I’ll show you something, to make you change your mind

“Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London” – Ralph McTell, Streets of London

I could have picked around 50 songs to help me shape a memory of my father, but Streets of London had to be my first choice. The song is by British folk singer Ralph McTell who, in all honesty, I don’t know anything about. I’d struggle in trying to name three songs of his and would ultimately end up failing. Although I do know Streets of London pretty much by heart, and it’s a damn good song. The song is basically asking people who complain how they’re able to do so with so many people around them who are worse off, so I like the lyrics as well as the melody.

“Have you seen the old man in the closed down market,
Kicking up the paper with his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride, hand held loosely at his side,
Yesterday’s paper telling yesterday’s news.”

I mentioned my father before in the post where I linked Bob Dylan’s My Back Pages and he’s bound to come up more often. He’s someone I should thank regularly for the musical influence he had on me, thanks to him there was always good music playing around the house or on our family road trips. He liked folk music, classic rock, jazz, blues and a bunch of other good genres, plus he was always buying new records and CD’s so it wasn’t the same albums playing over and over again. He still loves music today and (most of the time) has a pretty good taste for it. Streets of London was his discovery and, as I mentioned before, it’s a damn good song.

“So how can you tell me, you’re lonely
And say for you that the sun don’t shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London, 
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind.”

The reason I immediately link this song to my father as soon as I hear the first few chords dates back to about six years. It’s at this point that I should mention that my father, as well as being an avid listener of good music is a self-taught guitar and piano player. He’s not a very good musician, but a musician none the less… and the only one in the family. So six years ago he picked up the score to Streets of London from a random songbook and the usual learning process began to take its natural course:

After a week…

– “Hey, come listen to this song on the piano. It’s sounding pretty good, right?”. It was not.

A few weeks later…

– “Come over, I think I’ve got it down pretty well”. He did not.

This usually goes on for about a month then he moves on to a different song, but with Streets of London it lasted more like six months. It was a struggle, for all of us. He still plays it every now and then and truth be told, if the original is a damn good song, my father’s cover on the piano is damn good too. Don’t worry, I’ve linked the original below.

“Have you seen the old girl who walks the streets of London,
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?
She’s no time for talking, she just keeps right on walking,
Carrying her home in two carrier bags.”

 

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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”