Bob dylan - shifting gears - rome 2013


Closing out the Oh Mercy album, "Shooting Star" makes for the exits with poise and gentle regret. With a languid pace and shimmering, tremulo-filled production by Daniel Lanois, Dylan has penned a simple three verse plus bridge country ballad that manages to suggest the arc of an affair – balled up in the image of a shooting star. With understatement, Dylan sings in verse one "you were trying to break into another world / a world I never knew / I always kind of wondered / if you ever made it through / seen a shooting star tonight / and I thought of you." In the second verse he turns the focus on himself, wondering "if I was still the same / if I ever became / what you wanted me to be / did I miss the mark or / over-step the line / that only you could see?" The bridge incongruously begins singing of "the last fire truck from hell" and rings the alarm bells as the apocalypse approaches ("the last time you might hear the sermon on the mount."). Musically, the bridge adds just the right amount of tension, but lyrically it seems a tad out of place and takes some mental shifting to glue it back to the verses. By the last verse, the fate of the relationship has become clear: "guess it's too late to say the things to you / that you needed to hear me say / seen a shooting star tonight / slip away." Dylan closes with a pretty harmonica solo verse. "Shooting Star" is remarkable for its lyrical allusiveness. Something has gone wrong in this relationship: two people moving in different directions pointing towards clashing world views, who didn't live up to expectations, and who missed the opportunity to fill each other's needs. That missed opportunity extends to the religious dimension, where there's one last chance to account for one's works and days. Through a fine blend of precision, understatement, and regret the song reveals a person who has been unable to reconcile his own ego and religious worldview with another's, leaving a weary sadness in its wake. Dylan revisited "Shooting Star" on the live album MTV Unplugged. The song reappeared on the popular Wonderboys soundtrack.

If you are not much familiar with Dylan, this film is likely to confuse or baffle. If, like me, you know both of the documentaries well, have read some of the legends, seen him in concert and have been colonized by some of his songs, you are likely to respond with a wry admiration for the enormous risks Todd Haynes has taken here. Like his very different previous film, " Far from Heaven ," he is essentially remaking cinema to reveal what it is really trying and achieving. "Far From Heaven" exposed the gay subtext of Douglas Sirk's 1950s melodramas, and "I'm Not There" shows how the other docs of Dylan have imposed consistency upon an elusive and mercurial person. What Haynes does is take away the reassuring segues that argue everything flows and makes sense, and to show what's really chaos under the skin of the film.

The emotional intensity of a failing marriage was new ground for Dylan. For all his experience, the Bard of Hibbing had not yet tackled intense personal heartbreak in his songwriting, and he was suffused with it. True, he’d already penned most of the material that would rightfully crown him “The Greatest Songwriter of the Rock Era”: “Blowin’ In the Wind,” “The Times They Are A-Changing,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Like A Rolling Stone,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” “Maggie’s Farm,” “Visions of Johanna,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” and “Highway 61, Revisited,” to name a few; he’d been The Great White Hope of Folk, the New Woody Guthrie, the clarion voice of a generation on the steps of the Capitol, opening for MLK with the most potent of protest songs; he’d morphed into the enfant terrible wielding a Strat and fronting a cantankerous blues rock band at Newport Folk Fest, biting the hand that fed; he’d influenced the Beatles (and thus, everyone), electrified folk, taken a lot of amphetamines, and forever altered popular music. All before he turned thirty.


Bob Dylan - Shifting Gears - Rome 2013Bob Dylan - Shifting Gears - Rome 2013Bob Dylan - Shifting Gears - Rome 2013Bob Dylan - Shifting Gears - Rome 2013

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