UP TO ME
Bob Dylan and Evelyn Waugh
In the song 'Up to me', Bob Dylan tells a story set in the middle of his life. I've adapted that slightly, and preceded each verse with the Penguin cover from the 1970s of an Evelyn Waugh novel. (Crikey, what a nerve!)
Don't think about it too hard (I haven't) just go (if you will) with the flow of image, language, juxtaposition, bollocks and irony.
"Everything went from bad to worse, money never changed a thing.
Grimes kept followin', trackin' us down, at least I heard your bluebird sing.
Now somebody's got to show their hand, time is an enemy.
I know you're long gone, I guess it must be up to me."
"If I'd thought about it, I never would've done it, I guess I would've let it slide.
If I'd a paid attention to what others were thinkin', the heart inside me would've died.
But I was just too stubborn to ever be governed by enforced insanity.
Someone had to stay at Shepheard's Hotel, I guess it was up to me."
"Now the Azanian Express is pullin' out, the orchids are in bloom.
I've only got me one good shirt left and it smells of stale perfume.
In fourteen months I've only smiled once, and I didn't do it consciously.
Somebody's got to find your trail, I guess it 's gonna be up to me."
"It was like a revelation, when you betrayed me with your touch.
I'd just about convinced myself, nothin' had changed that much.
The old Pie-Wie up the Amazon, he slipped me the master key.
Somebody had to read 'Bleak House', he said it was up to me."
"Now I watched you slowly disappear, down into the jounalists' club.
I would've followed you in the door, but I didn't have a ticket stub.
So I waited all night 'til the break of day, hopin' one of us could get free.
When the vole came over the plashy fen, I knew it was up to me."
"The only decent thing I did, when my dim old father died,
Was to haul his picture down off the wall, in the house where he'd often lied.
Was I a fool or not to try to protect his real identity?
You looked a little burned out, my friend, I thought it might be up to me."
"I met somebody face to face and I had to remove my hat.
He's everything I need and love but I can't be swayed by that.
It frightens me, the awful truth, of how army life can be.
But he ain't gonna make a move, I guess it must be up to me."
"Now we heard Sebastian on the mount, and I knew it was too complex.
It didn't amount to anything more than what the drunken glass reflects.
When you bite off more than you can chew, you gotta pay the penalty.
Somebody's got to tell the tale, I guess it must be up to me."
"Duckworth came in pimpin' tonight to the Thunderbird café.
Tony wanted to talk to him, I had to look the other way.
Now, I just can't write without your love, I need your company.
But you ain't gonna write a cheque,I guess it must be up to me."
"There's a bit left in the bottle, You can give it to Apthorpe,
He's the one you been wond'rin' about, but he's really trying hard to cope
We both heard voices for a while, now the rest is history.
Somebody's got to cry some tears, I guess it must be up to me."
"So go on, boys, and play your hands, life is a pantomime.
The ringleaders from brigade HQ, say you don't have all that much time.
And Major Hound behind the shades, he ain't my cup of tea.
One of us has got to hit the road, I guess it must be up to me."
"If we never meet again, Baby, remember me.
How my fountain pen wrote sweet for you, that old-time melody.
And the visions in my brain, I drew them for you, free.
No-one else could tell that tale, you know it was up to me."
Certain aesthetic formalities make that sequence of verse and image work, I suspect. Indeed, it's the only decent thing I've done since I worked as a postal clerk.
Truckloads of respect to whoever at Bentley/Farrell/Burnett designed the original Penguin covers in the 70s. What am I talking about? When I look at the back of the various Penguins I see that most of them are credited to he threesome, but four covers (including the superb Brideshead Revisited and Work Suspended covers) are credited to Peter Bentley.
Respect also to Bob Dylan who wrote the song in that same 70s decade, an out-take from Blood on the Tracks. A song that he would never play again for some reason.
It's probably time you heard the song now. Though beware, if you're as egotistical as I am you'll never stop listening to it. When you bite off more than you can chew, you've go to pay the penalty. Somebody's got to tell the tale. I guess it must be up to me...