In 1965 I bought Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. It was a defining album in my musical education. I was 15 and the simple music but complex lyrical construction perfectly suited my mood at the time. Dylan & the late Keith Rolf of the Yardbirds inspired me to play harp (harmonica) as well as the guitar I was still learning to master.
I used to go to my best friend Dave’s house and we’d play along. He had a 12-string guitar that at the time I thought was the coolest thing in the world. I never got to grips with it as my hands were just too small. I did however learn to improvise around the rhythm on my guitar – happy days.
Anyway Dylan’s masterpiece came out over the years at times when I needed succour from the lyrics – yes they all mean something profound if you care to think.
God says to Abraham, "Go kill me a son"
Abe says "Man, you must be putting me on"
God says "No." Abe says "What?"
God says "You can do what you want Abe, but the next time you see me coming you better run"
Abe says "Where do you want this killing done?"
God says "Out on Highway 61.
They're selling postcards of the hanging
They're painting the passports brown
The beauty parlor is filled with sailors
The circus is in town
Here comes the blind commissioner
They've got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker
The other is in his pants
And the riot squad they're restless
They need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight
From Desolation Row
Cinderella, she seems so easy
"It takes one to know one," she smiles
And puts her hands in her back pockets
Bette Davis style
And in comes Romeo, he's moaning
"You Belong to Me I Believe"
And someone says," You're in the wrong place, my friend
You better leave"
And the only sound that's left
After the ambulances go
Is Cinderella sweeping up
On Desolation Row
I lost this album when my second wife decided part of her revenge on me was to sell off all my albums. I mentioned it to “L” one day in conversation and then a CD arrived by post – guess what I have the music again! So straight into the CD player, guitar slung over shoulder and even though I’d not heard the songs for 10 years I remembered all the chords AND all the lyrics! It’s great to have the music again.
I think music has kept me sane through the years of suppression & denial as much as using the pain of Ankylosing Spondylitis allowed me to control the conflict of the female brain and male anatomy. Music is a huge part of my core identity and I use it to change my mood more effectively than any drugs and I’ve taken plenty of them.
This week I’ve bid for my first flat in Manchester and I’ve met a couple wanting to swap from London. Their flat is near Itchycoo Park made famous by Steve Marriott of the Small Faces who was born in that Borough. It’s rated the third worst place in the UK to live the worst being Merthyr Tydfil where my Mum was born and returned to die. Not that it bothers me as I’m happier connected to my working class roots in a culturally diverse environment. Uttoxeter is too English & Caucasian for my tastes. They liked my flat so it’s down to getting work in the area. Their flat is no more than 2 miles from where I first lived in London when I went to University in 1968 so it’ll be almost a return to my roots.
Talking of roots I got the draft for my new birth certificate. It had the names & occupations of my adopted parents so I had a moments dilemma did I get the birth certificate produced with their surname or my chosen one (they give you that choice).
It was easy really they’d picked a boy not a girl they never knew though I’m convinced the cause of some conflict with my mother was down to the fact that she knew the decisions and attitudes I projected were not lets say 100% male. We made our peace later in life and it matters not now, as she’s dead. I was pleased to note in terms of country of birth it will still say England as that’s cool for when I’m accused of being Welsh LOL
It also made me think about do I get the full details of my birth mother who gave me up for adoption but I keep thinking it was 1950 it was a very different world and she’ll be an old lady now and I could cause considerable trauma to her assuming she was alive. I don’t need that and I always thought some things are best left alone. Being an adopted child didn’t cause me any trauma and I always saw my adoptive family as my own so I’ll resist the urge. Anyway I do know some details as I saw my file (by mistake)in 1961. It wasn’t a shock as I already had been told by my Mum & Dad beforehand when I was old enough to understand.
So the official new birth certificate will be with me in a few days and yes I’ll cry but what would you expect me to do?
So I should be in a pretty good mood really as all this is positive stuff except that a friend of mine cut themselves again. I find it very frustrating that they can talk about symptoms but not reveal the true cause of their mental health issues. OK I’m not a professional and I’ve no right to know and I must respect their free will to do mutilation but in terms of ridding themselves of constraints that limit their life it was death by a single cut.
The things I’ve discovered about mental health issues is to forget the normative comparisons, forget the guilt, forget the drugs but learn the only person that can cure the “problem” is yourself. Decide to be well and you will be well. I pray my friend will realise that sooner rather than later…