“Genesis” by Jorma Kaukonen – A “new beginning” born from the cataclysmic

quah

The opening song on Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen’s first solo album from 1974, now 40 years old, has always been a favorite of mine. It details his plea toward a new beginning that was needed in his relationship with his wife, due to some typical thoughtless indulgence that frequents the lives of traveling musicians. In the liner notes of the re-release we read the following:

Although a wistful romantic ode on its surface. what many apparently don’t realize is that the song is a confessional. Says Jorma, “It’s about a guy who cheated on his wife and got caught. I was living the rock and roll life and one thing led to another and I was forced to fess up. The good news is I got a good song out of it. The bad news is I don’t even remember who it was that caused the song to be written.

“At the time,” he continues, “my wife Margareta and I realized we were really miserable and we were trying to be happier together. I was writing a lot of true love songs-true love almost always gone wrong but saved at the last moment. Some people have suggested that wouldn’t it be nice if you could write songs like ‘Genesis’ all the time, and I always say, “Yeah, it would be, but it would be great not to have to be in the place I was when I wrote it.’ Many of the best songs get written in a state of abject misery. I prefer to write fewer songs and have less cataclysmic events in my life.”

Thus, “Genesis” is one of those songs that is ultimately both sad yet beautiful. Sad in it’s potentially cataclysmic origination yet beautiful in its expression of a new beginning.

The “flying angel” cover art used for the album called “Quah” was created by his wife. Jorma dedicated the re-issue of the album to the memory of Margareta.

Time has come for us to pause
And think of living as it was
Into the future we must cross, must cross
I’d like to go with you
And I’d like to go with you
You say I’m harder than a wall
A marble shaft about to fall
I love you dearer than them all, them all
So let me stay with you
So let me stay with you

And as we walked into the day
Skies of blue had turned to grey
I might have not been clear to say, to say
I never looked away
I never looked away
And though I’m feeling you inside
My life is rolling with the tide
I’d like to see it be an open ride
Along with you
Going along with you

The time we borrowed from ourselves
Can’t stay within a vaulted well
And living turns into a lender’s will
So let me come with you
And let me come with you
And when we came out into view
And there I found myself with you
When breathing felt like something new, new
Along with you
Going along with you

jorma

jorma2

BMC @ Manifest Propensity, 2014

Bob Dylan’s “Grail”

arts-graphics-2008_1132188a

In “Chronicles” Bob Dylan writes of a search he undertook in the early 1960’s when he first arrived in New York City. He had been singing Irish Ballads but wanted to change his subject matter. Dylan says

“I was beginning to think I might want to change over. The Irish landscape wasn’t too much like the American landscape, though, so I’d have to find some cuneiform tablets-some archaic grail to lighten the way. I had grasped the idea of what kind of songs I wanted to write, I just didn’t know how to do it yet…

…In some ways the Civil War would be a battle between two kinds of time…The age that I was living in didn’t resemble this age, but yet it did in some mysterious and traditional way. Not just a little bit, but a lot. There was a broad spectrum and commonwealth that I was living upon, the basic psychology of that life was every bit a part of it. If you turned the light towards it, you could see the full complexity of human nature. Back there, America was put on the cross, died and was resurrected. There was nothing synthetic about it. The godawful truth of that would be the all-encompassing template behind everything that I would write.

I crammed m head full of as much of this stuff as I could stand and locked it away in my mind out of sight, left it alone. Figured I could send a truck back for it later.”

(Bob Dylan, Chronicles – Volume 1, pp. 83-4, 86) Continue reading

“Man in the Long Black Coat” by Bob Dylan – A lesson in songwriting and “interpretation”

Oh Mercy

“A song is like a dream, and you try to make it come true. They’re like strange countries that you have to enter.” (Bob Dylan, Chronicles Volume 1, 165.)

In this post I do not offer an interpretation. Instead I merely present the song and a few comments from Mr. Dylan himself regarding how one particular dream “came true.” I also am writing this as a confession that the “interpretations” I offer on this blog must remain tentative, being subservient to  the realities of artistic expression, in which there is a real sense in which artists themselves may not fully “know” their subject, let alone the “interpretation.” Continue reading