The Expansive Writing of Bob Dylan

There is no doubt that Bob Dylan is one of the most influential music figures of recent times.  I, like many musicians, go through Dylan periods. I am in one right now.  Aside from his unique place in time and space, he was unquestionably at the right place at the right time, what makes his art such a wellspring of inspiration for so many?  Entire books have been written on the topic, entire semesters have been taught.  I am not going to solve the conundrum here. 

However, as someone that has spent more time than is healthy studying song lyrics, there is something I notice time and time again.  Dylan has not only been prolific for most of his career, but his words also often gain power through sheer volume.  I am a huge fan of Morrissey.  Although he has written expansive songs like The Queen is Dead, he often writes couplets that are powerful statements in and of themselves.  Leonard Cohen, someone by whose own admission is not prolific, yet is closer to Dylan in style, spends a lot of time finely crafting certain lines. 

If you take many Dylan couplets, although with his huge catalog he has written brilliant couplets as well, they are not always powerful in and of themselves.  But by the time you get to the 7th couplet in 4th verse of a Dylan song (hypothetically), Dylan songs are often astounding for the sheer amount of language he packs in them, they begin to take on a cumulative poetic power. 

Where some writers get their power from cutting back until what lies before them is a finally crafted sculpture, Dylan almost seems to stand out of the way and let his subconscious pour forth.  Line after line, image after image, floats past until the amount of imagery leaves the listener overwhelmed and breathless. 

Sure, that is not all he is doing.  There is a difference in power between Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone and Springsteen’s similar wordy Blinded by the Light.  (I love Dylan and Springsteen, but I would be lying if I said the latter contained the poetic force of the former.)  Dylan performs alchemy.   He does get that missing piece of the puzzle that many others cannot find no matter how talented they are. 

This is not to say that Dylan cannot write shorter more traditional songs.   He can of course.  Again this is also not to say that Dylan cannot write great one liners and couplets, as he has done that as well.  There are also many other elements at play to make a song powerful.  However, I think,  if you are interested in what Dylan does, this is a good facet of his writing to examine. 

Majority of Worst States Republican Controlled

Majority of Worst States Republican Controlled

I almost didn’t post this.  Even though I am clearly liberal,  and I occasionally can’t help but go on a diatribe against someone like Scott Walker, I try to keep the percentage of partisan articles to a minimum.   But the more I thought about it, the more I thought maybe there is someone out there that doesn’t have the information in the above article.  Maybe they will stumble here to read a music post and somehow end up reading about how the majority of states that have poor life quality are controlled by Republicans.  Then I felt like maybe it was worth it. 

My main goal in writing is always to make YOU think.  It is not to get you to agree with everything I say.  But assuming that lots of different people are going to read this, one has to realize that different things are going to make different people think.  Eventually you just learn to trust your own gut, to write what you believe, and that unless you know, without all certainty, your own audience, that that’s the best compass you have. 

But yes, these states are sociological experiments for the ages…

It’s not that all Republicans are bad.  It is that the modern strain of Republican that is often in power, as moderate Republicans rarely are anymore, are almost always bad.  This is due to gerrymandering.   This is also due to certain political decisions like the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, that allow the wealthy to pollute the process more so than in years past. 

So much to say, so little time…

Modern Hell

I am reading Dante’s The Inferno for the first time since highschool.  If memory serves me correctly, I am actually reading it front to back for the first time.  I have been lucky enough to spend a fair amount of time in Dante’s hometown of Florence.  The Inferno is clearly influenced by the people, places, and imagery of which Dante was familiar.  

Hell, even at its worst, resembles the artwork and literature of his time, which was often the work of true artists and craftsmen.  I find myself reading this out on the American highway, which often features architecture and art that’s only functions are functionality and efficiency.  Box stores and garish logos dot the landscape.  This is not to say that making things visually striking is everything, as the Nazis were quite good at that.  But often even our modern view of Hell resembles the artistry of Dante’s time, more than any true concept of what is the worst in life.  Would you choose Dante’s Hell or an abandoned K-Mart for eternity?   Dante had no concept of what modern pollution was capable of, of nature so full of chemicals that it looks like a nuclear winter in deep space. 

Overall I, like most who read this, am quite amazed at how much this old text has to offer.  However, how deeply strange would a modern hell look to Dante?  Who knows such things…

February Declarations, New Albums, and a New Coat of Paint On My Blog

One of the reasons that I started this blog, despite obviously loving the written word, was the far less noble pursuit of earning a living.  The music business, tougher than ever, had me casting about for an alternative income stream.  Luckily, I am one of those musicians that earns almost enough to survive on.  Thankfully, enough of you have also tuned in that I am getting close to generating some revenue from my work here.  In order to do this I have to make some structural changes.  When I started this blog I didn’t know that it was much easier to earn through wordpress.org than it is through wordpress.com.  In fact I knew nothing about the technical and structural side of blogging.  I just followed all of the advice columns that said I should write as much as possible if I wanted to get traffic to my site.

So I am currently transferring this blog over to wordpress.org and making some much needed changes to the overall structure as well.  I have no idea how long this will take me.  I am hoping it is a seamless transition, but I have no idea what I’m in for.  The process has already begun.  If you notice any hiccups, that is the reason behind it.

Although there may be changes to the structure and look of this blog, I plan to keep writing in the same style that I always do.  I have an uneasy relationship with advertising.  While I acknowledge its place in the modern world, so much of modern advertising makes me ill.  I am hoping that my own compass, and the fact that I predominately earn my living as a musician, will keep me honest.  No one wants to buy the records of a sellout with nothing to say, or at least I don’t.  (Come to think about it, a lot of people want to buy records by musicians that are sellouts with nothing to say!  Fuck!!!)

I do believe that musicians, artists, writers, should earn a living from their work.  This whole streaming thing troubles me, because it does not yet seem that it pays anyone anything that they can survive on.  But hey, y’all got a blog out of it.  I might not have ever started this blog had the economics of the music business been different.  I really enjoy working on this though.  Even if the economics changed, I don’t think I would stop now, for any reason.  There is a lot more I want to add about how economics, and people’s support for the arts, directly effects the kind of art that we see.  I am late to start packing for tour right now and that will have to wait for a later date.

I just got a copy of the new Shinyribs record that I play bass on.  Mr. Russell even gracefully allowed me to coauthor one song, which I am extremely excited about.  The record, which has long been in the works for sometime, should be out soon.  As soon as I have a finite date, I will make it known.  The Ted Hawkins tribute record I played on, that I have previously mentioned, is supposed to be out later this year.

I also hope to record a solo record this year.  I don’t like New Year’s resolutions.  A February declaration seems fitting somehow, as February seems like no one’s idea of a time to begin anew.  Why can’t it be?  My goal by the end of the year is to have three records in various stages of completion and to have this blog newly formatted and running clean.

Anyway, I’m off to Louisiana for a tour, as soon as I can stuff enough random things in a suitcase to feel like I tried.  Over and out…

Going On Tour in Louisiana

Shinyribs Tour Dates

The hour is getting late, but I wanted to mention that tomorrow I will be going on tour with Shinyribs in the great state of Louisiana.  The above link is to the Shinyribs tour page featuring dates, venues, etc.

The new Shinyribs album will be out soon.  Tonight I just heard the final version of it for the first time, so I know that it does indeed exist!

I am bringing my computer with me so that I can blog from the road.  Posting has been slightly slow the last few days.  This is partially due to the fact that I am making some structural changes to Windup Wire that I need to make.  I will comment on those  soon enough.

In the future when all’s well…

Jeff

Scott Walker: F@&* Puppet of Industry

Scott_Walker_by_Gage_Skidmore

Wisconsin Right-to-Work Bill

Scott Walker, trying hard to prove that looks do indeed provide a window into the soul, is expected to sign a right-to-work bill that his republican cohorts approved in the Wisconsin Senate.  (If there was a picture next to the definition of douchebag it would have to be either Walker or Texas Senator Ted Cruz.  Look at their pictures and then tell me that I’m lying!)  Right-to-Work laws make it harder for unions to be effective.

What makes this particularly ominous is that this bill is based on model legislation by ALEC.  ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council.  Here is an article on that:

Introduces Word-for-Word ALEC Right-to-Work Bill

When it comes to ALEC, I actually do know what I’m talking about as I have have coauthored a book chapter that deals with ALEC with Abby Sandy.  I’m going to try to put this in the simplest terms possible.  What ALEC does is hold conferences that puts business leaders and lawmakers together.  During these conferences there is model legislation written.  Keep in mind that this model legislation is written with the heads of industry exorcising a huge influence over the proceedings.  The lawmakers then go back to their respective statehouses and pass real legislation with the same language as the model legislation that they wrote previously alongside those in industry.  This does away with the need for lobbying, because the legislators already know from the model legislation what needs to be put into the legislation to make industry happy.  This is not against the law, but it is highly undemocratic as those in industry have a much larger voice than the average voter.

Scott Walker is a fuck puppet of industry.  I’d like to put it in a more civilized manner, but when you pay attention to what him and his kind are doing to the American worker, certain synapses fire beyond one’s control.