August 9, 2008
Exhuming Bob 12:
Bob And The Middle Class
I was rewatching Martin Scorcese’s No Direction Home today. I was struck by the various reporters’ insistent demand to know what Bob was trying to say in his music. Bob seemed genuinely mystified at the time being apparently no more enlightened at the time of Scorcese’s interview.
I offer a suggestion, no more. Bob, says in the interview that he had slipped through the net meant to keep he and his ‘type’ out and now it was too late to do anything about it. I know what he meant. He and his style, viewpoint, were antithetical to everything acceptable in culture. The later TV creation of the Monkees that imitated, and in its way mocked, the Bohemian Dylan style was the acceptable pop mode of ‘protest’ songs.
Whether Dylan realized it or not he, in his songs, said everything the middle class did and thought was wrong, and further that they were all ‘assholes.’ Something happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you? I’m smart and you’re dumb. Whether he meant it that way or not, that was what they heard. That is what I heard but I didn’t disagree with him I wanted to be in the chorus and sing along. I knew exactly what Bob meant even if I couldn’t articulate it any better than he could.
Bob, in his arty way put things in such terms that so disguised what they believed was his real intent, they did understand, that he left them no convenient handle to denounce him. So what they wanted Bob to say when they asked ‘What do you songs mean?’ was ‘Well, all my songs mean I know better than you all do and besides you’re all assholes.’
At that point they would no longer have to take him seriously and could denounce him. ‘Oh, so YOU think YOU know than the rust of us, do YOU? Well, there’s something happening here and YOU don’t what it is do YOU, Mr. Dylan? Well, let us tell YOU Buster…etc. etc.’
When people say that something new was introduced into pop music it wasn’t necessarily the ‘poetry’ or oddball language but his reviling of how the conventional mind works.
Bob said he slipped through. He could never have passed vetting for pop stardom by Tin Pan Alley so he managed to slip through anyway and destroy those who would never have given him a chance.
From his cornucopia sprang the ‘singer-songwriter’ genre that completely bypassed Tin Pan Alley. From his condemnation of the middle class sprang the rancorous Punk music of the seventies. From his denunciation of ‘a world gone wrong’ sprang the Negro rap music.
Call it a revolution if you want but it was just an underclass by some sort of heat convection bubbling to the surface. The sounds were commercially viable meaning that they made money for the labels. CBS could happily sell the ‘revolution’ on one hand, Johnny Mathis on the other and classical music strapped to its back.
I hope this makes sense to you.