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Warmuth at his Goon Talk blog profoundly underlines something that was in any case evident before he surfaced (in 2006 it seems, but I wasn’t paying much attention at the time; not to that anyway): Dylan usually, maybe always, works from some kind of template or more. He crafts songs out of pre-existing songs, texts and melodies on which he has been meditating. So we’ve been learning that even Dylan’s ‘genius’ needs inspiration – just like from that folky alchemical start in Greenwich Village in the early Sixties. Indeed, what else could ‘stream of consciousness’ mean but phrases one has read and heard floating through the mind? A similar process, albeit inferior, can be seen in commentary on Bob Dylan. Call it critical currency? One Nigel Hinton in ‘Into the Future, Knocked Out and Loaded’ in the highbrow former Dylan fanzine The Telegraph in the late Eighties:
So, since 1979, I have found Dylan’s work to be largely lacking in that quality that put him in another class from everyone else. Even when his songs in this period had been clever (and many of them have been clever and beautiful) they have always been explicit. The meaning is all there on the surface and there has not been that elusive, ambiguous quality with which he used to manage to invest even simple words so that they would suddenly open up to a new meaning. Even rich and complex songs such as ‘Jokerman’ are rich and complex only on the surface – they do not have resonances that suddenly bloom to reveal something previously unthought of by the listener. There has been no mystery in his art and, simultaneously, he has been less musically and vocally inventive.
Michael Gray in a surge of genius cut-and-paste stream-of-(un)consciousness inspiration at the end of his ‘Jokerman’ chapter in Song & Dance Man III (2000):
‘Jokerman’ is always welcome, always alive and benign, always rich and complex, always habitable, always ready to open up its labyrinthine possibilities.
Michael: not one to disagree with his cronies – persons he ‘knows’. The ultimate critical criterion – if not quite. http://bobdylanencyclopedia.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/london-dylan-talk-byjohn-gibbens.html
Monday, November 02, 2009 LONDON DYLAN TALK BY JOHN GIBBENS I don't know John Gibbens, so this isn't publicising something for a friend; nor is it a recommendation, since I don't know his book either; but it's an interesting title for a talk:
(I’ve been to, and through, Empire Burlesque and I’ve got to confess I can still hear the big joke of Gibbens’s fearful symmetry [and asymmetrical inconsistency] crying in the wilderness.) From Andrew Muir’s erstwhile Judas! Number 7 – October 2003, Michael Gray on ‘Christopher Ricks’ Dylan’s Visions of Sin’ Penguin Books, 25 September 2003:
. . . and there was a scarily good reworked lecture by John Gibbens – a piece so alert and sensitive to the nuance and detail of poetic effect that I almost wanted to give up using words myself, on the page or the public platform.
‘Waiting for spring to come smoking down the track’. I can see the day coming when even Michael’s post-Mick Brown home theories of Infidels’s ‘no fearful symmetry’ are gonna be against the law. Gardener Is Gone All Art Aspires To The Condition of Bob Dylan
John Gibbens on September 27, 2010 at 12:51 PM said: The proof copy of Prof Wilentz’s book that I read has a printed label stuck on the front with an endorsement from Al Kooper that begins: “Unlike so many Dylan-writerwannabes and phony ‘encyclopedia’ compilers, Sean Wilentz…” etc, etc. I faintly hope but seriously doubt that someone at the publishing house might have thought better of this before the book went to press. Generally speaking, I don’t think an author is made to look better by insults flung at other authors (Clinton Heylin please take note). Unless of course they are the very SUBTLE ONES that are the standard currency of literary exchange.
Gibbens’s currency in his ‘Bow Down to Her on Sunday’ article at http://www.touched.co.uk/press/bowdown.html
My aim in The Nightingale’s Code was simply to set such a vision of Dylan’s work afoot. To be honest – not wanting to launch an anti-advertising campaign – this was what I’d missed in the critical studies I’ve read. The observations accumulate but they don’t seem to assemble into a picture. It’s not clear what the details are details of. I wanted to show how, for example, song might relate to song on an LP; how LPs themselves might be constellated in phases or cycles – or chapters, if you like. Also, what might be constants of the whole work, the forms and images that speak to each other across it. In this I seem so far to have failed, since the critic who was most responsive to the book, Paula Radice, took exception to precisely this schematic aspect of it.
Jonath-n Cott, Dylan (1985, I think) p 216:
One might have seen a sign of his incipient rebellion in the extraordinary, visionary, still-unreleased song Caribbean Wind'' (with its images of “the furnace of desire'' and “ships of liberty”), which Dylan had sung only at certain of his concerts between 1980 and 198l--a song that broke with the generally rigid versifying and moralizing of his born-again compositions and returned to the leaping verbal associations and passionate allusiveness of earlier songwriting periods.
Compare John Gibbens in the touching The Nightingale’s Code: A poetic study of Bob Dylan (2001) p 45 on ‘the leaping allusiveness of JOKERMAN’. Gibbens p 100:
By 1983, the faith that had sustained him to sing had been codified in a particular brand of Christianity - and was now perhaps being decodified.
Gibbens p 101 on ‘Jokerman’ and the Cuban missile crisis that inspired ‘A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall’:
The next lines, by this interpretation -- "You were born with a snake in both your fists / While a hurricane was blowing" -- say that the crisis saw the birth, not of Dylan as an artist, since he was born already, but of a certain power in his art: the 'jokerman' power, discovered in that disjunct style that bore some of his greatest songs; in which, throwing out logic, he spoke to the collective through association; in which he became a "dream-twister".
Gibbens p 49:
After subduing his art to the service of the Gospel, JOKERMAN is a bold reassertion of imaginative freedom, of Dylan’s essential nature as a maker and mover of symbols
Gibbens p 345 on the early to mid Eighties (as far as I can make out):
Though there are a few wonderful things on each of these records, and some that come from the same period and were hidden, by and large Dylan was baffled in his attempts to find again a public voice befitting the times. The original Infidels, which was to have included BLIND WILLIE McTELL and FOOT OF PRIDE, would have been as powerful and troubling a record as he'd ever put out, but he opted for controversy over contrariety and the linear over the labyrinthine. At the root of this choice there seems to be a failing confidence in his public's ability to follow what he was on about. A judicious CD edition of Infidels that restored some of the first cuts might still prove a belated masterpiece.
Michael Gray p 486:
When Dylan cites Ecclesiastes in the opening line of ‘Jokerman’ (not by naming it but by quoting directly from it), he is not labouring its centrality to any understanding of what he’s on about, but he is certainly returning to biblical territory . . .
Tashlich breadcrumbs at Passover? A little learning is a dangerous thing (especially intertextually, self-reflexively and post-structurally): keynotes rush in where post-structuralist zombies and jumbis (jumbies?) dread to dread. ‘Born in Time’ has two problems: Michael Gray and his critical poodle Andrew Muir. In Song & Dance Man III (2000) p 672 barking Michael wields his big critical stick to beat Bob at the game of nursery rhyme:
The mere inclusion of ‘Born in Time’ disrupts. It belongs to another album. “Empire Burlesque”, perhaps. Being charitable, “Knocked Out Loaded”. At any rate it has nothing to do with the use of nursery rhyme or fairy tale, and little to do with anything beyond the marketing notion that there ought to be a Seductive Big Ballad on each Bob Dylan album. It has two wonderful lines – ‘you’re comin’ through to me in black and white’, ‘you’re blowin’ down the shaky street’ – but in the end its opaqueness exasperates and smacks of pretension: not only does the title provoke the question ‘Born in time for what?’ and then fail to answer it, but it leaves you feeling that Bob Dylan doesn’t know what he means either.
Michael Gray’s critical poodle Andrew Muir in Troubadour: Early & Late Songs of Bob Dylan (2003), taking his cue from Gray (to whom he regularly sent by email rec.music.dylan posts that Michael would, officially, never soil his eyes by reading of his own original volition):
‘Born in Time’ has two problems; it is the wrong version and it is on the wrong album. The song comes from the Oh Mercy sessions, where it was a plain, unadorned version relying on Dylan’s vocal performance alone to make it a thing of majesty and splendour. This is self-consciously trying to be that very thing and therefore completely failing. It is most insensitively placed on the album, and may as well have had a voiceover introducing it: ‘here’s the big ballad, folks, wait until you hear the sumptuous backing . . . ’ Even in its preferable state it would not have ‘fitted’ on under the red sky, but would then have at least been a thoroughly welcome ‘visitor’ rather than this egomaniac limelight hogger.
World-leading Dylanologist, expert on the blues and nursery rhyme – and even the King James Bible -- under the red sky (‘for most of the Nineties’) Michael Gray says, in Song & Dance Man III p 14:
It’s a pity Dylan pads out the album with some substandard rockism (‘Wiggle Wiggle’ and ‘Unbelievable’) and the ill-fitting, foggy pop of ‘Born in Time’, because the core of the album is an adventure into the poetic possibilities of nursery rhyme that is alert, fresh and imaginative, and an achievement that has gone entirely unrecognized.
‘No more of this!’ Luke 22:51 (New International Version et al.):
But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him.
‘Suffer ye thus far’ -- with Michael’s ‘Authorized’ Version, the King James Bible – which, howbeit, King James never really authorized. But how be it, how does it come to be that, Precious bluesy KJV Michael is ‘deceived’ and even arrogated himself above the authority of the dictionaries in his ‘intuneness’ with Dylan’s ‘in-tune’ language? Compare Gibbens p 289 on ‘Father of Night’:
It is the voice of the plain, untutored man a little awkward in his Sabbath best.
The stone the (complacent) nursery-rhyme builders rejected, under the red sky, has become the capstone of Messianic Dylanology – and it is marvellous in Bob’s sight. If Michael Gray can read this riddle – on ‘the muddiest superhighway in the universe’ or off it -- I’ll give him a groat. But that’s another fairy tale – to be ‘spoken or broken’ on Kol Nidre. An achievement that has gone entirely unrecognized. By Michael Gray. Luke 20 New International Version - UK (NIVUK)
The parable of the tenants 9 He went on to tell the people this parable: ‘A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. 13 ‘Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.” 14 ‘But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. “This is the heir,” they said. “Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. ‘What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’ When the people heard this, they said, ‘God forbid!’ 17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, ‘Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”[a]? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.’
19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.
From The Crossroads Initiative, ‘St. Leo the Great, Early Church Father and Doctor of the Church’:
This excerpt from a Letter by St. Leo the Great (Ep. 31, 2-3: PL 54, 791-793) is used in the Roman Office of Readings for December 17. Saint Leo emphasizes the meaning of the genealogies of Jesus given us in Luke and Matthew's gospels--that Jesus was truly one of us, possessing a complete human nature. He did not merely appear in human form, as in the biblical types and scriptural symbols of the Old Testament. The mystery of our reconciliation with God recorded in the Bible could not have occurred unless he had stooped to assume our lowly nature even while fully possessing the divine nature of his heavenly father. To speak of our Lord, the son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as true and perfect man is of no value to us if we do not believe that he is descended from the line of ancestors set out in the Gospel. Matthew’s gospel begins by setting out the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham, and then traces his human descent by bringing his ancestral line down to his mother’s husband, Joseph. On the other hand, Luke traces his parentage backward step by step to the actual father of mankind, to show that both the first and the last Adam share the same nature. No doubt the Son of God in his omnipotence could have taught and sanctified men by appearing to them in a semblance of human form as he did to the patriarchs and prophets, when for instance he engaged in a wrestling contest or entered into conversation with them, or when he accepted their hospitality and even ate the food they set before him. But these appearances were only types, signs that mysteriously foretold the coming of one who would take a true human nature from the stock of the patriarchs who had gone before him. No mere figure, then, fulfilled the mystery of our reconciliation with God, ordained from all eternity. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon the Virgin nor had the power of the Most High overshadowed her, so that within her spotless womb Wisdom might build itself a house and the Word become flesh. The divine nature and the nature of a servant were to be united in one person so that the Creator of time might be born in time, and he through whom all things were made might be brought forth in their midst.
To quote some ‘eternal verities’ – in a pale blue light -- from Michael’s favourite version of the Bible, the KJV, Isaiah 55:
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
Michael Gray p 247 on Dylan’s evangelistic period:
. . . and that what makes these Born Again albums so flawed and shallow in the context of Bob Dylan’s whole catalogue is that he has been satisfied, on these records, to assert and argue and declaim but he has hardly bothered anywhere on them to fulfil the more important tasks of the artist: he has not created worlds here, he has only argued about them.
But Muir-Gray did create worlds – a dramatically ironic intertextual and poststructural one in Gethsemane (‘In the Garden’) revisited: 17 [Dylan-Christ] looked directly at [Muir-Gray] and asked, ‘Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”[a]? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.’ 19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people. Robert Graves in The White Goddess (p 336) on his own particular slant on 666, the number of the (Neronic or Domitian[an?]) Beast in Revelation:
Poets will know what I mean by slantwise: it is a way of looking through a difficult word or phrase to discover the meaning lurking behind the letters.
The proleptic or analeptic method of thought, though necessary to poets, physicians, historians and the rest, is so easily confused with mere guessing, or deduction from insufficient data, that few of them own to using it. However securely I buttress the argument of this book with quotations, citations and footnotes, the admission that I have made here of how it first came to me will debar it from consideration by orthodox scholars: though they cannot refute it, they dare not accept it.
‘You don’t get anything you don’t deserve, where we were born in time’. Not this time, Michael – ‘In the Garden’ – but [‘no more water but fire’] ‘next time’: at the Parousia. ‘God Knows’ when. Fearful symmetry; the ‘code in the lyrics’ (since Blood on the Tracks) From ‘Born in Time’ (1990):
Not one more night, not one more kiss, Not this time baby, no more of this, Takes too much skill, takes too much will,
Too revealing. Biblical scholar M F Unger in Demons in the World Today:
By rejecting Jesus Christ, God incarnate, Judaism temporarily forfeited its high calling and place in God’s purpose in history, until the Jews turn to Christ at his second advent (Zechariah 12:10—13:1; Romans 11:25-36). Then their spiritual blindness shall be lifted and they shall be delivered from the demonic delusion that has rested upon them (Matthew 12:43-45) since they recklessly cried, “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matthew 27:25).
(Wish we’d all been ready, Larry – for the Moshiach) Luke 22 (New International Version)
While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48. but Jesus asked him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" 49. When Jesus' followers saw what was going to happen, they said, "Lord, should we strike with our swords?" 50. And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51. But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him.
Andrew Marvell in ‘To His Coy Mistress’:
I would Love you ten years before the Flood, And you should, if you please, refuse Till the conversion of the Jews.
Muir-Gray you bin refused – until the levee breaks (at the [Mississippi-soaked] fire next time) . . . Without you there’s no meaning in anything I do Paul Kirkman 2012
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