Bob Dylan: the official videos – an emotionally tight connection in the night

by Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

Please note, since we put this post on line we have had a report that the videos themselves are not visible in all parts of the world.  If you find you can’t access any of  them please do write in, saying which country you are in.  If you can find the official video of the song elsewhere please do send in (using the form below) the complete link to the file page and a note of which country you are in.  Thanks.

Always on the look out for something different to contemplate in the Universe of Dylan, we (well, Aaron actually) had the idea of looking back at the official Dylan videos for individual songs.

And so for the first in this series Aaron has selected the three official videos produced for the Empire Burlesque’ singles: Tight Connection, Emotionally Yours and When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky.

Aaron:   First up, Tight Connection. Now I did a bit of a deep dive on this, because to be honest, I don’t get what’s even happening here!

It was directed by Paul Schrader who, amongst other things, wrote the screenplay for four Scorsese movies, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Last Temptation Of Christ and Bringing Out The Dead. He’s even got an Oscar nomination, so that’s not a bad C.V.

But somehow we ended up with this strange video, Dylan’s “acting” is awkward at best and the less said about the 80s fashion sense the better.

Perhaps Tony, with his creative writing skills can come up with a narrative that brings all this together in a way that is understandable.

I read a piece online which describes the video, “True to form for both artists, the video is an elliptical and visually ambiguous affair, something either half-remembered or imagined all together.

Schrader envisions a glittering, metropolitan Tokyo, wrapping our hero up in a surreal web of mistaken identity, dreamlike romance, Cold War geopolitics, and Yakuza/punk rock conflict. Wide pans and sudden zooms only add to the disorienting effect, as Dylan wanders the city, searching for something we wouldn’t even know how to begin to describe”.

Schrader, while working on the video for “Tight Connection,” said: “Bob, if you ever hear I’m doing another music video, take me out in the backyard and hose me down.” True to his word, this was the only music video he ever made.

Tony: One of the things that anyone who works in the arts normally realises early on is that just because you can work in one art form that does not mean you necessarily know how to work in another.  What can turn out as a sublime moment of creativity and originality in one’s normal medium and mode of working can equally look forced and fake if one changes media.  And that’s what seems (to me) to happen here.  Bob looks utterly misplaced, the surrealism looks amateur… it is all pretty horrible.  Mind you, I don’t care for the track much either, so that doesn’t help.

I really can’t find one redeeming feature, and I do hope someone will write in and point out to me what is good about this video.

Thus I turn to the next piece with concern if not trepidation…

Aaron: The next two videos for Emotionally Yours and When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky are more straightforward, shot in artful black and white and focusing more on a performance of the song.

Here is Emotionally Yours

Aaron:  This one was directed by Dave Stewart and features Mike Campbell. For some reason Dylan sits next to a piano but chooses to strum on his guitar despite the fact that the piano is the main instrument in the song and there is only the barest trace of acoustic guitar in the music! I suspect the director expected Dylan to mime the piano but Bob being Bob chose the guitar. There is also some business going on with Dylan and a girl swinging in a tree, Bob seems to say something that upsets her and she runs off. He doesn’t seem too bothered.

Tony: OK Aaron, you don’t really need me on this do you?  You’ve nailed it.  The only thing I wondered was whether Bob or someone else said, “There’s got to be something weird in this; it is too straightforward.”  Hence the guitar.

Sadly, I find, as with the previous piece, nothing at all to draw me into this video – if it were not for having agreed with Aaron to write the review, I’d just listen to the music.

The only thing I found interesting was when the lead guitarist turns up, they share the table to sit on, only it seems to have moved a bit to accommodate them.  And when one starts noticing things like that it suggests the video is not really working.

As for the last ten seconds, I found that utterly horrible.  Really, really awful.

Aaron: Now, “When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky”.

The directors are Eddie Arno  and Markus Innocenti and this time Dave Stewart is in the band. The band all pile in the bus and head off to the gig and have to learn the song on the way. It is a fairly straightforward performance video but there is a side story going through of a girl in the crowd and some kids outside trying to look in and falling off some trash cans. All very standard 80s MTV stuff but at least the video gives us an otherwise unavailable edit of the song and Bob and the band attempt to invent a new dance craze about half way through. This suffered the same fate as the attempted one near the end of the Tight Connection video and roundly failed to catch on.

Tony: OK one reason why I turned into being a guy who writes about music, rather than a reviewer of videos is because I find the music much more interesting.

Please tell me, what actually is there that is worth watching in this video?  I can list one hundred things that are worth contemplating in the song itself, and then again in this version of the song, but not in relation to the video.

In fact I really would love someone who knows about the videos to tell me what actually appeals here.   Is there a reason why we get one shot rather than another?  That is what is puzzling me.

But please don’t take this to mean that I am against all Dylan videos.  I haven’t gone back and watched it in a long time but I seem to recall a video for the Wonder Boys promotional video using “Things have changed” which was really intriguing.  But I am really struggling here.

What audience is this made for?  Obviously not me, but for whom?  Is it for us real Dylan fans?  Or is it to attract non-Dylan fans in for the first time?

And I mean this: do we have any kind reader who can explain to me something in any of these featured videos that makes it actually worth watching?

Please either write in, in the normal way, or if you would like to have an article of your own in response to my negative comments here, just write it out as a word document, and email it to Tony@schools.co.uk and you can show me why I am so utterly wrong about these videos doing nothing to enhance the songs, or our image of Dylan.

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Untold Dylan is written by people who want to write for Untold Dylan.  It is simply a forum for those interested in the work of the most famous, influential and recognised popular musician and poet of our era, to read about, listen to and express their thoughts on, his lyrics and music.

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2 Responses to Bob Dylan: the official videos – an emotionally tight connection in the night

  1. John Duncan says:

    Those videos made me smile, and even laugh out loud in places. Nothing wrong in seeing Bob having a bit of fun.

  2. Nancy Cobb says:

    The fun part is seeing his we are the world facial expressions and wooden Tin Man type actions in these videos. He probably was told he had to do them and that was not a high point in his career. I too liked his noirish ones like History Boys and The Night We Called It a Day.

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