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Monday, December 15, 2008

Galileo's math book

Listening again to the I'm Not There soundtrack, I realised that the reason I can stand hearing it is the same reason that there exists a book of Bob Dylan's lyrics, published as poetry. The soundtrack consists of a large number of Dylan songs sung by other artists, sometimes in a style quite different from his original recordings. Normally I can't stand such "remakes" of any music, but with Dylan I don't mind so much. This, I realised, is because his songs are more about the lyrics than the music, so it doesn't really matter who sings them - or whether they're sung at all, or just existing as printed words.

On a related note, one of the many special things about his music is that all his characters have names (or at least precise descriptors) - Johanna, Ruby, the hysterical bride, the blind Commissioner, Cinderella, Shakespeare, Henry Porter, the loser in the gambling room, Saint Catherine, Louise, Delilah - yes, and Galileo. When did you last hear a modern love song that wasn't just about the imprecision of "you", "me", "her"? In Dylan's songs, people really exist.

Every time I get out the soundtrack it's because I want to hear either When The Ship Comes In or Cold Irons Bound. Then I play through both discs, notice the painful absence of Desolation Row, and have to get out Highway 61 Revisited again. Then I get reminded of Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again (they could be the same song recorded in two parts, the meters are identical) and go looking for Blonde On Blonde. Some hours later, lost deep in my Dylan record collection, I realise the chances of getting three hours to myself to watch the movie again are quite slim, get sad, and have to replay the soundtrack.

I conclude that Dylan is like broadband. The more you get, the more you need. I need Time Out of Mind, Knocked Out Loaded, Down In The Groove, and his self-titled first album, which seems to be as rare as any popular album that's quite difficult to find.

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