- I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You (2020) part 1
- I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You (2020) part 2
by Jochen Markhorst
III Give the Salt Lakers what they want
I’m giving myself to you, I am From Salt Lake City to Birmingham From East LA to San Antone I don’t think I could bear to live my life alone
The playlist at Obama’s US presidential election campaign rallies is attractive and enjoyable, with a few surprising outsiders (U2’s “City of Blinding Lights”, for instance), but still mostly usual suspects and predictable choices. Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising”, Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up”, Sam and Dave with “Hold On, I’m Comin'”, songs like that. And in that category also falls the old O’Jays hit “Give The People What They Want”. The O’Jays reveal to Obama what the people want: truth and no more lies, and freedom, justice and equality, and altogether ambitious is the preachy interlude, summarising the election manifesto of every politician of every denomination:
People want better education now, now People want better food to eat People want, hey, better housing People need money, money People need equality People need understanding People need freedom
In the concert hall, wishes are somewhat more modest. Usually, audiences are already content with a few familiar hits and tolerable sound quality. And any concert audience gets particularly excited from: recognition.
The Dutch are used to it, to (mostly American) artists greeting fans in Amsterdam with an enthusiastic “Hello Denmark!” Just as Belgian fans will have to live with “Bonjour France!” in Brussels, Norwegians with “Hallå Sweden” and Slovaks with a heartfelt “Dobré ráno Slovenia!”. Slovenia and Slovakia are the most mixed-up names in the world anyway, even more so than Austria and Australia; the story that around the world the embassies of Slovenia and Slovakia maintain a shuttle service to exchange misdelivered mail once a month is not officially confirmed by either, but seems to be really true.
The fans in small countries usually do not make an issue of it and politely cheer back. Still, they cheer much louder when Paul Simon says “Hello Warsaw” in Warsaw, when Mick Jagger shouts “Hej Stockholm” in Sweden and when Paul McCartney topographically correct greets the crowd in Munich.
A superlative of it is the joy that erupts when one’s own city is mentioned in a song lyric. It’s a bit childish perhaps, well, even cheap probably, but it’s just the way it is: irrational pride undulates even through more distinguished audiences when Billy Joel plays “New York State Of Mind” in his hometown, something special happens when Bowie plays “Heroes” in Berlin, and Glen Campbell knows what to do when he finally performs in Phoenix in 1988: “And 21 years ago, this song came out. I figured I’ve got to do it.” And, of course, when he then deploys “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, this neat, bedraggled audience also starts cheering and whistling. Arguably the most compelling, the most goose-bumps inducing of all is Springsteen’s version of Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl”, the live-in-Jersey version on Live 1975-85 (1986), with that ever-flaring ecstasy whenever The Boss sings the word “Jersey”.
Almost all entertainers are aware of the mechanism; you score bonus points if you appeal to local pride. Steve Miller adapts the row of place names from “Rock’n Me” (I went from Phoenix, Arizona / All the way to Tacoma / Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A.) to tonight’s location. “The Motor City where the girls are so pretty” when he is in Detroit, for example. The wacky alternative trio The Presidents Of The United States Of America choose the musical variety, covering AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell” when they play in Australia, “French Girl” when they are in Paris, and in Belgium Plastic Bertrand’s alternative Belgian anthem of the Walloons “Ça Plane Pour Moi” – a brilliant move that Metallica will copy when they are in Brussels in 2019.
But Dylan is Dylan. For a very long time, he seems rather indifferent to this simple crowdpleaser. In Mobile and in Memphis, he hardly ever plays “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again”, and if so, he seems to do it with some reluctance: “Per special request tonight. About two hundred people wanted to hear this,” he mutters somewhat gruffly (Mobile, 26 October 1997). Just as he teasingly does play two songs from Together Through Life in Houston in 2015, but not “If You Ever Go To Houston”.
Between 1985 and 2013, he performs five times in Champaign, Illinois, but never plays “Champaign, Illinois”, seventeen concerts in Amsterdam over the years, but never “Slow Train” on the setlist (Deciding America’s future from Amsterdam and to Paris). The one time in his career that he performs in Aberdeen (16 September 2000) does not entice him to perform “Highlands”, and even in Israel Dylan does not play “Neighboorhood Bully” – which surely would have earned him quite a few extra sympathy points.
In all those decades, Dylan succumbs to the charm of pleasing audiences with name-dropping only a handful of times. “Kansas City” has been on the setlist only once in sixty years… indeed, in Kansas City. When he is in Rome for the sixth time, in 1991, he finally delights the Romans with “When I Paint My Masterpiece” (Oh, the streets of Rome are filled with rubble). However, they remain rare exceptions.
But: you get older, you get softer. Towards the end of his career, then, the now very elderly troubadour is apparently more audience-friendly than ever. In fact, it almost seems as if he inserted this one verse, the first bridge of “I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You” especially for his audience. Four place names that are on his 2022 tour calendar, and, even more atypically, he does make a point of it: “From Salt Lake City to Birmingham!” shouts the entertainer announcing the song on 30 June in Salt Lake City. The warm-up works well. Jubilantly, the audience jumps up when they hear the name of their city, at 1’39”. It was no different in Birmingham, 5 April, and in Los Angeles, mid-June, and the fans are even a degree more enthusiastic in Texas, in San Antonio on 14 March.
Give the people what they want.
To be continued. Next up I’ve Made Up My Mind To Give Myself To You part 4: I see thy glory
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:
- Blood on the Tracks: Dylan’s Masterpiece in Blue
- Blonde On Blonde: Bob Dylan’s mercurial masterpiece
- Where Are You Tonight? Bob Dylan’s hushed-up classic from 1978
- Desolation Row: Bob Dylan’s poetic letter from 1965
- Basement Tapes: Bob Dylan’s Summer of 1967
- Mississippi: Bob Dylan’s midlife masterpiece
- Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits
- John Wesley Harding: Bob Dylan meets Kafka in Nashville
- Tombstone Blues b/w Jet Pilot: Dylan’s lookin’ for the fuse
- Street-Legal: Bob Dylan’s unpolished gem from 1978
- Bringing It All Back Home: Bob Dylan’s 2nd Big Bang
- Time Out Of Mind: The Rising of an Old Master
- Crossing The Rubicon: Dylan’s latter-day classic