Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bob Dylan: The Weirdest TV Show of All Time

I assume you've seen the clip of Elvis Presley singing "You Ain't Nothing But A Hound Dog" to a basset hound on a pedestal? It was obviously staged by a TV producer who wanted to make a visual statement, and who also took the song quite literally. It's also clear that this was not Elvis's idea, but it's there as part of his history - a classic example of unusual television viewing. This weekend I had a similar experience watching a DVD that included a "Quest Canadian Television" episode from February 1, 1964. The set was a rustic log house with guys playing cards in a big living room. There were worn-down outdoor types with issues, whittling, and drinking whiskey, and one old guy throwing some wood into the stove. Another guy had a hook on his arm, perhaps from a lumberjack accident. Every now and then a guy would go "outside" which appeared to be a soundstage somewhere north of the border. He would admire the night sky or at least the studio ceiling before returning. The mood of the men was one of killing time. You know how someone picks up a guitar and strums? Everyone listens, occasionally nodding their heads but they don't clap at the end of the song. This was like that. It wasn't a performance - it was an art piece. And sitting amongst them, although he strolls during one song, was a young Bob Dylan performing, "The Times They Are A-Changing", "Talkin' World War lll Blues", "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll", "Girl of the North Country", "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall", and "Restless Farewell" - the last during the ending credits. As you would probably guess, Bob completely ignores the surroundings. There is no audience interaction. It is obvious that many of the "lumberjacks" do not get his music, as they try and nod their heads and smile like they were hearing a campfire drinking song. Bob doesn't so much as glance at them, performing like the whole setting is just a hallucination, which it could have been. The performance is powerful, and the TV producer ended up getting something of lasting historic value, considering it was Bob Dylan in 1964. But what a weird, surreal TV show. The only thing missing was the basset hound.


At 5:53 PM, Blogger Brandon said...

What was the title of the DVD? Now you've got me curious.

At 10:37 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

I bought a DVD called "Civil Rights March to San Francisco Press Conference". It has that bootleg look.

At 12:54 PM, Blogger Brandon said...

Thanks for the tip.

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