Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Let's get personal

Often, a piece of music we really love can speak to us so powerfully, it almost feels like it describes some part of our deeper selves. Sometimes that's a part of ourselves we couldn't even hope to put into our own words even if we wanted to; and anyway, the music does it so much better, so why not let it?

If I had to pick one 'track' out which does this job for me, its actually not a song at all, but a kind of poem. When I heard this one through for the first time, it was like all time stood still on me. I know some of you are not such big Dylan fans, but I ask you to take the time to listen to this and answer me this question: What do you think Mr D is saying in the last verse? Having absolutely nailed so much of the nature of life in all his other verses, Bob throws us off scent abruptly with some apparently throw away line about the Grand Canyon. Any thoughts?

Also, i'd like to know if any of you have any tracks which you feel maybe speak for you better than you can yourself?


steenbeck said...

Oh, Sourpus, I've always loved this track. There's so much love in it. Always loved Song for Woody, too.

I've always thought the last verse was summing up this whole idea that god (however you think of that concept) is not something you'll find in organized religion, it's something you'll find in the people you meet in your travels, or in the (for lack of a cheesier word) miracles of nature--the Grand Canyon, for instance.

steenbeck said...


This one, I like, too.

goneforeign said...

SP: You ask the hard questions, emotionally I know what it means, I understand and relate to what he says but I'm not able to improve on what Steen says. One of his better poems and similarly I like Song for Woody.

nilpferd said...

I think it's also a comment on the elusiveness of people's search for meaning, and the unexpectedness with which profound moments can overwhelm us- the Grand Canyon is, I think, for many Americans something of a cliche and Dylan chooses it deliberately, as if to say, look, even here in this place which we all know so well, which delivers up a kind of beauty everyone is already expecting, which you've seen a thousand times on advertisements or calendars, you might still find that key thing you've been searching for all your life.. or you might not.
Musicwise, if we're talking about songs with lyrics I would say this track most powerfully speaks about my deeper self.

treefrogdemon said...

I haven't been to the Grand Canyon but if I went, I should expect to feel awe because it shows how the Earth was formed and I'm a big fan of the Earth.

The River came out in 1981 when I felt that I'd run out of all my resources. After my marriage ended I'd crisscrossed the country with the kids (every time they started a new school they found they had the wrong accent) in order to finish my education, and we ended up in a privately-rented house in Crewe where I was doing my teacher training, and one day - yes folks, it was just before Christmas - there was a knock on the door, and it was the woman who owned the house saying her business venture in California hadn't worked out and she wanted her house back.

So that was us homeless, and we got rehoused on to a 'sink' estate, and while I was moving our stuff some kid in his mother's car skidded on the ice and ran into the front of my Mini, thus rendering it unable to make the trip down to my parents' for Christmas where we would be warm and have nice things to eat and presents.

Anyway, all the people on The River are in trouble and struggling too, and some of them will make it and some won't; and I felt then and still feel that Springsteen understands what people are really like, and it helped me. And if I can only have one song I'll have Thunder Road,, please,sourpus.

treefrogdemon said...

oops, sorry, Bruce: I meant Point Blank of course. Thunder Road ain't on The River, it's on Born to Run.

I'm on holiday you see and my brain isn't working.

steenbeck said...

Haha, me too, Nilpferd!

steenbeck said...

As I proved this weekend in print, by the way. Whoops.

And Nilpferd--CJ is up. Product Placement. Hmmm...

TFD--your story would make a good Bruce Springsteen song. I like the fact that you like him so much. I like Thunder Road, too.

AliMunday said...

Sourpus, I'm one of those people who doesn't like Dylan very much but when I was away from home for the first time, on my own in London and sleeping on someone's floor, I found the LP 'Blood on the Tracks' in the record collection and played it over and over. It seemed to speak to me then.

ToffeeBoy said...

@ sourpus - we share many common musical interests. Mr Dylan is not one of them I'm afraid - I just don't get it.

ToffeeBoy said...

Sorry, that came dangerously close to being a buke - I realise that many people love the man and his music.

You see, I nearly put the word music in quotes - sorry ...

goneforeign said...

I'm not in the slightest bit religiously oriented, just the opposite actually but I can relate to a lot of rasta music which is even odder since it relates to a fascistic dictator who they regard as the second coming. Much of what Bob Marley sings, ie Jah Lives, Exodus, Jah love, Give thanks and praises, I know, Forever Loving Jah and dozens or hundreds more, I find touching, not because I believe in the lyrics but out of identity with many friends who do take it seriously and believe in the content. I identify with the music not the message. Similarly I find beauty in pieces like Gabrielle Faure's ' Requium' and similar pieces by Bach and Mahler, not for the content but rather for the form, the way that the emotion is expressed. So I suppose that all those plus lots more similar express something musically that I couldn't come close to articulating verbally.
Jah Lives has a very specific effect on me, whenever I hear it, it takes me back to to a Mexican clifftop overlooking the Pacific at dawn as I sat quietly contemplating the ocean and sipping a cup of coffee with that playing on my van's speakers.
A similar effect comes from hearing the St John's Chapel Choir, that takes me back to a cold foggy morning as I walked across the lawn towards Wells Cathedral as the choir as practicing, almost enough to make me a believer!

sourpus said...

steenbeck, its nice to know someone shares my appreciation for the young Dylan's work in this example. The line which goes:

"And you yell to yourself and you throw down your hat, saying 'Christ! Do I gotta be like that?'

get me every time.

nilpferd, I think you may have nailed the answer to my question there; in as much as old Zimmy aint about to reveal anything more. Thanks for that.

Toffee, I firmly believe that Dylan is a genius. Tempted to say that because there was no will, there was no way for you. If you're happy with that, absolutely fair enough mate. But if you are ever tempted, give us a call and i'll attempt to talk you through what will be a difficult (but nevertheless - given some of your other taste - natural) birth. I'll bring my records.

Ali, BOTT is an album you CAN go back to again and again, intermitently, with almost the same relish as when it first got you hooked. Its a great car stereo, open road album. Hugely influencial on my band - and on EBTG of course (Toffee old man, you know I speak the truth)

Treefrog/goneforeign, your stories are both touching and honest - muchos gracias for the soul bearing and the sweetness in your hearts. Respect.