Music as Community, Community as Change (aka It’s All Write Ma — Zoomin’ Zimmy) by Gerry Fialka
Music as Community, Community as Change (aka It’s All Write Ma — Zoomin’ Zimmy) by Gerry Fialka
Local musicians and artists celebrate Bob Dylan on Sat, May 21, 2022 from 2 to 3:330pm online Zoom, rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org for link. https://www.facebook.com/events/284002937025460 But this essay is really about how the Venice community nourishes change through the paradoxical exuberance of music. Harmony & love is our collective commonality. We salute’em all including Billy’s MUSIC BOX, Michael & Rae’s RADIO VENICE, Mews Small & Brad Kay’s UNURBAN SUNDAYS, Peter L.O.V.E = LEGEND OF VENICE ETERNAL holding court on the BOARDWALK for decades, Starla’s MELODIUS HEAVEN, VINNIE & MATT’s DULCET DUO on Westminster Avenue. And all the Boardwalk performers! Jimi Hendrix hung out in Venice. He declared: “Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.” And Bob Dylan yelps, “I miss him.” Jimi was prolific with words and guitar. We know how Jimi reinvented “All Along the Watchtower.” Be sure to dig out Jimi’s amazing transformation of Dylan’s “Drifter’s Escape.” Author David Stubbs notes that Hendrix’ guitar provides “a chorus of ‘amens’ and ‘hallelujahs’ throughout the song.”
This evokes another Dylan hero, Woody Guthrie, who nailed it: “There never was a sound that was not music — there’s no real trick of creating words to set to music — once you realize that the word is the music and the people are the song.”
Our annual Dylan celebration gathers people to nurture the healing power of music and community. Wez TANGLED Up in EVERYawareNESS. Mary Beth has told us about meeting Bob on a street corner and talking his favorite literature from Oscar Wilde to Joseph Conrad. Steve told about driving Dylan to the Valley to pick up a guitar and his wild discussion about Patti Labelle. Watch a clip on Youtube by Pam Volpe — her fine video from Beyond Baroque of “Suzy Sings” “Tonight I’ll be Staying Here With You.” Another epic memory was when Brad Kay sang Dylan as Noel Coward.
We probe how the troubadour Dylan shapes our behavior. Explore the hidden psyche effects of poetry & song. This year’s
“It’s All Write Ma” includes performances by Steven Moos & Stephanie Valdez, Jane Cantillon, Paul Zollo, BSP, Paulie Dee, Eric Ahlberg, Alex Soschin, Shep Stern & more (program subject to change). Dedicated to Ross Altman, and former Venice resident Bruce Langhorne, who is Mr. Tambourine Man. Bruce played guitar with Dylan between 1963 and 1973.
This event is not a wimpy-white-boy-whining sing-along. We evoke James Brown’s “I feel good, I knew that I would,” more than Dylan’s uncertainty “How does it feel?” We welcome new questions and new metaphors.
Let’s upcycle and transform Dylanisms:
“I don’t like propaganda in the theater unless it is disguised so brilliantly that the audience mistakes it for entertainment.”
When asked “Are you a poet?” Bob responded “I’m a trapeze artist.”
Bob says: “I didn’t create Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan has always been here.”
“Because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is.”
“When somebody is wearing a mask, he’s going to tell you the truth.”
Don Siegel’s 1958 film noir, The Lineup, written by Stirling Silliphant contains the line, “When you live outside the law, you have to eliminate dishonesty,” of which Jonathan Lethem writes that “Bob Dylan heard it…, cleaned it up a little, and inserted it into ‘Absolutely Sweet Marie’” (as “To live outside the law you must be honest.”). In fact, Dylan said he learned from the Bible that one should never tell anyone everything one knows.
We’ll connect the films and philosophies of Dylan with Marshall McLuhan and James Joyce. The mama multi-verse breaks open with Dylan’s 2009 lyric “I’m reading James Joyce.” Poet Michael McClure took McLuhan to his first rock concert (Dylan), where McLuhan yelped “Gravity is like acoustic space — the center is everywhere.” When asked about the 60’s, Bob answered, “Read McLuhan.”
In the LA Free Press-1965, Dylan was asked why he came to California. Bob: “To find some donkeys for a film I’m making.” LA Free Press: “Are you going to play yourself?” Bob: “No, I am gonna play my mother & we’re calling it Mother Revisited.” Uncover the hidden dimensions of music, literature and film frequencies by way of song and fiery discussion. Probe his autobiography Chronicles: Volume One, his poem/novel Tarantula, and the reasons why Dylan shelved both his feature film Renaldo & Clara, and his documentary Eat The Document.
Delve deep into his relationship with the avant-composer-filmmaker Frank Zappa (who was called “the Orson Welles of Rock” by NY Times) via the liner notes on Dylan’s John Wesley Harding (“Frank is the key”). Watch for the soon-to-be-released new experimental short film entitled “Frankie & Zimmy” by Germy Folkways and Tyler Bartram, whose Zappa tutorials are enlightening and fun https://www.youtube.com/user/ZombyWoof818
“Frankie & Zimmy” resonates with the same text as this very essay: “Frankie and Zimmy were jesters/gestures. Once upon a tune in the Laurel Canyons of your mind, in my lonely teenage zoom, I was playing on my Pixelvision camera in a semi-catatonic state and dreaming of TikToks that would irritate movie music executives. What have I wronged ? The Minnesota minstrel BOB DYLAN (Robert Allen Zimmerman) showed up unannounced at the Baltimore bard FRANK ZAPPA’s home studio — the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen on Dec 22, 1982. Bob played 11 songs on the piano. ‘Will you produce me?’ asked Zimmy . . .” Stay tuned for more.
Compare and contrast Dylan’s “If my thought-dreams could be seen” to the oft-quoted inquiry into the identification of the brain police. “Who are the brain police?” — FZ. Will Erokan’s Menippean satirical short I’m Not Beer caused Will’s music magazine publisher dad to retort “Don’t go messin’ with Bob Dylan.” Why? Why did Scorsese leave out important influences (alcohol, drugs, sex) in his much overly-praised Dylan documentary No Direction Home? That he not busy writing songs is busy filming, or at least lying 5 times in the Bobby-Marty Doc on the Rolling Thunder tour. Allen Ginsberg referred to it as a “con man carny medicine show.” Is Bob Dylan overrated?
Here’s a rare innerview:
Dylan: You gunna see the concert tonight?
Dylan: You gunna hear it?
Dylan: Okay your hear it, see it, and it’s gunna happen fast and you’re not gunna get it all, and you might even hear the wrong words. You know? And then afterwards.. See I’m.. I wont be able to talk to you afterwards, i’ve got nothing to say about these things I write, I mean I just write them, I’m not gunna say anything about them, I don’t write them for any reason, there’s no great message. If you wanna tell people that go ahead and tell them, but I’m not gunna have to answer to it. And there just gunna think “well what is this time magazine telling us.” But you couldn’t careless about that either, you don’t know the people that read you. . . .’Cause you know, I’ve never been in TIME Magazine, and yet this hall is filled twice, you know, Ive never been in time magazine, I don’t need time magazine and I don’t think I’m a folk singer, you’ll probably call me a folk singer but to the other people..no better, cause, you know, the people that buy my records and listen to me don’t necessarily read TIME Magazine. . . .You know the audience that subscribe to TIME Magazine, the audience of people that want to know what’s happening in the world week by week, the people that work during the day and can read it, its small, alright and it’s concise and there’s pictures in it, you know? It’s a certain class of people, it’s a class of people that take the magazine seriously, I mean sure I can read it, you know, I read it , I get it on the airplanes but I don’t take it seriously. If I want to find out anything, I’m not gunna read TIME magazine, I’m not gunna read Newsweek, I’m not gunna read any of these magazines, I mean cause they just got to much to lose by printing the truth. You know that.
TM: What kind of truths are they leaving out?
Dylan: Well anything, even on a worldwide basis, they’d just go off the stands in a day if they printed really the truth.
TM: What is really the truth?
Dylan: Really the truth is just a plain picture. A plain picture of, let’s say, a tramp vomiting man into the sewer you know? And then and uh, next door to the picture you know, is Mr. Rockefeller or you know, Mr. C.W. Jones on a subway going to work, uh you know, any kind of picture. Just make some collage of pictures which they don’t do, there’s no ideas in TIME Magazine, there’s just these facts, which too are serious, even the article on which your doing the way its gunna come out, but you see It cant be a good article because the guy that’s writing the article is sitting at a desk in New York, and he’s not even going out of his office, he’s just gunna get these 15 reporters and there gunna send him a quota. . . .He’s gunna put himself out, he’s gunna put all his readers on and you know in another week, we’ll be some space in the magazine, but that’s all, it means nothing to anybody else, I’m not putting that down because people have to eat and live, you know?, but i mean at least be honest about it. I mean sure … I know more about what you do and you don’t even have to ask me how or why or anything uh, just by looking, you know? Then you’ll ever know about me. Ever. I mean I could tell you, I could tell you, I’m not a folk singer and explain to you why but you wouldn’t really understand, all you could do, you could nod your head, you would nod your head.
TM: You could be willing to try.
Dylan: No, I couldn’t even be willing to try because, there’s certain things which, every word has its little letter and big letter.
TM: Your friend had the right word, pigeonhole.
Dylan: No, its not pigeonhole that’s not the word at all. You know every word has its little letter and big letter like the word know, you know the word k-n-o-w okay, you know the word Know capital K-n-o-w like each of us really knows nothing, but we all think we know things, alright, but we really know nothing
TM: So you’re saying that you know more about what I do.
Dylan: No I’m saying that your gunna die and your gunna go off the earth, your gunna be dead. It could be in 20 years it could be tomorrow, anytime, so am I, I mean it’s gunna be gone. The world is gunna go on without us.
Dylan: Alright, now you do your job in the face of that and how seriously you take yourself , you decide for yourself. Okay? And I’ll decide for myself and you’re not gunna make me feel unhappy by anything you print about me or anything you know? Or anything like that. It couldn’t offend me and i’m sure you know, I couldn’t offend you. So all I can hope for you to do, is you know all of your ideas in your own head, somehow where ever they are.
TM: Do you care about what you sing?
Dylan: How can I answer that if you got the nerve to ask me? I mean you got a lot of nerve asking me a question like that, do you ask The Beatles that?
TM: I have to ask you that because you have the nerve to question whether I care.
Dylan: I’m not questioning you because I don’t expect any answers from you. Do you think someone wouldn’t go see somebody if they didn’t want entertainment?
TM: Of course not.
Dylan: Who wants to go get whipped? You know. And if you do wanna go get whipped, aren’t you really being entertained? Right. So do you think anyone that comes to see me, is coming for any other reason besides entertainment, really?
TM: I could tell you people with a couple other reasons.
Dylan: Well who cares what they tell you. Who cares what anybody tells you.
TM: Well, they think they know why they’re doing it.
Dylan: Do you know why they’re doing it? People say all kinds of things, and you have to sort of weed it out, you know, can you weed it out? Well, see you’re not gunna learn, I can’t teach you how to weed it out. Yeah well you know I have no idea. First of all I’m not even a pop-singer. . . .
So stay forever young and courageous. Think about Dylan’s words: “Thinking will fuck you up. It’s heart, not head.” And “I define nothing. Not beauty, not patriotism. I take each thing as it is, without prior rules about what it should be.”
The point is not to just settle for these aphorisms and maxims. Reword them. Take epiphanies farther. Walter Pater’s axiom: “All art aspires towards the condition of music” can become “All Venice Music aspires to the condition of community.”
Please send us your input and unresolved questions for/about Bob Dylan.
Mark your calendar now for the upcoming 15th annual LIT SHOW with SUZY WILLIAMS & BRAD KAY — LIVE EVENT at Beyond Baroque on Sat, July 16 https://www.facebook.com/events/1244768702677174 ;THE LIT SHOW’s past repertoire has embraced over 100 authors, including: J.D. Salinger, Hafiz, Kurt Vonnegut, Edna St Vincent Millay, Samuel Beckett, Raymond Chandler, Truman Capote, Vladimir Nabokov, Rudyard Kipling. Dorothy Parker wrote a song that Billie Holiday sang. Tennessee Williams wrote a song that Marlon Brando sang as a rambling troubadour in The Fugitive Kind. Lonely House was written by Kurt Weill and Langston Hughes. Jack Kerouac & Allen Ginsberg wrote Pull My Daisy with David Amram. Suzy & Brad have also written tuneful melodies to many a great author’s words. You’ve read the book, now hear the song.
See and hear more at the Suzy Williams Youtube channel