Clarifying note: The viral disease SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) was in the news constantly when I wrote this rant. Between November 2002 and July 2003, more than 8,000 cases were reported, mostly in Asia, resulting in nearly 800 deaths.
Originally published May 7, 2003 | (c) Mountain Xpress, 2003
A well-oiled old-timer at the Smokey Tavern, presented with the name Bob Dylan, recently responded, “So?”
On the very same night at Vincent’s Ear (and up against the same set of circumstance), a long-haired bartender with eccentric facial hair declared,” That moldy old bastard needs to stay the hell out of this town!”
Moldy. Old. Bastard.
A blasé attitude from a blitzed barfly is one thing. But Mr. Curious Beard has, by some lights, firmly strapped himself into a window seat on the Old Testament Vision of Hell Express.
This is Dylan we’re talking about here.
His Bobness. Uncle Bob. Renaldo. The Thin Man. Zimmy. The Twin. Mr. Tambourine Man. Mr. Lucky. The Jester. Brother Bob. St. Bob. God.
So don’t let the church door hit you on the way out, Beard Boy.
It may be easy to forget these days that His Zimminess — the inscrutable geezer with the spooky growl who now sports a pimp mustache and a bizarre Afro-esque pompadour, and who dresses like the corrupt love child of Roy Rogers and Elvis Does Vegas — is fundamental.
Dylan’s mark on music is beyond calculation. The electric folkie’s bolts of influence flew willy-nilly from his young poet’s mind — even John Lennon was awed by him. (Would there have been a Rubber Soul in a world without Bob? Knock on “Norwegian Wood” before you answer.)
So, frankly, you’d best say thankly, Mr. Morrissey. Give a dark dance on the edge of town, Bruce (and Tom Petty, Joni Mitchell, Suzanne Vega, Greg Brown, blah, blah, blah). Throw down a great “Bloody hell!” from heaven, Joe Strummer.
From the Seattle-fried angst of The Cobain to the current meandering pretensions of Chris Carraba, Conor Oberst, et al. on down to local spastic-emo outfit Red Penny Arsenal, Dylan is the music’s prominent subtext, the vagabond virus of meaning.
Eventually, we’ll find a cure for SARS. But St. Bob irrevocably infects any of us who listen to music that matters.
Zimmy may be great when he and his band play the Asheville Civic Center on Wednesday, May 14 (sometimes he is). Then again, he may suck (sometimes he does). And sure, in a world where youth’s grasp of irony often falls far short of reflexivity, he’s moldy like a Rolling Stone. And old (he turns 62 this month). And a bastard, you bet.