No person is more of a Puritan
than an adolescent who discovers a musician or musical style that really speaks to him or her. It becomes a prism or monad
that clarifies all around into a deceptive whole. And divides the world into those who somehow get it and those who are hopelessly lost.
For me it was Dylan. And I felt truly sorry for the Rush or Queen fans. Smugly superior to the Beatles or Stones throwbacks. And furiously indignant when a graduating senior attributed All Along the Watchtower to Jimi Hendrix (though Hendrix could be said to have inheritied it with his amazing version...)
For reasons that are beyond me, a moment of almost perfect clarity came when I was 15 or so and in the back seat of a two-toned brown station wagon. It was 1979 – I know that because Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming came out and at that time in my life a new Dylan album was an event of some magnitude. When I discovered the old copy of Another Side of Bob Dylan among the ‘Mantovanni Strings’ albums, the Perry Como’s and the Dinah Washington’s of my parents’ collection, it was something to pore over song-by-song, line-by-line. And luckily there were about ten albums to catch up on and do the same to so I was occupied for some time in this way. But a new Dylan album was something special.
I don’t think at that moment I had even bought it yet. I probably had a taped version from the late night program on WDHA “The Rock of North Jersey”. But, in any event, my Dad had it on the tape deck and I was absorbing Mark Knopfler’s guitar and Dylan’s voice singing his portentous, somewhat-paranoid and apocalyptic lyrics about relationships and current events (even some lyrics about the late seventies’ gas crisis) and redemption. And I had a feeling of extension and concentration combined with a sense of what I would do and become.
A boy in the back seat of a tank-like American car - a mid-seventies General Motors behemoth sucking up way too much gas - in a dreamy, content frame of mind, listening to the best music that he knew in the world and realizing that it wouldn’t always be that way, that things now opaque would approach come into focus and pass behind. Perhaps it was the suggestion of the lyrics of the song (“A slow train coming, up around the bend…”) or some slight hormonal shift in his body, the Van Der Waals force which focused him out of the present and on a future that seemed about as inevitable as the small town of Morristown passing by in that tumescent way a town passes by though the dusty windows of a terribly ugly but solid and reassuring station wagon driven by a dad who had not lost his seeming invincibility yet...