Bob’s official videos: Oh Mercy and Red Sky & a masterpiece

By Aaron Galbraith and Tony Attwood

Dylan’s promotional videos – the story so far

For this instalment let’s take a look at a handful of videos from the Oh Mercy and Under The Red Sky albums.

First up it’s Political World, directed by John Mellencamp.

Dylan is playing at a dinner for rich (mostly white) ageing politicians, sheikhs, dictators and kings. There are woman there but they mostly seem bored to start with, until one of the rich guys starts to talk to them. Looks like money changes hands and lots of shady deals are going on around the tables. Then people start dancing to the music (the guys are very bad dancers). I guess no one is listening to the words Dylan sings!

We live in a political world
The one we can see and feel
But there's no one to check
It's all a stacked deck
We all know for sure that it's real

Moving on to our second offering from Oh Mercy, here is Most Of The Time.

This one is a fairly straight forward performance video, but it has a few things of note. Firstly, it is a new version, recorded live as the cameras roll. I’m not sure anyone else ever attempted that before. I have a feeling that McCartney might have done it but I’m not sure. So that’s pretty cool.

Secondly, it was directed by Bob’s son Jesse Dylan. Which is also pretty cool. Jesse finds some interesting angles at time and I think the lightning is stunning. Bob looks pretty cool also, certainly better than the baggy old t-shirt look he went for in the Political World clip!

Next up, we present Unbelievable from Under The Red Sky.

This one was directed by Paris Barclay and co starred a young Molly Ringwald. Paris Barclay is a highly respected TV director, winning two Emmys and directing episodes of (amongst others), West Wing, Lost, House, CSI and Glee. He also directed music videos for New Kids On The Block, Janet Jackson and LL Cool J.

The main story involves a young man chatting up a girl in a bar, he gets beat up, they go to a motel room and then she runs off with his car and money. Fairly standard music video fare. But then you introduce the Bob stuff and that’s when it gets weird and interesting!

Bob is some kind of chauffeur driving around the desert with a pig in the back, stopping every so often to play guitar on the bonnet of the car. Bob looks really cool in this video!

Last one up is this video for Series Of Dreams

I actually wasn’t going to include this one as my memory of it was flawed. I remembered it as just being a series of still pictures. But then I watched it back recently and was amazed by how well it was put together. It works extremely well for me. It’s fantastic.

Tony: In the past I’ve been jumping in with my comments all the way through, but I’ve realised (as I suspect is apparent) with these videos that I am obviously not the audience for whom they were made.  Mostly they distract from the music for me, which no matter how many times I have listened to the track, is where I focus.

Except… I really wanted to (and have) re-run the video of Series of Dreams.   Several times.  To me this is way, way beyond all the other videos we’ve looked at.   It is entertaining and clever in a way that holds my attention throughout.   The use of images grabs me by the throat and won’t let go – I am forever wondering how each can be made to fit with the music, how each was done, the clashing of images…  It all reflects the lyrics of the song, but without being forced and never doing the obvious.   It would have been so simple to use mists or shots from the era when it was written, but no… this takes us all over the place.  The lyrics say “from another world” and that is what the video gives us.

This to me is what music videos should do – they should challenge us, push us forward and back, make us rethink, make us listen as we have never before, make us hear the music in another way, make us understand what the composer was doing.

Of course it is helped by being a fantastic piece of music – but for me it has just become even more wonderful.   Utterly brilliant.

Untold Dylan: who we are what we do

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2 Responses to Bob’s official videos: Oh Mercy and Red Sky & a masterpiece

  1. Canute says:

    Another good piece even with the interruption at the end. I’ve enjoyed all the videos and downloaded them like bootlegs but wish Sony or Columbia or Bob would put out an official collection of them so I could buy it and put it in my collection to watch when I wanted to be entertained visually and aurally.

  2. Shelley says:

    The Most of the Time video is a cool idea (live instead of miming) but the drums have way too much reverb, they overpower everything else to the point of unlistenable (for my taste). Disappointing as the album itself had a nice natural drum sound.

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