Dylan’s promotional videos: Must be Santa, Drummer Boy, Duquesne, the noir

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

Dylan’s promotional videos – the story so far

Aaron: For this episode I’d thought we’d continue on from where the last one left off and look at the next three directed by Nash Edgerton, who if you remember also directed  the Beyond Here Lies Nothing promo.

First up is this fun filled video for Must Be Santa.

This time he gets to work with Dylan, who for some reason wears a long grey wig under the obligatory Santa hat. There are some really fun moments for me, Dylan suddenly popping up from behind the bar with two bottles of whiskey, Dylan dancing(!!) and Edgerton shows his stuntman background with the rather raucous ending. It’s great fun and perfect for the song.

Tony: Errrrrrrrr…. I guess my sense of humour has gone down the drain.

Aaron:  In the interest of completeness there was also a neat little video for Little Drummer Boy, directed by Jeff Scher. I don’t have too much to say about this one except I liked it!

Tony: Now this I will go with.  Bob sings this in a meaningful way, and the video itself has a meaning within the context of the song.  That is not to say that I expect everything in life or indeed in art to have a meaning; indeed I’m currently struggling in writing an article which makes this point across many Dylan songs.  Meaning, I wish to argue, is not everything.   But when there isn’t meaning there needs to be something to make the song worth hearing, or the video worth watching.

This video has both; it is not something I’d go back to, but yes I enjoyed it, and I wouldn’t turn away from it if it came on again.

Aaron: The next Nash Edgerton video was for Dusquesne Whistle.

Aaron: This one borrows a lot from Spike Jonze’s short film How They Get There (we’ve added a link at the end of this piece). Except in this case the girl wants nothing to do with the guy, rightly so in this case, as he’s being a total creep! He probably thinks he is being romantic but his behavior is completely inappropriate, and he ultimately gets what’s coming to him in the end.

These scenes, which take place in the daytime are nicely juxtaposed with shots of Dylan and his posse strolling coolly through the city at night. When the two converge, Dylan and gang just step over the young fool’s beaten body on the sidewalk without a second look. It is as if Dylan is stepping over himself as a young man, with it’s optimism of youth and foolish notions of romance and moving forward as an older man with an acceptance of the past. Don’t Look Back indeed.

Tony: Arghhhhhhhhhhh.  I love this song, always have from the moment the album came out, and this video adds nothing.  In fact it detracts greatly for me, so I am beginning to wonder how other people see this.   The story has nothing to do with the song – ok that doesn’t matter, but it detracts from the music, as I watch it.

OK I am not expecting every video to be a literal exposition of the song, but when we have a song with the lines

I can hear a sweet voice gently calling
Must be the Mother of our Lord

what on earth does the video have to do with it?   The closest I have got is the link between the casual destruction of the 2011 multiple vortex tornado in the town and of the way the guys beat up the would-be lover.   Others have seen the Whistle as a warning about death and perhaps the impending final judgement.   Yet others go for the train service that used to run between New York Penn and Pittsburgh Penn Stations, which was named after the 18th century Fort Duquesne.

No, I didn’t find that video added anything for me.  In fact the reverse.  I need to play the song again without the video (probably several times) to get over it.

Aaron: The final video for today from Dylan is Dylan’s cover of The Night We Called It A Day.

Again directed by Nate Edgerton and by now I think we are beginning to get an idea on how this director works, highly stylized with a heavy emphasis on violence.

This time it’s a film noir pastiche, with Dylan involved in a love triangle with ex-Bond villain Robert Davi and a young female singer who is much, much, much too young for either of them. It’s pretty creepy actually.

She ends up murdering Davi. Dylan is an accomplice to the crime and then…well I’ll leave you to watch and see what happens at the end. I really like this video and for once Dylan’s acting is pretty good. The clip definitely brings new meaning to the lyrics

The moon went down stars were gone
But the sun didn't rise with the dawn
There wasn't a thing left to say
The night we called it a day

Tony: OK yes this is the best of the lot by far, and yes the video adds to the meaning of the song by giving it one interpretation.

But the whole experience has left me wondering what impact these videos have on the record sales or the popularity of the performer.  I’d love to hear more from people who like these videos and why they do.  It is, I guess, an art form (at least in the guise we see it here) which is completely beyond me.

But that is not always the case.  Aaron has mentioned Spike Jonze’s short film How They Get There, which I didn’t know, but have looked at, and yes I see this, understand it, get it.

This works for me, just as a lot of contemporary dance works for, but the videos here don’t.  Maybe I am just blind to the form.

Untold Dylan: who we are what we do

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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