61. desolation row

“It must’ve been early 1973 because I was still thirteen, working through the bullshit of Grade Eight, and everything else for that matter, including life itself, a big fat WHY BOTHER at the heart of pretty much all my musings. Because the Christian-God-based reality I’d had foisted on me from day one was too ridiculous to be taken remotely seriously. But what did that leave then other than meaninglessness, which was proving to be no fun at all. Meanwhile in the background, this Bob Dylan song was playing on the cool FM radio station of the moment (nobody else sounded like him, I had that much figured out) and it just kept going on and on, about postcards sent from hangings, and Cain and Abel, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Insurance Men, the Titanic, Einstein disguised as Robin Hood, the Phantom of the Opera, Ezra Pound and T.S. Elliot … like the singer-poet-whatever in question had a damned serious message for me and he wasn’t going stop until I got it. Which I did finally. Except it wasn’t really a message. More of a feeling that I’d be wise to stop sweating the meaning stuff, and rather just get on with it, live, learn, encounter crazy shit, go to the hangings and bear witness, maybe drink cheap red wine, mix it up with marijuana, get serious about all that confusion out there (and within for that matter) not as an end but maybe as an indication that some higher wisdom-insight-glory might be waiting a little further down the line. And take notes, maybe send a few postcards of my own. Maybe this is one of them.” (Philip Random)

135. it’s alright ma, I’m only bleeding

Bringing It All Back Home being Bob Dylan’s other 1965 album, the one that preceded Highway 61 Revisited and the apocalyptic Like A Rolling Stone snare shot which gave this whole project impetus. But such is the nature of apocalypse, the space-time continuum gets scrambled. Which makes It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding an appropriately timely version of the Six O’clock News circa 1965. Young man wired on amphetamines and Beaujolais and a truckload of symbolist poetry, grabs a great roll of paper and gets to typing, Jack Kerouac style. The words seem to be about all manner of stuff. The words††† seem to be about everything. Hell, I remember an old cab driver friend insisting it was about Jesus Christ himself, up on the cross, having his moment of doubt, seeing through messianic eyes all the future desolation of so-called modern man. Then the vision fades and he notices his mom, Mary, in real time, no doubt as worried as any mother has ever been. So he gives her a wink, says not to worry, he’s alright, except for all the bleeding.”

(image source)

 

240. It’s all over now, Baby Blue

Technically, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue shouldn’t be on this list as its recording precedes the Like A Rolling Stone snare shot that allegedly gave impetus to the apocalypse in question. But such is the nature of a rupture in the space-time continuum, there’s often an implosion-like suck that throws key details of the recent past forward, mixes them up with the various smithereens currently floating around. Thus, we find yonder orphan with his gun crying like a fire in the sun. It makes perfect sense if you’ve got the right kind of eyes, and ears. Also worth noting: It’s All Over Now Baby Blue is the solo acoustic piece that young Bob Dylan chose to calm the crowd after his legendary electric set at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival went so horribly wrong/right. No serious apology intended.

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327. tombstone blues

Tombstone Blues comes immediately after Like a Rolling Stone on Bob Dylan’s sixth album, Highway 61 Revisited (the one that changed everything forever). The thought that comes to mind is, hard act to follow, but Dylan being Dylan, he quickly annihilates that concern. Note the use of present tense. This stuff is still very much alive, virulent even. The poetry, that is. 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. And 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 just call it Dada, but it’s a fine and enduring Dada. 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 atom 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’ve got pictures to prove it. Which makes what we’re going through now just one more layer of the proverbial onion — everything keeps peeling away.” (Philip Random)

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348. buzz the jerk

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.

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392. please crawl out your window

“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)

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605. just like Tom Thumb’s blues

“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)

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758. raunchy

“According to my friend Jason who knows everything, the Ventures lack credibility because they were never a proper surf band. They just ripped off the surf sound and, being top notch musicians with access to top notch studios, their stuff often killed the originals in recorded form. Jason, all I can say is, purity is boring, particularly when applied to something as impure, mongrel, fuzz and raunch infested as surf infused rock ‘n’ roll. And anyway, Raunchy shouldn’t even be on the list as it was released in 1964, a year before the cut-off, which I only just figured out, so whatever, call this whole initiative impure, mongrel, raunch infested. Or maybe surf music is capable of transcending the laws of space and time, even if it’s impure.” (Philip Random)

759. think for yourself

“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)

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