JULY/AUGUST 2009

REAL LIFE ROCK TOP TEN

A MONTHLY COLUMN
OF EVERYDAY CULTURE
AND FOUND OBJECTS

by Greil Marcus

(1) Bob Dylan, Together Through Life (Columbia). Casual, to the point where the clumsiness comes to the surface—except with “Forgetful Heart,” where a shadow passes over the singer’s face. But nothing here quite carries the weight of a scene from last season’s In Treatment, when Mia Wasikowska’s smart, sarcastic, suicidal teenage gymnast Sophie turns the tables on Gabriel Byrne’s fifty-something psychologist Paul Weston, as if once she was so much older but she’s younger than that now and he’s too old to know what she’s talking about. “‘The times they are a-changing,’” she says as a session is ending. “It’s from a Bob Dylan song. My gift to you.”

(2) P J Harvey and John Parish, A Woman A Man Walked By (Island). From “Sheela-Na-Gig” on her first album, in 1992, Harvey has never made any secret that her music is meant to make a home for an avenging pagan goddess. Any song called “Pig Will Not” all but promises that figure will appear in a great snout mask, making inhuman sounds, and that is what happens: “WILL NOT!” she shouts in acrid fury, making a sound Fucked Up would pay for if they could get Harvey to sell it. “I WANT YOUR FUCKING ASS!” she yells in “A Woman a Man Walked By/The Crow Knows Where All the Little Children Go,” the latter part of the title turning Harvey into a witch. You step back before these moments, and go back to them when you think you’re equal to them, not just because nothing else here is.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Greil Marcus is the author of Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, and The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice, and other books. His column, Real Life Rock Top Ten, runs monthly in the Believer.

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