Confessions of a Bobcat lives again.

BY MIKE JOHNSON

In 2015 I began my Bobcat blog to share with interested readers some of my Dylan collection. I discontinued the blog in 2015 due to pressures of work, and because the blogs were getting longer and too ambitious, involving the collating of many different performances of one song, and long comments.

Now, with Dylan having won the Nobel Prize for Literature, I have decided to re-open the blog with more limited objective. I will upload only one live performance, a song, one per week, with a brief comment. Dylan’s prize was greeted with sighs of satisfaction from bobcats everywhere (we knew it all along!) to howls of outrage from detractors and Leonard Cohen advocates. I have been guided in my weekly choices by picking those songs and performances I think make Dylan worthy of the prize. I deliberately focus on the post 1987 period, when the Never Ending Tour began, for the performances, and on his later material for the songs. Excessive focus on Dylan’s sixties work distorts our view of his achievements. Some of his greatest songs were written after 1997, when the album Time Out of Mind appeared.

To my mind, Dylan has created a new art form: his songs exist in their own space between song and poetry, while his performances similarly create their own space between reciting and singing. His vocal performances are more like nuanced reciting than singing; the songs derive from both song and poetry but are neither. They are something different.

  Dylan, Nobel Laurette of Literature, 1966.

Dylan, Nobel Laurette of Literature, 1966.

Song 1 — Ain’t Talking

The closing song on Modern Times, 2006. This version from 2007. This journey through ‘the mystic garden’ is evocative and puzzling, the landscape morally dark:

They say prayer has the power to heal
So pray from the mother
In the human heart an evil spirit can dwell
I am a-tryin' to love my neighbor and do good unto others
But oh, mother, things ain't going well

Great vocal, though the audience recording is a bit echoey. This is great example of what I mean by the performance hovering between song and poetry recitation.

Next week: the heart-rending Forgetful Heart.

Ain’t talkin’:

As I walked out tonight in the mystic garden
The wounded flowers were dangling from the vine
I was passing by yon cool crystal fountain
Someone hit me from behind

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
Through this weary world of woe
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
No one on earth would ever know

They say prayer has the power to heal
So pray from the mother
In the human heart an evil spirit can dwell
I am a-tryin' to love my neighbor and do good unto others
But oh, mother, things ain't going well

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
I'll burn that bridge before you can cross
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
There'll be no mercy for you once you've lost

Now I'm all worn down by weeping
My eyes are filled with tears, my lips are dry
If I catch my opponents ever sleeping
I'll just slaughter 'em where they lie

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
Through the world mysterious and vague
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
Walkin' through the cities of the plague

Well, the whole world is filled with speculation
The whole wide world which people say is round
They will tear your mind away from contemplation
They will jump on your misfortune when you're down

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
Eatin' hog-eyed grease in a hog-eyed town
Heart burnin', still yearnin'

Some day you'll be glad to have me around

They will crush you with wealth and power
Every waking moment you could crack
I'll make the most of one last extra hour
I'll avenge my father's death then I'll step back

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
Hand me down my walkin' cane
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
Got to get you out of my miserable brain

All my loyal and my much-loved companions
They approve of me and share my code
I practice a faith that's been long abandoned
Ain't no altars on this long and lonesome road

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
My mule is sick, my horse is blind
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
Thinkin' 'bout that gal I left behind

Well, it's bright in the heavens and the wheels are flyin'
Fame and honor never seem to fade
The fire gone out but the light is never dyin'
Who says I can't get heavenly aid?

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
Carryin' a dead man's shield
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
Walkin' with a toothache in my heel

The sufferin' is unending
Every nook and cranny has its tears
I'm not playing, I'm not pretending
I'm not nursin' any superfluous fears

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
Walkin' ever since the other night
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
Walkin' 'til I'm clean out of sight

As I walked out in the mystic garden
On a hot summer day, a hot summer lawn
Excuse me, ma'am, I beg your pardon
There's no one here, the gardener is gone

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
Up the road, around the bend
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
In the last outback at the world's end