Episode 22. “Clothes Line Saga.” The Basement Tapes. Bunker. July 27, 2017. Rainier.
– Bob Dylan, Chronicles
Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” was a clear enough inspiration of the song. Daniel had never heard it, or at least put two and two together. They talk about where the lines of parody and answer songs reside. Every Bob Dylan Song Ever sums it up perfectly:
But before we could grapple with the song, Kelly delivered the definitive history of laundry (7:20). We begin in Ancient Rome, in the public laundries. Those Romans rocked all the wool and that got gross pretty quick. “Do all Romans wear togas?,” Daniel asks. No. “I feel like movies have lied to me.” Pliny reference! Fullones! They’d wash, stomp, dry out with hedgehog skin (!) and hang above sulfur to clean. Skipping ahead to Medieval Europe (“you’re on your filthy ass own!”): clothes are washed in rivers with scrubbing boards, laid flat on the ground to dry and bleach in the sun. They talk detachable collars. Soap being made from ash lye and animal fat. As for washing machines: The first one appeared in 1782. In 1851 we get the first revolving drum hand-cranked machine. Electric machines premiered in the twentieth century.
But what about clothes lines?! No one could possibly confirm the first use because it’s probably just something humans have always done. Today, there is a Right to Dry in only 19 states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin). Kelly, influenced by her time in Europe, just bought a clothes rack for her apartment. “It’s better
Daniel found the song (17:30) funnier without knowing it wasn’t connected to “Ode to Billie Joe.” The two got into parodies, mockeries, answer songs. Daniel remembered Rise Against, in “Architects,” responding to Against Me!’s “Teenage Anarchist.” In the end, they determine it’s best to paint with a big brush about the trust of a song like this. They talk the Vice President in 1967 (Hubert Humphrey) and how he may have gone mad to the narrator.
But, like all songs and art, the power in the song is in the ambiguity. What if the mad-VP was replaced with just a mad P? We currently have one of those yet we still talk about our metaphorical clothes instead of our cratering democratic values, which are adornments atop the economic divides, the racial discrimination, the persistent violation of civil rights, and the war machine that keeps its engine running.
As a final aside, could this be about Woody Guthrie? It got them to thinking of how time passes on and how great artists are seen as they go.
Daniel recommends Propagandhi’s “Victory Lap” and Nicole Atkins Goodnight Rhonda Lee.
Mixed Up Confusion: Be sure to check our very in-depth talk about our playlist, our recommendations and so much more! Then be sure to check out our Game of Thrones coverage because we cannot help ourselves! “The Queen’s Justice.”
This is not the Dylan of ‘Black Diamond Bay,’ where apathy has bred ignorance. He is on their side.
Our list sits from 1 to 520. Kelly guessed #519. Could have been “Alberta #1, #2 and #3,” from Self Portrait. It was #366, “Man Gave Names to All the Animals,” our first from 1979’s Slow Train Coming.