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Doing Dylan...


Finish one blog, start another. Sometimes life is like that. I’m waiting for an answer to a phone call (which I may not get), for calls for job interviews (which I’m sure I’m not going to get), avoiding cleaning house, and holding off on applying for another of those jobs I’m not qualified for.

An exhaustive search for songwriting contests on line uncovered one potential gem—a competition in England, of all places, for original Dylan-type songs. They’re calling it “Doing Dylan.” They want (this is from their Website) “ORIGINAL songs which sing out against SOCIAL INJUSTICE, POLITICAL CORRUPTION, RACIAL BIGOTRY, RELIGIOUS FANATICISM!” It appears to be a small outfit; only one judge (he does have connections to the BBC, though) and the entry fee is in British pounds sterling. (The prizes—all small—are all in pounds sterling, too.)

I do have a couple of songs that would be worth submitting under those parameters. (I can pay by PayPal, which will calculate the exchange rate.) Bob Dylan is one of the brightest stars in my Heaven of Heroes, and I’ve emulated his styles (he had a bunch of them) a lot, trying to learn every writing trick I could. The two potential contenders for the contest are “No Good Songs About the War,” which is country music, and the Southern Pigfish song “For Their own Ends,” which is folk-rock. I would probably just give ‘em one of the two; I don’t have that many pounds sterling to my name, no matter what the exchange rate is.

“No Good Songs About the War” was a deliberately classic protest song intended as a demonstration of how protest songs are supposed to be written. Dylan wasn’t doing country music back when he wrote his most famous protest songs, of course, but country music is what I write, and this song adapted his rules to my style, as it were. It was the only song the band did at the Bay City concert that we had a definitive arrangement worked out for; Dick Ackerman played “Amazing Grace” on the blues harp at the break (turns out the chord progression is the same), and a few bars of “Taps” at the end. Nary a dry eye in the house.

“For Their Own Ends” tackles a completely different Dylan period—and again, does so deliberately. With “For Their Own Ends” as a pre-assigned title (for a contest), I went for the only style that would allow me to write anything I wanted—classic Dylanesque obscurantism from the folk-rock period, where titles had no connection at all to the lyrics. (The song has no chorus, either—though it does have a hook. That’s also typical of Dylan songs of the period.) “For Their Own Ends” is an angry-sounding look at the economy through the windows of a thrift store, written just about the time the economy started to fall apart. The band played that one in the Failed Economy Show—and we had people out of their chairs dancing.

The recordings I have of both songs are just drafts, done on the little Tascam with me playing all parts. For the “Doing Dylan” contest, I’d want to do better. I have proposed to bass player John that we try out both with his recording equipment, and he appears willing. I’ll overlay a simple lead guitar; it’s Dick’s harmonica lead that’s going to carry the song in both cases.

AND ANOTHER GIG: Tuesday, 9 June, at a pub in downtown Portland called the Thirsty Lion. Solo, unless I can persuade blues harp player Don Johnson (late of the aborted Portland band) to come with—he’d be a nice touch, but he may be working. Just a 25-minute set—6 songs, if I’m doing it solo. They say they’re offering paying gigs to those who bring in the most traffic, but I don’t know if I can generate that much.



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