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?  😉

A Movable Feast: Single Girl Finds Words of Warmth from Papa on Thanksgiving

Larry Rivers’ Déjà vu and the Red Room: Double Portrait of Matisse (1996)

Well, I have precooked my holiday meal. .. all that is left is taking the bird from the brine, stuffing it with fruit and herbs, closing the oven door on it and waiting for its heady scent to fill the house.  It’s just me and my cat today, a copy of James Baldwin’sGo Tell it on the Mountain” or maybe just some movies from my unlimited supply of Netflix films on the laptop.

Still I wish to say Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and hugs to the others who are home alone this day.  And to let the latter know I feel you . . .that little stab in your side with memories of  car rides with family to Grandma’s house, and thankful to have them. . .the other stab that says “Dear God, I am so glad I don’t have to be a third wheel with the huggy cuddly couples today…” but also thankful for warmth and sustenance. . .even in this self-imposed solitude.

--Henri Matisse

So anyway here is a quote from one of my favorite books, Hemingway’s “A Movable Feast,” a title that comes to mind most every holiday. . .but especially relevant because I’ve moved myself so far from family to find four walls in the strange but comforting presence of what has been called “the most dangerous city in America.”

And I am still feeling very well-fed by mother earth and have found a lot of love here in Da Lou, but that emptiness inside where family should be. . .I guess I have learned to fill it in other ways but still. . .I can so relate to Hemingway’s words about how much you come to understand about life through these periods of dearth, of longing. . .those incredible passages that describe what it was like to view the works of Cezanne, his favorite painter, on an empty stomach.  It was as if he could see more clearly in those times, or perhaps the ache of longing made the experience that much more satisfying, the juxtaposition of emptiness and fulfillment, the thing that he could do so very well. ..on days like this, it helps to have words like his:

“On a cold windswept street, this was a warm, cheerful place with a big stove in winter, tables and shelves of books, new books in the window, and photographs on the wall of famous writers both dead and living. The photographs all looked like snapshots and even the dead writers looked as though they had really been alive.” –Ernest Hemingway, “Shakespeare and Company,” A Moveable Feast

“Hunger is a good discipline and you learn from it.”  –Ernest Hemingway

--Paul Cezanne

Warmest Wishes on a Rainy Autumn Day

As I sit and shiver in bare feet first thing this morning, I can hear the sparrows flitting under the eaves against the rain. Cars go by on the street, accompanied by the sound of streams and splashes after them. It is still wet and cold here in Missouri on this November day and all I can do is think of things I should be doing to stay warm. Things like tea and quilts and soup and steam. . .

It helps if you have a friend with magical powers as well:

Peter Paul Rubens-Old Woman with a Basket of Coal

As I look at this photo of Rubens’ chiaroscuro, I am reminded of what staying warm once meant to generations that came before, stories my mother told about going down to the railroad tracks before breakfast to gather coal for the stove on mornings like this.  I imagine my great-grandparents as immigrants, in their dark wool coats and scarves, their mittened hands grasping  at the dark and shining stones fallen alongside the shining steel and gravel.  I imagine how good it would have felt to be back inside, the scent of sugar being stirred into black coffee in the kitchen as they gathered at the table to give thanks.

Jozef Israels, Peasant Family at Table. Oil on canvas, 1882. Approximately 28" x 41". Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Here is to staying warm, to friends and family gathered around a table, saying thanks. Thanks for one more day of sustenance and shelter.

Dearest Readers (please post your links to images here as well if you wish),

*So what memories of warmth, thanks, and family do you carry in your heart? Have you explored this or a similar topic in your work? What about light and dark? Chiaroscuro?

Do you knit or crochet to stay warm? Maybe it’s cooking, quilting, or sewing that does it. Maybe it’s something as simple as chopping wood for a gorgeous roaring fire. How do you keep the tradition and history alive? What stories and keepsakes of warmth are you making for them now?

--Tess Farnham "Alice," original collage on paper