Subterranean Homesick Redux Blues

“If you want to laugh at a movie, may I recommend A DAY AT THE RACES starring the Marx Brothers, ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN starring Frankenstein, THE THIN MAN – William Powell and Myrna Loy, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, BORN YESTERDAY – Broderick Crawford and Judy Holliday, Billy Wilder’s cross dressing classic SOME LIKE IT HOT and of course we can’t leave out Ben Stiller in ZOOLANDER. I hear they’re making a sequel.”
– Bob Dylan on his Theme Time Radio Hour – Laughter Edition (broadcast : 2/7/07)

Nice to have some comedy movie recommendations from Bob, isn’t it? On the occasion of a release of a new Special Edition DVD of D.A. Pennebaker’s ground breaking documentary of Dylan’s UK solo tour in 1965 – DON’T LOOK BACK I thought it was a good time to pay tribute to it’s immortal opening scene with a piece I call –


Here are 5 homages/parodies/rip-offs of Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” short film (some call the first music video ever, but I’m not going there) with it’s card dropping, back alley in the broad-daylight basking, indifferent i.e. ‘cool’ posing put-offing, and funny word playing is a major pop-point of reference as evidenced here:

1. BOB ROBERTS (Dir. Tim Robbins, 1992)

In many ways Right-wing folk-singing Senatorial candidate Bob Roberts’s career obviously apes Bob’s (for example albums titled “The Freewheelin’ Bob Roberts” and “The Times Are Changin’ Back”) so it’s no surprise that the “Subterranean Homesick Blues” scene is satirized. Re-casting it as a glitzy pro-80’s corporate greed spectacle complete with Robert Palmer dancing girls and business men carrying bags of money is pure genius though. It’s the kind of song you could imagine Gordon Gekko rocking out to.

2. WEIRD AL YANKOVIC – “Bob” (Music Video-2003 ) At first glance this is like any old parody of black & white Ginsberg-era Dylan but when you realize that every card contains a palindrome it’s quite a clever treat. Some are quite funny – “Lisa Bonet ate no basil”, “a dog a panic in a pagoda”, “do nine men interpret? nine men I nod” and “oozy rat in a sanitary zoo”. Click on the the highlighted title and enjoy before YouTube removes it.

3. INXS – “Need You Tonight/Mediate” (Music video – 1987) In the “Mediate” bit of this double song video Michael Hutchence and fellow band members take turns tossing off stacks of cards with the mostly one-word lines to the song with the backdrop of some industrial lot on an overcast day. The ‘60’s revival of the 80’s was in full swing – witness the peace symbol t-shirt worn by Kirk Pengilly when he comes in to give a saxophone solo at the end.

4. CURIOUSITY KILLED THE CAT – “Misfit” (Music video – 1986) : Couldn’t find this on YouTube but pop-art God Andy Warhol himself fills Bob’s shoes and lends his particular brand of indifference to the card-dropping shtick. This time though in the popiest-artsiest sense the cards are blank! Maybe it’s pay-back for the time Warhol gave Dylan one of his paintings and Bob traded it for a couch. Ooops!

5. LOVE ACTUALLY (Dir. Richard Curtis, 2003) – Yep, even a rom com got in on the act. Mark (Andrew Lincoln) declares his hidden feelings for Juliet (Keira Knightley) by holding up and of course dropping cards that line-by-line (with some pictures) form a love letter. Okay, so – it’s not that subterranean…

More later…

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