It’s Raining In San Francisco

I just got home from the islands, and it is raining very hard out. Drought no more.

Buckets of rain
Buckets of tears
Got all them buckets comin’ out of my ears
Buckets of moonbeams in my hand
I got all the love, honey baby
You can stand

I been meek
And hard like an oak
I seen pretty people disappear like smoke
Friends will arrive, friends will disappear
If you want me, honey baby
I’ll be here

Like your smile
And your fingertips
Like the way that you move your lips
I like the cool way you look at me
Everything about you is bringing me
Misery

Little red wagon
Little red bike
I ain’t no monkey but I know what I like
I like the way you love me strong and slow
I’m takin’ you with me, honey baby
When I go

Life is sad
Life is a bust
All ya can do is do what you must
You do what you must do and ya do it well
I’ll do it for you, honey baby
Can’t you tell?

-Dylan

Congratulations Bobby!

Today our greatest poet was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. This is an astounding, wonderful, well deserved honor for Dylan and folk and music and popular culture. I’m so absurdly thrilled about it. In their article on the award the Times said:

“Sara Danius, a literary scholar and the permanent secretary of the 18-member Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, called Mr. Dylan ‘a great poet in the English-speaking tradition’ and compared him to Homer and Sappho, whose work was delivered orally. Asked if the decision to award the prize to a musician signaled a broadening in the definition of literature, Ms. Danius jokingly responded, ‘The times they are a changing, perhaps.’ ”

“His lyricism is exquisite; his concerns and subjects are demonstrably timeless; and few poets of any era have seen their work bear more influence.”

These are things we of course already know but are so happy to hear.

Read my past articles about Bobby: I’m Not There: ReviewedThe Last Waltz: ReviewedBuckets of RainThe Art of the AlbumDylan for NighttimeIdiot WindDylan for SleepLate Night Track.

Listen to Dylan snarl and sing about the unfair death of William Zanzinger. For now is the time for your tears. 

Buckets of Rain

We don’t see much rain in California. This is something I have to explain to people I go to school with who don’t understand why the rain makes me so happy. In San Francisco there is a wet and a dry season. It never ever rains in the summer, and it only rained for about a week this winter. This confuses people who think of San Francisco as generally damp because of Karl the Fog. We have fog, but we do not have rain. In fact, I don’t actually own a rain jacket.

To wake up in September and see rain absolutely thrills me. Listen to some rain themed music.

I could only find people covering Buckets of Rain on the internet so here is Dave Van Ronk singing it. It’s not great. Dave Van Ronk is awesome, but his voice in this is not what it once was. Go listen to Blood on the Tracks (the original Dylan obviously) in its entirety! It’s one of my top 10 albums.

Rain is also probably my favorite McCartney bassline.

The Last Waltz: Reviewed

Directed by concert-filming genius Martin Scorsese The Last Waltz is a lively and emotional look into The Band’s farewell show at Winterland in San Francisco. And what a show it was. Bill Graham, San Francisco legend, booked the show and brought together many of music’s finest to perform together. He also allegedly is the reason the show was filmed. Dylan protested the filming of the final few numbers, but Graham frustratedly exclaimed, “This is history! We’re filming.” Basically thank god for Bill Graham. And thank god for Scorsese who has the unique ability to rig up a concert hall with enough cameras to make the show come alive on screen. He brings a unique dynamism to concert films (see my review on Scorsese’s Rolling Stones documentary Shine a Light). Like in Shine a Light, the film is primarily concert footage interspersed with some interviews with members of The Band.

The film opens with the charismatic lead guitarist and singer Robbie Robertson discussing and slightly lamenting The Band’s 16 year touring stint; they’re tired and ready for the end. Then we see The Band absolutely shred their greatest hits. Levon Helm is so incredibly soulful while Robertson is playful and fun. Shape I’m In, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Evangeline (sung with the ever wonderful Emmylou Harris), and Ophelia were highlights, but The Weight (The Staples) decidedly stole the show. After they finish the song one of the backup singers is caught on camera whispering “beautiful” barely into the mic proving that once again music is magic.

The best parts of the film though are likely the numbers featuring an impressive array of guest stars. Neil Young joins The Band onstage to sing Helpless while Joni Mitchell waits in the wings singing backup vocals. The song lends itself to an ensemble and sounds beautiful. Then Joni joins The Band onstage for an energetic and pitch perfect performance of Coyote which lends itself less to an ensemble cast but nonetheless is a treat. Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton both join The Band to perform (wonderfully) their own songs. Van The Man joins them later for an all star performance of Caravan which he totally sings the shit out of. Van works the crowd (and the band) and steals the show. I will admit that I am a lover of Van Morrison but had never really seen him perform and was distracted by his rather rodent like appearance.

And then . . . drumroll . . . BOB DYLAN! The Band gave Dylan the well deserved honor of closing out the show. Dylan comes on in what first appears to be a pink fedora but out of the light is white. He starts off with his signature blank stare and frown, but he warms up surprisingly quickly. He begins to smile at the members of The Band and even the audience. The glint in his eye is obvious; he’s having fun. I’d actually never seen our sultry poet look so happy performing, and it made me really really happy. In Dylan’s autobiography, Chronicles pt. 1, he talks about not enjoying performing and being self conscious especially when he was younger. I think that being onstage with other well known and wonderful musicians gave him the space to enjoy performing. Dylan gives a show stopping performance of Forever Young and then jams out with The Band to a punched up Baby Let Me Follow You Down. So freakin cool!

Finally the whole cast (plus Ronnie Wood and RIngo!!!) comes onstage to join Dylan and The Band for I Shall Be Released. It is a magical moment seeing so many greats side by side—Joni singing with Neil Young, Dylan with Van Morrison etc etc.

The best part of the film is perhaps watching the members of The Band watch their guests perform. Seeing the wonder in Robertson’s eyes as Dylan sings Forever Young, watching Rick Danko smile like a kid seeing Joni, seeing Levon’s childlike reverence for Muddy Waters. When you think about it it’s remarkably selfless (or confident?) that The Band decided to bring so many incredible musicians—all who totally hold their own and steal the show—onstage with them for their last show. I think for The Band it has always been about the big sound of togetherness. Their songs (e.g. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down) lend themselves to a big, loud, joyous ensembles of singers. Even their name allows for an ensemble of stragglers and solo artists who join the band just for the night.

Idiot Wind

I love this album. I love this song. I love Bob Dylan. I’m going to miss listening to Blood On the Tracks in my lovely little car in the San Francisco fog (Karl).

Even you, yesterday
You had to ask me where it was at
I couldn’t believe after all these years
You didn’t know me better than that
Sweet lad-AYYYYYYYYYYYYY

Idiot wind
Blowing every time you move your mouth
Blowing down the back roads headin’ south

I’m Not There: Reviewed

This film is required viewing for anyone who even KINDA likes Bob Dylan, folk music, and/or great cinema. Ironically and hypocritically my dear father had been telling me to watch this film for years, and I’d been blowing him off until the other night my friend Kavi also demanded I watch it. Two was enough, and I caved.

Directed by Todd Haynes, I’m Not There breathlessly and beautifully chronicles bits and pieces of Dylan’s life. Six different exceedingly talented and brilliant actors play Dylan in the film, an approach that highlights the many faces and lives of Dylan, who is, in my mind, the most complicated and also frequently over-simplified artist of our time.

The different Dylans show different parts of our greatest poet: the troubled husband and father, the eager child, the tortured artist, the born again Christian, the lonely mountain man escaping life, and the eerily wise beyond his years storyteller. Cate Blanchett, interestingly, plays the most recognizable Dylan during the time before and after Dylan goes electric. She gracefully inhabits a struggling, awkward, self-conscious and unhappy young Dylan. Each Dylan shows us something different and often things previously unknown.

The film-making is spectacularly gorgeous. Each Dylan shows us different colors of life. Young Dylan lives in a yellow-y dreamworld while the tortured musician lives, of course, in black and white. The camera work is equally intriguing and unique, panning over the audience and pausing frequently to show us the candid expressions of random onlookers and fans.

And the music of course. The Dylan songs chosen are so well chosen that the film risks coming off as a little cheesy in certain moments, but ultimately the songs enhance both the literal messages and the artistry of the film. Example: Simple Twist of Fate is playing and Dylan and his wife, Claire, are at the park which cues, “They sat together in the park / As the evening sky grew dark / She looked at him and he felt a spark / Tingle to his bones / ‘Twas then he felt alone.” The scene changes and Claire is alone at a party and Dylan is paying her very little attention which cues, “People tell me it’s a sin / To know and feel too much within / I still believe she was my twin / But I lost the ring / She was born in spring / But I was born too late / Blame it on a simple twist of fate.” As I said, risks being obvious, but ultimately works well.

Just like Bob Dylan this film is anything but predictable. It takes a windy road through Dylan’s life that surprised me at every turn. Watch this film!

Dylan for Sleep

This strikingly beautiful recent Dylan (released in 1997! the year I was born!) is a must listen. His raspier, grown-old voice sounds so rich and lush. Makes me cry. I feel so blessed I got to see him just a month ago at the Greek with my lovely family. He’ll always be my favorite poet, and he better live god damn forever.

There’s not even room enough to be anywhere
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there
Well my sense of humanity is going down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing, there’s been some kind of pain

She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writin’ what was in her mind
I just don’t see why I should even care
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Dylan for Nighttime

 

Oh, I’m sailin’ away, my own true love
I’m sailin’ away in the morning
Is there something I can send you from across the sea
From the place that I’ll be landing?
No, there’s nothin’ you can send me, my own true love
There’s nothin’ I wish to be ownin’
Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled
From across that lonesome ocean

Only Dylan could successfully write a really gorgeous and not at all corny question/answer song and not have it sound like it’s straight out of the bible!