I saw I’m Not There the other night, and it was as transcendant as it’s been described. Chaotic, layered, allegorical – it moves Dylan’s mind, I’d imagine – these things, like the idea of God, are of course unknowable.
We know that one of the main appeals of Springsteen to the 1970s music climate was that he re-appropriated the poeticism of Bob Dylan in a way that few had pulled off successfully. Then there was the primal, rumbling appeal of the blue collar infusion that’s attractive in so many ways. But lyrically, the record The River was pedestrian poetry; it turned everyday, ordinary thoughts into beautiful shadow puppets by speaking of the quiet desperation that lit them from behind.
“There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets
They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on“
– Thunder Road
Twice removed, Jersey fanboys-turned rock ‘n’ roll roarers The Gaslight Anthem bring this full circle in their acoustic sessions. Stripping away the swagger and beef, all that’s left is the fierce power of that same idea: at the centre, the pain is the same.
The pain is Brian Fallon’s, is Bruce Springsteen’s, is Bob Dylan’s. Desperation and need look the same at the core of them, from poet to poet. It’s not stealing, it’s an homage to a bloodline. And maybe that’s why these acoustic versions are so moving. They look you in the eye, and you can see the hurting, centuries old.