Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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August 27, 2015

too  much   Johnson   Ray J.    Zimmy

TiR recently finished fine-toothed combing a sizeable stack of Brit music criticism spanning Dylan's entire career.

What did we learn?

One: the pleasure of re/discovering some pretty enjoyable tho sometimes   obscure   little (or longer)   treasures

Two: That the most stereotypically overblown and awful 70s rock writer language in the whole packet had to have been Ray Coleman's July 1, 1978 NME paean to Bobby's June '78 Earl's Court performances:

Musically, this night was special for many reasons different from those which made every concert remarkable . . . it's worth mentioning here that Dylan's below his best is still incomparably superior to his nearest competition . . . Never, if ever, has the song ["Just Like a Woman"] been so brilliantly blown apart and knitted together to make a beautiful, meaningful tapestry or words . . . his harmonica solo was a riveting joy, bringing the ecstatic crowd to its feet with a mighty roar . . . the world's most important rock artist clinched it impeccably.  Here were no ordinary occasions: A seer of the 60s . . . emerged not just unscathed, but with a greater reputation . . . A mind-blowing week it had been.

. . . which tempts one to ask "was it 'trans-plendent'?" and "Did it achieve total heavy-ocity?"

Coleman notes that while in town, Timmy took in at Dingwall's a set by post-Exiles in Babylon album-era reggae band Merger.  A terrific late summer '78 clip from ITV's short lived "Revolver" series of the group doing a live version of their "Biko" (not the Peter Gabriel tune, which it predates by 2 years) is here.

On subsequent reexaminations, the Coleman piece reads not so fawningly, but rather as drawn from profound wellsprings of affection, gratitude and remembrance of how thoroughly Terry had set the UK cultural scene on its ear in the previous decade. 

Hence, third:  the joy of reading R.J.'s responses to NME's regular "Life Lines" questionnaire of May 21, 1965, with questions like "favorite food" and "pets."  Previous 1965 respondents to the "Life Lines" series had included  Val Doonican, Del Shannon, The Ivy League, The Moody Blues, The Seekers, Donovan, Them, Marianne Faithfull. and Tom Jones.

The headline this time: "Dylan Wrote This on Our Life-Line Pro Forma."  Ray's daffy, inscrutable, inspired and random answers in full are transcribed here

Answers include, for "Other discs in best-sellers": "I Lost My Love In San Francisco But She Appeared Again In Honduras And We Took A Trip To Hong Kong And Stayed A While In Reno But I Lost Her Again In Oklahoma." 

Early May 1965 was of course the UK tour, footage from which "Don't Look Back" was created.

Best of all might be the NME's editorial commentary here: "When a poet fills in a form, you can expect anything!" 

In that comment hides perhaps some admirably liberating literary theory, sneaked into the pop music press, like a stealth teenage encapsulation of Riding and Graves's A Survey of Modernist Poetry (1927), with its book-length reply to the tradition-minded "plain reader," which said in part:

Perhaps more than anything else characteristic modernist poetry is a declaration of the independence of the poem . . . freeing the poem of stringent nursery rules and, instead of telling it exactly what to do, is encouraging it to do things, even queer things, by itself.

This during a post-war cultural era when, for example,  brilliant British surrealist poet of the 1930s David Gascoyne languished in semi-obscurity, as he would for decades.

The full table of contents and some summary of that May 21, 1965 NME is on-line here, thanks to the remarkable 60s British pop and rock archive compiled by the heroic Prof. Gordon Thompson of the Skidmore College Dept. of Music. The ToC enables us to ask:

Q.: What does the "Singles Reviewed" list in that issue teach us?

A.: That spring 1965 was a freakin' fabulous moment for B-sides in the UK. 

Zounds. We have the Hollies' relatively blistering "You Know He Did," Ian Whitcomb's anthem for the 99% "Poor But Honest," the Teen Queens' swinging "Just Goofed" (a rerelease of a 1956 original) and Wake Up My Mind” by the Ugly's.

The last B-side listed above, TiR supposes, we could safely say is a "protest" song.  Though it comes across today as a very well-behaved one.  

Its world is one in which Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction" (which we see peaked at # 3 on the UK charts on the week of All Saint's Day, 1965)  would appear to be a minor earthquake, and something like "Desolation Row" (from an album reviewed in the UK music papers in October, 1965) would register as an extinction level event. The reverberations of it would still vividly be remembered by some in, say, 1978.