Prince – “Chaos and Disorder” (1996)

September 15, 2008 at 6:45 pm (Prince, Reviews & Articles)




Written November 2, 2002…

This is one of Prince’s most underrated albums in my opinion. Not only is it unheard by most people (except diehard Prince fans such as myself) but even Prince had little to do with it, as it was a contractual filler album, so that he could get out of his contract with Warner Bros (there are some unsubtle and obscure “clues” in the packaging – plus Prince states that the music was “originally intended 4 private use only”).

This was released during his controversial “symbol” name days (walking around with “Slave” written across his cheek). It was not a good time to be a Prince fan, having to defend his calling himself by an unpronounceable symbol. He claimed his name-change was due to spiritual matters. To most of us, it just seemed to be an unsubtle way to get out of his contract, by declaring that Prince was “dead.”
Regardless, he still made some brilliant music around this time. The year before, he had released his masterful The Gold Experience album and this was the “follow-up,” although in reality, the 3-cd Emancipation which was released only a few months after this, was the true follow-up – although it was really the start of a new era (basically he went underground, where he [unfortunately?] remains to this day).
I love this album for many reasons – one being that it is more rock-oriented than usual (although The Gold Experience also had a lot of rock-based compositions). It also is the closest that Prince has ever come to a blues-based sound. The opening title track is a heavy rock ‘n’ roll gem, featuring alot of Prince’s fantastic guitar playing, heavy drums & some record scratching. Prince sounds angry in the lyrics & in his singing. It ends with the sound of a heartbeat. An extremely underrated song. “I Like it There” continues in the heavy rock direction, featuring a blistering guitar solo. It has a great jamming feel to it. It ends with what sounds like a Chinese gong.
The album slows down with “Dinner With Dolores” which features some hysterical lyrics. It was the almost-single from the album. I remember seeing Prince on (I believe) “The Tonight Show” performing this song at the time.
“The Same December” returns to a more rock-oriented direction, with heavy guitar & a middle passage that is closer to the blues than Prince usually strays.
“Right the Wrong” starts off with a strange but effective spoken passage, which for some unexplainable reason reminds me a little of Elvis in his Tony Joe White-“Polk Salad Annie” period. There are some strange things going on with this album. Certain sounds & feelings that I don’t recall Prince ever experimenting with before or after. This song does contain Prince’s trademark squeal though, which is a brief reminder of his earlier self. “Zannalee” starts off with some Hendrixesque guitar playing, before evolving into another blues-based, funky little groove.
“I Rock, Therefore I Am” is ironically the closest to pure funk he gets on the album, despite some heavy guitar mixed throughout the song. It also features some reggae toasting (courtesy of Steppa Ranks) which is brief but enjoyable. I am not too fond of the rapping section (featuring someone named Scrap D.). It is, in my opinion, the only part of the song, that could have been edited out. If it had, the song would be perfect. I would actually have preferred to hear Prince rapping instead. He may not be a great rapper but since he doesn’t try to sound “authentic” he sounds more enjoyable. Then the song goes into some brief guitar & synth passages before fading out. Then comes the ballad “Into the Light” which I find more enjoyable than some of Prince’s later ballads. It keeps from sounding too wimpy, due to some more of his wonderful heavy guitar playing & some bursts of horn by the NPG Hornz. A true delight. Although just when it gets into a serious guitar & horn jam, it cuts out abruptly & segues directly into “I Will,” another fine ballad, featuring the impressive Rosie Gaines. I miss her singing on Prince’s more recent albums. Her soulful voice was always a nice addition to his sound.
Next, is the strange but extremely funky (not to mention catchy) “Dig U Better Dead.” It reminds me a little of Sly Stone but I’m not sure why. Not quite sure what it’s about but seems to concern God & death. A strange song but I love it.
The final song is a short (and even stranger) piece called “Had U.” Features some angry kiss-off lyrics. It lasts about a minute and a half & then fades out. A strange but effective ending to a very underrated but extremely enjoyable album in the Prince oeuvre.
Anyone who hasn’t heard this album but has liked Prince’s stuff in the past, should definitely check it out. It isn’t as innovative or mind-blowing as obvious masterpieces, such as Purple Rain or Sign O’ the Times. It’s more of a spontaneous creation. But it is this more laid-back jamming vibe that makes it so damn enjoyable. I would hate to think that because of Prince’s weirdness, a lot of old fans may have jumped off the ship and that it also may have stopped any new ones from jumping on. But it is definitely an album that deserves a reassessment. 

Jay Mucci 

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Jim Carroll – “Dry Dreams” (1982)

September 15, 2008 at 6:42 pm (Jim Carroll, Poetry & Literature)

Each night, they surround me
With the lights and the microphones . . .
With their bodies and the mile of cable
Like a magic ring of bone

Every night I have the same dream:
A man behind the door
With a tattooed erection
And no reflection
And his eyes like a Chinese whore . . .

Every night I have the same dream

The madonnas at the crossroads,
Dressed like future spies
They shine their lips with android sperm
And the riviera skies . . .

But every night I have the same dream
It’s a vision of the dead . . . the way
They stare into space
And never see a human face.
But just the back of their own heads

Every night I have the same dream

Earth, water, wind and flame
The designers of my fate . . .
Every night they come to me
Release me with their weight . . .

Every night I have the same dream
A dome upon the shore
Where some method actors
Bomb the big reactor
And it melts right through the core

Every night I have the same dream

Each night, they surround me
With the lights and the microphones . . .

With their bodies and the miles of cable
Like a magic ring of bone

Every night I have the same dream
White crows in an empty sky
When I call they descend, the young trees bend
And the dream is always dry . . .

Every night I have the same dream.

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Robert Hunter – “St. Stephen” (1969)

September 15, 2008 at 6:42 pm (Poetry & Literature, The Grateful Dead)

Saint Stephen with a rose
In and out of the garden he goes
Country garland in the wind and the rain 
Wherever he goes the people all complain

Stephen prosper in his time
Well he may, and he may decline
Did it matter, does it now?
Stephen would answer if he only knew how

Wishing well with a golden bell
Bucket hanging clear to hell
Hell half way twixt now and then
Stephen fill it up and lower down, and lower down again

Lady finger, dipped in moonlight
Writing “What for?” across the morning sky
Sunlight splatters dawn with answers
Darkness shrugs and bids the day goodbye

Speeding arrow, sharp and narrow
What a lot of fleeting matters you have spurned
Several seasons with their treasons
Wrap the babe in scarlet colours, call it your own

Did he doubt or did he try?
Answers a-plenty in the by and by
Talk about your plenty, talk about your ills
One man gathers what another man spills 

Saint Stephen will remain
All he’s lost he shall regain
Seashore washed by the suds and the foam
Been here so long he’s got to calling it home

Fortune comes a-crawling, Calliope woman
Spinning that curious sense of your own
Can you answer? Yes I can
But what would be the answer to the answer man?

High green chilly winds and windy vines in loops 
Around the twined shafts of lavender
They’re crawling to the sun

Underfoot the ground is patched
With climbing arms of ivy wrapped
Around the manzanita stark and shiny in the breeze

Wonder who will water all the children of the garden
When they sigh about the barren lack
Of rain and droop so hungry ‘neath the sky

William Tell has stretched his bow
Till it won’t stretch no furthermore
And/or it will require a change that hasn’t come before.

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Leonard Cohen – “S.O.S.” (1999)

September 15, 2008 at 6:10 pm (Leonard Cohen, Poetry & Literature)

Take a long time with your anger,
sleepy head
Don’t waste it in riots
Don’t tangle it with ideas
The Devil won’t let me speak,
will only let me hint
that you are a slave,
your misery a deliberate policy
of those in whose thrall you suffer,
and who are sustained
by your misfortune
The atrocities over there,
the interior paralysis over here–
Pleased with the better deal?
You are clamped down
You are being bred for pain
The Devil ties my tongue
I’m speaking to you,
‘friend of my scribbled life’
You have been conquered by those
who know how to conquer invisibly
The curtains move so beautifully,
lace curtains of some
sweet old intrigue:
the Devil tempting me
to turn away from alarming you
So I must say it quickly
Whoever is in your life,
those who harm you,
those who help you;
those whom you know
and those whom you do not know —
let them off the hook,
help them off the hook
Recognize the hook
You are listening to Radio Resistance.

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Bob Dylan – “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie” (1963)

September 15, 2008 at 5:52 pm (Bob Dylan, Poetry & Literature)

When your head gets twisted and your mind grows numb
When you think you’re too old, too young, too smart or too dumb
When you’re laggin’ behind an’ losin’ your pace
In the slow-motion crawl or life’s busy race
No matter whatcha doin’ if you start givin’ up
If the wine don’t come to the top of your cup
If the wind got you sideways it’s one hand holdin’ on
And the other starts slippin’ and the feelin’ is gone
And your train engine fire needs a new spark to catch it
And the wood’s easy findin’ but you’re lazy to fetch it
And your sidewalk starts curlin’ and the street gets too long
And you start walkin’ backwards though you know that it’s wrong
And lonesome comes up as down goes the day
And tomorrow’s mornin’ seems so far away
And you feel the reins from your pony are slippin’
And your rope is a-slidin’ ’cause your hands are a-drippin’
And your sun-decked desert and evergreen valleys
Turn to broken down slums and trash-can alleys
And your sky cries water and your drain pipe’s a-pourin’
And the lightnin’s a-flashin’ and the thunder’s a-crashin’
The windows are rattlin’ and breakin’ and the roof tops are shakin’
And your whole world’s a-slammin’ and bangin’
And your minutes of sun turn to hours of storm
An’ to yourself you sometimes say
“I never knew it was gonna be this way
Why didn’t they tell me the day I was born?” And you start gettin’ chills and you’re jumpin’ from sweat
And you’re lookin’ for somethin’ you ain’t quite found yet
And you’re knee-deep in dark water with your hands in the air
And the whole world’s watchin’ with a window peek stare
And your good gal leaves and she’s long gone a-flyin’
And your heart feels sick like fish when they’re fryin’
And your jackhammer falls from your hands to your feet
But you need it badly an’ it lays on the street
And your bell’s bangin’ loudly but you can’t hear its beat
And you think your ears mighta been hurt
Your eyes’ve turned filthy from the sight-blindin’ dirt
And you figured you failed in yesterday’s rush
When you were faked out an’ fooled while facin’ a four flush
And all the time you were holdin’ three queens
It’s makin you mad, it’s makin’ you mean
Like in the middle of Life magazine
Bouncin’ around a pinball machine
And there’s something on your mind that you wanna be sayin’
That somebody someplace oughta be hearin’
But it’s trapped on your tongue, sealed in your head
And it bothers you badly when your layin’ in bed
And no matter how you try you just can’t say it
And you’re scared to your soul you just might forget it
And your eyes get swimmy from the tears in your head
An’ your pillows of feathers turn to blankets of lead
And the lion’s mouth opens and you’re starin’ at his teeth
And his jaws start closin’ with you underneath
And you’re flat on your belly with your hands tied behind
And you wish you’d never taken that last detour sign
You say to yourself just what am I doin’
On this road I’m walkin’, on this trail I’m turnin’
On this curve I’m hangin’
On this pathway I’m strollin’, this space I’m taking
And this air I’m inhaling?
Am I mixed up too much, am I mixed up too hard
Why am I walking, where am I running
What am I saying, what am I knowing
On this guitar I’m playing, on this banjo I’m frailing
On this mandolin I’m strumming, in the song I’m singing,
In the tune I’m humming, in the words that I’m thinking
In the words I’m writing
In this ocean of hours I’m all the time drinking
Who am I helping, what am I breaking
What am I giving, what am I taking?
But you try with your whole soul best
Never to think these thoughts and never to let
Them kind of thoughts gain ground
Or make your heart pound
But then again you know when they’re around
Just waiting for a chance to slip and drop down
‘Cause sometimes you hear ’em when the night time come creeping
And you fear they might catch you sleeping
And you jump from your bed, from the last chapter of dreamin’
And you can’t remember for the best of your thinkin’
If that was you in the dream that was screaming
And you know that’s somethin’ special you’re needin’
And you know there’s no drug that’ll do for the healing
And no liquor in the land to stop your brain from bleeding You need somethin’ special
You need somethin’ special, all right
You need a fast flyin’ train on a tornado track
To shoot you someplace and shoot you back
You need a cyclone wind on a stream engine howler
That’s been banging and booming and blowing forever
That knows your troubles a hundred times over
You need a Greyhound bus that don’t bar no race
That won’t laugh at your looks
Your voice or your face
And by any number of bets in the book
Will be rolling long after the bubblegum craze
You need something to open up a new door
To show you something you seen before
But overlooked a hundred times or more
You need something to open your eyes
You need something to make it known
That it’s you and no one else that owns
That spot that you’re standing, that space that you’re sitting
That the world ain’t got you beat
That it ain’t got you licked
It can’t get you crazy no matter how many times you might get kicked
You need something special, all right
You need something special to give you hope
But hope’s just a word
That maybe you said, maybe you heard
On some windy corner ’round a wide-angled curve But that’s what you need man, and you need it bad
And your trouble is you know it too good
‘Cause you look an’ you start gettin’ the chills
‘Cause you can’t find it on a dollar bill
And it ain’t on Macy’s window sill
And it ain’t on no rich kid’s road map
And it ain’t in no fat kid’s fraternity house
And it ain’t made in no Hollywood wheat germ
And it ain’t on that dim-lit stage
With that half-wit comedian on it
Rantin’ and ravin’ and takin’ your money
And you thinks it’s funny
No, you can’t find it neither in no night club, no yacht club
And it ain’t in the seats of a supper club
And sure as hell you’re bound to tell
No matter how hard you rub
You just ain’t a-gonna find it on your ticket stub
No, it ain’t in the rumors people’re tellin’ you
And it ain’t in the pimple-lotion people are sellin’ you
And it ain’t in a cardboard-box house
Or down any movie star’s blouse
And you can’t find it on the golf course
And Uncle Remus can’t tell you and neither can Santa Claus
And it ain’t in the cream puff hairdo or cotton candy clothes
Ain’t in the dime store dummies an’ bubblegum goons
And it ain’t in the marshmallow noises of the chocolate cake voices
That come knocking and tapping in Christmas wrapping
Sayin’ ain’t I pretty and ain’t I cute, look at my skin,
Look at my skin shine, look at my skin glow,
Look at my skin laugh, look at my skin cry,
When you can’t even sense if they got any insides
These people so pretty in their ribbons and bows
No, you’ll not now or no other day
Find it on the doorsteps made of paper maché
And inside of the people made of molasses
That every other day buy a new pair of sunglasses
And it ain’t in the fifty-star generals and flipped-out phonies
Who’d turn you in for a tenth of a penny
Who breathe and burp and bend and crack
And before you can count from one to ten
Do it all over again but this time behind your back, my friend,
The ones that wheel and deal and whirl and twirl
And play games with each other in their sand-box world
And you can’t find it either in the no-talent fools
That run around gallant
And make all the rules for the ones that got talent
And it ain’t in the ones that ain’t got any talent but think they do
And think they’re fooling you
The ones that jump on the wagon
Just for a while ’cause they know it’s in style
To get their kicks, get out of it quick
And make all kinds of rnoney and chicks
And you yell to yourself and you throw down your hat
Saying, “Christ, do I gotta be like that?
Ain’t there no one here that knows where I’m at
Ain’t there no one here that knows how I feel
Good God Almighty, that stuff ain’t real”: No, but that ain’t your game, it ain’t your race
You can’t hear your name, you can’t see your face
You gotta look some other place
And where do you look for this hope that you’re seekin’
Where do you look for this lamp that’s a-burnin’
Where do you look for this oil well gushin’
Where do you look for this candle that’s glowin’
Where do you look for this hope that you know is there
And out there somewhere
And your feet can only walk down two kinds of roads
Your eyes can only look through two kinds of windows
Your nose can only smell two kinds of hallways
You can touch and twist
And turn two kinds of doorknobs
You can either go to the church of your choice
Or you go to Brooklyn State Hospital You find God in the church of your choice
You find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital
And though it’s only my opinion
I may be right or wrong
You’ll find them both
In Grand Canyon

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The Beach Boys – “On Broadway” (Unreleased – 1977)

September 15, 2008 at 5:51 pm (Music, The Beach Boys)

More from the aborted album Adult/Child, this cover of The Drifters’ classic song.

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Bob Dylan – “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (1965)

September 15, 2008 at 5:43 pm (Bob Dylan, Poetry & Literature)

Johnny’s in the basement
Mixing up the medicine
I’m on the pavement
Thinking about the government
The man in the trench coat
Badge out, laid off
Says he’s got a bad cough
Wants to get it paid off
Look out kid
It’s somethin’ you did
God knows when
But you’re doin’ it again
You better duck down the alley way
Lookin’ for a new friend
The man in the coon-skin cap
In the big pen
Wants eleven dollar bills
You only got ten

Maggie comes fleet foot
Face full of black soot
Talkin’ that the heat put
Plants in the bed but
The phone’s tapped anyway
Maggie says that many say
They must bust in early May
Orders from the D. A.
Look out kid
Don’t matter what you did
Walk on your tip toes
Don’t try “No Doz”
Better stay away from those
That carry around a fire hose
Keep a clean nose
Watch the plain clothes
You don’t need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows

Get sick, get well
Hang around a ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin’ to sell
Try hard, get barred
Get back, write braille
Get jailed, jump bail
Join the army, if you fail
Look out kid
You’re gonna get hit
But users, cheaters
Six-time losers
Hang around the theaters
Girl by the whirlpool
Lookin’ for a new fool
Don’t follow leaders
Watch the parkin’ meters

Ah get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don’t steal, don’t lift
Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don’t wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don’t wanna be a bum
You better chew gum
The pump don’t work
‘Cause the vandals took the handles.

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Gil Scott-Heron – “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (1970)

September 15, 2008 at 1:24 pm (Poetry & Literature)

You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary

The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts
The revolution will not be televised

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised

There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth
The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be right back
after a message about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl
The revolution will not go better with Coke
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

Gil Scott-Heron

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Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” (Live – 1978)

September 15, 2008 at 12:45 pm (Bruce Springsteen, Music)

NOTE: Please double click on video for it to start playing.

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Jonathan Cott – “Bob Dylan in the Alley” (1971)

September 15, 2008 at 12:37 pm (Bob Dylan, Reviews & Articles)

Written for Rolling Stone issue #77 – March 4, 1971. He talks about Dylan’s concert film Eat the Document

It was an early evening rain, night comin’ in a-fallin’, and merely on the basis of short advance announcements in Rolling Stone, the Village Voice, and on Howard Smith’s FM radio show, a couple of thousand persons showed up at the Academy of Music on February 8th to catch Dylan’s one-hour color film Eat the Document, shown twice at 7:00 and 9:00 with proceeds going to a Pike County citizen’s group which has been set up to stop strip mining in the South.
Jerry Rubin and Gordon Lightfoot where there. A. J. Weberman (“name me someone that’s not a parasite and I’ll go out and say a prayer for him”), so-called Minister of Defense of the so-called Dylan Liberation Front was standing under the marquee wearing his FREE BOB DYLAN button and passing out a leaflet which concluded “The movie you are about to see is about the old Dylan — a beautiful right-on dude who sang the truth and gave a lot of his bread to SNCC, but the new Dylan, the post-accident Dylan, is a stoned Pig.”
The Academy of Music, with its cavernous dome and its karmic memories of the Chords and the Valentines, early Fifties rock and roll shows rubbed and ingrained into the seats, was the perfect setting for this revisitation of old Dylan lovers hoping to retrieve their fantasies of their hero who used to “meet on edges.” And there everyone was with that “restless hungry feeling,” waiting for some miracle, so called Dylan Liberation Front members in the front rows, confusion boats, kneeling blood hounds, mutiny from stem to bow — all of Dylan’s images coming home to roost.
The Band’s manager, John Taplin, who organized the screening, had announced we were going to see a work print. The first images of the film came on the screen, out of focus, no sound, and it was positively 14th Street. “Fix it, you bastards!” some shouted. Other friendly voices screamed: “Get the shit together”; “I see why ABC didn’t buy this piece of shit”; “Let’s see him shoot up!” Someone behind me was talking about buying the $2 pirate edition of Dylan’s “liberated” novel Tarantula. A revolution in the Academy of Music.
The projector focused and started again, and on came a very special film conveying the sense of a private diary, both the subject and its filmic embodiment being that of a true night journey through mad, disjointed landscapes, a magic swirling ship of jump-cuts, “ready for to fade.” Dylan said: “We cut it fast on the eye.”
The quasi-methedrine logic of Eat the Document suggests a self-consciously disintegrating structure, an anti-documentary that uses the star image in order to de-mystify and decompose it. Thus Dylan’s presence is undermined for any easy identification by means of juxtaposing images from Australia with say a scene in an English train. Needless to say the film’s structure corresponds to what Dylan must have experienced on this mixed up confusion tour.
Using footage taken mainly by Donn Pennebaker (Don’t Look Back) during Dylan’s 1966 world tour with the Band both Dylan and editor friend Howard Alk retired to Woodstock and shortly after Dylan ‘s motorcycle accident, using editing ideas as their map they constructed a film that suggests the works of Man Ray, Ron Rice and William Burroughs with its insistence on perceiving a multitude of concrete details and elliptical progressions. What one remembers are silhouetted figures, a beautiful, almost androgynous Dylan with cigarette and shades, police dogs brutalizing a man in a bagpipe parade, a man wearing a sandwich board reading “It is appointed unto men once to die.” Dylan reading a paper in bed, a man in a war helmet, a cemetery, dogs on leashes, girls’ faces, fans commenting on Dylan’s music outside Royal Albert Hall (“It was rubbish”; “He was great, better than Presley”) and above all the repeating images of travel — a train steaming and whistling across country, scores of cars with their one too many windows which one is always looking through. And in on scene, which epitomizes the sense the film gives of one’s watching postcards of the hanging, the camera pans over people’s hands as they drunkenly pass plates across a Last Supper length table, and suddenly at the table’s corner is Dylan in shades, shrouded in a private world, looking abstractedly and wanly to the, side.
The soundtrack presents dream-like fragments of speech: “Have you ever heard of me?…I heard you booing…I can ‘t believe that everyone makes it so difficult…I’m sorry for everything I’ve done.” “Are you ever yourself at any time?” someone questions him, and Dylan shrugs “Why are you here?” another reporter asks to which Dylan says: “I take orders from someone on the telephone, but I never see him. He calls up and just tells me where to go.” And we’re back on the Nova Express.
The film’s fantastic music is cut off sometimes returning in similar elliptical fashion. The audience at the Academy of Music booed when those amazing Liverpool versions featuring Dylan and the Band playing “Like a Rolling Stone,” “One Too Many Mornings” and “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” were broken off abruptly. Other performances are briefly shown as well: “Tell Me Mama” and “Mr Jones” with the Band at Albert Hall, three beautiful acoustic numbers by Dylan accompanied by Robbie Robertson, Johnny Cash and Dylan singing “I Still Miss Someone.” But most of the people at the Academy of Music wanted to see a 1966 Dylan concert and not, what is equally powerful, Dylan’s particular filmic perceptions.
Most of these numbers, as well as the short fragments showing John Lennon and Dylan zonked out in the back of a car are small scenes taken from longer rushes that Donn Pennebaker has been working on in “documentary” style, in a wonderful, still unfinished and unreleased film. Both Dylan’s and Pennebaker’s films go well together.
“I shot most of the film,” Pennebaker says, “but it was pretty much Dylan directing what went on. And editing is all Dylan’s. Dylan wanted Eat the Document to show what TV never does, to snap people’s head a bit. It’s Dylan’s logic. And it’s a little like a mystery tour, really an extraordinary event. To worry about whether it’s good or bad is ridiculous. I find the film arresting, and I’m knocked out that he did it. Unlike my film which I’m making in order to see a kind of record preserved, Dylan’s film is complete. If someone had bought Tarantula and made a film of it that would be one thing. But in Eat the Document, Dylan is making you see things with his own funky kind of sense.”
At the beginning of the showing at the Academy of Music, Taplin announced that the film was “a little too freaky for ABC at that time, and they rejected it.”
“That’s a lie,” said Hubbell Robinson, who was executive producer for ABC’s Stage 67, the 90-minute program to which Eat the Document was originally contracted. “We didn’t know what we had,” Robinson recalled, “because when we saw the film in the fall of ’66 it wasn’t yet edited. By that time we had to make other programming commitments to producers for the spring of ’67 and Dylan didn’t know what the film would be and when it would be finished. But we were definitely interested in the film.”
There’s a possibility that Eat the Document will be distributed in the future. When it is released all the Mr. Joneses, whether they’re 14 or 64, will be wondering why Dylan didn’t just make a normal TV “music” film which anyone else could have made, when in fact Eat the Document is a near visual equivalent of some of the songs Dylan was singing on Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde.

Jonathan Cott

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