Dreamin’ Of You (1997) part 8 (postscript)

by Jochen Markhorst

VIII       Harry Dean

 When “Dreamin’ Of You” is released in the autumn of 2008, 21 years after its recording and subsequent discarding, the song gets the full glare of the spotlight. It is chosen to promote the upcoming release of the overwhelming The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006. Fans can download the song for free, it is released as a single and a promotional music video is recorded.

The video is irresistible. Harry Dean Stanton is always a joy to watch, especially when he gets to play his own archetype: the old, worn-out, even-tempered odd-jobber, preferably in a sweltering heat, driven by some private obsession. The Harry Dean Stanton from Paris, Texas, from his last movie Lucky (2017), the lost yankee on gloomy Sunday-carnival-embassy-type, as Dylan, in the 1985 Biograph booklet, typified the main characters in “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and “Señor”.

The Dylan-Stanton connection is documented, not least by the gentlemen themselves. In interviews, Stanton is often enough tempted to tell an anecdote about their friendship, which began in 1973 on the set of Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, in which both of them starred.  And, a-typically, the friendship even moves Dylan to a rare on-stage revelation, in Blackbushe, 15 July 1978: “This song is inspired by a man named Harry Dean Stanton. Some of you may know him,” at the announcement of “Señor”. And three days earlier, in Gothenburg, Dylan lifted another tip regarding the same song:

“This is a new song written about six months ago on a trip through the southern part of the … northern part of the States. Anyway it’s entitled Tales Of Yankee Power”

… apparently referring to a road trip of which Harry Dean Stanton has given more details. The friends undertook sometime in 1977 a three-days holiday trip by car from Guadalajara to Kansas City to visit Leon Russell, so Dylan’s apparent slip of the tongue “through the southern part of the … northern part of the United States” is pretty much correct.

The anecdote, plus Stanton’s film image, plus his unique charisma with the paradoxical quality of being simultaneously jaded and driven, make Harry Dean a perfect interpreter of the moving mini-portrait sketched in the video clip. Harry Dean, the slacker, who sells self-produced bootlegs and follows his hero Bob Dylan across the United States. We see him sweating and slaving away with tapes and cassette tapes and covers, and we see the genuine love of a Dylan fan – occasionally Harry Dean picks up a guitar, a few times he mutters the words to “Dreamin’ Of You”. And we get a few snippets that suggest an underlying tragedy when we see Stanton looking at a photograph. A photograph that he always carries with him, in the car and in hotel rooms and in his workroom: an old black-and-white photograph of an attractive lady with an old-fashioned hairdo in old-fashioned clothes, about twenty-one years old. A love from the days gone by, apparently.

“I’m dreaming of you,” Harry Dean mumbles wordlessly along with the lyrics.

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Jochen is a regular reviewer of Dylan’s work on Untold. His books, in English, Dutch and German, are available via Amazon both in paperback and on Kindle:

 

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