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)

480. sitting

“Every generation has its pluses and minuses. Born in 1959 means you pretty much missed the 1960s entirely, except from an outside-looking-in little kid’s perspective. Turn eleven in 1970 and you’ve got the Beatles breaking up, Bob Dylan going into hiding, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin all dead within three months. On the other hand, turn thirteen in 1972 and you had the likes of Cat Stevens riding high not just in charts but also in terms of serious artistic cred. Here was a guy laying it all out for you, direct from his cosmic soul — the nebulous and paradoxical truth about this, that, life in general. All just a maze of doors which opened from the side I was on. I still believe that. I still keep opening doors.” (Philip Random)

CatStevens-1972-London

529. Cuyahoga

“I gave up trying to figure out what Michael Stipe was on about very early on. The first few REM albums, he was mumbling, which made it easy. But then, come Life’s Rich Pageant, he was suddenly enunciating, you could now decipher words – they just weren’t adding up. Except maybe Cuyahoga. Because I’d read about the Cuyahoga as a little kid. The river that was so polluted with man made chemicals and whatever that it actually caught fire, Cleveland, Ohio, 1969. That’s the kind of fact that’s all too meaningful.” (Philip Random)

REM-1986-roadside

549. the meaning

Stupidtramp as some eventually came to call them were actually pretty darned good until they started selling bucketloads of records. Fact is, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love them for a while in the mid-70s, Crisis What Crisis? in particular – a solid forty plus minutes of thoughtful, innovative, ambitious pop … and beyond. The Meaning gets the nod here, because it’s damned important. Meaning, that is. Assuming there is one.” (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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