I had a dream last night I was a part of some sort of high school class that was also a focus group. We set up shop on the stage in Walkerville’s auditorium, and the teacher (or group leader, if you like) played us a snippet of a brand new Bob Dylan song.
The bit we heard went:
Love is a pile of shit.
You set it on fire just to watch it burn.
Love is a dung heap.
You piss on it just to make it stink.
Then she hit the stop button and the critique began.
She said she felt Bob was shamelessly trying to recreate the sound of his classic 1960s albums Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde and the whole thing smacked of hollow nostalgia. A few other students made comments along the same lines.
I put up my hand and said I thought there was a subversive element at work that was being overlooked. He was going out of his way to emulate the “thin wild mercury” sound he hadn’t come anywhere near in decades, yes, but it was being used in service of words that were venomous, bitter, and weary in a way only a more wizened Bob Dylan could be. The grizzled “old Bob” voice added another emotional layer to the whole thing.
A guy who looked a little like Idris Elba nodded and said he picked up on some buried sadness, as if Bob was singing to someone he both reviled and cared for, imparting his knowledge that nothing good can ever last. As the debate raged on around me, I was a little taken aback by the realization that I actually raised my hand and participated. I wasn’t one to do that sort of thing back in high school.
I wish I could remember the chord progression and vocal melody from Bob’s song. At least the lyrics stuck with me. Upon waking, I thought, “That’s some pretty angry stuff right there. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Bob swear in any of his songs. And I’ve heard a lot of Bob Dylan songs.” Those lyrics are pretty Westian, when you get right down to it.
Good on you, dream Bob. Spray that venom all over the place.