Re: Bob, Van, Rock & Aging...
- From: really real <reallyreal@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 03 Jul 2006 03:28:14 GMT
1979, and both Van Morrison and Bob Dylan are at the beginning of massive upswings and revolutions of their personal, professional and spiritual lives. Both abandon their rock 'n' roll/r&b sounds for a more gospel inspired sound and begin a very fruitful creative period. It was like they grew up, no longer the twenty something rock stars, they evolved into what some believe to be both their career highlights, whilst maintaining tremendous moving (physically, emotionally and spiritually) music with top flight bands but preceding the seemingly inevitable introvertedness and reflectiveness of later periods.
Well, that's one way to look at it. But what you call a "more gospel inspired sound and very fruitful creative period" was, for the majority of Dylan fans, a disastrous turn of events arising from his career and personal problems. I've forgiven Bob for painting himself into that corner, but I know people who will never listen to a new Bob Dylan song again because they consider Dylan to be a sell-out to the forces of right wing Christianity.
As for Van Morrison, I can't keep track of all his spiritual quests, be they Scientology or forms of no-guru Christianity. All I know is, Van's music slid downhill from the 70s with the odd perky musical experimentations and the odd mild comeback. In the Scorceses blues documentary, Van looked terrible and didn't sound very good, while Jeff Beck, Tom Jones, and Lulu all sounded and looked great.
It was the middle period for both artists. In 1983 Bob would put out Infidels in which it seemed that while his introspective, more calmer songs were now in the ascendence his capacity to write even a decent straight up rock song seemed to be completely shot, while the driving gospel was also all but a memory. With Van the same thing seemed to be happening more and more as the 80's wore on, brilliant, timeless, meditative pieces dominated whereas even the gospel/jazz/blues upbeat works of the 79-81 period were now fading from his writing.
But there was a difference in how both responded to this process. Where Van seemingly took pleasure in marketing himself as the contemplative adult jazz artist/mystic, Bob seemed to go into shock at his loss of rock 'n' roll instincts. As one of the tours Bob would later speak of negatively, his short European tour of 1984 saw him saddled with perhaps the most cliched and characterless rock group concievable, featuring the ever soloing Mick Taylor on lead guitar, the tour was a pretty dull trip down memory lane. Here was Bob coming off of four straight tremendous albums and his last touring group was arguably his best ever during the gospel years of 79-81, now not only playing his old songs, but predominantly playing his old songs, and playing them with a full blown rock band. No backing singers, no gospel touches, just straight out Highway 61 rock.
Bob would later talk about how he'd lost the ability to stay in touch with the meaning of his old songs, and his mid 80's tours with Tom Petty were an extension of the 84 tour in that respect, however, if he turned his hand to more reflective contemporary material such as Lenny Bruce or License To Kill, the results would invariably be outstanding, so why didn't Bob simply follow Van's lead and not give a damn about his inability to play his old songs?
In 1998 Bob said that after he recorded the Traveling Wilbury's Vol III and Under The Red Sky back in 1990 that he decided to abandon songwriting because he still wasn't writing the types of songs he wanted to be writing. It seems that Bob saw his songwriting and musical tastes getting too introspective and thoughtful, too far away from his rock 'n' roll roots, and starting in 1984 he set out to not grow old gracefully but to rediscover his roots.
While Van has grumpily ever since simply kept on writing more and more introspective and contemplative music, and reinvented himself entirely as an adult contemporary jazz/soul songwriter with songs like Have I Told You Lately, Days Like This, The Healing Game and Back On Top, his Bobness would have none of that.
In 84 he took up with the loudest rock band he could find after trying out a punk band, in 85 he put out his most contemporary sounding album ever, a horrid collection of attempts at writing rock 'n' roll songs, the next couple of years he'd team up with another rock band Tom Petty's Heartbreakers and keep insisting on releasing albums steeped in old school rock 'n' roll.
Finally Bob did a tour with the Grateful Dead and somehow twigged as to how he could once again get in touch with his old songs and the youthful spirit of the whole genre, the end result being the Never Ending Tour which while having it's ups and downs has been marked by a Bob Dylan seemingly turning back the clock and breathing new life into his youthful songs as if he were somehow 25 all over again.
And yet, his songwriting seems to have suffered, 1989's Oh Mercy was perhaps a brief look into what Bob might have turned into had he gone the Van Morrison route, a collection of deeply introverted and reflective mature songs, having nothing in common with his live focus on rock'n'roll.
So what was it all about? Why did Bob react so negatively to what would seem to be the natural process of aging and maturing? Did Van take the right road in accepting and relishing his new status and new inspirations? Did Bob simply get self conscious about getting old where Van didn't? Or did the Never Ending Tour reinvigorate the old bones and save Bob from premature dullness? Has Bob actually denied the hands of time by seeking out the source of his youthful vigour?
- Bob, Van, Rock & Aging...
- From: David O'Brien
- Bob, Van, Rock & Aging...
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