Sara (Bob Dylan)

If Bob Dylan ended the ‘60s by permanently jacking in music to be a fishmonger, the poetic majesty of the songs he wrote during that decade would ensure he was still remembered as its most potent, literate artist, and one of the seminal figures in twentieth century popular music. Instead, he wrote an inoffensive album of country songs, went to study painting, and muse on his disintegrating marriage. By 1975, he was working on Blood On The Tracks, a bitter, wrenching album clearly informed by that emotional turmoil, no matter how vehemently the ever-gnomic Dylan denied it – as late as 2004, he was still mysteriously asserting it was mostly inspired by Chekhov’s short stories. With his follow-up, ‘76’s Desire, he abandoned the pretence, and produced a piece of keening balladry addressed to his soon-to-be ex-wife. ‘Sara’, like the songs on Tracks, drew its stark impact from the fact it saw its secretive creator depart so radically from the guarded, elusive metaphors and allusions that characterised his previous work, and smack us round the face with something so bluntly emotional.

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Nerve-jangling political battles with massive global significance happen horribly frequently in America, and as 2012 begins, one of the scariest is showily grinding into action. The Republican Party has begun the process to select who will oppose Barack Obama in next winter’s presidential election.

From a leftist perspective, American politics is grim not just in being hawkish, dominated by money, and pathologically hostile to anything remotely socialistic, but also in the way successive governments have used their huge influence to spread this consensus around the world. And at its worst, American politics is Republican.

Effectively, the Democrats represent the equivalent of what most Europeans would see as mainstream politics, with a mildly social democratic left-wing and a socially and economically conservative Right – in American terms, the Democrats might be classed on the Left, but if all Tories were deported to America tomorrow we’d wager a large proportion would settle down as right-wing Dems rather than throw their lots in with the Sarah Palins of the world. Continue reading “Republicans”