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Thursday, October 07, 2004

Going to Mermaid Ave.

what i'm listening to Right Now: Jimmie Rodgers - Memphis Yodel

Well, it's official. Bob Dylan says in his new book that he named himself after Dylan Thomas. I've learned a bunch of interesting things from his book so far.

Thanks to Rhapsody, I've now heard this amazing album called "Mermaid Avenue" by Billy Bragg and Wilco. According to Bob Dylan, this album might never have been made:

"On one of my visits, Woody (Guthrie) had told me about some boxes of songs and poems that he had written that had never been seen or set to melodies--that they were stored in the basement of his house in Coney Island and that I was welcome to them. He told me that if I wanted any of them to go see Margie, his wife, explain what I was there for. She'd unpack them for me. He gave me directions on how to find the house.

In the next day or so, I took the subway from the West 4th Street station all the way to the last stop, like he said, in Brooklyn, stepped out on the platform and went hunting for the house. Woody had said it was easy to find. I saw what looked to be a row of houses across a field, the kind he described, and I walked towards it only to discover I was walking out across a swamp. I sunk into the water, knee level, but kept going anyway--I could see the lights as I moved forward, didn't really see any other way to go. When I came out on the other end, my pants from the knees down were drenched, frozen solid, and my feet almost numb but I found the house and knocked on the door. A babysitter opened it slightly, said that Margie, Woody's wife, wasn't' there. One of Woody's kids, Arlo, who would later become a professional singer and songwriter in his own right, told the babysitter to let me in. Arlo was probably about ten of twelve years old and didn't know anything about any manuscripts locked in the basement. I didn't want to push it--the babysitter was uncomfortable, and I stayed just long enough to warm up. said a quick good-bye and left with my boots still waterlogged, trudged back across the swamp to the subway platform.

Forty years later, these lyrics would fall into the hands of Billy Bragg and the group wiles and they would put melodies to them, bring them to full life and record them. It was all done under the direction of Woody's Daughter Nora. These performers probably weren't even born when I had made the trip out to Brooklyn."

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