Monthly Archives: October 2007

Loose ends

The final gig of Bob Dylan’s fall tour was last night in Chicago, at the Chicago Theater. Support acts Elvis Costello and Amos Lee joined Bob on stage for I Shall Be Released.

It’s well known that Elvis Costello performed on October 25th at Hillary Clinton’s 60th birthday and fundraising bash at the Beacon Theater in New York. Those who heard his political commentary during this tour would not be too surprised that he chose to do this kind of thing for Hillary, versus, say, Dick Cheney. (Although someone might tell Elvis that Hillary hasn’t actually committed to withdrawing from Iraq on any definite timetable — this seeming to be a big issue for ol’ Declan.)

Some outlets also reported that Bob Dylan was at the event, as an audience member. The shock/horror some of us might initially feel at this news should however be abated with the realization that the other main musical act for the night was The Wallflowers, featuring, of-course, Bob’s son Jakob. October 25th was an off-night for Dylan’s tour. If he spent it watching Costello and The Wallflowers perform at the Beacon Theater, well, why not? He’s nothing if not his own man, as the global warming enthusiasts have recently discovered to their chagrin. While not having any inside line on who Dylan likes for 2008 — if anyone — I think a lot of us would picture him casting a jaundiced if also somewhat amused eye on the political theater at the Beacon. If I’d been invited to go, I sure would have too, just for the amusement factor, although I certainly wouldn’t have paid for a ticket (and I have no idea if Bob did, although it seems extremely unlikely).

In other Dylan news, the DVD called “The Other Side of the Mirror” was officially released today, featuring footage of Bob performing at the Newport Folk Festival between 1963 and 1965.

Produced and directed by Academy Award winner Murray Lerner, The Other Side Of The Mirror – Bob Dylan Live At The Newport Folk Festival 1963 – 1965 opens a window into a critical epoch in American cultural history as reflected in the musical transformations of Bob Dylan’s galvanizing watershed performances at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, 1964, and 1965. With more than 80 minutes of exquisitely filmed performances, (70% available for the first time), fans will have a front row seat in watching the musical transformations of Bob Dylan during his seminal years.

I don’t have it in hand just yet, but I’m certainly greatly looking forward to it. As I understand it, it’s just the footage, not broken up by any extraneous blabbering, which sounds like good judgment to me.

Something I won’t be seeing anytime soon is the exhibit of Dylan’s artwork which has now opened in Chemnitz, Germany.

The king of all media, indeed.

Fred goes electric

The column is by Jay Cost, and the Fred is Fred Thompson.

There are two types of rules in the world. On the one hand, there are real rules. These are the rules that you need to follow, or you will be in big trouble. Stay in school is one of them. You can’t do much without a high school diploma – so that is a real rule. On the other hand, there are fake rules. These are rules that most people follow because they think there are negative consequences for disobedience, but actually there are not. In fact, the ones who break the fake rules are often celebrated as trail blazers.

Bob Dylan comes to my mind when I think of those who break the fake rules. In the mid-60s, there was this rule that songs could only be three minutes long, and they had to have three verses and a chorus. But Dylan did these six minute songs that had five plus verses and no chorus. And whose ears don’t perk up today when they hear the first bars of “Subterranean Homesick Blues?” Another rule said that folkies could not play rock. That just did not happen. But Dylan hired Levon and the Hawks, and went electric. At first, he was booed everywhere he went (except in the South). Eight years later he went on tour with the exact same group – now called the Band – and received 6 million ticket requests for 600,000 seats.

Well, last I checked, Subterranean Homesick Blues was about two and half minutes long, not six as implied here. This has little bearing on the point that Cost is making about Thompson, though, which is a valid one: while drawing the wrath and contempt of so many in the pundit class, he continues to poll strongly and make apparent steady progress in winning over real voters. Just perhaps, he knows what he’s doing.


Back to Bob Dylan and his ad campaign for Cadillac — thanks to Hugh McD. for the following email, headed “A (not so) new art form.”

Mr. Dylan has decided to create a work of art. No one else can go to a
corporation and say I want to do a two minute film with a slow talking blues
and be granted artistic freedom. He has been thinking about this since he was
in his twenties, but he did not have the clout at that time to approach
lingerie companies or Cadillac.

Now, here is an example of the “world’s worst poet” (William McGonagall, died
1902, compatriot of Robby Burns, and the “worst poet” shtick was deliberately
cultivated, like Dylan’s image as an itinerant carnival worker). McGonagall
wrote some ads, apparently for fun, including the following (there are more):

You can use it with great pleasure and ease
Without wasting any elbow grease;
And when washing the most dirty clothes
The sweat won’t be dripping off your nose
You can wash your clothes with little rubbing
And without scarcely any scrubbing;
And I tell you once again without any joke
There’s no soap can surpass Sunlight Soap;
And believe me, charwomen one and all,
I remain yours truly, the Poet McGonagall.

McGonnagal did public readings, and while some laughed, the crowds went wild and
one occasion a jubilant mob carried him on their shoulders down the street.

I have my own little ad in mind for bottled water: “Every molecule of our water
is made out of the purest hydrogen and the freshest oxygen, created with loving
care shortly after time began”.

McGonagall’s website:

So there you go.

Love and war

To file under “maybe we really can all get along,” there is the news that Ann Coulter is currently dating a New York Jewish Democrat, who comes to her defense in this item from the NY Post’s Page Six:

ANN Coulter – who might be more despised than Dick Cheney in some neighborhoods – riled up some enemies even more with her recent remarks on “The Big Idea With Donny Deutsch” over how Jews could “perfect” themselves by becoming Christians. While the leggy blonde was dining with Andrew Stein at Centolire on Madison Avenue the other night, a wild-eyed man came up to their table and shouted at Coulter for her right-wing views and at Stein for dating her. Stein told the heckler, “Listen pal, get lost and learn some manners!” The lifelong Democrat, who was City Council president before he quit politics, told Page Six, “On the issue of her supposedly anti-Semitic remarks, I’m a Jew, and Joe Lieberman is her favorite Democrat. While I disagree with her on a lot of issues, she is a strong supporter of Israel and doesn’t have an anti-Semitic bone in her body.”

The day after

I’m willing to concede that my loud delight with Dylan’s ad campaign for Cadillac might be considered a little unseemly; it is, after all, just a commercial. Clearly, what I am rather meanly taking pleasure in is the burning ire it is causing to the doctrinaire, leftist, global-warming-believing, fashionably anti-capitalist wing of Dylan’s alleged fan base. It is difficult to imagine anything that could outrage these types more than Dylan’s appearing in a commercial for the gargantuan gas-guzzling Cadillac Escalade. I think maybe the only worse thing could be Bob doing an ad campaign for Blackwater, Inc. (I can see it now: “This old world is full of trouble, and that’s why, when I’m traveling, I like to be protected by the very best.” All this with Masters of War playing in the background.).

It’s even all a little ironic for me personally. Not only do I never anticipate owning a Cadillac Escalade — I don’t even own a car. I walk or take public transporation everywhere. Occasionally I rent an economy car for a road trip. Were I to see a need to buy a car, I certainly wouldn’t be drawn to the behemothic Escalade. I would get a practical car, something that does closer to 40 mpg than 14. The one car I’ve owned was a Dodge Aries, a boring four-cylinder compact deal (although it was the wagon version). When I pass by a Cadillac Escalade parked on the street here in New York, I can’t help shaking my head at its absurd size. Who would need something like that, I wonder to myself. It’s hard enough to find a parking space in this town.

However, the difference is that I don’t progress from thinking that I would never want to own that vehicle to thinking that therefore no one else ought to have it either. Life, Liberty and BobIf that’s what some people want to spend their money on, so be it. Jobs are thereby being provided to the people who manufacture it, and in this way the world goes round. Of-course, it helps a lot that I’m not a believer in man-made global-warming either. (On that note: Northern Georgia and other areas are currently experiencing dreadful drought conditions, in part because expected rainfall generated by hurricane activity has been almost totally absent for the past two years. I’m sure everyone remembers the spectacular hurricane forecast of 2006, which ended up being a deafeningly quiet season instead. “Never fear,” said the forecasters, “we know what we got wrong there, and we’re not going to get that wrong this year.” This year, 2007, another very active hurricane season was predicted, with the U.S. in the crosshairs. How has that prediction panned out? Yet, while smart people who devote themselves to a topic as relatively narrow as forecasting hurricanes for the coming season continue to show the capacity to get it so dramatically wrong, we’re supposed to believe that Al Gore knows what the freaking temperature is going to be twenty years, fifty years, and a hundred years from now. Garbage.)

So, while it lasts, I just can’t resist taking pleasure from this moment, and yes, the misery it is causing some others (misery, mind you, which is really self-inflicted). I’m drawing down on my forgiveness account, and hoping there’s some left when I go a knockin’ on heaven’s door.

Just a couple of notes from other sinners:

From Dana:

These ads are a hoot. While driving down a rather barren road (could it be Texas?) he passes what appears to be an oil holding tank in a field, a gas tanker semi truck, and a train pulling two tankers. I am sure Bob is more than well aware of the beating SUV owners have taken in recent years for being resource depleting, carbon emissions creating capitalist pigs. These images are no accident. I would love to have been privy to the exchange of ideas that went into their creation. Go Bob and Cadillac!


The Commercial is hysterical! I mean – did you see how he passes an oil tanker on the open highway! HAH HAH HAH!!! The satire – he hasn’t changed!!

Just sticks it the The Establishment, doesn’t he. I wrote at BabyBlue, “another sacred cow bites the dust.”

By the way, did you see the yellow ribbon tied around the pole?

Sue said:

Just saw your post on this and surprise, surprise there’s the expected claim of “sell out”.
I think those of us who “know” Bob better would only feel he had sold out if he was advertising a Prius.

Gosh, what a thought!

To recap, here are YouTube links to the thirty-second ad, the sixty-second ad, and the two minute extravaganza.

Sold out!

Oh, boy.

Edna Gunderson has the scoop in USA Today: Bob Dylan’s Cadillac ads are a gas.

On 2001’s Summer Days, Bob Dylan sang, “I’m drivin’ in the flats in a Cadillac car,” a lyric that comes to life today in the debut of a multiplatform ad campaign for Cadillac. In a 30-second TV spot, the music legend, sporting a cowboy hat and shades, steers a black 2008 Escalade across California’s Antelope Valley before stepping out to survey the desert landscape.

He utters one line: “What’s life without taking a detour?”


In a long-form online vignette (viewable now at and starting Wednesday at and, Dylan cracks, “You know what’s even better than a great road tune? Not having some DJ talking all over it. Unless, of course, that DJ’s me.”

Bob Dylan and Cadillac Escalade

Despite the links referenced above, I can’t find the ad online yet. Nevermind; it will be all over the place pretty soon. [Update: Click here for XM hosted video. Or view the 60 second clip here via YouTube. Two minute clip is at this link.]

It’s hard to know where to begin with this. It’s just about impossible to stop laughing, for one. It’s a beautiful day.

One of the first reactions on a big Dylan messageboard goes like this:

First of all, Jeff Rosen[Dylan’s right-hand man manager type -ed.], if you had anything to do with this, a GIGANTIC F*** You

Second of all, Bob, I seriously hope your house burns down from a climate change induced fire*

and one more thing,

I may not listen to Bob for a long time on the back of this news

there’s lots of good artists out there who aren’t clueless

Bob can sing Masters of War and then promote gas guzzling a**hole vehicles?

Yes, the Cadillac Escalade, which Bob is pictured with, makes somewhere between 13 and 19 miles per gallon. “Where’s the global warming,” indeed.

So, on “Theme Time Radio Hour” a couple of weeks ago, when Bob answered an alleged email about Sheryl Crow’s TV commercials, and talked about how Sonny Boy Williamson sold flour and Jimmie Rodgers sold biscuits, we can now see that it wasn’t so much a retroactive defense of his lingerie commercials as much as it was a preemptive strike regarding the Cadillac campaign.

What is there not to love about Bob Dylan doing some Cadillac commercials? Cadillacs are Americana. They have populated his songs, and so many songs by other people that Dylan would love. (This week’s “Theme Time Radio Hour” is in fact going to be on the theme of “Cadillac;” Dylan is even daring to mix the editorial and business interests.)

I think it’s now official beyond all question: Bob Dylan is free. He can do anything he wants. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s line about there being no second acts in American lives has never rung less true. Dylan has beaten everybody who has ever tried to pigeonhole him, dismiss him and define him. He is 66 years old, on top of his game in countless ways old and new, and is having an absolute blast. He’s got eight carburetors, and he’s using ’em all. Rock on, Bob.

*Addendum: The wish from that messageboard poster above that Bob’s house would “burn down” is of-course particularly nasty coming at a time when wildfires in Malibu are very much in the news, and homes are burning down, and people’s lives are at risk. As to these fires being “climate change induced,” that seems wishful thinking on the part of our sweet and benevolent global warming enthusiast. That part of the country has long been afflicted by wildfires. The dry and hot Santa Ana winds have a lot to do with it, and they’ve been blowing for a long, long time.

Solid rock

In his most recent Theme Time Radio Hour show, the one dedicated to “Classic Rock,” Bob Dylan played the Stanley Brothers’ great version of Rock of Ages, and told the story of how the song came to be written.

Augustus Montague Toplady, of Blagdon, England, was traveling when a storm struck, and he ran into a cave for shelter. He was waiting for the storm to pass, happy that he had found this cave. He began to think about the idea of a rock of faith, and how it was a shelter from the storms of life. The words for him began to form, but he had no paper in his pocket to write it down. Looking down, he saw a playing card. He picked it up, and began to write, “Rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.” It became one of the world’s most loved hymns, and was first published in 1775.

In a Q&A in Rolling Stone magazine in 2004, when asked what was last song he would like to hear before he died, Bob responded, “How ’bout Rock of Ages?”

Dylan also performed the song in concert himself on a number of occasions in 1999 and 2000. I think it’s hard to beat the version from Santa Cruz, California on March 16th, 2000.

Addendum 4:55 pm: Richard writes:

That’s a great story, but how did the card get there, and what did he use as a writing instrument?

Well, I suppose a previous traveler could have dropped the playing card. The aura of sin that hangs around the playing of cards is I guess what makes that an attractive and persistent part of the story. The question of a writing instrument, though, is a very good one and a little harder to easily explain. He would hardly be carrying a writing quill and a bottle of ink with him on his journey but no paper. I do believe pencils of an early kind were in use then, however, so maybe that would be the only reasonable answer. You could see a man — expecially a cleric as he was — having a pencil buried in a pocket of his coat but still being without paper. It seems it would be a challenge write a song on an old playing card with a primitive pencil in a cave during a storm, but I guess he had some Assistance.

The story is recounted in a very similar way in various places online, but I don’t see a mention of the writing instrument anywhere.