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Date

June 25, 2020

Dr. Jennifer Otter Bickerdike Sleater-Kinney’s Debut Album Is the Perfect Time Capsule at 25 Years Old

In the early 1990s, the Pacific Northwest in the United States was a hotbed for new ways of approaching traditional frameworks of culture. A generation before, punk had created and perpetuated the idea that you did not need to be a virtuoso or even vaguely proficient to start a band; one just needed the chutzpah to do it, no formal training or academic credentials necessary. These ideas had not only taken root but blossomed in the region, with the founding of several independent record labels (K in 1982, Sub Pop in 1986, and Kill Rock Stars and Chainsaw in 1991). These outlets were a crucial element in providing the essential spark of possibility: You could not only start a band, but you could also be part of an entire system of thinking and experimenting in new and unexplored ways. Within this context, young people — specifically women — were able to imagine beyond normative, expected roles and behaviors. Not only did this environment allow and encourage such questioning of tradition, but it also implored for exploration and actualization, making it one of the key geographic places for what is now called the riot grrrl movement.

Riot grrrl combined the ethos of punk rock rebellion and accessibility with politics and do-it-yourself acumen. If something did not exist, you had the ability to create it for yourself, whether that be in a cut-and-paste bricolage zine or in the lyrics for your newest song. At gigs and events, what had often been a traditionally male-dominated space — the rock show — now became a place for women to not only express themselves in a safe environment but interact and connect with other like-minded individuals. Topics that had often been considered taboo — rape, incest – were front and center in discussions and content, being moved from the shameful shadows to open conversations. Many girls were trying to figure out what it meant to be a feminist in a world where women still did not always have the same advantages as their male counterparts, despite two previous waves of campaigning and protest. Queer rights, equal rights, reproductive rights, diversity — these were not things to be questioned, but things to fight for.

It was during this burst of cultural and artistic change that Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein met while the two were students at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Tucker was the vocalist/guitarist for band Heavens to Betsy while Brownstein did the same for her group, Excuse 17. The two acts would often play shows together, inspiring the women to work together on a side project. Named after the road where one of their first practice spaces was located, Sleater-Kinney eventually became both women’s main focus when their respective bands broke up.

At the start of 1994, the bandmates took a trip to Australia. On their last day there, inspiration struck. The duo met recording engineer Nick Carroll at 486 Victoria Street in Melbourne and stayed up the entire night recording tracks that they had been working on. The demo tapes were brought back to Olympia, where production took place under the guidance of Tim Green at the Red House; Scottish drummer Laura MacFarlane was brought in to help put the finishing touches on the record. The self-titled debut LP hit stores in 1995, released by Chainsaw Records. The label, located in Portland, Oregon, was run by Donna Dresch and had come out of the ‘zine by the same name. In 1991, Dresch began making tapes compiling favorite bands and selling them at shows. From this organic lo-fi presentation, singles and EPs of mostly queer women artists manifested, making Chainsaw the perfect fit for the new group.

The same dirty, unpolished immediacy — the DNA of their label’s formation — bashes you in the face from the opening bars of Sleater-Kinney. The speak/sing style of vocal delivery throughout the entire album, which became a signature of the band, plays perfectly to the idea of a message — an artist — who has no choice but to use the stage and a microphone to amplify a stewing sense of exasperation. The sweet harmonizing of Tucker and Brownstein on tracks such as “The Day I Went Away” contrast with Tucker’s urgent lead vocals bordering just titillating enough on the edge of shrill to command attention on the rest of the record. Tucker arguably sounds like Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Go’s if Carlisle would have stayed true to her gnarly punk rock roots instead of going Top 40 gloss.

The song structures and overall vibe of the albums are of someone legitimately making a record in their garage with whatever cobbled together equipment happened to be there. In other hands, this would have been a muddled, confused mess. With Sleater-Kinney, the grittiness of production and naïve style of answer/response work. While Sleater-Kinney lacks the standout sing-along tracks of future albums by the band, the record set the foundation for what was to come next, supplying a template of possibility for other young women. Tucker and Brownstein are pretty and stylish, but pretty and stylish in a way that seems attainable and natural, thus very appealing

Clocking in at just under a breathtaking 23 minutes, Sleater-Kinney is the perfect time capsule of technology, attitude, and social commentary. It was post-Kurt Cobain death, post-Anita Hill, pre-Internet, and pre-cell phone. Why are these components important to note?

Cobain had been a beacon for underground culture, a tiny beam for those living on the periphery. With the rise of Nirvana, the frontman had provided a mainstream voice to a myriad of outsider groups. There seemed- for a moment- that the underground would become completely normative. With Cobain’s death, much of this hope vanished as well, at least on such a visible, global stage. Without the apparatus of the internet and cheap/free phone calls, it had taken a band — and a brave lead singer — to unite various similar communities around the globe. With the loss of Cobain came a vacuum of leadership and larger scale agenda setting.

Hill, on the other hand, had publicly accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. The media crucified her, claiming she was delusional. These are important landmarks to place Sleater-Kinney within, as they mark a delineation: one of loss and unbearable frustration, of a change almost but not coming.

The magic of Sleater-Kinney is the rough and ready nature of the entire LP from start to finish, of songs bashed out at incredible speed, of recording lacking the leisurely component of time to finesse a polished sound. There is an immediacy here that screams of a waiting that cannot happen — it has to be now. Though first appearing 25 years ago, it is both chilling and timely to see how relevant the circumstances that brought Sleater-Kinney to prominence are still current and topical.

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RussRyan Tips for Successfully Pivoting Your Record-Selling Business, According to Other Sellers

So far, 2020 has delivered the most unexpected of circumstances for the industry to hurdle, from artists to music lovers and everyone in between. With baby steps now being made (certainly in the EU) in the right direction to some form of new normal post-COVID 19, we wanted to shine the light on a handful of sellers from our community, all from slightly different situations, who have used this time to refine operations, strengthen their processes, and positively pivot their business

Record shop owners, record fair organizers, DJs, and record labels — we hear from a cross-section of European figures who champion successful adaptation that could be interpreted into others’ practices.

Alphabetize, Categorize, and Organize!

“Without record fairs during the weekends, I have some time off, which I’m using to organize my stock. I’m categorizing and alphabetizing as much stuff as possible in order to be able to start listing the rest of my 50,000 items. Fortunately, a lot of people worldwide keep on ordering the goods from my shop, so that makes up for the loss of the fairs. So, it has been my goal to professionalize and prepare myself for big growth during these times.”

Frank Van Den Bold (Space Junkie)
Record Fair Organizer and Seller

List All of Your Stock for Sale Online

“We have always had a strong mail-order presence, but with the removal of selling in our physical shop and at record fairs, we have made even more of a concerted effort to put our stock onto Discogs. It has been very successful for us with lots of sales during this time, and going forward we will continue to do this alongside our other sales channels.”

John-Paul Craven (Five Rise Records)
Record Store Owner

Get on Top of Your Organization and Adapt

“Usually, we (my partner-in-crime, Franklin, and I) organize three events/record fairs during the year: two in Amsterdam and one in Rotterdam. When one is finished, we are already busy with the next one. Now, with more time on my hands, I have listed far more on Discogs. Re-organizing my record-fair stock, finding records in boxes in storage, buying some stock, etc. — and finding some time to make new Facebook and Instagram profiles. Also, I connected with a wholesaler here in Holland, putting up some new, mint stock on our Discogs page.

In the past few months, I have seen sales spike in my Discogs shop. To thank all Discogs users, I have decided to give something back to the community by giving discounts and lowering the shipping costs or offering free shipping for the last weekend of June. (Click here for full details!)”

Andre Liefting (Count Vinyl)
Record Fair Organizer and Seller

Explore the Database

“What really changed in the last months are the online conversations with new young DJs who have started to play with vinyl. Tech Records mainly consists of electronic music at affordable prices and a great starting point for your collection. The new generation of vinyl DJs who started this year really like digging online for finding cheap records which are often forgotten. True gems can be found from your favorite sellers which don’t have to be the classics everyone is looking for.

On Discogs, you can look at the producers behind the records, follow the trail, and find new labels or co-producers, which leads to new discoveries. The selection of records changes from buying one specific style to a well-connected range of different styles with the same feeling in your DJ set. Take the time to select your records and build up that collection in your crates, which gives you as a DJ that unique identity.”

Jef Helmink (Tech Records)
Record Collector and Seller

Plan for Future Projects

“In the last few months, not having record fairs and in-person customers, we focused more on our online Discogs business, adding many new arrivals  to our catalog. In this period, we definitely saw an increase of sales that helped us to survive the crisis. We also had more time to spend in the preparation of our new record shop in Amsterdam, which will open in July. Seeing the project developing and taking shape was an amazing experience for us and we can’t wait to start with this new adventure! “

Romagnoli Alfredo (Seawolf)
Record Label and Seller

Embrace Your Inner Admin Assistant

“My business model has been brought up to what it should have been pre-lockdown. As an artist/deejay, there always seems like there’s background admin (i.e. opportunities) that is are ‘making music’- or ‘playing music’-focused. I’ve never been great in these areas. Tasks such as marketing, advertising, creating merch, and streamlining the supporter experience are simply things that I’ve never really enjoyed doing and I somehow equate these as taking time away from creative music time. That’s changed. Keeping your brand up with smart and visible content online, I think, will pay off post-lockdown.

The truth is, all of those ‘admin’ activities will help to get your product or music to more supporters and will further inspire you on an artistic level to provide more quality content. When the traditional revenue streams weren’t providing, finding new ones, such as merchandise, digital, and vinyl releases, have helped keep the ship afloat. Not to mention going through my record collection and having honest conversations with myself about the last time I played a certain record and then putting it up on Discogs to share the record love.”

Jim Sharp (J-Dawg)
DJ and Producer

Double-Down on Your Online Presence and Offering

“Not being able to trade from our store has affected us massively as understandably most of our sales are done in-store. Utilizing online routes has been a great help in generating sales and keeping our customers informed as to new arrivals/stock, live DJ streams, and when we’re going to be back open.

We have always used Discogs as our primary online selling platform. During lockdown, we added more stock every few days to keep the listings fresh and to generate sales. Posting images, flick-thru videos, and links on Instagram and Facebook have been helpful, too; if we make a sale on these platforms we always send our Discogs selling pages link so that customers can see more stock and hopefully make further purchases.

I think that the key to keeping customers interested is online presence: posting regularly every few days is a must, keep adding to your Discogs listings, making posts on Instagram and Facebook. People love seeing pictures of records, especially rare ones! Also, offer discounts on postage and explain that it may take longer to arrive due to the circumstances.”

Jake Holloway and The Mighty Zaf (Love Vinyl)
Record Store Owners

A huge thank you to each of those who took the time in talking to us. We hope this can offer some positive ideas and guidance to you through this time.

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Bradley Morgan The Connection Between Bob Dylan’s Murder Most Foul, JFK, and COVID-19

Music champions truth. It allows us to navigate the boundaries of our worlds, gives us the courage to shape limitations, and pushes them beyond the scope of our imaginations into the unknown. It is there where we become a part of what makes the music so important to us, allowing it to shape our identities and beliefs. The music becomes who we are.

There are songs that serve as the soundtrack to falling in love, overcoming adversity, or achieving greatness. These are the songs that enter our lives at exactly the right moment. Wishing whatever cosmic dance is swirling around us, we create a bond with a piece of music that stays with us forever.

However, perhaps rarer are not the songs that we take with us, but rather the songs that take us with them. There is usually discomfort and a lack of sureness as we ascertain where exactly these songs are leading us, but we follow as we are guided into the unfamiliar.

As an avid fan and amateur historian of Bob Dylan (or Dylanologist, if you will), I have always been excited to see new material from pop music’s master bard. “Murder Most Foul” was a surprise release when it dropped digitally on March 26 (the album it’s on, Rough and Rowdy Ways, dropped on June 18). The first original composition after an eight-year hiatus, the song came with a message from Dylan:

Greetings to my fans and followers with gratitude for all your support and loyalty across the years. This is an unreleased song we recorded a while back that you might find interesting. Stay safe, stay observant, and may God be with you.

Usually, a new Dylan song would have me pumped about an impending album release. However, Dylan’s note was concerning. This was no ordinary announcement.

When “Murder Most Foul” was released, I had just completed my first week living alone under Illinois’ “stay-at-home” order. The world, or at least the United States, was just becoming aware of the severity of COVID-19. Local, state, and national leaders were struggling to make sense of the pandemic and potential consequences of the biggest global health crisis in generations. “Murder Most Foul,” at first notice, seemed to be a gift from someone who was grateful for all the people who had supported him for six decades, the fans and followers who had to shift their priorities towards ensuring safety for their loved ones and themselves.

Every headline I saw covering “Murder Most Foul” only seemed to note the novelty of the song’s length and subject: 17 minutes dedicated to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (16 minutes and 54 seconds, to be exact). Given that a track on Dylan’s previous album of original recordings was a 13-minute epic about the RMS Titanic, and was quite a clunker at that, I felt I could wait until the morning to hear the song. Between the release note, anxiety about COVID-19, and music journalists’ dull comments about the singer’s longest song to date, I just did not have the energy to hear what Dylan had to say in that moment — truly a first in my nearly two decades of fandom.

Just as I had done every morning under “stay-at-home” orders, I woke up feeling confused and slightly numb. Mustering the energy to start the day had now become a new tradition following the first full week of the fluctuating normalcy of pandemic life. After several minutes, I remembered that I had a new Dylan song to listen to.

I pulled up “Murder Most Foul” on my phone and absent-mindedly tossed it aside on the bed, still absorbed in this mystifying morning ritual. The song slowly faded in with a gentle and elegant violin backed with a somber piano. I could hear a slight breath before Dylan revealed the opening line in the cinematic landscape he was crafting:

Twas a dark day in Dallas, November ’63
A day that will live on in infamy
President Kennedy was a-ridin’ high
Good day to be livin’ and a good day to die

Usually, upon an inaugural listen to a new Dylan song, I find myself rapt with attention as I concentrate with missile-like precision. However, as I lay in bed listening, nothing was coming to mind. I felt blank. I listened to Dylan recite his tone poem, a dedication to President Kennedy, before seemingly going off on a tangent of various pop culture references. I did not understand what was happening, but I was aware enough that there was possibly something I was missing. Dylan’s last original album, Tempest, was hit or miss for me, and I did not feel compelled to really explore that collection of songs too deeply after a few listens. However, something else was happening here, but it had yet to reveal itself.

By the afternoon, my social media feed was filled with friends and fellow Dylan fans sharing articles on “Murder Most Foul.” The tone of the music press had not changed much since the first wave of reviews. They continued to remain focused on the song’s length as another odd quirk in Dylan’s storied career, only now they included a list of the names, movies, and songs mentioned with a brief line or two explaining who and what they were. However, no one had really provided any context.

Even most of the opinions by friends I had were somewhat confounded by Dylan endlessly listing off names like Stevie Nicks or references The Who and Queen. One even texted me to say that Dylan was just rambling. While a few people admired the song, it seemed that whatever Dylan was trying to convey was lost on most, and that “Murder Most Foul” was another example highlighting that Dylan was decades past his prime.



I waited a week before I relistened to “Murder Most Foul.” I had to be ready, emotionally and mentally, to focus on the message. The weather outside was dreary and dull with a faint mist that had been falling throughout the day. I threw on a hoodie, put my earbuds in, and set out on a walk as the violin set the scene.

From Dylan setting the scene in Dealey Plaza to the violent aftermath and from the conspiracy theories to the pop culture references, I listened to every word with such intent as if to find a hidden meaning in each one. “Murder Most Foul” had been written and recorded several years before the novel coronavirus outbreak, so I wanted the answer to the question everyone was asking: Why intentionally release a song about the Kennedy assassination during the COVID-19 pandemic? As the sprawling epic unfolded, it had begun to bare itself, and I was left devastated and feeling so incredibly alone and hopeless.

“Murder Most Foul” cuts a wide swath regarding the life, demise, and legacy of the slain president. With meticulous attention, Dylan notes details such as the street where Kennedy was shot, the time Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as successor, and even the dreadful details of the autopsy. Not dismissive of the more lurid aspects of the president’s reputation, Dylan even makes nods and references to conspiracy theories that have surrounded the assassination for decades. The profile Dylan is capturing is one of a complex and flawed man who still embodied all the characteristics of a charismatic and inspiring leader.

As I was relistening, the first inkling of a deeper understanding emerged. In the first verse, several men approach Kennedy informing him he has unpaid debts and that they have come to collect. ”We’re gonna kill you with hatred,” Dylan sings as the men inform Kennedy that they have already found a replacement. From there, Dylan alludes to the assassination as a skillfully executed magic trick operated by men who have so much more to lose with Kennedy still alive.

Several verses later, Kennedy becomes aware that he is being led into a trap. Dylan singing, “We’re right down the street from the street where you live,” suggests that Kennedy was baited by those close to him. Upon his death in the song, Kennedy’s mangled body continues to be inflicted with pain in the afterlife. It is within these brutal and gory details that Dylan reveals the essence of his tribute to Kennedy:

But his soul’s not there where it was supposed to be at
For the last fifty years they’ve been searchin’ for that.

Hearing those lines, the enigma of “Murder Most Foul” was starting to become clearer, as well as the role of Kennedy’s death in Dylan’s life. The heart of the song exists within those lines. Though these men had brutalized every aspect of Kennedy’s being, from his body to his reputation, they could not find what they were truly after: his soul. I wanted to understand what Kennedy’s soul meant to Dylan, as well as the meaning behind its disappearance.

Kennedy, the youngest man ever elected to the presidency and the first born in the 20th century, was the symbol for a new generation coming of age in a world where technology was accelerating social progress faster than ever before. Wealthy, attractive, charming, and graceful, Kennedy embodied a bold set of ideals that was aimed to propel America into a new era of prosperity and progress. When Kennedy said to Americans, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,” it was a bold, idealistic declaration about what we could achieve as a unified nation. But what did Dylan mean when he said Kennedy’s soul was missing?

Distraught by COVID-19 and the abrupt changes it brought to our lives, I thought about all the missteps and negligence that deepened the crisis — not just the inactions of Donald Trump’s administration, but how the lack of response to COVID-19 was the product of so much avarice and greed that had been allowed to run rampant throughout my lifetime and before, championed by the enemies of progress and the agents of regression. The Sandy Hook shootings. The 2008 housing crisis. The 9/11 attacks. All monumental events that abruptly shaped my world and how I interact with it. And what about the things before my time? The Moral Majority and the rise of evangelical influence in American politics. The 1970s energy crisis. Vietnam. Where the hell was the greater good? I had my answer when Dylan sang:

I said the soul of a nation been torn away
And it’s beginning to go into a slow decay.

What disturbed me so much was my interpretation of Kennedy’s soul as being the last bastion of American progressivism — a lost set of ideals that had been carbon copied over the decades with continuously diminishing results. I was devastated by this realization. Under COVID-19, I knew that things would be difficult for long time. However, as the latest in a seemingly endless barrage of cultural and societal setbacks since Kennedy’s death, the COVID-19 pandemic was the first time I became aware of the possibility that perhaps the “bad guys” had won. My heart was breaking.

Even Dylan seemed resigned enough to throw in the towel. Lines I did not hear or understand before were jumping out, telling me that the game was truly over:

Freedom, oh freedom, freedom over me
I hate to tell you, mister, but only dead men are free.

I’ve blood in my eye, got blood in my ear
I’m never gonna make it to the new frontier.

The day that they killed him, someone said to me, “Son
the age of the Antichrist has just only begun.”

Going through the early stages of a global pandemic, burdened by the weight of an unsure reality, these were not words that left me inspired and hopeful for the future. For six decades, Dylan has been writing songs that moved millions of listeners, myself included. He spoke truth to power and unveiled grand illusions, all the while staying several steps ahead of his fans and critics in, his words, a constant state of becoming. It is difficult to not listen to someone like that.

Perhaps the most perplexing part of “Murder Most Foul” to some listeners is when Dylan ostensibly switches name-drops multiple people and works in popular culture. When Dylan sings, “I’m going to Woodstock, it’s the Aquarian Age / Then I’ll go to Altamont and sit near the stage,” he is juxtaposing the free love movement of the hippie counterculture with the symbolic end of that movement by placing himself right in the action where Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death.

All that sounded like it fit with Dylan’s theme of America’s soul slowly decaying, but I could not quite place how John Lee Hooker, Don Henley, or Robert Franklin Stroud, known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz,” fit in. At one point in “Murder Most Foul,” Dylan references Wolfman Jack, the famous American disc jockey notable for his howling radio persona. Behind the wheel of a Cadillac, Dylan requests for Wolfman Jack to play him a variety of songs dedicated to different people. The playlist is a veritable whos-who of iconic figures and songs.



Over the next few weeks, I listened to “Murder Most Foul” every few days to figure out the significance of Dylan’s mosaic of pop culture references. I still found the song difficult to listen to, but having uncovered what I thought was some truth made the experience increasingly bearable bit by bit with each listen.

Like virtually every human being on the planet, my life slowed down considerably. All things considered, especially when it comes to the extreme consequences of COVID-19, I was still fortunate. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had a very active and busy lifestyle. I worked full-time, volunteered regularly with several non-profits, pursued hobbies like taking music classes, and had an actively robust and healthy social life. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, my life became more isolated than I was accustomed to and many aspects of my life abruptly changed or stopped. Now, I work with reduced pay and benefits, volunteer sparingly, do not attend music classes, and the few times I see friends it is within a virtual setting.

No longer did it make sense to think about life six, nine, or twelve months in the future. I had to reframe my mind to be concerned with the here and now, making sure I had everything I needed for the next two to four weeks. There was a strong shift from thriving to just simply surviving.

The future was unknown and unfamiliar, as it always is, but now it felt more sinister. So, I found solace in the books, music, and movies that had always brought me joy, Spending time with beloved albums or films became a welcomed escape. Unlike the uncertainties that I faced outside or when reading the news, I knew my favorite works of art would shield me. I had been on this journey before and I knew how the story had a happy ending.

When I had accepted these changes, evaluated myself and my needs, and rediscovered what brought joy, I finally began to understand the significance of Dylan’s long list of requests for Wolfman Jack. The allure of hopping behind the wheel of a long Cadillac and driving towards the horizon with my favorite songs playing on the radio is something I certainly relate to. It represents escape and pushing forward. What is beyond the horizon is unknown, but there is a great soundtrack for getting me there.

Dylan was only 22 years old when Kennedy was assassinated. As a then-baby-faced seeker of truth and idealist, Dylan and many other Americans were eager to follow Kennedy, a modern-thinking president who shared their values Then, on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, a shot rang out and the world stopped at the sound of progressivism’s death knell. Or, as Dylan sings, “Where faith, hope, and charity died.”

It was now being revealed to me that “Murder Most Foul” was Dylan coming to terms his first experience with collective trauma, an event that wrought psychological harm on himself as well as the rest of the nation. Grasping to come to grips with their fear, anxiety, and anger, many Americans were struggling to explain how such a beloved figure could be so brutally murdered in public. Nearly 60 years later, the trauma still resonates with Dylan as he sings:

Zapruder’s film, I seen night before
Seen it thirty-three times, maybe more
It’s vile and deceitful, it’s cruel and it’s mean
Ugliest thing that you ever have seen.

I related to Dylan’s need to seek consolation in the art that helped him process the Kennedy assassination. It is within the darkest of times that we insulate ourselves and seek shelter among the voices and images that assuage our fears. Even the most unidentifiable of fears: that of the unknown.

At 22, I cannot imagine what Dylan must have felt about the future immediately after Kennedy’s murder. By this point, he had just finished the recording sessions for his third studio album, The Times They Are A-Changin’, the last folk album of his with a clear and explicit message about the political and social upheaval of the era. Given that Dylan was already becoming disillusioned by the demands of his fans and peers in the folk music community to live up their expectations of a topical protest singer, I am sure that he was self-aware enough that condemning the assassination on a follow-up album so soon would not heal the mental, emotional, and spiritual wounds he was forced to endure alongside millions of others.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world. It is the largest source of collective trauma in decades. The lives of millions of people have been uprooted by this cataclysmic event that threatens the structure of our global foundation. It is forcing societies to adapt for group survival while people, as individuals or in groups, struggle to find meaning. Life as we knew it is gone, and while the future is always unwritten, what exists ahead seems frightening and uncomfortable.

Having recorded “Murder Most Foul” over five decades since the Kennedy assassination, Dylan has the advantage of looking back to see how history has unfolded. Though removed from the event by so many years, it still echoes in Dylan’s mind, and reflecting on the aftermath and his life since is just another step in the endless journey of healing from collective trauma. Citing so many songs, icons, and films, Dylan is acknowledging the role those cultural touchstones played in his life and the remedial effects they had on his well-being. They bring comfort and he can call upon them when reflecting on where he has come from, where he currently is, and where he is heading. Uncertainty and fear about the future are alleviated when we engage with the art that leaves us unburdened.

Like myself, so many people are seeking comfort from art during the pandemic. They are revisiting their favorite series and films with family. They are supporting independent musicians and hosting dance parties with roommates. They are sharing their thoughts on books with friends over video chats. Even on the professional end of the spectrum, entertainers are relying on streaming media to reach audiences and grieve with them together. No hurdle seems so great that it stops the healing influence of art within our lives.

My feelings of complete hopelessness upon the first few listenings of “Murder Most Foul” gave way to a broader understanding and acceptance once I considered the role art played during the biggest crisis of my lifetime. I had to go on a journey that, in order for me to survive as intact as possible, required me to stop, breathe, and accept that I am in a situation I cannot change. All I can do is surround myself with the art that makes me happy.

So, in “Murder Most Foul,” is Dylan really saying that bad guys have won? No, not at all. Evil and dangerous people will come and go, poisoning our society until they have passed on either through natural forces or by the will of the people. Their lingering toxicity will ripple out and fade away like raindrops on the ocean. Someone will come and take the place of their tyrannical predecessor, but they too will fade away into dust blown away by the histories of time.

As for Kennedy’s missing soul, it is still out there. It has not yet been found by those who wish to destroy it forever. I do not know when it will resurface, but its absence should not instill fear and hopelessness. It will manifest itself at the time when we desperately need it the most.

This was the lesson I had to learn by trusting that the song would guide me to where I needed to go. Working to understand “Murder Most Foul” during the COVID-19 pandemic was a difficult journey, but it opened my eyes to the various roles that music plays in our lives. There are songs I take with me on a journey, and there are songs that take me with them on a journey.

In order for me to truly appreciate the songs I call upon to get me through difficult times, I had to appreciate the relationship between art and trauma. As long as there is art, there is no hopelessness.

Rough and Rowdy Ways, Dylan’s newest studio album and the record where “Murder Most Foul” appears, is available now.

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CAS Kraftwerk ‘The Man-Machine’ with Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy

This months episode looks at June’s album of the month Kraftwerk The Man-Machine. As the title suggests, this album successfully blends the boundaries between human and robot to the point where it’s unclear quite exactly what Kraftwerk are.

Tune in at 11am and 10pm BST Sunday June 28th here.


Read more: The Story of Kraftwerk ‘The Man-Machine’
Listen: Kraftwerk ‘The Man-Machine’ Musical Lead-Up Playlist
Listen: Kraftwerk ‘The Man-Machine’ Legacy Playlist

 

The post Kraftwerk ‘The Man-Machine’ with Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy appeared first on Classic Album Sundays.

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THIS FRIDAY I’ll be taking over Reserved Magazine’s Instagram for live chats with some fabulous…

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Alex Ross A Roscoe Mitchell moment

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