Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It ain't me, babe.

There was a time when I dreamt of writing for Rolling Stone. Those were years of innocence; of confidence in your own abilities, and of believing that the world has faith in you. But that little shining bubble of mine vanished the minute I heard this prick of a song -

You might be a rock 'n' roll addict prancing on the stage,
You might have drugs at your command,
Women in a cage,
You may be a business man or some high degree thief,
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

But you're gonna have to serve somebody,

That's the kind of influence Dylan exercised on his fans. He'd make you believe in life with one song and then present a complete volt face with the next one. Lift your spirits with one song and then play turncoat while talking about it. Talk about being a two-faced Gemini.

And how many deaths will it take till we know,
that too many people have died?

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind,
the answer is blowing in the wind.

It supposedly took Dylan about 10 minutes to write this one. He put words to the melody of an old slave song called No More Auction Block. The following evening, Dylan took the song to a nightclub in Greenwich Village, where he was due to play a set. Before playing it, he announced, "This here ain't no protest song or anything like that, 'cause I don't write no protest songs."
This was getting caught off-guard of Everestine proportions. Very much like computer teachers in the 90s, when they demonstrated the use of the internet and keyed in

So long, honey babe
Where I'm bound, I can't tell
Goodbye's too good a word, babe
So I'll just say fare thee well
I ain't saying you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don't mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don't think twice, it's all right.

And here's what the man had to say, "A lot of people make it sort of a love song - slow and easygoing. But it isn't a love song. It's a statement that maybe you can say something to make yourself feel better. It's as if you were talking to yourself."
It sure made me feel like I was on the top of the world, just after getting dumped.

She takes just like a woman, yes, she does
She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl

This song sent women's groups on a critical overdrive, because of its disparaging lyrics. I wonder if he tried to point out the difference in being old enough to have a child, and being old enough to be a mother.

I believe no other artist had garnered as much fame in denial, as Dylan had. When he was knighted the king of rock, he quietly turned to country. When they believed he was the voice of the anti-establishment movement, he let big establishments use his his music for commercials. Without his influence, the Beatles would probably have been held in as much regard now, as Backstreet Boys will 30 years from now. And yet, he chose not to speak of those days in his memoirs, like Bill Clinton would in a Cigar Convention.

I guess it takes a Bob Dylan to be what everybody dreams of becoming, and turn astray. To get his fans swear by him, only to betray later. To put it in his style of denial, if he hadn't believed in himself, Bob Dylan would've been an atheist.

Who will promise never to part,
Someone to close his eyes for you,
Someone to close his heart,
Someone who will die for you an' more,
But it ain't me, babe,
No, no, no, it ain't me, babe,
It ain't me you're lookin' for, babe.


Manoj Rahul said...

Wow, this is great! I always have thought about putting a Dylan part-perspective into words, but perhaps because of age, immaturity or something else have never been able to write anything compact and to-the-point on the subject of Bob's work, life, etc, etc. Of course, volumes have been written on the deliberate ambiguities he's created around everything. But i want to know what you think of art in general as influenced by Dylan's behaviour. Art for it's own sake, perception of beauty and being content with that, sociological commentary and so on.

If you had to explain your relationship with Dylan in one or two lines like the one you wrote above (If he hadn't believed in...), what would it be?

Sudhir Pai said...

If there was one thing that separated Dylan from most, it's the thought between two notes. And if I was talking about Paul Simon, I'd say it's the emotion between the notes. But then, we could go on dissecting his work like bibliophiles with Joyce's Ulysses, I'm sure Dylan really didn't think so much about it after it was done. So lets just drop the baggage and enjoy the song.