Thursday, January 25, 2018

That Wild Mercury Sound

Bob Dylan : It Ain't Me Babe (from Renaldo and Clara)

On January 25, 1978 Renaldo and Clara, a film directed by Bob Dylan and written with Sam Shepard, was released in theaters. Part concert film documenting the Rolling Thunder Revue, part dizzying fantasy film filled with scattered fictional vignettes, Renaldo and Clara has appearances by Shepherd, Joan Baez ( performing and talking to Dylan about what would have happened if they ever married) , Harry Dean Stanton, T Bone Burnett, Joni Mitchell, David Blue, Phil Ochs, Roger McGuinn, Bob Dylan as Renaldo and Sara Dylan in the role of Clara. 

Dylan would lose two million dollars on the venture.

To promote the film, Dylan agreed to do an interview with Playboy. In his book Grant and I, Go Between Robert Forster remembers Grant McLennan reading the entire interview out loud as they drove to Sydney, Australia.

Their favorite passage:

The closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind was on individual bands in the Blonde on Blonde album. It's that thin, that wild mercury sound. It's metallic and bright gold, with whatever that conjures up. That's my particular sound. I haven't been able to succeed in getting it all the time. Mostly, I've been driving at a combination of guitar, harmonica and organ, but now I find myself going into territory that has more percussion in it and [pause] rhythms of the soul.

I also like this moment (despite the fact that Dylan reveals he isn't aware of what's happening in the punk, new wave music scene):

PLAYBOY: Would you say you still have a rebellious, or punk, quality toward the rest of the world? 

 DYLAN: Punk quality? 

 PLAYBOY: Well, you're still wearing dark sunglasses, right? 

 DYLAN: Yeah. 

 PLAYBOY: Is that so people won't see your eyes? 

 DYLAN: Actually, it's just habit-forming after a while, I still do wear dark sunglasses. There is no profound reason for it, I guess. Some kind of insecurity, I don't know: I like dark sunglasses. Have I had these on through every interview session? 

PLAYBOY: Yes. We haven't seen your eyes yet. 

DYLAN: Well, Monday for sure. [The day that PLAYBOY photos were to be taken for the opening page]

And now, for a limited time I'm betting, here's Renaldo and Clara:

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