12/05/15: BOB DYLAN RETIRES
In December 2005 four words appeared on the all-encompassing internet compendium of Dylanolgy, "Expecting Rain", that had not been seen in recent memory.
"No new tour dates are known at present."
True fans had noticed, of course, but had kept it to themselves, having other problems in their harried lives to attend to, the Fall of American Democracy for instance, Avian Flu, Intelligent Design and increasingly terrible Hollywood movies. They kept it to themselves. It took a few more months for the general public to begin to note the fact that Dylan had stopped performing. It took years for anyone to realize he had retired for good.
Records had been increasingly rare. And the touring had been so constant, so structured and intent over recent years, that it had become as invisible as breath. Later, critics would look back at the last tour, the Bob Dylan Show, as a perfect close to the artist's life on the stage. Standing at a piano, decked out like a riverboat drunk, banging out rockabilly and country-folk with a snarling power, it was like he had come full circle to the Hibbing highschool auditorium where he'd first confused an audience.
These critics would examine the set-list of the last concert, performed, interestingly enough, in Dublin, Ireland on Nov. 27, 2005 -- and see it as a sort of will and testament of the artist's idea of his own achievement. The best among them would look at Nov. 26.
But in 2005 no one (with a single notable exception) noticed. This despite the fact that 2005 marked the pinnacle of Bob Dylan's cultural success. In Chronicles: Vol. 1, he had casually published one of the two best books of the year. The Bootleg Series reissues, from Starbucks & Sony, had spectacularly solidified his backlist. Martin Scorcese's cookie-cutter documentary "No Direction Home," carefully focussed itself on the least interesting aspect of Dylan's career, cementing the pop icon in the market for years to come. As to Dylan's increasing commercialization, none of the contemporary critics thought to understand that the man was working to provide for his coming seclusion.
In the cataclysms that followed that year, culminating so tragically in the Eco-War of 2012 -- no one had time to look back enough to wonder at what point hope for the great endeavor of industrial civilization was first lost for good. If they did, they certainly would not have looked to the retirement of a popular entertainer, who like William Shakespeare so mysteriously and entirely removed himself from a world that, for all intents and purposes, remained enamored of him.
So it was that several months ago, when a close friend and colleague at the New Californian Federal Institute of Technolgy first informed me of the proven fact of digital time-travel, I had the idea of posting a "blog" (a sort of on-line periodic rage against impotence to which many a lonely soul of the Age of Consumption contributed) in the past. At the end of 2005, in fact, when there was still chance to shift the flows of history enough to influence a continuation of Dylan's career.
For if Dylanologists saw immediately what was then the artist's secret plan, Dylan, as any student could tell you, would necessarily have to confound them by a quick return to activity. He might never retire at all!
The internet, of course, is lost to most of us today. But why not, I reasoned, as it was still relatively unknown in those days, choose Pruess Press -- that entity so responsible for the destruction of digitalia -- for the insertion of this text into the great stream of Industrial communication?
While Dylan was playing, there was still a glimmer of hope, was there not? I did it. I did it. Whether or not this small but certain change would serve at least to postpone the Fall remains to be seen.