Jack Howard – When Dylan Went Electric


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Studio 3:57 Jack Howard Songs For Longing – The Poems Of Dawson Hann EP. Moderately common. Available new in digital form.

Recommended Version.






When Dylan went electric we solemnly stashed
Our acoustic twelve strings, the old banjo
With the broken string, along with our best hopes,
In cupboards cleared for the purpose; thought it best
To keep from sight the emblems of all that purity
Lost in a single electronic calamity; floundered in
Our own ground zero, finding no freshness there
Of Appalachian air, no diamond skies, those
Jingle jangle mornings yielding to new hard dawns;
Reached disconsolate understanding such things must be;
The world moves on, now is soon enough history,
And there is disconnecting in all you touch or see.

When Dylan went electric all that hard rain
Started falling, just as he said it would, though
How much harder sounding than when strummed,
And only the bleak harmonica wailing pain;
All those apocalyptic visions no longer contained
By a concert stage, instead his gravelled voice
A sad anticipation of his country’s annihilating rage.
How right they seem now, those scarring chords,
The thud of drums, warning how Tet was on the way,
Villages bombed to stone-age rectitude, jelly flamed
On human skin, and insisting how silly our indignation,
Thinking songs sweetly sung are alone worth veneration.

When Dylan went electric the sky didn’t fall, well
Not immediately, but crowds wall to wall swelled streets,
Universities burned, and old songs; and new ones
Were lit in innocent hearts, inflaming mothers, fathers,
Vice chancellors, who proclaimed winds blew ill
Which brought no answers; all music spilled from bands
Like rolling stones, gathered significance like moss;
In Greenwich Village homosexuals stonewalled, jeered
At hyper-sexed police, and announced enough’s enough.
And the songs of the guitar electric became the songs
Of the body eclectic; all songs reach consequence,
Tell us finally what might, might not, make sense.


January, 2006.

[Dawson Hann]