Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Lonesome Bob Dylan.

"The Lonesome Hattie Carroll" - Bob Dylan
The Steve Allen Show, 1964

I find this clip so amazing and haunting.  Steve Allen plays perfectly into the myth of Dylan-- the way he reads press clips and shows the album covers.  Dylan is very captivating here himself.  He speaks softly and vaguely.

I'm reading the first Dylan bio ever written by Anthony Scaduto in 1971. Here are some excerpts from the book about this phase of Dylan's life, transitioning, a 'head change'. This is the pivotal point when Dylan was breaking free of a traditional folk singer mold to a visionary rock musician and songwriter, leaving his insular Greenvich folk community, existing as an everyman on the streets to become an icon of 20th century music:

"His need to work, and his obligations to Columbia (records), also helped him get over the rough times after Suze left.  He went into the studio in late September and early October 1963, an laid down his third album, The Times They are A-Changin'.  The second album had already sold about 100,000 copies with reorders amounting to another 100,000 or so, and Dylan's income had risen to about $5,000 a month.  "Im makin' money," he told writer Chris Welles.  "But, its botherin' me.  The money's wrong.  It don't make sense.  Its all so weird. "  He was, he said, going through 'head changes' on the third album.  The Times They Are A-Changin' stamped Dylan even further as a spokesman for the restless and rebellious young, particularly the title song which warned the dinosaurs-- writers, critics, politicians-- not to stand in the way of the flood waters of change that were engulfing the world.   
...Head changes were apparent in the songs about personal relationship that would point the way to Dylan's future work.  Although folk purists began to criticize Dylan for letting his personal vision intrude on his social mesage, those songs-- among them One Too Many Mornings and Boots of Spanish Leather-- were a vital element in Dyaln's hold over his youthful audiences.  The sentiments meshed perfecly with the search for spontaneous human expression.   The album closes with Dylan's testament, Restless Farewell.  In that final song he tries to step back from personal involvement, telling his audience that he is not really a prophet; he is just a man who loves his freedom and doesnt want to be locked into any stance; that his songs were written because he had to get down every thought that came into his head to keep from going insane; that they were written for hiself and his friends and had no deeper design; and that he was bidding them farewell and not giving a damn.  A number of forces were working on Dyaln during this period that contributed to profound personality changes.   
There was, first of all, what some old friends have called 'the mind guard'-- a special kind of bodyguard whose duty was not only to protect him from the groupies (the less desirable ones, anyway) and the other fans, but to protect him also from those whom he felt were making demands on his head, on his time.  These incuded old friends, mostly, and some fellow folksingers with whom he no longer felt comfortable 'because in his paranoia, the thought we all hated him for his great talent,' as one of them put it.  Dylan's reaction to the fame seemed strange to his friends.  Most who have made it, who have become big star in the popculture, go through emnormaous ego changes.  For years scruffy kids bounce around for a buck, and then suddenly theyre rich and have all the women they can ever hope to use, and hundreds of thousands reahing out to touch them, and the ego simply goes wild.  But there seems to have been little of that with Dylan.  ' Bascially,' says Phil Ochs, 'he was a very human person and wanted to keep human relationships from souring.  And I think he felt that slipping away because of his fame, in the way people reacted to him.' His friends didn't understand why and were confused and hurt by his withdrawal. 
The mindguards traveled with Dylan wherever he went, spent much time with him up in Woodstock, protecting him and changing his head in other ways. Among the Dylan entourage was Geno Foreman, son of Clark Foreman of the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee. Geno was a young folksinger, part of the crowd that hung around the Club 47 in Cambridge; he had a wild raucous way of singing that pre-dated Joe Cocker's spastic style by ten years. And Victor Maimudes, a dark, strange young man who had once played Lincholn in a high schol production and is described by friends as " a frustrated actor and frustrated guitar player." Victory got into the folk scene by hanging around with Jack Elliett in Topanga Canyon in California in th mid-Fifties. He showed up one day in Woodstock with a friends's wife, and he was hired as Dylan's road manager and companion. Also part of the group were Albert and John Maher, sons of a wealthy Texas industrialist, and Paul Clayton, who remained loyal to Dylan despite the hassle over the melody for Don't Think Twice. Many of them were heavily into drugs, popping all kinds of pills and experimenting with acid and mushrooms. Smoking and snorting, they were stoned much of the time. Recalls one woman who was intimate with Dylan, "Bob was one of those rare people who get their strength from some inner self.  But when I first knew him, in the protest period, he was putting it down and denying it.  The inner self was just part of the things you didn't talk about, it was understood.... He was always kind of a mystical person, but during the protest period he was playing some other role.  Later, when it was all evolving for him, he was into things like Byron and began to get into his head more.  Later, I'm certain Bob got into acid or one of the mind-expanders.  We used to arguments about drugs.  He was always saying he was in favor of chemistrry.  'I'm pro-chemistry' he would say.   He would try anything to open his head.  And after he got into the drugs he stopped denying that thing inside himself.  He began looking for it, believing in it, working with it and letting it flow over him.  The drugs got him back to that mystic inner self. '  
.... There was a growing awareness that folk was dead, both for Bob Dylan and as a public fad.  In the beginning he was a folk singer, and for a couple of years that was a deeply satisfying role.  But by the release of The Times They Are A-Changin', he had been into drugs, had gone through the head changes, and had begun to weave tapestries that could not be confined to the standard ballad. .... Folk fans don't buy a quarter million record albums.  Folk, in fact, had been taken over by the new Tin Pan Alley moneymen and destroyed, a rock had been destroyed erlier, everyone getting rich turning the music into the plastic house plants of folk-pop.  Dylan later told a friend, who has it on tape, "I had to hold a lot of things back before.  That's why I was doing other kinds of writing, because I would of never got away with it in song.  People would never understand, they would have killed me.  I would have ben dead, they would have chased me off the stange, I would have been a total failure.  I held back because I had to survive, I had to make it back then, I couldn't go too far out.  If seomody was going to give me three hundred dollars of doing a ertain thing, it wouldn't be too hard to do that thing.  I'd just do it.  My ideals aren't that important to me, what you might call ideal.  I didnt really care.  I didnt have what people call ideals.  So it didnt matter a damn.  I needed bread, and I had to scuffle.  Thats all.  But I dont have to scuffle any more.  I can do it my way now." 
 The conflict with Suze was also a catalyst for change. Dylan had something to say about women, and love, and the quality of human relationships, and they could not be said in the standard folk ballad."


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