Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Strike another match

THE CHOCOLATE WATCHBAND "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"

I rather liked the Dylan folkrockumentary that aired the last two nights on PBS. I imagine the 'sphere is bloguflectin' on the thing left and right, but I don't know for sure -- I only read maybe five blogs these days, and four of them are 'political,' you dig?

The hours of interview footage Dylan gave his manager were pretty amazing even if they didn’t reveal much aside from Dylan essentially throwing his hands in the air to say “I’m not anythingggg! -- I’m just inscrutable and shit!” Scorcese knows how to make a good music movie, despite how irresponsibly and impossibly dreadful his bloated old dudes look at this blues music TV series for PBS was.

I found the stock imagery of !THE! !SIXTIES! used throughout rather grating, but maybe it's necessary for anyone who's been in a coma for fifty years and just turned on their television set, or for the glazed-over fifteen year olds forced to watch this thing in class by their hippie English teacher trying to "connect" with them. Ginsberg was in his over-effusive mode but with such conviction and eloquence it was pretty amazing. Hard to believe fucking Pete Seeger, God rest his soul, still seemed mad that Dylan plugged in his goddamn guitar; being so short-sighted at the time is one thing but he looked like his neck was gonna pop retelling it thirty-plus years later, poor guy! It just is weird how so few people ever 'got' Dylan, always projecting onto him what they wanted him to be or, to be fair, what he had been just a few months prior.

And while it was rad how many people were tracked down for the thing, they all pretty much toed the line for what you'd expect they'd say. I found it interesting that Ramblin' Jack and Richard Farina never existed, that Fred Neil got so glossed over he seems to barely have existed (yeah he was an asshole but still…), and speaking of assholes it was a relief Robbie Robertson was nowhere to be seen, but why not talk to, say, Garth? And speaking of bearded genius types, the importance of Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music was not even alluded to that I noticed, except as one of the records we can presume Dylan stole from his Minneapolis pal? Granted, even in three and a half hours that span about six years, there are gonna be omissions. And when a documentary like this is coming out of a particular artist's camp, who one assumes have a great deal of control of the film, you have to expect such stuff -- so it was really rad when you consider that...

The weirdest omission to me, though, was of the made-for-TV film Eat the Document, even though footage from and shot for that movie are one of the great archival highlights of the thing. That footage, shot throughout a tour of England in '66 with the brilliant Hawks backing Dylan (you know the mythology, and about the "Judas!" followed by the "I don't believe you" followed by "You're a liar!" followed by "Like a Rolling Stone" which Charlie Rose said is the greatest rock song ever, and if you do not know about this, I believe that Greil Marcus has written three books about those twenty seconds) by D.A. Pennebaker a year after Don't Look Back had been filmed, is one of the main things holding the film together, the way it’s used repeatedly throughout. How come they never acknowledged what project all that material was originally from? Dylan helped edit it for ABC... Ahhh, I fear I've slipped into amateur trainspotter Dylanology! Lord help me.

It was never shown on TV 'cause it was "too experimental," but it's a really amazing document, excuse the unintended pun. Apparently there is an excellent DVD bootleg floating around. (If you find one, please burn me a copy, would you?) Eat the Document is sort of Dylan's Cocksucker Blues; in fact I once had a little TV party about 18 years ago in the kitchen of my row house in Queens where I showed both of them back to back, with the Bud Dwyer tape and Minor Threat's last concert ever thrown in for good measure (hey, it was the '80s, plus, I guess we all had 5 hours to spare).

Speaking of those two movies together, I wonder if part of the reason it's only screened offically approx. three times since it was made almost forty years ago is that Dylan is clearly out of his goddamn skull on some heavy medication? He's soooooo skinny and out of it at points, even in the PBS movie. There're heavy-lidded moments (when he's singing Hank with Cash, for instance) and what look to me to be fiending moments (when he's saying how much he needs to go home and does not want to go to Italy). That one oft-booted "extra scene" from Eat the Document where Dylan is "tired," and gets in the limo after puking and he's in the back there with John Lennon and they're trying to talk to each other for at least twenty minutes? It's so obvious (to me) that Dylan is high on heroin there and Lennon is tripping his ass off. And we all know what the "motorcycle accident" was; hell, I had a half-dozen of those myself before I finally got clean.

Of course, I am totally speaking out my ass here, and quite possibly doing that "projecting" stuff I just judged Dylan's boomer fans for. As this is not a classic rock gossip site but a ye olde mp3 blogge, I shall shut my yap, now. Ohh, and I trust you are having an enjoyable WOCLAP -- War on (Consensual, Legal, Adult) Pornography day?

If that bums you out, or any of the other small-ish ways that the first ammendment and most amendments (except the second one) don't really exist anymore, there's always YACHT ROCK #4 -- I can't believe these things keep getting better. Wow. Just, wow.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The hours of interview footage Dylan gave his manager were pretty amazing even if they didn’t reveal much aside from Dylan essentially throwing his hands in the air to say “I’m not anythingggg!"

I didn't always get that impression, especially early on. In the first half hour (or so), I thought Dylan was quite articulate in talking about his childhood, and the impact that blues, country and early rock and roll made on him. (Though, to be honest, Dylan and Jeff Rosen - the manager - don't reveal anything that wasn't covered in Robert Shelton's biography of two decades ago, not to mention many other sources. But hearing the childhood days from Bob himself was illuminating).

Actually hearing some of that music interspersed with Dylan's recollections was even better.

-- James (not a blogger with a login, sorry!)

8:20 AM  
Anonymous whip said...

you can rent eat the document at clinton street video

7:26 PM  
Blogger Disco:Very said...

I was just excited to see that footage of the audience going ape shit angry over his new electric direction! I've only ever read about audience reactions to his new shit but seeing and hearing people flipping out full-on crazy really got me excited. Those same people that were screaming "Judas!" are probably the same people now cranking up "Like A Rolling Stone" every time it's played on their local classic-rock radio station.

7:43 PM  
Anonymous alex said...

So, at the beginning of Eat the Doc, Dylan's snorting cocaine off a piano right? I've got a burned copy of it and that's what it looks like to me.

1:12 AM  
Blogger M said...

Mike--EMP is screening Eat the Document October 7, if you feel like making the trip up.

12:23 AM  
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