inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #51 of 115: Dan Mitchell (mitchell) Wed 25 May 05 07:05
    
I heard at one point that he had covered "I Can See for Miles." At
first, it shocked me, but after I thought about it, it made perfect
sense.
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #52 of 115: Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Wed 25 May 05 08:06
    
"I Can See for Miles?" Don't think so but I'd be interested to hear
what he'd do with it.
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #53 of 115: J Matisse Enzer (matisse) Wed 25 May 05 08:47
    
And of course how many others have coveredhis songs.
Like, "everyone knows" that All Along The Watchtower is Henrdix tune :-)

And there's that line from Garcia, when asked why the Dead did so many Dylan
songs he said something like "'Cause it's nice to sing something where you
don't feel stupid singing the word."
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #54 of 115: AwwWWW! Now my head's not taped to the TV! (tinymonster) Wed 25 May 05 08:57
    
That's a good quote!
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #55 of 115: David Gans (tnf) Wed 25 May 05 10:05
    

Matisse's quote reminds me of this from a 1981 interview with Garcia:


Jerry Garcia:  [Dylan’s songs] speak to us some kind of universal persona
which you can pretty clearly recognize.  He hits a real good deep nail on the
head in terms of writing songs about something.

Blair Jackson:  You have any trouble singing a song as bitter as "Positively
Fourth Street"?

Garcia:  No, not at all.  It's easy for me to cop that asshole space, easy.
I was that guy, too.  There's a certain kind of pose that that goes along
with--there always were those people, in a way.

For me, it occupies the same space as "Ballad of a Thin Man." It tells that
person who's lame that they're lame, why they're lame, which is a very
satisfying thing to do.  Certainly something everybody knows about....

"Positively Fourth Street" has this way of doing it where it's beautiful,
too.  And "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" is basically a putdown, too.  It's
one of those things like, "you're losing bad--dig yourself."  Being able to
say that and say it beautifully--it was the beautiful sound of "Positively
Fourth Street" that got to me more than the bitterness of the lyric.  The
combination of the beauty and the bitterness, to me, is wonderful. It's like
a combination of something being funny and horrible--it's a great combination
of two odd ingredients in the human experience. Anybody who can pull it off
that successfully is really a score. That's something that only Dylan has
been able to pull off, in terms of modern songwriting, I think--or at least
where I can sing those songs and--

Jackson:  I think Lennon did it a couple of songs.

Garcia:  Yeah.
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #56 of 115: Howard Levine (hll) Wed 25 May 05 12:01
    
I don't have the book handy, but do you recall your research on the
Charles Aznavour song Bob sang on the tour with Joni Mitchell - Les Bon
Moments?
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #57 of 115: Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Wed 25 May 05 18:57
    
The (unedited?) entry for "Les Bons Moments" (below) is fairly typical
of the kind of work I tried to bring to the cover song material
combining biography and some Dylan lore with a bit of critical insight.
What an unusual choice yet consistent with the very wide net Dylan
throws over his influences. I think this is one of the things I came to
admire him even more than I had before -- a kind of fearless quality.
Imagine standing center stage at Madison Square Garden before 20,000
doing a song for the first and probably only time.

In the introduction to "Keys" I discuss what I call the "Secret Museum
of Bob Dylan" and "Les Bons" is a perfect example of a song you would
never expect him to do. Yet it seems so perfect at the same time.

“The Times We Have Known” (Charles Aznavour)
AKA “Les Bons Moments,” “The Times We’ve Known”
Charles Aznavour, You and Me (1995)
“I usually play these songs all by myself. But I feel all by myself
now” announced Dylan before his acoustic one-off of this English
language version of Frenchman Charles Aznavour’s ballad—a surprise hit
at an Autumn 1998 show in the Big Apple’s Madison Square Garden.
     Aznavour (born Shanaur Varenagh Aznavourain May 22, 1924, Paris,
France) is a diminutive, raspy-voiced songster of primarily
self-composed chansons as well as a sad-eyed thespian who came to
personify “Frenchness” for Anglo-Saxon audiences. Of Armenian
extraction, Aznavour first studied acting but turned to songwriting as
a means of support in 1942 when he wrote “J’ai bu” with Pierre Roche
for George Ulmer. Encouraged by Maurice Chevalier and Edith Piaf (who
became his mentor), Aznavour gained a reputation as singer at the Paris
Olympia Theatre and appeared in Paris Music Hall, a 1957 documentary.
George Franju’s La Tête Contra les Murs in 1958 and Francois Truffaut’s
Shoot The Piano Player in 1960 in which he played the café
entertainer, are regarded as his most memorable film roles,
highlighting the melancholy aspect of his personality. Those roles
opened doors in both France and Hollywood and he has appeared in many
films in the past four decades.
     “Sur Ma Vie” in 1955, “Il Faut Savoir” and “Je Voyais Deja” in
1958, “Je t’Attends’ in 1961, and “La Mama” written with Robert Gall in
1963 were his big music hits. “La Mama” (re-written with English words
and retitled “For Mama”) provided Matt Monro with a minor British hit
in 1964. After Monsieur Carnival, an operetta he wrote in 1965,
Aznavour has focused on his cinematic career, writing songs or even
entire scores for the films in which he appears. His last major musical
success came in 1974 with “She” and “The Old-Fashioned Way” but he
still frequently appears in films most recently in Ararat, a meditative
2002 Atom Egoyan-directed dramatization of the plight of Armenia also
starring Eric Bogosian.
     Dylan holds Aznavour in high regard for, as he told Rolling Stone
in a 1987 interview, he believed that Aznavour was among the greatest
live performers he’s ever seen. And in 1998, Dylan told Mojo, “I became
aware of him in 1962. I actually saw him perform in New York because
I’d seen a movie he was in called Shoot The Piano Player. I saw that
movie a bunch of times because the snow part of it reminded me of back
where I came from...Well, everything about that movie I identified
with. Everything. So Charles Aznavour came to New York to play—and I
was the first one in line for a ticket.”
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #58 of 115: virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Thu 26 May 05 05:23
    

Great backstory.

Readers on the Web: you can send questions or comments to be posted by e-
mailing inkwell-hosts@well.com
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #59 of 115: Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Thu 26 May 05 06:24
    
A prime directive I assigned myself: every story has a song and every
song has a story.
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #60 of 115: Howard Levine (hll) Thu 26 May 05 09:32
    
 nice philosophy
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #61 of 115: David Gans (tnf) Fri 27 May 05 11:12
    
Nice!
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #62 of 115: Life Is Easy When Considered From Another Point Of View (dam) Sat 28 May 05 19:52
    
yes, I agree!
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #63 of 115: Howard Levine (hll) Sun 29 May 05 15:39
    
 back to the subject at hand - Oliver I was quite suprised to read that
Desire is the most commercially successful Dylan album. I must admit that
there are several songs that I really like, but it doesn;t compare to Blood
on the tracks, Blonde on Blonde or others as a whole IMO.  I think the use
of the recently departed Jacques Levy may have been a factor in making some
of Dylan's imagery more accessible.  Any ideas on the subject to share with
us?
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #64 of 115: Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Mon 30 May 05 05:02
    
I think the commercial success of Desire was probably the product of a
confluence of events both related to Dylan's personal journey of the
moment and the changin' times. It came out right as the Rolling Thunder
Revue was hitting its consequential, high profile peak and the general
wake of Dylan's return to performing and the artistic success of Blood
on the Tracks. Think of it like a baseball team that does great box
office the year following a World Series victory.

Personally, I love that album -- even a "heavy" song like "Isis" has
enough humor in it to keep you from getting too suicidal. And those
songs, even "Sara", have aged very well in my opinion. Funny how that
song doesn't even seem to be about his ex-wife anymore--just another in
a long line of heartbreaks (Johanna, Ramona, Girl from the North
Country, etc.). Also funny how a song like "Joey" so generally
disparaged as the album's clinker at the time of its release, has
really grown some hari in performance through the decades. Dylan called
that song Homeric and I think he nailed it. Could be singing about
Agamemnon or some cat from the mists of classic literature. Joey, a
dude who came from nothing, rose to great heights (in certain quarters)
and landed with a thud. I have a recent ('03?) version of Dylan
performing this song and it, in my opinion, stands with one of my all
favorite performances. And interesting how Hurricane, the big song on
Desire, has sort of fallen out of favor through the years. Why does it
seem dated and Joey not? And is Black Diamond Bay" an underrated song
or what?
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #65 of 115: Dan Levy (danlevy) Mon 30 May 05 06:47
    

I think it's the hat Bob is wearing on the cover.

Plus all the things Oliver said.

Joey is almost always fantastic in concert.  I have wonderful memories of
some performances I saw in 94 at Roseland and 97 in Scranton.

In 2003, Bob played Romance in Durango, out of nowhere, in London.  Then
never again.  It was great.  What is going on?

People send e-mail to bobdylan.com asking about Hurricane all the time:
"is it about a real person?"  "what happened?"  We direct them to the
Who's Who on the Expecting Rain site... now we can just send them to
"Keys to the Rain".
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #66 of 115: Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Mon 30 May 05 09:11
    
The hat, definitely the hat. I meant to add something about that
particular post-Watergate/pre-Carter (definitely pre-Reagan) moment in
recent American history. I remember it feeling like it was the Left's
shining moment and Dylan hitting the road troubadour-style with Rolling
Thunder and Desire a kind of reclamation, the promise fulfilled. It
was all in the air and Dylan was riding the crest of that optimism. He
had also been on PBS (and the cover of TV Guide?) performing some songs
from Desire and Blood on the Tracks so that must have added some
ka-chings to the cash register.

Thanks for the bobdylan.com plug Dan. The Hurricane entry is one of
the better ones in "Keys." Lays the story behind the song right and
tight and not through rose-colored glasses either. And that people
write wondering whether Hurricane is a true story or not only goes to
prove my point that there has been a loss of learning between then and
now.

Love "Romance in Durango." Its kind of a sequel to Marty Robbins' "El
Paso." He should keep it in the rotation. Little trivia. "Romance" and
"Black Diamond Bay" are two Desire songs with a bit of foreign
languange lyrics. Any others?
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #67 of 115: Robert Schuren (robert-schuren) Mon 30 May 05 09:24
    
Well, Hurricane is concerned with the guilt or innocence of its
subject. It is by necessity a narrow focus, much as a news article is.
A larger scope, even palette,  is avoided. The urgency if such an
immediacy always carries much force. But if just left small, in its
detail, and not pinned to larger themes that myth can accommodate, it
fades without much warming hue of residue, much as the didactic films
of say Stanley Kramer or even some of Elia Kazan have done. 
The strength of Joey is that it is myth, and not meant to be taken as
gospel. It is the balance to Hurricane. And, I think, was put there to
do so. But as myth, it then can spread over eons and continents. What
makes Joey work is that it is told as an insider would tell it, not a
reporter. Through the idolized eulogy, great bedrocks and all the
earthen ventures that cover them are there for slow discovery.  Think
of it: what portion of Americana is so steeped in its secretive myth as
the mob?  The language, the ethics, the goals, are as closed as can
be, yet at the same time, as openly tentacular connected to society as
they are inwardly hidden from it.  This dichotomy is probably unmatched
by any other important or influential group or organization. The
territory makes it ripe for depth that burrows  deeper as years go by.
And the use of a narrator from the inside is the key. 
Black Diamond Bay was always my favorite, it is akin to Desolation
Row, but with the more difficult task of telling its truths through
description and narrative, instead of metaphor. The listener must fill
in the poetic devices, backwards of Desolation, and so it too is a
balance to that song and its type, much as Joey is to Hurricane. 
Hi Dan, how are you? This is Grizz. 
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #68 of 115: David Gans (tnf) Mon 30 May 05 09:54
    
Great post, Grizz!

Hurricane Carter is a big part of Ratso Sloman's book "On the Road with Bob
Dylan" (see Topic 173 here in the Inkwell).

(I gained a new appreciation for the song "Hurricane" when I heard my
brilliant and talented niece sing it -- all eleven verses! -- with her band
The Kissers in Madison a couple of years ago.)
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #69 of 115: Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Mon 30 May 05 11:25
    
You shoulda written my book. Great insight and analytic sweep. Perhaps
also, the remaining fuzziness of Rubin Carter's actual innocence or
guilt has rendered the song less powerful. And yes, the narrator of
Joey (an aging Mulberry Street urchin as I suggest in "Keys") adds a
from me-to-you immediacy and authenticity. And both songs gain great
strength from their use of collaquial language and street attitude.

Never really considered there to be a link between "Desolation" and
"Black Diamond" but considering your points, I can see them as being in
the same general family songs. One, Desolation, however, is so deeply
personal and tortured while the other more a breezy, even lighthearted,
allegory of Armegeddon with the island as a stand-in for Earth.
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #70 of 115: David Gans (tnf) Mon 30 May 05 11:56
    

I few years ago I transferred some reels for Greil Marccs, including Dylan's
performance of "Desolation Row" from Forest Hills (the first?).  I was
surprised to hear people laughing at the song (this was a recording made in
the audience); it seems so serious now, but after this experience I began to
see how it could be received as comedy.
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #71 of 115: Dan Mitchell (mitchell) Mon 30 May 05 15:04
    
I sometimes pop Desire on just to listen to Black Diamond Bay and
nothing else. 

I still mostly don't like Joey much, although it has some redeeming
(mostly musical) qualities. And it kept "Abandoned Love" and some other
great stuff off the album.

But the only two Dylan songs I outright dislike are "Lay Lady Lay."
and Rainy Day Women." I like the intent of the latter one, but it just
annoys be to no end. And I hate when he does it live and half the crowd
takes it as some kind of pot anthem and starts whooping.
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #72 of 115: Dan Levy (danlevy) Mon 30 May 05 18:17
    

Hey, grizz!  Great to see you here...
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #73 of 115: Oliver Trager (oliver-trager) Tue 31 May 05 03:20
    
Okay, I admit it. I'm a tape collector. Sorry Bob, don't get pissed.
It just kind of goes with the territory when you write an encyclopedia
about this stuff. And face it, some of his best performances of songs
are live and often many years after he wrote and first recorded them.
So my reference points for these songs are a bit tangled and scattered.
Yeah, Desire would have been better without Joey but Joey has improved
in ways on stage that Abandoned Love probably never could. Or take a
song like Tight Connection to My Heart (aka Has Anybody Seen My Love?.
Anybody ever heard the version from the last set at the Supper Club?
Really as good as it gets and with a song that nobody ever thinks that
much about. And we have similar tastes in dislikes, Dan, Lay Lady Lay
and Rainy Day Woman are not "high" on my list. Dylan the alcehmist at
work. Anyway, he's often spoken of his albums as mere blueprints for
the songs that can later sprout wings.
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #74 of 115: Howard Levine (hll) Tue 31 May 05 05:26
    
 I kinda liked Dylan with his "girls" - the period around Empire Burlesque
sounded good on stage.
  
inkwell.vue.245 : Oliver Trager, "Keys to the Rain"
permalink #75 of 115: Life Is Easy When Considered From Another Point Of View (dam) Tue 31 May 05 05:46
    
I would have liked to see some of those shows.
  

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