Big Bob Dylan fan? Me too. Big fan of pop singers covering Bob Dylan songs? Nope, me neither. Amnesty International (sooorry for saying bad things about a charity project) is releasing a Dylan cover record called Chimes of Freedom — and none other than glitterbreathed poptart Ke$ha will be contributing to it with a version of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” Alarmed, I reenlisted the Gchat account of musician and Dylan devotee Kasey Anderson to discuss.
Liana: Okay, first of all: how about a Dylan covers record sung by Dylan? Just Bobby singing his old tunes. I would buy that.
Kasey: ‘Unplugged in 1994′ was kind of like Dylan Covers Dylan and it was mesmerizing. In fact, I think that sort of kicked off the resurgence that became ‘Time Out of Mind’ and ‘Love and Theft’. It’s bizarre that he has developed a way to deliver his own songs as though he’s completely confounded by them; like he has no idea which word comes next. Maybe he doesn’t.
Liana: Yeah, that’s what’s interesting to me – how Dylan can pull new meaning from his own shit by emphasizing things differently. While there are definitely some Dylan covers I love very much — Van Morrison’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and The Specials’ “Maggie’s Farm” to name two — I don’t much care to hear some goofball pop singer gloss over his music.
Liana: Not to mention that ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” has been covered to death. Elvis did it, for chrissakes!
Kasey: So did Johnny Cash, if you count “Understand Your Man.”
Liana: Also Odetta! And in terms of recent pop singer covers, there’s that Emily Haines/Metric version that’s pretty good.
Kasey: I’ve never heard that. I don’t know that a pop singer derives any more or less from a Dylan song than, say, Jim James — sorry, YIM YAMES does.
Kasey: My head hurts from this Metric song. I can’t even concentrate. Why did you make me hear that?
Liana: You don’t care for it?
Kasey: I suppose it’s no worse than you’d hear at any coffee shop open mic but that’s why I don’t typically attend coffee shop open mics.
Liana: I just wonder how she’s going to cover this song. Will she keep it simple and pared-down, or will she Ke$hify it? (Give it Hepatitis.)
Kasey: Maybe Ke$ha will do something interesting with the song. I find that prospect more appealing than hearing yet another maudlin take on a song from ‘Blood on the Tracks.’
Liana: Maybe she will, but maybe she’ll do something AWFUL with the song. Which would be sort of disheartening? Perhaps I’m being too precious about it.
Kasey: Dylan did a reggae version of the song on the ‘Hard Rain’ live album. I can’t imagine Ke$ha’s could be any worse than that.
Kasey: I think what’s interesting about it is that people who really revere Dylan and draw from the same pool of influences he does usually try and play it too safe and those covers just end up being boring imitations of Dylan songs. At least Ke$ha won’t be bound by any kind of weird, reverential folk tradition bullshit.
Liana: Here’s a choice quote in reference to how emotional Bob Dylan makes her: “You can hear the snot running down my face,” Ke$ha told Rolling Stone of the recording.
Liana: I hope we hear that! I hope it was miced! (How do you spell “miced”?)
Kasey: I mean, that’s better – that quote – than if she had said, “I dunno, my manager said show up and sing so I showed up and sang and it was a song that was pretty cool or whatever and now I guess it exists.”
Liana: So, those are the liner notes?
Kasey: Above all, it’s important to remember that whether it’s Ke$ha or My Morning Jacket or Patti Smith, Bob Dylan will hate each song equally.
Liana: I would buy a video of Bob Dylan listening to this record.
Kasey: Just a bunch of nasally groans and the sound of him chewing occasionally.
Kasey: I’ve always wanted to hear recordings of Dylan doing and saying the most banal stuff. I imagine he spends his whole day talking to himself, like how old men do. I would pay top dollar for 45 minutes of, like, “Too much milk in this Fruit Loops.”
Liana: Probably he berates the Fruit Loops until they’re so ashamed they get up and dump some of the milk down the sink themselves.
Kasey: That’s how I imagine it that way as well. “How can you even do this to me, maaaan, Fruit Loops? You’re just a bowl of cereal, maaaaan.”
Liana: And then the Fruit Loops blush and mutter something about Tucan Sam being the real voice of a generation.
Kasey: The Bryan Ferry Dylan covers record is really good, by the way.
Liana: The Ferry video brings up another point – I think “Don’t Think Twice” is just a bad choice for Ke$ha. It’s too simple and pretty, which isn’t her thing.
Kasey: I agree on that. I’d be interested in her trying “Highway 61.” Or “Rainy Day Women” or something a bit more tongue-in-cheek.
Liana: “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”!
Liana: Can’t you hear her Ke$ha cadence… like talk-singing, “I HEAR you GOT your brand new leopard SKIN pill-box hat…”
Kasey: I should probably tell you at this point in the conversation that I’ve never heard a Ke$ha song.
Liana: Oh, buddy. Oh boy. I should probably tell you at this point in the conversation that it’s time to end this conversation.
Kasey: I’ve really done it this time, haven’t I?