Stephen Daniel Arnoff
Episode Ten: Bringing It All Back Home | Part Two
We spent a lot of time in Kansas in Bringing It All Back Home | Part One, thinking about John Brown and Bloody Kansas on the threshold of the Civil War. Schisms over race, governance, and institutionalized cruelty have never left America, and as we close out the mythic narrative Bob Dylan travels on his way home, passing through Kansas one more time is unavoidable. Dorothy may be the most famous mythic figure from Kansas, and the most homesick and hopeful too.
As Elvis Costello once mused, sometimes there are places where "legends and history collide." What better place than Manchester, England in 1966, Dylan electrifying and petrifying his audiences with the backing of 4/5 of what would become the Band. "Judas!" came the cry from the crowd, a pivotal moment of Bob Dylan's place and persona in rock and roll and culture as a whole. What was he disrupting? Who did he offend? Why Judas of all of the mythic figures that could have leaped onto his stage? Over the years, how did the seeds of empathy planted in Dylan's rejoinder of a scathing "Like a Rolling Stone" blossom into a grand story of both challenge and forgiveness.
Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash found themselves in Sun Studios one day, and they brought this little ditty back home.
Judas came back not very long after his first appearance in Manchester. But this time, it was at Dylan's invitation. The song "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" from the album John Wesley Harding. It's a moral of a story spanning both backward and forward, with the Yellow Brick Road leading to empathy:
For Charlie Watts, kids...