Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Too Much Monkey Business

The First Music Video, and a Lot More

When Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" hit us in 1965, we had a hard time understanding the rapid-fire lyrics, but we did understand  it was no novelty and that something significant had happened.  Looking back, we can see how it was an essential bridge in the continuum from the "talking blues" to rap.  It seemed unique at the time, but as one commentator noted, its blues structure and closeness to Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business" put it securely in the American popular music tradition.
A classic always rings true and is always current -- and this composition is as relevant this day as it was decades ago.  At the end of 2011, contemplating those societal, natural and economic changes that periodically build up to a turning point, this song makes me wonder if Bob Dylan's subconscious was roaming around in the future when he wrote it.

Johnny's in the basement
Mixing up the medicine

It was LSD then and it's meth now, and it was bathtub gin in 1922, but it's always something

I'm on the pavement
Thinking about the government

People are on the pavement all over the world -- Arab Spring and O.W.S. now, civil rights and stop-the-war then.  But we've learned that authoritarian repression always seizes power after revolutions.  Meet the new boss.

Six-time losers

He might have been thinking of Nixon and his McCarthyites hungrily eyeing the 1968 election; we still have a cast of perennial losers who just won't go away.

Look out, kid
It's something you did
God knows when
But you're doin' it again

The phone's tapped anyway

The Constitution-busting recent law allowing indefinite detention without charges if you're called a terrorist (do the Arab Spring and OWS people look like terrorists?  No, they look like you and me), the quickly-developing Security State after the Patriot Act, the ubiquitous surveillance and communications monitoring -- Bob, it got a lot worse than the FBI hounding the civil rights people.

Wants eleven dollar bills
You only got ten

Your income is basically where it was 40 years ago, but the cost of housing is ridiculous and those poor Millennials have $60,000 worth of student loans to pay back while unearned capital gains are taxed at 15%.

You don't need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows

Industry's lobbyists spend millions to support the climate change denial front, and most everyone votes for their puppet candidates while watching their trailer home washing away in a flood or blowing away in a tornado.  You don't need a weather man if you can't put two and two together on your own.

Get jailed, jump bail
Join the Army if you fail

Twenty years of schoolin'
And they put you on the day shift

Automate all the jobs or send them overseas, then offer the young these alternatives:  be cannon fodder or a fast-food cashier.  And remember -- with computerization, everyone's got a permanent record more durable than the inscriptions at Karnak.

Don't follow leaders
Watch the parking meters

Good advice for those in Soviet Russia.  Good advice now.  Remember everything goes on your credit report (as it did in the KGB dossiers) and it will be used against you, even if someone else made an error and you can prove it.

Don't wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals

Stay away from those
Who carry around a fire hose

Referring to the police dogs, batons and fire hoses turned on the civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama back then; now they're pepper-spraying grandmothers and young people kneeling silently in New York and Berkeley.

So Dylan was saying that when you emerge from your subterranean life as a minor or a student to full participation in the social and economic mainstream, you're probably going to find that the system's been gamed ?   


1 comment:

  1. At the latest tech show, there is a television with face recognition. So as you watch, the advertisers will target you with things you want and like. It is already done on the internet. Don't get angry. Just take a pill and go with the flow. You will buy one of these TVs. You will respond.
    and the politics have not changed. Join a Super PAC. The whole world is watching on a remote.