Friday, May 2, 2008

Talkin' 'bout the knockout shrub

An important recent event in my life has been the discovery (via Douglas Wolk) of a complete archive of Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour. As its title would suggest, each episode is devoted to a single lyrical theme (weather, drinking, baseball, sleep, shoes, birds, New York, etc.) The song choices, mostly from the 50s and 60s, are pretty eclectic and uniformly great. But the nicest surprise is that Dylan's a terrific DJ: warm, informative, charming and passionate, with the added advantage of being, you know, Bob Dylan. And even though I gather, from the credits at the end of each show, that he has a team of producers and researchers coming up with the perfect little factoids he strews about every which way, it's hard not to give in to the Greil Marcusian fantasy that it's all coming straight out of the great man's Old Weird American Subconscious. I especially like the way he intones phrases from a song he's just played, thus (a) making them sound like Bob Dylan lyrics and (b) instantaneously converting them into Dylanological cross-references for the remainder of recorded history.

Anyway, just to give you a little taste, here's the opening to the "Flowers" show: