025 – “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine”

Episode 25. I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.” John Wesley Harding. August 17, 2017. Bunker. Rainier.

“Harmonica Bob is back!” This song was recorded on October 17, 1967 for the first session of what would become John Wesley Harding. The song has only been played 39 times, as of this episode, and they sampled Dylan performing at Isle of Wight in 1969 with The Band (Kelly: Who is singing this? It sounds nothing like him.”), in 1975 with Joan Baez during the Rolling Thunder Revue (Kelly: “cute”), and live in 1990 at Toad’s Place (Kelly: “too slow, no harmonica”).

Originally, a guitar player, Jimi Hendrix, was going to cover this tune but felt it was too personal to Dylan. He decided on a tune called “All Along the Watchtower” instead.

I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night (10:00): Before delving into St. Augustine (of Hippo, of Florida), this song’s antecedent absolutely comes from Alfred Hayes’ poem “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night.” Joe Hill was, of course, a union organizer with the Wobblies, the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World. He was famously convicted of a murder he didn’t commit in Utah. His imprisonment became an international sensation but William Alder, in his The Man Who Never Died, posits that Hill came to see himself as worth more to the labor movement as a martyr. Before he was executed on November 19, 1915, he wrote Big Bill Haywood:

Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize… Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”

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St. Augustine (of Florida) (13:00): It’s the longest continuously occupied city founded by Europeans in the United States. In 1513, Ponce de León, the first governor of Puerto Rico, went to search out the Fountain of Youth (which he’d be happy to know does exist!). In 1562, French Protestants head to La Florida. Spain gets pissed and sends Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to sort some shit out. “Sort some shit out, from La Florida to Canada, Pedro,” Phillip II said. He lands in La Florida on August 28, 1565; the Feast Day of St. Augustine. Kelly walks us through de Avilés and Jean Ribault’s beef, and the end at the Matanzas River. From there, it hasn’t been great… Sir Francis Drake sacked the city in 1586; fights break out against England from 1608-1611; pirates sack the city in 1668. The Castillo de San Marco begins construction in 1669 to help against all this shit. Mostly, the Castillo remained but the city of St. Augustine kept getting burned down. St. Augustine also hosted some vicious racists in the 1960s, spurring the fight for basic civil and human rights. Today, it has a hot sauce place, ostrich jerky, and a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum.

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St. Augustine (of Hippo) (22:30): He was born on November 13, 354 and died August 28, 430. Insane influence on Western philosophy and religion. Wrote City of God and Confessions. He’s the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians (which is ON BRAND), and the alleviation of sore eyes. He believed in the soul and body; that the universe was created simultaneously, not a literal seven days; amillenarianism; that Mary was “conceived as virgin, gave birth as virgin and stayed virgin forever;” original sin; double predestination (?) (!!); and just war, among others. In City of God (not the novel based on the movie), Augustine posits an earthly city we inhabit and a City of God that will ultimately triumph over all. Confessions is considered one of the world’s first autobiographies and is interesting because he introduces the idea of being a regular dude who receives god’s grace. He’s an interesting dude. Someone should write a song about him.

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The song (30:00): the chill (if laconic) vibes of “Dear Landlord” matches “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.” Both love his voice but Kelly wondered if this was less of a dream and more of a manifestation of guilt. That’s the crux of any analysis of the song. Peter Wench has a fascinating essay that rolls with that conceit: that Dylan had a dream about Saint Augustine and now he’s sad. That’s one way to look at it.

Some link it directly to the old tropes: his motorcycle incident, Jesus, Bob Dylan himself. Some want to read it where this = that. Some read some wisdom or way to live. Some see St. Augustine himself, alive as you are me.

Daniel said it feels like Bob Dylan was reading a book about Joe Hill when he fell asleep and dreamed of St. Augustine and conflated the two. And, that’s about it. Dylan is writing fiction. He’s playing with ideas and concepts, disparate notions, challenging you, mystifying you, befuddling you. If the song is “straight forward,” that’s fine. If there’s a stirring, it isn’t St. Augustine doing it, it’s Bob’s delivery and the melancholy rhythms.

Or Paul Williams is right:

I doubt that [Dylan] knew or cared that St Augustine was not a martyr; he needed a saint’s name, and Augustine” fit the tempo, as did John Wesley Harding” when he needed the name of a historical outlaw. 

 

Mixed Up Confusion: Kelly and Daniel explore Florida in their playlist (which includes the first, the longest, and the last discussion on Korn and Limp Bizkit) but first they talk Confederate monuments and how you should feel about their demise (spoiler: GREAT!). Also, Game of Thrones talk! Try not to be disappointed by “Eastwatch.”

Recommendations (34:00): Kelly recommends Hound’s Tooth by Dope Lemon

Daniel throws a lot out: Mountain Goats Tallahassee, Pageninetynine’s Document #7 reissue, and talk the surprise drop of Brand New’s Science Fiction.

Endings: There are 517 songs/albums left at this point. Kelly guessed #243. At Budokan. Nope, the number was #97. The Bootleg Series, Volume 5: Rolling Thunder Revue! Not only a better live album, but another album!

 

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