June 2010

Real Life Rock Top Ten

A Monthly Column
of Everyday Culture
and Found Objects

by Greil Marcus

(1) Club 8: The People’s Record (Labrador). You know that Dire Straits song “Twisting by the Pool”? If a whole album of twisting-by-the-pool music by a demi-ABBA—Karolina Komstedt and Johan Angergård, Swedes with a bossa-nova collection—sounds appealing, this is for you. Especially on “We’re All Going to Die.”

(2) Alfred: “Like a Rolling Stone,” in Bob Dylan Revisited: 13 Graphic Interpretations of Bob Dylan’s Songs (Norton). Almost everything here is destructively literal, to the point that most of the pictures meant to illustrate the songs are accompanied by matching lyrics that instead illustrate the pictures—or reveal the complete lack of imagination behind them. By stunning contrast—and in stunning use of shifting color schemes, where each chapter in the story of a woman attempting to escape into a life of her own and continually finding herself imprisoned by the life she was born to is governed by shadings of blue, taupe, yellow, olive green, brown, gray, and finally a bright, light-filled page that is scarier than anything darker—Alfred trusts abstraction. Until the very last of his sixty-seven panels there isn’t a word to be seen. The story he tells isn’t obvious, isn’t clear. It doesn’t match Dylan’s soaring, heat- seeking-missile crescendos and choruses—it brings them down to earth. It isn’t a social allegory. It’s one person’s odyssey, a lifetime that returns her to precisely the place she first flees. And the Siamese cat isn’t a symbol of evil, or anything else. It’s the woman’s conscience, or what, all along, has been singing the song that has been playing deep in the farthest back corners of her mind. Following the tale as Alfred sees it, it’s as if you’ve never heard the song at all, and now you must.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Greil Marcus is the author of Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, and The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice, and other books. His column, Real Life Rock Top Ten, runs monthly in the Believer.

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