Tag Archives: Bob Dylan

Where have all the Good Rhymes gone?

Another post from the past.

Where have all the Good Rhymes Gone?

 I’m not sure when rhymes all but disappeared from modern poetry, but pick up any recent collection and you would be hard put to find a single rhyme. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, on the other hand, stop anyone in the street and ask them to recite their favourite poem and invariably, if they reply at all, it will be a rhyming poem. So people like rhyme but if poets have stopped rhyming where do people go for their rhyming fix?

The answer of course is popular song. Pop, folk, country, rock, rap, hip hop could not function without rhyme; obvious rhyme mostly, rhyme that can seen coming a mile away. If you hear ‘dance’ there will be ‘romance’; if you hear ‘night’, it’s going to be ‘alright’, if you hear “love’, there will be a ‘sky above’. This can be boring or comforting depending on your point of view. But there are rhymes in popular song, rhymes that avoid cliché, that manage to surprise. For example:

The bridge at midnight trembles

The country doctor rambles.

(Bob Dylan from “Love minus Zero, No Limits)

Or more recently, check out the “The Trapeze Swinger” from Sam Beam[i] of Iron and Wine who writes songs of such fragile beauty that it feels like they will fall apart if you touch them.

But please remember me, fondly

I heard from someone you’re still pretty

And then they went on to say that the Pearly Gates

Had some eloquent graffiti

 Or, from the White Album:

I’m so tired, I’m feeling so upset

Although I’m so tired, I’ll have another cigarette

And curse Sir Walter Raleigh

He was such a stupid get[ii].

‘Trembles, ‘rambles’, ‘poetry’, ‘graffiti’, ‘cigarette’, stupid get’, all rhymes that don’t resort to cliché, that manage to surprise and there are many more. So if there is anyone out there reading this, send me your favorites, let’s get a list going! Only two criteria: 1) the rhyme must surprise 2) no rhymes ending in ‘ution’ as in “make revolutions/ not institutions/ dilution/ is not the solution/ to pollution/ make restitution…enough already.

*******

[i] Why has Sam Beam not been made poet laureate of the United States of America? He could have written “Trapeze Swinger” alone, and he would be streets ahead of anyone else. Graffiti on the pearly gates -‘tell my mother not to worry’,  ‘rug-burned babies’, ‘a trapeze swinger as high as any savior’; check it out here:

[ii] Some websites write this as “stupid git”, but the album liner notes show it as “stupid get” which obviously rhymes better but also it would be more likely that Lennon being from Liverpool would use the Irish (and also Scottish) pronunciation ‘get’ rather than ‘git’ which is more common in the south of England. By the way, Wiktionary suggests that ‘get’ is related to the word ‘beget’, whereas I think it is more likely that it comes from the gaelic word ‘geit’ meaning ‘fright’ or ‘terror’. The meaning has since morphed into something close to ‘jerk’.

 

A Surfeit of Slim (“Bob Dylan’s Worst Line Ever” and “The Most Over-Rated Album of All Time” together for the first time).

IMG_0881 (2)

Last week there was a Simon Pegg retrospective at our local cinema and Slim invited me back to his one bedroom apartment after we watched an early showing of “Shawn of the Dead”. Slim had prepared dinner and by that I mean he had peeled back the tin foil edge of a take-out carton of butter chicken, removed the cardboard lid, and handed me a plastic fork and a can of Old Style lager. He then lapsed into one of his silences.

I found myself noticing the beads of condensation on the clear plastic lid of the steamed rice container. The rice was long past fluffy. The evening stretched before me like a Sunday in Ottawa. My only recourse was to ask Slim an irritating question.

“So, Slim”, I said, “who do you think is the better poet, Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen?”

Slim’s  face wrinkled in disgust. “Bob Dylan’s not a poet”, he snapped,“ he’s a poetic songwriter”.

“And Leonard Cohen is…..?”

“Leonard Cohen is a poet who writes songs”.

“Ok then, what’s your favorite Bob Dylan line, verse, whatever”

“I can only think of the bad ones”

“So what’s the worst Bob Dylan line ever?”

Slim blinked once like he was accessing a folder in his brain with an internal mouse.

“John Wesley Harding, ‘As I walked out One Morning’, third verse:

‘Depart from me this moment

I told her with my voice’.

It’s like saying ‘there’s going to be a jailbreak somewhere in this town”

“But that’s “Thin Lizzy”.

Slim looked like he had taken a sip of battery acid.

“My point is they are expressing the obvious just for the sake of a rhyme. It’s obvious that the jailbreak will be at the f….ing jail and how else will he tell her except with his voice, they’re in a field, for f… sake!”

“Oh”, I said, reaching for a poppadum.

After Slim’s brief outburst, he lapsed into silence again and did his impression of a lizard sitting on a rock. The not unpleasant smell from the Indian take-out mercifully masked the usual faint odour of sour sweat emanating from Slim’s bedroom. His bedroom door was closed, a yellow light leaked through the gap between bottom of the door and the threadbare carpet. The room  pulsed  in a vaguely sinister way.

I began to panic; he could pull out his blueprints of the Star Ship Enterprise at any minute. I was about to ask him why so much depends on a red wheelbarrow, but thought better of it. I reached for my phone.

“Slim”, I said, “I was looking at Rolling Stone’s list of the top 500 albums of all time, the other day, do you want to see it?”

“Not really”, he replied.

“Ok”, I tried, “what do you think is the most over-rated album of all time?”

“All right”, he sighed, ”show me the top 10 albums.”

I passed him my phone and he studied the list for a few minutes, then pounced.

“Number 7, ‘Exile on Main Street’, by the Stones”

“Really, why?”

“Because, it’s awful. It’s recycled 12 bar, refried boogie, Jagger sounds like a cat being neutered. It’s not even the seventh best Stones’ album. Creedence and The Band did this kind of thing a few years before and a lot better. This is the sound of the Stones throwing in their creative hand and saying, ‘enough, we’re tired’. It’s the artistic equivalent of taking a package holiday to Majorca. Look, it’s listed higher than ‘The White Album’ and ‘Kinda Blue’. Absolute bollocks!”

“Kind of…”

“What?”

“It’s ‘Kind of Blue’ not ‘Kinda Blue’

Slim looked at me like he was wondering why he bothered to speak to the rest of the human race at all.

“Well”, I said,”why do you think Rolling Stone rates it so high?”

“Because, it’s a Keef album and, to rock critics, Keef embodies the rock and roll spirit, the dead romantic hero, except he’s not dead. He’s the guy who would never have hung out with them at school. Plus, there’s this legend of the Stones hunkered down in a house in France recording the album, escaping from the tax man where in fact, Mick, Charlie and Bill never stayed at the house probably because they didn’t want to be around Keef’s junkie friends. Anyway, Mick didn’t think much of the album at all”.

“Really?”

“Look it up”.

So I did.

This is Mick Jagger talking about ‘Exile’ in “According to The Rolling Stones” (Chronicle Books, San Francisco):

Exile on Main Street is not one of my favourite albums”.

“…when I listen to Exile it has some of the worst mixes I’ve ever heard. I’d love to remix the record, not just because of the vocals, but because generally I think it sounds lousy. At the time Jimmy Miller was not functioning properly. I had to finish the whole record myself, because otherwise there were just these drunks and junkies.”

Exile is really a mixture of bits and pieces left over from the previous album recorded at Olympic Studios…..These were mixed up with a few slightly more grungy things done in the South of France. It’s seen as one album all recorded there and it really wasn’t.”

“So there’s a good four songs off it, but when you play the other nineteen, you can’t, or they don’t work, or nobody likes them, and you think, ’Ok, we’ll play another one instead’. We have rehearsed a lot of the tunes off Exile, but there’s not much that’s playable.”

 

Photo of detail of a Botero painting in Museo de Botero, Bogota, Colombia

All Washed Up (Bathos, A Whiter Shade Of Pale)

All Washed Up

 

 

Bathos

the moon hung

like a searchlight

in the sky

and we hung

out on the deck.

 

A Whiter Shade of Pale

By the time ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ was recorded in 1967, Bob Dylan had already raised the bar very high in terms of what the public expected from a song lyric; song writers were now expected  to be poets. This was a heavy load to carry as few songwriters had Bob’s poetic gift; as a result, bathos was everywhere.

Bathos: “an effect of anticlimax created by an unintentional lapse in mood from the sublime to the trivial or ridiculous”.

There are, as I said, many examples from that era, but the one that always stands out in my mind is from the last four lines of the first verse of ” A Whiter Shade of Pale”:

The room was humming harder

as the ceiling flew away

when we called out for another drink

the waiter brought a tray.

I have to admit that when I first heard this song I had no idea what it was about. Why are sixteen vestal virgins leaving for the coast? What is a vestal virgin anyway? Who is the miller? I still don’t know,  but I don’t think it really matters.  It’s best  to sit back, listen to the song and let your brain feed on the images and in no time at all the room will hum harder, the ceiling will fly away, you’ll think about maybe following the vestal virgins, you’ll skip a light fandango, turn cartwheels across the floor, all the time trying to avoid that waiter and his tray.

Notes:

The recorded version of the song has only two verses, but if you google the lyrics you will find four verses. Procol Harum sometimes included the extra verses in live performances but wisely left them out of the recording; they are not very good and diminish the song’s impact.

Well those drifters days are past me now
I’ve got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out

Bob Seger, ‘Against the Wind’

“What to leave in, what to leave out” – whether you are writing a song, poem, novel, short story, if you can solve that one you might be on the way  to something good!

Check out this version by Annie Lennox

 

 

Where have all the Good Rhymes gone?

Where have all the Good Rhymes Gone?

 I’m not sure when rhymes all but disappeared from modern poetry, but pick up any recent collection and you would be hard put to find a single rhyme. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, on the other hand, stop anyone in the street and ask them to recite their favourite poem and invariably, if they reply at all, it will be a rhyming poem. So people like rhyme but if poets have stopped rhyming where do people go for their rhyming fix?

The answer of course is popular song. Pop, folk, country, rock, rap, hip hop could not function without rhyme; obvious rhyme mostly, rhyme that can seen coming a mile away. If you hear ‘dance’ there will be ‘romance’; if you hear ‘night’, it’s going to be ‘alright’, if you hear “love’, there will be a ‘sky above’. This can be boring or comforting depending on your point of view. But there are rhymes in popular song, rhymes that avoid cliché, that manage to surprise. For example:

The bridge at midnight trembles

The country doctor rambles.

(Bob Dylan from “Love minus Zero, No Limits)

Or more recently, check out the “The Trapeze Swinger” from Sam Beam[i] of Iron and Wine who writes songs of such fragile beauty that it feels like they will fall apart if you touch them.

But please remember me, fondly

I heard from someone you’re still pretty

And then they went on to say that the Pearly Gates

Had some eloquent graffiti

 Or, from the White Album:

I’m so tired, I’m feeling so upset

Although I’m so tired, I’ll have another cigarette

And curse Sir Walter Raleigh

He was such a stupid get[ii].

‘Trembles, ‘rambles’, ‘poetry’, ‘graffiti’, ‘cigarette’, stupid get’, all rhymes that don’t resort to cliché, that manage to surprise and there are many more. So if there is anyone out there reading this, send me your favorites, let’s get a list going! Only two criteria: 1) the rhyme must surprise 2) no rhymes ending in ‘ution’ as in “make revolutions/ not institutions/ dilution/ is not the solution/ to pollution/ make restitution…enough already.

*******

[i] Why has Sam Beam not been made poet laureate of the United States of America? He could have written “Trapeze Swinger” alone, and he would be streets ahead of anyone else. Graffiti on the pearly gates -‘tell my mother not to worry’,  ‘rug-burned babies’, ‘a trapeze swinger as high as any savior’; check it out here:

[ii] Some websites write this as “stupid git”, but the album liner notes show it as “stupid get” which obviously rhymes better but also it would be more likely that Lennon being from Liverpool would use the Irish (and also Scottish) pronunciation ‘get’ rather than ‘git’ which is more common in the south of England. By the way, Wiktionary suggests that ‘get’ is related to the word ‘beget’, whereas I think it is more likely that it comes from the gaelic word ‘geit’ meaning ‘fright’ or ‘terror’. The meaning has since morphed into something close to ‘jerk’.

 

Bob Dylan’s Worst Line Ever

Last week there was a Simon Pegg retrospective at our local cinema and Slim invited me back to his one bedroom apartment after we watched an early showing of “Shawn of the Dead”. Slim had prepared dinner and by that I mean he had peeled back the tin foil edge of a take-out carton of butter chicken, removed the cardboard lid, and handed me a plastic fork and a can of Old Style lager. He then lapsed into one of his silences.

I found myself noticing the beads of condensation on the clear plastic lid of the steamed rice container. The rice was long past fluffy. The evening stretched before me like a Sunday in Ottawa. My only recourse was to ask Slim an irritating question.

“So, Slim”, I said, “who do you think is the better poet, Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen?”

Slim’s  face wrinkled in disgust. “Bob Dylan’s not a poet”, he snapped,“ he’s a poetic songwriter”.

“And Leonard Cohen is…..?”

“Leonard Cohen is a poet who writes songs”.

“Ok then, what’s your favorite Bob Dylan line, verse, whatever”

“I can only think of the bad ones”

“So what’s the worst Bob Dylan line ever?”

Slim blinked once like he was accessing a folder in his brain with an internal mouse.

“John Wesley Harding, ‘As I walked out One Morning’, third verse:

‘Depart from me this moment

I told her with my voice’.

It’s like saying ‘there’s going to be a jailbreak somewhere in this town”

“But that’s “Thin Lizzy”.

Slim looked like he had taken a sip of battery acid.

“My point is they are expressing the obvious just for the sake of a rhyme. It’s obvious that the jailbreak will be at the f….ing jail and how else will he tell her except with his voice, they’re in a field, for f… sake!”

“Oh”, I said, reaching for a poppadum.