Thursday, May 14, 2009

Provenance of the Prematurely-Published Dylan Obituary

The mega-essay below, ostensibly dated Tuesday, May 12, 2009, was originally posted sixteen minutes before midnight Pacific Time on Sunday, March 29, 2009.

The piece appeared, if initially only in embryonic form, on RadioactiveSeattle, the newstalk radio-oriented sister blog to this newly-established Radioactive Dylan.

This marathon essay in a way provocatively takes the form of a prematurely-published Dylan obituary. I've been subsequently re-working and expanding it pretty much steadily since March 29th, but its basic idea and structure came to me more or less in a flash very late that very night, just as I detailed in the opening paragraphs. It should be clear, at least to careful readers, why I considered it vital that its initial though brief version be posted prior to that midnight.

That also of course is why this epic essay is composed, most broadly, from a March 29, 2009 point-of-view. But it's additionally, as you'll eventually see, written from the retrospective perspective of June 7, 1988, the very birth of The Neverending Tour. And as you'll immediately learn, March 29th was, until 11:33 pm Pacific Time, just another Sunday night for me.

Anyone who cynically wonders if I've employed literary license to fiddle with the time-line for my curiously copious composition's convenience can check the time-stamped original posting, which I shall preserve as the March 29th entry of RadioactiveSeattle.

Radioactive Dylan has been established, you may have already divined, to avoid subjecting the newstalk-interested readers of the radio biz stuff on RadioactiveSeattle to these more, ahem, esoteric Dylan essays.

In pure word count, the essay comes in at...well, I'm embarrassed how many words it currently stands at, though obviously anyone curious could digitally determine that in seconds. At the essay's outset I understatingly wrote, "Considerable explanation is due", and that sentence is warranted here too. That is, it might be puzzling as to why I might remain textually silent about Dylan since 1996, the last time this '70s-era Dylanologist published a word about him (a lengthy Dylan profile published online by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture), only to re-emerge now not with a mere posting or even an article, but with an essay so interminable that it's essentially another short Dylan book.

Well, suffice it to say this essay is designed to serve very different functions for very different readers: You see, pretty much anyone who knows more than the fact that Dylan is never pronounced with a long Y can find the introductory paragraphs accessible, if perhaps preposterous. For early on the essay makes—and defends —the bold assertion that Dylan isn't merely an influential recording artist, but the most important artist of all time.

But then the essay takes a rather bold turn itself—or maybe it's just a reckless swerve—by more or less pushing the ejector seat button for every reader except those who, say, wouldn't merely know the difference between the three takes of "Billy" on Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, but might actually even harbor strong opinions about their respective charms.

Oh, and I guess there's one other narrow category of reader who might be interested in staying with this essay through to its seemingly vanishing-point conclusion: Abbott & Costello fans.

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