Anarchy 51/"i gotta million friends"
“i gotta million friends”
|you ask: how does it feel to be an idol?
|it’d be silly of me to answer, wouldn’t it . . .”
It seems worthwhile, therefore, to write briefly about Dylan in this issue of anarchy—whether this piece is by way of an obituary remains to be seen. If it is, it will not be entirely Dylan’s fault: he has been picked up by the pop parasite as the . Pop traditionally preys on more virile musical forms, either corrupting the original practitioners to suit the market or producing its own pre-corrupted copyists, as happened in the case of . It usually works out best from both sides when pop produces its imitations and leaves the originals to go their own way. In the case of Dylan both things seem to have happened. The manipulators of pop fashion who have for a long time been pushing “folk” as the next teenage have created their own Dylan, by name , who plays to Dylan’s . Fortunately Donovan does not matter; he is going to earn a lot of money and keep himself, and thousands of little girls, happy by imitating Dylan. But the fate of Dylan, who is highly original, despite admitted debts to Woody Guthrie and Guthrie’s disciple, , and whose songs have been an emotionally articulate vehicle for the feelings of the generation in the and the generation here, is of great concern. The news that his current American is being sold in a bearing photographs of the heightens this concern.The process of popularising Dylan has been going on now for several months. He is the logical successor to the long-haired r ’n’ b groups—the protest implicit in the and the is explicit in Dylan—but recording as he does for the American company, whose concern for the fast buck rather than for the effect of over-exposure on their artists is notorious, there has always been the
In all that has been written about Dylan, only one writer,, in a valuable and perceptive article which appeared in almost a year ago, seems to have described accurately how Dylan is being mythologised: “. . . a powerful piece of myth-making is taking place. Dylan is being promoted not just as a folk-singer (and he is a good one) but as a folk-hero, a randy for this day and age.”
This still does not fully account for the rapid rise of Dylan’sin the top twenty, for the fact that tickets for his two May appearances sold out in a total of under two days, or for the consistent appearance of his LPs amongst the ten national best sellers. Has he captured this enormous public as a result of plugs given him by such groups as the Beatles and the ? Is his nasal voice, rudimentary and uncomfortable style really the sound the record buyers have been craving for, having been sated on the noise of the British “Chicago-line” r ’n’ b groups? Or is it possible, by some chance, that his “message” corresponds with a new outlook held by all these people, that they actually listen to the words and not just the overall sound? The answer seems to lie somewhere between the first two possibilities. For if half the people who now buy Dylan’s records really listen to the words of , why is radical activity in confined to minute local groups? If a quarter understand what he is saying in , why aren’t the streets filled? And if but a tenth feel every emotion in , when is the revolution? Philip Oakes probably has the answer: “Folk song has become everyone’s instant conscience; easy to summon, easy to settle. To ditto the message, to agree with the sentiments, is all that’s required. You too can be a : all you have to do is play the record”.