December 31, 2007
Something Of Value
Book II, Part 1
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Evolution And Religion
God is not a cosmic accident;
Neither is he a universe experimenter;
The Universe Sovereigns may engage in adventure:
The Constellation Fathers may experiment:
The system heads may practice;
But the Universal Father
Sees the end from the beginning…
-The Book Of Urantia
While understood as a lightweight fantasy author Edgar Rice Burroughs tackled most, if not all, of the burning questions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One of those questions was the nature of Time. H.G. Wells excited the world’s mind with his short novel, The Time Machine, in 1895. This was still an astonishing story when I was a kid; for all I know it still is. In his own way Wells hinted at possible universes. Then in 1905 Albert Einstein astonished the world with his Special Theory Of Relativity that posited certain ideas about Time and Space. Einstein undoubtedly owed a great deal to H.G. Wells. Einstein’s theory is posited on the objective existence of Time. In his Pellucidar novels beginning in 1913 Edgar Rice Burroughs denied the objective existence of Time. He said that Time didn’t exist as an objective reality.
I am in agreement with Burroughs. He examines the problem at great length not only in the Pellucidar series but in Tarzan At The Earth’s Core and Tarzan The Invincible.
He examines the problem of violence and war in detail with numerous examples including his final statement in Beyond The Farthest Star.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Burroughs dovetailed these questions into the really big questions of Evolution and Religion. He doesn’t argue Evolution he just takes it for granted. If you read only Burroughs you would have no idea that Evolution was a very controversial subject. He just assumes that his views are the norm and proceeds accordingly. Very daring for his time period.
On Religion his surface opinions which are conventionally anti-Priestcraft are more polemical in nature but, as Burroughs scholar Dale R. Broadhurst points out in his Gods Of Edgar Rice Burroughs series on the ERBzine magazine site, http://www.erbzine.com when you examine certain religious systems such as that of Opar closely Burroughs reveals some very subtle distinctions. He had read widely while the religious milieu of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was particularly strong. For the first time society tolerated men like Robert W. Ingersoll who openly denounced religion and the very idea of God. Helena P. Blavatsky who presented a religion opposed to Christianity was also allowed to live. The price was that they were demonized in every way; but they were allowed to live.
The great archaeological discoveries in Egypt, Greece, Crete and Mesopotamia were seriously undermining the validity of the Jewish Old Testament. To the doubting or perceptive the scriptures were found to be based on much earlier texts as well on a much longer time line going back millions of years rather than a mere five thousand.
So, in this essay I would like to examine the evolution of the species and religion with an idea of how Burroughs understood them. It is important to remember that the state of knowledge in Burroughs’ time was much developed developed relative to the beginning of eighteenth century but primitive to what has been learned since 1950.
In his time and well into mid-century it was possible to seriously argue the question of canals on Mars for instance. We have now seen that there are no canals on Mars or anything approximating them. Since 1950 everything that was valid speculation in Burroughs’ time has now been shown in its true light, or at least, 90% or so.
The science of Biology has laid bare the progress of Evolution although it hasn’t explained it. Even so, no doubt fully 50% of Americans still denies the possibility, bound instead by the puerilities of ‘sacred scripture.’
Make no mistake, Edgar Rice Burroughs was a daring, ground breaking, forward thinking writer who put his fast ball over the plate waist high so hard that few people saw it.
Scientists nearly universally believe that the genus Homo Sapiens originated in Africa. Most put a moral spin on this but if true it is merely a fact. Certain genetic markers point to this fact. Indeed, in Gods Of Mars, in itself a subtle examination of evolution, ERB describes his Black race as the First Born. He himself picked up the idea from the nineteenth century missionary David Livingstone from his book Missionary Travels In South Africa.
In Livingstone’s book in a conversation with a Bushman the Bushman tells Livingstone that God created the Black man first, then the White man.
Thinking in a Darwinian way Burroughs reasoned that first came the anthropoids then the Blacks and then the Whites. Thus, of the Homo Sapiens species the Blacks were the First Born. If the current scientific information is accurate then this is true. Burroughs was on solid evolutionary ground.
Current science teaches us that Homo Sapiens evolved from less mentally developed stock about a hundred fifty thousand years ago. As the most highly evolved hominid Homo Sapiens has displaced all other lines of development. The Neanderthal who existed as a separate hominid species until perhaps ten thousand years ago is now gone. As a distinct species it is generally now acknowledged that there was no inbreeding with Homo Sapiens.
In Africa all the predecessors of Homo Sapiens have also disappeared without a trace. As nature does not make great leaps but acts in small increments it is reasonable to believe that at one time several sub-species of hominids existed when Homo Sapiens first evolved one hundred fifty thousand years ago. Indeed, it is neither impossible nor improbable that the Bushman is the immediate predecessor of the First Born. If examined carefully and without prejudice it is possible that two or three sub-species of hominid predecessors are still alive.
Had the White man not interfered it is quite possible that the invading Bantus would have exterminated these peoples who had already been expelled from the rest of Africa into its Southern tip. An analogy would be the Gorillas who once surely roamed a greater range but are now pushed into the least habitable areas of the rain forest.
Even today the surviving species of anthropoids are finally being exterminated, much as the Neanderthal probably was, as the burgeoning population of Homo Sapiens cuts and burns over their jungle habitat. Except for zoos the great anthropoids are a thing of the past.
If the African was the first born then it follows that Whites, Semites and Mongolids evolved from the African. This raises a testy problem. Evolution means the development from a less developed organism to a more highly developed organism. As physically Homo Sapiens is developed to perfection being the most versatile of all species the only place development can take place is in the area of intelligence.
The development of the brain is what gives the Homo Sapiens the advantage over the anthropoids and all other beasts. A gorilla with human intelligence would be one formidable beast. Some argue that the brain began developing in response to challenges presented to it. This argument doesn’t explain why the Chimpanzees presented with the same or slightly different variations of the same problems, didn’t increase in brain capacity.
The above account assumes that evolution occurs for environmental reasons. This is patently impossible. When life was originated it was from internal reasons. As we all know life is dependent on water. Contrary to the Semitic account in the Bible man was not made from mud. It’s water. How life came into existence can be easily explained but probably not universally agreed with. The body has been described as a sack of water with a few elements dissolved into it. This is true so it is only necessary to determine how it happened. That too is not difficult to conjecture. Homo Sapiens and all life is built of the same universal elements of the universe. Most of a body is of six elements, Hydrogen and Oxygen being the most prominent followed by Nitrogen, Carbon, Phosphorus and Sulphur and a smattering of other elements.
It is impossible that water should have been introduced to earth from outer space. Forget outer space. Water was extruded from the core.
When a sufficient amount of water was formed on the surface rich with the above mentioned dissolved nutrients exposed to the sun for photosynthetic development it would seem obvious the atoms jostled against each other exchanging protons and bonding into molecules that in turn formed larger units and thus became animated. These single celled organisms than began to evolve in a number of directions. For millions of years life was confined to the seas of the world. Then in what seems as it though must be a programmed manner life left the water and began its existence on land. In what manner a program of evolution is encoded is beyond my understanding.
Rather than in response to the environment, evolutionary steps occur when a number of genetic mutations take place finally accumulating to the point where the next development takes place. Thus the number of pre-Homo Sapiens hominids ran through a long series of sub-species before Homo Sapiens emerged, as our scientists tell us, as the African First Born.
Now, most people assume that evolution ceased with the emergence of the First Born. The differences between the First Born, the Semites, Mongolids and the Whites are said to be merely cosmetic. The First Born bleach out in cold climates is their argument.
However it is quite obvious that evolution is still going on and that in Homo Sapiens. Very recently scientists have penetrated the chromosomal structure being able to identify the individual genes that compose each chromosome. While new studies of the functions of the various genes are very likely to be subject to revision nevertheless on 12/29/04 the Chicago Tribune published a report on studies conducted by Bruce Lahn at the University of Chicago.
Reporting in the cover article in Wednesday’s issue of the journal Cell, Lahn and his colleagues, Eric Vollender and Steve Dorus, found that 17 brain building genes mutated at a tremedously rapid rate in humans, compared with the brains of champanzees, macaque monkeys, rats and mice….Once started, the selection of brain building genes snowballed, resulting in thousands of changes to thousands of genes in a relatively short period, Lahn explained….Lahn, also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the U. of C., argues that the evolutionary forces that led to the big brain continue to act on humans today and are likely to produce bigger and better brains in the future.
Sign me up for a transplant when they’re available. Rapidly means over a few million years. Needless to say Lahn was forced to recant within weeks of his announcment declaring his findings null and void as the anti-Science creationists sprang into action. Just recently of course James Watson was forced to recant over similar comments regarding Africans. Watson was fired from his job; so far as I know Lahn was allowed to keep his. Thus bigots censor the truth.
The question is whether the same brain development is shared by all five species of Homo Sapiens or does the next evolutionary step surpass the abilities of the last. I’m afraid the latter must be true or there would be no reasonn to distinguish Homo Sapiens from its hominid predecessors. The latter would still be among us fully able to compete otherwise. Logic must prevail against Liberal bigots.
While many argue that the First Born left Africa to populate the world I do not find the opinion credible. If certain genetic markers indicate that the other four species evolved from the First Born that should explain the genetic markers.
What very likely happened is that the proto-Europeans who, let us call Homo Sapiens II- HSII- having evolved were either driven from or chose to leave Africa. Whether the Semites and Mongolids evolved from the First Born or whether they later evolved from HSII isn’t clear but I suspect the former in the case of the Semites and the latter in the case of the Mongolids.
It would seem that a sub-species once evolved has its set of attributes that can be developed within limitations but are incapable of change. Thus there were genetic changes to the brain of those evolved from the First Born while the First Born must remain mentally constituted as he was when he evolved one hundred fifty thousand years ago.
Nevertheless he was the first state of Homo Sapiens, the Main Evolutionary Stem. Obviously in the evolution of a genus there can be and have been many dead ends such as the Neanderthal of which we know but there were probably many dead end offshoots from the Main Stem over the twenty-five million year course of brain building.
While the Semite and Mongolid are more developed than the First Born they must be dead end evolutionary shoots. The main Stem of Evolutionary development was passed to the people who settled the Mediterranean Basin as it lay exposed during the last Ice Age. When they evolved isn’t clear but I imagine it may have been perhaps fifty thousand years after the First Born, say, one hundred thousand years ago.
With them the capacity for Civilization began. The First Born never created a civilization. Aided by additional genetic brain development the Meds approached life with an early scientific vision. Sometime later, perhaps another fifty thousand years, a further improvement in brain capacity created HSIII. Thus as the Neanderthal still roamed Europe with Homo Erectus still living in the East, and there is a problem there, the First Born occupied sub-Saharan Africa, the Semites the Arabian Peninsula, the Mongolids East Asia, HSII the Med Basin, and as groups will not tolerate other groups HSIII was driven away from HSII to occupy the area between the Caspian and Aral seas or perhaps the Central Asia steppes cheek by jowl with the Mongolids. That might seem to indicate that HSIII and the Mongolids are fairly closely related.
Van Daniken and others like to posit the notion that civilization began when extra-terrestrial visitors having landed and been greeted cordially, which is very unlikely, in a most friendly fashion instructed the rude savages who had no understanding into a very high civilization nearly overnight. Nice fantasy, although before you condemn this school remember accredited scientists believe both water and life arrived on Earth as extra-terrestrial hitchhikers on meteors.
I believe neither account. HSII began a long laborious effort to rise from ingnorance to knowledge the old fashioned way, hard work. Nor do I think it took that long for them to begin. Most scholars think that discovering the shortest day of the year took ninety-five thousand years for HSII to do. HSII could never have been that stupid. Building the tools to pass on the knowledge was a slow laborious process but certain men recognized the possibilities immediately and began to act on them.
Knowledge is a dangerous thing especially when that knowledge contradicts perceived reality as Bruce Lahn’s and James Watson’s treatment shows us to this very day. Thus, whatever the avant garde learned that the masses couldn’t accept had to be kept secret. In order for the work to go forward colleges of cognoscenti had to be formed. In order to protect them they had to be made inviolable or sacred. Hence Religion and the Priesthood arose.
The Priesthood was originally meant to develop and protect these acquisitions of knowledge. This function would endure until the differentiation of knowledge became noticeable in eighth century Greece. From that point on knowledge and thought take on a role independent of religion. From that point on the Priesthood had outlasted its function. Instead of encouraging the growth of knowledge it chose to suppress it.
Thus the tradition of denigrating the Priesthood arose. Edgar Rice Burroughs took this stance throughout his work. ‘Religion’ per se is imagined to be OK but the Priesthood had corrupted it. Burroughs and others imagined a time when a ‘pure religion’ a ‘natural religion’ existed. The differentiation of Religion into its three components or, in other words, the increase of knowledge was the culprit.
The Theosophist Helena Blavatsky sought to reconcile the three parts into one whole as it had once been. In point of fact Science was subsuming the other two.
Given a few thousand years of observation, if indeed, it took that long, a method for determining the shortest day of the year is relatively easy. Certainly the big brained HSII could tackle that problem.
The means of proof are indirect of course, but I believe shortly after leaving Africa for the Mediterranean Basin HSII did discover how to determine the Winter Solstice. With that discovery the worship of the Sun began. This would then evolve over the next ninety-eight thousand years into the religion of the Unconquerable Sun as practiced by the Roman Emperor Heliogabalus and not just coincidentally in the religion of the Christ. The Christ is a Sun King. I say the Christ and not Jesus Christ because the latter name is a title affixed to the discredited Jewish prophet Jesus of Nazareth. More on that later.
Having once determined the length of the year it soon became obvious that by counting forward, the length of a sun cycle was approximately three hundred and sixty-five days. This is not a difficult task although it may have taken a few decades or even hundreds of years to get it right especially as that extra quarter day every year would have been a real clinker.
Once having determined the length of the year the college of Priests could then determine the time of the recurrence of natural events during the seasons. When we speak of ‘Time’ this was when time was born. Then gradually, in however crude a form the concept of the months came into existence. These divisions which numbered twelve became known as the Zodiac.
This was the beginning of the Astrological Religion of which Pisces or Christianity is only one Age. As we know the Zodiac only as the band of astral constellations surrouding the planet the divisions of the Zodiac make no sense.
First let me explain the terrestrial meaning of the signs then I will explain how and why they were translated to the heavens.
It is best to begin with the Winter Solstice which is when the Unconquerable Sun triumphant once again begins to wax toward the Summer Solstice when the forces of evil triumph driving Sol ever backward until once again with the Winter Solstice the Sun conquers yet once more beginning to wax. This is the central myth of the Mediterranean.
I can only apply the modern Zodiacal symbols which in themselves are of Cretan-Greek origin dating back to at least -2000. One may assume that over the millennia the symbols were modified but the meanings remained the same.
At the beginning of the year we have Sagittarius the Archer who is half horse half man. The horse corresponds to the first half of the year while the Archer facing the new year shoots his arrow into the air. The destination of the arrow is the Summer Solstice when I imagine it strikes Sol Invictus in the heel, much as Cancer the Crab seized Heracles by the heel dragging him toward the waters in symbol of the Sun’s decline.
After Sagittarius is Capricorn, half goat half fish. The fish probably denotes the beginning of the Spring rains while I am unsure of what the goat signifies, perhaps pointing to the rutting season.
Up next is a very important sign. Soon to be the prevailing age is that of Aquarius. In the Greek Zodiac this sign is governed by Hera. Indeed, the male god Aquarius is pouring out water onto Hera as the symbol of the Earth. The male fertilizes Hera in her capacity as Virgo the Virgin. Soon the Earth will sprout up into Virgin Birth.
Next is Pisces which denotes the rainy season followed by Aries the Ram. The Spring equinox occurs on March 21st in Aries. Equinox as I’m sure everyone knows means an equal day and night. Thus on March 21st the new year begins in earnest. Christ is risen. The Ram may be thought of as butting the new growth from the ground much as in the Greek illustration where Persephone is rising from the ground aided by Hermes and Apollo who chip the earth away to make her rise easier.
Taurus the Bull is just that, a figure representing the exuberant vitality of the new growth.
Gemini or the Twins passes the now nearly waxed year on to Cancer when Sol Invictus once again temporarily meets his match. Cancer is represented as a crab because the crab having captured a victim moves sideways or backwards indicating the shortening days. Thus while the period after the Winter Solstice seems to fly by as represented by the arrow the summer months seem to slowly recede. I don’t know about you but the second half of the year seems to be about twice as long as the first half to me.
Cancer is followed by Leo the Lion when the sun is at its seeming strongest. While the warmth of the sun has made everything grow and prosper the blazing heat of the sun of July causes growth to wither and die. Thus Virgo the Virgin succeeds Leo. This may be a little hard to follow but the Earth becomes barren once again or virgin. After the bath of rain virgin growth will begin again. Thus Hera who is both virgin and matron governs Aquarius who provides the showers in the Greek Zodiac.
Then follows Libra with her scales. the Autumn Equinox begins this period. Once again the night and day are equal hence Libra’s scales tip toward winter at this point.
Rounding out the year then is Scorpio the Scorpion. Its significance possibly is that it kills the old year by biting it on the heel. Sagittarius rises once again to shoot an arrow as the Unconquerable Sun marches on to victory.
It’s a pretty story.
Now, all the time the colleges of Priests were organizing this calendar they were watching the heavens. Much later the Hermetics would be given credit for the formula ‘As above, so below’ and vice versa. It is absolutely ridiculous to attribute the origin of the slogan to such late times. The roots of almost everything can be projected back to very early times. Actually everything can.
Having watched the skies while having developed the Zodiac as an annual terrestrial cycle, these ancients then transposed the Zodiac into the heavens. While watching the sky they noticed without knowing the reason the declination of the planet, that the North Pole because of the resultant wobble described a circle taking about 25,000 years to do so. They designated this phenomenon the Great Year.
Using the formula as above, so below it became clear that the Great Year must have twelve divisions just as the lesser terrestrial year does. So they merely transposed the Zodiac with the same twelve divisions and the same signs onto a belt of stars on the horizon which they organized into constellations that seemed to correspond to the signs.
As each sign corresponded to something over two thousand years in duration these periods were designated Ages with the corresponding qualities of the signs. Hence, when you haven’t seen someone in an age you literally mean two thousand some odd years ago.
How long it took the Ancients to discover the Great Year is beyond me but as I believe the discovery was made by observations rather than mathematics I assume a full cycle to a cycle and a half, perhaps a full fifty thousand years.
There wasn’t any hurry as a lot of other details had to be worked out first. Technology always has to catch up with imagination.
It’s all very well to say this but if true there must be historical evidence to verify its possibility, right? I’ll do my best. In the first place nothing was ever discovered, invented or developed over night. The times for things to come into existence are immense.
Even the transmission of this knowledge from generation to generation is an immense problem. The Priesthood must have spent great effort to first indoctrinate novices then drill them in the essentials so that they could in turn pass on the information.
One is reminded of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 when the art of printing had been lost so that cadres of priests walked around memorizing the great books to pass on to the novices so that the works wouldn’t be lost.
Things were developing nicely when disaster struck destroying this first effort at civilization lock, stock and barrel. Having moved into the Basin during the last ice age, that ice age now ended. The waters began rising and continued to rise for several hundred feet. This must be the Great Flood which has come down to us from Mesopotamian records. There can be no other of this magnitude.
When the waters stopped rising the Mediterranean had assumed its present form. Some scientists say the waters rose very rapidly but still they couldn’t have risen so rapidly that the people couldn’t flee. Naturally they fled to the high places. This was the littoral of Africa, especially the best watered location, the effluence of the Nile and Crete, Pelasgian Greece and Phoenicia in the East and Spain and Sicily in the West. Apprently a group made their way into Sumer. Some say all civilization from West to East was the result of this disaster. I believe that it is so.
One asks do the civilizations have anything in common that would indicate a common origin? Yes, they do. For my purposes here a thing in common they all have is the Zodiac. They all share a form of the Astrological Religion.
The material aspects of the civilization perished beneath the waters. The more important intellectual heritage was preserved as the colleges of Priests fled to different locations. Egypt appears to have gotten the Mother Lode with Crete and Sumer next. Spain and Italy received little which probably indicates that the Metropolis was the on the South Side of the Basin. I suspect it was opposite the islands of Malta.
Crete may have indoctrinated Pelasgia or possibly a college reached the mainland. This much is certain, when the Greeks arrived in Pelasgia c. -1700 they brought no knowledge of the Zodiac or the Astrological Religion with them. The whole of Greek civilization was based on this earlier knowledge which must therefore have been highly develoed before -2000. Thus no Greek in +- 100 sat down and by a brilliant stroke of cogitation developed the astrology in a moment.
To begin with Mesopotamia. In their myth the fifth king after the Flood was the Lugal Banda. He comes into power as the Age of Aries begins. Therefore the Sumerians believed the Flood took place four kings or Ages previously. That would place the Flood either at the transition from the Age of Virgo to the Age 0f Leo or perhaps into the Age of Leo. That would amount to eight thousand years or so before 2000 BC. Are we on track for the ending of the ice age? Yes, we are.
Going to Egypt, the Sphinx which was originally a lion with a woman’s head, was probably shaped at approximately the same time. It is placed beside the Place Of The First Time over which the Great Pyramid is built. The Place Of The First Time is a mound or hillock which was believed to be the first place to emerge from the Flood. This also fits the time frame.
Now let us go to Crete and Hellenic Greece. Crete was a very ancient civilization when the Hellenes or Greeks first arrived.
The Greeks were a people who had formerly lived in today’s Armenia at the Eastern edge of the Black Sea. It is believed that a pharaoh made an expedition to the area about -1900. I believe it probable. Soon after this date the Hittites dropped down into Anatolia, modern Turkey, where they became a power relative to both Mesopotamia and Egypt.
The Greeks began a migration around the Euxine, now the Black Sea, dropping down into Pelasgia from the North. They apparently brought little or no religion with them, taking over the religious structure of the various Aegean peoples. Zeus was a Cretan god and not Greek. Hera was indigenous to the Argive area being Pelasgian in origin.
At some point after the Greeks had captured the Oracle at Delphi they brought Cretan priests from the island to staff it. Hence Hellenic religion is a reflection of the original Astrological Religion.
Zeus who succeeded his father Cronus became the religious icon along with Hera of the Arien Age in Greece. His father Cronus was the male archetype of the preceeding Taurean Age. Cronus’ father Saturn was the archetype of the Geminian Age. So Greek Astrological Religion can be traced back to at least -6000. Further investigation will probably uncover at least the Cancerian and Leonine Ages.
Now, if the Astrological Religion was operative in the Age of Leo then its origin must also have been Ages before. Thus while it may be uncertain exactly when or in detail how the religion originated it must have been inherited from a previous civilization that existed in the Mediterranean Basis. Call it Atlantis or what you will.
As Zeus was the archetype of the Arien Age who had succeeded his father who was not killed but emasculated and banished to far Tartarus, which is to say 180 degrees due West of sunrise in the Zodiac it was augured that Zeus would have a son who would replace him. Of course. At the transition from Aries to Pisces. The son was Dionysus. However when the Age of Pisces rose the intellectual and racial situation was so confused that a Semitic prophet, Jesus of Nazareth, was given the mantle while the Greek cult of Kyrios Christos, based on Dionysus, was attached to him so that he became Jesus the Christ or Jesus Christ. Dionysus in a Semitic form
Now let us look a the evolution of the relationships of the sub-species of Homo Sapiens as they then stood.
Continued in Part Something Of Value II-2
December 28, 2007
In Response To Comments By ‘Oh Mercy’
Obviously ‘Oh Mercy’ is a one off moniker for these comments. Your style reminds me of someone who made an equally violent comment some time ago. He went by the moniker ‘Winky, The Psychoanalytical Clown.’ Perhaps you’re the same.
Your comments are merely defamatory, Winky. Whatever your objection to my content may be you seem incapable of making yourself clear. You merely go into an ad hominem rant.
My sources are qite clear. I list the four Dylan biographies I am relying on at the top of the first essay. I refer to the specific biographer I am using an an authority in the text. I supply hyperlinks when quoting an online source.
I see no reason to employ academic citation style. It does not lend itself to online writing. It merely looks stupid. So, you want to check my sources they are clearly listed in text. Interpretations are of course my own.
Further I consider myself a scholar rather than a researcher. If a fact appears in four or five books I see no reason to attribute it to anyone. At that point it becomes general knowledge. If you have ‘researched’ one book each fact is unique to you so you might as well attribute it. I stopped buying current books because they are all written by researchers without backgrounds. A history of codfishing by a guy who has never been on a fishing boat and probably even never eaten a codfish carries what authority? Who would read such crap?
I supplement my study in the case of Dylan by my own experience. In one form or another I was there. I lived the folk era. I was there at the creation of rock. I bought Presley 45s new.
If you don’t think you can take me seriously then don’t. I can assure you I don’t take Greil Marcus seriously but he is amusing. Perhaps you’d like to be amused?
So, if you wish to actually comment or question something I said I’ll be happy to elucidate any point you bring up.
But as for my being insane because you disagree with me- see you in Charenton, Winky.
December 24, 2007
Exhuming Bob 2-2
Detourning The Folks
Greil Marcus has written of detournment extensively especially in his Lipstick Traces. The French word means hijacking, rerouting or diversion, or in other words changing the direction of the flow or meaning. Thus one strips an object of its familiar values and replaces them with others but leaves the object intact. In a conflict of cultures the question becomes who will assign the values or meanings to objects and words.
I will use as a starting point for my purposes here H.L. Mencken of the twenties. The values into which immigrants migrated were those of the Anglo-Saxons. From the immigrant viewpoint the Anglo-Saxons detourned their languages and cultures attempting to replace them with English and Anglo-Saxon values. The inevitable result was that immigrants felt that they had been devalued and demeaned. So it is no wonder that having recovered some balance by the end of WWII they fought back by attempting to detourne Anglo-Saxon culture in their favor.
This is nowhere more apparent than between the Jews and Angl0-Saxons. No matter whether you place the conflict between the Old Dispensation or the New Dispensation the Jews always view themselves as a separate, independant and potentially dominant culture. Hence the drive is always first for autonomy and then detourning the host culture to reflect Jewish laws and customs, hopefully making Hebrew the official language. To Jews, like Greil Marcus and Bob Dylan then ‘freedom’ means the replacement of the Anglo-Saxon law and culture with Jewish law and culture with the Jews as arbiters of the fate of what become essentially subject peoples. The Jews can never be ‘free’ no matter how unrestrained they may be so long as they are subject to others legal and social systems. This is the central problem the United States and the West refuse to face. The same is true of the Semitic Moslems. It is the purpose of Moslems to detourne Western culture for a Moslem Culture. It is quite simple.
By the time H.L. Mencken was making his rise Anglo-Saxon pride was at its maximum. I haven’t been able to determine whether Mencken was Jewish but he allied himself with the Jews making common cause with them. The approach naturally was to defame Anglo-Saxonism. Mencken naturally chose the least sophisticated Anglo-Saxons to represent the whole. Thus he went to the mountain folk of Appalachia and the hill country all along the Line. He began to ridicule these people as representative of all Anglo-Saxons. I mean, he was mean; he was vicious; his Jews caused a huge fuss for much less criticism or in their terms- defamation.
Expanding the arena, using these rural folk as their model the Communists then picked up on these people with the least possibility of education as the example of Anglo-Saxonism. In 1932 and 1933 following Mencken’s example Erskine Caldwell, a Communist writer, published two mammoth best sellers, Tobacco Road and God’s Little Acre. These books were especially mean and vicious making Mencken look laudatory in comparison. Perhaps using Mencken and Caldwell as inspirations a Jewish cartoonist by the name of Al Capp created the L’il Abner comic strip in 1934. This strip also ridiculed Anglo-Saxons but in a less demeaning manner that not only didn’t offend the majority but actually pleased them. There were some few of us who saw through the sham but there was nothing obvious enough that the majority could see.
Capp would be convicted on a morals charge late in his career that effectively ended his influence. The motif was carried forward on television in the series Archie Bunker.
Now, the Anglo-Saxons used to represent the whole were the custodians of the Folk music that was so revered by the New York City Jews of the late fifties and early sixties. So you actually have Jews imitating Hillbillies.
The vilification the Mountain Folk endured actually shamed the city Anglo-Saxons causing a dichotomy in their character. They rejected the Mountain Folk as representing all Anglo-Saxons. This is made quite clear in Caldwell’s novel when his urban relative throws his rural cousins out of his house and tells them to never come back. Something like a son testifying against his father. The Liberal-Conservative split was given a difinitive form.
The Mountain Folk formed what Greil Marcus calls the Weird Old America. After the Roosevelt administration was elected and the New Deal was established as a continuation of the Wilsonian New Democracy Jews flooded back into Washington as under Wilson.
During the twenties as radio became a reality and recording technology became more widespread and available a number of Mountain Folk and/or White Trash as they were alternately known, recorded their distinctive music in their own voice. Nor was this music ill received, many of the recordings were huge sellers according to the standards of the times while some like Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family became very successful recording acts. Thus what was known as Hillbilly music until 1954 came into existence. For whatever reason whoever controls these things thought the term Hillbilly was insulting so the various rural flavored musics were grouped under the term, Country and Western. Hicks are hicks to me whatever you call them, Hillbilly or Country, I’ve been called worse. Having ancestors that came down from the Kentucky hills I have no objection to my Hillbilly ancestry.
The Anglo-Saxon dichotomy was such that those who were shamed by Communist efforts had an extreme aversion to Hillbilly or Country music that they considered ignorant while professing to admire the Blues simply because it was performed by Blacks even though the intellectual content was well below that of Hillbilly music.
Nevertheless the Hill Folk were the custodians of the old English folk traditions. Folk music was then separated from Hillbilly music and approved on that basis. Thus after the Roosevelt administration was installed in an effort to counter the Depression certain cultural programs were developed. One involved the attempt to preserve the quaint customs and music of the Hill Folk and the rural Blacks. These two peoples were treated as anthropological specimens on the same level as Tobriand Islanders and others.
The New Deal of the Roosevelt administration was a direct continuation of Wilsonian New Democracy. It was as though they’d never been gone. With the creation of a huge new bureaucracy Jews came flooding back into Washington as they had in the two Wilson administrations. In many if not most cases these people were the ones sent out to deal with our homegrown anthropological specimens as Superior to Inferior. Sort of a domestic Peace Corps. Yes, they did profess to revere the music of these simple folks.
So Folk Music always had an honored place in Anglo-Saxon cultivated circles perhaps spurred to some extent by the ‘field’ recordings of the New Dealers. Folk played a prominent part in popular music from the end of WWII on. Foremost practioners of the genre were the Almanac Singers and their successors The Weavers.
A key member of both groups was Pete Seeger. Pete was both Jewish and Red. This was a bad combination during the post-war anti-Communist reaction. While making hits of a number of Leadbelly songs under Seeger’s guidance The Weavers had a major success with the Jewish melody Hava Nagila. It was a catchy tune. I liked it.
Capitalizing on this success The Weaver’s under Seeger’s guidance concocted a ‘folk’ tune called Song of the Sabra celebrating Jewish ‘pioneer’ efforts in Israel. Apparently the Sabras were some kind of hobo outfit that sat around campfires and ate stew a lot. Thus the effort to detourne American Folk Music began. The Song of the Sabras was so egregiously promotive of Israeli/Jewish interests that the song caused a big reaction. If I remember correctly it was staged at least once on a TV version of the Lucky Strike Hit Parade. That’s where I got the camp fire bit as Pete roasted his weeny and sang. Whether it was an extra or supposedly in the Top Ten I can’t remember.
Somewhere about then Seeger and The Weavers were found to be subservice giving a bad name to Folk Music as long as the genre lasted in 1966 or ’67. The Weavers disappeared from the air waves. However at least one member would be instrumental in guiding the musical direction of the Kingston Trio.
Folk music continued strong between the demise of The Weavers and the emergence of the Kingston Trio both as popular music and ‘purist’ Folk. The greatest of them all was Lonnie Donegan who had a successful career in the US and a tremendous impact on the British scene from England to Australia as Skiffle Music. Josh White, Odetta, Harry Belafonte, Terry Gilkyson and the Easy Riders among others, one might add Mitch Miller, had many memorable folk tunes competing equally with Rock and Roll if not its superior. If one considers the Presley Sun recordings objectively they also can be seen as Folk or highly influenced by Folk. After all Elvis was known as the Hillbilly Cat.
The Kingston Trio with their Tom Dooley that was an actual sensation in 1958 sort of broke the taboo against Folk music although the Kingstons were plenty subversive. The great Chad Mitchell Trio emerged at this time also as an even more politically subversive group but also with a popular sound and enough bite to defuse Dylan’s claim to have introduced serious lyrics into popular music. The Chad Mitchell Trio is probably running neck and neck with the Kingstons as my favorite folk groups although Terry Gilkyson along with the Pozo-Seco Singers are right behind them. The old Seekers from Australia are hot stuff too.
So that brings us up to Grossman’s Gate of Horn in Chicago of ’58 and the founding of the Newport Folk Festival in ’59 as well as Dylan’s entry into the New York Folk Scene in ’61.
After WWII the Jews had introduced the raw form of multi-culturalism designed to replace the Anglo-Saxon model of society with the Jewish. With the election of the Irish Catholic John F. Kennedy it appeared that the Anglos had been defeated.
The next phase of the Jewish program was put in place. The thing was to detourne or hijack American culture.
Detourning Folk music was part of it. The study of Dylan concentrates on the New York City East Village group that was virtually Jewish with its specific outlook. Actually the Folk scene was very diverse and different in its emphasis in each locale. Bob would focus the entire Folk movement in himself.
Boston with the Mel Lyman family and Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Geoff and Maria Muldaur was quite different from NYC. The strictly commercial LA scene with Randy Sparks’ New Christy Minstrels had its own flavor. In San Francisco Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter and others had credentials that easily matched those of Dylan. The whole San Francisco Sound was Folk based.
The top bands like Kingston Trio, Chad Mitchell Trio and semi-pop groups like the Brothers Four and the Christy Minstrels really carried the banner for folk.
And then there was the Country or Hillbilly faction that was considerable. Great old tunes like Jimmy Brown The News Boy were Country smashes. Hank Snow recorded a passel of old Folk songs like Nobody’s Child. New murder ballads appeared for people who like that sort of thing that were fabulous like Snow’s Miller’s Cave and Lefty Frizzell’s dazzling The Long Black Veil. It would be years before it was known that Veil was newly written and not an old Hillbilly song. If you compare the Kingston’s Tom Dooley with Frizzell’s Long Black Veil you can’t tell the difference.
A word about Harry Smith’s Anthology Of American Folk Music that Greil Marcus and Bob Dylan revere so much. The collection is a very small selection of songs culled from a huge mass of material that just happened to fit Harry Smith’s personal psychosis. Anyone going over the same mass of material could select an entirely different selection of songs that reflected their own personal outlook and would be just as ‘authentic.’ I mean, I heard The Cuckoo and I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground over the radio decades ago as a kid. I was signally unimpressed. I never called in to hear either again. So as far as being some authentic voice of America I rather think the collection reflects Jewish and Communist ideals.
What is the message exactly of ‘I wish I were a mole in the ground, I would burrow until I brought that mountain down.’
It that isn’t a call to detournement I don’t know what is. So Harry Smith is Harry Smith and welcome to him but I have my own agenda.
So Dylan left his old life behind to begin a new life in New york City but with an old agenda. His secret agenda was to detourne American culture. Of course the word ‘detourne’ was unknown in America at that time. I have to thank Greil Marcus for adding that very useful word to my vocabulary.
Bob started out detourning Woody Guthrie. Within a couple months he had hijacked Woody’s life. Clinton Heylin believes that even the Guthrie persona was second hand having been detourned from Jack Elliot who had of course detourned it from Guthrie. Boy, there was another stone bore I never could listen to, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot.
Dylan more or less confirms this in his Chronicles Vol. I. I’m copying a quote from Chronicles as noted by Jim Kunstler in his excellent review of Bob’s memoir:
“You’re trying hard, but you’ll never turn into Woody Guthrie,’ (John) Pankake says to me as if he’s looking down from some high hill, like something has violated his instincts. It was no fun being around Pankake. He made me nervous. He breathed fire through his nose. ‘You’d better think of something else. You’re doing it for nothing. Jack Elliot’s already been where you are and gone. Ever heard of him?’ No, I ‘d never heard of Jack Elliot. When Pankake said his name it was the first time I’d heard it. ‘Never heard of him, no….’ Pankake lived in an apartment over McCosh’s bookstore, a place that specialized in eclectic, ancient texts, philosophical political pamphlets from the 1800s on up. It was a neighborhood hangout for intellectuals and Beat types, on the main floor of an old Victorian house only a few blocks away. I went there with Pankake and saw it was true, he had all the incredible records, ones you never saw and wouldn’t know where to get. For somone who didn’t sing and play it was amazing he had so many….Pankake was right. Elliot was far beyond me….I sheepishly left the apartment and went back out in the cold street, aimlessly walked around, I felt like I had nowhere to go, felt like one of the deadmen walking through the catacombs. It would be hard not to be influenced by the guy….He was overseas in Europe, anyway, in a self-imposed exile. The US hadn’t been ready for him. Good. I was hoping he’d stay gone, and I kept hunting for Guthrie songs.”
Of course the US hadn’t been ready for Elliot. One Guthrie was one too many. Who needed a Guthrie detourned by another Jew? Let the English have Elliot. But that didn’t stop Bob from detourning both Guthrie and Elliot when he got to the Big Apple. He followed Elliot around studying and copying his mannerisms. Elliot should have painted on his guitar the slogan: This machine kills copycats.
Well, no matter Bob learned his error when he learned another Guthrie copycat wasn’t needed in NYC but Bob had mastered a style, a persona on which he could build. That was more than he had had before.
Pete Seeger and the Jewish busybodies were busy fomenting discord in the South. Already knee deep in the Big Muddy Seeger was encourging others to write political diatribe songs. The path was clear and Bob met a girl named Suze Rotolo. Rotolo worked at CORE. She then encouraged Bob to write ‘politically relevant’ songs. Well, what are you going to do but go with the flow, swim with the current? Bob didn’t like the topical songs though. You have to give him credit for good sense there. He wrote literary style lyrics that talked around the political issues without dealing with them directly.
Now there were songs that other voices could sing.
As a lyricist Bob was not a tunesmith so he merely borrowed tunes from old ballads and other people. In other words he detourned Anglo-Saxon folk tunes grafting on Jewish sensibilities. Heylin gives a perfect example in an exchange Dylan had with Martin Carthy in England. Carthy showed him the old English ballad Greensleeves. Bob dutifully learned the song. Then he went away for a few weeks. When he came back he collared Carthy and played him Greensleeves. Here’s your Greensleeves he said. Then he played the tune set to the words of Girl From The North Country. Thus he detourned tune after tune to his own Jewish sensibilities.
Now things were heating up on the Jewish revolutionary front. The so-called Free Speech Movement was being launched at UC Berkeley.
As I mentioned Jews could never be ‘free’ so long as they were merely part of a dominant other culture. So ‘Freedom’ meant to them detourning the dominant culture so that their own law and culture was supreme. Freedom for the Jews meant slavery for everyone else. Thus we have Greil Marcus in the bleachers cheering his heart out at Free Speech rallies for ‘freedom.’ There were many of us in the bleachers much less enthusiastic. But then we weren’t Jewish and we weren’t clear as to what was going on.
Dylan as a Jew came to Berkeley to play where he was received as a hero by his fellow Jews. Both must have been aware of what they were doing. Jerry Rubin was the sparkplug whether Greil Marcus slyly disagrees with him or not.
The revolt at Berkeley soon spread to Columbia and the rest of the Ivy League and across the country where it meshed with Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
Dylan himself progressed from his political associations to Another Side of Bob Dylan in which he worked out his own personal problems in a Jewish social context in highly symbolic language. The lyrics are complex, poetical and not easily understood. the concept of ‘Freedom’ plays a prominent role.
Freedom as the idea of a complete lack of constraints developed in the latter half of the twentieth century. Prior to this ‘freedom’ meant to be free so long as your own freedom didn’t conflict with the freedom of others. Latterly it has taken the meaning that others be damned so long as one can do what one wants. This entails the related notion: consequences be damned. Consequences won’t be damned so if one does the crime one must do the time. I suppose the notion is that if you can run fast enough you can avoid the consequences. I don’t know if one can but some have done a very presentable job of it. Mao was one, Dylan is another. Of course there was that one little incident at Redwing that didn’t work out too well but since then it has been fairly smooth sailing for Bob and he may leave the building without suffering too many serious consequences.
Now, in order to be free one has to dominate everyone else. If one is obligated to an other then one isn’t free according to this latter day interpretation of ‘freedom.’ In that sense in the entertainment industry Frank Sinatra was as free as anyone has ever been. The man need only place a call to anyone elses wife and she would leave her husband’s bed and run over and give Frank a blow job and there was nothing the husband could do about it. This is no joke. Sinatra could have anyone beaten up with impunity. When he was offended by President Kennedy, Kennedy was shot. There are those who maintain Frank had a hand in it. Never been proven but there are reasons to so believe. Frank Sinatra had ‘freedom’ while he escaped the most serious consquences dying in bed a very old man. Alone and despised perhaps but then one can’t escape all the consequences.
So while limiting himself to a field in which he could be successful Bob has perhaps been the most ‘free’ of the Rock ‘n Rollers. He never took on Frank however and if he had he would have discovered the limits of his ‘freedom.’ Although Albert Grossman may have limited Bob’s ‘freedom’ somewhat I find it interesting that Bob came out at least even in his brush with the current Hollywood hard-on, David Geffen.
Now, Bob wasn’t so free that he could achieve his goals without leaning on or being dependent on others. However to compensate himself he destroyed, trashed whoever and whatever he had used as stepping stones to achieve his ‘freedom.’ In the pursuit of his freedom he became a very vicious and nasty man.
There is no reason to believe that at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival he wasn’t trashing the whole Folk scene that he had used to get him to the launching pad of his Rock ‘n Roll dream.
The arguments about how or who brought Folk Rock into existence may well be interminable. The fact is that both Folk and Rock at the time were stagnant. Whether the music died in that corn field in Iowa in 1959 or not the big labels had pretty well tamed the music of the fifties. Columbia had separated Dion from the Belmonts and had him singing standards to syrupy instrumentals. Ruby Baby was his last great effort before Columbia detourned him. Safe teen acts and emasculated falsettos dominated the airwaves . By late 1963 and early 1964 the Folk ethic had worn out as Folk groups dressed in loden green pull overs and sang like the Brothers Four. Even the emasculated and detourned version of Michael Row The Boat Ashore couldn’t prop up Folk for long.
So musicians had to be searching for something different if not new. Folk Rock was as new as anything while the electric blues served as different. Thus as the middle sixties came in one had Folk Rock, the electric blues and rough sounding garage bands like the Seeds. Oh yes, that was another development temper tantrum teenagers screaming ‘I don’t want to be like anybody else.’ Not to worry.
Folk rock would have or did develop without any real help from Bob. He already had electric recordings out so that if he didn’t want to stick it in their ear he could have done an acoustic set at Newport and let his electric side take its natural course.
I’m not so sure even then that electricity was the problem. Personally I welcomed the electric Bob. I was glad to see him leave the Folk stuff behind. I was on the West Coast but I didn’t run into many or any people who were emotionally involved. Even Greil Marcus doesn’t seem to be put out by the change.
I think you had to be emotionally invested in Bob the protest singer. When that fellow in Manchester cried out Judas I would have to think that his problem wasn’t an electric guitar but the fact that Bob seemingly betrayed the political stuff he had been singing. He had pandered to the protest crowd and now he wasn’t letting them down easy. He was turning his back on them. Rathr than being the standard bearer of spokesman for the generation that he had let them believe he was he now trashed everything they believed in. They had given him his and now he didn’t need them anymore.
His whole career was based on trashing his believers. Not that I understood any of this at the time. I didn’t even know about it and if I had I wouldn’t have cared.
Positively Fourth Street was his ‘kiss my ass’ song to all those Folkies he had used and abused and now abandoned.
An interesting aside that could use closer examination was his visit to Carl Sandburg in 1964. All the biographers assume that Carl Sandburg snubbed Bob because he hadn’t heard of him. Maybe, I can’t say but it is significant that Sandburg was a folksinger himself or, at least, he sang folk songs. While Bob and Greil are enthusiastic about Harry Smith Sandburg himself had published his American Songbag in 1928 and then followed it up in 1950 with a new collection. Unless he was brain dead in ’64 there is little reason to believe he hadn’t maintained his interest in folk into the sixties and kept up with it.
After all the Christies were doing a number of songs from the 1928 Songbag so Sandburg must have experienced great satisfaction that everything he had been hoping for had come to pass. I don’t know his singing style, and he did publicly perform the songs, but I suspect it was more Christy style than the cacophony of Bob.
I don’t think it improbable that he in fact knew exactly who Bob Dylan was, had probably heard him on record and/or the radio and fully detested him, so that when he opened his door and found Bob Dylan, let us say the folk devil himself, standing there he just froze. It would be nice to know exactly what was said. I think it unlikely that he would have been familiar with Paul Clayton but as Clinton Heylin suggests if he had dropped the needle into the groove there is little doubt which record would have been played through.
If Sandburg had shown any preference for Clayton at all for any reason, manners for instance, there is little doubt that that sealed Clayton’s fate with Bob.
If It’s All Over Now Baby Blue was a put down of Clayton which seems likely then the odds are that it was resentment over something that was said or done at Sandburg’s is the reason.
That would have been added to the fact that Bob had stolen a couple tunes from Clayton that required the trashing of the man in ’64 to cover up the evidence. One can’t hold it against Bob that Clayton committed suicide, after all, we’re all big boys here, but he must certainly have contributed to a deteriorating mental state.
The trashing of Joan Baez also at this time doesn’t require further comment in this place. Suffice it to say that Bob had taken hers to keep with his and now it was her turn for the circular file. It is hard to believe Bob didn’t enjoy what he was doing amidst the flashing gongs on the road to ‘freedom.’
In ’66 Bob’s mind broke. He had what used to be called a nervous breakdown. In his terms a motorcycle accident. There was a long recovery period of several years. I certainly don’t hold the nervous breakdown against him. He was pushing too hard. Even if he had been straight he would have become distraught, but under the influence of what all his biographers agree were monumental amounts of drugs washed down with quantities of alcohol it is a wonder if not a miracle that he lasted as long as he did. Apparently he was driven to complete the sound in his head and vomit out all his rage accumulated up there in the North country before he cracked.
When he went down he went down hard but in pleasant enough circumstances.
Why he came out isn’t clear unless it was to trash his fans. It didn’t take much for me to catch on back then but then on the first hearing of Blonde on Blonde I realized he’d ridden his board all the way to shore. From there he would have to start all over again while he would never catch a wave like that again.
Bob still had a lot of past to bury though.
He achieved this in spectacular fashion in 1975 on his Rolling Thunder tour as an overseer on his very own Maggie’s Farm. The tour mayby be considered as a vision of Plantation Bob. And he was a sadistic overseer too.
As Heylin points out the shows were over four hours long while Bob may have been on stage only a few minutes to a half hour or possibly a little more. Thus his cast of characters were slaving on Maggie’s Farm while Maggie or Bob showed up from time to time to make sure his darkies were singing as they slaved. A very good joke. If you step back and look at it the gig is pretty transparent.
Now, Dylan asked people if they were for it. As the only ‘free’ man in the group Bob had no trouble in getting his victims to come on board his ship that had just come in. The performers couldn’t have been paid much if at all. The payroll and expenses of such an extravaganza couldn’t have been recouped at all. If there was any money left over it went into Bob’s pocket.
Bob reached way back in the past to bring Ramblin’ Jack Elliot aboard. Bob owed Elliot a lot so the old man had to be trashed. McGuinn was brought along because he had traded on Bob’s talent or else had done such sparkling versions of Bob’s songs that he had made Bob look bad.
Phil Ochs wasn’t allowed to come along not because Bob had pity on his fragile mental state but simply because Bob didn’t owe him anything. If he had had reason to trash Ochs you may be sure he would have.
One may guess that he was already finished with Sara, his wife, as he not only allowed her to come along to witness his degenerate behavior but actually cast her as a prositute in his movie Reynaldo and Clara. One just doesn’t allow the mother of one’s children much less a woman one respects to play a prostitute. I find it unforgiveable while Sara took him for much much more than thirty-five million if Heylin and Sounes are correct which is pretty good wages of sin.
As if that wasn’t enough Bob brought along his old inamorata Joan Baez to confront his wife, Sara. Gratuitously cruel and unnecessary so I suppose Bob was attempting to trash his entire pre-1975 past. Like a snake shedding his skin he was attempting to begin a new existence.
Here his Frankist upbringing rose up to bite him because you can’t pour out that quart and half of evil. As Bob said you can change your name but you can’t run from yourself. Bob wasn’t released and one can never be released, only the truth can set you free. You have to come to terms with yourself and acept things as they were and are. Even then your freedom is conditional; at best you are only out on parole. You can’t trash reality.
End of Exhuming Bob 2-2
December 19, 2007
Exhuming Bob 2:
With One Hand Waving Free
Scaduto, Anthony: Bob Dylan 1972
Shelton, Robert: No Direction Home 1986
Heylin, Clinton: Behind The Shades Revisited 2000
Sounes, Howard: Down The Highway 2001
Marcus, Greil: Articles and Essays.
Prindle, R.E.: Essays
Come on, give it to me,
I’ll keep it with mine.
Time to tackle a few basic assumptions. For instance what is the conception of freedom as entertained by Bob Dylan and latterly his alter ego, Greil Marcus. Both are Jews so freedom must be examined in the context of the Jewish understanding of the term and contrasted with the Gentile understanding.
With the emergence of the supremacy of cultural differences in the United States made stark by the doctrine of Multi-culturalism such a definition seems to be demanded. Cultural expectations are quite different. What is freedom for Jews is not freedom for others. My concept of freedom differs markedly from that of Dylan, Marcus and their fellow Jews.
As is pointed out by both Sounes and Heylin Dylan’s given Jewish name is Sabbatai. That means that his father was probably of the Sabbatian-Frankist Jewish sect. This sect holds that the messiah can never come until the Jews have expelled all the evil from their souls. Therefore they should commit any and all crimes in the effort to purge their souls of evil. In other words apparently according to Frankist beliefs there is, oh, about a quart and half of evil in a Jew which once that is poured out their souls will be purged of evil.
In his 12/30/04 review in Rolling Stone of Dylan’s Chronicles Vol. I Greil Marcus quotes Dylan recollecting a saying of his father:
“My father,” Dylan writes of Abraham Zimmerman, “wasn’t so sure the truth would set anybody free”- and those words sound down through the book.
Marcus goes on to say:
This isn’t just the stiff-necked Jew turning on Jesus pronouncing that “the truth shall set you free.”
Thus we are led to the core of the issue. If the truth won’t set you free, what will? This seems to be an internal Jewish problem as at the time Jesus is quoted he was merely an itinerant Jewish prophet speaking solely to his fellow Jews as a Jew while demanding recognition as a prophet.
It is often forgotten that prior to Paul’s universalizing of the teaching of the Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus cult was confined to the Jews.
The Jewish Jesus cult only became Christian after it was grafted on to the Greek Kyrios Christos cult and therefore became Christian through the association with Aryan Greek religious thinking. Christos means merely the Expected One, the same as the Jewish term Messiah and the Moslem Mahdi. Who are you going to believe, right?
So, the question is what Truth did Jesus have to offer to his fellow Jews that would set them free and free from what? This seems to have been a problem that Abraham Zimmerman was pondering. As he was most likely a Frankist the struggle would have been between expelling the quart and half of evil by committing it while rejecting ‘the truth’ as expounded by the Jewish would be prophet, Jesus of Nazareth.
The Jews reacted violently to Jesus and his message causing his death, then persecuting his following attempting genocide on them. So whatever ‘truth’ Jesus sought to impart to his fellow Jews was thoroughly rejected.
Symbolically Dylan whose personality was divided between the goiish world of Hibbing and the Jewish world of his father speaks of ‘dancing with one hand waving free.’ Which hand?
There is quite obviously a terrific conflict going on in Dylan’s mind from then to now. Not only was his father probably a Frankist but Bob was sent to a Jewish summer camp over several years. This was Camp Herzl. Theodore Herzl was the founder of the Zionism that captured the Jewish identity in the twentieth century. Bob attended those camps in the decade or so after the realization of the Nazi extermination camps. He must therefore have been indoctrinated with the paranoia of post-war Jewry. When he is described as ‘plenty Jewish’ he obviously endured heavy indoctrination with the endless showing of heaps of dead bodies being pushed around with bulldozers.
So then, ‘one hand waving free?’
As Jesus’ message to the world was that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son this notion was in conflict with the traditional Jewish notion that God so loved the Jews exclusively that he made them his chosen people. The plea of the Jewish prophet Jesus of Nazareth to his people may well have been to come out of the isolation of their chosenness to join the rest of humanity and become ‘free’ of a ridiculous prejudice. This the Jews refused to do choosing to eliminate the messenger instead.
Abraham Zimmerman obviously understood this but chose the Frankist approach rather than the Jesusite. As Greil Marcus so aptly noticed he seems to have been successful in passing this notion on his son. Bob himself, it seems to me, has lived his life in the most represhensible manner running roughshod over everyone, indulging his evil impulses.
A key issue that Heylin emphasizes is what happened in the summer of ’59? This was the summer of Bob’s graduation and a year before he spent the summer in Colorado. The period seems to have been one of extreme psychological turmoil as Bob’s Jewish persona took over his life.
It seems pretty obvious that Dylan committed some crime around his graduation for which he was sent to the Redwing Reformatory of Minnesota. Heylin accepts Beatty Zimmerman’s explanation that Abraham for some reason voluntarily sent Bob to a reformatory in Pennsylvania. This makes no sense to me. As we know Bob committed more than one theft in the year after he began at U. Minnesota. I think it more likely that he appropriated something of someone else in Hibbing and ‘kept it with his.’ What it could have been must have been pretty serious to send a first time offender to the reformatory for a couple months expecially at the age of 18.
It seems possible if not probable that the offence was not Bob’s first and that he had been let off with a warning on earlier offences. At any rate Bob wrote a song concerning the walls of Redwing. It would seem likely that he was familiar with them from the inside.
If so he didn’t learn his lesson as he took to theft at Minnesota. It is also interesting that he also sang ‘why am I always the thief?’ The Pankake record theft at Minnesota was a most ill-considered and egregious theft as the material ‘kept with his’ led directly to him. Bob continued his thefts in Colorado where when the police were called, according to Sounes, he went into a real panic. The panic may have been caused by the fact that if the Minnesota police history became known, as a second offender and an adult, he may have been facing a more serious sentence and that in the men’s prison rather than the boy’s reformatory. Realizing he had outworn his welcome Bob skipped back to Minnesota.
When Pankake was tracking Bob down he discovered that a lot of people were looking for Bob. Why would they be looking for him? Either he owed them money or they too were missing something that Bob was ‘keeping with his.’
Whether Dylan actually wanted to go East to meet Woody or whether the times were changing enough that it was opportune for him to skip Minneapolis requires further investigation but it is probable that it was time to move along.
His mental turmoil was such that people posted an unwanted sign upon their hearts whenever he came around. Heylin quotes Bonnie Beecher concerning an incident that would have made me want to leave the planet. Apparently in mid-day Bob got so drunk that he collapsed in the middle of a campus sidewalk soaking in his own vomit. Beecher was more than a good friend to him in helping the besotted boy to his feet. When Dylan later described his song Like A Rolling Stone as pure vomit his mental state in both instances must have been the same.
At any rate at this point Dylan took his problems to New York City where he began to live out the most improbable of fantasies although in an almost 100% Jewish milieu.
Go to: Exhuming Bob 2-2 Detourning The Folks
December 11, 2007
The Jewel In The Forehead Of The Toad
I ride on a mail train; can’t buy a thrill.
Bob Dylan. How did this guy get into my life? As someone said of Hank Williams: Bob Dylan sang my life. Up to a point. How he could know so much about me is totally unbelievable. I’m three years older than Bob which is not all that much, especially at this age. Our mental states were quite similar while we were working out our mental problems in somewhat the same way, not that Bob had ever heard of me but one of the hazards of exposing yourself on records or in print is that kindred spirits recognize each other. One of the occupational hazards, I suppose.
I’m going to use as a starting point Dylan’s record of Mixed Up Confusion. I must confess that I had never heard the song until a couple years ago. I had bought three copies of Biograph when it came out but never opened one. I bought all three copies as an investment and that turned out to be one lousy investment. So after twenty years these sealed copies weren’t listed for much more than I paid for them so I didn’t think I’d be losing much by opening one. It was then I first heard Mixed Up Confusion. Was it a revelation you ask? Hell no. It was just a noisy song. But as I was sitting watching the river flow and reading Greil Marcus’ Lipstick Traces it occurred to me that the book needed some constructive criticism so I gave it. You may have read that criticism right here on this blog. Then having the kind of mind I do I had to read the rest of Marcus so as to make knowing and intelligent comments on the guy. Marcus reopened the subject of Dylan in my mind. I dismissed the guy a few years ago, right after hearing Mixed Up Confusion. I had to start thinking about the Bob again because I couldn’t figure out exactly what I used to see in him.
Bob and I first made extra-sensory contact back in ‘64 and as you are well aware this is ‘08. A lot of water had flowed by in the river and under the bridge while I was sitting and watching it since way back when.
In the interval I had worked out my mental problems even integrating my personality according to the tenets of C.G. Jung. I’ve got the same old face, and getting older, but I’m a different guy.
Here’s the rub. I lived by Dylan for maybe five years from Blonde On Blonde until my life began running so fast I had too many other things to think about. Greil Marcus raised some irritating points about Dylan that made me regret my former adulation. Now, this created a small problem because I love my life and I have the notion that I have perfect taste and that whatever I have ever liked I must still like or I don’t really have perfect taste. You can see how Marcus put me up against the wall. Another one of those extrasensory contacts. And there was Bob getting more ambiguous by the moment as Marcus plodded on.
Damn near threw me into a panic.
So now I had to develop a new perspective for my infatuation of the toad with the jewel in his forehead. That’s how I look at Bob now. Well, you know, I’ve read most of the books on Bob, not so much reviews or interviews so that I have the means to analyze this prime influence on my young manhood.
I’m standing in my library when my hand fell on a Dylan book I bought some time ago. It occurred to me that maybe I hadn’t read this one yet. The book was the Rough Guide To Bob Dylan by Nigel Williamson. English fellow, obviously never been to America. Nigel had a pretty good handle on Bob so my mind focused on the jewel in Bob’s forehead. Mixed Up Confusion. This was where Bob was at in 1962. The rest of his career is the working out of this song. Trying to clear up the confusion. Get Straight. Walk like a man and the words of that tune..
Not enough attention has been devoted to Bob’s boyhood in Hibbing although guys like Howard Sounes in Down The Highway: The Life Of Bob Dylan have made a stab at it. Nobody has touched on the real source of Bob’s malaise though. I mean why was he living in mixed up confusion? His songs give off hints that could be investigated by someone in the right frame of mind but it’s not going to be me. I’ve got other things to think about. I’ve got my own life to live. Bob does generously provide the lyrics on his web site however for anyone interested.
Obviously the early years were not so happy as they could have been. Bob had difficulties with his mother and father; nothing too egregious but one gets the notion that perhaps Bob thought parents and child were mismatched. Should have been born to someone else. I live with that feeling too. Bob and I both knelt at the same altar praying: There must be some way out of here… But just through that door over there and when it closes behind you you can’t get back in. I didn’t design this place I just live here.
How well he got along at school isn’t absolutely clear but it seems that no one felt any compunction to take Bob at his word which should be the finger on the sign pointing: This Way.
That Bob had time on his hands is obvious by his listening habits on the radio and his reading habits. Bob took it all in as did I. Country, Rock, Swing, Folk, Easy Listening. He doesn’t seem to remember the Folk very much but he must have heard those Harry Smith songs before if he crawled all those late night country stations beaming up on a million watts or so from Del Rio, Texas. He must have got Waterloo real clear. One of the great country stations of the Midwest. I don’t know if he could get WCKY in Cincinatti O-ha-o, as the announcer always pronounced it up there in Hibbing or Wheeling West Virginia. Boy Wheeling used to play some unusual items. Came in pretty clear in Michigan where I lived. Carter’s and all that? Old hat.
So I don’t know what blew his mind so much when he got to Dinkytown down at U. Minnesota. Atmosphere I guess. The hip thing was pretty heady. Tickled my fancy.
I’m totally amazed he was blown away by Woody Guthrie. Never had much use for Guthrie myself. This machine kills fascists! Who the hell ever saw a Fascist in America? I never did and I looked. I was curious. I wanted to find one.
Read Bound For Glory too. Left me cold but then that’s a matter of taste or perhaps temperament. Anyway Bob’s got all these musical influences rolling around in his mind and he meant to do something with them. He took off hitchhiking for NYC in the middle of a Minnesota winter. God, what balls. If anything got him into the Hall of Fame that must have been it.
I’ve done it. Not Minnesota but over on the Illinois, Indiana, Michigan side. Must have been out of my mind. Well, just young and dumb, but even that’s no excuse. I bet Bob feels the same way. There I was in three feet of snow with trucks going by at fifty miles an hour. Rearranged my own personal snow bank every time it happened. But this isn’t about me, well, actually it is but only in relation to Bob.
This hitchhike through the winter wonderland must have left an indelible stamp on Bob’s mind. Did mine. Made him cold. Bitter. Put bite into some of his songs. Tears of rage. Hello New York City sayonara Chitown. Boy, there’s two places that’ll give you a vivid impression of mankind. Did me.
Bob was there at the creation of Rock and Roll and it was a life changing experience for him. Some guys like Eddie Cochran and Ricky Nelson could settle into quick and easy imitations but Bob had trouble sorting our his influences and making a sound that was his own. Landing in Greenwich Village and its vibrant Folk scene, if some of those guys can be called vibrant. I’ve got a whole collection of their records and some of ‘em are so dull they make Bobby shine.
So Bob settled in doing things like Talking New York and other folkie stuff as he put his musical roots down coming up with Hank Williams influenced Folk stuff. He was doin’ all right too but he couldn’t forget those Rock and Roll rhythms.
So just as he was drolling out Folk anthems in ‘62 he went into the studio and did this strange Rock and Roll record called Mixed Up Confusion. Tryin’ to be Elvis Presley. Sun years. Hot licks and all that jazz.
So Mixed Up Confusion is not good but it’s not bad either. All his miserable past is focused into that song and all his magnificent rise emanates from it. The song is a knot. It’s like when I first started writing. I could tell my whole life story in three Ernest Hemingway style sentences. Brief and pithy but there couldn’t possibly be that big a demand for a haiku on my life. I’d have to kind of elaborate, get loquacious, a little. That’s what Bob did after Mixed Up Confusion. He began to elaborate. Stretch it out. Separate those musical strands. Mercerize it whatever mercerize means. Seen the world somewhere. Memorized it. This might be the appropriate time to use it; might not.
Now, I only heard the song in 2005 but in the way memory works I was able to shift it from here to there so that me and Bob was in two places at the same time together. You know, we went to the same school together at different times. It was a lot easier to do than explain.
Bob and I began to work out our problem in the same way, he singing, me listening. See, I told you it was easy. First though Bob had to dump those Folkies. He was made of stiff stuff though. It was a lot easier for him to do it than it would have been for me. But he was gonna climb that mountain no matter how high. When you get to the top you’ve left everyone behind anyway. I’ll say I know but that wouldn’t be 100% true. Wouldn’t be a 100% lie either though. Kinda half way between the pillar and the post. You could kinda reach out and touch each one with your hands. Have to be kind of a contortionist though. I saw a guy once who could fit himself into a shoe box, big shoes, cowboy boots, size nineteens, but I never wanted to emulate him.
So Bob had been laying this folk stuff on the people pretty thick. They believed in him. They thought he was sincere, didn’t bother to ask. But he got himself a hot electric band and showed ‘em what boogie folk was. That’s when the sh.., uh stuff, hit the fan. It was messy. Got all over everybody. But Bob was kind of a Magic Man. He survived it. Prospered. Took more balls than I got to do it though.
They booed him. Loud. Shouted things at him. Like, Judas and Traitor and Go Home. He said he didn’t believe them but that must have been sheer bravado. They had their point. Well, don’t look back as Farragut said in Mobile Bay. Full speed ahead boys. Let ‘em deal with this.
Bob knew a thing or two about himself, if you know what I mean. He was beginning to sort his Rock and Roll ideas out. Tears of Rage. All the anger and frustration of his youth was finding a vent. The mood was terrific, who in the hell cared what it meant. If you wanted your songs to sound heavy but mean something plain you could borrow the Sound of Silence from Simon and Garfunkle.
He was beginning to be able to project his vision of Rock and Roll. It would appear that he wanted to create an entirely new paradigm as he does manage to sound different but retains similarities to both Presley and Little Richard, two of his major influences. The tentative gropings of Bringing It All Back Home progressed through Highway 61 Revisited to full realization in Blonde On Blonde. Rainy Day Women is a weird and raucous vision of Rock music but in reality is neither fish nor fowl. The general reaction to Blonde On Blonde was one of puzzlement. The music of Rainy Day Women was repellent to most while the lyrics of that summer of ‘66 were impenetrable. Nobody and I mean nobody had any idea of what Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands was about. Still Dylan’s vision of Rock was loose and exciting.
Bob Dylan had also reached a plateau with the release of this his major opus. He had realized or perfected the style. No farther development was possible. The rage and resentment that had fueled the music even perhaps psychotic had reached a culmination.
Thus in the summer of ‘66 Dylan had no place to go. I presume he was out of ideas hence his accident and retirement.
The summer of ‘66 was traumatic for the Dylan, myself and the country. While Bob’s new record lay on the counter waiting to be bought on July 13th Richard Speck committed a horrific crime in Chicago. He ritually murdered a passel of nursing students. At the time the memory of Kennedy’s assassination was still strong. At the time he was shot there were people who thought and said that the assassination would release an epidemic of murder. I don’t know that Speck had any relationship to Kennedy, perhaps his killing was merely a harbinger of the murderous unrest stalking the land.
I had just graduated from Cal State at Hayward that June of ’66. I was taking graduate courses at UC Berkeley. Twenty-eight years old at the time. The Dylan record had hit the stores at the end of June. Now, the record was psychologically disturbing and unsettling by itself. Records were the generation’s means of expressing itself, replacing the movies of the previous generation and books of still earlier generations, so Blonde On Blonde had earth shaking qualities not present in CD s today. Not only did Blonde On Blonde erupt in that memorable summer but Procol Harum, Cream and Canned Heat first emerged. All exhibited a new form of craziness what with Cream’s I Feel Free and Canned Heat being named after a drug substitute. The following June, The Summer Of Love would see the release of the even crazier record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles.
So we were reeling from Speck’s astounding crime under the influences of the psychotic or near psychotic Blonde On Blonde when two weeks after Speck Charlie Whitman barricaded himself in his tower and opened fire on the world or at least as much of it as he could reach on the University of Texas campus. Whitman killed or wounded dozens.
At the time I was cracking my brain trying to learn a year’s worth of Latin in an intensive six week course while trying to prepare for a move to graduate school at the University of Oregon.
At the same time Bob was working out his rage and hatred in full view of the world with what were actually night thoughts I was privately doing the same under the influence of his lunacy as he exposed himself on records. I was still hurtin’ every single day searching for my own release and the way out of from where I was at. I was strange enough, hair parted in the middle getting longer by the day, to feel some affinity to Speck and Whitman as well as Dylan. Whatever I saw in Dylan I saw aspects of in Speck and Whitman. Dylan did too; at least he said so at an awards ceremony setting his audience on their ears. I know what he was talking about and everyone in that audience should have too. No man is an island, send not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.
In the summer of ‘66 the so-called Free Speech Movement at Berkeley was in the mopping up stage. The new paradigm of ‘Freedom’ was in place at the home of the Golden Bears. The obscene rag The Berkeley Barb was being hawked on the street corners and wherever. The homeless and runaways were throwing down their sleeping bags in doorways creating the new street sitcom of the Brave New America.
The man who dubbed what went before as The Old Weird America had graduated from US Berkeley that very same June of ‘66. He was on his way over to San Francisco to become the reviews editor of the new journalism espoused by The Rolling Stone, the most successful of the generations publishing ventures. The San Francisco Oracle published for a year then disappeared.
I gathered my things together and headed North to the land of perpetual overcast, Oregon.
While I was familiar with Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 with the addition of Blonde On Blonde I began to immerse myself in the three records for about three years. I listened to a side a day every morning when I got up. I know that when Bob talks about his hour of darkness he really means his whole life. That’s what I would mean by it. That’s what I meant by it. It wasn’t a question of not dark yet it was a question of when is the sun going to shine. I was trying to stay on the sunny side of the street but I just couldn’t figure out which side was it. It was going to be dark for a while yet.
Those Dylan years were dark years for me. Probably as dark as it has ever been. Let’s hope so because I don’t want to go there again. But I suppose I have to thank Bob for steadying me through the dark period. Apart from the stray line popping up in my memory from time to time I cannot remember the lyrics of a single song or could I quote a whole verse. The titles were terrific though and I remember a lot of them. Whole novels were in those titles. Whole novels were in many of the lines. I responded to the title It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry. How great. I didn’t need the song that rumbled and loped in the background of the thoughts it released. The tone and mood were the perfect background to the darkness swirling in my mind. Occasionally a line that was another novel in itself would break in like ‘I ride on a mail train, baby, can’t buy a thrill.’ One more line and I would have had a trilogy. Possibly I could have named the trilogy The Weird Old Greil Marcus. I might yet.
Here’s Greil Marcus forming this weird extrasensory relationship with Bobby. Marcus gets himself all wrapped up in the lyrics of Like A Rolling Stone; begins to live his life like it’s the fifth gospel right after John. I mean, Dylan’s good, but…
Dylan had an effect on a lot of people not least Greil Marcus. Marcus had seen Dylan in ‘63 in Philly and was blown away. He attended several concerts between ‘63 and ‘66 each apparently a religious epiphany. As just a spectator in the audience he could do nothing but adore his idol. Beginning with his job at Rolling Stone in ‘66 he had an entrée backstage at anyone’s concert including his idol Bob’s. Thus he could get up close and personal with his hero. Ask almost any question; form a relationship. Shape Bob’s thinking and attitude a little even in time display his SI credentials.
Apparently Marcus got as involved with Bobby’s lyrics as much as I did, heck, as much as a multitude did. Marcus has followed Bobby down seemingly owning all the records and CD s having heard all the songs at least once, as indeed has Nigel Williamson who wrote the Rough Guide. I can’t really go much further than John Wesley Harding. I gave up on Bob after that, not necessarily because his stuff wasn’t that good, but wherever he was going I wasn’t following. Our minds and problems slipped out of sync. Most likely he went his way and I went mine.
But Greil Marcus became obsessed with one Dylan song: Like A Rolling Stone. He went so far as to write a long essay on the song published as a single volume. A song has to be in your gene’s to devote that much effort to it.
From this point on I’m going to refer to Marcus as Greil for convenience and because I’m going to get more personal. I hope there are no objections.
Speaking from the ‘bully pulpit’ that Greil has created for himself he has declared Like A Rolling Stone not only the best of Bobby’s extensive canon but the greatest song of all time. As an influential critic he has got the ball rolling in the direction he wants it to go. But, there are dissenters.
Nigel Williamson, who may be considered an authority on Dylan’s entire oeuvre equal to Greil, in his Rough Guide to Dylan lists what he considers Bobby’s Top 50. He lists Like A Rolling Stone no higher than eighteen of Dylan’s best not even considering the whole song corpus of the world. Williamson’s top 18 all come from Bobby’s albums before John Wesley Harding. Further of those songs which I know well I would agree with Williamson with the exceptions of #4 Girl From The North Country, #5 Mixed Up Confusion and #8 Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll. I would move To Ramona closer to the top. The Flying Burrito Bros. Version of the song is as good as it gets.
The extravagance of Greil is alarming in a critic. The excess can only be explained by Greil’s relation of the song to some intense personal problem. Now, Greil has not only written several books that almost repeat the same thematic material, John Winthrop- Abraham Lincoln-Mike King Jr., but he has written numerous reviews, essays and been interviewed many times. A great many are available for downloading from the internet so that Greil’s psyche can be searched. In searching through his essays one comes to a remarkably irrelevant and revealing essay. Irrelevant because it has nothing to do with any subject anyone would go to here him lecture about.
On Oct. 13, 2006 Greil read a piece for an audience at the Richard Hugo House. In it he revealed his central childhood fixation.. Because of the death of the inseminator of his mother, a father he never knew by the name of Greil Gerstley, Greil Marcus apparently considers himself an orphan which he is in a manner of speaking in fact.
The incident that catalyzed his feeling he tells thusly:
It was 1955; I was 10. We had just moved into a new
house in Menlo Park, California. There was a big radio set up, and I’d play with it at night, trying to pull in the drifting signals from across the country; Chicago, Cleveland, Omaha, even New Jersey. One night a few lines came out. I don’t remember the exact words, but the gist is clear: “When American GI s left Korea, they also left behind countless fatherless babies. Once everyone talked about this. Now nobody cares.”
As I got older I realized it was an echo of something other than what the words from the radio described. I know it was an echo of an absent memory of my own father, whose name was Greil Gerstley, who was lost in a typhoon in the Pacific when his destroyer went down.
So in times of teenage unhappiness, the fantasy that I might have lived a different life, been a different person with a different name, was more a fact than a fantasy. If my father had lived, both my mother and I would have lived very different lives. But it was the kind of fact that, when you try to hold onto it, slips through your fingers like water.
Alright. Bobby’s song is addressed to a woman while Greil dwells on, delights in the line ‘How does it feel.’ So, what woman does Dylan’s song call to mind in Greil’s experience. I’m afraid it must be his mother. I won’t speculate on whatever lingering fears Greil may have. Suffice it to say that his mother and father in the pressures of war were a dockside romance and marriage. Virtually as the marriage was consummated Greil Gerstner was shipped to his death in a Pacific typhoon.
Greil tells us that he was born six months and a day after his father’s ship went down. Thus as his father sank into the waters of the Pacific Greil was a mass of stem cells evolving into hands, fingers, ears, eyes, nose and…a memory. It is almost eerie the way he dates his memories from this period when he was scarcely recognizable as a human being..
I suspect he considers his mother’s remarriage in 1948 some sort of betrayal of the memory of Greil Gerstner. One wonders if Greil is a Junior. One has the feeling that he was never really comfortable with his adoptive father, Mr. Marcus. I can understand this. There was no genetic affinity to the man. When my mother remarried also in 1948 when I was ten I could never consider my step-father as other than a stranger and an interloper in my mother’s bed. I was furious that he was sleeping with her when my inseminator, my own genetic material, wasn’t.
Both Greil’s reaction and my own were irrational but fully natural and understandable. It matters little that the Gerstners would have undoubtedly been divorced within two years of his father’s return while he would have ended up with a step-father anyway. He can thank his lucky stars his mother remarried as well as she did.
At least his half brother Bill is looking out for him. Thank the Lord for what few favors he bestows.
Greil’s mother is his problem and the source of his admiration for his favorite song and he has become obsessed with his dead father. Then things began to happen. Someone was doing a documentary on the death of the Hull, his father’s ship. Certain stories were told Greil in the course of the documentary that don’t make sense to my experience.
I was in the Navy on a Destroyer Escort, a hundred feet or so shorter than a Destroyer. We were sent through the heart of a typhoon also. I know what the term ‘towering seas’ means. The ship came close to dying several times but we made it through. If the ship had rolled there would have been no survivors. I can’t understand how there were any survivors of the Hull, Gerstner’s ship. In seas like that the ship is tightly sealed to prevent flooding and consequent sinking. The only exit is on the bridge to allow changes of the watch and whatever. When that sucker rolls it is a floating coffin. Nobody gets out. If you happened to be on watch on the bridge you would be thrown into frigid waters with a life expectancy of two minutes at most. To protect myself from the numbing cold I had on so many clothes that they would have saturated and pulled me down before I could come up for air the first time.
I do not understand that there could be survivors of the Hull.
Greil should check his facts more closely, the ship rolls over it doesn’t pitch over. The ship will not right itself at something like a thirty degree roll. Anything more than that and it’s Hello, Davy Jones, goodbye San Francisco.
All that baloney about breaking out of a trough is sheer nonsense. Only a fool would cut the engines. There are so many things happening with the water that survival is sheer luck. At one time the seas were flowing beneath us faster than our headway. That makes the rudders useless. If you don’t have control of the ship you’re sunk. I don’t know how we made it. I really don’t.
So Greil should research his father’s situation more fully and stop blaming everyone. It was just one of those things. Could have happened to anyone. Ask me.
At any rate Greil made the connection of those abandoned Korean children with his own and his father’s. Greil obviously believes that he is as one of those abandoned kids.
The problem then gets back to the woman of Like A Rolling Stone. Only Greil’s mom situation makes Like A Rolling Stone the greatest song ever written. He has to come to terms with his feelings about his mother. That’s all I’ll say. If he rereads Obsessive Memories closely she should be able to find his way out and maybe find another world’s greatest song.
Greil’s obsessions with Like A Rolling Stone soured Bobby beyond redemption for me. However in forcing me to reexamine my own fixation on Bob’s three greatest LP s he has compelled me to come to a truer understanding of what I found in those songs. The use I made of them.
Unfortunately as one door closes another opens. Memories come flooding back of that memorable summer of ‘66. I ride on a mail train, baby, can’t buy a thrill while it takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry. Blonde On Blonde, Richard Speck, Charlie Whitman, there’s a novel or two or a trilogy in there somewhere. Can it be found before I die?