041 – “Pay in Blood”

Episode 41. “Pay in Blood.” Tempest. Live in Copenhagen 2017. Bunker. Recorded January 4, 2018.

Context (5:00)

Recorded between January and March, 2012 at Jackson Browne’s Groove Masters Studios. This our first song off Dylan’s latest album, Tempest. When the album was initially announced, rumors spread of it being the final Dylan album, as The Tempest was Shakespeare’s final play. Dylan, naturally, responded:

Shakespeare’s last play was called The Tempest. It wasn’t called just plain Tempest. The name of my record is just plain. It’s two different titles.

It’s #9 on Rolling Stone‘s Top 50 songs of 2012: “In one of his most vicious songs ever,” they wrote, “Dylan conjures a demonic figure – military brass, politician, CEO, pick your poison – while guitars glint like a switchblade.”

As of recording, Dylan has played the song 362 times from November 2012 to November 2017. This number will surely be higher whenever in time you’re listening.

C.L. Blood (7:30)

There is too much to say about Charles Louis Blood and “Oxygenated Air” for show notes. The story of C.L. Blood is as good as “Pay in Blood.”

Song Itself (20:50)

Kelly and Daniel talk about initial reactions – namely, Bob’s voice. Despite being 41 episodes into the project, they haven’t come across such a jarring (Daniel would say perfect) song. They mused on what the song was about, as well as introducing the wider world into the discussion.

Daniel introduces Dylan’s interview with Rolling Stone from 2012 into evidence. It’s important to note that Obama was running for reelection as RS asks Dylan, “Do you see any parallels between the 1860s and present-day America?”

Mmm, I don’t know how to put it. It’s like . . . the United States burned and destroyed itself for the sake of slavery. The USA wouldn’t give it up. It had to be grinded out. The whole system had to be ripped out with force. A lot of killing. What, like, 500,000 people? A lot of destruction to end slavery. And that’s what it really was all about.

This country is just too fucked up about color. It’s a distraction. People at each other’s throats just because they are of a different color. It’s the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back – or any neighborhood back. Or any anything back. Blacks know that some whites didn’t want to give up slavery – that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can’t pretend they don’t know that. If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.

It’s doubtful that America’s ever going to get rid of that stigmatization. It’s a country founded on the backs of slaves. You know what I mean? Because it goes way back. It’s the root cause. If slavery had been given up in a more peaceful way, America would be far ahead today. Whoever invented the idea “lost cause . . . .” There’s nothing heroic about any lost cause. No such thing, though there are people who still believe it.

It’s not uncharitable to see this as a story of America, akin to “Honest With Me,” our very first episode to expand on these ideas and themes.

And Bob wasn’t working alone, they also look into influences: The Poems of Exile: Tristia and the Black Sea Letters by Ovid, Willie Dixon’s “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” Mark Antony in Julius Caesar“Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyl” by John Greenleaf Whittier and Ezekiel, Chapter 3, verse 9.

Recommendations

Kelly saw, along with a lot of other people, Star Wars:  The Last Jedi. She also listened to Ryan Hemsworth and Dawn Golden.

Daniel watched the new season of Black Mirror and Lovesick. He caught up on the last of 2017 with the splendid Purgatory from Tyler Childers. Oh, Jeff Rosenstock dropped a new album on New Years Day, POST- (current AOTY front-runner, based on quality and lack of competition).

Endings

Kelly guessed #265. The Times They Are A-Changin’. It was #225. “Born in Time” from Under the Red Sky but could have appeared on Oh, Mercy (that version on The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs).

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