Songs In The Key of Bob
(c) David Volk
“How many Hebes could a Hebrew brew,
If a Hebrew could brew Hebes?”
--Gabe Kaplan, parodying Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”
As much as I love the present, there are times when I miss parts of my past.
Specifically, the Seattle Cacophony Society, a fun-loving bunch of geeks, nerds, techies and literary types who had a penchant for street theater in an irony-challenged city, which made it all the more fun.
This wacky band of pranksters was known for odd events that made innocent bystanders stare in slack-jawed puzzlement over such odd goings-on (when they found themselves unable to ignore us, a typical response which only seemed to encourage us all the more). My favorite events included the Blow Torch Breakfast, the Cult Goes House Hunting, Superheroes Night Out and an annual gathering called the Inanimate Object Bungee Jump and Donner Party Memorial (Tastes Like Chicken) Barbecue in which we hurled items off a pedestrian bridge and watched them bounce up and down whilst suspended in mid-air. I didn’t think up the event, but I quickly adopted it as my own.
In fact, the funniest moment I remember from a Cacophony event came when we put a frozen turkey in a mesh bag, attached it to the cord and threw it off the bridge. The mesh bag broke, but the turkey kept on going, landing in the with a wonderfully lewd-sounding splat. At the same time, the cord, relieved of its weight came rushing back at us with a sound you’d usually associate with Wile E. Coyote falling after running off a cliff. Everyone there was doubled over in laughter for quite some time. In fact, I think it’s a story that we will all be telling into our dotage.
The only reason I mention all this is that I recently heard that one of our annual events has been revived by the very person it was meant to parody.
In case you missed it, I’m talking about the news that Bob Dylan is releasing a holiday album this year. Yes, the Bobster his ownself is going to take his special brand of incomprehensible singing to the holiday classics. Can’t you just imagine him singing “Mumble Bells, Mumble Bells, Mumble all the wayyyyy….?”
Well, we could. That’s why we held the Bob Dylan Holiday Choir. Every year we’d gather at one of the busiest shopping centers in downtown Seattle and sing carols the way we imagined Bob would—badly, incoherently and impossibly nasally. I always enjoyed watching people rushing up to hear our small choir and seeing their smiles drift south as they realized how badly we were mangling the classics.
On this, the news of the release of an album that should never see the light of day ours is not to wonder why or even ask if this is a good idea, but to celebrate the sheer awfulness of the concept.
Considering that I’m Jewish and all, I’ve never been a big fan of Christmas music, even though our boys wrote most of the best carols (“White Christmas?” Irving Berlin. “The Christmas Song?” Chestnut roaster Mel Torme. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Holly Jolly Christmas, Rockin Round the Christmas Tree?” Johnny Marks). But this one has all the makings of a really spectacular train wreck. In fact, I have a feeling it’s destined to find a place in my collection next to the album that features Mae West singing “Twist and Shout,” William Shatner doing “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and Leonard Nimoy crooning “If I Had a Hammer.”
Can’t you just see a family sitting down for a first listen to Bob’s latest offering?
I figure it would go something like this:
CD starts. Recognizeable musical intro plays, harmonica and full Bob Dylan orchestration kicks in. Singing begins.
CD: ‘od rest ye mumble, mumble, mumble….
Listener 1: Jerry Mendlebaum? Who the hell is Jerry Mendelbaum?
Listener 2: This May? This May? Is something supposed to happen this May?
CD: Remember Christ our…mumble, mumble, mumble…
Listener 3: What did he say about an ashtray?
Listener 2: Who cares about your ashtray? I want to know what’s going to happen this May.
Listener 1: Maybe it’s just a problem with the cd. Let’s try another song.
CD: Deck the halls…mumble..mumble….mumble
Listener 1: Buddy Holly? Why does he want to deck the halls with Buddy Holly?
Listener 3: Isn’t he dead?
Listener 2: Dead, shmed. What’s going to happen this May? I knew I should have read those damn “Left Behind” books….
And so it goes as they wonder about “Shitty Sidewalks,” why Harold has angels and how you dash through a ‘ho in a one-horse open hay.
On the plus side, it may get families to start talking again, even if it’s only to figure out what the hell he’s mumbling about. Hey, at least they won’t be fighting….
From a man who’s got to go get the kids up—
David G(et up! Get up! If you don’t get up now, you’ll miss your nap) Volk