One night, a very long time ago, I went to a concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl with a friend. We had cheap tickets to the open grass area. It was cold and it rained the whole night. I was soaked. I had parked the car in Alexandra Avenue and I shivered all the way home with the dash heater on full blast but barely making a difference with its feeble heat. The year was 1978. The concert was performed by a Mr Bob Dylan.
The thing is, I remember thinking Mr Dylan was old in 1978, but he was in Melbourne again last weekend, so he must be about 120 by now. I didn’t go to his concert. I already know what he sounds like. He sounds like an itinerant cane toad with laryngitis, although cane toads are actually less itinerant than Bob; who has visited Melbourne several times over the years, while cane toads have yet to migrate this far south.
When I want to remind myself again what Bob Dylan sounds like, I play one of his two Daniel Lanois-produced albums in my collection: Oh Mercy and Time Out of Mind. Daniel Lanois knew exactly what to do with Dylan’s voice. He built an aural stage around it and filled the stage with weird atmospherics like crickets and far off bells, all made out of wurlitzers and hammonds and various guitars. Dylan’s voice is haggard in the mix, but Lanois wrenches notes like hard cold crystals out of a frozen sky and scatters them about like glittering diamonds.
Shadows are falling and I've been here all day
It's too hot to sleep and time is running away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I've still got the scars that the sun didn't heal
There's not even room enough to be anywhere
It's not dark yet, but it's getting there.