“The golden age of rock was cut short by the success of the Beatles” — Henry Flynt

For me, the golden age of rock was cut short by the success of the Beatles, which could be dated either 1964 or 1966.  UK artists had contributed important hits to the pop field—but the triumph of the Beatles formula shifted pop away from the breakthrough of the late Fifties.  The Beatles were essentially a music-hall “kid” act, limited to a four-square, discrete-pitch vocabulary.  (They knew American ethnic music only by rumor.)  They found and crystallized the segment with the best numbers—early teens who wanted something more bland than actual rock.  At this point, the regime of maximum sales backfired, as one might well have expected it to.

The “youth” craze of the Sixties became increasingly dubious (from flower power to Altamont), and the Beatles and their imitators morphed, leading their fans to a mystique of consumerist dissipation.  (Carnaby Street and “Yellow Submarine.”)  For me, the Beatles’ consummate song was “Revolution,” which begins “If you wanna make a revolution, count me out.”  It served as the anthem for all the mediocrities who responsed to the stresses of the late twentieth century by embracing institutional co-optation.

After the Beatles seized the market, white pop ceased to interest me except for the flukes.  When Bob Dylan added electric instruments and blues chops to his act for “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” that impelled me to my initial rock efforts of 1966 (with Walter De Maria on traps).  Given my political engagement, I had been waiting for an impetus to try songs with “revolution” lyrics.

In general, the ascendancy of the Beatles, and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., ended ethnic-rock—the ethnic impulses reverted to the segmented R&B and C&W markets.  After the mid-Sixties, rock-pop no longer had ethnic chops—could I have been the only one who was musicological enough to realize that?  Rock-pop became uniformly loud in a way which was vulgar, mechanical, and bloated.  (There was no more of the profundity, and I mean profundity, of a Chuck Berry or of “Be-Bop-A-Lula.”)

From Henry Flynt’s essay “The Meaning of My Avant-Garde Hillbilly and Blues Music.”


“Little Drummer Boy” — Bob Dylan

Book Shelves #40, 9.30.2012


Book shelves series #40, fortieth Sunday of 2012

So we dip into the penultimate book shelf in this series, the one I shot last week in hazy hangover.

(This shelf is lower right; I’ll be working down to up and right to left).

Kids puzzles and a toy accordion block some books on folklore, history, and music.


As always, sorry for the glare, blur, and poor lighting. Blame my ancient iPhone 3gs .

A book my grandmother gave me a few years ago:




This is a wonderful old collection:


Pissing in the Snow: I’ve gone to that well more than once.


Kind of a motley crew here; the Barthes is misshelved but the lit crit shelves above are too full, so . . .


Musical bios. More of these are scattered around the house. I gave away a few recently.

Some of these books made it on to a list I wrote of seven great books about rock and roll.


Anthony Scaduto’s Dylan bio, which I, ahem, *borrowed* from my uncle years ago.

It made the rounds in high school but I managed to get it back somehow (but not its cover):


“Duquesne Whistle” — Bob Dylan

All of David Markson’s References in The Last Novel to Walt Whitman

All of David Markson’s references in The Last Novel to Walt Whiman:

I am he that aches with amorous love.            Wrote Whitman.

Walter, leave off.

Wrote D. H. Lawrence.

Walt Whitman’s claim — never in any way verified — that he had fathered at least six illegitimate children.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, on realizing that he feels a certain kinship with Whitman:

As he is a very great scoundrel this is not a very pleasant confession.

A writer of something occasionally like English — and a man of something occasionally like genius.

Swinburne called Whitman.

Future generations will regard Bob Dylan with the awe reserved for Blake, Whitman, Picasso and the like.

Said an otherwise seemingly rational writer named Jonathan Lethem.

Before the Euro, the portrait of Yeats on Ireland’s twenty-pound note.

America’s Whitman twenty-dollar bill, when?

The Melville ten?

Twenty-five years after his death, Poe’s remains were disinterred from what had been little better than a pauper’s grave and reburied more formally.

Walt Whitman, who made the journey from Camden to Baltimore in spite of being disabled from a recent stroke, was the only literary figure to appear at the ceremonies.

“I Lost My One True Love” — Bob Dylan Riff (1966)

Bob Dylan gets extra-rambly in a 1966 interview with Playboy. I like to read the following riff as a surreal story-poem. If you want more context, the interviewer asks Dylan as a preamble to the ramble: “Mistake or not, what made you decide to go the rock-‘n’-roll route?”:

Carelessness. I lost my one true love. I started drinking. The first thing I know, I’m in a card game. Then I’m in a crap game. I wake up in a pool hall. Then this big Mexican lady drags me off the table, takes me to Philadelphia. She leaves me alone in her house, and it burns down. I wind up in Phoenix. I get a job as a Chinaman. I start working in a dime store, and move in with a 13-year-old girl. Then this big Mexican lady from Philadelphia comes in and burns the house down. I go down to Dallas. I get a job as a “before” in a Charles Atlas “before and after” ad. I move in with a delivery boy who can cook fantastic chili and hot dogs. Then this 13-year-old girl from Phoenix comes and burns the house down. The delivery boy – he ain’t so mild: He gives her the knife, and the next thing I know I’m in Omaha. It’s so cold there, by this time I’m robbing my own bicycles and frying my own fish. I stumble onto some luck and get a job as a carburetor out at the hot-rod races every Thursday night. I move in with a high school teacher who also does a little plumbing on the side, who ain’t much to look at, but who’s built a special kind of refrigerator that can turn newspaper into lettuce. Everything’s going good until that delivery boy shows up and tries to knife me. Needless to say, he burned the house down, and I hit the road. The first guy that picked me up asked me if I wanted to be a star. What could I say?

Bob Dylan LIFE Retrospective (Not-Quite-A-Book Acquired, 2.29.2012)


My uncle has always aided and abetted my love for the music and mythos of Bob Dylan. He hooked me up with Anthony Scaduto’s 1972 biography Dylan, which I still consider a high point of musical biography and journalism. It’s a work that traces Dylan as a dialectical synthesis of the sources around him: Little Richard, the cold winters of Hibbing, Woody Guthrie, Charlie Chaplin, etc.

So anyway, I was pleasantly surprised (but hardly shocked) to find a copy of LIFE’s Bob Dylan retrospective in the US mails, kindly sent by my uncle. It’s crammed with pictures I’d never seen before, and the copy is surprisingly well-written (if occasionally snarky). Anyway, good stuff. I share a few pics:






Eat the Document — Bob Dylan’s Rambling 1966 Tour Film

The Old, Weird America — Greil Marcus on The World of Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes

This month, to celebrate Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday (which is, um, today), Picador is reissuing Greil Marcus’s Invisible Republic under the name The Old, Weird America. Marcus uses Dylan and The Band’s recording sessions at Big Pink in 1967 as the ultimate synthesis of “the old, weird America.” From these legendary sessions Marcus unpacks Moby-Dick and William Burroughs, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Jerry Lee Lewis, Puritans and cowboys, utopias and ranches, Harry Smith and Dock Boggs, the Reverend J.M. Gates and Jonathan Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of Angry God,” murder ballads and the Beats, Clint Eastwood and Frank Hutchison, and more, more, more.

While Bob Dylan and the guys in the Band–Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson–are the protagonists of Marcus’s pop history, Harry Smith is perhaps its signal hero. Marcus finds in Smith’s seminal work Anthology of American Folk Music a history of democracy and America “made by willful, ornery, displaced, unsatisfied, ambitious individuals.” Marcus figures Anthology as the direct antecedent for The Basement Tapes. And yet as he moves backward in time he also moves forward, tracing the spirit of the old, weird America through to Bruce Springsteen and Nirvana.

Marcus’s mission isn’t so much a to tell Dylan’s history (yet again) as it is to contextualize Dylan and The Band’s project against the backdrop of the American folk past. As such, Dylanphiles won’t exactly find a new version here of the narrative that they’re undoubtedly so familiar with (cantankerous Dylan goes electric and “betrays” the folkies). Instead, what we find in The Old, Weird America is a verbal attempt to match the discursive, rambling, reference-hopping spirit of those sessions in ’67, and if Marcus at times rumbles and tumbles all over the place, we can forgive him—his weirdness is merely an attempt to match the verve, audacity, and strangeness of The Basement Tapes.

Wesley Stace and Rosanne Cash Discuss Bob Dylan’s Chronicles

Wesley Stace (aka John Wesley Harding), author of Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer (which I’m reading and enjoying) talks to Rosanne Cash about Bob Dylan’s Chronicles Volume One–

Bob Dylan Plans Six New Books

According to AV Club, Bob Dylan has inked a deal with Simon & Schuster to write six books, including the long-awaited follow ups to Chronicles, Volume One (easily one of our favorite memoirs or music books or Dylan books or whatever you want to call it). Also connected: MobyLives reports that literary agent/villain-in-an-alternate-universe-where-everyone-actually-cares-about-publishing Andrew “The Jackal” Wylie may be the guy responsible for the delay of Chronicles Volume 2.

Here’s Dylan haranguing a journalist in one of my favorite scenes from Don’t Look Back