By Tony Attwood
It is primarily because there are very few Dylan songs left to review that I’m including a few songs now that may or may not have had any real input in terms of songwriting from Bob Dylan. And whose contribution to civilisation, or come to that to the overthrow of civilisation as we know it, is perhaps not that great.
This is particularly the case with the Allen Ginsberg pieces which don’t come with any clear indication as to what part Bob Dylan played in their creation, and which to me seem to be rather minor contributions to the artistic expression of Western civilisation – or anti-western civilisation come to that.
Jimmy Berman Rag is credited sometimes with Bob Dylan being on vocals and guitar, with a suggestion in some quarters that Bob was a part composer. He may have been on guitar, but it don’t sound like Dylan to me, and it doesn’t read like Dylan lyrics either.
There has been a comment posted on Expecting Rain asking for more information on the piece but no one took up the request which makes me think that there is nothing more to be known. After all if the readers of Expecting Rain don’t know…
The song was first released on Ginsberg’s 1974 album Disconnected and there is a serious consideration of the work on the popmatters website, in which the writer has found a way into the music that totally escapes me. The central notion is that “it’s an alternately amusing and troubling collection of ideas” – and that’s what I just don’t see.
And in case you need them, here are the lyrics…
Who’s that Jimmy Berman? I heard you drop his name
What has he got to say? What papers is he sellin’?
I don’t know if he’s the guy I met or ain’t the same
Well, that Jimmy Berman was a boy that is worth tellin’
Jimmy Berman on the corner sold the New York Times
Jimmy Berman in New York he had a long, long climb
Started as a shoeshine boy, ended on Times Square
Jimmy Berman, what’s that rose you got settin’ in your hair?
Jimmy Berman what’s your sex, why you hang ‘round here all day?
Jimmy Berman what’s up next, oh what do you play?
Who you wanna sleep with night, Jimmy boy? Would you like come with me?
Jimmy Berman, O my love, O what misery
Jimmy Berman, do you feel the same as what I do?
Jimmy Berman, won’t you come home and make love with me too?
Jimmy Berman, I’ll take my clothes off, lay me down in bed
Jimmy Berman, drop your pants, I’ll give you some good head
Eighteen-year-old Jimmy, the boy is my delight
Eighteen-year-old Jimmy, I love him day and night
Now I know I’m getting kinda old to chase poor Jimmy’s tail
But I won’t tell you other, love, it’d be too long a tale
Jimmy Berman, please love me, I throw myself at your feet
Jimmy Berman, I’ll give you money, oh, won’t that be neat?
Jimmy Berman, just give me your heart and yeah! your soul
Jimmy Berman, please come home with me, I would be whole
Jimmy Berman on the street, waiting for his god
Jimmy Berman as I pass gives me a holy nod
Jimmy Berman he has watched and seen the strangers pass
Jimmy Berman he gave up, he wants no more, alas
Jimmy Berman does yoga, he smokes a little grass
Jimmy Berman’s back is straight, he knows what to bypass
Jimmy Berman don’t take junk, he don’t shoot speed in his eye
Jimmy Berman’s got a healthy mind and Jimmy Berman is ours
Jimmy Berman, Jimmy Berman, I will say goodbye
Jimmy Berman, Jimmy Berman, love you till I die
Jimmy Berman, Jimmy Berman, wave to me as well
Jimmy Berman, Jimmy Berman, please abolish Hell
Such commentaries as I have been able to find suggest the song was improvised on the spot – and maybe that is so. But are there people who having listened to this once will go back and play it again? Or isn’t that the point?
Maybe I am just affected by writing these reviews – when writing them I listen to each song over and over and I have to say after several listens to this piece I really do believe I have had enough. It’s not so much that I am going back to New York City because I’ve had enough or that I don’t want to play this song again, rather I feel like I don’t want to list any song again. Ever.
But of course this is a blog – if you are getting something out of this song, or if you feel there is real evidence of a Bob Dylan input here, please do write in and say.
What else is on the site
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