Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Maestro, a little break-up music, if you please....

It occurs to me that I need to even the balance of cricket versus love, life and art if I am to remain true to my mission statement.

So, if you will, please turn your attention to the below - if you have the time, all 9 minutes 35 seconds of it.

If you finish it, here's the album version.

I can remember listening to this song with my Dad in the car when I was little, and liking it, but not understanding it - I recall asking how wind can be stupid, but how do you explain what the song is about to a seven-year-old?

I think it's a remarkable song. It comes from my favourite Dylan period, from Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973) through Infidels (1980). In the sixties there was genius, but in the mid-seventies through early eighties we got that plus humanity, confusion, and pain, which is much more interesting. Later this gave way in the 1980s to a treadmill of slightly laboured material that began with Empire Burlesque (1985) and finished with Under The Red Sky (1990), and since 1997 we've had this old bluesman who I have to admit I can't really relate to - maybe I'm just too young to understand what he's on about.

What stands out for me in both these versions of "Idiot Wind" is the energy he generates. The album version in particular just seems to spit with hatred, rage and self-loathing. Go to 2:40 and have a listen.

You hurt the ones that I love best
And cover up the truth with lies.
One day you'll be in the ditch,
Flies buzzin' around your eyes,
Blood on your saddle....

and at 4:11

I noticed at the ceremony,
Your corrupt ways had finally made you blind.
I can't remember your face anymore,
You mouth has changed, your eyes don't look into mine.

Pretty evocative lines it's true, but it's the vocal delivery that really gets me. Anyone who tells me that Dylan couldn't sing (I'm not going to dispute the fact that he can't anymore) needs to listen to this song. It's a remarkable performance - all of it is just so committed, so much so that it's a little confronting. It's just so raw, you know? Dylan has apparently denied that the songs in the album are auto-biographical but popular opinion goes against this - he wrote it during a seperation from his wife, Sara, who later divorced him, and as far as I'm concerned I don't think that you could really write something like this objectively, anyway. He is alleged to have said something else that rings pretty true, though, in a radio interview with Mary Travers:

A lot of people tell me they enjoy that album. It's hard for me to relate to that. I mean, it, you know, people enjoying the type of pain, you know?

Hear, hear!

(NB - I say "alleged" because I'm getting a lot of this from Wikipedia, which as we all know isn't always reliable. This particular quote wasn't referenced or even dated.)

The live performance is also fantastic version, and shows up all those who think that he isn't a good musician, too. I particularly like the punchy, rhythmic riff he uses earlier on and then after each stanza. I always like it when artists quote themselves, and this is taken verbatim from Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, where it is sung with a "Nah nah, nah-nah, nah", and is also reminiscent of material in Desire, which uses the same sort of Latin/Gypsy feel.

Speaking of the gypsy feel - I think it's really funny how assurred he looks in that headscarf in the live version, and yet the bandmembers that are wearing the same thing all look vaguely ridiculous. Is "gypsy" the right word, though? What are those things? They could just as easily be Arabian keffiyehs, which would be pretty funny given the fact that Dylan is Jewish. Either way, it's clear that style is not something that everything can do!

Where would we be without Dylan? It almost seems at times that anything I can feel he's felt ten times more, and expresses it in the most perfect manner imaginable. Usually people just say that he does this with his lyrics. I like the above because he does it musically, vocally, AND in line. That's pretty extraordinary. For his ability to do this (and he doesn't only do it with this song) he's got to go down as one of the most accomplished Artists we've known. And no, I'm not restricting that to pop artists.

And somewhat more flippantly - where would we be without Youtube? Every day I seem to find something on it I'd long since forgotten about. It's great.

Next up - just what are we going to do with Ricky Ponting? Stay tuned....

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