Sunday, May 25, 2008

HIGHWAY ZIMMERMAN REVISITED

[*From the STMcC Archive: 2008, March.*]

My friend at work, The Great L.C., owns 8,000 compact discs (really!). For the last year or two, he has left on his desk whatever albums I’ve requested so I can hear them on Saturdays when it’s just the building, the ghost and I.

Recently I created a new Listmania List for Amazon.com titled “MUSIC FOR YOUR DRINKING PLEASURE (80 Proof Tunes 4 Boozin’ 2)”

This lighthearted list features many records I used to drink to and contemplate in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. One of those albums was Bob Dylan’s BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME, but not having heard it for 25 years, I asked The Great L.C. to leave it for me just over a week ago. In two words, I was “Blown Away!” Yes, it was my favorite Dylan record back then, but I had forgotten most of it. I had forgotten that the countless times through the decades when I said, “It’s life and life only”, it was Dylan’s song “IT’S ALRIGHT, MA (I’m Only Bleeding)” that I was quoting from. If someone - knowing that I still owned the albums BLOOD ON THE TRACKS and SLOW TRAIN COMING - had asked me a month ago what I thought of Dylan, I would have said, “He was fairly good, but he didn’t have much impact on me.”

So, imagine my surprise to find a huge portion of myself being sung back to me while I was listening to BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME. It felt like I had stepped back in time and come face to face with my youthful self as it was unconsciously developing its own writing “voice.” I always knew that I had picked up some of Steinbeck’s empathy and Twain’s cynicism, humor, and sense of irony. But I never realized before that I had learned how to manipulate words, how to PLAY with concepts, and learned how to swing wide the mind’s gate encouraging the ingression of ideas, by listening to Bob Dylan all those many years back. Only now do I realize that my “voice” is a combination of Twain, Steinbeck, Dylan, and the most lonesome and homesick shade of the color Goldenshadow that we can live with. (If only I had one tenth the talent of any of these three aforementioned artists, I would be rich and famous, and you’d have to pay $ to read what I write… which would be much better than THIS!)

I use the word “genius” very judiciously. Even so, I now openly acknowledge that Bob Dylan was/is a true genius, and that it took me this long to realize that fact only proves that a genius I am not. Just over a week ago, I was suddenly astounded by his wordplay and the unbelievable imagination dam burst and creative cataract that is BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME. It is a veritable embarrassment of wild riches; like finding a magic pot full of inspiring ideas at the end of the rainbow! And I find it mind-boggling when I remember that this album was recorded in 1965, just 9 years after Elvis sang “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog!” Nine years? Goodness! I hear nine lives and nine galaxies between them.

BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME is an aural treasure chest of social commentary, well-placed authoritarian rebellion, wonderful wordsmithing, and periodic hammering on “the part of the elbow where the ulnar nerve passes by the internal condyle of the humerus.” I like his sinuous, whiplash rhythms and how he occasionally forces the beat to conform to the lyric, rather than the other way around. And that contagious LAUGHTER at the false start of “BOB DYLAN’S 115th DREAM” … Dang! Being able to hear that laugh again and again, anytime one chooses, is worth the entire price of the album all by itself! (If you’ve never laughed that hard, you’ve missed out on the very best that life has to offer!)

It is only now, at age 48 in 2008, that I fully understand what caused all the Dylan adulation back in the ‘60s. That these sounds still seem so special, so exciting, and still pull the listener into Zimmyland 43 years after they were recorded, is the real evidence proving that BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME is a genuine musical masterpiece. Here it was a major influence on my own writing unbeknownst to me; I was assimilating it for years without being aware of the internal activity taking place within my mind. However, it was unexpectedly ALL BROUGHT BACK HOME and revealed to me these 25 years later. Why did I not “see” what I was hearing in the late ‘70s and very early ‘80s? I guess I just needed to experience more “life” before I could really experience what Mr. Zimmerman had produced. And I have to believe that some of my deafness was related to my lust for loud, fast music: roaring guitars and tough posturing.

That’s not to say I didn’t like Dylan -- I did, obviously, but he was “just another musician” whom I enjoyed listening to; nothing really special; not a genius, not a writing teacher or an instructor in the creative process. Or so I thought. Beyond these explanations, my only excuse is the timeworn but ever reliable: “Uhp! I’m an idiot!”

Now that I’ve confessed to my former ignorance, I’ll close this Blog installment with a word-for-word copy of a love letter (?!) that I wrote to a girl I liked back in June of 1983; hopefully you will find this half as amusing as I do. Terrill was an American friend who was raised in Holland but was living in Greece at the time that I wrote to her (eat your heart out George Thorogood!) I have always kept a photograph of Terrill inside my compact disc case of Dylan’s BLOOD ON THE TRACKS album because, coincidentally, that collection of songs has always reminded me of her in so very many ways. The letter is loaded with seemingly random, fleeting thoughts and has such a double-jointed stream-of-consciousness style about it that it struck me as being “Dylanesque” even as I was writing it, and I actually commented on that fact in the letter itself. It is loony like Daffy Duck, but it does exhibit my youthful personality (read: “insanity”).

[*NOTE: As mentioned in my letter, I did go to see a movie that evening. It was "Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out Of Balance" and to this day, it remains my all-time favorite film!]

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

LOVE LETTER TO TERRILL; June, 1983 :

Wow, I am SO hungover.

Doug and MD are in Palm Springs. Last night, Twinkie and me and Lynth went out and got so drunk. I feel OK except I keep getting these fast bizarre thoughts. I have nothing to do so I thought I’d write, right? (Write, Right…that’s almost like Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman or New York, New York.) I’m at the corner of Ocean Ave. and Linnie Ave. in Venice. It’s about 4 or 5 blocks from the beach. I’m sitting in the bed of my truck with my 500 pound non-portable typewriter. I am so hungover. I don’t know why I’m doing this. I got drunk last night. It’s something I’m good at. I’ll bet I’m…I’ll bet I can get drunk better than you. Terrill, I’m worried about your drinking! I like Southern Calif. Out here, you can type in your truck by the beach ‘cause you feel like it and nobody cares. Now if I tried to take my typewriter down to the beach in say, a state like Texas, I’d probably get arrested for disturbing the peace.

I’m not drunk, just hungover. In fact, I haven’t had a drink since last night. Everytime I wake up with a hangover, it seems that I had been drinking the night before. Amazing! I’m beginning to think that it’s not just a coincidence!

Uh, when I woke up this morning (Hey, did you like the way I started this sentence with the word “Uh”? It makes it seem like I’m talking instead of writing. I think that’s neat. I’m going to have to try using that a little bit later in this letter and see if it works just as well a second time. “Uh”, that’s a good word; I wonder who made that one up.) When I woke up this morning I went into Mark’s room and slipped into bed with him. At first he started to complain about it but I said, “Hey, relax, it’s all we’ve got.” But we just talked about our hangovers for a while and then…and then, whatever. But I mean we’re not like people in San Francisco, if that’s what you’re thinking.

Uh, this morning Mark went fishing in Malibu. (Notice I used “Uh” again. It worked as well as it did before…don’t you think?) I don’t like fishing because I don’t like to hurt things, and you know I think fish are probably “things” and when they get that hook through their mouths it probably hurts. I don’t really care about fish all that much but I still wouldn’t want to hurt them! I’ve seen more fish than you, nyahhh, nyahhh, nyahhh!

This is a beautiful day; last night was fuzzy. If you, Terrill, were here right now you know what we’d do? We’d probably be walking along the beach, here in Venice, and you know how people sell their art here? Well, we’d be going by and I’d look at some painting and (it would be a good sized one) I would say to you, “Hey, Terrill…look at this, do you like this painting?” And you would say, “Not especially, do you?” And I’d say, “Oh, it’s OK…kind of interesting, I think.” But we wouldn’t buy it ‘cause we couldn’t afford it. So then we’d go to one of those cafes on the beach and get a beer and watch the waves and the dogs and the Frisbees.

I’m not going to drink today. I’m getting tired of drinking; I think I’ll find something else to start doing.


If I didn’t know better, I’d say that I was Bob Dylan.

So what are you going to do tonight? I might see a movie. I saw one once before and I thought it was pretty good.

I’ll have to Xerox a copy of this letter ‘cause otherwise I won’t believe I wrote it ten years from now. Everytime I just get going, this stupid bell rings and I gotta (see, there it happened again) start a new line.

Some tourists just walked by and stared at me. They probably thought I was some weirdo from California. Oh, if they only knew.


Hey, I hope this letter isn’t scaring you. Is it? It’s not meant to. Sometimes I scare MYSELF. But this is just something fun to do. You know how it is. I’m really not crazy…just mentally disturbed. But seeing as how Father’s Day is coming up soon, I just thought I’d write.

You don’t have to reply to this letter (a boat just went by) ‘cause I’m going to write another one in about a week. A real one. Right now my mind is just in the ozone layer. I think it’s because of the hangover because I don’t usually write letters like this to you. At least I haven’t before.

Hey.

So, anyway, uh, do you think you’re wunderbar? Stupid word. So is groovy and glad and stupid, stupid words. I have to drive because I’m too hungover to walk.


You know what I was just thinking? That if you wrote me a letter all in Dutch I wouldn’t understand any of it. Not only can I not read Dutch but I can’t even speak it. It’s all Greek to me! Get it? Greek. Hey, do all Greek men really have hairy chests and do they all really wear gold chains? I’ll bet a Molson they do!

Some girl smiled at me. She was probably a weirdo tho. You know how these Venice types are!


I’m really something. You probably think this is all real romantic, don’t you? You probably think you’re real cute, sitting there on some street in your truck, typing a letter, don’t you? Think you’re real creative or unique or something, right? Well, you’re not. Anybody can do that. That doesn’t make you a real artist. It proves only your stupidity. Dumb girl.

My leg fell asleep.


I hope this letter doesn’t scare you. You like it, don’t you? I hope so…I’m writing it specially for you. I’ll be back to normal tomorrow. Normal…how boring!

Think of this letter as a post card, OK?

Oh wow.


Hey, I’m going to write you another letter later. Letter later. And I’m going to send a couple pictures, also. Neat, huh? Isn’t the postal service neat? Neat is another stupid word.

Well, listen…I’m gonna go now. I mean, sh#t, you think I got nothing better to do than write you a post card? Hell, I’m a busy guy. Sh#t and hell…two cuss words in one paragraph. Pretty good, huh? Think you can do that?

Don’t cuss. I don’t like it when you cuss. Well, OK, you can cuss but just a little bit. Nothing too vulgar, though. Just like, whatever…sh#t, hell, damn, potty, etc. You know, just ladylike cuss words.


Well, I gotta go. You’ll get a real letter from me in a little while and then…well, whatever…you can read it and stuff like that.

‘Bye. Be good. Nice, whatever. (Wow, I am SO hungover.)

-- Bob Dylan

.

4 comments:

mousiemarc said...

Brother I thinks you gotta be bringin your "Stop Being A Useful Idiot" Guides over here. I would hate to see them not be a part of this.... All three of them I insist....

"Bad ol socialists, they don't like them guides."

Tweety Bird

S.T.McC. said...

<>["Bad ol socialists, they don't like them guides."]><

Ha!-Ha! Oh, BR'ER, you know what I like... to hear!

Well, if you insist, who be I to argue? Only thing is, the tone of those 3 Guides wouldn't fit into the goofy style of my "STUFFS" Blog.

Maybe I can start a second Blog here and title it sumpin' like: "Stephen T. McCarthy's Product Reviews & Politics", and then import some of my other Ammyland crap. Can we have more than one Blog on this site? Do ya know?

Me, I wouldn't know 'cuz...
"Uhp! I'm an idiot!"

~ STMcC
<"As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11>

mousiemarc said...

(Me, I wouldn't know 'cuz...
"Uhp! I'm an idiot!")

Oh well then you must not be the Stephen T. Mccarthy I knew from Amazon.com. He's not an idiot... Who the hell are you and what did you do to Stephen?

(Well, if you insist, who be I to argue? Only thing is, the tone of those 3 Guides wouldn't fit into the goofy style of my "STUFFS" Blog.)

Why sir you could start as many blogs as you want. You might need multiple e-mail addresses but that should be a problem. You could even ignore the account after that at least it wouldn't be in the sole hands of Amazon after that (you know their going to have their way with it eventually).

Mousie Marc

S.T.McC. said...

Hmmm...
Well, alright. Thanks, BR'ER MARC. I'll look into it, but not until after I get this new installment written for my "STUFFS" Blog: it's time sensitive, ya un'erstan'.

~ STMcC
<"As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11>