Monday, February 1, 2016
kind of wild
I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more
No, I ain't gonna work for Maggie's brother no more
Well, he hands you a nickel
He hands you a dime
He asks you with a grin
If you're havin' a good time
-- excerpt, "Maggie's Farm," Bob Dylan
"If I had an axe, I'd have cut the mike cable!" is Pete Seeger's statement about Dylan going electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
That's his statement a few decades after the fact, that is. The interview appears in the documentary No Direction Home (Martin Scorsese). Not sure what year the interview happened in -- 2003, maybe, while Scorsese was gathering footage? Or it could have been from earlier, but at any rate you can see it's a long time after 1965.
That whole Newport - electric-Dylan controversy is, like many controversies, partly true and partly not. Partly exaggerated. Because let's face it, that's more fun, in a way.
Elijah Wald addresses the various versions of this story and the attendant ambivalence in his book, Dylan Goes Electric!
When you watch this segment in Scorsese's
No Direction, you see Pete Seeger say to the interviewer, in a friendly, engaged, and semi-intense tone, "If I had an axe, I'd chop the mike cable right now...!" but he says it with a smile and a twinkle in his eye...
You can almost see the wheels turning in the brain of this gentle elder statesman of 20th Century peace movements, as he's thinking, "You youngsters want an axe, I'll give you an axe...!"
And the whole image of an "axe" to chop that mike cable when "those electric instruments" get "going" sort of brings on double vision, with two simultaneous and freaky images:
1) Pete's phrase, "if I had an axe" kind of echoes the famous song title "If I Had A Hammer" and you start to picture Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Peter, Paul and Mary singing an alternative version of "If I Had a Hammer -- I'd hammer in the morning -- I'm hammer in the evening -- all over this land..."
"If I had an aahh-ah-axx, I'd -- chop in the morning, I'd chop in the evenin' -- all over this..." No, never mind, hopefully not.
And second, you get the weird image of all these NRA fanatics with their "open-carry" obsessions...should we also have "Open-Carry" laws for axes, too? So we can all walk around, "armed" for the occasion on which we encounter music we don't appreciate? (LOL - We can do some mike-cable-choppin'...)
Also serial killers could get in on the Open-Carry movement -- they would get to carry their axes around in public while selecting their next victims -- it would be like serial killer civil-rights, or something...("Serial axe-killers are -- people, too..." [do we think that would fly?])
In No Direction, another commenter who was there recalls, of Dylan's electric set, "The -- the -- volume of the blues band was kind of wild, you couldn't get the words too clearly..."
And he adds, "It was not possible to share the intimacy we'd been sharing with folk music, when you've got those electric instruments going...."
And Dylan says, in the 2000 - 2004 time-frame, in an interview,
"For Pete Seeger -- someone whose music I cherish, and who I highly respect, to -- say he was gonna cut the cable -- oh! It was -- like a dagger!"
Daggers, axes...the peaceniks are armed to the teeth! (In their rhetoric, anyway...)
(Pete Seeger, background-right, singing "Green Corn" at Newport)