Al vs. Floyd

Bob Dylan, on what makes something a worthy subject for a song, from his book Chronicles, Volume One:

In the past, I’d never been keen on books and writers but I liked stories. Stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who wrote about the mythical Africa – Luke Short, the mythical western tales – Jules Verne, H.G. Wells. Those were my favorites but that was before I discovered the folksingers. The folksingers could sing songs like an entire book, but only in a few verses. It’s hard to describe what makes a character or an event folk song worthy. It probably has something to do with a character being fair and honest and open. Bravery in an abstract way. Al Capone had been a successful gangster and was allowed to rule the underworld in Chicago, but nobody wrote any songs about him. He’s not interesting or heroic in any kind of way. He’s frigid. A sucker fish, seems like a man who never got out alone in nature for a minute in his life. He comes across as a thug or a bully, like in the song… “looking for that bully of the town.” he’s not even worthy enough to have a name – comes across as a heartless vamp. Pretty Boy Floyd, on the other hand, stirs up an adventurous spirit. Even his name has something to say. There’s something unbound and not frozen in the muck about him. He’ll never rule over any city, can’t manipulate the machine or bend people to his will, yet he’s the stuff of real flesh and blood, represents humanity in general and gives you an impression of power. At least before they trapped him in the boonies.

Listening: Joe Jackson, “Fugue 2/Song of Daedalus (Pride)” (via iPod Shuffle)


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