Monday, September 26, 2005

"We never much thought we could get very old": a boomer tale, part 1

I've just watched Scorsese's No Direction Home, and I'm all verklempt. David Greenberg's take in Slate was that the piece was a boomer scrapbook, ignoring Dylan's later career. Well, I've got to admit, I pretty much ignored everything after Blood on the Tracks, mostly because I'd found other stuff to follow, but also because I was convinced nothing he could do could possibly equal what he did in my student days. Kinda like the realization I had at about age thirteen, when I concluded that the kiss of death, from my viewpoint, at least, for a singer was the album with liner notes that said, "This represents X's development as an artist", which translated as, "S/he's given up that immature rock'n'roll stuff to do show tunes and pop standards, and hopes to be playing Vegas soon."

Not that I ever feared Dylan becoming a lounge act (well, yeah, I sort of did). I've got a lot to write about this, which is why I've captioned this "Part 1", so, since it's late, I'm running out of Cognac, and I have to work tomorrow, I'll conclude with a few odd obsevations.

When I first read about the young singer from Minnesota named Bob Dylan, I assumed his name was pronounced "DIE-lan" and that he was a muscular Norwegian-American lad in the grand old Midwestern-Scandinavian social-democratic farmers' and laborers' tradition.

I joined the Columbia Record Club during my freshman year of college, which meant I got to order six albums from their catalog for the price of one. One of the six I chose (along with Surfing by the Ventures and Hey, Little Cobra by the Rip Chords) was The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. I hadn't heard him yet, but I knew he'd written "Blowin' in the Wind", and was curious. When my records came, I found that I'd gotten everything I'd ordered except the Dylan album. Instead of that, I'd received Theresa Brewer's Greatest Hits. A friend congratulated me on my good fortune.

I did get Freewheelin' shortly after that, and, like lots of people, mistook Suze Rotolo for Joan Baez. Soon after that, I got Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A'Changin', and Another Side of Bob Dylan. The last of these quickly became my favorite album, supplying an appropriate soundtrack for my sophomore angst.

During my sophomore year, I returned to my dorm room one night to find a sign taped to the door: "Available Free! (1) portable stereo, (2) innumerable Bob Dylan albums. Come by anytime when Scales isn't in." The roommate who posted this would, whenever he heard "Chimes of Freedom", shout "Chimes don't flash, Bob!" He later dropped out of school to join the Marines.

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