September 27, 2007

her skin so white and her forehead so high
I could not kiss my ballerina goodbye

Piet Mondrian, Composition, 1921

* Oxford American article on the making of Blonde on Blonde. excerpt:

"Blonde on Blonde borrows from several musical styles, including ’40s Memphis and Chicago blues, turn-of-the-century vintage New Orleans processionals, contemporary pop, and blast-furnace rock & roll. And with every appropriation, Dylan moved closer to a sound of his own. Years later, he famously commended some of the album’s tracks for 'that thin, that wild mercury sound,' which he had begun to capture on his previous albums Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited—a sound achieved from whorls of harmonica, organ, and guitar. Dylan’s organist and musical go-between Al Kooper has said that 'nobody has ever captured the sound of three a.m. better than that album. Nobody, even Sinatra, gets it as good.' These descriptions are accurate, but neither of them applies to all the songs, nor to all of the sounds in most of the songs. Nor do they offer clues about the album’s origins and evolution—including how its being recorded mostly in the wee, small hours may have contributed to its three A.M. aura."
"Dylan became frustrated and angry at the next Blonde on Blonde date, held three weeks into the new year during an extended break from touring. In nine hours of recording, through nineteen listed takes, only one song was attempted, for which Dylan supplied the instantly improvised title, 'Just a Little Glass of Water.' Eventually renamed 'She’s Your Lover Now,' it’s a lengthy, cinematic vignette of a hurt, confused man lashing out at his ex-girlfriend and her new lover. Nobody expected it would be recorded easily. (Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, interjects on the tape, just before the recording starts, that there is a supply of 'raw meat for everybody in the band.") The first take rolls at a stately pace, but Dylan is restless and the day has just begun.

"On successive takes, the tempo speeds, then slows a bit, then speeds up again. Dylan tries singing a line in each verse accompanied only by Garth Hudson’s organ, shifting the song’s dynamics, but the idea survives for only two takes. After some false starts, Dylan exclaims, 'It’s not right…it’s not right,' and soon he despairs, 'No, fuck it, I’m losing the whole fucking song.' He again changes tempos and fiddles with some chords and periodically scolds himself as well as the band: 'I don’t give a fuck if it’s good or not, just play it together…you don’t have to play anything fancy or nothing, just…just together.' A strong, nearly complete version ensues, but Dylan flubs the last verse. 'I can’t hear the song anymore,' he finally confesses. He wants the song back, so he plays it alone, slowly, on his tack piano, and nails every verse. He reacts to his own performance with a little 'huh' that could have been registering puzzlement or rediscovery. But Dylan would end up discarding 'She’s Your Lover Now,' just as he would abandon a later, interesting take of an older song, 'I’ll Keep It with Mine.'"
"Blonde on Blonde was, and remains, a gigantic peak in Dylan’s career. From more than a dozen angles, it describes basic, not always flattering, human desire and the inner movements of an individual being in the world. The lyric manuscripts from the Nashville sessions show Dylan working in a ’60s mode of what T.S. Eliot had called, regretfully, the dissociation of sensibility—cutting off discursive thought or wit from poetic value, substituting emotion for coherence. The less finished lyrics-in-formation that survive in manuscript—like the archipelago of flashing images that lead, finally, to intimations of 'Memphis Blues Again'—would never completely lose their delirious quality on the album. Yet even with its ruptures between image and meaning, even with its Rimbaud-like symbolism and Beat generation cut-up images, Blonde on Blonde also evokes William Blake’s song cycle of innocence and experience, when it depicts how innocence and experience can mingle, as in 'Just Like a Woman,' but also when it depicts the gulf that lies between them. Many of the album’s songs, for all of their self-involved temptations and frustrations, express a kind of solidarity in the struggle to live inside that gulf. Although the songs are sometimes mordant, even accusatory, they are not at all hard or cynical. Blonde on Blonde never degrades or mocks primary experience. Its doomed, hurtful love affairs do not negate love, or abandon efforts to remake love, to liberate it: quite the opposite, as is shown in the litanies of its concluding psalm to the mysteriously wise Sad-Eyed Lady. Blonde on Blonde, as finally assembled, is a disillusioned but seriously hopeful work of art."
"The album changed how listeners and ambitious writers and performers thought about Bob Dylan and about the possibilities of rock & roll. It also affected its makers. A year later, after the breakup of the group he was in, the Blues Project, Al Kooper headed a new band that fused jazz with rock & roll and pop but took its name from an album of Johnny Cash’s released in 1963, Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Soon after they finished Blonde on Blonde, several of the Nashville musicians reassembled as the Mystic Knights Band and Street Singers. Under producer Bob Johnston (renamed, for the occasion, 'Colonel Jubilation B. Johnston'), they recorded and released on Columbia one of the most obscure rock albums of the 1960s, Moldy Goldies—'as goofy as we could be,' Charlie McCoy remembers—sending up hits from the Young Rascals’ 'Good Lovin’' to Sonny and Cher’s 'Bang Bang.' Each takeoff sounds a lot like a hit of their own, namely 'Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,' except with one 'Luscious Norma Jean Owen' singing instead of Bob Dylan, her Southern voice hovering between coyness and confusion."

* Bill Callahan and Joanna Newsom playing Rock Bottom Riser @ sxsw 2007.

* "No one knows where the business ends and the government begins and vice versa and I think that it should take some time before Russian people could recognise the virtues of liberal democracy and market economy but we need first to make sure that political system will be based on those principles." -- Gary Kasparov


Anonymous Anonymous said...

thought you might enjoy this video clip:

1:44 PM  

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