Girls’ faces formed the forward path

“Ah, but I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.” Bob Dylan, My Back Pages

Nobody compares to Bob Dylan. I don’t like everything about him, I don’t like all his albums and I don’t think everybody has to like him, but I still say nobody can compare. I think it can be argued that The Beatles were bigger than Dylan, sure, but I don’t think there’s been an artist in modern music as influential as Dylan. What the Beatles were to music fans I think Dylan was to musicians.

I first realized who Bob Dylan was when I went to see the movie The Hurricane in 1999, during the movie Dylan’s song Hurricane sounded really familiar and I was sure my father had that song on a vinyl record somewhere. My father fished out the album Desire from the basement and I began listening to it over and over again, I loved that song and soon after that I finally began to branch out to some of his other albums.

It’s funny, because even though I’ve become a bit of a Dylan freak since, something which all my girlfriends and friends have had to suffer through (or benefited from, as I like to put it), I’d still say my brother is an even bigger fan than I. We both have our father to thank because he listened to Dylan a lot and we’ve always had his albums lying around the house, but I think we’ve taken the baton since then. Dylan to this day is still the safest bet to play on the stereo whenever we’re all together. Mother, you know we are very sorry.

It’s hard to pick out a specific Dylan memory because there are endless amounts of them, but I think a have a good one for this post, since in a way it serves to back the argument I made before about Dylan being to musicians what The Beatles were to music fans. When I was in my third year of college I went on a 300 mile – 15 day hike by myself. I met a lot of people along the way (a post on a couple of them later…), but mostly I loved hiking by myself and every now taking out my MP3 player lo listen to some music. My favorite song during the trip was Bob Dylan’s My Back Pages, but not just any version…

“A self-ordained professor’s tongue. Too serious to fool”

It was My Back Pages performed live during Bob Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert. It tops the original and for me it turned a good Dylan song into one of his bests. This version features George Harrison, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Roger McGuinn and Dylan himself. The performance has everything going for it… Eric Clapton breezes through a guitar solo effortlessly, McGuinn shows he was a great vocalist, Tom Petty sings a nice mellow-y verse, Neil Young goes all out during a second guitar solo, George Harrison is solid like always… it’s amazing.

And Dylan? He sings a short verse, but is easily the least memorable of the bunch during the song. That’s something I like about that specific performance and I’m sure he was fine with it too. I’m guessing he thought something along the lines of: I influenced these guys so they could be this good and they’re all here singing a song I brilliantly wrote 28 years ago.

And brilliant it was…

“Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats, too noble to neglect. Deceived me into thinking, I had something to protect”

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Let’s do some living, after we die

“I have my freedom… but I don’t have much time” – Rolling Stones, Wild Horses

When I was in college I watched a bunch of documentaries about my favorite artists. No Direction Home had come out not too long ago and I was searching for others that were just as good. I watched the incredible The Last Waltz and loved another Dylan documentary called Don’t Look Back, but for some reason the one I liked most at the time was the Stones’ Gimme Shelter.

The fact that the documentary was focused on the Altamont concert the Stones gave in 1969 was very appealing. It was famous because the band had hired the Hells Angels to run security and midway through the concert a man carrying a gun was stabbed to death by one of the Hells Angels.

From the documentary there are two scenes I remember vividly…

The first is the Stones in a studio actually looking at the footage of the man taking his gun out and getting stabbed. They make comments as they watch the scene several times and even freeze the image every now and then so they can see the gun and the stabbing.

The second is a scene where the band listens to one of my favorite Rolling Stone songs they’ve just finished recording, Wild Horses. It’s a rare breed for a song, one of those I like more over time. It helps that it’s not overplayed and whenever I hear it I rarely feel that I’ve heard it not too long ago. Yesterday, when watching the documentary Muscle Shoals (not great, unfortunately), I was excited when I saw the exact same scene which I remembered perfectly from 8 or 9 years ago. Coincidentally it was recorded at a Muscle Shoals studio and the scene, in my opinion and I hope in everybody else’s too, stole the documentary.

The clip has a lot of character: Keith Richards mouthing the song, Charlie Watts looking at the floor, Mick Jagger burying his head in his hands but softly clapping with a smile on his face when it’s over…. it’s just memorable.

It’s a song that’s been with me the last ten years, I’ve listened to it with girlfriends, with friends and mostly on my own. Yet to this day I have doubts as to what are “Wild Horses”, I have an idea but whenever I listen to the song with somebody I ask them what they think and how they interpret it.

“Wild, wild horses we’ll ride them some day.”

Fallen Robin

“You told me again you preferred handsome men, but for me you would make an exception” Leonard Cohen, Chelsea Hotel No.2

In my attempt, through this blog, to write about specific memories of the last 10 years of my life, one of the artists that will come up is Leonard Cohen. For me the classiest songwriter of his generation, or at least classiest in the way I like, which means that he’s able to say all the things going thought his head, be them beautiful, filthy or despicable with style and grace.

His song Chelsea Hotel No.2 I would love to say reminds me of a personal relationship I’ve had, but that’s simply not the case. However, the song (dedicated to Janis Joplin) depicts so many elements of a relationship that didn’t last, that it’s hard not to find a lyric in there to which one can relate.

It goes from sex…

“I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel, you were talking so brave and so sweet, giving me head on the unmade bed…”

to separation…

“Ah but you got away, didn’t you babe, you just turned your back on the crowd, you got away, I never once heard you say, I need you, I don’t need you..”

to a simple memory…

“I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best, I can’t keep track of each fallen robin. I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel, that’s all, I don’t even think of you that often.”

I few years ago I began dating a girl I’d been friends with for a while. It didn’t last very much and the relationship ended for reasons that could have been obvious from the beginning. We had fun, but at the end things went sour, had a rough couple of weeks, moved on and I haven’t heard from her since. While I’d have many reasons to have a bad memory of her, that’s just simply not the case. I wish I could be as smooth as Leonard Cohen and say “I can’t keep track of each fallen robin” (not so many fallen robins on my list…), but for other reasons it’s clear that I really didn’t love her the best and simply don’t think of her that often.

I just simply “remember” her; I have isolated memories. Everything in between which are the feelings I had, the things I liked about her, the things I didn’t, her personality, the things I wanted when I was with her… all of that is completely gone.

So I can say I remember her… well? Not really, at her apartment, at a beach, at a hotel (not the Chelsea), but not much else, none of the good stuff.

Anyway, we’re ugly, but we have the music: