Almanac Music: “Maintain the rage”. Thoughts on Bob Dylan.

Dave Fordyce’s thoughtful piece on Robert Zimmerman conjured some grand memories this Sunday just gone. Memories that are nearly as old as the years I’ve lived.  I may live far away, but I keep up with the olde country on a daily basis.  My grand return plotted minute to minute, and framed in every waking thought.  I woke up this morning and got myself a beer. ..    I then logged on to the propaganda dispenser and went about my usual couch surf.  Footy trades and delistings, property pimping, the Trump V  $chillery battle royale.  The latest disinformation from Aleppo and other blighted, yet profitable war zones.  Places where the brown, black and impoverished children hang by a fingernail.  Youngsters much  like Majak Daw. Rejecting caffeine and rustling up another stubby my eye spied  a well fed parliamentarian. He was spewing on about the wasteful spending on the Arts, and creative careers.  I want to cash in my frequent flier miles. Jet into Canberra and beat the ignorant snot out of his, too quote THE ROCK, candy arse. Art is life, and these trolls have a broader and far more sevile genda in store for you and yours. I’ve been watching it here and seen it leech across the ocean.


Bob Dylan was, and still is, a unique invention. You either get it or you don’t. And it is beyond the words. What Dylan really gave to a lot of us was the direction to live ones life on self defined terms. Freedom. Not in the poxy hypocritical, Republican American definition, but freedom in the real moment. As a young aspiring songwriter he made it easy too cast off all limitations. When your shaky voice scraped. When the jumble of Jazz chords “real” musicians pretended to play cock blocked your ambitions. He showed you could change and everybody could like it or lump it . Piss off.  Hit the bricks.  Don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out. “You’re either with us or against us”  Shit, now I’ve gone and done it: I’ve quoted a war criminal. The Stances the boy from Minnesota  took were not always popular. Singing masters of war in 1964 was not a light undertaking. He had studied long and lovingly at the well spring of his inspiration, Woody Guthrie. Hell, Woody knew Fred Trump was a sack of shit from the get go. Madge’s recent  Dylanesque turn, offering a blow job, in exchange for a vote against his despicable sprouge Donald. Apparently she’ll look you in the eye and swallow. Maybe in the dumbed down lexicon that’s TMI, yet I’m ROTFLMAO.


Since 1962 we’ve seen  many others.  Neil, even the Beatles, the new Dylan’s. There used to be one aspiring on every street corner, from Rue St Louis to Bourke St.  And now, in his seventies, the Nobel prize for literature is in his pocket.  I love that he has been so taciturn about this latest honorarium, even as he plies his craft, weaving to and fro across the world’s shape shifting stages. Fifty years and counting, one of the last of the hardcore troubadours. Living in an age where mere entertainers will hold a presser for an ingrown toenail. I was playing last night and  sang “If you’ve gotta go’ go now, or else you’ve gotta stay all night” Manfred Mann covered it. Steve Connolly showed me the lick in an Adelaide pub. I joked it was the only Dylan song I can remember the words to. Then again there’s the story of singing “Hurricane” in the English Garten, Munchen, in the nude for a bunch of drunk nudists at the OCKERtoberfest. The things you do to stay fed.


It was a fun party. Someone, who shall be blameless and nameless, sniffed about it “Not being quite right old Chap”.  I grinned the smug mug of the knowing and said. “Bob won it for Tarantula. Maybe Sad eyed lady of the lowlands, too.” I was in a bookstore the other day. I like to patronize the brick and mortar survivors. One of the “New Dylan’s, who is himself a big shot, has a new book. It trumpets his bold, running  and restless vision of himself.  I have met, and actually like this guy. He’s a true believer, as I am, in the power and faith that music and  smart people can move mountains.  I scanned the book and one quote poked the glasses  clean off of my nose. A remembrance of performing Dylan’s the Chimes of freedom at the Kennedy center in Boston. Sitting with Barry O and Michelle O, is Bob Dylan, squished in with  Charlton Heston.  He’s sporting  the  new shiny “Brownlow” like gong.  Draped around his neck by the POTUS at a billion dollar a plate stuffed shirt shindig.  Bob looks a little more  small and squirrelly than usual The guy with the running shoes recounts the story in his grim raspy baritone. “Bob said to me Thanks for coming and singing my song man.” The running man replied. “No, no, no… Thank you Bob. You gave me everything. ”


Guys like me, John Dowler, and Paul Kelly in the antipodes, living in the 70s blush.  So many known, unknown and forgotten song and dance men and women scattered across all the continents.  They  all got a bit too. Think I’m gonna go and play a few Zimmerman songs. I’ll start with “Don’t go to Sydney“. That’s still a toe tapper.  That NIDA funding socialist asked us to maintain the rage against the Luddites and cultural Philistines. The bastards that stubbornly worship at the bench mark of profit. Profits  to be maximized off the bare backs of the servile and cowering.  People without voice or education.  I flipped the page and reloaded.  It seems the Pentagon wants enlistment bonuses paid to Iraq veterans to be repaid.  Seems they stuffed up.  Just like when they lost SIX TRILLION DOLLARS (25%  of the US foreign debt). Only now they want the soldiers, many maimed, some long dead, to repay with interest- Subject to IRS garnishments and levy’s against property.


The running man.  He talked about Vietnam. His first drummer was killed there. A volunteer. On the day of reporting  for the draft he wasn’t a BOSS.  He was a boy  running.  Scared shitless of a war in a place he could not find on a map.  Just like Ted Nugent.  He lied to fail the physical. He even said he was a “HOMO”.  In his book, he talks about the guilt. Of wondering who took his place. Did they come home? Do they live on the streets, as many now are forced to do? As Donald Trump is contemplated, bad Vietnam disqualifying heels and all, it tasks thinking people with a challenge; “maintain the rage“.


Ah, but this is about Bob Dylan and his iconic songbook. The one I have thumbed with grubby fingers for many years.  All who know me, know, I don’t shrink or shy away from a loud bullying mouth. It’s a lesson I learned from Bob Dylan. When he went to the deep south for civil rights. When he sang at the Lincoln memorial with MLK. The grand songs and the seeds he spread. Without Dylan there would be no Fortunate son. No I aint gonna play sun city. No Maralinga. No If I had a rocket launcher. Even the unfortunate and odious Toby Keith’s Courtesy of the red white and blue.  Gough Whitlam asked me as a scrap of a man to maintain the rage.  Many times they have been tears of rage.  As Mr Jones flaps his gums in Canberra, Paris, London and bum F*** Idaho, i think of Robert “Bob Dylan” Zimmerman. Nobel Schmoebell.  He should have gotten the big gong.  The one they gave to an under performing Senator from Illinois. The one they gave to the Masters of war Rabin and Arafat.  Then again what do I know? I’m just one of the small tax paying people. Think about that, and let it percolate about for a few minutes.  Who was it that wrote Serve the servants?

About Charlie wells

I am an Australian singer and songwriter living in San Diego, California. Supported Geelong since I was knee high. I have strong opinions about the way the world should be, although I try to stay off my soapbox.I have been lucky to travel a lot in my life and go a lot further than I thought my beginnings would allow. I had a few fallow years where I was not writing much and wasn't playing at all. But I have rectified that problem and met some good players and i am busy again making up songs and performing them wherever i can. I have a couple of projects in the works. Coffin ship: which is a collection of songs that draw from the seven seas. Six string box: Songs that I call my square pegs for round holes. Jubilee: songs largely written during "Depression 2.0") That's a lot of new songs ain't it. So hopefully you'll get to hear them soon if you have an interest in what I am doing. When I grow up i want to go to the moon and mine Helium 3.


  1. Greetings Charlie. Thorougly enjoyed your article..Many thanks.
    Bob D or Z is as good as William S.
    Bob must be laughing his head off for being criticised for being taciturn.
    Certainly “music and smart people can move mountains”.
    So can literature.
    Please stay on your soap box.
    The world is in need of characters such as you & Mr Fordyce.
    Reading your article has lit up my morning & hope to carry on.
    The answer is always blowing in the wind, including idiot.

  2. This is mighty good work, Charlie. Thank you. A few years back novelist Tim Parks wrote a piece on the Nobel Prize for Lit and it’s complete and utter random stupidity. For The New Yorker, I think. Easily googleable and worth the read.
    When I get the Nobel for lit I’m going to take a play from Bob’s book. What perfect behaviour. I’ll give em Total Silence. Nothing. Not word one. Slide the award through the mail slot and get the fuck away from my front gate.
    Go Cats.

  3. John Butler says

    Excellent Charlie.

    AJC, I think Bob’s made his point well – the Nobel people needed him more than he needed the Nobel.

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