Thursday, February 07, 2008

Losing Idols

The Voxtrot song “Brother in Conflict” came on today. The last line of the song caught my attention. Ramesh Srivastava sings — screams, really, several times: “I had to lose my idols to find my voice/ lose my idols to find my voice/ lose my idols/ to find my voice.” Appropriate for someone who channeled Morrissey in early songs.

It reminded me of the Bob Dylan song/spoken word piece “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie.” Dylan performed this at New York Town Hall on April 12, 1963.

It’s a eulogy, but not for Guthrie, who was still alive at this point. Dylan obvious owed a great deal of his early work to Guthrie. This was Dylan saying goodbye to that influence and moving on to something new.

They’re actually similar, the song and the poem. Both rattle off in lost lists: “And this, And this, And this.” It’s the like “The Exorcist”: “The power of Christ compels you. The power of Christ compels you.” It takes a couple of shakes to get peanut butter off a spoon.

“The music is so much different and much more work-intensive than anything we've ever done before,” Srivastava told “the Austin Chronicle” last year. “You can accept the part of yourself that wants to write really accessible pop songs, and you can also accept the part of yourself that wants to write something a little more complex.”

The last seventeen lines of the Dylan poem:

Where do you look for this lamp that’s a burning
Where do you look for this oil well gushing
Where do you look for this candle that’s glowing
Where do you look for this hope that you know is there
And out there somewhere
And your feet can only walk down two kinds of roads
Your eyes can only look through two kinds of windows
Your nose can only smell two kinds of hallways
You can touch and twist and turn two kinds of doorknobs
You can either go to the church of your choice
Or you go to Brooklyn State Hospital
You find God in the Church of you Choice
You find Woody Guthrie in the Brooklyn State Hospital
And though it’s only my opinion
It may be right or wrong
You can find them both at the Grand Canyon at sundown.

Eric Clapton said this about Dylan and the poem: “He’s a poet. Basically he’s a poet. He does not trust his voice. He doesn’t trust his guitar playing. He doesn’t think he's good at anything, except writing—and even then he has self-doubts. Have you heard that thing he wrote about Woody Guthrie? That to me is the sum of his life’s work so far. Whatever happens, that is it. That sums it up.”

Clapton, of course, being the one who inspired people in London to write “Clapton is God” on subway walls.

All of which begs to reference Exodus 20:19-20: “God said to Moses, “So shall you say to the Children of Israel, ‘You have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven. You shall not make idols of Me; gods of silver and gods of gold shall you not make for yourselves.” Repeated several times (Exodus, Levitacus, Deuteronomy) of course.

You have to lose your idols to find your voice.

1 comment:

Jonathan Blundell said...

love it!