Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Roll Over

The Beatles were on the radio constantly as a child, and whenever I hear one of their early songs I’m transported back magically as if I were Tony on that old TV series, The Time Tunnel. The Byrds’ Turn! Turn! Turn! does it as well.

For a long time as the youngest in the family, I didn’t own but was permitted to play albums provided I was careful.

If rock music was in the foreground, classical music was in the background. My dad listened to it constantly. He was also a big fan of Beverly Sills and would occasionally play opera, which was incomprehensible to me as a child but made for some very childish antics, which amused everyone and offended no-one. His feelings for opera could be summed up succinctly: The Italians understand opera. Most of the time, however,when his stereo wasn’t being used for ill purposes, symphonies were heard.

My dad and I had a shtick going: I’d make fun of Beethoven, whom he considered a master, and he would distort his perfectly good singing voice to sound like Dylan, the man I considered master.

It would be years before I would be able to appreciate classical music.

The turning point came when at sixteen my brothers walked in on me listening to Days of Future Passed. “It’s classical music,” my oldest brother said with all the scorn he could muster.

The unintended consequence of his comment was the beginning of a discovery that continues until this day.

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13 thoughts on “Roll Over

  1. arjcee on said:

    “My dad and I had a shtick going: I’d make fun of Beethoven, whom he considered a master, and he would distort his perfectly good singing voice to sound like Dylan, the man I considered master.”

    This was a treat.

    I can picture him aping Dylan. How did you mock Beethoven?

    Incidentally I finally saw part two of Scorsese’s Dylan film the other night. One of the amusing asides is the young man in his rakish glamor standing outside a shop, reading aloud from its painfully overstated signs, and subjecting the services on offer to a bit of ad hoc deconstruction.

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  2. Imagine a scrawny boy doing his best imitation of Leonard Bernstein conducting the 5th….

    I take it you liked it. I could easily see it again.

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  3. When your dad mocked the great Robert Zimmerman, did you mock Beethoven by pretending to use German sign language? “Was Vater? Ich konne nicht gehoren sie!” (hopefully the krauts will forgive my butchering their language).

    Were you able to impart some love of more contemporary music on the old man? I assume, given the date of this story, that his impersonation was of “old Dylan.” I think “new Dylan” is harder to imitate, as his voice is not so much of a nasal whine as it is a masterfully handled growl.

    This is probably considered heresy in some circles, but I’m going to say it: my favorite period of Dylan’s work is the current one 1994-present.

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  4. My dad was unable to appreciate jazz as a young man in the 40s so there was little hope of him appreciating rock in the 60s. Having said that, he did like the melodies of the Beatles.

    “Masterfully handled growl” sums it up perfectly I think.

    While heresy is welcome, I am rather orthodox in Dylan matters. I think his last great work was Desire.

    I was very fortunate to see him in Europe in 1984 with Santana and Joan Baez.

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  5. While heresy is welcome, I am rather orthodox in Dylan matters. I think his last great work was Desire.

    Really? You don’t think it was that one with “My God They Killed Him?”
    Actually, I like that album (is that Down in the Groove? I think so), but the children’s choir just ruins that song (which is a little obvious for a Dylan song anyway). Brownsville Girl is a great song. I heard it as a teenager, and when in college I finally saw “The Gunfighter” I felt like I’d come full circle.

    1984 would have been a great time to see Dylan–and in Europe (I’ve only had the opportunity to see one show in Europe–Depeche Mode at Wembley Stadium–pretty awesome). I’ve had the opportunity to see Dylan twice–once in 1995 in Santa Barbara, California, which was an awesome, awesome show–after his time in the desert, Dylan had just come back. I saw him again more recently (2007? 2008?) at my county fair (because I live in a fairly rural area, we get some big names at our fair), and while I really enjoyed the show, the consensus was that it wasn’t good (personally, I think it’s because Dylan changed up the arrangement of the songs, and nobody recognized anything except for the odious “Rainy Day Women”).

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  6. I must admit complete ignorance of the song. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Down in the Groove. The last Dylan album I liked was Under the Red Sky though I don’t think it was as good as Infidels. I got Time Out of Mind after hearing everyone speak so highly of it, but it didn’t do anything for me. But then again everyone seems to love Melville’s Moby-Dick, which I’ve never been able to stomach.

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  7. I believe (although I won’t swear to it) that Down in the Groove predates “Under a Red Sky.” It’s from the era of “Saved” and (I think) “Slow Train Comin” (I think that’s an album, and not just a song title). “Brownsville Girl” from DITG is worth hearing. It’s very reminiscent of Dylan’s 70s stuff, I think.

    I am one of those people who speak highly of Time out of Mind. I think it’s a brilliant album, Dylan at the height of his powers (although I know many people–Mr. Dylan included, I think–would disagree). While there has always been a powerful wisdom to Dylan’s work, I think in his later period this wisdom has matured and been tempered. There’s a new sadness to his work, but one that’s balanced by a gentle wistfulness and a love of humanity that was perhaps partially-feigned in the past. Dylan’s music has aged with him, and while it lacks the brash, never-look-back dazzle (that’s really not the best word, but it’s the only one currently available in the Lexicon d’Smaktakula) of his youth, it more than makes up for this with a contemplative wisdom, texture and depth not to be found in his earlier stuff.

    And regarding Moby Dick–yet again my ignorance has been exposed by this blog. I can’t have an opinion on it, because alas, I’ve never cracked the spine. However, I am literate enough to assert that I don’t know what the big deal is with Dickens!

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  8. And fool that I am–the album to which I have erroneously been referring to as “Down in the Groove” (it is a real album) is “Knocked Out Loaded.” Every comment I’ve made about DITG is about KOL. Sorry!

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  9. I’m afraid I’ll have to agree with Bob. I think Blonde on Blonde is his best album. All of my other favorites are from the period of 63-66 with the exception of Blood on the Tracks.

    I’ll take a listen to a little of Knocked Out Loaded and see what I make of it.

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  10. The power of music and sounds to trigger memory is fascinating. I am the same as you with the Beatles and the Byrds, incredibly so with The Ballad of Easy Rider, which never ceases to invoke wistful nostalgia not just for the era, but for the feelings hearing it evoked then… and as soon as I read the words Time Tunnel, I instantly heard that frenetic music… strangely enough that was followed by the echo-location sounds from Voyage to The Bottom of The Sea.

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  11. I actually thought of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea while writing. Interestingly enough, I didn’t hear anything but just saw underwater scenes. For The Time Tunnel I heard snippets of dialogue. Neither the echo-location sounds of the former nor the frenetic music of the latter came to mind. But I can hear them both now rather clearly!

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  12. Yes, music does bridge that certain gap between generations . . . sometimes years after.
    My dad was from the old school Sinatra followers. And me, being a Zep head during my teens, used to cringe whenever my old man would plop those 8-track cartridges with Ray Coniff choruses.
    But time may have seemed to mellow that ‘Sabbath- seeking’ desire for my tastes.
    My iPod’s playlist rotates between Sinatra and Santana.
    And lately, I would trade my sons’ Jason Mraz for my Jim Morrison.

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  13. It’s great being able to appreciate all kinds of music.

    In high school I had an 8-track player in my car, which added a humming sound to whatever music happened to be playing.

    I haven’t heard of Jason Mraz, but I will see what I can find of his.

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