Monday, September 05, 2005

Odds and Ends (the Kees to the Kingdom)

Was Bob Dylan a Weldon Kees fan? An oh-so-germane question in these days of the ongoing canonization of Bob and general voracious media scrutiny of all things Zimmerman, but probably the most relevant first question to ask here is-- who was Kees? Go ahead, google him up-- and then read Anthony Lane's excellent recent New Yorker piece on this mainly unsung proto-Beat poet, novelist, film editor, film critic (mentor to Pauline Kael) and all-around American avant-gardist and dandy perhaps best known for (most likely) flinging himself off the Golden Gate Bridge in the mid-50's. And then check the last line of Kees' poem "June 1940", published in the early 50's:

'An idiot wind is blowing; the conscience dies'

I first came across a fragment of this poem in a TLS review of a recent biography of Weldon Kees last summer, but the reviewer failed to either see or make the obvious connection ran this by Alice Quinn, my neighbor and the poetry editor at The New Yorker who sent thanks for sharing my little discovery with her; and I also queried my friend Bob Holman (see my earlier blog on BH), founder of the Bowery Poetry Club (where I just played a gig on Friday) and charter member of the NY poetry mafia in general, who said after I hipped him to this, "Dylan MUST have read Kees!"

So anyway, I thought I'd share this tidbit with you guys, now that Dylanmania is being fostered and fomented anew by Columbia (The Rock Machine Turns You On!) for what must be oh the 40th time or so since the release of Bob's first album in '63...and thought you might like to know, that this particular someone does not got it in for old Bob...and I am not trying to plant stories in the press, well the blogosphere, either :-)... I really respect and love the guy, Dylan being my avowed alltime favorite artist alongside Miles. But ever since Dylan let at least some of his dirty laundry "all hang out" in the clothes line saga known as 'Chronicles' last year (which I read staying up all night in a Golden Tulip Hotel after a gig in the north of Holland last autumn), especially in the chapter about his voluminous reading and prodigious trawl through his friends' library in a pad he crashed south of Houston in the early 60's soaking up literature and history and philosophy, his past influenza (after The Fall) like a sponge, and how Weill and Brecht influenced Bob's poetics of song after a sit-through of "Threepenny Opera" at what is now the Lucille Lortel Theater on Christopher Street (just around the corner from where I write this)...after this, and all the other media spew paving the way for Dylan's putative lock on the Nobel Peace Prize this year (a slam-dunk so sayeth Ed Bradley, in his interview with Bob on CBS last fall--Bradley asks Bob how he would account for his 40-some year seemingly steady rise and fo'wad march on the Kingdom, and Bob, without batting an eye, fixes Ed with his almost truculent, po-faced stare--not a happy camper here--and says in essence, "Because of the deal I made at the beginning...I held up my end of the bargain." And who, says Bradley, was that deal struck with?

"Why, with the Chief Commander who runs this World..."

Oooeeeooo, as Ed (now "Edward") Sanders used to say....

...after such mishegas, I thought I'd throw in my own tout sense of all things Dylanological--especially as Christopher Ricks seems to have missed this particular concordance to things Kees-ian. Also Michael Gray (his book "Song and Dance Man" is actually pretty obsessively amazing overall, he really pulls some academic rabbits out of various hats while tracing crazy patterns on Bob's sheets--"Clothes Line Saga" again!...and please also note here a connection to that particular Basement Tape song and "Arnold Layne"'s lyrical content, wonder if Pink Floyd's first producer Joe Boyd slipped Bob a copy of that early Floyd single, it was Joe's steady hand on the mixing desk at the '65 Newport Folk Festival during Bob's second rock bar mitzvah (his Elston Gunn high school assembly appearance being Dylan's first) that helped usher in the great Folk-Rock epoch... actually Michael Gray, Paul Williams and Clinton Heylin are my fave explicators de Dylan....Love and Theft, indeed (in other words I still find this stuff entertaining/amusing). (A copy of my Gods and Monsters live DVD sent to the first reader who writes in identifying the celebrated-- painter? composer?--who first remarked that "mediocre artists borrow...great artists steal").

Speaking of mad hatters (note Dylan's first use of top hat in rock pre-dating Beefheart, in a photo on the back of 'Bringing It All Back Home"--also Dylan's first use of "uh" for "a" as a printed lyric sheet trope), here is Van Vliet on Dylan: "Trash poet! What is 'the times they are a changing', but 'a partridge in a pear tree!'" Also: "I threw Bob Dylan out of Barney's Beanery in 1966!"

I asked Bobby Neuwirth at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1989 whether he could lend any credence to this particular assertion, he just shrugged and answered smiling, "Well, if it makes him feel any better..."

I'm off to London (again) tomorrow to start a new tour, in Belgium, Holland, Germany, France and the UK...just getting over the jetlag from my last trip, and here we go again...


ps anybody else notice how scarily close (in tonality, overall feel, and dark drone 'o-D) the take #1 version of "Desolation Row" that graces the new Sony "No Direction Home" album is to the Velvet Underground's "Heroin"? Did Tom Wilson play a pre-release acetate of this version to Lou and the boys (and grrl) in revenge for being replaced by Bob Johnston?

Also, whose good taste was timeless enough on those final "Highway 61" sessions to insist on inserting Charlie McCoy's lilting Spanish guitar throughout the track, which lifts "Desolation Row" to Parnassian heights on the official released version?

Is it rolling, Bob?


Anonymous suzanne said...

Picasso said it____

9/06/2005 7:59 PM  
Anonymous suzanne said...

I didn't leave any contact info
did I_____


(just in case
I am the winner
which by all
discernible evidence
I believe I am)

9/07/2005 5:45 PM  
Anonymous Chris Dee said...

Hi Gary,
T.S. Eliot: "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different." That's from the essay on Philip Massinger in Selected Prose.
I've also seen "A good composer [or 'a great artist'] does not imitate, he steals" attributed to Stravinsky, but I can't chase it down, and I'm doubtful because the same quote is attributed to Picasso about 40% of the time. On the other hand it would be pretty funny if Eliot had (borrowed/xxxxxxxx) stolen it and made it into something better.

Chris (DC '78/met you after The Golem in Pleasantville, NY a couple of years ago/wrote about The Edge of Heaven on Amazon)

9/08/2005 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I saw you (and band) in the C note in July, but now you're coming to my home town of Lancaster on monday night, looking forward to it! best wishes, Richard

9/24/2005 1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Captain Beefheart said it!!! Is it too late?

12/03/2009 1:12 AM  

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