Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Talkin' Bob Dylan B-day blues

I have the nerve to complain about turning the big 4-0 when Bob Dylan is old enough to be my parent- right now, he's older than my mom. Hell, he's only a few months younger than Dick Cheney (who's also been known to spin fanciful tales). 64, just like the Beatles song and Paulie will be there next year himself.

At a recent New York show, Dylan's band sounded great, his voice didn't always and he didn't touch a guitar once that night (rumor has it that he's got arthritis though that didn't stop him from playing a keyboard). Not surprisingly, his most recent songs were masterful- the latest version of his vocals and band-mates are still fresh in your mind compared to the studio versions (I was praying to hear him do "Cold Irons Bound" and he didn't disappoint). Some of the older material was still being re-arranged and re-thought, including a ballad take on "Mr. Tambourine Man." After working in a respiratory unit of a hospital for a while and remembering his long-time smoking habit, I had to wonder if part of what we hear now from him is something on the order of emphysema. Whatever the case, he deserves credit for not turning into a sad oldies act. He'll likely be doing dates until he drops.

But back to his birthday today, I remembered a Loudon Wainwright III song from the early 90's. Triple L himself had been one of many dubbed a "New Dylan" back in the early 70's when labels were dying to anoint someone else with such a crown. L knew this obviously and poked fun of this in the song "Talkin' New Bob Dylan Blues." Interesting to note that L himself and other new Zimmies he mentions were hardly shadows of the man but very distinctive, brilliant songwriters on their own (even though they were undoubtedly influenced by him). Well, maybe not so much Forbert...

And so...

Hey, Bob Dylan, I wrote you a song.
Today is your birthday if I'm not wrong.
If I'm not mistaken you're fifty today,
How are you doin', Bob? What do you say?

Well, it musta been about '62,
I heard you on record, and you were brand-new.
An' some had some doubts about the way you sang,
But the truth came through and loudly rang.
Yeah, you were hipper than Mitch Miller,
And Johnny Mathis, put together.

So I got some boots, a harmonica rack,
A D-21, an' I was on the right track.
But I didn't start writing until '68,
It was too damn daunting, you were too great.
I won a whole lot of Bob Dylan imitation contests, though -- huh

Yeah, times were a-changin',
You brought it all home --
"Blonde On Blonde", "Like a Rolling Stone" .
The real world is crazy, you were deranged,
An' when you went electric, why, everything changed --
A shock to the system.

Had a commission at yer motorcycle wreck --
Holed up in Woodstock, with a broken neck.
The labels were signin' up guys with guitars, Out to make millions, lookin' for stars.
Well, I figured it was time to make my move --
Songs from the West Chester County Delta country.

Yeah, I got a deal , and so did John Prine, Steve Forbert and Springsteen, all in a line.
They were lookin' for you, signin' up others,
We were "new Bob Dylans" -- your dumb-ass kid brothers.
Well, we still get together every week at Bruce's house --
Why, he's got quite a spread, I tell ya -- it's a twelve-step program.

Well, but we were just us and of course you were you,
"John Wesley Harding" sure sounded new.
And then "Nashville Skyline" was even newer,
'Blood On the Tracks', an' the ringin' got truer.
Let's see -- there was another one in there somewhere...oh, I got it, I got it -- "Self Portrait" --
Well, it was an interesting effort.

Yeah, had to stop listening, times were too tough,
Me bein' the new me was hard enough.
You keep right on changin' like you always do,
An' what's best is the old stuff still all sounds new..

Yeah, today is your birthday -- have a great one, Bob!
Bein' the new you is one hell of a job.
My kid cranked up her boom-box to almost grown
When I heard you screamin'
From her room--
"Everybody must get stoned."
Thanks a lot, Bob -- happy birthday, Bob.


Blogger barbara flaska said...

Louden and Louder (or have they used that already?)

Yeah! I really loved hearing his other birthday song released long about the bicentennial: Congratulations America I hear you're having a birthday ...

(and the way he ended a refrain with "the Oklahoma Panhandle" as if that was enough to explain it all.

Geny-us, pure geny-us sometimes, that guy.

12:55 AM  

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