January 8, 2023 – 6:29 am

Fifty years ago today, Beatle George told us that All Things Must Pass. Then he told us about Living in the Material World. For 36 years, BigO has been trying to keep the spirit and history of the music alive. Before all things pass, we still need your help to live in this material world. You can help us to do this with a kind donation. Please give what you are happy to give…


Our costs will always be there. So readers who can donate towards the cost of the site, please open a Skrill account. Readers who wish to contribute to BigO will now have to use Skrill (click here). We are no longer able to use PayPal to receive donations. Register an account at Skrill. To make a payment, use this e-mail address as recipient’s e-mail address in Skrill: mail2[at] Looking forward to hearing from you.

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All that glitters is not gold. By John Kendall Hawkins.

“When he spoke, one of the typical expressions on his face was a half-ironic half-smile, as if he were monitoring his voice and not quite believing what he heard.”
- Thomas Pynchon, Intro to Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me by Richard Farina.

Like many aging Dylan fans, I was - against my better judgment - keen and eager for the release “any day now” of the Bard from Duluth’s new opus magnum, The Philosophy of Modern Song. I have to admit that the title immediately led me to believe I was in for a gypsy’s grift. A three-card monty. A little dazzle in the deck. Dylan a philosopher? I’m a philosopher and Dylan ain’t no me.

According to reader-response theory, I fought with some heavyweights - Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, and - god help me, my fave at the time - the pessimist Schopenhauer. Dylan couldn’t even get the facts of Hurricane Carter’s worries right. Saying the Number One Contender was in a cell reading Nietzsche and Wilhem Reich (as if you didn’t have enough to worry about in prison). What’s that? Oh, was it forkin’ Joey Gallo with the Nietzsche and Reich? Carter was about Buddha? Fuck it.

Anyway, I took the plunge. I laid down the hard e-cash. I downloaded the PDF from Kobo. Then, as it was my kid’s birthday, I ordered the hard copy. Then I noticed that there was an accompanying audiobook that you could purchase, if you want to hear a galaxy of stars - Jeff Bridges (Big Lebowski), Steve Buscemi (Happy Gilmore), John Goodman (O Brother Where Art Thou!), Helen Mirren (Caligula), Rita Moreno (Carnal Knowledge), Sissy Spacek (Carrie) - read chapters from Philosophy, so I bought that, too.

Wolfman, oh wolfman, oh wolfman howl
Rub-a-dub-dub, it’s a murder most foul.

Say what? I guess I’m just not a Dylan sophisticate.

So the total splash out for this kit was close to $AUD150. I almost upped the ante and purchased some of that 12-year-old whiskey from Dylan’s Heaven’s Door - the distillery he opened up a few years ago, presumably with his Nobel Prize money. Based in Tennessee, where still waters run deep. Woulda been a nice set of drops to read or listen to Dylan by. It’s good stuff, and the critical conclusions drawn on the wall aren’t half wrong:

“A succulent, harmonious bourbon that hits all the right notes at the right moments for the category; a study of equal parts elegance and power.”

Right? But that would have set me back another set of C-notes, what with international shipping included. So, I didn’t cave on that impulse. (Maybe at Christmas, I winked to myself.)

Well, I couldn’t wait to get started, so I looked down the Table of Contents and saw he had a take on The Who’s “My Generation,” so I dived into that. It didn’t take but a few seconds before I was pulling my head back and thinking, ‘No way this is philosophy or, for that matter, accurate’. Check it out:

You’re looking down your nose as society and you have no use for it. You’re hoping to croak before senility sets in… In reality, you’re an eighty year old man being wheeled around in a home for the elderly, and the nurses are getting on your nerves.

Nuh. I started to get that old time queeze, like I got when I first heard Dylan’s “Murder Most Foul” off Rough and Rowdy (2020). I pulled a frenzied Pete Seeger at Newport, and uncharacteristically sent that song off to Harvard as a nominee for the next year’s Ignoble Prize award for its real bad medicine. It was up there with Gay Bomb, the 2007 Ignoble winner, in my estimation. I got butterflies in my stomach listening to Dylan’s twisted understanding of the JFK thing in Dealey Plaza back in ‘63. I was a conspiracy theorist, but this song scared me straight.

Wolfman, oh wolfman, oh wolfman howl
Rub-a-dub-dub, it’s a murder most foul.

Say what? I guess I’m just not a Dylan sophisticate.

I won’t assume that the rest of Philosophy is awful. I soon discovered that though I hated “Murder Most Foul,” I soon fell under the powerful spell of Rough and Rowdy, and could definitely relate to many of its themes of decrepitude. (See my review.) I’ll come back to Philosophy in early January. When my heels have cooled down.

Note: John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelancer based in Australia. He is a former reporter for The New Bedford Standard-Times. The above article was posted at CounterPunch.

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The Philosophy of Modern Song is a book by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, published on November 1, 2022, by Simon & Schuster. The book contains Dylan’s commentary on 66 songs by other artists. It is the first book Dylan has published since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016.

An audiobook version of The Philosophy of Modern Song was released concurrently with the book. The audiobook was narrated by Dylan, with actors Jeff Bridges, Oscar Isaac, Rita Moreno, Jeffrey Wright, Sissy Spacek, John Goodman, Alfre Woodard, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, and Renée Zellweger as guest narrators.

Audiophile Magazine referred to Dylan’s narration as “raspy and compelling” and wrote of the all-star cast: “Almost as one voice, the narrators create a flow of energy that adds immeasurably to the impact of Dylan’s poetic writing”. - wikipedia

Some of the songs Dylan comments on include Elvis Costello’s Pump It Up; Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti; The Who’s My Generation; Bing Crosby’s The Whiffenpoof Song and 62 others.
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  2. Hawkins is a smelly douche. He didn’t even read one chapter. Asshole. Hope you didn’t pay for this swill, BigO.

    By Dylan on Mar 9, 2023

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