2013: The Anti-Best of List (I Can’t Shake Him)

binkleyWell Pal, another year down. As I look back on the year, I am struck with the thought that life is rushing past faster than I want it too.  However, when I think of the things that I did in 2013, they seem like a lifetime ago.  A paradoxical feeling that I think will grow stronger with age.

Of course, this is the time of obligatory “Best of” lists, especially when it comes to entertainment.  One of the things that I have realized in looking over these lists is that when it comes to entertainment, I have been in such a Bob Dylan fog this year, that I missed out on a lot of great stuff.  Of course with Bob it is more than just entertainment for me.  It is a projection of being.  It is a tap right into the sap of my “soul”.  I mean come on, the guy is everything.  My romance with Bob is really a romance with myself.  Pal, I have you to thank for this love affair.  After years of me not getting him, you showed me the light and now I am a born again Bob fanatic. My wife may not be, but, I will always be indebted to you for that.  To me, there is nothing else.  Who am I kidding, Bob Dylan was my 2013.

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It is not just me though.  2013 was a big year for Bob culture.  Even fifty years after he broke the scene in Greenwich Village, he is still showing the world he can blow our minds. Of particular note was his video app of “Like a Rolling Stone”.  A groundbreaking music video of the classic song allowing you, the viewer, to scroll through 16 fake T.V. channels where the people in them are all lip-syncing those indelible words to Bob’s iconic song.    You can watch a newscast where the anchorman tells you all about some lady who “once upon a time…dressed so fine”.  You can watch podcasting titan Mark Maron scream “how does it feel!” at his show guest. And “when you are on your own”, you can watch the shopping channel, where Bob’s lyrics are trying to sell you a vacuum. And a whole pile of other crazy scenes.  It is so Bob Dylan.  To alter reality like that.  Folk surealism.  The beauty is now we get to join in the creative fun.

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Bob also released the 10th album in his Bootleg Series, Another Self Portrait, which spans his work from 1969-1971.  If Highway 61 Revisited is the best of what is in Dylan’s head, Another Self Portrait is the best of what is in Dylan’s heart.  Covering essentially four album session recordings (Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, New Morning, and what was to become The Basement Tapes).  The Self Portrait recordings being the majority of this mix.

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Another Self Potrait is a collection of traditional song covers and originals recorded in a time when Dylan wanted to slow down, live a family life in the country and jam in the pink house down the road with his musician friends (The Band).  This is happy Bob Dylan.  Not protest Bob Dylan.  Not bitter at the world Bob Dylan.  Not heartbroken Bob Dylan.  A Bob Dylan who just wants to celebrate his life and revel in the world of traditional music. Almost as if to say to his folk brethren, “hey, we all wanted to be here, didn’t we?  Isn’t this what we were all singing about? Well, I am here.  In this place.  Life is good.”

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“So happy just to see a smile, underneath this sky of blue.  On this new morning, with you”

I think, for Dylan, Another Self Portrait is an album of redemption.  When Self Portrait was released in 1970, the opening line in the Rolling Stone review read, “what is this shit?”  Well, this is what that shit is and this shit is so shitting fantastic, I almost shit myself.  Bob knew it and now we do to.

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Most of these tracks (The Self Portrait tracks at least) are the original recordings before they were sent to Nashville for orchestration.  Pal, you know how I feel about disconnected orchestration.  I won’t get into that again, but, it is so nice to hear these songs stripped down.  “Pretty Saro”: a terribly beautiful song…… “Little Sadie”: an odd little nugget of a song….. “Time Passes Slowly”: the sweetest song on New Morning….. “When I Paint My Masterpiece”: a giant of a song that stands untethered by itself…..”Thirsty Boots”: my favorite, about offering shelter and company to a tired soul who is endlessly marching in the civil rights demonstrations.  Bob didn’t write this song but he could easily have…

“Oh take off your thirsty boots
And stay for awhile
Your feet are hot and weary from a dusty mile
And maybe I can make you laugh
And maybe I can try
Lookin’ for the evenin’
And the mornin’ in your eyes”

I never cease to get chills whenever I hear him sing those lines.  The idea of “thirsty boots”.  The unending desire to march for what is right and just.  Bob wants to give shelter to this person if only for one night.  One night of laughter and good company.  And a good sleep.  Another Self Portrait is a collection of songs as inviting as a big warm hug.

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The other great feat Bob Dylan achieved was his Americanarama tour.  The greatest concert I have ever seen.  I won’t gush about this one. We did it in two separate posts already.  Needless to say, it was a historic occasion to be sure.

 Indeed the Star of Bob shone brightly in 2013.

I have one resolution for the New Year though.  I will try to untether myself from Bob’s umbilical cord and see what this other world has to offer.  I promise.  Pal, I will start with your upcoming “Best of” list. I am sure that I will find your thoughts inspiring and will breathe new life into my stagnant entertainment scene.

BTW, I am looking forward to seeing Inside Llewyn Davis next week with you.  I heard it’s loosely based on folk singer Dave Van Ronk. Did you know that Bob Dylan’s verion of “House of the Rising Sun” is a direct rip-off of Van Ronk’s?

The New Year ain’t here yet!

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3 responses to “2013: The Anti-Best of List (I Can’t Shake Him)

  1. I would really like to hear the happy Bob Dylan album. It is not that I think he is a grump or anything, it would just be nice to hear a settled, relaxed man singing and playing music simply because it makes him happy.

  2. Very entertaining read! I too have caught the Bob bug and it seems that no matter how hard I try to shake it it just keeps re-emerging itself in a different form like some kind of incurable disease (albeit a good one!). When I think I’m over one manic Bob obsessive period (say-Blood on the Tracks) another one emerges (The Freewheelin’ Bob). It often starts innocently enough…Maybe I’ll just listen to one song – “Visions of Johanna” and next thing I know I’m strung out listening to nothing but “Blonde on Blonde” for days/weeks on end. Bob- I can’t quit you.

    Great work pals! Enjoyable reads.

  3. Interesting, well written post. BD has been part of my life since I saw him sing in Pittsburgh, during my junior year abroad, in 1964.
    Saw him recently in Paris…….

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