A Madder Piece From Ginsberg Street and The Long Dark Stranger

10: A Madder Piece From Ginsberg Street

by Larry Fyffe

Bob Dylan’s “Tarantula” by itself justifies his winning the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The humorous, semi-coded book records Bob’s pilgrimage to New York State with his pen pals that include, among others, William Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, and Alice B.Toklas:

(T)o South Duchess County comes Them
& Woolworth's Fool
& triumphant alice toklas 
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

Influenced by William James’ “stream of consciousness” concept; Emanuel Swedenborg’s concept of “correspondences”; images from Picasso’s Cubist paintings; and th eating of Mary Jane cookies, Toklas hops along casually down the Yellow Brick Road.

She plays with words to produce images that depict the material world sidesattled on emanations flowing forth from the mysterious and timeless spiritual realm:

Godiva was tired, and old Gertrude Stein
in spring bought a new car 
(Alice B. Toklas: The Alice B.Toklas Cookbook)

Meanwhile, satirist Lord Byron comes and goes on Rue Morgue Avenue, speaking with Edgar Allan Poe:

(C)ompared to the big day
when you discover lord 
byron shooting craps 
in the morgue
with his pants off
(Bob Dylan: Tarantula)

With them too, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and his wife Zelda Sayre, the archetypical southern belle.

After they stop at an inn for a cup of coffee, Zelda scampers off into the woods, and has a knotty affair with a French pilot:

(Z)elda rat asks for a black 
mongrel - please make it hot
& one of the men dangles a watch
in front of her face 
"it's late - zeld babe - it's late"

The troupe’s led by Friedrich Nietzsche, the Wiseman of the State:

Nietzsche tells a story about the resentful, metonymic Tarantula who preachers that all humans are equal; he’s the nemesis of metonymic Superman, those who contol the State. Tarantula, in desperation, plays the death card – says it makes everybody happy.

Bob relates a tale that turns Friedrich around; in it, Tara-Man carries a case that contains a Kryptonite guitar; he tempts Superman to defy it ~ the electric power of song, music, and poetry exposes Superman’s mortal weakness, his Achilles’ heel ~  his love for the Golden Calf; that is, his desire for money, and material things.

One song that Bob sings quotes from ‘The Monk’s Tale’ by Geoffrey Chaucer:

One of these days, I'll end up on the run
I'm pretty sure she will make me kill someone
(Bob Dylan:  My Wife's Home Town)

11: The Long Dark Stranger

Ìn “Thus Spake Zarathustra, the tarantula’s a fuzzy friend of Christian preachers who declare that all members of the human race will be treated equally at the pearly gates; there, St. Peter gives them either a thumbs-up, or a thumbs-down.

Looking up, the metonymic Overman on Earth is not that concerned because it’s the good life, not death, that he’s after.

Now, there’s a dualistic conundrum begging to be satirized.

No one’s willing to accept the blame when things go wrong.

In the song below, metonymic Eve gets the blame – maybe even murdered:

Black Betty had a baby ...
Bam a lam, little thing went crazy ...
Bam a lam, little Tiny went blind ...
Bam a lam, l said he was none of mine ...
What about it, Black Betty
(Lead Belly: Black Betty ~ Ledbetter/traditional)

In the burlesque below, sea-walker Christ, the “Lamb” ~ according to St. John ~ takes the blame; i.e.,”blam’ de lam’ “:

(B)lack betty, black betty, blam de lam
betty had a loser, blam de lam
i spied him on the ocean
with a long string of muslims
blam de lam, all going quack quack
(Bob Dylan: Black Betty)

Nietzsche’s figurative “tarantula” classifies human behaviour in terms of “good” and “evil”; be nice to your fellow man, including your rulers, and St. Peter will open up the gates for you; the Overmen, those in power, think in terms of “good” and “bad”; those they rule are considered weak – flawed in character – in need of guidance, if not outright punishment that includes death.

Accordingly, on the micro-level, those with a ‘slave morality’, woman for example, resentful though they may be, all they can do to exercise their ‘will for power” is to provide men with comfort in one form or another; though careful they must be.

Such sentiments, not so cut and dried (indeed ambiguously so), expressed in the following song lyrics:

You give something to think about, baby
Every time I see you
Don't worry, I don't mind leaving
I'd just like it to be my idea
(Bob Dylan: Never Gonna Be The Same Again)

A line drawn from a western movie that takes place in wide-open Wyoming country filled it is with sunshine. The times they are a-changing ~ Shane (Alan Ladd), handy with a gun, is hired as a ploughman by a farmer who has a wife and son; they’re concerned about the gunman’s effect on their kid. Says Shane, guns are just a tool, neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’.

Which side is Shane on?

First encounter with the farmer involves a misunderstanding:

Farmer: What’s the difference? You’re leaving anyway”

Shane: “I’d like it to be my idea”

Later Shane goes into town to a bar, and orders a soda-pop:

“What’s it be? Lemon, strawberry,  or lilac, sodbuster?”

Apparently,  the bar has no raspberry or lime.

At the end of the movie, Shane, wounded, rides off into the sunset after helping the struggling homesteaders in the valley hold their own against a greedy cattle baron, and his hired guns ~ most of them depicted on the screen as clearly ‘evil’.

In Bob Dylan’s “Tarantula”, the Lead Belly spoof is placed under the title: “Having a Wierd Drink With The Long Tall Stranger”.

The movie “The Tall Stranger” stars Joel McCrea as an ex-Civil War officer reluctant to use a gun; he’d rather negotiate in an effort to resolve a conflict.

The film messes with a western story written by Louis L’Amour.

The movie about an attempted arranged range war in Colorado, not only jams in too many subplots, but it turns the original story that’s similar to that of ‘Shane’, into a confusing shoot’em-upper in the middle of the night.

Better for the movie had “Ned” more lead for his tongue.


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