T for Tom

Day 32 – World Gone Wrong – 1993

Posted in A Dylan A Day by johnsontoms on July 23, 2016


I’m watching No Direction Home as I write this now, and I can’t help but be repulsed by all these pasty, old, baby-boomer whites eulogize their childhood. There’s a little bit about Bob Dylan, sure, but he’s the only talking about how different he was from their own interpretation. Pete Seegar, Dave Van Ronk, John Hammond, Maria Mulraud, even Suze Rotolo, pinning him down the same way all the articles ever did – the speaker of his generation. All the while he’s sitting there talking about the music and denying that he ever had any intention. Joan Baez gets it right, and is the only one, when she quotes a story whereby Bobby sits there with Joan and says “all these years later these people are gonna be writing about what I mean when I don’t mean anything.” Another equally good one comes from Van Ronk, stupidly talking about himself and not Bobby D, but he says “writing about things going on doesn’t make you political.” The rest of the people in this video can get fucked.

Scorsese, who directed this, failed in a big way – he paints a visual story in the same way that everyone got it wrong. There’s a point where Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul, & Mary, looks excitedly at the camera talking about the Washington Protest and says, matter-of-factly, “that was the moment when history changed. History actually changed at that moment.” … The only thing that changes is Bobby, and the music along with him. Isn’t that it, the music? The takeaway here is that Bob gets booed off stage after stage in 1965 and ’66, and all the way he’s talking nonsense about what it is, to appease and to piss off all the people who booed and jeered. But nowhere does Scorsese acknowledge why – because Bobby was ahead of the Beatles doing Revolver, ahead of the Stones doing Aftermath, ahead of the Beach Boys doing Pet Sounds, and people just weren’t used to it yet. The target changes but the protest never left.

Following Bob Dylan, in this retrospective, shows me that the spirit of the artist can be broken. We’ll never hear him admit or commit that he did want to make a difference, but we know that his heart was broken, early and quickly. History never changed, it’s just one long line of misery. Brighter lights maybe, but disillusion always. If you thought at any moment that the world changed, it’s personal nostalgia as if you were involved in the fictional mechanics.

But Peter Yarrow was just the man who will always be remembered for covering a song of Bob Dylan’s. The great mind moved on, wrote some songs about this, wrote some songs about that, and after awhile banged out a record of acoustics about a world gone wrong that nobody would listen to.

Song: “World Gone Wrong”

“I can’t be good no more once like I did before.”


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