Blonde On Blonde and the Elusive Nature of Art

Different Versions of Blonde On Blonde

Today I was listening to the mono version of Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde.  I then stumbled on the above article, which tries to document the different versions of that album and there reasons for being.  Even if you are not an audiophile, with truth be told, even though I love records, I am not, there are reasons why this should interest you.  Often we think of a piece of art as having a definitive version.  However with albums, there are slightly different versions in different countries.  Even in the same country, especially in the 60’s when it was common to have stereo and mono versions of the same record, there are different mixes, track listings, cover photos, etc.

Music isn’t the only art-form where there can be many different versions.  Many times painters or other kinds of visual artists will make more than one of a piece.  Japanese woodblock prints are a kind of art-form that were meant to have multiple versions.  The movie Alexander, by Oliver Stone, one of my favorite films, has the theatrical cut, the directors cut, and a sprawling two disc The Final Cut.

There is arguably a best version of a particular piece of art.  There may be an intended version of something.  However, there often isn’t a “definitive” version of something.  The movie Blade Runner is an interesting study.  There is the original theatrical cut and there is also a director’s cut, among other versions.  The director’s cut is obviously the intended version by the person that had the biggest hand in creating it.  However, I know many people that are passionate about this movie, that prefer the theatrical cut.  Which version would you deem “definitive”?

Art, like the human experience in general, can be hard to pin down.

The Dreamers Exhaust Us (Slight Spoiler for Movie Alexander)

The truth is never simple and yet it is. The truth is we did kill him. By silence we consented… because we couldn’t go on. But by Ares, what did we have to look forward to but to be discarded in the end like Cleitus? After all this time, to give away our wealth to Asian sycophants we despised? Mixing the races? Harmony? Oh, he talked of these things. I never believe in his dream. None of us did. That’s the truth of his life. The dreamers exhaust us. They must die before they kill us with their blasted dreams.

– The character of Ptolemy in the movie Alexander

I was reflecting on Lincoln and other great men today, like Martin Luther King, and was wondering why so many of them seem to be the ones we kill.  I remembered this quote from the movie Alexander, which is one of my favorite movies of all time.  One of the themes at the end of the movie is that we kill the dreamers.  In aiming for a better world, the dreamers ask that the rest of society give up some of the things they are accustomed to.  Even if it is for the better of all, this is rarely met with enthusiasm in some circles.  Why do we kill the dreamers?  In the end, I do not know completely, but it is worth reflecting upon.

Reach and Fall

Listening to This is PIL by Public Image Ltd.  It doesn’t reach the heights of the band’s first three records, but I like it overall.  It has moments I would even say were great.  PIL is the band led by John Lydon, formerly know as Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols.

For those of you that don’t know, PIL’s music can be a challenging listen.  It can be dissonant, atonal, and confrontational at times.  I love it though, because it always seems like they are in search of uncharted territory.  There is a song on their record called Compact Disc, or whatever other format it is on, that features a digeridoo, Steve Vai, GingerGinger Baker, and of course John Lydon.  How batshit is that?!!  I am not even sure if it’s great, but there is nothing else quite like it.

There is a quote in the movie Alexander that says, “All men reach and fall.”  Lydon and his collective may fall at times, but they are always reaching.  Sometimes there might be a record, book, or film that seems like it isn’t working, but then it has that moment; a moment of transcendence and discovery.  Sometimes artists need to reach and fall to do something truly great.

PIL has come across new territories more than most bands.  It is definitely not music for everyone, but I find them exciting and inspiring.  I’m glad they are out there, putting flags down where others dare not tread.

Quote

Killing the Dreamers

The truth is never simple and yet it is. The truth is we did kill him. By silence we consented… because we couldn’t go on. But by Ares, what did we have to look forward to but to be discarded in the end like Cleitus? After all this time, to give away our wealth to Asian sycophants we despised? Mixing the races? Harmony? Oh, he talked of these things. I never believed in his dream. None of us did. That’s the truth of his life. The dreamers exhaust us. They must die before they kill us with their blasted dreams.

A quote by Ptolemy in the movie Alexander.  Directed by Oliver Stone.  This is one of my favorite movies of all time.  It got a bad rap when it was first released.  I think it was too complex and too dense in story to be digested in one sitting.  Every time I watch it some new detail emerges.  It is a highly intelligent film.  It also features many entertaining and great scene-chewing performances, in the best sense of the term.  My favorite version is the longest version, The Final Cut.