Monday, January 14, 2008

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man

It has been raining for past three days non-stop and I’m stuck inside my house, unable to go anywhere outside. In this overwhelming boredom I drowsily watch the rain drops play hide and seek on my window panes. Outside the heavy gunmetal-grey clouds with its long drawn out face hover silently, covering the whole length and breadth of the sky, much like a tiger who scratches the trees, thereby marking its territory. Disillusioned, I walk back inside. With nothing in immediate sight that I could occupy myself with, I decide to tune into some old Bob Dylan track and drown myself in one of his songs. It’s the Tambourine Man that I somehow feel like listening. There is some strange quality, something almost mystic, that time and again draws me to this song, a reason that I just simply can’t express in words. And since it was the first ever song that got me, perhaps for ever, hooked to Dylan, I do have a somewhat nostalgic attitude towards it.
My love affair with Bob Dylan began when I was twelve years old. It was a school prom and the theme of the event was the Turbulent Sixties. Some of my seniors, who had already belonged to some rock band, instead of playing some groovy number, began out of the blue to play the quintessential Dylan track, Tambourine Man. I’m still at a loss to explain as to why they did that. But the effect, at least on me, was electric. I never heard something as mellifluous and heart-rending as this song. At that time I couldn’t grasp what the singer was trying to say. It was too over the top for me, child that I was. But as time went by I began to explore more of Dylan, and comprehension, albeit slowly, began to dawn on me. However, even now I can’t describe fully as to why I’m so drawn towards this particular number of his. The anti-war track Blowin’ in the Wind and the totally surreal, almost nightmarish vision of a nuclear holocaust in It’s a Hard Rain’s A-gonna Fall were beautiful. But there was something in Tambourine Man that I could so very well identify with. The song is pretty much simple. But the profound meaning that it seeks to convey and through such striking words, like take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind/down the foggy ruins of time, is what endears the song close to my heart. It’s interesting how some have interpreted the song as a covert hymn to drugs [savor these lines: take me on a trip/on your magic swirling ship]. But to me nowhere do I find any allusion, whether covert or overt, to drugs, even though the words “Trip” do suggest a sly reference to drugs. To me the song encapsulates within it the ultimate desire of a person to become one with Music so much so that all the pain and sorrow of this corporeal world recedes to some remote aberration of the mind. But the song is much more than that. It can also be read as a passionate plea to remove the stultifying effects of politics and religion from the face of civilization and to devote oneself into the true religion of Art. Moreover, this song through its sensuous lyricism speaks of poetry and music and even painting [suggested by its painterly imagery] as being one and the same thing, in other words, as part of the same subject, and that’s where the ultimate power of the song resides. At the end of the day, it’s a song that seeks to define an Artist as the harbinger of hope and optimism to a whole multitude of humans torn apart in greed and hatred.