Bob Dylan And Harold Pinter (Part V)

By Larry Fyffe

Philip Saville sees Bob Dylan perform in New York where the young singer/songwriter performs a number of folk songs:

Oh the cuckoo is a pretty bird, and she wobbles as she flies
But she never sings 'cuckoo' 'til the fourth day of July
I've gambled in England, I've gambled in Spain
And I'll be you ten dollars that I'll beat you next game
I'll build me a cabin on a mountain so high
So I can see Nellie as she goes ridng by
(Bob Dylan: The Cuckoo Bird ~ traditional/Dylan)

In London, Bob Dylan “plays” in the Pinteresque ‘Madhouse On Castle Street’ in which Saville cleverly has the young singer/songwriter function as a “Greek choir” of sorts. After appearing in the TV play, Bob joins up with slightly older American singer/songwriter Richard ‘Dick’ Farina (and others) at “77 Records” on Charing Cross Road in London – folksingers from whom Dylan’s has already picked up quite a  number of traditional American songs.

Farina’s second marriage is to the younger sister of Joan Baez; he dies a few years later in a motorcycle accident. On his first album, Dylan uses Dave Van Ronk’s arrangement of the traditional ‘House Of The Rising Sun”.

Dylan participates as ‘Blind Boy Grunt” in the recordings of some of the songs at “77 Records” –  though not in the “Wobble Bird”. The songs appear on the album “Dick Farina And Eric Von Schmidt”. Dylan sings a shorter version of “The Cuckoo Bird” earlier in New York, but in the following lyrics bits and pieces are added from other folk songs:

And the cuckoo, she's a pretty bird, wobbles as she flies
Never  hollers "cuckoo" 'till the fourth day of July
Well, I played cards in England, played cards in Spain
Bet you ten dollars, beat you next game
Jack of Diamonds, Jack Of Diamonds, I know you from old
You robbed my poor pockets, silver and gold
I'm gonna build me a log cabin on a mountain so high
I can see Saro, she rides on by
(Richard Farina: Wobble Bird ~ traditional/Farina)

In ‘The Madhouse House On Castle Street’, Dylan makes some changes to the traditional American version of “The Cuckoo Bird”.  It’s originally an old English folk song.  Also sings therein the traditional “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me”, and  his own “Blowing In The Wind”.

Next year, Dylan visits a log cabin built on a studio set in Toronto. There he sings an obviously Post-Pinter type song:

Oh every thought that has sprung a knot in my mind
I might go insane if it could not be sprung
But it's not to stand naked under unknowing eyes
It's for myself, and my friends that my stories are sung
(Bob Dylan: Restless Farewell)

Lots of entangled negatives and homophones ~ ‘knot’, ‘not’ , and ‘not’ .

12 years of Untold Dylan

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