BOB DYLAN ON THE BRAIN
I finally managed to watch Marin Scorsese's "No Direction Home", a documentary about Bob Dylan and his controversial imprint on the 60s folk music scene, after I caught a few seconds of it last year in London. Borrowing generous amounts of footage from DA Pennebaker's '67 documentary on the reluctant icon, the film is fascinating to anyone not born before Dylan's heretic days of "going electric", in which he was literally decried as a Judas, and blasted--directly by the public (more pronounced in England than anywhere else, really) and the media for going too mainstream and not taking the Joan Baez route of political activism.
My favorite scene takes place at a massive press meeting (this was before he was to turn on his public and go more rock n'roll). A fluffy-haired, smug Bob Dylan sits before a sea of camera flashes, of course wearing his trademark black sunglasses. A
voice begins to question him from off-camera--it's some 50s squarehead reporter, in complete Ozzie and Harriet-style baritone:
Reporter: How many people who major in the same musical vineyard in which you toil, how many are protest singers? That is, people who use their music, and use the songs to protest the uh, social state in which we live today, the matter of war, the matter of crime, or whatever it might be.
Bob Dylan: Um... how many?
Reporter: Yes. How many?
Bob Dylan: Uh, I think there's about uh, 136.
[Other reporters start to laugh]
Reporter: You say ABOUT 136, or you mean exactly 136?
Bob Dylan: Uh, it's either 136 or 142.
This kind of sarcasm typifies Dylan's attitude towards the mainstream, or at least it did in the beginning of his career. And as far as his musical direction is concerned, it's admirable that Dylan refused to let the public influence him; he really seemed to be on his own inner mission. And it is this quality to his persona that led some to believe his work was truly marked by divinity. This viewpoint only adds to the myth behind the man.
But it seems to me that, in his golden years, Dylan has in fact taken the public denouncement of his sell-out ways and expanded them in spite. A few years back, I was more than a little upset to find him playing his guitar in a Victoria's Secret commercial. And then today I came across this Cadillac/XM Radio commercial of him on youtube:
I'm sorry if I find absolutely no artistic value in this atmospheric lonesome travelin man bit of commercial shit. C'mon, is this what one of the best songwriters--if not THE best--of the 20th century has been reduced to:
Music sounds a little sweeter, a little bit neater
When your windows are rolled down
and you got your hands at 10 and 2
I just wish he didn't have to actively tarnish the legacy of his music will this crap. I don't think that's too much to ask of you Bob Dyaln. I really don't.
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