Fiddlin' AroundNancy Buchan

Bob Dylan

 By Nancy Buchan 

I am a huge cheerleader for live music, as anyone who read my columns in the now-defunct Dominical Days would know.   I’m glad there are folks out there who love music in all its forms, but I’m especially thrilled that people will search out and support live music wherever it might be.   Give the mariachi guys a respectful listen and some colones.  Walk into the church when the local music students are playing a little concert.   Frequent and spend heavily in the bars that hire musicians and buy their cds directly from them.   Close your eyes and move to the music that will never again be played in just that way.   Be part of a glorious instant of creativity and communication.   Perhaps witness greatness.  


So, since I’m a junky for live music, last May I trekked to Heredia, by San Jose, to a fairly small stadium to hear and witness 70 year old Bob Dylan in concert.  My friend Margie, who is a radio DJ, nabbed us a couple of tickets to see the man who has basically transcribed our lives into song for the last half century.  We discussed the data of his life – keeping in mind that “a good story is often better than a true story”.  She’s a walking discography of music, so we re-visited his recorded growth and impact – what was done when, what album, what studio, what year, what mind set, etc.  He shaped our perceptions of him by being partly fact and partly fiction, and it’s been difficult sometimes over the years to figure out what the heck he’s talking about.  There are many books and words written about Dylan, as he has had a huge impact on American and worldwide politics and musical history, and most everyone has personally connected with his music at some point.  His classic song, “Blowing in the Wind”, of course became the brave anthem for a wacked out generation of people questioning everything.  “How many times must the cannon balls fly, before they’re forever banned?  The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind.  The answer is blowing in the wind.”   He has always been a bit of a mystery, and no doubt it was easier for him to just let folks think whatever it is they’re gonna think…. 

I was really curious to see who would show up for this concert, and was a bit surprised.  Of course there was the grey-haired gringo/hippie contingent, but there were also a lot of young Ticos who seemed to know at least some of his music and were incredibly respectful and aware of his importance.  I wondered if they were hip to his huge catalog of original songs – and how does his poetry translate?  Do they get the symbolism and vague references in his lyrics?  Are they aware of how many musicians cover his material, from Jimi Hendrix to Adelle to Elvis to the Boston Symphony?  What do they know of this elusive enigma of an artist?  Do they realize this recent recipient of the American Presidential Medal of Freedom used to be on J. Edgar Hoovers FBI hit list for fostering dissent and political activism?   How did they come up with $150 for tickets?  He’s still giving us questions. 

The phrase I heard most often that magical night was “hey, he’s Bob Dylan!”   There is no judging of him.  He is Bob Dylan and can do whatever he freaking wants.  He has a 600 song repertoire and if he wants to forget the words or change the phrasing to whatever he feels right then, well, he’s Bob Dylan.  I can’t think of another musician who is given that much respectful leeway in his performances.  He could stand on his head and juggle in his pajamas and he is still Bob Dylan and we will always cheer him on.  He never spoke, except to introduce the band, and nobody cared, ‘cause he’s Bob Dylan.  There was no fancy lighting or staging, not much merchandising going on, no soaring guitar solos to distract from the songs – hey, it was Bob Dylan and Bob Dylan is all about the songs.  It doesn’t really matter if the words are unclear or he sings with alien phrasing, he is Bob Dylan and it is worth our time to figure out or look up the words to his songs. 

“Well, it’s always been my nature to take chances.  My right hand drawing back while my left hand advances.  Where the current is strong and the monkey dances – to the tune of a concertina.”  From Angelina.  “Buckets of rain, buckets of tears.  Got all them buckets coming out of my ears.  Buckets of moonbeams in my hand.  You got all the love honey baby I can stand.”  From Buckets of Rain.  “There’s nothing I wish to be ownin’.  Just carry yourself back to me unspoiled from across that lonesome ocean.”  From Boots of Spanish Leather.  “When storm clouds gather round and heavy rains descend – just remember that death is not the end.”   Shoot.  I can’t remember where that’s from.  “What did you hear, my blue-eyed son?  What did you hear, my darling young one?  I heard the sound of the thunder that roared out a warning.  I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world.  I’m going back up ‘fore the rain starts a’falling.”   From It’s a Hard Rain A’Gonna Fall.  “In the early morning rain, with a dollar in my hand.  And an aching in my heart and my pockets full of sand.  I’m a long ways from home, and I miss my loved ones so.  In the early morning rain – with no place to go.”  Early Morning Rain.  Keep in mind, these are just a couple of his songs that our rainy season here gives new meaning to.   Plus, they’re just the ones I happen to remember that seem relevant.  Yikes, what a legacy.  Way to give words meaning and melody.  Let me leave you with this one – “And I was standing on the side of the road – rain falling over my shoes.  Heading out for the east coast – Lord knows I’ve paid some dues.  Getting through – tangled up in blue.”  To see him take his curtain call was a beautiful thing – arms lifted up, palms up – like an awkward but playful pope blessing us all.  

Well our rainy season is just a memory, so bless those intrepid bar and restaurant owners who continue to present live music year ‘round in our little part of the rain forest.  Roca Verde in Dominical is serious about consistently having bands on Fridays nights, and it’s a wonderful venue for dancing or listening.  I’ll be there with my New Orleans honky-tonking buddy Kim Carson for some gigs this month.  Around here we’re known as The Tropi – Cowgirls – in some parts of the world we’re known as the Tipsy Chicks…. We’ll even be teaming up with Ben Orton of the Howlers for some serious get down and boogie gigs, so search out our schedule!  How about that for shameless self-promotion….  

On Sunday, January 27th there will be a fundraiser for the PAWS organization at Rancho Leon north of Quepos.  They host low-cost spay and neuter clinics for the animals around here and throw a heck of a party, so don’t miss it!  Musicians will include the Tropi – Cowgirls, Robbie Clark and the Live Wire Band, The Pura Vida Social Club, Ben Jammin’ and the Howlers and a bunch of special guests, so come out and party for a good cause.   January 18th, 19th and 20th there will be great music at the Jungle Jam held at Doce Lunas in Jaco.   Bill Kreutzmann, – drummer for 30 years with the Grateful Dead will be playing with his band the “BK3”, jam-band Max Creek will be there along with several other cool acts – check out their website for details.   Get out and listen to some live music!! 

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“Dylan is so brilliant.  To me, he makes William Shakespeare look like Billy Joel.”     George Harrison

“Suffice it to say Dylan is a planet to be explored.”    Tom Waits

“If I wasn’t Bob Dylan, I’d probably think that Bob Dylan has a lot of answers myself.”    Bob Dylan