Bob Dylan turned seventy a few days ago.
Some couple of years back, I spent the day out there in Kolkata, where the celebrations began a tad early. I spent the evening quaffing the stuff that cheers as well as inebriates in my absolutely favourite pub anywhere – Someplace Else at The Park – and the best cover band I have ever heard – The Hippockets – played Dylan songs all the way past midnight.
The place was SRO (or houseful, sorry housephool, if you wish to get the dialect right) and very few relicts of the Stone Age like yours truly. The bulk of the population was below 25, and most of them knew the songs and the lyrics, in some cases via Axl Rose rather than via Robert Allen Zimmerman. Ok, there was one spoilsport who wanted fast numbers and complimented me by commenting that I seemed to be the only man in the house who was enjoying the music – I was constrained to point out his mistake and showed him the rest of the room, younger than him, who were enjoying the music just as much. It all ended amicably though – he bought me my next beer.
The Hippockets is almost like the house band – they’ve been there I think ever since the world began, or at least since Someplace Else began, which is 15 or 16 years ago. For those who’ve never been there, it’s a must visit place on this planet. Live music 5 days a week with really great bands from Kolkata, sets begin at 10 pm or so, and go on till 4 am or thereabouts. The beer’s good, the bartenders are great, and the bouncers are discreet – highly recommended.
Ah, the Hippockets – led by drummer Nondon Bagchi, who must be in his late 50s (I have been announced in the pub once as his kid brother) leads a bunch of really fine musicians in their 30s or 40s through classic rock stuff by Stones, Doors, Led Zep and the rest of the music I have been growing up with since my teens, and they can do Pink Floyd to blow you away. On a really good night, they can almost even outPink the Floyd. IMHO far and away the best cover band in the country, and maybe even East of Suez.
Dylan’s birthday to me is not just nostalgia – my strongest emotion is the feeling of things we have left undone, things which Bob had urged us to do, but which our generation, my generation, has failed in achieving. I have edited this just a little bit:
How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, ‘n’ how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?
How many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ‘n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ‘n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
[The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.]
This was written in 1962, and we are almost a half century gone past that date – we still hear the sound of cannonballs, we still don’t allow people to be free, we still turn away our heads and pretend we can’t see, and it will still take a few more million deaths for us to know that too many people have died.
We are still like the joker:
“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief,
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth,
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth.”
Our generation is well and truly stuck inside of Mobile, with the Memphis blues again.
So it’s up to our kids now – only they can change the world, now that we have failed. Which is why I was so happy to see that the bulk of the audience that night in Kolkata were below 25. Someday, soon, they’ll stop being just software engineers, or CSRs or whatever, and go out and do their real vocation – change the world for the better.