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According to our political correspondent, Bob Dylan’s upcoming gig in Stormont marks a diefinitive end to the war. Hurray!
Sam Snort, 31 Mar 2004
It’s true what they say – there’s no point sending a boy to do a man’s job.
You’ll remember that, a few years’ back, Bono was on stage in Belfast holding aloft the hands of John Hume and David Trimble, a pleasing tableau which suggested to the more impressionable among you that we finally had peace in our time.
And where are we now? John has retired, Dave has been battered by Big Ian, and the government of the Republic of Ireland has just discovered that the Shinners may in some way be connected to the IRA.
Not that I want to diss Bono here. He’s always been one of the good guys and I particularly liked that recent riff of his about God – “If God exists, it’s serious; if he doesn’t exist, it’s even more serious.” Of course, the inconsequential bit about the fantasy deity need not detain us here; rather, what forcibly struck Sam was that you could neatly apply Bono’s epigram to the present war of words between Dublin and West Belfast. In short, if Gerry Adams is on the Army Council it’s serious; if he’s not on the Army Council, it’s even more serious. (Remind me to memo this to McDour.)
So Bono tried and failed – now it’s time for the mainman. I refer, of course, to the fact that my old mucker Bobby Dylan will be appearing in the flesh at Stormont next June. Which means that not since Bubba Clinton was flicking his Bic all over the island, have the chances for peace looked more rosy.
Younger readers may not realise it, but back in the day Bobby could change the whole world simply by blowing a toot on his old harmonica. Take the Vietnam War. That was already going full tilt when the Zim penned ‘Blowing In The Wind’. Almost immediately, the Viet Cong downed tools. Then he banged out ‘Masters of War’ – and the Yanks took it as a signal to start withdrawing. There was no stopping him now. The day after Bringing It All Back Home came out, the first McDonald’s opened in Hanoi. Admittedly, hostilities briefly resumed in response to the Self Portrait album but, by 1975, Bob was orchestrating the end of the war with the formidable return to form that was Blood On The Tracks. Now, all these years later, as a result of a succession of fine albums from Bob, we can all enjoy cheap holidays in ‘Nam and never be too far from a Starbucks.
So how can we expect the great man to work his magic in Belfast? It’s easy enough to see how he’ll win over Big Ian. After years of having to pretend he liked the tuneless blather of Boxcar Willie McRae, Ian will be delighted to listen to a musical man who really knows his bible: “God said to Abraham, ‘Kill me your son’/Abe said, ‘Man, you must be puttin’ me on’/God said ‘No’, Abe said ‘What?/God said ‘You can do what you want Abe but the next time you see me coming you better run’/Abe said ‘Where you want this killing done?’/God said ‘Out on Highway 61’.”
By the end of that one, Ian will be virtually moonwalking. Of course, the great thing about Zimmy is that he’s all things to all men. So even as Ian swoons to the mere title of ‘With God On Our Side’, Gerry will be standing stiffly to attention, hearing nothing but ‘The Patriot Game’.
The big worry must be that the Zim’s relentless quest for self-reinvention will create more heat than light; the very thing that is his artistic calling card may prove his enemy in the north.
I mean, there’s no point in Bobby serenading Trimble with ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man’ – “Something’s happening here and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr Jones?” – if wee Davey has to keep nudging Martin McGuinness, asking “Which one is this? Has he played ‘Quinn the Eskimo’ yet?” And of course, there’s the ever-present danger with Zim that his more cryptic lyrics will divide rather than unite. One shudders at the vision of Peter Robinson and Gerry Kelly coming to blows over the precise meaning of the line, “The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face,” the whole thing escalating when officials from London and Dublin wade in to demand “clarification”.
But then no-one ever said that great art was easy. And, you know, ending years of deep-rooted sectarian conflict isn’t easy either. But life is all about challenges. Shit, if Bob Dylan could write a song long enough to fill an entire side of a double album then surely it’s not beyond the wit of our brothers and sisters in the north to live in peace and harmony, ideally within the context of a 32 county socialist republic.
That la may be a little bit away yet but it’ll be brought much close when Zimmy brings his guitar, harp and almost entirely non-existent voice to Stormont for what can only be described as the greatest day in support of world peace since the premiere of Gandhi, the movie.
Your ever lovin’ Samuel J. Snort Esq