Street Legal

Street Legal –

Bob Dylan’s Unpolished Gem From 1978

By Jochen Markhorst

Independently Published – £9.99

Dylan is 43, Flanagan is a serious, interested writer, and anyway: the days a quicksilver Dylan fools journalists with nonsense and smoke screens are over […]. What remains then is the poetic expression of a fictional break-up, interspersed with film noir cliches. And with Johnny Cash.

(‘Hardin Wouldn’t Run’)

The songs are my lexicon. I believe the songs.

(‘In the Pines’)

Cheap? Why, certainly. Effective? Very.

(‘Time regards a snarky bacterium’)

As is the norm with Dylanologist, Jochen Markhorst’s many writings on the bard Bob Dylan; we are more oft than not re-introduced unto a suave saga of shimmering poetic hearsay – as if to say what once reflected the substantiation of lyrical interpretation, is now the reverse.

Or the inverse.

Or an entirely new verse altogether.

To many Dylan fans, this may well have been the case all along.

To others, all’s well that invariably ends well, especially within the high-octane canon of Dylan’s vast repertoire of lyrical persuasion.

As much appears to be somewhat qualified, when just preceding the third of the above quotes in the passage ‘Time regards a snarky bacterium, Markhorst writes: ‘’The beauty of Dylan’s reflection lies in what he does not do; Dylan’ avoids the antithesis, does not juxtapose two opposing concepts to illustrate how insensitive Time is, as Nietzsche, Kant and Goethe all do, and, in variants, even Plato does. Dylan plays with this expectation, but then places beauty and folly, an aesthetic qualification and an intellectual one, opposite each other. Both human and both cultural-bound (…].

Naturally, ‘both cultural-bound,’ which is where the 232 pages of Street Legal – Bob Dylan’s Unpolished Gem From 1978 (excluding Sources, Notes and Thanks) fundamentally come into what many might consider to be occasionally perplexing play.

But that’s Dylan for ya.

Closely and revealingly followed by Markhorst’s suave saga of aforementioned re-introduction: ‘’The baroque exuberance of the text fascinates and invites to take a stand, that much of a trip through the fields makes clear. In addition, many clarifiers remain stuck in the – not always admiring meant – conclusion that the lyrics are so ambiguous. That is euphemistic; in the vast majority of analysis, the reader is taken along a few more and less far-fetched associations, to discover at the end that the analyst is unable to produce one single interpretation, let alone more interpretations. And those few Dylanologists who bravely attempt to capture ‘Changing Of The Guards’ in one conclusive interpretation, go down struggling’’ (‘Changing Of The Guards’).

Many would indeed go down struggling, although with a little help from Jochen Markhorst – who really does knows his Dylan more than most – the depth(s) to which one will plummet may not be as tumultuous and unforgiving as one might at initially imagine.

Which is why I once again, highly recommend the reading of his ever increasing body work.

Street Legal being no exception.

David Marx

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