Poetry is exactly what I don’t care about in both world politics and rock records. So where to begin with Bob Dylan, or rather my distaste for the glorification of Bob Dylan? I admit that as a 14 year old kid after burning through the discography of Billy Bragg, I thought the social political-ness of his Times they are a changing (1964) LP made for such a great record, and as such was disappointed with most of his subsequent discography – not for any narrow-minded “going electric” non-controversy, but rather his tunes were boring showcases for misguided lyrical ego.
And so at that time I resigned myself as being “too young to appreciate him”, and reserved a future date to “grow up” and one day like other Bob Dylan records. Not that Bob doesn’t have some good songs buried among those records. Then came his lame releases of the 1980’s (and the 1990’s (and the 2000’s (and the 2010’s…))) and/or the Traveling Dingleberries, and most recently that Nobel Prize – so that time will probably never come.
If ever there was a more over-appreciated idol in the baby boomer religion, Bob Dylan is it. So deep is my contempt for Mr. Zimmerman that I even reluctantly laugh at the dreadful Simon & Garfunkel parody song : A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara’d Into Submission) … enjoyed mostly out of spite.
Over and over again we hear journalists, critics and history revisionists proclaiming the genius of Bob and his lyrics. But when his career is best know for lines like “Hey mr Tambourine man, play a song for me”, or “Makes loooove just like a woman” or moreso that subtle masterpiece: “Eeeverybody must get stoooned”, how can you even?
David Crosby writes: “the thing about Bringing it all back home was his words, that’s what Bob stunned the world with. Up until then we had ‘oooh, baby’ and ‘i love you, baby. Bob changed the map. He gave us really, really good words.'” While I realize David and his generation are the centre of their universes, but have they never heard of the Blues? or maybe even Shakespeare?
And what did Bob do to change anything, as the “ooh baby” of the past only morphed into such pop music poetry as Beyonce‘s”I’ve been drinking, I’ve been drinking/I get filthy when that liquor get into me”, and/or we still have lots of “ooh babies” all over today’s radio.
Or was David just mad at Smokey Robinson and his 1965 song “Oooh baby baby” and thinks that pop music should really be about his songs like “Triad” which he uses to justify cheating on his then girlfriend, and then gaslight her and shame into polyamory? In between his drunk driving, arrests drug and firearm possession, and creating 6 (ooh) babies, David Crosby and that liver that Phil Collins bought for him spend their time critiquing the songwriting ability of Jack White – why has this guy not gotten a Noble Prize too?
Back to Dylan and his “really, really good words”. Clearly what Crosby is crediting him for is the great evolution of the pop music term “Baby” into the word “Babe” – freaking genius.
Songs like “It ain’t me babe” or “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” must have blown the minds of a generation brought up on Ed Sullivan. A dozen Nobel prizes were due for lyrics like “You will search, babe At any cost /But how long, babe/Can you search for what’s not lost?” – taken from the tuneless out-take “I’ll keep it with mine”, which makes the grand poetic statements for a pre-Velvet Underground Nico, who tellingly after sex vacationing with him in Greece immediately looked up Jim Morrison. And just when you thought “Babes” were the thing, he tricks you by going back to the word “Baby” on his cromag skull smash hit “Just like a Woman” (1966). Clearly, as Crosby says, this is “changing the map” level freaking genius.
And maybe that is it, as other past recipients of the Nobel Prize also “changed maps”: Henry Kissinger, Mikhail Gorbachev, etc.