Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Church of Dylansis

Since I just mentioned The Believer's music issue in the last post, I thought I'd also comment on another article in that issue titled "Misguided Missionaries From the Church of Dylansis (And Other Rock Religions)".

The article isn't available online but the basic idea of the piece is that uber-fans of various bands (and particularly Dylan fans) tend to be so annoying with their smugness and know-it-all behavior that they actually turn people off to their beloved artists. I was reading the article in mild amusement until I hit this paragraph like a brickwall:

Enter the Dylan know-it-all. They're everywhere nowadays; have you met one? Likely between the ages of thirty and forty-five, these fanatics no doubt love their chosen master every bit as feverently as my dad does. They too have seen Dylan live multiple times, at least one of them involving long-distance road travel. They have a favorite song, and you can bet it's a lot more obscure than "Like a Rolling Stone." They can quote long sequences (and they won't hesitate to recite them) from Don't Look Back. If they don't own every album in the catalog, they've sampled enough from each stage of Dylan's career to justify having a favorite period. And they know the lore, the stuff regular people have to trawl through Wikipedia to find out. But the trait shared by all neo-Dylanites - and this is where they differ from my dad - is that they assume you love Dylan too.

A conversation with a know-it-all starts with a harmless comment: "So I was watching The Last Waltz the other day and thought, Man, if only I'd been around to see Dylan play with Robbie."

You [in playing-dead, "holy shit, it's a bear!" mode, hoping that if you stay very still, the problem will pass by]: "Uh-huh."

But Dylan fans love to commune, so you get: "How many times have you seen him?"

You [acting dumb now, buying time, looking for the exit]: "Who?"


And then you have to say zero. The alternative is to lie and quickly be found out, because there's going to be a quiz if you say you've seen him live: What was the encore? Did he play Lay, Lady, Lay"? Were the vocals as bad as they were at the Chicago stop on that tour? If this happens to you, the best thing you can do is go into what I'll call Operation Shutdown. Nod politely. Make no sudden moves. Sit there. Take it. Whatever you do: don't argue! Arguing only will make it worse.

OK. As someone that largely matches that description, I apologize to everyone I've bored to death with tales about various shows and bootlegs. And while I may not have done that too often with Dylan, I probably doubly guilty of doing it with Pavement babble. So, if I start up like that in the future, feel to box my ears.

By the way, have you ever heard Dylan's version of "Ring of Fire" with Johnny....

Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash | Ring of Fire


jay said...

As a fellow Dylanite, I must admit that I've done much of the above.

But is following a single artists' progression and development really any worse than being able to name every obscure album from every underground flash-in-the-pan over the past five years?

The problem is the modern music scene doesn't lend itself to developing artists--the average lifespan of most bands now seems to be about 3-5 years, if that. So instead of devoting yourself to a single muse, modern music fans have to take on a thousand mini-muses.

It's the post-modern inclusionist method that takes variety over substance, quantity over quality. Long gone are the days of having a musical hero. It's not as black and white as being a "Beatles man" or a "Stones man" anymore. It's a rush to be able to spout off about the latest esoteric indie-darling before Pitchfork catches on & the band jumps the shark.

Sorry for the rant.... :)

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