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This past weekend I discovered that Bob Dylan has released a Christmas album. I nearly sprayed my computer screen with an eggnog spit take. My opinion of Dylan – that he’s a mediocre talent who’s been lionized by lazy critics – is not a popular one. But any contrarian will tell you — the satisfaction of telling the truth easily outstrips the desire to fit in.

Dylan sounds like a 98 pound mosquito on a ventilator. (He sorta resembles one, too). And his fake-profound songwriting has been influential over the decades because there’s a simple formula for it. The recipe goes: Add references to the Bible, the American West, exotic international locales, drugs, a vague “journey,” and a promiscuous ex-girlfriend. Mix liberally with scorn and cheap irony. Stir with backup musicians who actually know how to play their instruments. Pretend to enjoy.

One Dylan original didn’t make it onto the new Xmas album, though. Here are some sample lyrics:

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“Lady Claus”
(Words: B. Dylan, Music: WTF, Make It Up Like He Does)

Lady Claus,
I hiked the snowy highway to the Pole to be with you
We made sugarplum love, candy cane kisses and absinthe
While that fat bearded bastard counted his Moroccan gold

Sweet Lady Claus,
Your rosy cheeks and ivory curls can’t hide your sinnin’ heart
The sad-faced elves who slave for you barely earn their keep
The reindeer dream of cowboys who haven’t sold their souls

Sad Lady Claus,
Your winter wonderland is a carnival of broken dreams
Malibu Barbie, Tickle Me Elmo, and the devil ask me why
You stand beside the toy master with snowflakes sharp as knives.

Or something like that. If you want some big Christmas balls for the tree, check out this novelty tune by one of country music’s greatest voices. As a kid, I thought it was hilarious. In 2009, it still qualifies as a curio.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Haven’t heard the song but based purely on the lyrics, it has to be one of the silliest things ever published. Pray tell, what will ol’ Bob attack next with his pen? The Easter Bunny? The Tooth Fairy? Kittens?! I’m shakin’ in my boots!

    And, Marci, going into the comments section of a local blog and saying that someone is a better writer than someone else is like saying someone is a better chewer of food than someone else: You’re really in no position to be passing judgment, and you’re certainly no authority.

  2. “Lady Claus” isn’t a real Dylan song.

    As for Jimmy’s take on Dylan and the songwriter’s “formula,” that’s like saying:

    “Vincent Van Gogh’s fake-profound painting has been influential over the decades because there’s a simple formula for it. The recipe goes: Slop the paint on thick, shape it with a knife, swirl it with a brush, use only bright colors, and focus on the places and people he lives among. Mix liberally with self-scorn. Pretend to enjoy.”

  3. C’mon, guys! These lyrics were found scribbled on the back of a grocery list on the floor of a Greenwich Village club circa 1961. Once handwriting experts determined it belonged to Dylan, “Lady Claus” was published in the liner notes of “The C Sides: Everything Dylan Ever Wrote is Genius.” The grocery list was also published.

    And as for you, Marci – please have a bad day.

  4. Paul McCartney was asked a while back who he would most like to interview and he said Dylan because “I admire him a lot, he’s a genius, and a great poet, I like his music, and I like his spirit.”

    Ditto.

    Jimmy you’re missing greatness if you can’t get Dylan. There is no better American songwriter. And he was always underrated as a singer. Yes, his voice is pretty much a croak these days but he sang wonderfully with passion, angst, soul and venom for 40 years. Saying Dylan can’t sing is like saying Louie Armstrong, Johnny Cash, or Tom Waits can’t sing. Just because their voices are ragged doesn’t mean they’re not right.

  5. Does this mean that the legendary “lost” Dylan track about The Easter Bunny – “Blood on His Fur” – is a parody, too? Only a few people have heard it, but the lyrics go:

    Easter Bunny, you’re a harlequin soldier in the colored egg wars
    Mad scientists brew morphine from your hippity-hops
    Jesse James and The Red Queen have stolen your dignity
    They parade it around in ribboned baskets for the cynical crowd to see

    Seriously, kids, DO try this at home. You can make up a Dylan song for all your favorite holidays.

    P.S. Jeff: His voice is not the main issue with me. And I even like some of his early tunes. “Just Like a Woman” is cool. “Simple Twist of Fate” is touching. And then you trip over shit like “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and — my template for a bad Bob Dylan song — “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.” Nobody can parody this guy like he can parody himself. Yet every time he burps, people fall to their knees.

    Seriously, if a 14 year old girl were to scribble a line like this in her diary — “All your seasick soldiers, they are rowing home/All your reindeer armies, are all going home” — she’d be dismissed for writing “teenage girl poetry.” I’m just saying — when you look at him objectively, Dylan’s a bit of a fraud. And he’s a legendarily AWFUL live performer. Read the reviews next time he comes through town.

  6. “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” is one of my faves. Dylan uses a drop-D tuning combined with a capo on only five strings to get a really cool guitar sound. He was the first one I ever saw do this capo trick (you can see it in the movie “Don’t Look Back.”). His voice is incredible on this tune, ranging from soft and vulnerable to piercing and howling. The lyrics aren’t his greatest but they’re damn good and certainly beyond the realm of a 14-year-old girl’s scribbling.

    Jimmy, something deeper is at work in your dismissal of a guy that many people, including me, consider the greatest songwriter ever. Look into the mirror my friend, delve into your demons, strive for a moment of clarity amid your obvious madness. See the light, the brilliant, translucent light that is Bob Dylan. Repent!

  7. Ah, yes: “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” are Dylan parodying himself. If you’re going to have sweeping opinions about a performer’s body of work, maybe you should have at least a speck of historical context. Oh, Jimmy, those 2 songs were recorded in 1965.

    1965.

    Songs like those had never been written before. They seem trite to you because you apparently have no grasp of that, nor what what kind of a bombshell “Highway 61 Revisited” was (pssst – it’s an album, Jimmy).

    Oh, and I love how your evidence of how Dylan is a “legendarily AWFUL live performer” are some “reviews” that you read. Or, more likely, heard about. I thought the lazy critics were the source of Bob Dylan being “lionized”. Well, which is it, Jimmy? The critics are lazy, or they’re the ones to be believed?

    Duh. Who lets you write?

  8. You have all the right not to like Dylan’s music. There are a LOT of us who do get it, though. And we have every right to love his work. Have you ever seen a live Bob show? He is amazing to watch if you know what you are seeing.

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