whAt was it       YOU wanted     ?
(Read on. It appears as though there is a message in this.

Then again, appearances are sometimes deceptive.)


by Jim Gillan

Wrote Paxton, “It’s a lesson too late for the learning…” 

Maybe so, but that was then. As this is now I’ll turn to pages 106 and 107 of Troubadour : early and late songs of bob dylan.  Where The Muir writes (somewhat patronisingly? – but correct me if I’m wrong) “As Henry Miller correctly noted…Art is something which stirs men’s passions, which gives vision, lucidity, courage and faith.More Muir: “Dylan had reached the point where the windows of communication, the very words themselves, obscure the artist’s vision. In a typically paradoxical manner, Dylan himself conveyed this best – in the breath-taking poetry of :” 

Now the wintertime is coming                      I went to tell everybody
The windows are filled with frost                 But I could not get across

Andrew again. “What a gorgeous image this is of the poet (in the wide sense of the word) facing up to his inability to convey his vision.” (There’s gush loads more of this guff, but dammed if I’m going to reproduce it further). 

In another lifetime, I was frequently inclined to observe that the line between ‘vision’ and ‘fantasy’ was often so fine as to be invisible. The distinction between the two (I argued), was that the former is shared by the many, the latter by only a few, usually the same few who are convinced that it is only they who have the ideas, answers and ability to transform. Which makes ‘em either deluded, and/or desperate to retain power, influence, standing or whatever. Incidentally Henry (and Andy), art is also often pretentious, always contentious, a magnet for criticism (I fail to understand why) and whilst sometimes inspiring, is mostly harmless. Thankfully. 

Well alright.  Troubadour is only a book, one unlikely to be as widely read as (for example) the Koran, the Kama Sutra, 1984 or Grimm’s Fairy Tales. As a seminal essential, it might rival Fly-fishing with JR Hartley, but possibly not. And Andrew is perfectly entitled to try to get as many people as possible to part with £14.99, which is the exact cost of Troubadour, but no indicator of its value. But does it make sense? I don’t mean the guff in the book, which however authoritatively it is dressed up, is only an opinion; rather I’m returning (yet again) to the notion that YOU CAN THINK FOR YOURSELF. 

Which, I acknowledge, might of course be along the lines of “I think I’ll buy Troubadour, as Andrew, who is the editor of Judas! and a prolific writer of books and articles, is therefore an authority on Dylan. He will be thought-provoking, informative, possibly illuminating. It will make me appreciate Bob and his art even more. It might impress other nerds, or at least give me something to talk about at Dylan conventions. Maybe encourage me to write letters to Andrew seeking further information, or challenging his take on things. £14.99 is a small price to pay for all that. I might even buy two copies and so double my pleasure…”  

Still here? The tears on my cheeks are from laughter. I hope. Oh well, at the risk of it seeming to matter, consider the effect of a small change to Bob’s lines:- 

Andrew has it as:- 

I went to tell everybody
But I could not get across

But I much prefer:- 

I went to tell everybody
But I could not get a Cross 

Does that small change make a BIG difference? Do you need Henry Miller to judge this for you? Do you think that Bob meant that the Cross is the sine qua non of the message? Should Scott Marshall be asked for a view? Is Andrew an august, authoritative and helpful critic? What might Ruskin say about that? Have I stimulated thought? Do you now feel the need to send me £14.99? Actually, I’ll have to refuse that piddling amount, as anything less than all you own, all you can borrow, is insufficient reward for my priceless insight. Is that absurd?  More so than £14.99? Is the central issue one of the appropriateness of paying anything for guff, or simply about the amount that should be paid? Ha! you may exclaim. Ha, ha, ha! you may chortle, as you cry “Jim lad, in addition to being utterly bonkers, has an inflated sense of his own worth.” Izzat so?

Aren’t you bonkers? Why not? When you consider what passes for sanity on this planet, maximising the distance between that and yourself doesn’t seem such a bad idea does it? And as for worth, what price do you put on your individuality, your take on things? 

It’s usually about this time of day that I take my medicine. I forgot on the last two, or twenty-two, or one hundred and seven occasions, or at least I think I did. How has that affected my take on things and, as an adjunct, your ability to put my scribbling into perspective? Does having a beautiful mind come at a price? What do you have to pay for yours? 

Kabamazaam! I’m off upstairs to strip wall-paper. I’ll take the portable CD player up with me. I’m off Dylan at the moment, but Mozart ain’t a hardship. There is also a Lucinda Williams live show I want to listen to properly, plus a nice mix of performances and interviews with a bunch of singer/songwriters that I downloaded from worth a trawl.  And arguably far more rewarding than Troubadour. Or anything here. 

Incidentally, I haven’t replied to any of the emails I got in the last little while, as my system crashed and everything got lost. If anyone can be bothered to try re-sending comments, queries, observations, advice and details of off-shore bank accounts, the new address is Idle swine that I am, I suspect that next month’s effort (not that there is ever very much of it) will focus on said correspondence. On which note, was Freewheelin’ 213 diminished or improved by the absence of WWIYW? 

I leave you with the wonderfully appropriate line from that country music masterpiece, “What You Think You’re A-gonna See (Ain’t What You’re A-gonna Get)”:-  

Jim Gillan