Tangled up in puns

I’ve been involved with Dylan Days in Hibbing since 2001. One of the interesting things about Bob Dylan’s effect on the American psyche is how newspaper writers don’t really need a good reason to write about the things he does or says. Hence today’s DNT editorial. I am just about done hearing the phrase “Tangled up in …” used with every noun on Earth.

Our view: Highway 61 revisited, this time in an Escalade
Duluth News Tribune – 12/11/2007

Bob Dylan shilling for Cadillac? Before we get into the predictable is-nothing-sacred discussion, know that the big bucks ad deal isn’t the first time the Duluth-born, Hibbing-raised icon of counterculture has memorialized the symbol of quality, if not excess, in song.

Take this from the 1963 dream-sequence ballad, cheerfully titled “Talkin’ World War III Blues”: “Well, I seen a Cadillac window uptown And there was nobody aroun’, I got into the driver’s seat And I drove 42nd Street In my Cadillac. Good car to drive after a war…”

Not much there to indicate the song’s protagonist actually purchased the car, though it really wouldn’t matter since it’s supposed to take place at the end of the world. Or something like that. Obligatory Dylanesque obscurity aside, the Highway 61 troubadour better known for counting how many roads a man must walk down is unambiguously endorsing a more refined, if expensive, form of transportation today.

“This week, we’re living large and climbin’ into a Cadillac,” he said in a two-minute excerpt from his XM satellite radio show, “Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour,” doubling as a long-form Escalade commercial.

“Cadillacs. They roll (or did he say roam?). They cruise. They make you feel like a million bucks. Nothing goes better with a Cadillac than a long ride to nowhere full of (or fooling with?) the right music.”

That’s positively Dylan cruising up Fourth Street, and why shouldn’t it be? It’s a little late for anyone to lose sleep over rock ’n’ roll getting a second life hawking the institutions it once criticized. It’s been five years since Minnesota filmmaking brothers Joel and Ethan Coen used the Beatles’ “Taxman” to push H & R Block. And that was a decade after the very late Janis Joplin’s anti-materialistic anthem, “Lord, Won’t You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz” became the background track in a C-Class commercial.

Maybe Dylan has sold out, but if so, keep in mind he’s been riding in limos ever since his first concert sold out. As for Cadillac, General Motors had better be careful which songs it appropriates from the man who wrote “They’ll stone you when you’re driving in your car” and “We drove that car as far as we could, abandoned it out West …”

Think they want to get tangled up in that?

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