I am a child of the sixties. I'll say not only what is unexpected, but is also taboo. I'll challenge every convention and laugh. I don't believe in ceremony. I don't believe in institutions. I don't respect my elders unless they deserve it. The government is not to be trusted. What's on the inside is more important than what's on the outside. I don't mind a nice ride, but I wasn't put on this planet to acquire things. I'm here to expand my mind. I'm here to interact with others in a real way, discussing our hopes and dreams, analyzing behavior, art and politics. I'm suspicious of anybody who's an insider. I wonder what they had to do to achieve such an exalted position. Not only who they had to blow, but what they had to give up, how much they had to subjugate their personality. How dishonest they had to be in order to appear a winner. I've been this way too long to change. And, it's too late. I'd have to start at the bottom. Kiss all that butt to play the game the way they do, to win. And, I couldn't do it anyway. I'd be like Alex in "A Clockwork Orange" after he was fixed. You know when he goes to commit violence and he doubles up in pain. That's what happens to me when I do something I don't want to, don't believe in. It cuts right to my core. I love music not because it's popular, but because it makes a statement, from the HEART!
All my values are now a joke. To have the beliefs delineated above is to be labeled a loser. In a nation of winners. I feel a party of one, while everybody comes up with marketing plans to make millions, oftentimes wanting to include me. Think of all the outlets of exposure! Think of all the MONEY! Who I am, what I stand for, what is important to me is irrelevant.
It all comes down to education. There's no education anymore in America. Oh, I'm not just talking about underfunded schools. I'm talking about the educational AGENDA! Sure, you've got to learn the basics, how to read and write, how to add and subtract, but in the sixties they used to teach you how to THINK! That's even passe in colleges today. Today universities are glorified
trade schools. Parents want a return for their dollar. Their progeny want to insure a future where they can drive an SUV and go on vacation in the Caribbean. Or Mexico. Or Europe. They want the flexibility that money can buy. So they can go to these exotic locations and get a tan, and shop.
It's all topsy-turvy. In the sixties education was about expanding one's mind. Today, if you don't follow the curriculum, parents protest that their kids are not being prepared for the world. Make no mistake, these religious and monetary zealots' kids ARE NOT prepared. They can earn a living, but they roam the earth as automatons. Robots. Stepford people. They just can't think. Make a decision for themselves. That explains this ridiculous country of ours. Where facts don't matter. How can that BE???
I went to a public high school. But we listened to "Alice's Restaurant". We read "Situation Ethics". We studied Janis Ian's "Society's Child" and went to see her perform at the New York State Theatre. And we went to see the play "MacBird" too, a skewering of the Johnson administration, on a SUNDAY NO LESS!! When today's overscheduled kids are in church and then playing in soccer tournaments. What we did in the sixties as a matter of course would be seen as REVOLUTIONARY today. I guess it was.
The Beatles were very talented. But they were English. They weren't us. Bob Dylan was us. Growing up middle class and wanting out. Wanting to LIVE life, not be resigned to it.
Tonight I went to CAA to see Marty Scorcese's Bob Dylan documentary "No Direction Home". It was four hours long. It was broken down into two parts. The second was linear, it wasn't classic biopic, but it was close. But the first half…it was a revelation. It wasn't about Dylan so much as CREATIVITY! INSPIRATION! What makes one turn from the well-worn path and follow one's own muse. What is IT LIKE to be creative.
Today creativity is repetition. If it works once, just keep on doing it. Just look at Hollywood, where they keep remaking "Batman". But that's not what being an artist is about. Being an artist is about experimenting, and once you've answered your questions asking NEW ONES!!
"No Direction Home" should be shown in every school in America. Not only high school, but junior high. When kids haven't been formed yet. When they can still see there's an alternative to sex, sports and money.
But forty years later the sixties are too scary for society. It's like they never even existed. "No Direction Home" would not only not be shown, it would be BANNED! Hell, the Republicans want to REPEAL the sixties. Erase the memory of Vietnam. And isn't it funny the debacle in Iraq is a REPEAT OF VIETNAM!
Furthermore, those not diehards would probably turn the show off. Because if there aren't explosions, if there's not a clearly-defined plot, if there's not a three act arc, Americans won't sit for it. LITERALLY!
I'm here to tell you watching "No Direction Home" is almost painful. It's an endurance test. Because you can never relax. You're thinking all the time. Remembering those days, wondering what you've done with your life, the opportunities you've missed, the ones still OPEN to you. Your brain is working overtime. And Americans are not prepared to work that hard.
Oh, for the fan there are the revelations. The color footage. Who even knew this stuff existed?
And Mike Bloomfield rips off a few notes and your jaw drops. You forget how fucking good he was.
And the fact that Dylan is both coherent and honest in the interviews. After obfuscating for DECADES! You eat it up.
But mostly you revel at the times. What happened after World War II. How the cold war affected not only society, but art. We used to practice for nuclear attacks by getting under our schooldesks. Pete Seeger was hauled in front of the government, for being Un-American. But, eventually a counter-culture took hold. Comprised of misfits and based on a ton of questions. Why believe in convention? Why should you just play along, when you can SAY something and impact lives.
You watch Dylan's evolution. From second-rate piano player stealing records in Minnesota to visiting Woody Guthrie to signing to Columbia Records. And the end result? The system eats him. If the system can eat someone as strong as Bob Dylan what chance does the AVERAGE person have? Yes, the endless boos, the cries of sellout, those lamenting the fact that he didn't just stay where he was, in the folk world, they GOT TO HIM! But, watching it's clear that Bob Dylan never wanted to be that person, the one they wanted him to be. It would be artistic and emotional death.
Used to be the entertainment business was small. There weren't as many zeros. There was a lot less attention paid. You could develop and flourish without the glare of the spotlight.
But one basic tenet remains. You can't keep the great down. When one person finds something phenomenal, he tells EVERYBODY about it.
I'm telling you the SOUL of America is in trouble. It's not so much about gasoline prices and global warming as it is about emotions. Our whole country is stuffing its feelings down. We've been told again and again that you get ahead by getting along. That to be outside is to resign yourself to marginality. But, "No Direction Home" proves that you can only truly rule if you play outside the game. Which is why all those acts doing endorsement deals, making radio-friendly music, are LOST! "Like A Rolling Stone" made it to number two on the "Billboard" chart when nothing else on the radio sounded like it. People responded to something DIFFERENT! Something novel.
Tell that to today's entertainment companies. And today's acts. Who'll do whatever it takes to sell a record. Just watch Dylan at the endless press conferences, answering endless inane questions. Is this your desire? It wasn't his. Which is why he gave it up.
For a while anyway. Who knows how injured he truly was in that motorcycle accident. Couldn't have been that bad. He managed to cut the Basement Tapes, and a bunch of albums. But he wanted a respite from the onslaught. He wanted to live, raise his kids, not feed the machine.
In December 1978 I went to see the "Deer Hunter" in Westwood. I barely slept that night. I was off-kilter. This movie, this was us. I feel the same way tonight. I didn't want to talk to anybody after the screening, I couldn't. I was in my own mind.
So, when "No Direction Home" hits PBS at the end of the month, make time, watch it. Make your kids watch it with you. Don't take any phone calls. Don't get up and go to the bathroom. Immerse yourself in the way it used to be. When music was a living, breathing thing. Devoured by a public that was more concerned with human rights and equality than adding to its portfolio.