073 – Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)

Episode 73
“Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power).”
Street Legal.
Blockhouse.
Recorded October 28, 2018.

Context (4:00)

It was first recorded on December 26, 1977 at Rundown Studios with Dylan and Steven Soles on guitar and Rob Stoner on bass. It was recorded for Street Legal on April 26 and 28, 1978. Dylan and Soles remained with Jerry Scheff on bass, Ian Wallace on drums, Helena Springs, Jo Ann Harris and Carolyn Dennis on background vocals, Steve Douglas on soprano saxophone, Alan Pasqua on piano, Dave Mansfield on mandolin and Bobbye Hall on congas).

The song is ranked #100 of the 100 best Dylan songs according to Rolling Stone. He’s performed this 265 times from June 1, 1978 to April 27, 2011.

Song Itself (6:00)

Daniel takes us through 1978 for Bob Dylan: he’s divorced from Sara, embroiled in a custody battle, friend Emmett Grogan died of a heart attack, Renaldo and Clara is released to scathing reviews, and he switches his sound for his upcoming ’78 world tour that both stressed and distracted him.

Musically, this didn’t suffer from that stress and distraction. Mansfield’s mandolin is killer in setting the tone. It’s impressive how much restraint this song (though not others on Street Legal) has.

As for what the hell is happening? Daniel explains the Lincoln County War of 1878 (which took place in New Mexico and featured Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid) and sees this song as commentary on westward expansion and generational change. He talks about the Mescalero Apaches and references this incredible map to check out. Then the Conestoga wagon, Sam Peckinpah, “tail of the dragon,” Sara, “that trainload of fools bogged down in a magnetic field, Señor as God, that relation to “hearts as hard as leather” and, finally, Matthew 21:12: And Jesus went into the temple of God… and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers…

How does this stand up in 2018? It’s mixed. Definitely fits in the Seven Curses Expanded Universe. Narratively, it can be seen in a variety of ways, which makes this last longer than if it was specific. The music is top notch, but has a bit of a dated sound. If it was writing history, Dylan, of course, is less interested in the facts than the intent. Since there’s no concrete link to anything Daniel talked about except his own conjecture, it’s not quite historical and thus is just an interesting, though confusing, song. 

Playlist

Welcome back to the playlist: Gaslight Anthem, Kanye, Arctic Monkeys, Vince Staples, The Thermals, and The Decemberists (“Yankee Bayonet” was also on our first playlist for “Honest With Me”)

Welcome to the playlist: Sarah McLachlan, Harry Belafonte, the redskins, Ghetto Brothers, Cream (famously broke up after Clapton heard The Band), Everliven Sound (though we’ve dug into the Crate Digger’s Delight before), People Under the Stairs, MC Frontalot, and A Perfect Circle

Recommendations (30:00)

Kelly went to the Mt. Nerdcore Tour featuring MC Lars, MC Frontalot, Schaffer the Darklord and Mega Ran. In particular, Kelly recommends Schaffer the Darklord’s 2013’s Sick Passenger.

Daniel listened to new records from Cloud Nothings (Last Building Burning), Direct Hit! (Crown of Nothing), Saves the Day (9) and Antarctigo Vespucci (the much anticipated Love in the Time of Email). 

Endings (46:00)

There’s 437 songs left. Kelly guessed #106. Could’ve been “Quinn the Eskimo” but it’s #279, our return to Highway 61 Revisited, “Tombstone Blues.”

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