Bob Dylan at Imperial

It’s hard to believe, but Bob Dylan is at Imperial. Stranger than an eleven-dollar bill. But it’s true. 
Not in person you understand, that would be ridiculous. But his words are there, as the sub-text to an exhibition of photographs by Mark Edward illustrating humankind’s disconnection from the planet that we inhabit. The pictures are displayed on temporary boarding along one side of the Queen’s Lawn in the centre of the campus.
It might seem crass but the words and images work powerfully together. The exhibition is part of the Hard Rain Project.
The inspiration apparently came from Edward’s weird experience of receiving hospitality from a Bedouin man in the desert in the 1970s. After providing food and drink, Edward’s host produced a tape-recorder, warmed up some elderly batteries and played Dylan’s song, _A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall_, to the photographer.
Dylan wrote the song at the time of the Cuban missile crisis. In his own words, “I was in Bleecker Street in New York. We just hung around at night — people sat around wondering if it was the end, and so did I. Would 10 O’Clock the next day ever come? It was a song of desperation. What could we do?”
Dylan could at least articulate his terror and despair.
I had noticed the exhibition on my way into work earlier in the week. Finally today I decided to end my run (30 minutes!) and catch my breath while taking in the words and pictures. I’m glad I did. It is a moving collection of pictures, each forcefully amplified by Dylan’s mesmerising lyric. No less a figure than Christy Moore has already attested to the inspirational value of the composition.
There are plenty of good things about the way we live today but, as the exhibition demonstrates, there’s a lot wrong too. The Cuban missile crisis may have passed but the nuclear threat remains palpable. And we are more aware that ever of the intractability of human conflict and our impact on the natural world.
The answers to our major problems will not be easy. But the exhibition offers one piece of wisdom from a rather famous scientist:
Something to think about, as I headed back to my office.

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19 Responses to Bob Dylan at Imperial

  1. Alejandro Correa says:

    This answer my friend dwell in the quake.
    This answer dwell in the quake.

  2. Benoit Bruneau says:

    Dylan is the human kazoo. Otherwise, a brilliant pairing.
    (I’m bloody tired of constantly signing in when I’m already bloody well signed in FFS; again, with blood)

  3. Benoit Bruneau says:

    (also why do I have to scroll back down once I’ve signed in?)

  4. Stephen Curry says:

    It’s true enough, Alejandro (if I have understood you correctly), that a momentous event is sometimes necessary to see what is important in life. Hope you are managing to recover from the aftermath of that dreadful earthquake.
    Benoit – a ‘human Kazoo’? Are you referring to the sometimes whiny timbre of Dylan’s voice or assessing his musical contributions? I wouldn’t regard myself as a die-hard fan but do like much of his left-field output.
    I was glad to see that the College could accommodate Dylan, and had the nerve to display an exhibition that includes quite a number of shocking images. The Hard Rain website (link above) is well worth a visit.
    BTW Benoit – I share your frustration with the commenting problems due to the new platform. Thanks for having the forbearance to stick with it and post your comment but I’m worried that other people simply won’t have bothered because of the current snafus. I’m sure the back-room team are aware of it and hope it can be resolved soon (hint, hint).

  5. Alejandro Correa says:

    I’ll never understand why Dylan hated so much at Donovan, Donovan was a very nice and good composer.
    Someone knows that?
    Thanks Stephan.

  6. Benoit Bruneau says:

    Yes, whiny timbre. That and the oft-mumbled lyrics.

  7. Alejandro Correa says:

    Me if, why Donovan was a probably biological competitor.

  8. Stephen Curry says:

    An interesting evolutionary hypothesis Alejandro but I don’t see how Donovan was a real threat to Dylan’s reproductive fitness! 😉
    In any case a brief perusal of the Wikipedia entry on Donovan shows there was a lot less antipathy between the two singer-songwriters than you suggest.
    Benoit – I guess you’re no fan of opera then, if you like to hear the lyrics. For some bands or artists, the performance is actually enhanced if you _can’t_ understand what they’re trying to say…

  9. Alejandro Correa says:

    It is very evident Stephen, especially in on tour in that Dylan insulted Donovan in _”Rolling Thunder Revue”_.

  10. Alejandro Correa says:

    Sorry! was on tour with Joan Baez to UK, I not remember the name of the tour at the moment…

  11. Alejandro Correa says:

    Is a documental _”Dont Look Back”_ of D.A. Pennebaker.

  12. Sara Fletcher says:

    I think there was a similar exhibition in Oxford’s Harcourt Arboretum a year or so ago – it was very powerful and emotive despite, or perhaps because of, the rather unexpected location.

  13. Austin Elliott says:

    Pennebaker’s _Don’t Look Back_ is an absolute classic, and anyone even vaguely interested in the music of the 60s should seek it out if they’ve not seen it.
    I suspect one reason Dylan probably disliked Donovan is that Donovan was widely touted by the English music press in the 60s as _”the English Bob Dylan”_. Dylan fairly clearly thought Donovan was a bit of a lightweight, and the general verdict of musical history is that Donovan is/was not the kind of major league artist Dylan is/was. Of course, Donovan was a pretty good songwriter and singer in his own right, but Dylan is… well, Dylan.
    One of Donovan’s biggest hit was a cover version of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s _Universal Soldier_, which is worth a link since the song seems to me to be as apt now as it was when it was written 45 years ago.

  14. Alejandro Correa says:

    Donovan is a consummate guitarist, do not forget that in a passage of *”Do not loock Back”* manager tells Dylan Donovan plays the guitar very well and even better than you “To which Bob replies,” Then I *hate him!* .

  15. Stephen Curry says:

    Thanks for the recommendation Austin.
    I’ve not seen the film (obviously) but have you considered the possibility, Alejandro, that Dylan might have a sense of humour…?
    Sara – it probably was the same exhibition. According to the Hard Rain Website, it has been shown all over the world and is still ‘touring’. For those who can’t see it, there’s a book and a DVD…

  16. Alejandro Correa says:

    *NO* Stephen. why Donovan comes from the school of Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, pressing style guitar with the fingers “Finguer picking widely used by the Anglo-Saxon type of folk guitarists, and even Paul Simon learned while in the UK. “Ballad of Crhistal Man” “The War Drags’on,” “Josie”, and a lot of good songs, they left the first time Donovan

  17. Benoit Bruneau says:

    “….if you like to hear the lyrics”; I wasn’t clear: I’m not complaining about Dylan’s kazooness (Mewezzzzemeh Whoaaaa), on the contrary, it wouldn’t be Zimmy without it. And yes, good mumbling can be the best. But Opera, not such a fan I’m afraid.

  18. Stephen Curry says:

    _it wouldn’t be Zimmy without it…_
    Yeah – as Bowie memorably put it (in _Song for Bob Dylan_ from _Hunky Dory_), “a voice like sand and glue”.

  19. Alejandro Correa says:

    _but Dylan is… well, Dylan_
    I agree with that. Has very good songs:
    Mr. Tambourine man
    The Times They Are a-Changin
    Blowin’ in the Wind
    I want you
    Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid
    It Ain’t Me Babe

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