dylan’s enduring interest in resisting naturalistic interpretations in a song like “Desolation Row,” when in the final stanza the narrator first reveals that all the characters described have been deliberately disguised and shuffled and then, as we discuss in chapter 7, closes the song by suddenly and evocatively drawing us out of passive reception and into shared responsibility for what we’ve heard. We introduce our study of each of these three core themes with a discussion of a particular studio recording, so that readers more familiar with or



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more initially compelled by Dylan’s musical performances might recognize his engagement with cinematic styles even at the level of songs. Our hope is that juxtaposing song with film in this way will help illuminate how Dylan’s artistic concerns bridge these forms. “DEPENDS ON WHO YOU ARE”: STAR‑IMAGE AND PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID The three themes of star‑image, nonlinear narrative structure and non‑naturalistic film production are not incidentally linked to Dylan’s career, given its chronology. His emergence in parallel to, and strong association with, 1960s counterculture yokes him to developments in multiple Western art forms in that era, including cinema. The Motion Picture Association of American codes limiting representations in American film of sex and violence since 1930 were significantly weakened in 1966;2 one consequence of this was the increase in key Hollywood creative positions (especially director) for young filmmakers who brought new cinematic approaches to mainstream audiences.3 Sam Peckinpah, who directed Dylan in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, was among these, as was Robert Altman, who collaborated not directly with Dylan but with Dylan collaborator (on Renaldo and Clara and on the song “Brownsville Girl”), Sam Shepard, on the 1985 film Fool for Love. This film was based on Shepard’s original play, a text that helped prompt Dylan to write “Brownsville Girl,” as Gray notes.4 Scobie observes a confluence of references to Dylan and the 1950 film starring Gregory Peck, The Gunfighter, of which much more below, in an earlier Shepard play as well.5 “Brownsville Girl” is probably the most successful of all of Dylan’s cinematically‑styled songs. Ironically, this song, one of his greatest compositions, appeared on one of his weakest albums, Knocked Out Loaded, during the period when, by his own admission, he was trapped at the bottom of his creative well.6 Originally written and recorded as “New Danville Girl” for Empire Burlesque, it has a title and cascading rhyme of “Danville girl/pearl/Danville curl” taken from a Woody Guthrie song.7 Its fragmented narrative, though, employs as its frame the singer’s memories of having seen the film The Gun‑ fighter. Hailed for its Western authenticity, down to Peck’s wearing the same mustache as Johnny Ringo, the model for the fictional Jimmy Ringo, it tells the romanticized tale of a world‑weary gunslinger who meets a “hungry kid” in every town who wants to match gun‑drawing skills with him. As with film adaptations of Billy the Kid’s legend such as the one Dylan helped create a

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decade earlier, The Gunfighter takes several liberties with Johnny Ringo’s biography, most notably the fact that he died with a bullet to the temple, in all likelihood by his own hand. The film’s plot points figure in only the first two verses, in which Dylan describes both the opening of the film, “A man riding across the desert,”8 and its climax, in which the gunfighter of the title is shot down from behind by “a hungry kid trying to make a name for himself ” and curses his killer by telling the Marshall, “Turn him loose, let him go, let him say he outdrew me fair and square / I want him to feel what it’s like to every moment face his death.”9 Dylan delivers these dying words with all of the finality of the sentencing of the false judge in “Seven Curses.” While Peck appears as a character in the song only here, and then as touchstones in the middle and final verses, the film offers other anchors to Dylan’s film and singing career. For example, as with a number of other films Dylan refers to in his songs, the cast is as predictable as that of a repertory company: Peck appeared also in the film adaptation of one of Dylan’s favorite books, Moby Dick; Richard Jaekel, who plays another “hungry kid” who is gunned down by Ringo, appeared in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid; while Karl Malden had been nominated for an Academy Award for his role in another Brando classic, On the Waterfront, from which Dylan took the line “the love of a lousy buck” for “When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky.”10 While Gray notes that several characters in the film provide Dylan with “got my mind made up” for the Knocked Out Loaded song of the same name,11 it is perhaps Peck’s most fondly‑remembered role, Atticus Finch, in 1962’s To Kill a Mockingbird, who is reminded of the biblical “let the dead bury the dead,”12 which appears just before the hot desert and cursed mountain in the album’s closing “Under Your Spell.”13 Throughout the song, Dylan continues his examination of self through performance metaphors. About midway through the song, he interrupts the main narrative of the song, an episodic series of memories with an unnamed “you,” with a call‑back to the Peck film. Here, though, he places himself in the movie, saying, “I can’t remember why I was in it, or what part I was supposed to play.”14 This stanza also replaces a line from “New Danville Girl” that even more explicitly involved Dylan in the movie’s world. He says of Peck’s performance, “And everything he did in it reminded me of me.” Later, in addressing the mysterious “you,” about her testifying in court, he says, “It was the best acting I saw anybody do.”15 Henry Porter, whose character is conspicuous for not appearing in song except in other people’s mentions of him, is so mysterious that “The only thing we knew for sure” about him was “that his name wasn’t Henry Porter.”16 As in his other cinematic songs, Dylan’s lyrical “camera” swoops from one scene to another, focusing just long enough on an image to burn it indelibly in



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our minds. In the shorter “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” and “Black Diamond Bay” (both discussed below), he achieves this through “jump cuts,” sudden shifts in topic that force us to leap along with him. In “Brownsville Girl,” though, with its grander sweeps in geography, time, and mood, he needs a more trustworthy method. Discussing “New Danville Girl,” Gray laments the unfortunate but necessary loss of “some of the greatest ‘oohs’ and ‘ah’s’ in Bob Dylan’s entire repertoire”17 that occurs between the original and final versions of the song. However, those vocalizations performed only “fill‑in‑the‑gap” duties. In “Brownsville Girl,” Dylan reduces them to the single interjection, “Well” that starts each new scene. It occurs at the start of nine of the seventeen stanzas (excluding the choruses), and all three of the initial ones. The choice is particularly effective, as it simultaneously establishes an apt confiding tone for the saloon‑stool raconteur, as well as signaling the camera’s new establishing shot. Throughout the song, Dylan uses a range of vocal techniques, from straight‑up talking to bursts of sung lines, or even single words. The effect is analogous to lighting on-screen, allowing the listener to imagine the sepia tones that evoke the Old West. This is most clearly heard in stanza seven’s “She saw us come rolling in on a trail of dust,” where his voice rises and falls on “trail,” suggesting a broken‑down car cresting a dirt road’s ridge.18 When he sings of the “dark rhythm in her soul” in the sixth stanza we can hear a bluesy cowboy’s lament, while he enacts the meaning of the word he sings in “cry real tears” which reminds us that it wasn’t only “you” that is acting in this scene.19 Dylan almost exclusively speaks the last two stanzas, where he once again juxtaposes his own experience (“I don’t know who I was”) with the climax of the film (“it starred Gregory Peck, he wore a gun and he was shot in the back”),20 signifying the clearly‑lit present as opposed to the melodic memories elsewhere in the song. The only portions that are sung here are the single word “Strange” that opens the penultimate verse, a soul‑cracking cry, and the rushed “long before the stars were torn down”21 that links the main verse to the final chorus with a crescendo that, with the swelling notes of the backup singers, suggests the horns of a 1950s movie’s soundtrack played over the cursive script of “The End.” Dylan, too, had once nearly reached his own end twenty years before this song emerged: A brutal touring and recording schedule culminated his motorcycle crash and withdrawal to Big Pink in Woodstock, New York, from whence he returned with a new interest in Americana music.22 Perhaps, then, it was natural that as he returned several years later, for the first time since his collaborations with Pennebaker, to non‑musical outlets for his performance strategies, the man whose name may have been taken in honor of Sheriff Matt

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Dillon from Gunsmoke would look to make a Western. Dylan famously (or infamously) made his feature film debut in Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. In a hastily‑written part, Dylan plays Alias, a blacksmith with a talent for throwing knives. Seydor quotes screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer’s version of how Dylan came to appear in the film: Dylan came to see me at my lower east side apartment and said he’d heard I was doing a Billy the Kid film with Peckinpah, and that he always felt that he was somehow connected to Billy and was there any way he could be involved.23

On the face of it, the involvement of the renegade rock ’n’ roll star alongside the charismatic country‑western star Kris Kristofferson is pure gold. The actual execution of his performance, though, is mediocre at best. The bulk of his scenes are silent reaction shots, and a few action scenes where his physical bearing reaches back to the spasming of his 1966 stage performances (discussed in detail in chapter 6); while most of the characters move with menacing slowness, Alias is all jerky steps and sudden motion. Seydor describes Dylan as a “surprisingly adept physical performer,”24 though his striking of a man with the butt of a shotgun seems more the action of a spring‑loaded toy than a believable act of violence. Alias is introduced as just another of the onlookers during Billy’s escape from the Lincoln jail. After watching Billy’s escape from jail, he throws down his apron and seems to be trying to make up his mind about how to proceed. His first line is played for laughs, talking to Garrett in the saloon: Garrett: Who are you? Alias: That’s a good question.25

The same cryptic examination of identity appears just before Alias appears at Fort Sumner. Just before giving Billy some timely help in a gunfight by flicking a knife into an attacker’s neck, he has this exchange with the outlaw: Billy: What’s your name, boy? Alias: Alias. Billy: Alias what? Alias: Alias anything you please. Billy: What do we call you? Alias: Alias!26



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But Dylan’s reading of his lines are fast and seem to be held back in his throat, as if he’s both eager and nervous to say his lines. His best acting may be in the silliest scene, when Garrett sets him to reading the labels of “airtights” as he prepares to kill Holly in Lemuel’s bar. Slowly, carefully reciting individual words like “beans” and “succotash” and “qua‑li‑ty,” the bespectacled blacksmith conveys the difficulty of a semi‑literate laborer of the Old West. A strong argument can be made that the naturalistic quality of Dylan’s acting performance is much less significant within this film than the fact of his physical appearance on camera and his aural appearance as the voice on the soundtrack. Peckinpah scholars such as Seydor27 and Engel28 underscore the role Alias plays in the film in representing legend‑making. He helps to aggrandize the legend of Billy the Kid as a witness to the action (many of the shots that include Dylan involve him watching either Billy or Garrett), as a member of the Kid’s gang, and as a purveyor of information at various points in the film. The star power of Dylan the musician, of course, depended significantly on his own role as chronicler and legend‑maker and arguably reached the apex of its cultural centrality only eight years before the release of this film. In other words, Dylan in the eyes and ears of a 1974 audience was a rich and immediate symbol of the capacity to forge legends—a smith of a different sort. The character of Alias, though, reaches back to the earliest days of sagas, even before the American mythology of the Wild West. That Garrett lets him survive the tense scene at all, so that he can tell Billy, “We had a little drink together” suggests the role of Phemios the minstrel in Homer’s Odyssey, or any number of other characters whose preservation was based solely on the need to report back what has happened. Just as Homer allows the songwriter (whose name means “words”) to become the historian, so too does Alias get the role of witness, and after Garrett shoots down Billy at the climax of the film, it is Alias that shares a glare with him, just as Dylan’s music comes up for the closing credits. These credits, and the people they name, reveal that the casting approach in this film embraces the way that visual and aural recognition work on us in the medium of cinema. Scobie notes that a large ensemble of aging actors who would be recognizable to contemporary audiences as minor film and television stars of the previous decades were cast in roles, even minor ones, in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid; he argues that this is both an “elegiac note” linked to a “way of life” (the frontier West) “on the verge of extinction” and a “double recognition” that depends upon audience members’ knowledge of the performers’ reputation and work outside the film itself.29 Marshall begins his study of Dylan’s star‑image by citing Dyer, author of

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the germinal study of the star‑image in film, observing that Dyer’s caution that “we must distinguish between authorship of films and authorship of star‑image” is “more problematic when analyzing rock stars.”30 Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid stands at an interesting, complex bridge between these two types of stars because of the casting of both Dylan and Kristofferson, rock stars, on-screen, especially given that we hear Dylan (extensively, always non‑diegetically) and Kristofferson (occasionally, always diegetically) singing during the course of the film. The expectation that Dylan, when in a film, should perform for the viewing audience as a musician is one that will serve as a source of tension in both Renaldo and Clara and Masked and Anonymous, the two films we discuss below. As the laborious reading of labels suggests, part of what’s at stake in the appearance of Dylan in this film is in the ways his famous voice is made to “star” in the film in dramatic ways—through lengthy silences, through its use as a medium for both report and rapport, and through its abuse by Garrett. Garrett finally has to draw his pistol rather than just command with his voice when he tortures Alias and the two twits in the saloon—but even then, voice is what makes the scene extraordinary, as the voice of the world’s single most famous solo songwriter is forced to read out the names of the cans on the saloon shelf in a monotone that pervades the rest of the scene. Why? One possible reading of this astonishing scene is that Peckinpah’s incommensurate use of the mighty Dylan, the reducing of his voice to a debased monotone, is a way of roughing up this film about a myth, this film that retells, ballad‑style, a story we have valorized and turned into nostalgia over and over, in simple repetition. If Bob Dylan, the rock star, “Alias whoever you like,” has about 50 percent of his speech in his first Hollywood film role devoted to a submissive muttering about the most cheap and mundane of all foods (“beans . . . beans . . . beans”), then there is no sacred Western cow, no Robin Hood or reformed sheriff being rendered heroic here, no easy answer in history to the crises of the Nixon era. There are some interesting continuities that Dylan’s role includes, looking back and to the future. For example, there is a bit in Fort Sumner when Alias is sharpening a knife on a grindstone, before he and Billy are going to head out. Saying goodbye to Paco, Alias hands him the knife, saying, “It’s got a good edge.” His movements and generosity echo the scene in Dont Look Back when he gives the harmonica to the High Sheriff’s Lady. And Dylan seems to have continued the fascination of the costuming that Alias has, as the leather gloves and a similar hat (actually one more closely resembling the one Harry Dean Stanton’s Luke wears) appear again in his music video for “Cross the Green Mountain” from the film Gods and Generals in 2003.



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The script also appears to echo lines from Dylan’s or related work, and one has to wonder if Wurlitzer, in consciously penning a tale that simultaneously depicted the closing of the Old West and the current political tensions of the early 1970s, was also taking advantage of Dylan’s appearance in the film. For example, when Garrett first warns Billy that he is going to come for him if he doesn’t head to Mexico, Billy says, “Sheriff Pat Garrett . . . sold out! How does it feel?” to which Garrett responds, “It feels like times have changed.”31 Elsewhere, when Ollinger taunts Billy in jail, he recites lines from Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, which surely would have put most of the audience more in mind of the Byrds’ 1965 version of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” than the Bible. In a story of once‑friendly enemies, in which the elder, father‑figure generation is at odds with the charismatic youth, the echo of a band that became famous for singing Dylan songs here singing a Pete Seeger tune (released several months after Dylan’s electric set at Newport) seems especially poignant. “DID YOU EVER HAVE ANOTHER NAME? WHAT NAME DID YOU HAVE?”: NONLINEAR NARRATIVE AND RENALDO AND CLARA When Dylan told the San Francisco press in 1965 that his upcoming (a decade hence) film project would be “just another song,” he could just have easily been anticipating the Peckinpah‑influenced “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” (the jack of hearts being one of the two “One‑Eyed Jacks” referred to in the title of the 1961 Marlon Brando‑directed film based on the Billy the Kid legend, on which Sam Peckinpah had an uncredited writing contribution, and which served as a precursor to Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid).32 Sung to a rollicking saloon‑tune, the song moves like a roving camera among a number of familiar Western characters: Lily, the chorus line girl; her lover the rich Big Jim, and his long‑suffering wife Rosemary; and the mysterious Clint Eastwood‑like cipher, the Jack of Hearts, who comes to town with a gang bent on robbing the casino safe, and leaves with something more than loot. Using a trove of worn tropes gleaned from Western films, “Lily” opens with the “boys” drilling through the wall to the safe. Meanwhile, the “girls” of the chorus line playing cards (presumably poker) by the stairs, in a mock‑heroic scene that recalls through its staging and preoccupation with hair, Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock.” We get the familiar images of the gambling wheel (which will appear again in the casino of “Black Diamond Bay”) and the arrival of the mysterious stranger, and then Big Jim with his “body guards and silver cane.” With the eventual appearance of the “hanging judge” the scene is complete.

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Dylan’s main cinematic concern in this song is that of costuming and disguise. Each character is manifestly playing a role, sometimes several. Dylan achieves his character descriptions primarily by way of focusing on hair: every one of Big Jim’s is in place, Lily combs hers, and Rosemary wears false eyelashes. However, the most telling description is in the story’s resolution, when Lily, preparing to move on to another life, washes “all of the dye out of her hair.”33 It is a scene reminiscent of Tippi Hedren’s introduction in Marnie: Even before we see her face, we discover that she is in costume, probably for nefarious reasons, as she performs the same action, and the dye swirls in the sink (itself an allusion to Hitchcock’s more famous drain scene in Psycho).34 Dylan moves deftly among his characters, and through his narration explicitly conjures up more film techniques. He builds narrative tension with the pacing backstage manager whose anxiety foreshadows the eventual climactic (though unexplained) murder of Big Jim. He establishes in a quick line that the “hanging judge was drunk” while “the leading actor,” who must, by the billing in the title, be the Jack of Hearts, “hurried by in the costume of a monk.” To cement the connection, Dylan uses the appositive “There was no actor anywhere better than the Jack of Hearts.”35 The introduction of costumes here not only suggests the play‑acting of a movie set, but also the fascination Dylan himself has with mutable personae. In this scene, though, it allows for the Jack of Heart’s character to appear in multiple guises without having to make the costume changes explicit. When the inevitable murder of Big Jim leaves him with a “pen knife in the back” and Rosemary on the gallows, the rest of the gang is at the river bank waiting for “one more member who had business back in town / but they couldn’t go no further without the Jack of Hearts,”36 all of which are staples of the Western genre. More importantly, though, is our understanding that that “member” and Jack are one and the same. So what is his “business”? That brings us to an amazing cinematic conundrum: The hangin’ judge was sober, he hadn’t had a drink The only person on the scene missin’ was the Jack of Hearts.37

How can someone both be “missing” and “on the scene”? Only through disguise, which leads us to understand that the uncharacteristically‑sober “hanging judge” may in fact be an impostor, though why his business requires his presence at the passing of both Big Jim and Rosemary, as well as the particulars of his relationship to Lily, remain, tantalizingly, unexplained. Despite the poor reviews of his performance in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, or maybe in response to them, Dylan chose to write the mind‑bending Renaldo and Clara. A combination of concert film, documentary, and im-



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provised drama, the film received scathing reviews and closed after several weeks. Tantalizing clips have appeared in music videos, such as “Series of Dreams” and other places, but the whole film, after some television showings, has not been distributed except in bootleg form (most based on a British TV showing in 1983). Watching the film is a demanding, sometimes thankless undertaking, in which characters unnamed except in the credits have seemingly disjointed conversations with no context or completion. Many scenes seem to be inspired by Dylan’s previous appearances in Dont Look Back and Eat the Document, in which episodes begin and end with no apparent order or comment. There are some guides or hints that give a rough structure to the film. The opening scene is a performance of “When I Paint My Masterpiece” in which the singer, who has a recognizable voice, is wearing a clear mask, which will subsequently be replaced with white face paint in the concert footage. Given Dylan’s fascination with film noir, it immediately calls to mind the opening bank robbery of 1973’s The Friends of Eddie Coyle, with Robert Mitchum. Perhaps there will be some thievery in the next three hours, but the real point is that from the very first moment, we cannot be sure of the identity of anyone on-screen. In fact, identities are fluid from one moment to the next. By way of the whitened face and distorted imagery, it also alludes to Joel Grey as the “Master of Ceremonies” in 1972’s Cabaret, who, through his songs and impish leers, comments on the social attitudes presented in the narrative. Throughout Dylan’s film, but especially in the first half, David Blue gives a running commentary of his experiences with Dylan, and the folk scene in Greenwich Village. He does it all while playing a “Big Valley” pinball game on an indoor pool deck. Intercut with his monologue are clips that suggest a connection. For example, after Blue’s mentioning that he had grown up in Providence, Rhode Island, we see a radio announcer mentioning that Dylan will be bringing his Rolling Thunder Revue to that city. He talks about meeting Dylan at the Gaslight, and playing other coffee houses, and then a poetry reading at Gerde’s Folk City is shown. There are also a series of conversations in a delicatessen featuring T‑Bone Burnett as “The Inner Voice” that serve as a kind of incomprehensible Greek chorus. But these are tenuous connections at best. The combination of narrative ruptures and nostalgic references fits with the contemporary zeitgeist of mid‑1970s American cinema. Britton describes this as: a period in which a profound exacerbation of social conflicts and corresponding ideological disharmonies has been radically blocked, issuing in not structural change but retrenchment. There is a general sense that we can no longer believe

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in the things in which we once believed, though it’s not clear whether we can believe in anything else.38

Dylan’s art in the 1960s was one significant cultural force that called into question “the things in which we once believed,” yet from the beginning— with its emphasis on blues, folk, and old‑time ballads—this art was also backward‑looking in its engagement of aesthetic resources. Dylan’s foray into cinema, given Britton’s claims, appears apt, as does his reliance on narrative disjunctures and retrospective iconography. Scobie suggests that his reliance on the strategy of “double recognition” in his casting for Renaldo and Clara carried forward from his experience with this casting approach in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.39 An understanding of Dylan’s surrealist and socially incisive approach to film justifies a detailed explication of this obscure and demanding project. The plot, such as it is, seems to have two main strands. The first concerns “Bob Dylan,” played by Ronnie Hawkins. He first appears arriving at a concert, to be interviewed by “The CBC Lady,” reporter Sheila Shotton. Shotton asks him, “Can you tell me what Bob Dylan is? The true, real Bob Dylan?” He responds, “A hero of the highest order.” Her wording here is particularly interesting, in that she asks “what” Bob Dylan is, not “who.” But when she asks him why he would say that, the scene changes to a hotel room, in which “Bob Dylan” courts the future “Mrs. Dylan” (Ronee Blakley), by giving her an eager, though cliché‑ridden, speech about wanting to take her on the road during his upcoming tour, explaining that her father wouldn’t approve, so there’s no need to ask him. “You’re not gonna be happy on the farm,” he tells her. Later, “Bob Dylan” attempts to enter a cabaret, at which Allen Ginsberg is one of the performers, but ends up in a contest of wills with a security guard played by Mick Ronson. What may be a related story line includes “The Musician” played by Rob Stoner as a greaser‑style rock star, who fights with “The Girlfriend” (Ruth Tyrangiel, later known to have been Dylan’s common‑law wife)40 about life on the road. “The Musician” is later seen complaining to Renaldo (Bob Dylan) about his being a rock ’n’ roll innovator, one who’s been copied, by everyone, but can no longer get decent gigs. This story line closes with “Bob Dylan” and “Mrs. Dylan” completing a smiling interview with the CBC Lady. The second, more complicated storyline provides the title, and fills much of the second half of the movie. Several women who surround Renaldo are shown in unclear timelines. Joan Baez, as “Woman in White” is first seen in several unexplained shots riding in a horse‑drawn carriage, wearing the white of her appellation and holding a red rose. She is later seen, in a parallel with Les Enfants du Paradis, not in white but bright red tight pants, with the escaped con Lefkezio (Harry Dean Stanton) who has traded a horse for her



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(recall the scene from Eat the Document, in which Robertson offers a man to trade his coat for his girlfriend). They are found kissing in a cabin near the stable by Renaldo and Clara (Sara Dylan), who then leave. The Woman in White tells Lefkezio in a heavy fake accent, “I tried to make him happy. There was no way,” presumably discussing Renaldo. A pair of women who could be Joan Baez and Sara Dylan, as opposed to characters in the drama, are then seen in slips painting their nails. As this sequence proceeds, it becomes apparent they are whores, along with Helena (Helena Kallianiotes). During these scenes, the brothel is visited by a father (Allen Ginsberg) and his son (David Mansfield). In the ensuing conversation, Baez’s character tells the son, “Your father is a famous homosexual!” But later, while Helena reads a passage from La Vita Nuova (written by Dante, an Italian poet from the thirteenth century) and complains about a tardy lover, whom she once threatened to expose (could that be Renaldo, as well?), Baez turns to Sara (Clara?) and asks, in the fake accent of the Woman in White, if she had ever had a different name. Finding out she had, the Woman in White adds that she used to be involved with a man, and that possibly Sara’s character knew him, too. This scene then cuts to the Woman in White, in the carriage, arriving at an apartment building. Inside, she confronts Renaldo and Clara, a mystifying situation in which at times all three are together on the bed in various positions of affection. It is a scene that echoes the climactic events of Les Enfants du Paridis, with the love triangle resolving itself in a boudoir. The women end up bonding over Renaldo’s inability to make a decision, but then the Woman in White leaves, and Clara embraces Renaldo, telling him the Woman in White is “probably barren.” It is at this point we actually see him applying the white face paint that has characterized the concert scenes. Thus we are left to believe that this is probably all in the past, and somehow both women have been brought to the same brothel in the present timeline. In what may or may not be part of this tale, we finally see Bob Dylan (Renaldo?) and Bob Neuwirth (sometimes known as “The Masked Tortilla”) buying train tickets. Neuwirth is flirting with a woman, inviting her to join them, and she asks Dylan/Renaldo, “Did you buy me a ticket?” The efforts in Renaldo and Clara to trace multiple narrative threads, and to rely on a large ensemble cast to stage these, are common to then‑cutting‑edge Hollywood cinema of Shepard’s future collaborator, Robert Altman. Wood describes him as a director who was “in” in 1975, garnering “favorable reviews” for films that embraced the central themes of “disintegration and breakdown” that fit with the American cinema of Britton’s characterization quoted above.41 One way to make sense of Renaldo and Clara, as difficult a task as that is for the viewer, is to consider it an experi-

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mental extension of aesthetic approaches then being explored by leading directors in Hollywood. Unsuccessful though this experiment may be, given the finished product, two of its distinctive, related elements are the use of music and the emphasis on self‑reference that trades on the star‑image construct described above. The music during these scenes adds to the psychosexual drama. As the Woman in White hesitates outside of Renaldo and Clara’s door, Dylan sings “Sara” in the background (with the line, about “Writing ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ for you”). As the confrontation escalates, we hear and see Joan Baez singing Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne,” then doing a duet with Dylan of “Never Let Me Go.” As Renaldo applies the paint to his face, and over a montage of Clara (Sara) in a series of various emotional reaction shots, we hear “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” This is followed by the now‑well‑known performance of “Tangled Up in Blue,” with the revised line, “All the faces we used to know, they’re an illusion to me now.” Throughout the film, there are call‑backs to Dylan’s earlier film experiences. The seemingly haphazard, but linked documentary sequences, such as a visit to Plimoth Plantation, and Dylan and Allen Ginsberg’s visit to Jack Kerouac’s grave in Lowell, Massachusetts, recall both Dont Look Back and Eat the Document. This is further developed in the second half of the film, in which Dylan’s involvement with the Rubin “Hurricane” Carter case is explored through interviews on the street outside of the Apollo Theater and Dylan talking to executives trying to get a single released quickly (since these scenes are interspersed with the Carter scenes, one must conclude it was the release of “Hurricane” he was pursuing). Meanwhile Dylan’s tortured relationship with his innovation of the rock scene and the public’s pressure on him are echoed in the scenes with “The Musician.” They are further explored through his deliberate confusion of these characters and his white‑faced stage persona, who, we are led to believe, is Renaldo but we are by no means certain of it. In the notes for the fifth Bootleg series release, Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue (the songs of which are mostly the same performances shown in the film, and in the same order), Larry “Ratso” Sloman, offers conflicting accounts of Dylan’s use of the paint during the tour: “Lowell was also the first place that Dylan donned whiteface make‑up . . . Ronee Blakely was convinced that it was a strategy to force people to look at the two most expressive areas of his face, his eyes and his mouth since the rest of his face was blanked out by the clown‑white makeup.”42 He says that he got an unclear answer from Dylan himself, but then says that Bruce Springsteen’s girlfriend asked Dylan, and was told, “I saw it once in a movie.”43 This last may be the more accurate, given the connections Renaldo and Clara has with Les Enfants du Paradis



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beyond its confrontation of lovers, including many carnival and stage scenes interspersed with intimate conversations; a Woman in White and a recurring flower; a whitefaced stage performer (a mime, though, not a singer) as well as other pervasive mask images. It is a film that Truffaut wished he had made, and it is curious to note the timing of Dylan’s uses of several of its lines: “Chance will tell” and “He has his life, I have mine”44 are recast in Blonde on Blonde’s “Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine.” “Love is so simple,” to quote a phrase, appears in “You’re a Big Girl Now.” Finally, there is an echo in “If You See Her, Say Hello” on Blood on the Tracks, about passing regards to a former lover. As noted before, he was in the midst of recording Blonde on Blonde when asked in the 1965 interview what directors he admired, only one he could name was Truffaut, suggesting an interest in French film; and the second line appears in 1974, just before he started work on Renaldo and Clara. Other elements become apparent. The gray hat is reminiscent of the one he wore in Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, while Dylan’s performances of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)” also harken back to that time, especially in the line, “He’ll teach you how to pick and choose / And how to throw the blade.”45 Renaldo and Clara was made and released more than ten years after Dylan said in the San Francisco interview that he was planning on making a film “next year,” but his description, “It’ll be just another song,” is spot on. It’s a song, though, that ultimately is too many parts to hang together. At nearly four hours, with so many separate themes and images, it exceeds the “magnitude” that Aristotle says the mind can comprehend in one sitting. In his attempt to work out imagistically and symbolically the perplexing personal entanglements he had, Dylan leaves the viewer confounded, not enlightened. The performances are either too casual and rambling to invite the audience to engage with them, as with the deli conversations, or too obviously and amateurishly staged to allow for a willing suspension of disbelief. Whatever Dylan wants to say by “rearranging all their faces, and giving them all another name” leaves us desolate, and not entertained—his rationale for performing to any audience, as he tells the Time interviewer in Dont Look Back. Renaldo and Clara should, by many measures, have convinced Dylan to leave filmmaking to professionals. Perhaps it did for some time. But the failure of Dylan’s most ambitious foray into film coincided with the rise of the home video recorder and the convenient availability of old films. While Thomas cites Dylan’s use of classical allusions throughout his most recent original releases, and much has been made of intertextual uses on “Love and Theft,” the songwriter seems to have begun his experimentation with focused

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borrowings on the albums of the early 1980s. Gray and Linwood46 each compile an extensive list of such usages. On Infidels, there is a lone movie quote in the song “Sweetheart Like You,” from the Bogart film All Through the Night, about the same rate as Dylan’s previous work. However on his next studio album, Empire Burlesque, Dylan includes more than thirty movie references. Just to be sure he has mined the vein, there are an additional ten on Knocked Out Loaded, with “Brownsville Girl” a particular standout of cinematic storytelling. The allusions on Empire Burlesque cover a wide range of cinematic history, even, as Heylin cites,47 an episode of Star Trek,48 but the bulk of the borrowings originally appeared in film noir of the 1940s and ’50s, and of these, a considerable number come from still more Bogart films, especially 1941’s The Maltese Falcon. For example, in one scene of the movie, Spade is holding two cops at bay at his door and one says, “We want to talk.” Spade answers, “Go ahead and talk.” These lines appear nearly verbatim in the album’s opening track, “Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anyone Seen My Love).” This song also has lines that can be traced to the 1965 film High Wind in Jamaica, starring James Coburn. It is interesting to note that both Coburn and Maltese Falcon’s co‑star Elisha Cook Jr. appear in Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and now return together in this welcoming opening shot. Gray writes at length regarding the album’s film connections, and not kindly: “what, in the end, do they achieve?” he asks, suggesting that in fact the answer is nothing. “They end up,” he continues, “woven into the opaque songs of ‘Empire Burlesque’ because the bored, middle‑aged Bob Dylan, to whom little seems vivid, has been watching them late at night in the pallid glow of the TV set, for lack of anything more purposive to do to fill up his time.”49 Certainly, Dylan was bored, but he hadn’t stopped trying to find new creative practices. From the perspective of Dylan’s further practice of using intertextuality as a means to refract American culture to a new audience, seems short‑sighted. While Gray is correct to note that the album never seems to be a “critique of Hollywood’s ‘golden age,’”50 it does satirize and question aspects of the larger American presence in the world. In “Clean Cut Kid” (another song redolent in movie lore), Dylan writes, He went to Hollywood to see Peter O’Toole He stole a Rolls‑Royce and drove it in a swimming pool.51

Like Spielberg’s movies of the 1970s and early 1980s, which grounded their fantastical stories in the banality of suburbia by making prominent universally‑familiar ads and products, “Clean Cut Kid” directs the listener to focus on the horrors of PTSD by setting the kid’s wild and unpredictable actions in the most familiar of settings. The purpose is not to explore films in



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and of themselves, but to use them as landmarks on a broader landscape he is struggling to comprehend. Far from the romantically‑cruel image of Dylan half‑asleep watching the Late Late Show, which in any case wouldn’t provide in such a short time quite so many Bogie flicks, here we see Dylan using videotapes (long before the internet provided even faster and easier access) to search for examples of “constitutional replays of mass production” for a new kind of folk music. To be sure, his nascent composition process is not fully formed or directed, as he will later achieve with his twenty-first century recordings, but it is the first flicker of an idea that would take on greater facility in the coming years, as we show in chapter 4.

ALICE, LEAR, AND JOLSON: DISRUPTIONS OF NATURALISTIC FILM AND MASKED AND ANONYMOUS On the album Desire, Dylan offered another cinematic multi‑narrative in “Black Diamond Bay,” co‑written with Jacques Levy. Here, the story revolves around a woman, who is desperate to leave her past behind (“Her passport shows a face / From another time and place / She looks nothing like that”),52 a suicidal Greek, a loser betting on one last spin of the wheels, and a soldier who buys an expensive ring from a tiny man who may or may not be in love with him. The cinematic sweep of characters in the exotic setting, beneath the cone of an erupting volcano, impels us toward an unexpected climax. In a world where desk clerks wear fezzes and lightning strikes at perfectly‑timed moments, where Greeks can be mistaken for Soviet ambassadors, and losers can win it all at the spin of the wheel, Dylan focuses our attention on a Hollywood‑influenced version of tragedy. Marshaling his characters much as a director commands his actors, Dylan enacts editing techniques by way of an unusual delivery on the lines that starts with an aggressive attack on the first half of the line, then sliding into a recumbent attitude, almost like a person running across an ice rink, only to have his feet fly out from under him. For example, as the unnamed leading actress of the drama is knocking on the Greek’s door, Dylan sings “But the Greek said, go away and he kicked” in a forceful driving fashion, while the complement of the verb “the chair to the floor”53 slides out, enacting the smooth and deadly action in a single breath. Dylan introduces an innovation to the song in the final stanza, where the third‑person omniscient point of view, the impersonal documentary camera, suddenly zooms out from Black Diamond Bay and then zooms in to the first‑person description of the singer watching the aftermath of the disaster as

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reported by “old Cronkite on the seven o’clock news.”54 In a sly commentary on the “if it bleeds, it leads” attitude of television news, the suddenly personal narrator tells us, after getting another unsympathetic beer, “Seems like every time you turn around / There’s another hard‑luck story that you’re gonna hear,” ending with the tossed‑off line, “And I never did plan to go anyway / To Black Diamond Bay.”55 The result is that the pathos of the narrative we have just witnessed, those of a woman escaping her past and dying in a lava flow, of a suicide who would have died a moment later anyhow, and a loser who broke the bank at a time when he wouldn’t be able to spend a cent of it, are reduced to a sound‑bite than can just as easily be forgotten. This kinetic change of perspective that closes “Black Diamond Bay,” one that disrupts the listener’s passive reception of the narrative, reflects evolving approaches to on-screen performance since the start of Dylan’s career. While his early stage performances were generally static, simply him standing in front of the mic with his guitar held close like a shield and his harp in its holster, offstage he was a more active performer. In radio interviews from this period, he spins yarns about the denizens of the freak show he worked at, apparently from the time he turned thirteen,56 or how he was ten years old when he first saw Woody Guthrie perform in Burbank, California.57 Here, we see him trying on a succession of costumes concocted from an old trunk, much as he does in Cohen’s silent movie. He is learning how to joust with his interviewers, a skill that he will take to a whole other level in the infamous 1965 press conference in San Francisco. Dylan’s curated persona must have been intriguing enough, for in 1963 he was invited to star in a British television play, Madhouse on Castle Street. While footage of the play no longer exists, the reports are of an unmitigated disaster in regards to Dylan’s acting ability: The lead role he was supposed to perform was hastily rewritten so that the speaking parts would be taken over by the actor David Warner, while Dylan essentially played himself, singing four songs as a kind of commentary on the action. This was one of the earliest performances of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” though he had performed it on Studs Terkel’s radio show in April or May of that year.58 While Madhouse may have been a failure, perhaps it hastened Dylan’s leaving the folk scene. It certainly allowed him to try on yet another mask that was more comfortable to wear in England than in America. After fraying his connection to the happenings in Greenwich Village to their breaking point, his purely folk concerts saw their demise in his 1965 tour of England. Chronicled in Pennebaker’s Dont Look Back, Dylan’s shedding of his folk ways, at least offstage, is seen in a series of combative interviews. Early on, he embodies the absurdist sage, playing with a large plastic toy and intoning, “Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb.”59 In conversations with



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fans, he is alternately friendly, as when the young girl complains about his playing with a band: “Don’t you think my friends deserve a job?” and cruelly abusive, as seen in his cat‑like playing with the college student: “You know that was all lies, lies and rubbish.”60 Even in the less public arenas of hotel rooms and car rides, Dylan puts on a performance. For example, there is the charming boy who meets the High Sheriff’s Lady, answering her invitation to her house with the gift of one of his harmonicas. Soon thereafter, though, is the bizarre drama of the thrown glass. Accused of having dropped a glass out the window, Dylan goes on a rampage tracking down the actual malefactor. He confronts a young man, possibly in room-neighbor Donovan’s entourage: “I don’t care who did it, I just want to know who did it,” he declares. When a hotel official arrives, Dylan tells him, “We’ll find out who did it. Actually, we won’t find out, but we’ll take care of it.” The fight apparently over, Donovan plays a song for Dylan and his friends. Dylan appears to be interested in his singing, then offers to play a song himself. His intense delivery of “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” leaves Donovan cowed, gamely smiling. Having quited the performance of his guest, Dylan leaves no question as to who is in charge. Glass or no glass, something has been shattered. As Dylan ends his tour, Pennebaker catches him reading a story about himself in a newspaper that calls him an anarchist. After contemplating whether it’s worse to be a communist or an anarchist, Dylan declares that, since England is a communist country, the only insult they could hurl at him is that one. He’s last heard reflecting, “I feel like I’ve been through some kind of thing . . . I need a cigarette. Give the anarchist a cigarette!” Less than two months later, Dylan lived up to that label, sowing chaos in Newport by plugging in his amps. Though Peter Yarrow lured him back to play an acoustic number for the raging, confused fans, it was the same “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” that he had used to crush Donovan. The break with his former milieu was unmistakable. Having outgrown the confines of the world that had nurtured him, Dylan needed to break free from it, leaving it in shards, leaving it to those who stayed behind to piece the fragments back together. For the next several months, Dylan’s hybrid acoustic (though not folk) and electric sets burned a trail across the United States, from New York to Los Angeles, to Texas. The barnstorming continued then along the Eastern seaboard and New England, into the Midwest and Canada, and back to California. He played nearly forty shows in four months, while simultaneously recording furiously, laying down the first tracks of Blonde on Blonde, and writing his first book, Tarantula. He had recently been married, as well.61 The pace was brutal, and perhaps its toll on Dylan was most publicly recogniz-

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able in the infamous press conference he did in San Francisco on December 3. While bits of the interview are prominent in No Direction Home, those shots of Dylan honing his well‑known contempt for journalists belie his more nuanced reactions to questions. To be sure, the Dylan who appeared that day bore little patience for crass questions like “What is your message?” and “If you were going to sell out to commercial interests, which one would you choose?”62 (“Ladies garments,” Dylan says. He finally made good on his promise by selling Victoria’s Secret underwear in 2004.) During the press conference, Dylan adopts two modes of speech that clearly signify his attitude toward one question or another. He uses the more familiar clowning or ironic tone and dimpled grin to dismiss questions he finds insulting: “How would you define folk music?” (“Constitutional replays of mass production.”) He skewers the protest movement by describing his own plan to picket the post office with signs bearing pictures of playing cards and words plucked from objects in front of him: “camera” and “microphone.” It’s clear that many if not all of the interviewers were in on the joke, given the laughter that arises when one journalist asks him if he writes on inspiration and he responds, “I more or less write on a lot of things.” And in fact Larry Hankin and Allen Ginsburg ask what seem to be planted questions, adding to the comic routine of the event. But when he is asked something more to his liking, he gives thoughtful, if unusual, answers. The tone is signaled by an even, straight tone of voice: Interviewer: What poets do you dig? Dylan: Rimbaud . . . W.C. Fields . . . the trapeze family in the circus, Smokey Robinson, Allen Ginsberg . . . Charlie Rich is a good poet.63

He also gives sincere‑sounding answers when he’s asked about crafting his songs and discussing the difficulty of saying exactly what he’s reaching for, but that at least some songs “touch it.” Asked whether the words or the music are more important, he answers, “there would be no music without the words.” More than half a century later, Dylan stills maintains such a belief, saying in his Nobel Lecture, “But songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read.”64 Dylan toggles between the two in a dizzying fashion, giving as thoughtful a performance, one responsive to his audience, as any musical performance. Indeed, he elaborates on how he had ended his last “program” of concerts on his last tour of England: “I knew it was going to end.” When asked what his upcoming movie project would be about, he said, cryptically, “It’ll be just another song.” Indeed, many of his film appearances take on the surrealistic attitude of many of his songs.



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Dylan began his more serious experimentation with film the following year, when he took the Hawks on his next tour of England, during the raucous and infamous 1966 tour. With Pennebaker again in tow, loading color film in his camera, Dylan has gone beyond the ironic iconoclasm of his previous tour, filming what Heylin calls “an anti‑documentary—the antithesis of Dont Look Back.”65 No longer simply snapping his fingers like a beatnik in the background, now he sets up strange little dramas, such as the bizarre interactions with an unnamed young woman on the balcony, in which he wears a white coat and painted on mustache. The script appears to be extemporaneous, with the result of her seeming to disappear over the rail. Later, he and Robbie Robertson stalk a village, climbing roofs and then offering a young man a very indecent (and impoverished) proposal: “I’ll trade my coat for your girlfriend,” Robertson says, as Dylan leers behind him.66 The footage never saw legitimate release, with Dylan performing editing duties himself, and ABC, who had wanted the film for a TV special,67 ultimately passing on it. Dylan himself, however, said of it to Ron Rosenbaum in Playboy, “I wasn’t the maker of that film, either. I was . . . the victim. They had already shot film, but at that time, of course . . . if I hadn’t gotten into that motorcycle accident, they would have broadcast it, and that would have been that. But . . . I was taken out of it, you know.”68 However, the illicit copy, known as Eat the Document, does provide tantalizing glimpses of Dylan’s new onstage persona, that of a jittery, aching crooner who now writhes at the microphone stand, with his hands cupped around his mouth. We get to see his jeering wave toward the infamous “Judas!” at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, and his whole body seems to thrum with the electricity of the second act sets with the Hawks. He is mysteriously animated, every piece of him in motion, the personification of that “thin, wild, mercury sound” he was striving for. Following the filming efforts for Eat the Document, Dylan’s next two film‑based performances were those we discuss above: Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and Renaldo and Clara. Ironically, Dylan’s next film appearance (putting aside assorted cameos) in a Hollywood film never got an American release, and joined the ranks of many savaged movies that went “straight to video.” Hearts of Fire offers a glimpse of Gray’s depiction of a middle‑aged man who, by his own admission, was in fact bored at this point in his career. In Chronicles: Volume One, he says of this period: “I could see the future—an old actor fumbling in garbage cans outside the theater of past triumphs.”69 His metaphor of an actor, rather than a singer or musician, suggests the interest in film he pursued during the mid‑ to late eighties. Despite universally terrible reviews of his performance, Dylan dances through the movie with a sense of fun. His smile is quick and easy, and his lines, unlike the criticism leveled on

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him for his performance in Madhouse on Castle Street, are delivered with a performance communicating sincerity. The story itself is essentially a remake of A Star is Born (which itself had been remade a decade earlier with Barbara Streisand and Pat Garrett alum Kris Kristofferson): Dylan plays Billy Parker, a reclusive egg farmer and ex‑rocker who sees in Fiona’s Molly Maguire the talent and drive that could launch her into stardom. He convinces her to join him at an oldies show in England (“kinda like a freak show in a carnival” Billy tells her, an allusion to Dylan’s abiding interest in such shows dating back to “Desolation Row” and his interview with Cynthia Gooding), where she is “discovered” by slumping techno‑pop idol James Colt (Rupert Everett). The triangle of needs and desires becomes predictably tangled, culminating in Molly’s eventual solo career, backed by both James and Billy. Written by Joe Eszterhas and Scott Richardson and directed by Richard Marquand, Hearts of Fire is not a heavyweight addition to any genre of film, even the “rock ’n’ roll dream come true” type that gives it its structure. But through entertaining cameos from the likes of Ronnie Woods, Ian Drury, and Richie Havens (“They ain’t gonna come listen, they gonna come to see if we got fat”), and winking (sometimes literally) nods to real life, Dylan is able to provide that quintessential element, entertainment. Though no one would have laughed too hard at the time to Billy’s understanding that he was “never one of those rock ’n’ roll singers that was going to win the NO‑bel prize,” other details such as Dylan’s waking up in a big brass bed, his uttering the immortal line from Marquand’s Return of the Jedi, “It’s a trap!” and the viewer’s fear that he will actually join Molly as she’s skinny‑dipping (he doesn’t: he leaps into the water fully dressed), shepherd the film along the established path of its predecessors. In an early scene, one of those nods to the past is that the rural Pennsylvania movie theater is playing Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. At first it seems like a cute joke, almost expected, but it carries deeper implications. Besides the direct connection to Kristofferson that has already been noted, it reminds the viewer of the mentor/protégé dynamic that went so horribly wrong between the Kid and Garrett, introducing the likelihood that such a dynamic is about to be played out again. It also reminds us that now Billy (literally) is the elder in this case, while Molly Maguire (also named for outlaws, here a secret society active in disputes with Pennsylvania coal mining companies) is the up and comer. In a poignant scene, Billy tells Molly about what rock ’n’ roll did to him, telling her the story of his manager who was “like a father” to him, until he ran off with Billy’s wife. Dylan’s habit of self‑allusion gets further play in Hearts of Fire. There’s a leap‑frogging quality to the way images repeat over the course of various



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media in his work. Peckinpah’s image of half‑buried chickens used for target practice in juxtaposition with the murder of Pat Garrett is reconstituted here in Billy Parker’s egg farm (and a precursor to Dylan’s lending his song “All I Really Want to Do” to a free‑range egg commercial), where the birds literally rule the roost, strutting where they please. Billy, in a scene where he’s mentor not just to Molly, but also to Colt, who is lost (as Dylan was at the time) without a creative impulse, tells him, “You’re gonna have to find yourself a crash,” a clear reference to the still‑unexplained motorcycle accident of 1966. Twice he refers to his 1985 movie‑focused Empire Burlesque: first, in the skinny‑dipping scene, he says, to Molly, “I want to talk to you,” to which she responds, “So talk,” a clipped version of the lines cribbed from Maltese Falcon in “Tight Connection to My Heart.” The second comes late in the movie, when they are all gathered at Colt’s estate recording Molly’s album. One night, Billy and Colt watch a live performance of “When the Night Comes Falling from the Sky.” Dylan’s return to this album (of which more later) suggests that he does not consider it the throwaway collection of half‑baked songs that others claim it is, but in fact a repository of several ideas he continues to work through. The castigation resulting from Dylan’s performance in Hearts of Fire, both on-screen and on record (he wrote only half of the four songs he sings in the film, and the better performances are of the ones he didn’t pen: John Hiatt’s “The Usual,” which is used as Parker’s signature tune, and Shel Silverstein’s “A Couple More Years”) may have helped put his Hollywood dreams on the shelf for some time. The film references that had dominated 1985’s Empire Burlesque and 1986’s Knocked Out Loaded ceased to be used as creative grist on 1987’s Down in the Groove, an album of Americana‑influenced acoustic performances of covers and collaborations culled from a number of recording sessions dating back to Infidels.70 Some of them had been outtakes from the Hearts of Fire sessions, but the film connections end there. It wouldn’t be until Masked and Anonymous that Dylan fully and triumphantly tied the threads together to produce a successful filmic vision. Sometime in the 1990s, after having watched a slew of Jerry Lewis movies, Dylan contacted Larry Charles with an idea to star in a surrealist sitcom, an idea that they sold to HBO before Dylan changed his mind.71 But Charles, deciding that he was “on the Bob Dylan train”72 continued to work with Dylan until they collaborated on the project that became Masked and Anonymous, a film they wrote together (as Sergei Petrov and Rene Fontaine) and that incorporated many of the motifs and self‑referential misdirections Dylan had experimented with in his previous film excursions. Shorter and more focused than Renaldo and Clara, Masked and Anonymous shares many motifs and structural qualities with the earlier movie, but through the use of more

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professional and polished actors such as John Goodman, Jessica Lange, and Jeff Bridges, and a more fully‑realized narrative, the later movie is far more accessible. If we consider Dylan’s goal of bringing people to see a performance that will provide “entertainment,” then it is also far more successful. As with Renaldo and Clara, the 2003 film mixes documentary footage, scripted (though cryptic) scenes, and live performance. The use of flashbacks and multi‑temporal narratives connects them as well. But where the line between documentary and scripted performances is too broken to be of any use in Renaldo and Clara, now, through the use of recognizable performers and anonymous stock footage of violence and war, we can appreciate the juxtapositions for what they are. The live performances are also shot on a closed stage, as opposed to the rollicking clips from the Rolling Thunder Revue. The most distinctive aspect of Masked and Anonymous in terms of Dylan’s body of work, however, is the way that Charles (presumably in consultation with Dylan, as Jeff Rosen, Dylan’s business manager, is listed as producer on the film) uses cinematographic and editing techniques that rupture our sense, as audience members, that we are witnessing events in times and spaces that straightforwardly mirror our own reality. The key techniques used in most mainstream Hollywood cinema to convey a naturalistic world on-screen, inviting viewers to “forget” the intervening apparatus of the screen and engage the filmic representations as if we are directly witnessing them, are continuity cutting, eyeline matching, and respect of the “180º rule.” As Kolker describes, when used in conjunction, these techniques that developed in the early days of American cinema allow the cuts from shot to shot within a film text to be yoked to “natural” responses on-screen to looks and actions and “natural” movements among living things and objects, with the effect that we do not experience the cuts as “cuts” but as lived engagement with the events on-screen.73 In Masked and Anonymous, by contrast, we find the cuts routinely exposed for us as viewers, highlighted rather than effaced. Shots are edited together in ways that render the three‑dimensional on-screen space in disjointed ways, and our sense of linear time is also violated. This is true in subtle ways throughout the film, but the most obvious exemplar is the scene in which Jack Fate meets the animal lover, played by Val Kilmer: our sense of time and space is repeatedly interrupted by cuts, from shot to shot, that jolt us out of a transparent experience of the scene, especially in its final thirty seconds. The choice to use cinematic techniques that agitate us as viewers and repeatedly remind us that we are witnessing a constructed text is rooted in leading‑edge cinema in the period of Dylan’s career when he was emerging as a star. His early experiences with cinema involved connecting with Pennebaker, a member of the Direct Cinema documentary film movement that



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sought to innovate the range and treatment of film material, as Lee notes.74 His stardom was contemporaneous with that of Jean‑Luc Godard, famous for using an “anti‑illusionist method” of cinema according to Wood.75 In framing a 1978 interview with Dylan, Cott connects Renaldo and Clara’s aesthetic to the French New Wave associated with Godard, and in that same interview Dylan professes an admiration for both Godard and another New Wave director, Luis Buñuel.76 The disruption of our sense that the world of Masked and Anonymous is “natural” combines with a focus on Dylan’s star‑image and on the consistent shifting of narrative perspectives and lines to form the three primary elements of the film itself—making this the film text most representative of Dylan’s cinematic work. Masked and Anonymous is set in a third‑world America, ruled by a dying dictator, whose son, Jack Fate (Dylan) has just been released from prison to perform at a concert to benefit “the real victims” of the revolution. The money, however, is destined for the pockets of Uncle Sweetheart (Goodman), an opportunistic promoter whose initials suggest the corporate takeover that led to the collapse of the country as we know it into the banana republic that is depicted on-screen. During the preparations for the concert, which is set against a carnival atmosphere (complete with magician, historical impersonators, and a petting zoo), reminiscent of the Rolling Thunder Revue, we meet a series of characters who clearly symbolize moments and motifs from Dylan’s past: Tom Friend (Bridges) is every hectoring journalist who has tried to impose their interpretations on Dylan; Nina Veronica (Lange) as the liaison between the all‑powerful Network that will broadcast the concert and Uncle Sweetheart (“will his songs be recognizable?” she asks); and the shadow brother Edmund (Mickey Rourke), the real power in the dictatorship. Through flashbacks, we come to realize that Fate is not only the son of the dictator, but that his fall from grace occurred through his relationship with his father’s mistress (Angela Bassett), echoing the psychosexual games seen in Renaldo and Clara. However, the concert is doomed from the beginning, and as the dictator dies, bringing a monstrous Edmund into official power, Fate’s friend Bobby Cupid (Luke Wilson) murders Friend, an act that Fate takes responsibility for, sending him back to jail (or worse) amid renewed violence in the country. So much for a manageable storyline. The intertextual and symbolic meanings, however, are no easier to grasp than in any other of Dylan’s performances. The resonances within the film and beyond it form a broken trail of interpretive possibilities. Following up on multiple references on “Love and Theft,” there is an extended series of connections to Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, through Val Kilmer’s cuddling a white rabbit and listing “slithy toves” among his catalogue of animals. Leading up to the climactic scene, Fate and

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his band perform “Drifter’s Escape,” a song in which a character who doesn’t even know what he’s done wrong is on trial for his life. The absurdities, and even the rhythm, recall Alice’s visit to the Wonderland courtroom. Consider these lines from the song about the aggrieved judge: “You fail to understand,” he said “Why must you even try?”77

and these from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: “You ought to have finished,” said the King, “When did you begin?”78 “You must remember,” said the King, “or I’ll have you executed.”79 “Never mind!” said the King, with an air of great relief.80

In the song, Dylan employs dactyls to fit the music. Carroll’s syllabic distribution doesn’t always quite fit that, though it is easy to imagine Dylan making a phrase like “You ought to have finished” fit just as easily. The dialogue tags in each also add to the narrative tone common to the songs. Finally, both the drifter and Alice escape the Kafka‑esque machinations by the luck of a fateful accident, in one the lightning strike, in the other, Alice’s sudden reversion to her true size. In a discussion with Bobby Cupid about the lyrics, Uncle Sweetheart says, “What strikes you is the Jekyll and Hyde quality. The song is written from Hyde’s point of view.” By invoking another nineteenth century novelist who appeals to young readers, Robert Louis Stevenson, one who shares a homophonic name, the writers provide yet another kaleidoscopic view of both the song and Carroll’s book. Sweetheart’s further analysis, “It’s not like those other songs of his, the ones about faithless women and booze and brothels and the cruelty of society” reflects, as in Alice’s looking‑glass world, not to an actual song, but the climactic moments of Renaldo and Clara (more connections to mirrors will be discussed below). A final homage to Alice, which brings Nina Veronica into the web of connections, is a radio report that the “world’s deepest hole” has been dug in Trenton, and that a microphone lowered into it revealed “the sounds of millions of suffering souls.” Alice’s initial descent into the madness of Wonderland, where the souls are all mad and suffering in their own ways, seems to take forever. The distance, according to her reckoning, is many miles, up to four thousand.81 While we may feel as though we have already lost our minds in Fate’s vision of America, the Trenton hole warns us, terrifyingly, we can always lose a little more. Writers Petrov/Dylan and Fontaine/Charles draw their characters from across the spectrum of performance art, from the frankly symbolic personifications of fifteenth century morality plays (Jack Fate, Tom Friend,



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Pagan Lace) to Shakespeare (Prospero, Edmund, Edgar, Nina Valentine) to antiquity (Bacchus, Bobby Cupid, Nestor). Leeder identifies the blackface performer Oscar Vogel (Ed Harris) as a reference to Al Jolson’s character in The Jazz Singer, Jack Robin, through which lens he explores Dylan’s debts to both the minstrel legacy and film to the very first “talkie.”82 Each of these characters invites a radically different reading of the text in terms of allusions and associations. As Smethurst points out, “it is a sort of hall of mirrors or masks that has you bouncing from one association to another (and one level of association to another).”83 One could set out on this ocean of allusions and never get back to port. Instead, we will avoid drifting too far from shore and follow some sturdy through‑lines that reach back through the films in this immediate discussion. In keeping with his closed, but by no means impermeable, system of references, Dylan completes the cycle of images that float through his previous screen appearances. The script is dense with snippets and phrases from Dylan’s song catalogue, as is the Network’s programming board, which includes such shows as “Empire Burlesque,” “(The) Hurricane (Show),” and “Jokerman.” Larry Charles points out that in each of his costume changes, Tom Friend appears in Bob Dylan attire, either in his public disguise of khakis and hoodie, or the tab collar and boots of the 1966 tour documented in Eat the Document.84 The chickens that died and were reborn in Pat Gar‑ rett and Hearts of Fire turn into, as Lhamon notes, a minstrel show gag with the “Man Eating Chicken,”85 and the Greek chorus from Renaldo and Clara become the crew (Christian Slater and Chris Penn), whose commentary are no more illuminating than before, but easier to follow for their succinctness. “The Punch” resolves into a quick jab to the groin of Tom Friend, seen in a long camera shot, perhaps too anti‑climactic to have an impact. A recurring line referring to “stinking passports” is a close‑enough formulation to bring Bogart into the picture (Judith Smith notes that “Jack Fate’s frequent direct address to ‘Sweetheart’ ventriloquizes Bogart’s noir detective.”86 Mirror scenes appear in pivotal moments in both Renaldo and Clara and Masked and Anonymous. In the earlier film, the climax of the confrontation with The Woman in White and Renaldo and Clara results in her leaving, while the title characters each begin to put on makeup. For Clara, it is bright red lipstick, which she applies while telling Renaldo how much she loves him. Meanwhile, Renaldo is silent, watching himself in the mirror while he applies the white face paint we have seen him wearing throughout the film. Except for the montage of Clara’s emotional faces that immediately follows, it is the last time Renaldo is seen with either of the women that have pursued him over the course of the film, as if the paint symbolizes a barrier between him and (the) women. Significantly, in this context, the barrier is the same

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color as Joan Baez’s character’s signature look; though Sara Dylan doesn’t appear again, Dylan (in white face paint) and Baez (in a bright red cowboy hat), are seen on stage, performing “Just Like a Woman.” In this performance, Dylan lays particular emphasis on the last word of the chorus: “She breaks like a little gir‑irl‑lll!”87 In a convoluted series of images, could this be representative of Dylan’s resolution of his marriage to Sara, in favor, not of Baez, but performance in general? Or does Baez, in her red hat, represent the combination of the two women into a unified whole? Similarly, in Masked and Anonymous, Jack Fate, just before the doomed benefit concert, stands in his trailer, shaving. Spots of soap suggest the face paint, but here he is removing it. While he looks into the mirror, whose border is covered with movie idol photos, Tom Friend comes in for one last harangue. While Fate holds a straight razor to his 1930s‑style pencil mustache, with a lot of nerve Friend leans in angrily. His snarling assault of rhetorical questions builds to a fever pitch, until Fate, resigned, turns and pushes him away. The gesture seems to be a surprise to both. Friend backs off, uttering the recurring line, “I’m on your side.” Fate, on the other hand, steps back, his hands dropping to his sides, uncertain how to proceed. The tension broken, Fate is able to regain his composure, his Dylan cool, but from here on, the tone of the film is changed. Moments later, Friend will try to kill Uncle Sweetheart, Fate will intervene and hold a bottle to Friend’s neck, and Bobby Cupid will provide the coup de grâce, slicing Friend’s throat with the remains of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s guitar. The symbolism here, of Dylan’s revenge on the press that has hounded him throughout his career, the “Mr. Jones” characters who have presumed to speak for him, the ones he complains of in the 1965 interview, is unavoidable. That the final blow is done by a different character is immaterial; Bobby Cupid is partially named for Dylan, and his weapon of choice reminds us that Dylan sang Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” on his debut album. Also notable is that the deed is done to protect the scheming Uncle Sweetheart. Sweetheart is no doubt in the business for himself, and many of his actions are unjustified, including the assault on Pagan Lace that precipitates the final sequence here. But Uncle Sweetheart (U.S.) also made Jack Fate who he is, and his influence allowed Fate to see his father before he died. In short, Sweetheart, too, for all his faults, is a father‑figure to Fate. Here, through his initials, he symbolizes the country itself, the one worth fighting for despite its flaws. The one Dylan, through his myriad art projects, continues to speak up for and defend. In each scene, Dylan’s character seems to be making a concerted decision regarding his circle of friends and other strangers, using the application or removal of facial covering to arrive at the same destination: a break with the



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relationships that, instead of solace, have provided unbearable tension, even remorse. Either way, it brings a release that allows him to act, if not as himself, at least for himself. The carnival hall of mirrors unfolds one more problematic element at this point. In a bizarre twist, Fate comes face to face with Oscar Vogel (Ed Harris). The ghost of the favorite performer of Fate’s father, Vogel is a blackface minstrel. If Renaldo’s white paint distanced him from his audience, what would the epitome of racist appropriation do, not only for Jack Fate, but for Dylan and Harris as well? Only a decade before, Ted Danson had infamously appeared in blackface at the Friar’s Club roast of his lover Whoopi Goldberg. Despite her defense of him,88 the vast majority of the press was negative. Roger Ebert described the audience’s reaction: “They cringed in disbelief.”89 To take this step in a film, one would hope, must have taken great deliberation on the parts of all involved. Leedom explores Vogel’s appearance in depth, noting, as stated above, his connection to Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer, while Lhamon discusses the shock of the choice, and that, both for the character Vogel and real life performers, blackface “is a form of suicide.”90 Yet it is Vogel, like Lear’s Fool (already suggested by the dictator’s successor Edmund and his associate Edgar), who speaks truth to power (and like the Fool, disappears mysteriously) on the film commentary, Larry Charles notes that when Fate looks back, he sees not Vogel, but the African‑American janitor. “Was it real? Was it not? Was it a dream?”91 The questions are left unanswered. The placement of this scene in juxtaposition to Fate’s mirror scene, though, is clearly intentional. It emphasizes the liberty (and bondage) bestowed by masks of all sorts. Lott, whose book Love and Theft provides the basis for Dylan’s album released two years previous, and in its binary balance even suggests the title of this film, writes, “The black mask offered a way to play with collective fears of a degraded and threatening—and male—Other while at the same time maintaining symbolic control over them.”92 Throughout Masked and Anonymous, Dylan, as cowriter Sergei Petrov, is giving voice to a range of fears, from corporate‑controlled government to his being branded “the voice of a generation.” While neither Renaldo nor Fate speaks during their mirror scenes, Vogel discusses using his forum of the stage to speak out against Fate’s father. “I had a forum,” he says. “So I spoke out. It’s not what goes into the mouth. It’s what comes out that counts.” Fate appears mesmerized, literally echoing the words of Vogel, turning the scene into a mystical experience, wherein Fate receives the truth from beyond. Throughout Masked and Anonymous, there is a tension between the powerful and the weak, between truth and silence, between black and white. There are constant reminders of America’s fraught inability to overcome the difficult, often toxic relationship of races, not only in Vogel’s appearance, but also

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in the display of the Confederate flag and Dylan’s performance of “Dixie” (itself a fraught song, having been written as a minstrel song by northern performer Dan Emmett, then [re]claimed by southerners as an anthem).93 At the same same time, caucasian Mrs. Brown (Susan Traylor, Bob Dylan’s daughter‑in‑law), has a daughter who is African‑American (Tinashe), who, in her red shirt, blue overalls with pink appliqué, and carrying a silver pistol with pearl handles, suggests the living embodiment of the young girl in “A Hard Rain’s A‑Gonna Fall” “who gave me a rainbow,” the only positive image in that song. Dylan frequently collaborates with actors and musicians over the course of many projects. In Masked and Anonymous, he strengthens those bonds through association, if not actual bodies. For example, Jeff Bridges and John Goodman appeared together in The Big Lebowski, playing characters not entirely dissimilar from their characters here. This film contains the iconic scene in which Bridge’s “The Dude” flies to the strains of “The Man in Me.” Harry Dean Stanton often appeared alongside the singer (Luke in Pat Gar‑ rett, Lefkevio in Renaldo and Clara, and the music bootlegger in the video for Dylan’s “Dreamin’ of You”), but not here. However, a prominent cameo goes to Tracey Walter (desk clerk) who costarred with Stanton in 1984’s Repo Man. Similarly, while Sam Shepard (Renaldo and Clara, and cowriter of “Brownsville Girl,” one of Dylan’s most cinematic songs) doesn’t appear, his long‑time companion Jessica Lange is one of the stars. These associations split into a kaleidoscope of images reflected and refracting what the viewer expects, resolving into an often frustrating lack of coherence, yet simultaneously allowing for a satisfyingly rich experience. Masked and Anonymous succeeds not as a narrative, but as an opportunity for Dylan to comment on a culture in ways that songwriting and singing are too limited. While his narrative songs (notably “Brownsville Girl” and “Black Diamond Bay”) convey a broad array of characters, motivations, and interpretations, the addition of visual cues allows him to weave a denser field of allusion and resonance. The soundtrack has nearly thirty Dylan songs, yet most are performed by a collection of international singers, and many of them are heard here in other languages. Those that Dylan performs himself, with the Jack Fate cover band “Simple Twist of Fate,” are radically changed from their original performances. One of those, “I’ll Remember You,” brings Dylan’s Empire Burlesque onto the screen, even if Gray calls it a “sorry pop‑song.”94 Slow and tender, it plays over a series of lonesome scenes, such as Nina Veronica sadly masturbating and flashbacks of Jack Fate’s father visiting his mistress. Its use here allows Dylan to resolve his contentious film career (he hasn’t appeared in anything save some music videos since). Through



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the tearful last visit (it’s not quite a reconciliation) with his father, Fate/Dylan comes to some sort of terms with his heritage as a son, as a performer, as the inheritor of a tradition both American and global. If a dictator is the embodiment of a country (“L’état, c’est moi”), then we can look at Jack’s otherwise challenging desire to see the father who exiled him (“I’m tired of not seeing him,” he tells the mistress, in heartfelt tones) as a form of Dylan confronting the country that has always been both a refuge and a torment to him. In his role as purveyor of tradition, even to those who don’t always want to hear the truth, Dylan uses the medium of film to hold a mirror up to society, not to savage it, but to save it.

NOTES  1. Scorsese, No Direction Home; Thomas, Why Bob Dylan Matters, 52–55.  2. Stephen Prince, Savage Cinema: Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998), 12–23.  3. Peter Biskind, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex‑Drugs‑and‑Rock ’n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood (New York: Touchstone, 1998), 20–21.  4. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 581.  5. Scobie, Alias Bob Dylan, 233.  6. Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One, 148.   7.  Woody Guthrie, “Danville Girl,” The Asch Recordings, Vol. 2. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Folkways, 2009.   8.  “Brownsville Girl,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1986 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/brownsville‑girl/.  9. Ibid. 10.  Elia Kazan, On the Waterfront (Culver City: Columbia. 1954). 11. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 561. 12.  Robert Mulligan, To Kill a Mockingbird, Universal City: Universal, 1962. 13.  “Under Your Spell,” written by Bob Dylan and Carol Bayer Sager. Copyright © 1986 by Special Rider Music and Carol Bayer Sager Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /under‑your‑spell/. 14.  “Brownsville Girl,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1986 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/brownsville‑girl/. 15. Ibid. 16. Ibid. 17. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 586.

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18.  “Brownsville Girl,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1986 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/brownsville‑girl/. 19. Ibid. 20. Ibid. 21. Ibid. 22. Marcus, Invisible Republic, 71. 23.  Paul Seydor, The Authentic Death and Contentious Afterlife of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2015), 305. 24. Seydor, Authentic Death and Contentious Afterlife, 202. 25. Sam Peckinpah, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, special edition DVD (Los Angeles: MGM, 2005). 26. Peckinpah, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. 27. Paul Seydor, Peckinpah: The Western Films: A Reconsideration. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 278. 28. Leonard Engel, “‘Who Are You?’” “‘That’s a Good Question’”: Shifting Identities in Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, Sam Peckinpah’s West: New Perspectives, edited by Leonard Engel (Salt Lake City: The University of Utah Press, 2003), 202–3. 29. Scobie, Alias Bob Dylan, 232. 30. Marshall, The Never Ending Star, 16. 31. Peckinpah, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, (emphasis ours). 32.  Seydor discusses this history at length in The Authentic Death and Contentious Afterlife of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. 33.  “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan .com/songs/lily‑rosemary‑and‑jack‑hearts/. 34.  Alfred Hitchcock, Marnie, Universal City: Universal, 1964. 35.  “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1974 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2002 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan .com/songs/lily‑rosemary‑and‑jack‑hearts/. 36. Ibid. 37. Ibid. 38.  Andrew Britton, “Sideshows: Hollywood in Vietnam,” Britton on Film: The Complete Film Criticism of Andrew Britton, edited by Barry Keith Grant (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2009), 77. 39. Scobie, Alias Bob Dylan, 232. 40.  Stephen Moss, “Hey, Mr. Sexagenarian,” The Guardian, 23 May 2001, https:// www.theguardian.com/culture/2001/may/24/artsfeatures1. 41.  Robin Wood, Hollywood: From Vietnam to Reagan . . . and Beyond (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 23–24.



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42. Larry Sloman, “Liner Notes,” Bob Dylan Live 1975: The Rolling Thunder Revue (New York: Sony, 2002), 32. 43. Ibid. 44.  Marcel Carné, dir. Les Enfants du Paradis. (France: Société Nouvelle Pathé Cinéma, 1945). YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDDiW‑yBDeo. 45.  “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below),” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1975, 1976, by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2003, 2004, by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http:// www.bobdylan.com/songs/one‑more‑cup‑coffee‑valley‑below/. 46.  Michael Gray, The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia (New York: Continuum, 2006); Jim Linwood, “Film Dialogue in the Lyrics of Bob Dylan,” 2003, http://www.geoci ties.ws/linwood/cinema/Dylan‑Film/. 47. Heylin, Shades, 575–56. 48.  In “The Squire of Gothos” (Paul Schneider, and Gene Roddenberry, writers, Don McDougall, dir. Star Trek, Season 1, Episode 17. Aired January 12, 1967. Netflix, 50:25, https://www.netflix.com/watch/70109452trackId=13752289&tctx=0%2 C17%2C863c22c5‑3d9a‑49da‑89a7‑9e82c14f75c6‑10634733%2C%2C), Sulu asks, “Captain, how far do we go with this charade?” to which Kirk replies, “Until we can think our way out.” 49. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 566. 50. Ibid. 51.  “Clean Cut Kid,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1984 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/clean‑cut‑kid/. 52.  “Black Diamond Bay,” written by Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy. Copyright © 1975 by Ram’s Horn Music; renewed 2003 by Ram’s Horn Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan .com/songs/black‑diamond‑bay/. 53. Ibid. 54. Ibid. 55. Ibid. 56.  Dylan, interview 1962. 57.  Bob Dylan, interview by Studs Terkel. The Studs Terkel Program, WFMT, May, 1963. Audio, 58:21, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4nA3QwGPBg. 58.  Dylan, interview 1963. 59. Pennebaker, Dont Look Back. 60. Ibid. 61. Heylin, Judas!, 86; Scaduto, Bob Dylan, 231. 62.  Bob Dylan, press conference, December 3, 1965. YouTube, https://www.you tube.com/watch?v=wPIS257tvoA. 63.  Dylan, interview 1965. 64. Dylan, Nobel Lecture, 23. 65. Heylin, Judas!, 192.

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66. Bob Dylan, Eat the Document, 1972. YouTube, https://www.youtube.com /watch?v=MGylr0S‑yZ0. 67. Heylin, Judas!, 261. 68.  Ron Rosenbaum, “Interview, Playboy,” In Bob Dylan: The Essential Inter‑ views, edited by Jonathan Cott, 199–236 (New York: Wenner Books, 2006), 230. 69. Dylan, Chronicles: Volume One, 148. 70. David Fricke, “Bob Dylan: Down in the Groove.” Album review, Roll‑ ing Stone, 14 July 1988, https://www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews /down‑in‑the‑groove‑19880714. 71. Kory Grow, “Bob Dylan’s ‘Slapstick’ Period Revealed: ‘He’d Gotten Deeply Into Jerry Lewis,’” Rolling Stone, 10 November 2014 https://www.rolling stone.com/music/news/bob‑dylans‑slapstick‑period‑revealed‑hed‑gotten‑deeply‑in to‑jerry‑lewis‑20141110. 72.  Katie Levine, “You Made It Weird #234: Larry Charles,” 5 November 2014, https://nerdist.com/you‑made‑it‑weird‑234‑larry‑charles/. 73. Robert Kolker, Film, Form, and Culture (Boston: McGraw‑Hill College, 1999), 34–43. 74.  C. P. Lee, Like a Bullet of Light: The Films of Bob Dylan (London, Helter Skelter, 2000), 14. 75. Robin Wood, Personal Views: Explorations in Film (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2006), 87. 76.  Cott, “Interview,” 173, 189. 77.  “Drifter’s Escape,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1968 by Dwarf Music; renewed 1996 by Dwarf Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/drifters‑escape/. 78.  Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, edited by Donald J. Gray (New York: Norton, 1971), 88. 79. Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 90. 80. Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 91. 81. Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 8. 82.  Murray Leeder, “Haunting and Minstrelsy in Bob Dylan’s Masked and Anony‑ mous,” Journal of Popular Film and Television, 40, no. 4 (December 2012):181–191. 83. Rachel Rubin, “Roundtable Discussion on Dylan’s Masked and Anon‑ ymous,” Journal of Popular Music Studies, 16: 242–82, doi:10.1111/j.1524 –2226.2004.00025.x, 273. 84. Larry Charles, “Director’s Commentary,” Masked and Anonymous, DVD. Directed by Larry Charles (Culver City, CA: Sony Pictures, 2003). 85.  Rubin, “Roundtable Discussion on Dylan’s Masked and Anonymous,” 258. 86.  Rubin, “Roundtable Discussion on Dylan’s Masked and Anonymous,” 275. 87.  Bob Dylan, dir. Renaldo and Clara (No city: Lombard Street Films, 1972). 88. Lena Williams, “After the Roast, Smoke and Fire,” New York Times, 14 October 1993, http://www.nytimes.com/1993/10/14/garden/after‑the‑roast‑fire ‑and‑smoke.html.



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89. Roger Ebert, “Danson’s Racist ‘Humor’ Appalls Crowd at Roast,” Roger Ebert’s Journal, 10 Oct 1993, https://www.rogerebert.com/rogers‑journal/dan sons‑racist‑humor‑appalls‑crowd‑at‑roast. 90.  Rubin, “Roundtable Discussion on Dylan’s Masked and Anonymous,” 258. 91.  Charles, “Director’s Commentary to Masked and Anonymous.” 92. Lott, Love and Theft, 25. 93. Rubin, “Roundtable Discussion on Dylan’s Masked and Anonymous,” 250; Howard and Bellows, A Short History of Music in America, 106. 94. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 358.

10 Gonna Change My Way of Thinking Bob Dylan and the Evangelical Tradition

I’m caught up, listening to a live performance of “Solid Rock” from Philly in 1981. The musicians create exhilarating sounds. Well, I’m hangin’ on to a solid rock Made before the foundation of the world.1

I’m called by these sounds to open my heart to this music—music that vibrantly evokes a feeling of being caught in the midst, fixed and fixated, more flowing than flailing yet suspended still, held between one sensibility and another. And I won’t let go and I can’t let go, won’t let go And I can’t let go, won’t let go and I can’t let go no more.2

The singer’s voice yearns, weaving within the backing voices, swelling from breathy hush to soaring incantation and then back again, claims that what I’m caught between is that oldest Christian dichotomy, my body, and my soul. It’s the ways of the flesh to war against the spirit Twenty‑four hours a day you can feel it and you can hear it.3

But he’s pausing between the phrases here, leaning into the pocket of the music, not pounding home insistently as he does on the studio cut but drawing into himself. The flow follows with “Are You Ready” next from Buffalo back in 1980 wrought into a lyrical lie, the tone there flipped to “am I ready?” in word briefly and deed broadly.

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He’s a different singer across these concerts than the one that I can always hear in my head, from Saved: There, it’s a rave‑up, an orgiastic celebration of shared purpose, his voice constant conviction leading like a cavalry charge with incessant passion to the salvation delivered to us all from Calvary, or so he blusters. All is rhyme there, and we always press on. On these two nights, bluster’s become bargaining for salvation, movement become not stasis but steady sway. Communal bliss is not the only answer to these songs’ searching, he finds, and the quest inward infuses each note, suspension generating more sustenance than speedy conquest or confrontational calumny can. How does he transform himself this way in concert? Vocal variety conveys the narrator’s neither‑quite‑here‑nor‑there: On Saved the singer shouts, and his shouts are echoed in both songs by backup, but on these nights he shifts in tone from soft questioning to tentative testimony, only to return, other musicians encouraging rather than urging. He times his moves into each phrase a bit behind the beat rather than leading it, engaging language’s landscape as sojourner rather than soap box hero. He gentles here his always‑peculiar timbre, notes just a touch more rounded and full rather than merely sharp and grating. Hang on—how can I account for my own tone here, with my prose straying far afield from typical scholarly voice? In this chapter alone within this coauthored book, for instance, I (Keith) am writing in singular first‑person voice. I am doing so because I developed this chapter through the method of autoethnography. Manning and Adams study how this method is used in popular culture studies, explaining that autoethnography “foregrounds the researcher’s personal experience (auto) as it is embedded within, and informed by, cultural identities and con/texts (ethno) and as it is expressed through writing, performance, or other creative means (graphy).”4 They enumerate five strengths of autoethnography as a means of studying popular culture, which would include Dylan’s work. In describing the first strength, they note that the method highlights “palpable, personal, and profound ways that popular culture has played into or against the author’s life experiences, both informing and constituting their lived worlds.”5 The second strength they characterize is that “autoethnographers can use personal experience to criticize, write against, and talk back to popular culture texts, especially texts that do not match their personal experiences or that espouse harmful messages.”6 This chapter is an effort to meet these two goals—to clarify how a specific period of Dylan’s performance work has shaped my life and my listening to his music, and to “talk back” to the troubling texts he created in this period. I offer this autoethnography as one example of how each listener’s engagement of Dylan may be multivalent, even contradictory, and how engagements with Dylan can influence our understanding of our lives and our culture well beyond the bounded periods of time in which the music meets our ears.



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For instance, I feel the sites of suspension that position me in “Solid Rock” are different than “flesh and spirit,” especially in the performance explored here, released as track 7 of disc two of the deluxe edition of The Bootleg Series Volume 13, Trouble No More—the most riveting, glorious retrospective boxed set I own, the black/gold/red adorned jewel in my music collection that features all Dylan recordings officially released on compact disc, more compelling for me even than The Basement Tapes Complete. I feel the sites of suspension, in this performance, as two other dialectic tensions that I can identify and that resonate for me throughout all of Dylan’s performances in what has been popularly labeled the “gospel” period but that Heylin, rightly, renames the “evangelical” period.7 I find “evangelical” more apt because “gospel” emphasizes particular scripture that is far from the eschatological thrust of Dylan’s messages, a thrust that owes much more to the Book of Revelation; because “gospel” emphasizes only one of the musical threads woven together in the sound worlds of this period, leaving out blues and rock; and because “evangelical” hews more closely to the charismatic performance tradition Dylan takes up, as I discuss below. The evangelical period extends from December 1978, when Dylan ceased performing songs he wrote prior to his then‑recent conversion to evangelical Christianity, to November 1981, when he completed his last tour with the band that helped him create the distinctive sound worlds he developed in this period.8 The tensions I feel in this period, that I feel in the sound of “Solid Rock,” are between self and community and between opening oneself up and closing oneself down. These two sets of tensions will guide my analysis of this highly unusual period in Dylan’s career. “BECOMING WHAT ONE WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE”: SELF AND COMMUNITY “Every Grain of Sand,” “Caribbean Wind,” and “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar”—three songs, significant epics all, but all significantly underrepresented; the first played as a new number for a concert audience only on the very last night of live evangelizing, the second and third left off records released at the time—even though Bowman and Heylin go on record esteeming them in the artist’s oeuvre.9 I adore all three, central tracks in my bizarre love for the triad of evangelical Dylan years. It’s a love I’ve had to defend as I’ve enmeshed myself into the jungle of Bobcats on the Expecting Rain website, to defend even to my coauthor, John. How to account for their power, for their saving grace over me? Atlantic City by the cold grey sea I hear a voice crying, “Daddy,” I always think it’s for me.10

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Brought from my New Jersey birthplace as a baby to a beach town where everyone was retired, where the closest two kids who were within several years of my age lived one block away in one direction and two blocks away in another, each also the only kid on his street, if I didn’t enjoy playing with those kids I would be left alone—no other options. And left alone as I often was, to my own imagination. Rare exceptions: Vacation Bible School summers, bus rides to other Bible study groups for children, mandated by Mom as part of her burgeoning commitment, starting when I was five, as evangelical Christian (a Jew for Jesus, like Bob). Got the message this morning, the one that was sent to me About the madness of becomin’ what one was never meant to be.11

Then, yonder came another commitment, one she did not choose—single mother for me and two baby girls, no reliable income, no job skills, food stamps and welfare the only certainties. Yet money enough, strange even to my eight‑ and nine‑year‑old self, money enough to “tithe” via personal check once a month to Bakker’s Praise the Lord Club. She was “saved” at nearly the same time as Dylan, her PTL Club watching peaking in 1978 and 1979, and I was thrust into evangelism contemporaneously with Dylan. I didn’t like my mom sending precious money away, but I loved the PTL variety show I watched with her—not for the sermons or for the interviews but for the music, upbeat born again revelers ecstatically writhing to show how glad they were to be saved. I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me.12

Wilson and Bloom each trace the ecstatic writhing to frontier camp meetings in the south near 1800.13 My memory of my mother “speaking in tongues,” babbling incoherently, bobbing with dozens of others on Sunday mornings to my shock and terror and confusion, is nearer to me. Wilson: “The ethos of camp meeting songs was spiritually individualistic and egalitarian, it nurtured a post‑conversion sense of community, and it often drew from popular secular tunes.”14 “Post‑conversion sense of community”: in the PTL Club days, that oxymoronic phrase—Bloom, too, calls it an oxymoron, the “doctrine of experience that exalted such loneliness into a being‑alone‑with‑Jesus”—in those days, it meant my only parent, my lonely parent, doing the incomprehensible in deed and in word, because she was saved so I might be too, if only I mimicked the adults around me and took Jesus into my heart.15 But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed You’re gonna have to serve somebody.16



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Dylan’s first album in the evangelical period, Slow Train Coming, opens with “Gotta Serve Somebody” and this refrain. This song, like so many of the onstage raps he delivered in his tours from 1978–1980, demands that listeners recognize truths that the speaker has, purportedly, already recognized himself—evangelizing at its heart, hence its fitness as name for this period.17 The trouble in my mind, even as a child, with this ethos is a question of community: Whence comes this knowledge for the speaker? Can I do what the speaker did, see what the speaker saw, rather than just accepting what the speaker came to already accept? They ask me how I feel And if my love is real.18

Questions like these pushed me away from my mother’s church from the instant I was old enough to choose not to attend, and I doubt I am alone in this unconversion even though I felt so at the time. And how I know I’ll make it through And they, they look at me and frown.19

One extraordinary quality in Dylan’s evangelical period is those songs that gorgeously enact solipsistic struggle with faith, a struggle that’s always one’s very own for those of us who, despite our belief in communication as constitutive of thought, read Kierkegaard.20 “Precious Angel,” “I Believe In You,” “When He Returns,” “Covenant Woman,” “What Can I Do for You?” and “Pressing On”: reading the lyrics on the page alone might suggest more mere proselytizing, but I hear a fellow traveler searching within tropes he did not choose—angels, deities—for salvation, salvation that is, as the lyrics confirm in their own way but the sound confirms much more compellingly, endlessly deferred. It’s what so strongly sets these songs apart from other songs in the evangelical period, sneering songs (in both words and deed on recordings, sounding out the sneers of the lyrics) that glorify specific, expected outcomes and thereby fit the “finger‑pointin’” us‑against‑them Dylan of “Masters of War,” “With God on Our Side,” and “When the Ship Comes In.”21 Songs like “Slow Train” and “When You Gonna Wake Up” foretell Calvinist fates. My two least favorite evangelizing songs are “Saved” and “Dead Man, Dead Man”—the appealing jaunt of these last two songs’ music elevating neither the shriveling wither of their lyrics nor the caustic smugness of their vocal performances. It’s also why the Trouble No More boxed set is, as Heylin hails, such a valuable, if belated, artifact for evangelizers of “gospel” Dylan like him and me: the profuse variety of tempi, arrangements, and vocal styles document how different each song can sound in performance, how songs that sound

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on the released albums like “constrained outcome for the wicked others” songs can transform into complex statements of self‑analysis.22 Two excellent examples of this transformation are the performances of “Solid Rock” and “Are You Ready?” explored at the start of this chapter, songs that on Saved sound settled but come crackling to life‑in‑the‑singing in concert. Another is “In the Garden” from Kansas City in 1980. Dylan begins calmly, with a gentle timbre and moderate dynamics; his phrasing is steady, notes in the vocal melody hewing comparatively close to the beats of the music. But over the six‑and‑half minutes of the performance, he carefully controls his cascades of off‑beat, extended phrasing, of shouts and shreds, like fractals building both within each stanza and within the song overall. The backup singers and band follow his rhythms and assuredly give him the finest support, enriching the sound world, but in this performance (track 14 of Disc One of Trouble No More) they are audibly followers, Dylan’s voice without doubt the lead. There’s much more vocal precision here, and perhaps paradoxically, more passion compared with the persistent yelps of the studio performance on Saved. As for another paradox, I hear much more passion, much more personal energy, on this recording from thirty-eight years ago, released only last year than I ever did standing in the aisles next to my mother amid dozens of writhing, babbling supplicants. “In the Garden” is a series of questions, and in this performance the narrator comes to us not with the answers of a satisfied mind but with the questions of a hungry young child. Six thousand people tryin’ t’ kill each other Dogs a‑barkin’, cats a‑meowin’.23

A dimension of Dylan’s music since its start, in both verbal figuration and vocal concatenation, is its illuminating the incommensurate, the experiences that confront us but that cannot be cognized in the concepts within which we endeavor to capture them. Women screamin’, fists a‑flyin’, babies cryin’ Cops a‑comin’, me a‑runnin’.24

“Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues,” first played in September 1961 by a twenty‑year‑old Dylan, frolics hilariously amid the incommensurate throughout, with lyrics like those immediately above. Maybe we just better call off the picnic.25

It’s an important way that his art deals with the sublime, a vital element of religious experience like those that are Dylan’s subject throughout the evangelical period and one that Stewart (following Burke) defines: “What distinguishes the



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sublime from the beautiful is that the former is individual and painful, while the second is social and pleasant, resting upon love and its attendant emotions.”26 “Individual and painful” fits the experiences of the narrator of “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” who tosses us through a series of incommensurate images as we discuss in chapter 3. But the “individual” can be painful to pin down when (re)creating the shock of the sublime is central to a particular aesthetic, like Dylan’s. In an earlier article, I analyze Dylan’s narrative personae and his unique approach to cultural critique by tracing a single evolving trope in his work, from “free,” to “stuck,” to “tangled”: from his enactment of a quest for personal and cultural freedom in “I Shall Be Free,” to his enactment of epistemological stasis in “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” to his enactment of contingent implication and shared meaning‑making with others in “Tangled Up in Blue.” There, I demonstrate Dylan’s staging of one of his central concerns: the contingent relationship of the individual and society.27 In the evangelical period, Dylan stages this concern with unstable identities‑in‑process consistently through his emphasis on his own coming to Christianity—despite the Gnostic ethos of the “born again” movement discussed above, in this period he grapples with how identity negotiations are inevitably entangled within the tension between self and community. For all those who have eyes and all those who have ears It is only He who can reduce me to tears.28

I knew my mother needed the church. I was an adolescent boy divided against himself because I did not want to hold her hand as she stuck to the path—however confusingly, however contradictorily—worn by her evangelical Christian friends’ network. Our bond, so distinctive in being between oldest child (by six years) and single mom, would not include collaborative embrace of the Word for very long, though it always included collaborative embrace of “The Word” and all other Beatles songs, and all other Elvis songs. For most of my adult life, for most of the two decades that have passed since her passing, Beatles and Elvis sounded like sole musical legacies from her—but no more. Now, I also embrace Bob, a wave she never seemed to ride despite the whirl of her generational pool, as part of our shared mother‑son sonic spirit, and stranger still, evangelical Bob especially. Gibson Cima advises that those of us who study historical performances “learn to be receptive to the fragments, distortions, and silences in the evidentiary record. The gaps and messy contradictions in the extant evidence can lead to a fuller grasp of a particular performance event or custom.”29 Despite his protestations of “only He” in “When He Returns,” evangelical Dylan repeatedly explains his Christian subject position by positioning himself, lyrically, between his past community of nonbelievers and his contemporary

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congregants—as in most of other songs on Slow Train Coming (“Gotta Serve Somebody,” “I Believe in You,” “Slow Train,” “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking,” “When You Gonna Wake Up”). “Precious Angel” and “Covenant Woman” credit his rebirth to a particular woman. Even more interestingly, he persistently positions himself in community in performances throughout this period. Those concert numbers across Trouble No More that do not complicate their narrative with the passion of the personal journey to faith, in the ways discussed above, instead pick up the torch of spring 1966 Dylan and the Hawks by assaulting audiences’ senses through their pugilistic posture, waging aural war for Christ. Moreover, Dylan’s tours in the evangelical period are the only time in his career that he took so much time to talk directly with those assembled. Often nightly, he ministered in the charismatic manner of the Pentecostal churches that left the “spiritual gift” of speaking‑in‑tongues ecstasy, a different sort of musical legacy, to my mother, and to me as an audience member.30 In Dylan’s concert rap, telling the story of the feeling that initially impelled his Christian conversion, he recalls the act of another, a concert attendee in San Diego who threw a cross onstage, as having been at the crux of his personal journey.31 He quotes scripture in characterizing his transformation, yet he does so as a justification of his choice not to perform any of the famous, oft‑requested songs he wrote prior to 1978 during concerts in 1979 and 1980.32 He even contradicts himself from one sentence to the next when speaking to an interviewer about this choice and about evolving identity: “you’re no longer the same person who wrote those songs. However, you really are still that person some place deep down.”33 These “gaps and messy contradictions” suggest that whatever his avowed born‑again‑orthodoxy espousing a personal relationship with Jesus, still active and still restless during the evangelical period was the Dylan who so richly stitched together oblique, absurdist tales of self in tension with community like “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Shelter from the Storm” and “Black Diamond Bay” (a major song, I insist, perhaps the most under‑appreciated in Dylan’s canon, and this, an autoethnography of fanatical love for a peculiar Dylan sound, is the spot for me to insist). “SOMETIMES I TURN”: OPENING UP AND CLOSING DOWN All that foreign oil controlling American soil Look around you, it’s just bound to make you embarrassed.34

Deeply disturbing, these lyrics from “Slow Train.” Sheiks walkin’ around like kings Wearing fancy jewels and nose rings.35



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Gleeful, seething racism, xenophobia, American exceptionalism—all roll up here in one foul ball. Deciding America’s future from Amsterdam and to Paris.36

Aesthetically weak, too, born in time thus bound by it, incomprehensible for listeners from faraway places and times without the payoff of precise cultural insight that particularity could provide. It’s nowhere near worth all that, but one small payoff is they take me back. PTL‑Club‑Keith’s earliest television memories other than cartoons: Gerald Ford behind a desk; full frontal presentation in ’70s Oval Office press conference style, Watergate weirdness—the bewildering backdrop well beyond my brain; my age so narrow that truth’s only piercing arrow was that powerful people might be bad people. Hearing Bob now, vitriol and all, that time’s revivified for me. For Bloom, the aesthetic outlook shared by “personal Jesus” and “patriotic pugnaciousness” is a resonant rhyme: And the American religion, for its two centuries of existence, seems to me irretrievably Gnostic. It is a knowing, by and of an uncreated self, or self‑within‑the‑self, and the knowledge leads to freedom, a dangerous and doom‑eager freedom: from nature, time, history, community, other selves . . . an obsessed society wholly in the grip of a dominant Gnosticism.37

Bloom’s fear is that American exceptionalism is a consequence of this deep religious tradition that long predates oil embargoes and post‑9/11 hate crimes. He finds that the turn inward of American religious culture undermines the turns outward we might define as compassion or even prudence. In Dylan’s performative approach, not just in the evangelical period but throughout his career, we have here a parallel and complicating tension that I hear as one between an opening up and a closing down. I hear the opening up in performances in the evangelical period when Dylan’s mouth, throat, and respiratory cavity are wide and full, air rushing through, shaping the sound. An excellent example of this beyond those described above is “Ain’t Gonna Go to Hell for Anybody,” from Montreal in 1980. The lyrical stance of this song is a list of tasks the narrator won’t do in relation to other people, and the music parallels the punchy spikes of the aural stiff‑arm of “When You Gonna Wake Up”—qualities that might make it into an “attack on nonbelievers” number. But in this performance, I hear an ecstatic voice letting the spirit move him, a voice that raises hell, not to warn us away but to take us with him on the road toward heaven. The tension between opening up and closing down is evident in an immersive performance practice that Dylan describes to an interviewer as being

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“totally involved. I don’t just play around at the fringes.”38 This is the approach audible in his fervent, “unprofessional” engagement of the blues and folk repertoire on his first album, when Gray hears “such a young Dylan on it that he sounds about 75.”39 We hear it again in his turn toward electrically‑amplified rock, explored in chapter 3, and in the astonishing change in vocal timbre on his singing voice across “Nashville Skyline.” Indeed, one way to understand Dylan’s embrace of the evangelical tradition is to recognize its roots in two areas of long‑established concern for him by 1978: (1) early rock ’n’ roll and country music, and (2) the populist performance tradition. Mosher examines how charismatic performance practices such as “open emotional displays, exuberance, physicality, the quest for transcendence, and (at their most intense) high mystical states” played a role in the development of rock ’n’ roll aesthetics.40 Wilson locates this development, and the possibility of social change through ecstatic music, in two key figures, Elvis Presley and Fannie Lou Hamer, whose art was shaped by Southern religious communities. Wilson writes that in the context of these artists’ time, in the final years of the Great Depression, “demeaning hierarchical social class and racial structures in Southern society created stifling lives that for many people seemed beyond change.”41 Musical artists, including Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, also worked in that time frame nationally to advocate for socioeconomic reform, as traced by Wilentz.42 Presley, Guthrie, and Leadbelly were all key influences on the early Dylan, and given his career‑enabling openness and sensitivity to their work we might expect him to weave their legacy into his evangelical performances with aplomb as well. The ecstatic performance practices of Pentecostalism come through clearly in Dylan’s evangelical period, but the populist reformer tradition reflects in more partial, uneasy ways that signal the kind of rupture leading many listeners with trouble in mind upon hearing this music. Populism is preserved through accusations directed at corporations, governments, and economically well‑positioned crooks in suits throughout Dylan’s evangelical work. But it’s perverted as much as Guthrie’s anti‑biggovernment‑and‑business “This Land Is Your Land” has been perverted into patriotic paean. The problems created by these demons, according to evangelical Dylan, can only be solved “by the blood of the lamb.” This is, following Bloom’s critique, doubly flaccid, as we’re urged to close down, to turn away from the inequity around us and inward to seek the truth in ourselves—diminishing sensitivity and suspending dialogue. Our vicious and ineffective political situation as of this writing, under a Trump presidency marked by paranoia and punishment, feel to me like the reward for this turn. Adulterers in churches and pornography in the schools You got gangsters in power and lawbreakers making rules.43



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My strangest memories of mom‑as‑Jew‑for‑Jesus are comical and comic‑centric. My absent father had, before leaving for good, tried to be present by subbing, in place of curiosity about his little boy, stacks of superhero comics mysteriously bartered from the back of a distributor’s van. The stacks grew in my room, ways to learn to read adult language—they felt a little naughty, a little like an education, even in the era of the Comics Code Authority. Ahhhh, but it was the time of Satanic Panic and “listening to ‘Stairway to Heaven’ all the way through backwards is so scary, don’t ever dare do it” and on and on. And I wanted so desperately to strengthen the things that remained, to keep my one parent smiling, so she and I made a massive production one night in 1979 of taking all my comics, hundreds and hundreds, saved for a few years by then, to the back of the house and stomping on them and shredding them. They were, she assured me, of the devil. The richest irony: After the Great Awakening to the evils of Aquaman, the only remaining comics on my shelves spun lurid tales of Armageddon cribbed from Lindsey’s apocalyptic bestseller The Late Great Planet Earth, itself an influence on Dylan’s evangelical narratives.44 They were the most graphic of graphic novels for a kid with an imagination. And these comics were written by—wait for it—a key figure driven out of office in the Watergate scandal just a few years before and now preaching salvation, Chuck Colson. To that literature, I confess I am now closed down. Well don’t know which one is worse Doing your own thing or just being cool.45

A performance studies approach to Dylan’s body of work should, must, reveal tensions, ruptures, as I highlighted in this chapter. He is a consummate performing artist, perhaps the consummate performing artist of my particular life as a listener, but he is so in complex ways that both open me to his songs and close me to them at different times and in different places, even in ways an anachronistic as those described here (I had never heard a Dylan song by the time I stopped going to church, not even “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and I bought my first Dylan album twelve years after the evangelical period ended). In this chapter I share an aim described by von der Horst: “The confessional mode of narrating a relation between self and music aims to take the role of desire in musical perception into account, while honoring the power of music to shape subjectivity.”46 As someone who has listened intensely to Dylan for thirteen years now and who owns more than ninety books on his work, I believe my perceptions of his music, and indeed my subjectivity well beyond my Bobcat self, crystallized in significant ways in the furor of a unique cultural time and place, late‑1970s working‑class redneck childhood at the feet of

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a passionate listener and speaker who never lent an ear to Dylan. My work, its ruptures and inconsistencies, are down to that. I’ll accept it and listen to “Black Diamond Bay” to celebrate, putting Trouble No More on the shelf for a little while.  NOTES  1. “Solid Rock,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1980 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/solid‑rock/.  2. Ibid.  3. Ibid.  4. Jimmie Manning and Tony E. Adams, “Popular Culture Studies and Autoethnography: An Essay on Method” (The Popular Culture Studies Journal 3, nos. 1 and 2 (2015): 187–222), 188.  5. Manning and Adams, “Popular Culture Studies and Autoethnography,” 201.  6. Ibid.  7. Heylin, Trouble in Mind, 7.  8. Heylin, Trouble in Mind, 286–98.  9. Heylin, Trouble in Mind, 165, 179; Bowman, Trouble No More liner notes, 31. 10.  “Caribbean Wind,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1985 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/caribbean‑wind/. 11.  “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1981 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/grooms‑still‑waiting‑altar/2. 12.  “Every Grain of Sand,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1981 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan .com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/every‑grain‑sand/. 13. Charles Reagan Wilson, “Mississippi Rebels: Elvis Presley, Fannie Lou Hamer, and the South’s Culture of Religious Music.” Southern Quarterly 50, no. 2 (2013): 9–30; Bloom, The American Religion. 14.  Wilson, “Mississippi Rebels,” 15. 15.  Bloom, The American Religion, 63. 16.  “Gotta Serve Somebody,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan .com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/gotta‑serve‑somebody/. 17.  Heylin, Trouble In Mind, 302–11. 18.  “I Believe In You,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/i‑believe‑you/. 19. Ibid. 20.  Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling.



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21.  Cott, The Essential Interviews, 16. 22.  Heylin, Trouble in Mind, 7–11. 23.  “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1962, 1965, by Duchess Music Corporation; renewed 1990, 1993, by MCA. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https:// www.bobdylan.com/songs/talkin‑bear‑mountain‑picnic‑massacre‑blues/. 24. Ibid. 25. Ibid. 26.  Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham, NC: Duke University, 1999), 75. 27.  Keith Nainby, “Free, Stuck, Tangled: Bob Dylan, the ‘Self” and the Performer’s Critical Perspective,” Contemporary Theatre Review 21, no. 3 (2011): 286–301. 28. “When He Returns,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan .com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/when‑he‑returns/. 29.  Hamera and Madison, The SAGE Handbook of Performance Studies, 107. 30.  Heylin, Trouble in Mind, 302–11; Mosher, “Ecstatic Sounds: The Influence of Pentecostalism on Rock and Roll” (Popular Music and Society 31, no. 1 (2008): 95–112), 97. 31.  Heylin, Trouble in Mind, 16. 32.  Heylin, Trouble in Mind, 30. 33.  Cott, The Essential Interviews, 281. 34. “Slow Train,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/slow‑train/. 35. Ibid. 36. Ibid. 37.  Bloom, The American Religion, 49. 38.  Cited in Heylin, Trouble in Mind, 312; quoted in Heylin, Trouble in Mind, 22. 39. Gray, Song and Dance Man III, 3. 40.  Mosher, “Ecstatic Sounds,” 96. 41.  Wilson, “Mississippi Rebels,” 12. 42.  Wilentz, Bob Dylan in America, 18–46. 43.  “When You Gonna Wake Up,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bob dylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/when‑you‑gonna‑wake/. 44.  Amanda Petrusich, “Liner Notes.” Trouble No More (New York: Columbia, 2017), 10. 45. “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking,” written by Bob Dylan. Copyright Copyright © 1979 by Special Rider Music. International copyright secured. Reprinted by permission. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs /gonna‑change‑my‑way‑thinking/. 46. Holm‑Hudson, Progressive, 168.

Coda An Idiosyncratic Guide to a Bob Dylan Concert

Bob Dylan’s tour bus rolled through Boston most recently on 16 November

2017. On that day, he was playing Agganis Arena at Boston University, where the authors first met nearly thirty years ago. The arena faces the Charles River, a few blocks beyond lie the “green pastures of Harvard University.” John was in attendance that night, along with Matt, who is a friend to both authors. It was Matt’s 41st show, John’s 46th. Coincidentally, they each had seen Dylan for the first time in Mansfield, Massachusetts on 22 July 1986, though they had yet to meet at that point. Boston University had changed quite a bit since John, Matt, and Keith had been students there. Entirely new buildings had sprung up, including Agganis Arena, which stood on the site of a National Guard armory, next to the former location of Braves’ Field, before the team left Boston for Atlanta. On this night, at a pre-concert repast, they discussed freshman year not of their own, but Matt’s oldest. Many things had changed, but Dylan remained a constant. After dinner, John and Matt crossed the street and entered the arena. They had missed most of the opening performance, by Mavis Staples, so they didn’t know if she had told a Dylan story that was familiar from previous shows: that when she was sixteen and singing with her family in the Staples Family Singers, she and Dylan had first met. They both performed at the March on Washington in 1963, and Dylan even spoke to her father about marrying Mavis, but she refused, saying she was too young. Staples told the Guardian, “I often think about what would have happened if I’d married Bobby, though,” she says. “If we’d had some little plum-crushers, how our lives would be. The kids would be singing now, and Bobby and I would be holding each other up.”1 The crowd was still buoyant after Staples’s closing song, “I’ll Take You There,” and the pair settled in to see what new insights Dylan would deliver. 259

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The arena was nearly full, something they had not always witnessed, but what was more unusual was that among the attendees was a dearth of college-age students. As they had aged, there always seemed to be a new generation of Dylan fans coming up behind. To be sure, there were parents who brought their children to see a legend, and several knots of college students, but the audience this night was overwhelmingly closer to Dylan’s age than not. It was surprising, but perhaps it shouldn’t have been. The roadies prepared the stage, setting up tall lamp towers that would fit better on a movie set than a concert, displaying the Oscar that Dylan always has with him these days. It gave the stage the air of a production of “Our Town.” Finally, the house lights did dim, and music began to play.2 A long-standing game between John and Matt is to see who could identify a song more quickly. This night, there was no Aaron Copland, no canned introduction reviewing the arc of his career. Instead, there was Donnie Herron’s pedal steel guitar playing a melody that hinted at “Blowin’ in the Wind,” or maybe “Huck’s Tune.” But when Dylan’s electric piano joined in, driving the beat, it was revealed to be the song for which he had received the displayed Oscar, “Things Have Changed,” and almost immediately it became clear that he was rewriting the song: instead of the published “got assassin’s eyes”3 he sang, “got blood in my eyes,” hearkening back to World Gone Wrong. The rest of the band came in. George Recelli kept an insistent beat, highlighting Dylan’s chopped, Anglo-Saxon style four-beat delivery: “I ain’t that eager . . . to make a . . . mistake.” As the song ended, the audience cheered delightedly. The tempo then immediately slowed down as Dylan introduced a delicate performance of “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” as discussed in chapter 7. Swooping from crest to crest as the waves of verses flowed past, the song carried us along, then pushed us back. Much as how the song’s narrator addresses “Babe,” whether that be a lover or the audience, we were both linked to the singer and separated. It was not lost on anyone that Dylan had paired the song with “Things Have Changed,” which set the tone for the evening: Unlike other acts that present their music as “greatest hits” retreads, offering back to a willing audience nearly note-for-note transcriptions of the recorded tracks, Dylan reserves the right, the requirement, that his music continue to challenge, not to comfort us. On his recent “Farewell” tour, Paul Simon, whose career has progressed parallel to Dylan’s, took audiences through his musical development by way of stories, personal anecdotes, photos. He directly explained the directions his musical interests took, and presented many of his most famous songs in new formats, including with a chamber orchestra. It was both a master class on music and writing theory, as well as history. In a similar fashion, Dylan’s



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performance on this night is a lesson on music theory, but the difference is that there is no narration, no guide or explanation—Dylan rarely speaks, even to introduce the band, anymore. Instead, he lets the changing styles of oncefamiliar songs speak for themselves. Dylan’s setlist is often a well-structured collection of songs with a series of emotional and energetic beats, but that night he went beyond that, and was telling a story. Having introduced the idea of confounding expectations with the opening song, and reinforcing it with the second, Dylan now developed the idea with “Highway 61 Revisited.” Released in 1965, the song retained its early rock ’n’ roll sound, with a galloping beat and esoteric cast of characters. It also highlighted the trope of sacrifice, of killing what one loves for the greater good. Except for the staccato delivery of the lines, “Highway 61 Revisited” remained familiar enough to keep the audience engaged, but that was only a way to lure them into what he had in mind for them. To round out the overture, or the first act of the play, Dylan sang another familiar song, but one radically different from what many in the audience were expecting, especially those who were hoping for an “oldies” tour such as Billy Parker’s in Hearts of Fire: coming out from behind the piano, he delivered a sensitive, but gravelly interpretation of Sinatra’s “Why Try to Change Me Now.” With a light jazz drum and upright bass behind him, Dylan fully inhabited the story of the song. It isn’t just an American standard for him, but a song, as he’s said in the past, that he’s lived.4 “Why . . . can’t I be more conventional? People talk, people stare, so I try,” he says with convincing sincerity and curiosity? Why indeed? It was here, as the show moved into its second act, the rising action, that the audience started asking itself these questions. The applause became more tepid, as fans of a certain age compared this rendition to the ones they had heard from more polished interpretations of standards. Some dismissed it as a stunt, others became frustrated. Still others settled in for more of Dylan’s artistic challenges. They came in the form of a fiddle played by Donnie, leading in to “Summer Days.” Generally faithful to the “Love and Theft” recording, with perhaps more of an old-timey country sound by way of the fiddle, in which Dylan sings a condensed line, but one that still echoes The Great Gatsby: “‘You can’t repeat the past.’ ‘What do you mean you can’t? Of course you can.’”5 This, just after alluding to Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (“at night it’s a different thing”).6 If they listened carefully to the lyrics, it is certain that many in the audience would have taken this as an ironic rebuke to their wish that he would, in fact, only repeat what he had done. But it seems that in his insistence to repeat the past, it’s not so much to go back to days of former glory, but to recapture the heights of artistic expression, to continue, like Tennyson’s Ulysses, “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”7

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Now that the audience had been primed, in the sense of having been given a primer or basic lesson, Dylan returned to the American Songbook, with a renewed license based on his credentials as a master of the form. “Melancholy Mood” brought the momentum of the concert to a halt: The audience waited in expectation, and the long introduction, with flourishes on the pedal steel, lifted them to an ethereal plane. Back at center stage, Dylan was wistfully: “Ahhhh, melancholy mood,” he sang, and you could almost see him waving a warning finger at that mood. A significant segment of the audience took this as a good break for going to the concession stand. Gears switched again, and Dylan was back to “Love and Theft” with a rushing “Honest With Me,” and its sly lie, “I’ll sell it to you at a reduced price” slid in like a blade. “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven,” was transformed to a lighthearted jaunt, speeding up and slowing down in pleasantly disconcerting patterns. It was at this point that it became apparent that all those people weren’t going to the concession stands, but to the exits. Dylan, if he noticed, didn’t seem to care. His attention and deliberation at the mic increased, if anything, and those who remained were treated to another loving Sinatra song that built on the narrative theme. “Once Upon a Time,” had the clearest vocal presentation so far, entwining the regret of a lost love, and lost youth, yet pressing on because that was all he could do. “Once upon a time, the world was sweeter than we knew,” reminded us of the line “I was so much older then / I’m younger than that now” from “My Back Pages.”8 It was a brief respite before the upcoming storm. “Pay in Blood,” delivered in harsh half-lines with a pounding piano, had far more violence than the original recording. The narrator, another incarnation of Odysseus,9 who must make blood sacrifices of others while “circling around in the southern zone,”10 depicts one cruelty after another. The lyrics spiraled up and crashed, like Poseidon’s assaults against the Greek hero. Dylan, embodying the ever-travel-weary character, doggedly held on, no matter what was thrown at him. The audience, however, was becoming more restless. Not in the sense of the jeering, combative crowds of 1966, but of those who have paid good money to see one artist, the one they thought they remembered, and being confounded at the choices of another, one who continues to ply his craft. A spritely, plucking string introduced the next song. Was it “When Dogs Run Free”? Did he pull “Clothesline Saga” off the Complete Basement Tapes? The talking-blues style suggested it, but no, in fact the lyrics most closely resembled “Tangled Up in Blue,” the only song from the 1970s to be played all night. The story hewed closely to the version presented on Blood On the Tracks, in that there is a split up way out west, but it wasn’t for the best, as before, but “somewhere in the wilderness,” a far darker observation. Perhaps



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as it’s told by an older man, one who, to return to Hemingway, like Old Man Santiago, no longer dreams of fights or women: the scene in the topless place is elided, switching immediately to “her” lighting a stove. What’s fascinating about this “Tangled” that seemed to drive yet more people from their seats, is that over the decades it has become so elastic that Dylan can change the music entirely, can tighten the narrative, rewrite lines completely, even change the point of view (though the change from first to third person dates back to at least 1985), yet it remains unequivocally the same song. The unceasing striving for new vistas in a song marks Dylan as a practicing artist, not a static performer. He allowed his audience to take a breath with the lyrical “Soon after Midnight,” and a menacing “Early Roman Kings” that were both familiar enough (if you’d bought anything after Slow Train Coming) to prepare them for the next surge in his artistic process. That surge started with “Scarlet Town,” a tale that contains a wealth of characters from throughout Dylan’s career, like Little Boy Blue, Sweet William from “Barbara Allen,” some glorified, some twisted to the point of becoming “flat-chested junkie whores.” Dylan’s voice became attenuated as he reached for high notes that emphasized the desperation lurking in the dark corners of this town where both the evil and the good live side-by-side, and where beauty is a crime. It was a dark vision of a fairy tale world that had once nursed his burgeoning career, as if he were daring us to contemplate every aspect of human nature, “all right there for ya.”11 The path from “Scarlet Town,” though, was by way of the cascading catalogues of the denizens of “Desolation Row.” Peopled with figures from carnivals, literature, film, government, and pure imagination, the song’s upbeat tones belied the dark connotations of the descriptions of strapping on “heart-attack machines.”12 In terms of artistic narrative, Dylan here ties together both the beginning and end of his Odyssean journey, showing that while it looks like he’s moving, he’s really been standing still. It’s the art that has been moving, and his need to educate us carries him along. Dylan, like a boxer, circled around the characters, his voice at times jabbing, as when he sang, “his nurse, some local loser,” sometimes unloosing a flurry of strikes, as when he spit out, “if you lean your head out far enough on Desolation . . . row,” lending equal weight to each syllable until the final blow. Other times, his voice climbed to new heights, using each syllable as a step, as when Casanova’s killers, “poisoned him with words.” The overall effect was to keep the audience feeling unbalanced, yet always under his sway. This lack of stability for the audience continued as he switched to a reimagined “Thunder on the Mountain,” complete with spiky rhythms and plucky guitar. Gone was the prophetic tone of the Modern Times rendition,

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replaced by the encouragement to stand up and dance, or at least to bop your head. “There’s hot stuff here, it’s everywhere I go,” he promises, before speeding up his attack, saying that when he was thinking about Alicia Keyes, “I was living down the line!” delivered in about two beats. This variation on speed and timing continued throughout the song, relaxing and clenching. At times, it was to the detriment of his enunciation, which was jarring after the precision of the Sinatra tunes, yet wholly in keeping with the new attitude and purpose. The music intensified until the hurricane of the final stanza, when his voice rose to a howl of passion, unable to land on any individual word, resolving into Recelli’s drum solo from “Wipe Out”:13 Fifty-five years of musical history and associations covered in thirty seconds. The final act of the night’s narrative was ushered in by “Autumn Leaves,” a short, haunting song that allowed Dylan to show off, in case anyone forgot, that his voice is his instrument. Though unable to match the long phrasing of a young Frank Sinatra, he put aside the clipped phrasing of the previous song to draw out the fading images of mortality, lingering on especially as he crooned, “I miss you most of aaaall, myyyy darling / when Autummmn leaves start / to fall” in three long lonely breaths. The evening’s story culminated in “Love Sick.” The metronomic chords (emphasized by Dylan intoning, “I hear the clocktick,” combining the last two words into a single second) reminded us that time was winding down for all of us. As with many of his albums, he closed with apocalyptic imagery, the dissolution of bonds, distrust (“you went through my pockets while I was sleeping,” was one updated verse) and despair. But as the song went on, the clock metaphor faded into the background of the rest of the instrumentation, as he caresses the final line, “I’d give anything to just beeee with you”: Every story needs to end on hope, which is what Dylan has been teaching us all along.14 As Dylan left the stage, many of those who had persevered through the rigors of the concert stood up as well. Matt and John knew they had just witnessed a show that stood out from all of the others, one where it had been obvious that more than entertainment had been the goal. They also knew that there was always an encore, and it would be worth the traffic jam out of the garage. It seemed half the audience had denied themselves the serenity of the final two songs. When Dylan returned to the stage, it was to the strains of Donnie Herron’s violin introduction to “Blowin’ in the Wind.” It lent a sweet taste to the song, like a dessert to those who had earned it. His phrasing imparted a gentle, reverent tone to the song, one that acknowledged the time and miles that had passed since the world had first be given the song, When he sang, “Well you know the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,” he made the vocatory “friend” intimate enough to include each individual who had the privilege to



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hear it. Twice, the band was given the spotlight, jamming melodiously, leading the audience in a cheerful dance. It was a gratifying gift, almost a thank you, for having stayed with him for the night, for the duration. But he was still not finished. The last song Matt and John heard that night didn’t offer hope, didn’t rely on the ambiguity of answers “blowin’ in the wind,” but a song that Dylan said in 1986 was about “putting somebody in their place. If you ever need to do it, don’t you be afraid now, ’cuz don’t forget if you don’t do it, it might not get done.”15 The admonitory “Ballad of a Thin Man” had been polished to a mid-tempo arrangement, the sawblade delivery on High‑ way 61 Revisited smoothed in anger, but still rough with his bluesman’s voice. It’s as if he is addressing Mr. Jones in a confidential tone, buttonholing the square at a party to tell him he was on to his game, not confronting him publicly, but nevertheless informing him that the game was over. It was the final lesson of the evening on how to effectively go forth, no lecture necessary. Dylan trusts his audience as much as his devoted listeners trust him. And rightly so.  NOTES  1. Jude Rogers, “Mavis Staples: ‘I often think what would have happened if I’d married Dylan,” The Guardian, 12 February 2016, https://www.theguardian .com/music/2016/feb/12/mavis-staples-i-often-think-what-would-have-happened-if -id-married-bob-dylan.  2.  We have used as reference a recording of the show previous to this one, at the Anthem in Washington, D.C. Heard the morning after the Boston show, it has the same setlist and is as close as we could identify to the Boston show. It can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPiQpajYeGg.  3.  Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/things-have-changed/.  4.  Flanagan, “Q & A.”  5.  Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/summer-days/.  6.  Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/summer-days/; Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (New York: Scribner, 1926), 42.  7.  Tennyson, The Poetical Works of Tennyson, 89.  8.  Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/my-back-pages/.  9.  Thomas, Why Bob Dylan Matters, 254–65. 10.  Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/pay-blood/. The lyrics published on the website conform to the live version, but are significantly different from the original as recorded on Tempest. 11.  Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/scarlet-town/. 12.  Bobdylan.com, http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/desolation-row/. 13.  The Surfaries, “Wipe Out.” iTunes audio, 2:37, 1963. 14. Bobdylan.com, https://www.bobdylan.com/songs/love-sick/. 15.  Dylan and Tom Petty, Across the Borderline.

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Allen, Lynne. “Interview with an Icon.” Trouser Press. In Younger Than That Now: The Collected Interviews with Bob Dylan. No editor, 61–70. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press. Auslander, Philip. Presence and Resistance: Postmodernism and Cultural Politics in Contemporary American Performance. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1994. ———. “Performance Analysis and Popular Music: A Manifesto.” Contemporary Theatre Review 14, no. 1: 1–13, 2004. Bahn, Eugene and Margaret L. Bahn. A History of Oral Interpretation. Minneapolis: Burgess, 1970. Bauldie, John. “Liner Notes.” Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3. New York: Columbia, 1991. Beckwith, Francis J., “Busy Being Born Again: Bob Dylan’s Christian Philosophy.” Bob Dylan and Philosophy. Edited by Peter Vernezze and Carl J. Porter. Chicago: Open Court, 2006. Beowulf. Translated by Burton Raffel. New York: Signet, 1963. Bernstein, Jamie. “Leonard Bernstein: A Born Teacher.” Leonard Bernstein at 100. https://leonardbernstein.com/about/educator. The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Heirloom, 1964. Billboard. “The Hot 100 the Week of August 7, 1965.” Accessed 5 August 2018. https://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100/1965-08-07. Biskind, Peter. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ’n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. New York: Touchstone, 1998. Blake, William. William Blake: The Complete Poems. Edited byAlicia Ostriker. London: Penguin, 1977. Bloom, Harold, The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003. Bobdylan.com. “Setlists.” Accessed 5 August 2018. https://www.bobdylan.com /setlists. 267

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Index

1960s, 3–4, 11, 13–14, 19, 24, 38, 62, 73, 83, 87, 93–94, 95n11, 119, 121, 175, 181–82, 184, 187, 210–11, 220. See also the Beatles; culture The 1966 Live Recordings, 128 1966 world tour, 12, 146–52. See also concerts; “Judas!”; Manchester Free Trade Hall acting, 212–13, 215, 218, 226 activism, 6, 9, 11, 15–19, 22, 93, 181– 84, 186–88. See also civil rights The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. See Twain, Mark Aeschylus, 51 “Ain’t Talkin’,” 189–90, 197 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. See Carroll, Lewis alienation, 10, 14, 71, 81, 86, 128, 136 “All Along the Watchtower,” 34, 93 “All I Really Want to Do,” 44, 153, 171, 231 allusions, 16, 40, 45, 52–53, 108–9, 115, 118, 121, 149, 192, 194, 196, 201, 218, 223–24, 230, 235, 238. See also borrowings

ambiguity, 5,7, 84–85, 138, 153, 164, 175, 265 American Ballads and Folk Songs, 31, 33, 35 American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, 42 the American Songbook, 13, 42–43, 48–50, 53, 109, 122, 155, 199, 201, 203, 262 American Standard, 41–42, 261 the Andrews Sisters, 47–48 Anglo-American music, 15 Another Side of Bob Dylan, 21, 61, 152 Anthology of American Folk Music, 10, 32, 113, 148 apocalypse, 114, 158, 189, 191, 193–94, 199, 255, 264 “Are You Ready?,” 117, 250 Arlen, Harold, 44, 46 ASCAP. See American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers aural choices, 61, 129 Auslander, Philip, 19–21. See also charismatic Other authenticity, 14, 33, 37, 63, 66, 71–73, 84, 95n11, 113, 129, 184, 211 autoethnography, 246, 252

287

288

Index

“Autumn Leaves,” 264 awards: Lifetime Achievement Grammy, 198; “Nobel Lecture,” 16, 24, 110, 201, 228; Nobel Prize for Literature, 9, 136, 189, 201 Baez, Joan, 110, 113, 153, 181–82, 220–22, 236 “Ballad of a Thin Man,” 10, 75–76, 93, 183, 265 ballads, 13, 32, 38–40, 43, 50, 94, 103, 110, 122, 123n36, 189, 194–95, 216, 220. See also Child, Francis James the Band, 12, 37, 153–55, 166, 188; the Hawks, 147, 150–51, 166–67, 229, 252 bards. See oral tradition The Basement Tapes, 145, 188 The Basement Tapes, Complete!, 37, 247 the Beatles, 3, 11, 13, 83–84, 93, 118– 19, 251. See also 1960s Belafonte, Harry, 33 Beowulf, 106, 108, 200, 202; Beowulf, 106–7. See also The Odyssey Berlin, Irving, 44–45 Bernstein, Leonard, 41 Berry, Chuck, 73, 81–84 the Bible, 80, 111–12, 190, 200, 217, 248 biblical, 79, 103, 105, 121–22, 194, 196, 198, 212 Biograph, 10, 119 “Black Diamond Bay,” 43, 196, 213, 217, 225–26, 238 “Blackjack Davey,” 39–40 Blake, William, 119–20, 196 Blind Lemon Jefferson, 33, 41, 111, 113, 236

“Blind Willie McTell,” 117 Blind Willie McTell, 41 Blonde on Blonde, 12, 14, 62, 66, 75–76, 82, 85–87, 91–93, 147, 166, 168, 223, 227 Blood on the Tracks, 127, 138n1, 140n32, 166, 176, 184, 223, 262; Minneapolis recording, 171–72, 176–77; New York recording, 161–62, 170–71 Bloom, Harold, 114, 248, 253–54 “Blowin’ in the Wind,” 11, 16–17, 23, 61, 183, 226, 260, 264–65 blues, 10, 13, 15, 34, 37, 38, 41–42, 69, 84, 92, 101, 103, 106, 108–12, 115, 118–19, 122, 182, 188, 191, 193, 220, 247, 254; bluesman, 113, 116, 119, 265; bluesy, 156, 213; non-blues, 109; talking blues, 145, 262 BMI, 42 Bob Dylan, 12, 51, 61, 111 “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” 35, 75, 171 Bogart, Humphrey, 52, 224, 235 bootleg, 12, 39, 120, 128, 150, 203n8, 219, 238 The Bootleg Series (multiple volumes), 6, 13, 38–39, 127, 130, 137, 138n1, 165–66, 169, 191, 201, 203, 222, 247 borrowings, 33, 109, 119, 224. See also allusions Bowden, Betsy, 5, 81, 92, 129–30, 174–75 Brando, Marlon, 212, 217 Brave Combo, 48 breath, 8, 39, 50–51, 60, 69, 76, 80, 119, 127, 134–35, 137–38, 165, 168, 176, 203, 225, 245, 263–64 breathe, 8–9, 92, 106, 130, 134–35, 137–38 Bridges, Mary Elizabeth, 116



Index

Bringing It All Back Home, 12, 61, 68, 74–75, 77, 96n63, 145, 147, 168–69 Bromberg, David, 39 Brooks, Harvey, 162, 171 “Brownsville Girl,” 43, 117, 194, 211, 213, 224, 238 Burns, Robert, 110 the Byrds, 11, 153, 217 Cain, 189–93, 196, 201 Campbell, Joseph, 107, 110, 114, 117– 18, 122 The Canterbury Tales. See Chaucer, Geoffrey “Caribbean Wind,” 247 Carmichael, Hoagy, 46, 53 carnival, 72, 86, 113, 154, 175, 209, 223, 230, 233, 237, 263 Carroll, Lewis, 233–34; Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 233–34; Through the Looking-glass, 234 Cave, Nick, 94 celebrity, 11–12, 110. See also stardom challenge, 4, 12, 18, 45, 51, 60, 62–63, 83, 91–92, 107, 134, 158, 184, 239, 260–61 Chaplin, Charlie, 14, 209 charismatic Other, 19. See also Auslander, Phillip Chaucer, Geoffrey, 110, 200; The Canterbury Tales, 110, 200 Cher, 153; and Sonny Bono, 154–55 Child, Francis James, 103, 110–11. See also ballads childhood, 11, 255. See also parents Chion, Michel, 92 Christianity, 12, 63, 79, 106, 114–16, 156–58, 245, 247–48, 251–52; evangelical, 12, 24, 45, 114, 116–17, 122, 158, 247–55;

289

gospel, 13, 15, 32, 101, 114–116, 156, 188, 247, 249; Pentecostal, 252, 254 Christmas in the Heart, 47–48 Chronicles: Volume One, 113, 229 cinema, 24, 210–11, 215, 219–21, 232–33; cinematic, 43, 76–78, 92, 194, 210– 12, 218, 224–25, 232–33, 238. See also film civil rights, 183, 189; civil rights movement, 21–22, 113. See also activism “Clean Cut Kid,” 224 clichés, 81–82, 90, 133, 220 Cole, Nat King, 47–48 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 190; “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” 190 communication, 7, 23, 63, 108, 128–30, 134, 147, 249; mass communication, 23 concerts, 5, 9–12, 15, 17–18, 22, 24, 32, 41, 49, 59–64, 73, 112, 116–18, 130, 146, 156–57, 168, 181–82, 192, 202, 210, 218–21, 226, 228, 233, 236, 246–47, 250, 252, 259–60, 262, 264. See also 1966 world tour; Manchester Free Trade Hall; The Never Ending Tour condensing, 131, 135–37 Conrad, Joseph, 193; Heart of Darkness, 193 Copland, Aaron, 32, 260 Cott, Jonathan, 45, 233 country music, 13, 38, 51, 71–72, 153, 184, 195, 214, 254, 261 “Covenant Woman,” 114, 249, 252 “Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood),” 37 Crosby, Bing, 47–48, 52 cultural, 4, 9, 13–14, 16–23, 33, 67, 71, 81, 84, 87–88, 110, 113, 175, 183, 200–203, 215, 246, 251, 253, 255;

290

Index

context, 4–5, 10, 17, 21–22, 24, 40, 66, 81; figure, 5, 17, 22, 78–81, 129, 163; indexing, 21; influence, 3, 42; position, 18, 23, 70; transmitter, 15, 42, 53, 122, 189 culture, 9, 16–17, 36, 53, 63, 79, 83, 101, 106–7, 122, 200, 220, 224, 238, 246, 253; contemporary, 5, 9, 18, 93; counterculture, 4, 11, 13, 19, 83–84, 87, 183–84, 211; musical, 9, 19, 21, 59, 62–63, 184; popular, 31, 59, 188, 246; youth, 33. See also 1960s The Cutting Edge: The Bootleg Series Volume 12, 165–66 Dalrymple, William, 102–3, 107 “Day of the Locusts,” 136, 210, Dean, M. C., 35–36; Flying Cloud, 35–36 DeCurtis, Anthony, 186–87 Deliverance, 162. See also McFaul, Tom “Desolation Row,” 10, 80, 163–65, 170, 187, 193, 196, 210, 230, 263 dialectic, 18, 135, 247 disidentification, 85–86, 93–94 Doe, John, 5 Donovan, 227 Dont Look Back, 216, 219, 222–23, 226, 229 Down in the Flood, 154 Down in the Groove, 39, 231 dreams, 47, 53, 132–33, 195, 230–31, 237, 263; dreamscapes, 53, 133 “Drifter’s Escape,” 234 Durham Peters, John, 26n37, 128, 130, 133, 135, 138 Dvořák, Antonin, 31–32.

See also Federal Music Project dynamics, 43, 60, 63–64, 75–76, 79, 88, 91, 156, 166–68, 173–75, 250 “Early Roman Kings,” 109, 263 Eat the Document, 119, 219, 221–22, 229, 235 Eden, 103, 191–93; Edenic, 189. See also Heaven; Paradise Eliot, T. S., 163, 187, 192, 196 embodiment, 12, 64, 101, 110–11, 113, 132, 134, 165, 169, 238–39, 262 enunciation, 5, 64, 109, 147, 150, 157, 175, 264 epic: journey, 122, 189; poetry, 13, 52, 101–2, 106–7, 200. See also heroic; mythic; oral tradition; poetry; spiritual epistemological, 131, 251 “Eternal Circle,” 5–9, 19–20, 75, 210 ethical, 16–17, 132 European art music, 71, 73 Evans, Gwen, 116 Evers, Medgar, 21–22 “Every Grain of Sand,” 247 Fallen Angels, 47, 49, 51 faith, 157–58, 249, 252. See also nonbelievers Federal Music Project, 32. See also Dvořák, Antonin film, 10, 17, 24, 27n43, 43, 45–47, 49, 52–53, 70, 80, 102–3, 121, 195–96, 209–24, 228–33, 235–39, 263. See also cinema film noir, 39, 46, 49, 219, 224 Flanagan, Bill, 45–48 “Floater (Too Much To Ask),” 137 Flying Cloud. See Dean, M. C. folk music, 15–16, 31–32, 53, 60, 72–73, 106, 108, 110, 114, 151, 188, 201, 220, 225, 228



Index

For Whom the Bell Tolls (film), 47 The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, 12, 16, 35, 61, 198 Friedwald, Will, 43, 50 “From a Buick 6,” 76, 78 Fuller, Jesse, 110–11 Garnier, Tony, 155 “Gates of Eden,” 168–69 Genesis, Book of, 105, 189–90, 192, 196 Gershwin, George and Ira, 44, 49 Gilgamesh, 102–4, 121, 200; Gilgamesh, 103; Sin-leqe-unninni, 102–4 Ginsberg, Allen, 120, 174, 220–22, 228 Gnostic, 251, 253 “Golden Loom,” 132–33 “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking,” 252 Good As I Been To You, 15, 34, 39–40, 119, 201 Gooding, Cynthia, 118, 230 “Gotta Serve Somebody,” 114, 156–58, 249, 252 Gray, Michael, 22–23, 71, 73, 76, 81, 83, 86–87, 92, 108–9, 118, 122, 129, 163, 187, 211–13, 223–24, 229, 238, 254 The Great Gatsby, 261 Greenwich Village, 12, 14, 33, 37, 119, 209, 219, 226 “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar,” 247 The Gunfighter, 211–12 Guslars. See oral tradition Guthrie, Woody, 13, 33–34, 73, 110, 175, 188, 209, 211, 226, 254 Hammond, John, 12, 23 Hard Rain, 27n43, 210 Harris, Ed, 235, 237 Harvey, Todd, 16, 188 Heart of Darkness. See Conrad, Joseph

291

Hearts of Fire, 229–31, 235, 261 Heaven, 50, 115, 193, 196, 253. See also Eden; Paradise Hemingway, Ernest, 261, 263; The Sun Also Rises, 261 Hendrix, Jimi, 93. Hentoff, Nat, 14 heroic, 107, 110, 121, 201, 216–17; journey, 122. See also epic; spiritual Herron, Donnie, 49, 155, 260, 264 Heylin, Clinton, 70, 146, 151, 224, 229, 247, 249 “Highway 61 Revisited,” 261 Highway 61 Revisited, 10, 12, 14, 59, 62, 64, 66–67, 74–77, 79, 81, 85–86, 88, 92–93, 147, 162–63, 165–66, 193, 196, 265 Holly, Buddy, 107, 181, 201 Homer, 13, 103, 105–6, 120–21, 201–2, 215. See also The Odyssey Howlin’ Wolf, 109 “I Am a Lonesome Hobo,” 38 “I Feel a Change Comin’ On,” 189 “I Saw Her Standing There,” 3 “I Shall Be Free,” 61, 78, 136, 138, 142n32, 193, 251 “I Shall Be Free #10,” 136 “I Want You,” 91–92 “Idiot Wind,” 134, 172, 174, 176 “If You See Her, Say Hello,” 127, 170–71, 223 “In the Garden,” 115–16, 250 inauthentic. See authenticity Infidels, 12, 224, 231 “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” 61, 83, 85, 92, 152–55, 260 “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” 145, 168–69 Johnson, Lonnie, 119 Johnson, Robert, 108, 112

292

Index

“Judas!,” 12, 15, 63, 150, 229. See also 1966 world tour; Manchester Free Trade Hall “Just Like a Woman,” 92, 236 Kerouac, Jack, 201, 222 King, Clydie, 116 the Kingston Trio, 33, Knopfler, Mark, 202 Kooper, Al, 162 Kristofferson, Kris, 214, 216, 230 Lanois, Daniel, 181 Larson, Gary, 200 Leadbelly, 33, 39, 254 Lennon, John, 84, 118–19, 182 Les Enfants du Paradis, 220, 222 “Like a Rolling Stone,” 10–11, 59, 62–63, 67–68, 70, 73–76, 79, 153, 158, 162–63 “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” 131, 138, 176, 213, 217 literary criticism, 9, 287 “Lonesome Day Blues,” 133, 171 “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” 61, 185–87 Lomax, Alan and John, 31–33, 35, 37–38, 40, 118, 191. See also nationalistic Lord, Albert Bates and Milman Parry. See oral tradition “Love and Theft,” 13, 16, 47, 120, 194, 201, 223, 233, 261–62 “Love Sick,” 264 Lunsford, Bascom Lamar, 34, 148 lyrics, 6, 12, 31, 34, 37–38, 41, 43–44, 47, 49, 53, 60, 70, 73, 76, 78, 81, 84–85, 92–93, 96n63, 108–9, 111– 12, 114–16, 118, 129–30, 133, 137, 139n15, 140n32, 145, 147–49, 154, 156–57, 167–68, 172–73, 176, 183, 187, 194, 202, 234, 249–50, 252, 261–62, 265n10; “folk-lyric,” 34, 37;

lyrical, 45, 59, 64–66, 70, 75–76, 78, 83, 88, 90–94, 119, 135, 156–58, 165–68, 171, 184, 210, 212, 245, 251, 253, 263; lyrical revision, 176; lyricist, 44, 47; written, 84, 146–49 Madhouse on Castle Street, 226, 230 “Maggie’s Farm,” 34, 75, 77–78 mainstream, 12, 14, 66, 71–73, 184, 210–11, 232; mass-marketed, 3, 71, 73. See also musical revival movements; resistance “Make You Feel My Love,” 46 The Maltese Falcon, 224, 231; Spade, Sam, 154, 224 “Man on the Street,” 130 Manchester Free Trade Hall, 63, 69, 115, 146, 150, 229. See also 1966 world tour; concerts; “Judas!” Marcus, Greil, 182 Marqusee, Mike, 87–88, 93 Marshall, Lee, 5, 14, 73, 93, 215 Masked and Anonymous, 210, 216, 231–33, 235–38 McCrary, Regina, 116 McFaul, Tom, 162. See also Deliverance McGeachy, M. C., 108, 111–12, 115, 119 microphones, 5, 51, 60, 105, 137, 228–29, 234 minstrels. See oral tradition the Mississippi Sheiks, 35 Modern Times, 13, 16, 47, 82, 120, 189, 192, 209, 263 “Moonlight,” 47 More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Volume 14, 166, 170, 172–72, 176 “Most of the Time,” 45–46, 137



Index

motorcycle accident, 11–12, 36, 120, 161, 193, 213, 229, 231 “Mr. Tambourine Man,” 11, 61, 168, 255 musical revival movements, 66, 72–73. See also mainstream; resistance “My Back Pages,” 131, 152, 262 mythic, 11, 102, 104, 122, 185, 199– 200, 216; mythology, 14, 106–7, 181, 187, 199, 201, 215. See also epic NAACP, 21–22 narrative, 8, 22, 61, 82, 90, 92, 105, 120, 130–31, 133, 145, 150–51, 185– 87, 200–201, 210–12, 218–19, 226, 232, 234, 238, 252, 255, 262–64; arc, 4, 8, 77; closure, 4–5, 19–20, 59, 132; identification, 61–62; multiple, 221, 225, 232; persona(e) 67, 85, 91, 165, 251; perspective, 19, 172–73, 233; rupture, 219–20; structure, 90, 210–11; voice, 16; nationalistic, 31–32 “Nettie Moore,” 192–93, 201 The Never Ending Tour, 7, 12, 32, 37, 145, 192. See also concerts Newport Folk Festival, 12, 60, 63, 153, 168 No Direction Home (film), 70–72, 81, 85, 146, 148, 209, 228 No Direction Home: The Bootleg Series Volume 7, 165, 169 “No More Auction Block,” 16, 33, 111, 113 “No Time to Think,” 45 nonbelievers, 251, 253. See also faith

293

nostalgia, 43, 53, 61, 63, 72–73, 83, 187, 216, 219 Odetta, 33 The Odyssey, 70, 101, 105, 120–21, 200–201, 215; Odysseus, 103, 106, 120–21, 197–98, 201, 262. See also Beowulf; Homer; Tennyson, Lord Alfred Oh Mercy, 12, 137 “On the Road Again,” 75, 77 “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later),” 91, 131 “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below),” 171, 223 “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” 16, 21–22, 61, 186–87 Ophelia, 80, 163 oral tradition, 101–2, 105, 107, 111; Albert Bates Lord and Milman Parry, 102; bards, 101–3, 105, 107, 120, 202; formulae/formulaic, 34, 101, 105–6, 108–109, 111–12, 115, 119, 200, 235; Guslars, 102, 112; minstrels, 33, 69, 102, 105, 107, 110, 215, 235, 237–38; rhapsodes, 24, 101, 105, 122, 189, 201–2; scop, 106, 110, 189, 202; spirituals, 22, 31–32. See also epic; poetry Orbison, Roy, 52 “Outlaw Blues,” 75 pace, 6, 12, 68, 78, 80, 87, 92, 102, 106, 154, 157, 167–68, 181, 195, 200, 218, 227 Paradise, 193. See also Eden; Heaven

294

Index

parents, 11, 13, 104, 129, 187, 193, 248, 255, 260. See also childhood Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (album), 35 Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (film), 210–12, 214–16, 218, 220, 223–24, 229–30 “Pay in Blood,” 120–21, 262 Peck, Gregory, 211–13 Peckinpah, Sam, 211, 214–17, 231 Pennebaker, D. A., 119, 210, 213, 226– 27, 229, 232 performance: choices, 5–6, 21, 24, 59, 60, 64–65, 67, 69–70, 80, 133, 135, 158, 164, 166; as idealized outcome, 166, 169; layers of, 154, 176; oppositional, 66, 81, 92, 94; practices, 18, 61, 63, 66, 72–73, 76–77, 83, 162, 253–54; strategies, 82, 213; folk idiom, 60; rock idiom, 59, 66, 90, 73. See also vocal performance studies, 9, 16–17, 20–21, 255 performative, 6–7, 9, 14, 17, 20–21, 23, 63, 73, 75, 91, 101, 111, 114, 134, 162, 181–82, 184, 189, 253 performers, 5, 9, 13–14, 17–22, 24, 36, 41–42, 45, 47, 61, 63–64, 67, 70–71, 75, 82, 84–85, 94, 101, 105, 110–11, 113, 115, 118, 129, 131, 134, 162, 168–69, 176, 181, 189, 201, 210, 214–15, 220, 223, 226, 232, 235, 237–39, 263; performing artist, 5, 9–10, 17–18, 20, 61, 127, 129–30, 255 Peter, Paul and Mary, 16, 113 Petty, Tom, 10, 50, 116, 154 “Pledging My Time,” 92 poetry, 8, 15–16, 46, 77, 90, 109, 120, 122, 127, 129–30, 163, 181, 197, 200–203, 219;

poet, 5–6, 9, 77, 84, 102–3, 119–20, 132, 135–35, 221, 228; poetic, 7, 77, 79, 84, 101, 104, 115, 127, 129–38, 152, 154, 174–76, 186–87, 189–90, 193–94. See also epic; oral tradition politics. See activism Pope, Alexander, 217; “The Rape of the Lock,” 217 popular music, 3, 9–11, 17, 59, 66, 83, 95n11, 129–30, 163, 182–84, 188 Porter, Cole, 44, 47, 52 “Positively 4th Street,” 59, 62, 64–66, 69, 90 postmodern, 19–20 Presley, Elvis, 13, 74, 84, 115, 251, 254 psychological, 61, 65; psychosexual, 222, 233 “Queen Jane Approximately,” 75–76 the Queens of Rhythm, 50 “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” 85, 118, 171 “The Rape of the Lock.” See Pope, Alexander Real Live, 145, 154 Recile, George, 155 recording practices, 23–24, 60, 165. See also studio; takes Renaldo and Clara, 211, 216–18, 220– 21, 229, 231–35, 238 resistance, 5–6, 14–15, 59, 71, 84, 114, 181–82, 184. See also mainstream; musical revival movements Revelation, Book of, 112, 193, 196, 247 rhapsodes. See oral tradition rhyme, 8, 22, 35, 44–45, 87, 109, 113, 136–37, 149–51, 167–68, 174, 191, 211, 246, 253; end-rhyme, 87, 132, 134, 167, 173– 74; rhyming formula, 108, 112; rhyming pattern, 167;



Index

rhyming technique, 47 Ricks, Christopher, 15, 11, 21–22, 81, 87, 115, 130–131, 133, 140n31, 146, 150, 174–75, 186, 193 “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” See Coleridge, Samuel Taylor rock music, 11–14, 67, 74, 79, 81–82, 84, 93–94, 96n63; classic rock, 10–11, 184; soft rock, 10, 38 rock ’n’ roll, 13–14, 24, 33, 53, 59, 66, 69–75, 79, 81–85, 90, 92–94, 122, 153, 156, 166, 182, 192, 214, 220, 230, 254, 261 rock star, 15, 33, 93, 154, 216, 220; archetype, 3 “Roll on John,” 120–21; 1962, 118, 149; 2012, 118, 194 the Rolling Thunder Revue, 10, 145, 154, 222, 232–33 Rotolo, Suze, 152 rupture, 66, 85, 219, 232, 254–56. See also tension Saved, 114, 117, 246, 250 “Scarlet Town,” 104, 111, 263 Scarry, Elaine, 7–8, 128, 132–33 scholars, 5, 9–10, 15, 17, 20–22, 32–33, 53, 62, 71, 84, 94, 102, 104–5, 113, 129, 215, 246 scops. See oral tradition Scorsese, Martin, 209–10 Seeger, Charles, 32–33 Seeger, Pete, 32, 60, 110, 217 Self Portrait, 35, 38 Seydor, Paul, 214–15, 240n32 Shadows in the Night, 45, 47, 49–50 Shakespeare, William, 11, 13, 89, 181, 187, 194–95, 198–99, 202, 235; The Tempest, 194, 198–99 “Shelter from the Storm,” 128, 138, 252 Shepard, Sam, 194, 211, 221, 238 Shot of Love, 114 Simon, Paul, 38, 260

295

Sinatra, Frank, 13, 15, 41, 43, 45–52, 192, 261–62, 264 singing, 5, 13, 15, 23, 34, 43, 45, 48, 60, 67–68, 73–78, 80, 82, 86, 88, 90–91, 112–13, 127, 130, 135–38, 147, 152, 156–57, 162, 165, 172–73, 175–76, 202, 212, 216–17, 222, 226–27, 238, 250, 254, 259 sites of suspension, 247 “Skylark,” 51 Sloman, Larry, 39, 162, 222 “Slow Train,” 156–58, 249, 252 Slow Train Coming, 114, 157, 249, 252, 263 Smith, G. E., 112 Smith, Harry, 32–34, 40, 42, 113 “Solid Rock,” 245, 247, 250 “Song to Woody,” 13, 85, 188, 203 songwriter, 5, 9, 16, 38, 53, 60, 82–84, 118, 162, 188, 195, 216, 223 songwriting, 7, 23, 36, 44, 65, 83–84, 93, 158, 161, 182, 188, 238 “Soon After Midnight,” 109, 134, 263 sound-as-object, 62–63 sound studies, 9, 16, 23 sound worlds, 24, 59, 62, 69–72, 75, 78, 85–86, 92, 135, 156, 162, 165, 167–71, 247, 250 soundtrack, 210, 213, 215, 238 Spade, Sam. See The Maltese Falcon “Spirit on the Water,” 135, 193 spiritual, 122, 157, 248, 252; journey, 122. See also epic; heroic Springsteen, Bruce, 10, 15, 116, 118, 222 Stanton, Harry Dean, 216, 220, 238 Staples, Mavis, 259 stardom/star–image, 14–15, 83, 210–11, 215–16, 222, 230, 233. See also celebrity Street Legal, 12, 45 “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” 34, 62, 86, 148, 163, 210, 251

296

Index

studio: processes, 7, 162, 165, 168, 170, 177; recordings, 22–24, 60, 128, 135, 140n32, 161, 210; sessions, 162, 168. See also recording practices; takes “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” 68, 73–75, 120 “Sugar Baby,” 194 “Summer Days,” 203, 261 The Sun Also Rises. See Hemingway, Ernest Superman, 102 takes, 36, 46, 50, 55n42, 161–62, 165– 67, 172, 177; alternate, 165–67, 191; complete, 23, 165–66, 170, 756; master, 55n42, 165–67, 169; multiple, 23, 35, 161–62, 165–66, 169, 173–74, 177. See also recording practices; studio “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues,” 250 “Tangled Up in Blue,” 52, 136, 145, 154–55, 171, 176–77, 210, 222, 251–52, 262 Taylor, Diana, 17–19, 163 “Tell Me, Momma,” 146–47, 153 Tell Tale Signs, 39, 46, 137, 191 “Tempest,” 109, 194–97, 203, 210 Tempest, 13, 16, 39, 47, 49, 109, 111, 118, 120, 194–95, 199, 265n10 The Tempest. See Shakespeare, William Tennyson, Alfred Lord, 197, 261; “Ulysses,” 197; Ulysses, 197, 261. See also The Odyssey tension, 7, 48, 67, 70, 112, 216–18, 236–37, 247, 251–53, 255. See also rupture texts, 5, 7, 10, 14, 16–19, 21, 23–24, 101–2, 113, 128–29, 131, 138, 158,

161–62, 167, 196, 198, 200, 211, 232, 235, 246; film, 232–33; intertextuality, 40, 52, 223–24, 233; performed, 17, 20–21, 23; recorded, 17, 19; text-based, 9 texture, 10, 22, 43, 60, 64, 128, 132, 166–67, 186; musical, 40, 60 “That Lucky Old Sun,” 50 Theme Time Radio Hour, 13, 15, 41–43 “Things Have Changed,” 155, 260 Through the Looking-glass. See Carroll, Lewis Time Out of Mind, 13–14, 194 The Times They Are A-Changin’, 61 Tin Pan Alley, 42–44, 71 Titanic (1997 film), 195 Titanic (ship), 196 To Catch a Thief, 47 Together Through Life, 13, 16, 194 “Tombstone Blues,” 77–78, 136 “Tomorrow Night,” 119 transfiguration, 117–18, 121–22 the Traveling Wilburys, 118 Travis, Merle, 149 Triplicate, 45–47, 49, 51–53 tropes, 4, 8, 10, 25n6, 64, 83, 103, 185, 217, 249, 251, 261 Trouble No More, 116, 155–57, 247, 249–50, 252, 256 the Turtles, 153–54 Twain, Mark, 133; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 133, 209, 260 “Ulysses.” See Tennyson, Alfred Lord Van Ronk, Dave, 32, 103 “Visions of Johanna,” 166, 168 vocal, 23, 38, 41, 50, 65, 68, 70, 74, 76–77, 79, 81, 85–86, 90, 135–38, 140n32, 146, 158, 162, 164–65, 169– 71, 173–74, 177, 246, 250, 254, 262;



Index

approach, 63, 73, 92, 157, 168–69, 172; attack, 67–68, 76, 109, 137, 173; choice, 24, 75, 77, 80, 91, 128–31, 135, 137, 166; decay, 8, 127, 137–38, 173; line, 64–66, 79; performance, 40, 59–60, 64, 66–67, 74–75, 77, 81–82, 87–88, 92–93, 128–32, 135, 157, 163, 167–73, 175, 249; quality, 19, 75, 169; style, 22, 79, 166, 168–69, 174, 249; technique, 50, 71, 132, 213; tone, 77, 86, 92, 156, 164–65, 170, 173; vocalist, 48, 127; vocalization, 8, 64–65, 78, 92, 164, 167, 213. See also voice voice, 5, 8, 10, 12–13, 15, 20, 22–24, 33, 38–40, 43, 50–51, 60–62, 68–69, 74, 76–78, 80, 84–86, 94, 111–13, 116–17, 127, 129–30, 134–35, 137–38, 146, 153–57, 161, 165–66, 169–71, 173–75, 189–90, 197, 209,

297

213, 215–16, 219, 228, 237, 245–47, 250, 253, 263–65; singing, 60, 80, 92, 137, 254; unvoiced, 127. See also narrative; vocal “Walking Down the Line,” 130 the Weavers (Pete Seeger, et al.), 33 “When He Returns,” 114, 249, 251 “When You Gonna Wake Up,” 249, 252–53 Wilentz, Sean, 93, 123n36, 187, 188, 254 Williams, Paul, 5, 22, 40, 93, 129–30, 137 “Wipe Out,” 264 “Workingman’s Blues #2,” 51, 82, 120 World Gone Wrong, 15, 39–40, 260 Yagoda, Ben, 31, 33, 42, 44 “You’re a Big Girl Now,” 172–74, 223 “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” 170, 176 Young, Mona Lisa, 116 Young, Neil, 93 Zimmerman, Robert Allan, 11, 14, 41–42, 107, 201

About the Authors

Dr. Keith Nainby is professor of communication studies at California State University, Stanislaus. His primary research interests are communication pedagogy and performance studies. His previous publications on Bob Dylan have appeared in the journal Contemporary Theatre Review, in the book Po‑ litical Rock, and in the forthcoming book The Polyvocal Bob Dylan. John M. Radosta teaches English and creative writing at Milton High School in Milton, Massachusetts. He has published a novel and numerous short stories, most of them under a pseudonym, but this is his first full-length work under his own name. A veteran of nearly fifty Bob Dylan concerts, his research interests are in literary criticism and ancient literature. He lives in Boston with his wife, son, and rescue dog.

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