Oh where have you been, my blue eyed son?

by Mel Gamble


‘Oh where have you been, my blue eyed son?
Oh where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains,
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways,
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests,
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans,
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard…..’

It’s been a long time and much has happened since I last started to write for Freewheelin’. For others as well as me from what I hear. Part of me wants to tell what I’ve been doing, and I have this desire to hear where others are and how they got there. Has the journey been fulfilling, is the destination what they expected? Is it part of getting older to review the past? 

Some of you I once felt close to, some I still do, though we’re not often in contact. Others I guess were just people doing their best. John Green is sorely missed. Some have fallen apart from each other and I can’t change that, though I wish I could. I remember best the Lincoln weekends which were special. I remember opening the Freewheelin’ envelope with anticipation. But I think I got out at the right time for me, for all sorts of reasons. I think I saw the best of Freewheelin’ but I guess I would wouldn’t I? 

Other things became more important, though I still feel thrilled by Dylan. I have become a half decent counsellor and love watching clients grow and their lives change for the better. Not that it always happens, but when it does and I can feel I’ve played a part, it’s satisfying. Part of me wishes I’d done it years ago, but I know I wasn’t the same person then. ‘I was so much older then…’ 

I am grateful for being included in this special Freewheelin’. John calls it the last one so it looks as if nobody will be taking over. I must say something about JRS, the collator of all collators. I would like to say it face to face, this MUST happen, we’re not getting younger. I won’t say too much, but I appreciate the hard work, the frustration, the cajoling, the time, the money, the knowledge, the sense of humour, the thick skin, the encouragement and support towards others, the modesty (occasionally justified) and the imagination (especially the imagination) and above all the amount of himself that he put in. Not forgetting the clothes. Thanks. 

(Somehow that doesn’t really seem enough to cover how much I appreciate what he has done, and how much I like the guy, but it will have to do.) (And I know how much he likes comments in parentheses so I won’t use them any more.) (Maybe.) 

Now then, what was the subject? ‘The last time I listened to Bob Dylan’. Nicely ambiguous. Whatever I last listened to I hope it wasn’t the last, if you know what I mean. And of course knowing I’m going to write this I can choose what I last listened to rather than leave it to chance. So first I have to select something, listen to it, and then write about it. So that’s what I’ll do. See you later.

Ok I’m back. I’ve chosen ‘Floater (Too much to ask). And not just because of the parentheses. When I first heard ‘Love and Theft’ I can’t say this song stood out for me, but as time has passed it’s become the one I love to listen to. And I kind of missed Freewheelin’ then because I wanted to write about my ideas. Which are; 

I love the melody; it’s a free falling style that seems to be completely new yet based on many roots. Like the lyrics it speaks of tunes passed down through time. It’s has a circular feel to it, a bit like ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’, like one of those drawings where water seems to be going uphill. It has an illusionary feel. 

And the lyrics, what are they about? It seems based on a time when life was far more dependent on nature and a person’s ability to make the best of what resources are available. A time that is disappearing, at least in modern western society. A simpler time perhaps, when you were born, lived, went to school, married, had kids and died and never moved far from where you were born, geographically or emotionally. As you did you made a living as best you could. Knowledge, that is real knowledge, not just education, was passed on from generation to generation. Where people depended on one another, and where nature and how well you could use it, decided how you ate and kept warm. Where you learned to appreciate the good times, because a squall was always likely to turn up. 

And yet, and yet. 

There’s the other side of this, Dylan always looks at the other side. For me it’s the feeling of stuckness. How do you escape? War, civil or otherwise, can take some away, but at what cost? Dreams or hopes get buried under the reality of keeping alive. The real person can be buried unrecognised under the drudgery brought about by survival. 

There’s much about this song I don’t understand, how could I, living where, when and how I do. But it gives me a peek into another person’s world. And I think that Dylan, as well as shining a light on my world, has always done that. And Freewheelin’ did that as well. It introduced me to new ideas and to new people.

‘And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it’,
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’,
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’….

And I never mentioned umbrellas.