Wednesday, December 2, 2015

People Just Get Uglier And I Have No Sense Of Time

From the spring of 1966 here's the infamous intoxicated taxi ride starring Bob Dylan and John Lennon, filmed by D.A. Pennebaker and Bobby Neuwirth. Fascinating for those interested in the music and cult of personality of the swinging 1960's (is this freedom rock!??).  Dylan, who considered John a peer, rival and a friend (of sorts), is well into his mid-60's freeze out/mind games period and is obviously trying to vibe Lennon out the car, but is a little too high to pull it off. Lennon appears slightly taken back and maybe a bit intimidated by Bob's sloppy intoxication and vitriol, but still comes across sharp with an almost Peter Sellers like presence and gift for voice impersonation. Obviously they are both playing to the camera to a certain extent and one would hope that interactions in private (i.e. no camera) would be more relaxed and friendly, though contemporaneous behind the scenes stories indicate that this was basically Bob's M.O. for interacting with others in this period.

There are lots of interesting references and subtexts- Dylan mentioning irritably how when he played one of his recent records for the Beatles John said it sounded like a Northern Song (the Beatles publishing company) a reference that Bob didn't understand till later, which is almost assuredly related to his "Norwegian Wood" parody "4th Time Around" and Bobby Neurwirth does a quick comical impersonation of a BBC broadcaster quoting a section captured on film for Don't Look Back. For you trainspotters there are also references to Ronald Colman, Sleepy John Estes, Johnny Cash, Mick Jagger, Rob Roy, Bobby "Eve of Destruction" McGuire, The Good Guys (DJ's), Sherwood Forest, Friar Tuck and Mama Cass (referred to as "the big chick, she's got you too!") who reportedly had a crush on John.

Dylan even brings up the Silkie(s) a now somewhat forgotten band for whom John had produced a rather nice cover of "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" in 1965. Probably another dig from Zimmy about his influence on John's songwriting and who was or was not more affiliated with the "folk rock-a-boom". I think the rest of the Silkie's album consisted of Dylan covers which lends credence to Dylan's feeling that Hide Your Love Away was, at least on the surface, just another in a line of Dylan knock-offs from John, a charge I think that John acknowledged to some extent.  The others songs being, in Dylan's mind at least, "I'm A Loser" and "Norwegian Wood" hence his 4th Time Around and the line "I never asked for your crutch, now don't ask for mine".  It's hard to hear more than a subtle influence nowadays, perhaps because the influence of both was and would continue to be so pervasive in pop music, but I guess at the time it seemed egregious to Dylan's paranoid and competitive mind.

Watching this footage makes it clear why Dylan had to find an excuse to get off the road and off drugs- which by this point had become hard- mainly speed with alcohol and junk to come down. But Dylan still gets some good lines in like "I wish I could talk English man" and "we've got baseball games, we've got all night t.v., I come from the land of paradise man!"-"Sounds great" Lennon replies in a deadpan Northern accent and the car drives on.  I imagine in some parallel universe (or circle of hell if you find it all rather tedious) this car ride is still going on. "Mona tried to tell me.............

Jonathan Cott: What did you think of Dylan's "version" of "Norwegian Wood"? ("Fourth time around")?

John Lennon: I was very paranoid about that. I remember he played it to me when he was in London. He said, what do you think? I said, I don't like it. I didn't like it. I was very paranoid. I just didn't like what I felt I was feeling – I thought it was an out and out skit, you know, but it wasn't. It was great. I mean he wasn't playing any tricks on me. I was just going through the bit.

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