Saturday, March 28, 2009

Will Immersion Lead to Burnout?

My obsession with Bob Dylan continues. Earlier this week I galloped my way through "The Rough Guide to Bob Dylan, 2d Ed." It was a library book and I had to finish reading it but in my usual fashion I can't skim a book on a subject I'm interested in. I have to read every word. I wanted to read "The Rough Guide" because I needed an overview of the man's life and work before I start diving into the serious biographies and "Chronicles vol. 1." After that I started taking in "No Direction Home" the splendid documentary by Martin Scorsese. I was about 30 minutes into the second half and had to take a break. In between the book and the documentary I was listening to "Blonde on Blonde," "Bringing It All Back Home," and "Highway 61 Revisited" over and over. I've heard "Blood on the Tracks" several times now, a stunning specimen of an album, but I'm just not ready for the mid-1970s yet.

I woke up earlier this week and realized I had finally gone overboard. Yes, I had been dreaming about Bob. It's like I was following him around on his world tour in 1966. I leaned against a pole backstage and listened to the audience booing the electric half of the show. I followed him as he fought his way through fans and the flashing light bulbs of the press. I watched him pop amphetamines and smoke a whole lot of pot. I watched him stay up all night smoking and writing and refining his songs on his portable typewriter. I had to keep getting out of the way of various people in his entourage, visitors (the Beatles), and D.A. Pennebaker with his film camera. None of them could see me. I felt a little like Mr. Gryphon.

I decided I should take a break from Bob. I'd finished reading the book. I took a deep breath and tried not to play any Bob songs then I found something on the internet. Something wonderful and true. I found plays his songs 24/7 spanning a recorded career from 1962 to a live set from this past week's concert in Sweden. A hundred versions of his songs stream though my computer: bootlegs, covers, studio outtakes, alternate cuts, throwaway tracks, and live versions from barely-able-to-hear-the-words in coffee shops to massive stadium concerts. I've been playing for hours and I just don't get tired of it. Today, I've heard about six different versions of "All Along The Watchtower" (though not the definitive version by Jimi Hendrix) and about the same number of versions of "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." "A Hard Rain's" a glorious song by the way.

One of my really good friends pointed out a character trait of mine that I never really thought about before. She said I tend to immerse myself in subjects I want to know about. This is true but I feel so single-minded about Bob. I feel like a unending absorbent sponge that's soaking up this man's music and life. I feel like I'm inhaling Bob Dylan like I used to inhale books when I was in grade school and an obsessive reader.

I'm sure my ardor for all things Bob will cool down. I might even burn out on him. Until that happens I'm going to sit here listening to his songs and marvel at the wonder of it all. Even with this somewhat embarrassing single-minded focus I'm still glad to be me.

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