Wednesday, June 06, 2007

I'm There Right Now

Robert Blake hands you the phone in David Lynch's LOST HIGHWAY.

Have you ever come across a song in the course of your listening that stands in front of you defiantly, like a roadblock, daring you to pass?

For me, recently, that song is currently "Ballad of a Thin Man" from Bob Dylan's HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED album -- and, for some reason, the live version from Manchester 1966 (erroneously released as THE "ROYAL ALBERT HALL" CONCERT) seems even more insistently impassable. I've taken to playing the song every night before retiring, a ritual I've been known to enact in the past with other minor key songs like "Telstar" by The Tornados, "Love Song for the Dead Ché" by The United States of America, "Share a Little Joke" by Jefferson Airplane, and "Swimming Horses" by Siouxsie and the Banshees.
There's a stanza in the song that goes:

You hand in your ticket
And you go watch the geek
Who immediately walks up to you
When he hears you speak
And says, "How does it feel
To be such a freak?"
And you say, "Impossible"
As he hands you a bone
And something is happening here
And you don't know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?

It recently occured to me, in the course of this obsession, that if you just change "bone" to "phone," you've got a scene from David Lynch's LOST HIGHWAY.
"I'm there right now," says the Mystery Man (Robert Blake), his words unexpectedly poising the scene on the precipice of madness. Which brings to mind the title of Todd Haynes' forthcoming biopic, with six different actors (including Cate Blanchett) playing Dylan: I'M NOT THERE.
Curiously enough, "Lost Highway" is also the name of a Hank Williams song that Dylan can be seen playing to Bob Neuwirth in one of the hotel room scenes in the 1965 UK tour documentary DONT LOOK BACK.
Take my advice, you'll curse the day
You started going down that lost highway.
It was that Hank Williams song, incidentally, that delivered unto Dylan the phrase "rolling stone" and led him to the gunpowder moment of his reinvention.

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