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Date: Thu, 6 Nov 1997 16:17:34 -0500 (EST)
To: karlerik AT
Subject: Greil Marcus essay

Here is the Greil Marcus essay on TOOM that might be nice for you to put up
on your site. Very interesting perspective...

San Francisco Chronicle/Examiner Magazine, Sunday, November 2, 1997
by Greil Marcus

"Lost In America: Bob Dylan's 'Time Out of Mind' Conjures Images 
of an Endless Highway" 

        The challenge of Bob Dylan's 'Time Out of Mind' (Columbia)--his
first collection of self-written songs since 1990--is to take it at face
value. There is no point searching for autobiographical confessions ("It's
a break-up album, right?" said a friend, referring to all the tunes about
lost love and a broken heart) or messages of hope.  This is as bleak and
blasted as any work a major artist in any field--and by major artist I mean
an artist with something, a reputation, an audience, to lose--has offered
in ages.  'Time Out of Mind' is hedged only by craft, by the performer's
commitment to his material.  The world may be meaningless; he has no
choice but to try to shape that void.

        At first the music is shocking in its bitterness, in its refusal of
comfort or kindness.  Then it settles in as something like a conventional
set of songs, and then a curve in one of them--the finality of a life left
behind in the way Dylan gets rid of the seemingly traditional lines "I been
Sugartown, I shook the sugar down" in 'Trying to Get To You,' perhaps, or
the quiet drift of  'Highlands', a nearly 17-minute number so unassumingly
mysterious you feel it could have unwound its ball of string over the
entire length of the record without exhausting itself--upends any casual
listening and throws every bit of wordplay or quiet testimony into harsh
relief, revealing a tale seemingly complete and whole.

        The story opens with the singer, the tale-teller, walking dead
streets and ends with him walking the streets of an almost deserted 
city: "Must be a holiday, " he mutters to himself, as if he could care less 
if it is or not.  Images of homelessness and of endless wandering drive song
after song. Sometimes that motif suggests a man who doesn't want a home
("I know plenty of people," he tells you at one point, "put me up for a day
or two"); sometimes it calls up the tramp armies of the Great Depression,
or the film director in Preston Sturges' 1941 'Sullivan's Travels, '
disguised as a hobo, riding the boxcars like a railroad bum in order to
meet the masses, the dispossessed and the defeated-- and finds that the
rags of poverty and anonymity are easier to put on than to take off, that
they don't merely hide the signs of wealth and celebrity, but dissolve them.

        As in that old movie, made as the Depression was about to disappear
into the maw of the Second World War, when 'Time Out of Mind' plays,
another country comes into view. It's less the island of one man's broken
than a sort of half-world, a devastated, abandoned landscape where anyone
might end up at any time, so long as that time is now.

        This is a land as still as the plains, its flatness broken only by
a violence of tone or the violence of syncopation, of hard truths or a
band's rhythms rushing up on each other like people running out of a
burning house. "I thought some of them were friends of mind, I was wrong
about 'em all," Dylan sings in 'Cold Irons Bound,' letting the whiplashed
rhythm carry his words around their corner. But on that rhythm, the word
'all' isn't really underlined at all; the drama of  'Time Out of Mind' is in
its moments of queerly shared vehemence, when a solitary man seems to speak
with 50 states and 400 years in his voice, but that vehemence is never
obvious.   Here the whole line is not stressed but swung--"Wrrrrrrong about
'em allllll"--with the first word tipped up, the last tipped down, an organ
sweeping up the song like wind.  For a moment the landscape--which from
song to song takes names, "Missouri," "New Orleans," "Baltimore,"
"Bostontown"--is eased by the movement taking place upon it, and the singer
moves out of earshot, when he returns nothing has changed.

        The country that emerges is very old, and yet fresh and in sharp
focus, apparently capable of endless renewal.  At the same time the place
is very new, and all but worn out. "I got new eyes", Dylan sings coolly in
one of his deadliest lines of his writing life, "Everything looks far
away."  Verbal, melodic, and rhythmic signatures from ancient blues and
folk songs fit into the songs on TOOM as naturally, seemingly as
inevitably, as breaths--say in the way Dock Boggs, standing on the railroad
platform in his 'Danville Girl' in 1927, passes the song's cheap cigar to
the singer on the platform in 'Tryin' To Get To Heaven. '  That the
reappearance of the forgotten past in an empty present is a talisman of
TOOM is sealed by the art Dylan has chosen to imprinted directly onto his
disc, the classic "Viva-tonal/Electrical Process" Columbia label from the
late 1920's, a label that ran one series for "Race" or Negro recordings,
another for "old Time" or country.

        Dylan's record spins on that label in the way certain of its choruses
and verses seem to write themselves, tossed off with a throwaway
gruffness that suggests Dylan knows that after hearing half of a line the
listener will automatically complete it even before he, Dylan, has sung it:
"That's all right, mama you/Do what you gotta do," as he drawls in 'Million
Miles.'  But the label also spins backwards, until nothing on it can be
read.  In many incidents the music seem to come out of nowhere, the nowhere
that is both the present and the future of the country where the story
Dylan is telling takes place.  "Maybe in the next life," Dylan says
elsewhere in 'Million Miles, ' "I'll be able to hear myself think."  Over
and over, with resignation and sly, twisting humor, with the flair of a
Georgia string band or the dead eyes of a gravedigger, the tale-teller
poses the same question, sometimes almost smiling when he asks "if
everything is as hollow as it seems."

        So often, listening to the songs on TOOM is like watching people
pass through revolving doors: the ambiance is that abstract and vague and
untouchable.  You have as much right to expect someone to reappear as
quickly as she vanished as to expect never to see her again.  That's how it
in the central incident in 'Highlands, ' where a man walks into a
restaurant, empty except for a waitress. They banter, almost flirt, and in
an instant--an instant of fatigue, of boredom, of his or her memory of too
many instants just like it, any of that or just a single word uttered with
an edge it shouldn't carry--the mood dies.  The room, the city outside, the
nation around it, its entire history and all of the pieces of music and
dramatic scenes that so quietly enter and depart from this one--'One Meat
Ball', Skip James' 1931 'Hard Times Killing Floor Blues', Jack Nicholson's
diner dialogue in 'Five Easy Pieces,' Dylan's own 'Desolation Row' cut down
by Robert Burns' half-original folk song 'Farewell to the Highlands'--all
of that, from song to nation, turns hostile and cold.  For a moment the
waitress turns her back and the air in the restaurant is now so mean you're
relieved as the singer when he quietly slips out of his chair. You can feel
yourself tensing your muscles as he tenses his.  Yet the singer barely has
to go out the door, or the song down its Boston street, for you to imagine
that this might have been the last conversation the tale-teller ever
had--or, in Boston, on the ground where his nation began, the last
conversation that could even begin to suggest the possibility of a story
that hadn't been told before.

        That is what is new in TOOM, and in the country it traces as if it
were a map you can read once and then throw away, because you won't be able
to forget it whether you want to or not.  Though crafted out of fragments
and phrases and riffs far older than anyone living, bits of folk languages
that joke and snarl as if for the first time, this is a picture of a country
that has used itself up, and the peculiar thrill of TOOM is in its
completeness, its absolute refusal to doubt itself.

        This new story does not come out of nowhere, or at the least it is
not quite a solitary voice in the wilderness.  The same cynical, damaged,
sardonic, absolutely certain acceptance of one's own nihilism has been all
over Bill Pullman's face in the last few years, in 'The Last Seduction, '
'Malice, ' 'Lost Highway,' in Wim Wenders recent 'The End of Violence'--for
just as TOOM is an end-of-the-American-century record, closing with a
fantasy of a retreat to the Scottish highlands, to the border country where
the oldest ballads first came to life, Bill Pullman, in these films, is the
ultimate end-of-the-American-century man.  His face may have the cast of
knowledge as a movie begins, or it may take most of a movie for the sheen
of unsurprise to settle over his features.  He may walk with the looseness
of the already dead, as in 'The Last Seduction, ' or shatter before your
eyes, as in 'Lost Highway,'--regardless, as in 'The End of Violence' and as
with the narrator in TOOM, the fact that in some essential way the story he
has to tell ended before he even took the stage only increases his

        In 'The End of Violence,' Pullman is a movie producer whose life,
not unlike that of Preston Sturges' director John L. Sullivan (played by
All-American boy Joel McCrea) is turned upside down.  We first see him in
his aeries looking down over all of Los Angeles, surrounded by computers
and cell phones, soon he is dressed in rotting clothes, part of a crew of
Spanish-speaking gardeners, hefting his leaf-blower, moving invisibly
through the perfectly groomed estates where, only days before, he looked
past his own gardeners as a lord. With an old baseball cap on his head, his
eyes squint against the sun; weirdly, they also squint inwardly, as if it's
only with a squint that he can bear to look at himself.  Unseen by everyone
else, a drifter, unshaven and penniless, he misses nothing, but the more he
understands, the less need he has to say anything to anyone.  Who would

        Blowing his harmonica through passages in 'Tryin' to Get To
Heaven, ' until the song builds on itself like a folk version of the
Ronettes'  'Be My Baby, ' it's not a question Bob Dylan has to ask himself.
Though most often spoken of today as a figure from the past, as someone now
marginalized along the dimmer borders of the pop world, Dylan might well
answer that when the music is as uncompromised as it is on TOOM, it's the
old songs and the people in them that listen, the dead streets of his
songs, as depopulated, somehow, as the streets of his 1963 'Talkin' World
War II Blues', will have to take care of themselves.  And Dylan may be far
less marginalized than he seems, he may be less of a crank, or a pop
outsider, than an embodiment of the sort of cultural memory he plays with
in TOOM.  Last May, in the college town of Iowa City, on the Dubuque mall,
a soul band set up its amplifiers, and soon a woman was belting Chaka Khan
imitations, driving the afternoon street singers into the corners, there
their acoustic-guitar-and-harmonic renditions of Prince's 'Purple Rain' and
the Replacement's 'I Will Dare,' could barely be heard.  As the night came
on the crowds got younger, the basement bars noisier, the street singers
more numerous--by 10, there was one every 20 feet or so, each looking
equally bereft and ignored, each with a girlfriend in idolizing
attendance--and the repertoire more ambitious: 'These Foolish Things,' 'You
Belong to Me,' the old folk song 'Railroad Bill,' something that must have
been by Phil Ochs, the Rolling Stones' 'Singer Not the Song.'  Every singer
seemed to want nothing more than to sound like Bob Dylan, and in his own
way, every one did.

Mark Grissom
Berkeley, CA

Subject: news report on Dylan's visit to memphis... From: Christine Consolvo ( Date: Mon, 27 Oct 1997 01:31:05 GMT The Commercial Appeal 25 October 1997 by John Beifuss DYLAN SLIPS INTO NEW DAISY, MAKES 'TIME' VIDEO Bob Dylan - arguably the most important figure in rock music since Elvis Presley - taped two music videos during secret sessions in Memphis this week to promote _Time Out of Mind,_ the critically acclaimed new release that returned the singer to the Top Ten of the album charts for the first time since 1979. The quickly orchestrated video shoot occurred Thursday on the stage of the New Daisy Theatre at 330 Beale, where Dylan and his band had been rehearsing - also in secret - since Monday for their upcoming tour of small, mostly college venues in the South. The tour kicked off Friday night in Starkville, Miss., and moves to Jackson, Miss. tonight. "Hey, the guy's an international legend," said Mike Glen, New Daisy manager/owner. "It's a very unique situation to have an individual like that in your place." The decision to shoot the music videos was somewhat surprising for Dylan, 56, who is notoriously wary of publicity and had all but abandoned that form of promotion after his 1983 album, _Infidels_. The new album, however, is not only selling better than any Dylan record since _Slow Train Coming_ in 1979, it has been hailed as his best since _Blood On the Tracks_ in 1973 (sic), landing the artist on the cover of the Oct. 6 Newsweek, with the headline, "Dylan Lives." Dylan seemed amiable and comfortable during the grueling, hours-long video shoot, even when lip-syncing the song Love Sick in a performance setting while 24-year-old Memphis model Rachel DiPaolo - clad only in a black bra and panties - pantomimed petulance in the upstairs window of the building facade at the back of the New Daisy stage. During one sequence, Dylan even danced with DiPaolo in the windows, in a scene apparently inspired by a song lyric that states, "I see silhouettes in the window." Footage also was shot for a video to accompany the song Not Dark Yet, for which Dylan traded his short-sleeve white shirt and white hat for garb reminiscent of a riverboat gambler's. The front doors of the New Daisy were kept locked and covered with black paper during the sessions - precautions hardly necessary for most of the week, since few were aware Dylan was in town. "They wanted super-confidentiality on this," said Linn Sitler, executive director of the Memphis and Shelby County Film, Tape and Music Commission, which helped coordinate the logistics of the shoot with Joanne Gardner, a Columbia Records vice president who had worked in Memphis before while a Nashville-based music video producer. "Even on the telephone setting it up, they didn't want to use the name 'Bob Dylan,' " Sitler said. "They kept referring to him as 'the artist.' " The New Daisy was recommended as a rehearsal site for Dylan by representatives of Mid-South Concerts, who booked Dylan's Jackson performance. A crew of about 25 people from Memphis and Nashville worked on the videos. Dylan has long been a fan of the Memphis region, where much of the blues and folk music he loves originated. "He was really into talking about Memphis and the Delta," said Memphis author Robert Gordon, who worked on the video production. "He definitely is a student of the music." Gordon said he was introduced to Dylan by the singer's bass player, Tony Garnier, who was familiar with Gordon's book, _It Came From Memphis_, a history of the local music underground. Dylan, it turned out, was a fan of the book as well. "We ended up talking a lot about old blues footage on video," Gordon said. "Dylan recommended a Howlin' Wolf video from Germany during the 1960's that he said was really great." Also, from the Sun Studio gift shop on Wednesday, Dylan bought a poster reproduction advertising an Oct. 24, 1964, "Battle of the Bands" between Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters at Club Paradise in Memphis, said Mark Bell, studio general manager. "A lot of the guys in the music business, they realize the importance of this place, so they come by and visit," Bell said. Mid-South-based producer and musician Jim Dickinson, who performed with Dylan on the Time Out of Mind recording sessions in Miami, said Dylan "talked about Memphis and Mississippi the whole time," which gives a clue as to why the album has a bluesy, Delta feel. Dickinson said one song that was cut that didn't make the album featured a chorus that went, "Been in Mississippi a day too long." Video footage of Dylan also was shot this week at several on-the-street locations in Memphis, including one scene at the Corned Beef House on Jackson. Given the nature of the music business, however, it's uncertain when, if or in what form the music videos, directed by Michael Borofsky, will be shown. Glenn said he had special reason to appreciate Dylan's visit: His 10-year-old son, Mikey, who is a budding guitarist, got to meet the music legend. "The first song he learned was Blowin' in the Wind," Glenn said. "So he actually got to learn the song this year and then meet the originator of it."

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