Tuesday, 13 July 2010

a few words from the girl on the half-shell.

I've neglected my trawl through the hard drive recently. Far too busy finding ways not to mark essays, I guess.

Today, I've been listening to fiery diva virtuoso pieces - Bellini's Norma (trust me, it was a sexy name in 1831), which deals with love, faithlessness and sacrifice against a background of Gauls v. Romans (much like Asterix with more coloratura); and Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, perhaps the greatest English opera written, and amongst the first. 'When I Am Laid In Earth' is a heartbreaker, once you can get past the singing style, which lots of people - including me - find difficult.

Meanwhile, my alphabetical odyssey takes us to Bob Dylan, about whom I hope I don't have to say much. I've got all the good albums on vinyl, and The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and John Wesley Harding on my computer. There's a simple rule with Bob: pre-1980, mostly amazing. After that, largely terrible. I love so many songs by him, but highlights for me are his original 'All Along the Watchtower', 'Tangled Up in Blue', 'Talkin' World War III Blues', 'Girl From the North Country' and 'Masters of War'.

However, I'm not going to play you any of those. Instead, here's Joan Baez singing 'Diamonds and Rust' from the album of the same name, which is a mature woman's view of their relationship: Dylan was her protege, but he outpaced her and treated her fairly cruelly. The song's melancholy, tender, and packed with beautiful images and humour. I think it works well as a poem on its own - check out the Venus reference. The emotional gap between two people understanding a relationship differently is stunningly encapsulated by 'Speaking strictly for me, we both could have died then and there'.

The other track is Phil Ochs' 'No More Songs'. Ochs, one of my heroes, was a hard left folk singer who understood when Dylan left protest songs behind - this song is a gentle goodbye in the midst of a lot of criticism.


Benjamin Judge said...

After 1980 poor?

Time Out of Mind? Modern Times? Love and Theft?

The Plashing Vole said...

It's not an infallible rule. I do like Modern Times and Love and Theft, but not Time Out of Mind. He did set the bar rather high though - poor Dylan is still better than most people's best.