July 12, 2006

Bob's flower theme.

Bob's theme today -- on "Theme Time Radio With Bob Dylan" -- was, officially, flowers. But nearly every song was about roses. What happened? Did he start out with roses as the theme and run short? He missed plenty of rose songs, though. He did not play "Kiss From a Rose" or "The Yellow Rose of Texas" or even "some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed blah blah blah in the spring becomes the rose." There's "Sally Go Round the Roses" and "Roses Are Red" and "Every Rose Has Its Thorn." There must be a thousand rose songs he didn't play.

To fill in his non-rose slots, he used two grass songs. I don't think grass ought to count as a flower. Then the only other plant/flower I remember him doing was tulips. In keeping with the first syllable of the word, he played two tulip songs. Duke Ellington, "Tulip or Turnip." And Tiny Tim, "Tiptoe Through the Tulips."

I felt that "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" was the emotional high point of the show. We know from reading "Chronicles" that Bob Dylan was friends with Tiny Tim, and introducing the song, he swept aside the superficial view of Tim as just a joke. He was a great historian of music, Dylan said. He knew a lot of songs that were available only on sheet music, and when he died, he took a lot of songs with him. It's not like Tim died in a fire of burning sheet music, so I don't really understand how the music was lost, but it felt very profound and poignant when Dylan said it.

At the end of the show last week, when this week's theme was announced, I tried to guess which songs he'd play. The first flower song that sprang to my mind was that atrocious song about going to San Francisco and making sure you show up already besprigged with flowers. Then I thought of the song that deeply enchanted me when I was a young girl: "Sweet Violets." I wrote about it back here, embedded in a long simulblog of an episode of "American Idol" where the contestants had to sing songs from the year they were born:
I start thinking about what songs would be available to me, if I could be on the show. I'm way too old and I'm a horrible singer, but still ... Here's the list from my year, and my song from that list is "Sweet Violets." I remember hearing it once. I was in bed and overheard my parents playing it. I loved it deeply and the next day asked my parents about it. They told me, it was not for children and I couldn't hear it. Was it about sex? Death? Oddly, though I've always remembered it, I have never bothered to find the song and listen to it. I can still hear it in my head from that one listen, but I've never heard it again. I rush over to iTunes. The Dinah Shore hit is not there (only a Mitch Miller version). Ah! here are the lyrics. It's a bizarrely veiled filthy song from the past! Good thing my parents protected me, or protected themselves from having to deal with my questions.
That's an unusual old song, and it has a flower other that rose, tulip, or grass. Too bad he missed it.

Next week the theme is cars. If I had to bet on one song -- taking into account that Bob likes to tell the life story of the singer -- I'd bet on "Rocket 88." But that wasn't the first car song that popped into my head when I heard the theme. (What was yours?) That was "Little GTO." Looking up the lyrics, I land right on a page of "Muscle Car Songs." Nice! I should have thought of "409" first. My office number was 409 for a long time, and I thought it was really cool that my room number was a Beach Boys song. Students would ask me what my office number was, and I liked to say "It's a Beach Boys song." No one ever said, "409!" But it would have made me happy if they had. I would have picked up good vibrations.

Having found a page of muscle car songs, I think of looking for a page of death car songs. That fateful night the car was stalled upon the railroad track... I couldn't stop, so I swerved to the right... We were buggin' each other while we sat out the light/We both popped the clutch when the light turned green/You shoulda heard the whine from my screamin' machine!... Look out! Look out! Look out! Look out!...

Wait. That last one's a motorcycle. Can motorcycles get in on the car theme -- the way grass got in on the flower theme? Or it motorcycle crashing a very special theme for Bob, due for it's own show some day.


LarryK said...

Greatest car song ever - "My Kingdom for a Car," Jason and the Scorchers version. It's the car song Bruce Springsteen wishes he would have written. Does Bob take requests?

Buddy Larsen said...

Perry Como's
"Lollipops and Roses". Great song, makes you feel like a barely-restrained mass-murderer.

SippicanCottage said...
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Buddy Larsen said...

This ain't no party, this ain't no disco
this ain't no fooling around
No time for dancing, or lovey dovey
I ain't got time for that now

Transmit the message, to the receiver
hope for an answer some day
I got three passports, couple of visas
don't even know my real name
High on a hillside, trucks are loading
everything's ready to roll
I sleep in the daytime, I work in the nightime
I might not ever get home

Hamsun56 said...

It would be fun to try to guess Bob's selections in advance. However, next week's selection was announced long ago - apparently "Cars" was supposed to be one of the first theme shows.

You can see the list here:

You were right about Rocket 88, but you were probably wrong about the singer.

Chuck Berry is there - he had lots of good songs about cars.

Dawn said...

How about "Little GTO", done by Blondie?

Wha wha....my little GTO....wha wha....my little GTO....

Sip, I love "Roadrunner", especially Jonathan Richman's version.

Ann Althouse said...

Hamsun: Thanks. Oooh, I don't like seeing the song list in advance! I like the surprise in how the show unfolds.

SippicanCottage said...
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Brian said...

This post reminds me of the science of "Songology," a distant cousin of the science of Astrology. To a practitioner of Songology, the song a person is "born under" has a long term impact on issues relating to personal character and individual predisposition.

Having followed your blog and reviewed the list of number one songs for the year of your birth, my intuitive guidance tells me you were NOT born during a week in which "Slow Poke" topped the charts.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Because of these Dylan posts on your blog, I got a Dylan trivia question right on a radio call-in show.

Does that count as another Althouse milestone akin to water cooler topic?

Frank Borger said...

Somehow I can't evision "Tiptoe through the Tulips" as the high point of the show. Anyway,

Little GTO by Blondie???? Do the original. Ever wonder why Ronnie and the Daytonas were a one-hit wonder? They were the feature act at college one prom, (this should date me.) When they came on, their first number sounded like a server dropped a tray of food, and it got worse after that.

Best car/racing song ever? Transfusion!

"I'm never never never gonna speed again, ... slip the blood to me Bud."

"Make that type O, daddyO!


Ann Althouse said...

Frank: If you Google "Nervous Norvus," this old post of mine comes up on the first page.

Ron said...

Here's a list of songs...just about Cadillacs!


Mark Daniels said...

Weird! All day long, for reasons I can't explain, I've had that stupid old song, "Red Roses for a Blue Lady" playing over and over in my brain. Help me!

I want some red roses for a blue lady,
Mr. Florist, fill my order, please.
We had a silly quarrel the other day.
Hope these pretty flowers chase the blues away.

I want some red roses for a blue lady
Send them to the sweetest gal in town
And if they do the trick, I'll hurry back to pick
Your best white orchid for her wedding gown

I can't believe that I've allowed this song, which I always hated, to take up so many brain cells. I remember every single Vaughn Monroeish, Wayne Newtony note of it! Meanwhile, I couldn't come close to reciting the Pythagorean Theorem. I'm in bad shape!

It's understandable why this song didn't make it onto Dylan's show.


John Jenkins said...

I don't know what he limits the songs to, but the first car songs that popped into my head were "Little Red Corvette" and "Paradise by the Dashboard Light."

Buddy Larsen said...

"Flatland Boogie", Terry Allen, about drivin' his old Ford across the High Plains.

johnstodderinexile said...

Actually, I wish Bruce Springsteen were still writing car songs. 100 years from now, when we're not driving cars anymore, Bruce's songs will be the clue that explains what cars meant to American boys and men during the last half of the 20th century (just like "Please Mr. Postman" will be used to explicate what it was like to wait for your mail to come to you in a box.)

Bruce's car songs add up to the biography of a character. Maybe he's stopped writing them because he is finally just too rich to relate to that guy anymore.

"Spirit in the Night" -- a bunch of stoned teenagers on a nighttime roadtrip that goes a little south.

"Rosalita" -- "my machine, she's a dud/stuck in the mud way out in the swamps of Jersey," to explain to his gal why he's late.

"Thunder Road." -- First appearance of "Mary." Thrilling how it ends: "We're pulling out of here to win!"

"Born to Run" ... like an engine, not like a gazelle.

"Darkness on the Edge of Town," and "Racing in the Streets." Such sad songs, about a guy who lets his life slide by him because he can't get past the need to race.

"The River," "Mary" reappears, this time as his sadly pregnant wife. But how did they go down to the river? By car, of course.

"Sherry Darling" Funniest song he ever did, about driving around with his mother-in-law.

"Cadillac Ranch," almost too obvious, I'm disappointed Bob chose it.

"Downbound Train" The metaphor for despair; the character works in a car wash "where all it ever does is rain."

"My Hometown," its history seen by the character and then his son from his father's lap as he drives through town. The riot that destroys the town started with "two cars at a light."

"Valentine's Day" evokes the sad silence when two lovers drifting apart go for a drive together.

I've left out quite a few, but the point is made. Springsteen's use of the car as a metaphor as well as a scene for drama is probably unmatched in all of literature, not just rock music.

"Racing in the Street," and "Darkness on the Edge of Town." Songs about a character who lets everything else in his life slide so he can keep racing.

johnstodderinexile said...

Sorry, that last paragraph wasn't supposed to be there anymore.

SippicanCottage said...
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SippicanCottage said...
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Buddy Larsen said...

that's a helluva story--a broad-grinner--

LarryK said...


Not that I'm trying to outdo your story, but I once caught a band in Key West (at Sloppy Joe's, before it became a tourist hellhole) called "Out of Hand." Behind a four piece band was a large poster of a hook holding a guitar pick. It didn't take long to notice that the lead guitar player was the inspiration for the band's name - and he could play a mean axe.

I have no idea what happened to them, but it was quite a sight.