Subterranean Homesick Blues, Norwegian Wood and Bubblegum Soul: On Dylan, Dope and the Breakup of the Beatles

Subterranean Homesick Blues

Image via Wikipedia

Ah get born, keep warm

Short pants, romance, learn to dance

Get dressed, get blessed

Try to be a success

Please her, please him, buy gifts

Don’t steal, don’t lift

Twenty years of schoolin’

And they put you on the day shift

Look out kid

They keep it all hid

Better jump down a manhole

Light yourself a candle

Don’t wear sandals

Try to avoid the scandals

Don’t wanna be a bum

You better chew gum

The pump don’t work

‘Cause the vandals took the handles.

Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues

Aug, 1964  Hotel DelMonico, New York City:

After much anticipation and excitement, Dylan  meets the Beatles for the first time. . .his jealousy over their “bubble gum” success almost palpable. . .

As the story goes, the unwashed phenomenon offers the fab four their first marijuana cigarette and bam, music is changed forever.

At least that is what they say anyway.  It was the drugs that did it.

Fine.  I will grant you that one in theory.  No doubt the sloshing and slowdown of brain function had an impact. . .there’s zero denying that.  Love minus zero denying the altered state and how it changes things. And if you want to go to that altar and worship the gods of creativity, you can use drugs to do it. . .

Or you can just let the awkardly emo chips fall where they may.

There is a price to pay for imbibing. . .no denying that either. And speaking strictly for me, I would have to admit that my own delicate physiological state can’t absorb the shock of it so I choose to abstain. . . not out of any kind of moral high ground choice. . .it’s just simply a result of cause, effect and lesson learned.  I simply cannot handle the crash that follows a high.  It feeds these suicidal tendencies, ones that I already have a hard enough time with, minus any other kind of input from unprescribed chemistry. But there is also a price to pay for sobriety, especially when it comes to friends and fitting in, having something significant to offer in a situation wherein many of the participants are saying things you really can’t relate to. . .

It’s not hip to open that can of worms, I know. And I await the backlash to come. But whatever.  (I still say that 40 minutes of meditation does a kickass job at calming the nerves and relieving social anxiety, without the accompanying slowdown of actual awareness followed by a significant chemistry crash and paranoia.  And people forget to mention it. ..especially in a culture dominated by a consumer mindset, one that says if you are lacking something, especially charisma, creativity, self-confidence, there’s an app for that.)

Again, you get screwed up for turning it down too. . .you spend a lot of artist time alone for being such a square that way. . .  That’s life, I guess.

So anyway, back to the Beatles vs. Bob and August 1964.

And a question for you to ponder. Just suspend your belief system for  a minute with me here, and then let go of everything you know about music and drugs. Then consider this  question and proposal if you will:

What happens when strong emotional input follows intellectual stimulation, mixed with a bit of jealous venom from the guy who could/would smash the competition in a single strum?

And there is just no denying it. Something happened that day. ..something that had a massive impact on the fab four plus one.  So here we go again. ..which one had the most impact that day? The weed or the seed?  Maybe a bit of both; you decide.

No doubt it had to hurt the first time the boys heard  Bob’s unabashedly sneering parody of Norwegian Wood. . .

Enough for them to have wanted to break free of that kind of scrutiny, looking for the cracks in the floor, lettin the shortcomings slip into them. . .

And what ARE you really saying with your art when all you do is sit in a room and pencil dream about some girl who’s got you by the short and curly:

Bob Dylan holds a cue card in the music video ...

Image via Wikipedia

And then enter Yoko, who was undeservingly designated as breakup scapegoat for a lot of years. . .I guess if you forget about Bob, you might want to grab a club and go after that, but think about it.  That moment when Dylan saunters out of the room after having been introduced to the newest Lennon/McCartney collaboration.

Think of it again.  Hard.  Imagine half of that creative team walking away that much more determined in his resolve to writing “Silly Love Songs,” and the other just feeling crushed and stuck to the bottom of Bob’s bootheel.

And now to drive it home and see if I can get there without anybody getting hurt by this rant. ..(with apologies to Doors fans as well as anybody who has to deal with the insanity of the prison industrial complex, one that punishes us all for just trying to escape this ratrace and make some art.  Love to you all. xoxo)

This is your brain on drugs:

English: Mug shot of Jim Morrison.

Image via Wikipedia

This is your brain on Bob.

Any questions?  😉


11 responses

  1. Pingback: Pancho and Lefty – Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan « Throughhisown's Weblog

  2. This is an oft-discussed topic in rock writing. Long before this situation, jazz players were arguing over whether heroin could help their solos because Bird (Charlie Parker) used it – and nobody could play in “that realm” except him.

    I do think it’s important to alter your regular view if you are compose music. Drugs can indeed shorten the time (risk vs. benefit), but you can also do it by fasting, or exercise, or falling in love a lot. There are thousands of ways. Having been young in 1964, I remember there was tremendous pressure toward efficiency. One of the worst insults to a man in any profession was the insinuation that they were “wasting time”. All the acts you mention had to make “hits” because there was no such thing as album-oriented radio. The money was in selling 45 rpm singles. Huge money machines were behind both the Beatles and Dylan by that time, and Donovan was considered a mere Dylan wannabe before Shawn Phillips and Mickie Most helped him break out with the “Sunshine Superman” album.

    I don’t agree with your reference about “silly love songs” (McCartney), because the testosterone competition was always, always directly between Lennon and Dylan. These were the two fearless poets, whereas McCartney preferred to be a people-pleaser and pop stylist, as he remains. However, I enjoyed re-visiting these times and controversies very much. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Mikey. I am glad you enjoyed the post. I agree with everything you’re saying here too. (I was thinking of this stuff as well but you know. ..bloggin. .. I would need a couple hundred pages to say it.)

      ANd yes! I think it was Grossman’s constant pushing and prodding that more or less put Bob’s brain into overdrive. . .he was trying so hard to keep his public happy at the same time trying to be true to his own aesthetic. . . So enter the coke-pusher. .. “You want to have superpowers, Dude? Here ya go.” What they forgot to mention was the part where it also leads to psychosis and chronic physical exhaustion.

      And I guess I must not have worded that “silly love songs” part right, so thanks for calling my attention to that. I was just trying to allude to the idea that there would have been clashes with Lennon being so moved by Bob’s taunts that he would have probably given Paul a lot of flack for wanting just stick with what they had been doing before. . .

      At any rate, I think it’s fascinating stuff. I love this topic. I mean, we all want to perform to our best abilities as artists. ..always searching for ways to do that. 🙂

  3. Oh, and I forgot to add that the Beatles broke up because Brian Epstein died unexpectedly, and they were unable to unanimously trust anyone else to handle the money. Despite irritation over Yoko’s presence during the White Album recording sessions, Paul “officially” left the group first when he released his initial solo album without telling the others. I’m not mounting a “blame Linda” campaign though 😉

    • Ha. You know, I think Linda never got blamed because she was a white girl with a sweet demeanor according to waspish standards. WE all suffer from that wasp mentality. And Yoko was sweet too. Very loving towards John. But her manner was not western. I love her though. (Not crazy about her music, but I respect her for following her own muse. Who can fault her for that?)

  4. Pingback: Syd Barrett – Bob Dylan Blues « Throughhisown's Weblog

    • Hey, Sweetie. Thanks for the invitation. I’ve been a little under the weather with a knee injury and so forth but will be up and at this again soon. Thanks again@

  5. Pingback: Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan « 35in35

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