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Nov 21

Brett Moss
11/21/2013 1:12:00 PM 

Somebody (Gil Scott-Heron) once said that the revolution would not be televised.

Few predictions have ever been so spectacularly wrong. Not only will the revolution be televised, it will have a line of greeting cards (featuring Maxine, no doubt), its own Ben & Jerry’s flavor, some collectibles on the Home Shopping Network, a special edition Cadillac Escalade, a Ken Burns Director’s Cut six-DVD PBS documentary package, with commentary and a mobile app. Oh, I forgot the Facebook page and Twitter account. Oops, Pinterest. Instagram? Tumblr?

But that all pales in comparison to the just created, just released “official” video version of Bob Dylan’s seminal “Like a Rolling Stone.”

For you kids just joining the conversation, once upon a time, this Bob Dylan fellow scared the willies out of the old squares. He was a young, scruffy, in-your-face folk music singer. The academic types grooved on him, the angry young types were down with him and the types who wore berets thought he was trés chic. The hippies and the dippies quoted him endlessly.

Then he picked up an electric guitar and scared the willies out of those folks, too.

Radio stations of the time, we’re talking mid to late 1960s, didn’t really know what to do with Dylan. His songs were too long. That “Like a Rolling Stone” song was over six minutes long! In a 2:40 clock that was a rough fit.

And then there were those vaguely subversive, sort of rude and sometimes nonsensical lyrics. But the kids wanted to hear it.

In the 1970s, angry young Dylan got cross-ways with his older fans. He seemed to disappear for extended periods of time. He didn’t regularly release albums. He didn’t seem to have the fire in the belly anymore and he might have found religion (which really scared the willies out of his old fans). And, well, like Elvis, everyone preferred to remember him as the younger version that shocked the parents, not them.

The scrawny troubadour, with the odd accent, demanding, “How does it feel?” Yeah, take that bourgeoisie! Now, excuse me, I have to pick up the kids from soccer practice.

And within a few years, people were humming “Like a Rolling Stone” in the shower and the Hollywood Strings recorded an elevator music version. I’m particularly fond of the Kidsongs version, myself (from “Kidsongs Sings Dylan”). It’s been said that Debbie Gibson’s version for Pilates on her “Sweatin’ for the Revolution” will get your heart up over 120 bpm — think of the pounds you can shed!

The golden age of Dylan happened before “music videos” came of age. Yes, kids, there was such a time. And Dylan, not being nearly as marketing savvy as, say The Beatles (or The Monkees), languished. He didn’t do TV much and only a few “bootleg” films of him existed. He even languished as the great burgeoning content monster resurrected the whole 1960s and 1970s music scene in endless band reunitings, remastered albums and PBS fund-raising week specials.

But Dylan is back! He’s got a video of “Like a Rolling Stone!” (And it isn’t a “sampled” reworking by some rap group/artist, either.)

Or not.

The “official” video is the work of a very creative, high-tech marketing agency, Interlude. Dylan only appears in some very old footage which may or may not be related to the song. There does not appear to be any new footage of Dylan. Was he even involved?

The shtick of the video is that it’s “interactive.” It’s interactive in that it is presented on a kind of television GUI and you can switch “channels.” On the other channels are different people lip-synching the song as they go about their day in their own TV shows. These people range from Drew Carey on “The Price Is Right” to BBC presenters.

It has a certain low-level amusement factor. I thought the channel with “The Bachelor” and his gals to be the best and funniest. There was something of a wacky disconnect with that channel.

The producers seem to have gotten incredible cooperation from a number of programs and networks. Some of the channels are fake, however.

They promise more channels to come. Having your own “Like a Rolling Stone” channel could be “The Next Big Thing.”

Perhaps there’s a jibe here at our (still) superficial society; our celebrity-obsessed media; these “stars” singing a song putatively about not living in the real world (the “real world” which is equated in the song with “the street”). I guess the point might still be valid even if the fake channels are nothing more than stand-in strawmen …

Hah! The joke’s on them! And they’re cooperating in their own humiliation! Ha-ha! Take that bourgeoisie! Now, excuse me, my fair trade Sumatran half-caf decaf blend is getting cold and the delivery person from the Indian restaurant is ringing the doorbell.

Video Director Vania Heymann told Mashable, “I’m using the medium of television to look back right at us — you’re flipping yourself to death with switching channels [in real life].”

Maybe. Don’t you work for a marketing company?

I suppose that kind of thinking gets you an A in Media Arts class these days. It’ll certainly get you a six/seven-figure deal with a hungry cable network.

Dylan long ago acknowledged that the song derived from a splenetic venting and may be more autobiographical than the carefully considered arching societal condemnation so many think it to be as they absent-mindedly hum the super-catchy tune and mouth the rhythmic, emphatic refrain, “like a rolling stone…”

But that’s probably not the point (which is apparently to promote Dylan’s new collection of old albums, “The Complete Album Collection Volume 1”). Hey, I hear the revolution has its own HD cable channel now.

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