Tombstone Blues being found immediately after Like a Rolling Stone on Bob Dylan’s sixth album, Highway 61 Revisited, the one that changed everything forever. Philip Random remains in awe of the mad precision of its poetry. “Lately it’s been the geometry of innocent flesh on the bone causing Galileo’s math book to get thrown. But maybe six months ago, it was the king of the Philistines, his soldiers putting jawbones on their tombstones and flattering their graves. Back in the early 1980s, it was definitely John the Baptist (after torturing a thief) looking up at his hero the Commander-in-Chief, saying, tell me great hero, but please make it brief, is there a hole for me to get sick in? In other words, yeah it’s all just Dada, but it’s a fine and enduring Dada, still very much alive, mercurial even. Particularly if you’re driving long distances, gobbling dexedrine, smoothing the edges with cheap red wine, you hit the Pacific coast at sunset, northern California somewhere, take some pictures but for some reason all you’ve got is black + white film. So the moment is captured without pigment, the sky pure white, like an atomic bomb. Which is more or less accurate, I think. If the world didn’t end in 1965 when Dylan released Highway 61, then it was June 1989, and I have pictures to prove it.”
In which the Pretty Things take us back to the dawn of this so-called pop apocalypse. It’s 1965 and whatever’s going down in London, whatever mix of drugs, fashion, overall youth discontent — it’s good, it’s swinging, it’s f***ing immortal … for two minutes anyway in the case of Buzz The Jerk.
“True fact. Though The Band may have been Bob Dylan’s favourite band, they didn’t do much actual studio work together. Whatever they had, it was mostly a live thing, which is certainly how Please Crawl Out Your Window feels: just plug in and go for it. Released as a single in late 1965, it mostly missed the charts at the time, thus freeing it up to land freshly with me maybe twenty years later (again via the Biograph box set). Like a postcard from some past cool scene I only wish I could’ve known. The light itself must’ve been different in those days. And it probably was, given all the speed those guys were doing.” (Philip Random)
“The people I feel sorry for are the ones who try to make definitive sense of a Bob Dylan lyric, particularly the stuff from his pre-motorcycle-crash-peak-amphetamine (and whatever else) period. I mean, take the first two lines of Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues. When you’re lost in the rain in Juarez and it’s Eastertime too – And your gravity fails And negativity don’t pull you through. You can go anywhere from there. Or nowhere. Which is the whole point, of course. Maybe. What I mean is, I first heard it when I was maybe fourteen, three decades ago now, and I’m sure I’ve heard it hundreds of times since, but I still couldn’t tell you what any of it’s actually about. Not a single line. And I don’t care. It takes me regardless, maybe nowhere at all. And if you don’t get the appeal in all that, then there’s someone you need to meet. His name is Mr. Jones.” (Philip Random)
“Another potent reminder of just how unbelievably f***ing good the Beatles were, and how dumb our commercialized culture continues to be — that a song this good (another one of George’s nuggets) could still somehow be under-exposed. Not that I’m really complaining.” (Philip Random)
Donovan b-side from before he started up with smoking banana peels, going all sunshine superman. The image is of a young back country Scottish guy doing a pretty solid early-Dylan-beat-vagabond thing, then stumbling into London just in time to catch things at the brink of starting to swing, trying to make sense of it, digging the slowness.