A well-oiled old-timer at Smokey Tavern, presented with the name Bob Dylan recently, responded, “So?”
On the very same night at Vincent’s Ear (and up against the same set of circumstances), a longhaired bartender with eccentric facial hair declared, “That moldy old bastard needs to stay the hell out of this town!”
Moldy. Old. Bastard.
A blase attitude from a blitzed barfly is one thing. But Mr. Curious Beard has, by some lights, firmly strapped himself into a window seat on the Old Testament Vision of Hell Express.
This is Dylan we’re talking about here.
His Bobness. Uncle Bob. Renaldo. The Thin Man. Zimmy. The Twin. Mr. Tambourine Man. Mr. Lucky. The Jester. Brother Bob. St. Bob. God.
So don’t let the church door hit you on the way out, Beard Boy.
It may be easy to forget these days that His Zimminess — the inscrutable geezer with the spooky growl who now sports a pimp mustache and a bizarre Afro-esque pompadour, and who dresses like the corrupt love child of Roy Rogers and Elvis Does Vegas — is fundamental.
Dylan’s mark on music is beyond calculation. The electric folkie’s bolts of influence flew willy-nilly from his young poet’s mind — even John Lennon was awed by him. (Would there have been a Rubber Soul in a world without Bob? Knock on “Norwegian Wood” before you answer.)
So, frankly, you’d best say thankly, Mr. Morrissey. Give a dark dance on the edge of town, Bruce (and Tom Petty, Joni Mitchell, Suzanne Vega, Greg Brown, blah, blah, blah). Throw down a great “Bloody hell!” from heaven, Joe Strummer.
From the Seattle-fried angst of The Cobain to the current meandering pretensions of Chris Carraba, Conor Oberst et al. on down to local spastic-emo outfit Red Penny Arsenal, Dylan is the music’s permanent subtext, the vagabond virus of meaning.
Eventually, we’ll find a cure for SARS. But St. Bob irrevocably infects any of us who listen to music that matters.
Zimmy may be great when he and his band play the Asheville Civic Center on Wednesday, May 14 (sometimes he is). Then again, he may suck (sometimes he does). And sure, in a world where youth’s grasp of irony often falls short of reflexivity, he’s moldy like a Rolling Stone. And old (he turns 62 this month). And a bastard, you bet.
8 p.m. $34.50. 259-5544 (visit the Civic Center box office for tickets).
— Frank Rabey