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 THERE AIN'T NO FORGETTIN'........

by Mark Carter
 

This is a tough one to write.
I've been putting it off for as long as possible, planning to start it many a time and then finding reasons not to. Perhaps I've been waiting for Freewheelin's reprieve, waiting for the message that says; hey, it's business as usual, eyes down for the next twenty years, can't ya take a joke?
Alas, it is not to be (or, if it is, someone is leaving it remarkably late in the day to deliver the punch line) and so it's time to bite the bullet and put finger to keyboard.
I've planned this out so many times; what I want to say, how I want to say it. I'd intended to roughly draft it out and then refine it and hone it until it was as near to perfection as I could get it. This is my last ever Freewheelin' article and surely it deserves that bit of extra attention, that extra dash of loving care?
Perhaps. But, in the end, I'm doing what I do best; I'm winging it; simply sitting here in front of my trusty laptop and punching the keys. Let's see what comes out, shall we? I'll be just as interested as you.
Because it comes down to this; I had so much to say, so many ideas, so many theories, and yet, ultimately, none of it matters. All that matters is that this is farewell, this is closure, this is an ending. And, like Stephen King says; endings are cruel, endings are heartless, and there's not one to equal "Once upon a time........"
 

And so, once upon a time..............there were these two dreamers and they decided to invent a different kind of Bob Dylan fanzine, the sort where you invite a few of your friends to join and then every month - every month, mind - you and your friends think of something new and different to say, and you send it along to one of those dreamers, who collates it, bungs a cover on it and posts it back out. What a stupid idea; they'll never get it off the ground! Give it six months, tops. Besides, all they want to do is nick our tapes............
Well, twenty years later, we've had the public Freewheelin (and what a handsome beast that was just before it bit the dust), the online Freewheelin and our work has seeped through into the pages of all of the "proper" fanzines. Not to mention the little-remembered fact that we were the first publication in the world to print the Margolis And Moss transcripts back in the early 1990s (and still the only one to have reprinted them in their entirety).
We've had most of the biggest names in the Dylan fraternity within our ranks at some point or other, and we've also recruited a bunch of complete unknowns whose writing equals that of anything you'll read in all of the other magazines put together.
We've had JRS write of Visions for over a year and of folded umbrellas and of God and poets and of dogs running free. His legacy is his words - hundreds and hundreds of thousands of them - and I believe that his ideas and theories will resonate throughout the Dylan world for as long as there are minds that are open enough to listen.
We've had Chris C sit through more audience footage than any sane human being should ever want to watch, and the late John Green who reviewed God-knows how many audio tapes and found something positive to say about every one.

Andy Muir; prepared to slug it out in print about what makes great art and what doesn't, Jeff Stevens; prepared to travel to New York for the BobFest in 1992 and then, upon returning home, insist that his interest in Dylan was waning!
Terry Kendrick in search of Richard Thompson, Chris Hockenhull in search of Ralph McTell and Paula Radice in search of the Outer Mongolian edition of Chronicles.
We've had C.P. Lee, who is the font of all knowledge and who was there in Manchester on that night, and Richard Lewis, whose article last month proved that he managed to pack more into one brief visit to America than most of us will in a lifetime.
We've had the aforementioned John Green, whose overseas journals proved this one thing; that all he needed to be truly happy was a fag, a beer and a ticket in his pocket to the next Dylan gig.
We've had Mel Gamble, whose early contributions were printed on wrong-sized printer paper with invisible ink, Patrick Webster who counts his words and once wrote over 1,000 on a pile of pretentious old wank and Dale Hipper, whose article on a homemade train track that lies crushed and broken in the rain can still make me cry.
We've had the best of times, we've had the worst of times, and this...........this is the worst of times.
This is goodbye, this is cruel.
But it's all part of life's rich tapestry, and, as some old goat once said; "everything changes...........everything passes."
 

For the record, I last listened to Bob Dylan a couple of weeks ago, where I played "Planet Waves", "John Wesley Harding" and the "Masked And Anonymous" soundtrack back to back. No particular reason; I just felt like it.
I rarely play Bob Dylan these days, and, when I do, it's usually an official album. My interest has dwindled, and, more and more, I catch myself wondering whether I still need him, or, more to the point, whether he still needs me.
If he returns to these shores this year, I might go because I missed him last time, or I might not. It doesn't really bother me either way.
If I go, I'll probably enjoy it. If I don't, I'll probably not regret it.
I miss the days when I'd do three shows in a week or stand in a crowded field watching Van Morrison or UB40 or Stiff Little Fingers because they were some of the acts that you had to endure before Dylan came on.
I miss the days when I'd descend on a record fair and snap up ten new bootleg titles and worry about what was on them once I'd gotten them home.
I miss the days when I'd catch the train to London, sit in a cinema that was empty except for an old man and his dog, watch the Godawful "Hearts Of Fire" and then catch another train home.
I miss the days when I'd order a half dozen new Dylan books, and then place them unread on the bookshelf, where their spines would fade in the sun and their closed pages would gather dust.
I miss the days when I enjoyed going to the conventions and feeling that I belonged.
I flip through those old Freewheelin's and wonder what happened to the enthusiastic uber-collector for whom Dylan could do no wrong.
I mourn the passing of those days, for the days when we were so much younger then. Because those were the days, my friend, and, oh, didn't we think that they'd never end?

Ten thousand dollars, at the drop of a hat, I'd give it all gladly if our lives could be like that.
My God, Bob, some of your lines can really bring a tear to the eye, you know?
So, what changed? Fatherhood? Middle-age? Boredom? A nagging feeling that my mind had been closed and shuttered to so much other great stuff, and that the music-devouring 18 year-old had been swamped by the 30-something's obsession with the good, the bad and the ugly of just one artist?
Bob's live shows descending into a maelstrom of diminishing returns?
The advancing swamp of time?

"Yes"
to all of the above, perhaps, and "No" to them all, as well.
I think I've gone through what people call a sea change, and I don't think things will ever be the same again.
I wish I had an answer, but I don't.
Because none of the reasons outlined above explain why I still raid the internet for Dylan press cuttings or why I'm excited by the prospect of a new studio album, why I'll snap up Greil Marcus' latest book or why I'm impatient for the Scorcese programme and disc and DVD.
None of them explain why, if I were allowed to keep only ten CDs, at least half would be Dylan CDs, or why I find "Masked And Anonymous" to be endlessly fascinating or why, when I listen to "Sugar Baby" or "'Cross The Green Mountain", I hear the breath of angel wings.
And none of them explain why writing this, my last-ever Freewheelin' article, is so heart-wrenchingly painful, and why, when I type "The End", I will not do so dry-eyed. 

My first Freewheelin' contribution appeared in issue 2; it was awful - no, don't go and check, take my word for it; it was - and I've pretty much put something into every issue since. During my prime - my Glory Days - any one issue would contain 20 Pounds, an article, and two or three cartoons, some of which could be up to six or eight pages long. Overkill, of course, but there were things that needed to be said, things that needed to be catalogued and things that needed to be lampooned.
In all that time, I've only been verbally attacked once, and that was for an off-the-cuff remark about Bruce Springsteen! Whether that counts as success or failure depends on your point of view, I suppose. 

It always hurts when 20 Pounds ends up in the "Take It Or Leave It" section whenever the Isis Reader's Poll comes around. I'd prefer that people either loved what I had to say or hated it. I don't mind polarising any readership that I might have, but the thought that my hard work is ultimately considered to be so-so and nothing more than tolerable is depressing in the extreme. I've been lucky in that I've been able to churn it out for twenty years and find a home for it in Freewheelin'. I like to think that at least some of it has lasting value, but you never really know, do you? If all it's ever done is filled up a few blank pages in between the better stuff, then it's been, as Dylan himself once said, a grand, grand failure.
Alas, it's all over now (Baby Blue) and so I guess it no longer matters. No sense in beating myself up about it any longer.
So, I've been a Freewheeler for twenty years, and that's almost half my life so far. After I finish this and switch off the laptop, I'll no longer be one, and that, my friends, will take some getting used to.
Nowadays, my Dylan mail mainly consists of that familiar brown A4 envelope plopping onto the door mat once a month, and now we're down to the hard facts; one more and then it's all over.
All the friends I ever had are gone.

I wish I could say something profound here, or something that neatly sums up just how I feel. I shall miss you all - present and past Freewheelers alike - I've always felt like I knew you, whether I'd ever met you or not. We really had something, didn't we? I mean, we really, really had something, didn't we? We weren't just pissing in the wind month after month, were we?
I said a couple of months ago that I  felt that I was losing an old friend, and - clichéd though it might be - that's really it; that's really what it boils down to.
And that's really all I have left to say.
I could go on; I'm tempted to go on, if only because it would stave off the inevitable. But there's nothing left to say. Except this; it's been a blast and I wouldn't have missed any of it for the world.
I think we've made our mark on the world, but, more importantly, I think we've made our mark within ourselves.
We were Freewheelers once, and I guess we always will be. Like Clint Eastwood said in "The Outlaw Josey Wales"; "There ain't no forgettin', not for the likes of us."

Tonight I sat and watched "Dr. Who" with Jamie, and he's fallen in love with Time Lords and Tardises and Daleks just like I did when I was his age. And so, I suppose, it's comforting to know that, yes; things do change, but that, the more they change, the more they stay the same.
And it's that last sentence that I'm clinging onto. 

I had planned to end this piece with a painfully appropriate Dylan line. Something that summed it all up and allowed me to sign off once and for all with a handful of wise words from the man who started it all in the first place.
There's that line from "Mississippi", of course. You know, the one that goes; "I've got nothin' but affection for all those who've sailed with me". Or how about this, from "Going Going Gone"; "I'm closin' the book, on the pages and the text, and I don't really care what happens next, I'm just going, I'm going, I'm gone".
Then again, if you want a more positive slant on it, a kind of life-goes-on upbeat ending, you can't really beat "Shake the dust off of your feet, don't look back" or the oft-quoted "Strike another match, go start anew".
I might have gone for the anguished wailing of "Oooooh, mama, can this really be the end?" or the more confident swagger of "Time will tell just who fell, and who's been left behind, when you go your way and I go mine" or the resigned hopefulness of "And though the line is cut, it ain't quite the end, I'll just bid farewell till we meet again."
Dylan has a line for every situation, and I guess he's written more ways of saying goodbye than for any other scenario, with the exception of saying "I love you". In this he is not so unique; I'd wager that practically every songwriter has done - and will do - the same. After all, "Hello" and "Goodbye" make the world go round, and, Lee Marvin in "Paint Your Wagon" excepted ("Do I know where hell is? Hell is in "Hello". Heaven is when I say; "Goodbye, it's time for me to go"), I think that most people would agree with Mr. King; endings are cruel and there isn't one to equal "Once upon a time"..........or "I love you".
So, I thought long and hard about the payoff line. Any of the above would have sufficed, and yet, in their way, none of them are quite right. I could have flipped through "Lyrics" and probably come up with a dozen more. But this is my last-ever Freewheelin article and, somehow, it would've been just too clichéd, too expected, too anticipated.
And so because, like Mr. Jagger says, you can't always get what you want, this line from a Nanci Griffith song called "If Wishes Were Changes" seemed strangely poignant and appropriate. It sums up how I feel, that wishful thinking is just that; wishful thinking.
But sometimes wishes are all we have. Sometimes, thinking "If only........" or "What if........" is our final refuge. Sometimes we can't see the silver lining for the cloud.
Goodbye, Freewheelin'. We knew some times, didn't we?

"If wishes were changes, there'd be no goodbyes".
 

Bob Dylan

 
 
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