Overweening Generalist

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Bob Dylan Wins Nobel Prize For Lit

Well, that was a surprise. Those Erisian Swedes! In the quantum universe next door, my main pick, Thomas Pynchon, won. Finally! He has not appeared in public to say anything. Of course. There are rumors he'll send Jon Stewart to Stockholm in his stead. (When Pynchon won the National Book Award in 1973, he sent zany Professor Irwin Corey to accept on his behalf.) Pynchon's publisher has given a very short press conference, saying Pynch has already given the award money away, to be divided up among Black Lives Matter, the 9/11 First Responders who still need medical relief, Doctors Without Borders, and John Perry Barlow, who, the press release reads, is a "member of the loyal opposition who needs it."

Since it was announced, I've caught myself thinking more and more about Dylan and my associated mental relationships to him. My mom had Dylan's LP Nashville Skyline playing when I was a a pre-teen. I remember looking at the cover and reading his name as "Bob dye-LAN." I loved my mom's Beatles records more than the Dylan. Hell, I loved her Carly Simon record, No Secrets, more than the Dylan, but maybe it's because Carly's braless look was jacking up the baud rate on my boy-organism.

                               believe it or not, this is really Dylan and not Cate Blanchett

Speaking of the Beatles, Dylan in 1964 was shocked to meet the lads and find out they hadn't tried weed. He turned them on, and there's a wonderfully drawn-out piece on this historical moment in George Case's book Out of Our Heads: Rock 'n' Roll Before the Drugs Wore Off.

A passage from Harry Shapiro's Waiting For the Man: The Story of Drugs and Popular Music:

In 1964, Dylan refused a request from Ginsberg to lead a peace rally at Berkeley and earned the unbending enmity of singer Phil Ochs, who called him "LSD on stage." Dylan reported that Ochs was writing bullshit because politics were absurd and the world was unreal. Dylan took his personal drug-inspired research for freedom and escape through "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Highway 61 Revisited," to the ego-dissolution of "Like A Rolling Stone" and Blonde On Blonde. Nevertheless, claims that all references to "railways" and "tracks" and capitalised H's on lyric sheets demonstrate that Dylan was a heroin addict or that "Blowin In The Wind" was secretly a song about the wonders of cocaine are probably best led in the more extreme realms of Dylanology.

In the early sixties, sharing the experiences of marijuana and LSD between creative spirits had a missionary zeal about it. Rock writer Al Aronowitz turned both Ginsberg and Dylan on to marijuana; Dylan in turn introduced dope-smoking to the Beatles. They met him on their first tour of America. Dylan was "anti-chemical" at the time, probably due to a surfeit of amphetamine, and suggested that the Beatles try something more natural. Dylan rolled the first joint and passed it to Lennon, who, too scared to try, passed it on to Ringo. The episode ended with everyone rolling round the floor in hysterics. (pp.116-117)

Sociologists who made a study of the "Woodstock Generation" found that, of the 1000 respondents, 43% believed most of the music of the sixties could only be understood by someone who had undergone the marijuana and psychedelic drug experience. This study was done in 1977-78, and the majority said their first pot experience was in a college dorm, with either Dylan or Led Zeppelin playing in the background. (Let us take: people who went to Woodstock who were age 20-25: they were born between 1944 and 1949: the first Boomers.)

Which brings me to Dylan's 1965 Newport Folk Festival "outrage."

Dylan appeared there playing an electric guitar, and much of the audience was famously outraged. It's difficult to gauge, in reading multiple sources, the extent of the disapproval, but when I learned about this historical moment, I was deep into playing Black Sabbath, Rush, and Deep Purple guitar solos on my electric guitar. I had always noted any overt response between what a person thought about the acoustic guitar versus the electric. I now think Steve Waksman's book Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience is the finest explication of the social construction of acoustic vs. electric. I also think the fascinating aspect of timbre and its cultural and existential-phenomenal impact is worth delving into, if it's your kinda thing. Dylan's move to electric illuminated the extent of culture's hidden ideologies surrounding electric vs. acoustic, and maybe he deserves a Nobel for just this....

Oh, but the Nobel was for Dylan as literature. Right. I got off-topic. Oh, well...

I consider "Subterranean Homesick Blues" to be proto-Jewish rap from the sixties.

One of my favorite bloggers, Tom Jackson, wrote a bit on Dylan's Nobel HERE.

"Acid isn't for the groovy people. Acid is for the president and people like that. The groovy people don't need to take acid." - Dylan in 1967, found on p.24 of R.U. Sirius's Everybody Must Get Stoned: Rock Stars on Drugs

A funny conversation about Dylan's win.

I like this passage from a June 1984 Rolling Stone interview. Kurt Loder had asked Dylan a question about starting out on guitar and Dylan gives the rundown from his first Sears Silvertone guitar to hearing Woody Guthrie. "And when I heard Woody Guthrie, that was it, it was all over."

Loder: What struck you about him?

Dylan: Well, I heard them old records, where he sings with Cisco Houston and Sonny [Terry] and Brownie [McGhee] and stuff like that, and then his own songs. And he really struck me as an independent character. But no one ever talked about him. So I went through all his records I could find and picked all that up by any means I could. And when I arrived in New York, I was mostly singin' his songs and folk songs. At that time I was runnin' into people who were playing the same kind of thing, but I was combining elements of Southern mountain music with bluegrass stuff, English ballad-stuff. I could hear a song once and know it. (found pp.424-425 of 20 Years of Rolling Stone: What A Long, Strange Trip It's Been)

Dylan led me back to Woody Guthrie. Point: Dylan.

Paul Krassner writes about a moment when Dylan was taking Hebrew lessons:

"When I asked why he was taking Hebrew lessons he said, 'I can't speak it.' Now I pointed an imaginary microphone at him and asked, 'So how do you feel about the six millions Jews who were killed in Nazi Germany?' His answer: 'I resented it.'" - Confessions of a Raving Unconfined Nut, first ed, p.182

Mercurial Dylan Nobel Prize winner. Folk hero, beatnik, hippie, iconoclast, non-joiner, born-again Xtian, Jew, proto-rapper, proto-punk, oracle for a generation, influence on my god Hendrix, altered history by getting the Beatles stoned, enigmatic forever. I love Pynchon, but I'm okay with Dylan winning it.

                               s'il vous plaît voir M. Bob Campbell à propos de plus psychédélisme


Eric Wagner said...

Nice piece. Dylan's win really pleased me. I find it interesting to see the folks whom commentators thought might win - Philip Roth's name comes up most often. I also saw Samuel Delany mentioned, which surprised me. Some professor Pound had add an appendix to Confucius to Cummings said to ignore all awards, even the Nobel. I can see that point of view, but I find awards interesting. I would like to see Pynchon win, but Dylan's win delights me. Pound defined literature as words charged with meaning. Mr. Zimmerman sure does that.

michael said...

It seems like I've seen Philip Roth as potential Nobelist for at least 15 yrs now. Who knows how our stuff (Pynch, RAW, Delillo) translates...

I'm surprised Delaney showed up on a list, but I'd like to see him get some MAJOR worldwide recognition.

I tend to almost never take awards all that seriously, probably because my "tastes" are apparently so far removed from the mainstream they're barely even considered.

Your line about Pound and Zimmerman wins the day.

Manic The Doodler said...

Ah yes, the Carly Simon "No Secrets" cover. I had a cassette tape of that one courtesy of the old Columbia Record Club. It still stands out as one of my favorite album covers even though I didn't care much for the music...

Dylan did publish a book of memoirs a few years back called "Chronicles, Vol 1" which I hear is a good read--kind of a stream of conscious style from what someone told me. It's one of those books I'd like to read someday...

I consider Dylan a man of letters whether or not they're in the form of a book or song lyrics. Nobel prize deserved IMO...

Anonymous said...

Glad you enjoyed my bit about the Beatles meeting Dylan in "Out Of Our Heads" -looking forward to more interesting posts.