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Dylan TV: How Does It Feel?
November 26, 2013  | By Eric Gould  | 1 comment
 

What if you turned on the TV and found a lip-synched version of "Like a Rolling Stone" on every channel? You might find it first quirky and charming, then odd, silly. And then, like most of Dylan's ideas, you might feel like you know what it means but at the bottom it's still a bit of a mystery. What's the point?

As with much of the cryptic Dylan's work, there might not necessarily be one meaning beyond the experience itself, and your own interpretation of it. He's not copping to any understanding, and he's not helping you. He defiantly made that clear when critics were trying to pin down the meaning of his songs and methods during the infamous interviews with him in the 1967 D.A. Pennebaker documentary Don't Look Back.

You can see the newest idea online now at Dylan's website, in the form of a video project by video phenom Vania Heymann. The 27-year-old Israeli has had a number of videos go viral on YouTube, and has since done commercial spots for Pepsi and others. For Dylan's site, he's made an interactive web page that has a window with a controller that will take you to 16 TV channels, each with actors and hosts lip-synching to the 1965 Dylan classic. Some feature recognizable faces (top photo), such as Drew Carey from The Price is Right or the hosts of HGTV's The Property Brothers. Steve Levy does his version from ESPN's SportsCenter, and Marc Maron, of IFC's Maron, does his from the same garage, and microphone, where he makes his WTF podcasts.

Other channels are parodies, like a rom-com on the fake Moviez channel, a reality station called TTC, or the faux Just for KIDS! network, which has a cartoon girl and a cat, that, for some reason, floats in the air during the song.

There's even a news channel with surveillance-cam footage that has crime suspects and victims mouthing the lyrics.

The video is timed to go along with the just released Bob Dylan: The Complete Album Collection Vol. 1, a mammoth boxed-set of 47 CDs including studio albums and non-album singles. As it turns out, "Like a Rolling Stone" never had a music video of its own. With this new Dylan collection, now it does.

Surfing from channel to channel (it's quite addictive: I'm on my 10th viewing), you realize that Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" stands tall almost 50 years later. It broke the pop radio mold at the time, clocking in at over six minutes. Its sneering anthem of a defrocked bourgeois still tops many lists as one of the greatest rock songs ever.

But it's Heymann's mix of real and simulated TV that is the draw here, giving the project its odd yet very engaging feel. It's through that playful engagement that many themes start to reveal themselves. Viewers can be co-authors of their own experience as a result of the technology; meanings seem to morph depending on the traditions of TV discourse, as lyrics are delivered by standard icons such as a shopping channel host or a history professor; and it's ever-evolving. As the press release claims, "No two people will engage with the video in the same way twice."



The new video also is noteworthy because an older artist like Dylan has embraced new media as part of his ongoing public presentation.

Normally, we would embed the "Like a Rolling Stone" video project on the TVWW website, but we can't do that, since the technology is proprietary. You can only see the video, and its 16 channels, on Dylan's website.

The main point of the new "Like a Rolling Stone" video may be simply that the meaning of what you see and hear on television is more about who is delivering the words, and in what style, rather than what's being said.

Is the medium (thank you, Marshall McLuhan) the message?  And, in itself, art?

Of course, Dylan's not going to answer that for you.

How does it feel? To be on your own?
 
 
 
 
 
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1 Comments
 
 
John
Thank you so much for your article and "Dylan's website."
What a wonderful resource.
Dec 7, 2013   |  Reply
 
 
 
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