SHEP'S ARMY: BUMMERS, BLISTERS, AND BOONDOGGLES, Opus Books. Nearly three dozen of Shepherd's army stories never before in print introduced and transcribed. Foreword by Keith Olbermann. (published August 2013)


Archives by Subject



This is the final of nine sets of CDs containing Jean Shepherd recordings for syndication published by Radio Again, some sets with four programs, some with eight. I wrote the commentaries for all of these, and I believe this is the final one published.  About a dozen more of the estimated 250 shows for syndication have been made for sale individually by at a much higher per-unit price and without special covers and commentary booklet.

The original nine sets don’t seem to be available through Radio Again, but can usually be found on and at a variety of prices.

Click on images to enlarge for reading.



JEAN SHEPHERD Kid story–flies to the end

I look at my soda bottle.  I can’t believe it!  The bottom third of the bottle, floating in this gloppy orange fluid, is filled with a drifting cloud of dead flies!  There must have been five-hundred dead flies in that damn bottle!  I must have drunk three-quarters of a bottle of what looks like dead fly soup!

With the heat, the flies, the nervousness of the date, all of it, it hit me.  Without any warning it just came out of me.  It just went uuuuuuuuugh!  Just like that.  All over the hood of the car.  It ran down the inside of the door, under the seat.  And she was sitting there, “Auggggh!”  She looked at me with the kind of loathing people had when they see a driven-over skunk on the street.

I couldn’t stop.  I turned around and I made a run for the john.  I didn’t make it.  All over the driveway.  The kid said, “Will you cut that out?  Can’t you wait till you get in the john?”

I don’t have to tell you what kind of an afternoon we had.  We proceeded to the Brookfield Zoo after I cleaned the car up and washed off the hood.  Ever since that time I’ve thought that’s why people prefer stuff in cans—so you can’t see.  Whatever made me raise up that glass bottle—and hold it to the sun—and see that drifting cloud of flies!

Curiously, I never told her what was in that bottle.  What could I say?  You can’t tell her that—it just isn’t the right thing to say—good lord!  Dead flies in the orange!

And all the way to Brookfield Zoo and back, she kept saying, “Are you alright?  Are you alright?”  That was the second-to-last date I had with her.  I don’t think I impressed her.  Not really, truly.

That’s the end of Flies–next is

Scragging and Bolis’ Wedding


JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Story with flies continued

So I’m a fathead!  The previous part of this fly story I posted–on 4/8–should have come after this part. I’ve been rather preoccupied–Monday, 4/9, I was in the hospital having a pacemaker installed. I’m home and doing well. I hope not to screw up again.  Gene B.


So Friday morning arrived.  I was getting more and more excited, trying to figure where we’re going to go.  Then I got an idea.  There was a big zoo outside of Chicago that was the first zoo in the country that had a panda.  I can even remember its name because everybody in the country went out there looking at that panda.  It was a great, big, fantastic thing to go and see the panda.  This was a big outdoor zoo where animals were not kept in cages but were kept behind moats and things.  And more than that, it was a ride far out in the country.  It was not in the city.  So this was a fantastic date.

I called Dorothy up and I said, “Dorothy, are you all set for Saturday?”

“Yes, yes, of course.” Very quietly, very remote girl.  “Yes.”

“I’ve got an idea where we can go.  Would you like to go see the panda?  Out at the Brookfield Zoo?”

“Yes, that sounds like fun.”

“Yeah, yeah, it would be great!”

“Yes.”  You know the kind of girl who never tells you whether it’s really yes.

So at that point I was grasping at straws, really trying to make it sound like it was going to be a fantastic day and at the same time thinking that she thought so too.

The next day the car is shiny, I’ve got my new sports shirt on, my new slacks.  I’m really doing it all.  So I drive over to her house.  She comes down the steps.  Oh!  Already I am starting to sweat.  Just being with this girl.  She gets in and we start driving out into the country.  It’s warm, it’s a beautiful day.  We drive and drive, and we’re going through towns, and I’m trying to make conversation and I notice—I glance down at the gas gauge.  This is what my Achilles heel was.  We are now down to about a quarter of a tank.  And this Pontiac is known as a gas-guzzler, par excellence.  This baby you could hear drinking gas in the garage.  At night when the car was turned off you could hear it slopping at the chute in there.  So I figure I’d better stop for gas.  It’s a steamy hot day.  I drive into this gas station.  I’ve got a couple of bucks.  I figure I’m gonna buy a little gas.  I get out of the car.  It’s really embarrassing to say out of the window, “Gimme seventy-five cents worth.”  So I get out of the car and try to get to the guy behind the car before he opens the gas tank.  He says, “Fill it up?”

I say, “Oh, no, no.  Give me six bits worth.”

“Oh.  Alright.”

More flies to come.


JEAN SHEPHERD Kid stories–flies & (156) ARTSY temporary exhibits

At that point somebody else drives into the station and he says, “Wait, I’ll be right with you.”  He goes over to a real customer.

It’s getting hotter than hell.  The heat is banging down.  I figure I’m going to be a real big-timer.  So I walk over to this large drink cooler and open it up.  There’s ice in there with about five-hundred different types of pop.  So I call out to Dorothy, “Hey, Dorothy, do you want something to drink?”

She says, “No.”

Well, I’m committed, so I reach in and grab a bottle of this stuff.  I pick some orange.  I open it up and I start drinking.  Oh, god, it tastes cold and great!  I take another big slug of it.  Oh, wow!

I go casually over and lean on the passenger door window of the car.  I say, “This is really a great day we’re having, you know?  It’s going to be so fantastic.”  I’m really feeling my oats.  I say, “You know, baby, I’ve been looking at you for a long time, and boy oh boy!”

And she looks at me.

Kid story fly finale to come.




At the Museum of Natural History, besides the years’-long intensity of designing and supervising installation of such permanent exhibit halls as  Reptiles & Amphibians, Margret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples, and Peoples of South America, I designed scores of large and small temporary exhibits. The large temporaries could run thousands of square feet, and the small movable ones the size of a single exhibit case placed in the museum’s main entrance hall.

Commenting on the differences between permanent and temporary, for Curator, the museum professional journal, I wrote:

I can be more audacious in these exhibits. They exist for a few short days to catch a passing current of public attention and then disappear. Why not experiment? Take a chance. Do something different. Surprise, intrigue, amuse; it’s a good way to teach. And it’s a good way for me to learn new things in solving each design problem I set myself. The knowledge acquired in the experiments pays off in very definite but quieter ways in the big exhibits. The bigger projects must be creative too, but in them we must also wear our Sunday clothes and keep our fancy a bit more under control.

One of the medium-size temporary exhibit spaces is a hallway seventy-five feet long by fourteen feet wide, with a dogleg to the right. I worked with the curator who supervised summer research about terns on the museum’s small Great Gull Island, out near the end of New York’s Long Island. Besides the varied stuffed birds and equipment to exhibit, I commented that we needed more three-dimensional material. Our copy editor suggested that entomologist Alice Gray, who was an origami expert, could ask her group of origami enthusiasts to fold a batch of paper terns for us. I specified sea-blue paint for the lower part of the walls and sky-blue for the upper, and we installed hundreds of paper birds (their cast shadows flickering in flight from slight air currents), swarming above.

For a continuing series of Exhibits of the Month, I had two small reusable cases available, one of which was rectangular with a main viewing area about seven feet wide, three feet deep, and six feet high. One month I worked with Amazon Indian ethnologist, Dr. Robert Carneiro who, for his “Return to the Kuikuro” exhibit, as a major feature I displayed his hammock in which, one night while asleep, he got bloodied in an attack by vampire bats.

Another time, my good friend, Peggy Cooper, the museum’s exhibit copy editor, proposed we do an exhibit of well-known peoples’ hats as representative of some aspect of their notoriety. I remember little of the details except that lenders to the exhibit specified strict rules on handling the hats. Except for the archives for New York’s Mayor La Guardia (famous for his fedora and for, in 1945 during a newspaper strike, reading the Sunday funnies on the radio to satisfy us kids).

When I went to pick up his hat, I was given it in a brown paper bag–which was crumpled and soiled. I think the Mayor, affectionately known as “The Little Flower,” would have been amused.

Mayor La Guardia

with his Son and his Hat.

Another month, working with scientific assistant Alice Gray of origami fame, I again used the larger, rectangular case. (Because of her scientific specialty in insects, with which she toured New York City’s grammar schools, she’d become known as “The Bug Lady.”) She had an impressive collection of toys in the form of bugs, and it amused her that toy manufacturers, uncaring of scientific correctness, often produced faulty products—for example making them with the wrong number of legs—with a light tone of chastisement, it’s those inaccurate toys that we exhibited.

I frequently used a small, vertical, cylindrical-shape case with a front glass door with two side glasses and, below, a small, angled, glass-covered, rear-illuminated area meant for a back-lighted introductory text panel.

From month to month, subject matter varied greatly. For an exhibit mourning human guilt in the extinction of passenger pigeons, I used the small angled text area as a sateen-lined casket for two old study skins, their bodies stretched out, eyes nothing but small cotton tufts. Another time, for the subject of whales and perfume, I included a piece of ambergris, the gastric juice of whales used to make perfume, positioned in the small angled area so that visitors could get a sniff of the stuff.

Alice Gray, Scientific Assistant and Bug Lady

My favorite memory of Alice Gray, the Bug Lady, is that, upon visiting her in her enormous office/ storeroom/live-specimen-room, one first became aware of numerous terrariums—homes to a large variety of common and enormous, live cockroaches. Of course, in the circular exhibit case, positioned prominently in the main entrance hall, we exhibited some of her live ” pets”–shown in one of her closed terrariums, emphasizing their adaptability and sturdiness. She titled the display:


Before the opening to the public in the main entrance hall, as she was being interviewed by the press and TV about roaches, she noted a familiar smell. She scurried over to the case to find that a couple of baby roaches had escaped and a TV guy, who, to liven up the reportage, just happened to bring an aerosol can with him, had sprayed her little darlings with a lethal dose. She, of course, was outraged.

One should always have respect for other people’s passions.



NOTE: Click on image to enlarge

Only one more Shep Syndicated to come.

More kid story about flies coming.


JEAN SHEPHERD Kid story–flies & (155) ARTSY Juggling

Dating and Flies

So I was about sixteen.  It was June.  Warm.  Beautiful.  Fantastic day!  Ah!  And for about a month I had had this almost uncontrollable urge to walk back and forth in front of this girl’s house.  To catch glimpses of this particular girl.  She was always just out of reach.  Always seen in the middle distance somewhere.

And she was magnificent!  First of all, a sensational figure.  The kind that makes Sophia Loren look like a Brownie.  You know that kind?  She really—and at sixteen, ah…you know.  Girls really, mature much earlier than males—let us put it this way, she was the real thing, the true article.  Magnificent.

The only way I figured I could get close to this girl was to get to know her brother.  I sort of knew her brother, just a guy down the other end of the block.  He was a year older than I was.  So I began to hang around this guy at all opportunities.  Down at the bowling alley, I’d see him at the Shell station, and I’d start to cling to this guy, see.

Next thing you know, I’m down in his basement with him.  Now, this is what I wanted.  I wanted to get into this house where this girl was, ‘cause I figured the closer I got to her, the better chance I had of finally achieving  my goal, which was, incidentally, very, very—amorphous.  Just to be there.  Just to talk to her.

So I’m hanging around down in the basement at this guy’s house, slowly trying to work my way to the upper side of the house where she is.  A couple of days go by of this campaign and I finally get to know her.  While me and this guy, Johnny Anderson, are sitting in the kitchen having a sandwich, she comes in and she says she wants to have a sandwich.  The next thing you know, I’m having a sandwich with this fantastic girl.  Whose name, by the way, is Dorothy.  Dorothy Anderson.  Swedish, remote, pristine, icy, magnificent, carved from alabaster, a true Swedish beauty.  You know the kind?  Kind of an Ingrid Bergman-type.  Ah—wow!

Well, a couple of days go by and I’m hanging around their house every day.  We’re talking.  And I finally get to asking her for a date.  I say, “How about going on a date?”

She says, “That would be nice.  Where would we go?”

“I don’t know.  I’ll figure out something, you know.  I’ll get the old man’s car and…and we’ll go on a date.  How about next weekend?”


Well, I go back home after that fantastic moment of success.  I have a date.  The old man is home.  I bring up the subject of getting the car, doing something—can I cut the lawn? “

He says, “You want the car for the weekend?  Is that what you want?”

I say, Yeah.”

“Then why didn’t ya ask?”

I was trying to sneakily get around to it.  The simple solution rarely occurs to you.

He says, “Yeah, you can have it.  When do you want it?  Saturday or Sunday?”

That hadn’t occurred to me.  “How about Saturday?  That’s a good day.”

He says, “Fine.  But I don’t like you driving around at two o’clock in the morning out there in that car.”

“Oh, yeah, yeah.  We’re going on a picnic or something.”

So I get that can of Simonize and by Tuesday, for the following Saturday, I already have that baby with six coats of Simonize.  I’ve got that thing shining.




I have little sense of body rhythm/coordination. Which is why I’m awkward at dancing and can’t even keep my clapping in sync with a concert audience’s applause. (However, in my exhibit work at the Museum, I often had to mentally “juggle” several design projects at a time, and found that exhilarating. I also find that in my writing, early drafts containing ideas separately conceived over time require, on the page or computer screen, much manipulation to juggle into felicitous arrangements.) Those may be causes for why I’m fascinated by physical juggling—and decided one day decades ago that, despite my limited physical abilities, I would try to learn how to keep three objects in the air at the same time by reading a book.

The Juggling Book author, Carlo, comments: “…juggling is a meeting ground for various arts and skills: theater, dance, mime, physical culture and sports….a beautiful synthesis of form and motion, economy of energy, minimum movement, solidity, calmness, balance, equilibrium, and the control and direction of body forces.” He writes: “This level of awareness can bring you into contact with the ‘music of the spheres,’ or more accurately for juggling, the ‘rhythm of the spheres.”

Quickly finding that when I dropped balls they went bouncing away, I switched to small beanbags meant for juggling–they don’t roll, but land in place with a thud. I practiced over a couch’s seat cushions so I wouldn’t even have to bend over to re-grasp errant objects. Over a period of a couple of months, working at it in several fifteen-minute periods per day, totaling what I estimate as about seventeen hours, I learned to do the basic three-ball cascade juggle. I was very proud.



I’m a fancier of penguins—poor flightless birds (though they “fly” through the water). I bought three penguin-shaped beanbags and gave them names. I’m sure they’ve been happy that, in my juggling, I’ve also given them some notion of flight in the air. For my own amusement, I sewed onto the poor blind things, eyes of thread with yellow, blue, and red, one color for each of the three.

One sad part of the story is that somehow, maybe in our moving from one house to another, Rosso Penguini got lost. I picture him wandering through a traveling carnival encampment in hopes that some kind roustabout will find him and reunite him with his siblings so that, together again, they may in concert, fly.

Another sad part is that, as I haven’t kept up the activity, I’ve nearly lost the ability to juggle three objects, and the additional skill I also acquired of doing the even more difficult—juggling two objects in one hand. (Two objects in one hand being more demanding than three objects in two hands. Author Carlo puts it: “Therefore, in one sense, juggling two balls is harder than three.”) I then easily learned to transition without pause, switching back and forth between the two and three-ball cascades.

Even another negative aspect is that I’d acquired five of the basic, cubical, juggle-able beanbags, in the outrageous hope that I’d someday learn to keep all five in the air. That dream, alas, will never fly.



In the meantime, I encountered and saw on TV, on YouTube, and in live performance (at New York’s Joyce Theater, which described him as “America’s greatest conceptual juggler”), the elegant, phenomenal, one-of a-kind creative artist/juggler, Michael Moschen. (Yes, that’s his real family name!) Watching other master jugglers, we’re amazed what humans can do. I’m amazed with Moschen’s performances as elegant works of art in motion. Among other juggling-like feats, is his work with crystal globes, and, while standing at a large triangular structure, the speed/agility at which he manipulates balls against the two upper sections, is beyond all normal human preconceptions!

The New Yorker article about him says that jugglers embody “the human effort to cope gracefully with more demands, from more directions, than one person can reasonably be expected to manage.” Their writer comments: “Nobody is quite sure how to define what Moschen does,” and says that, “He has been called a movement artist, a sculptor in motion, a dancer-physicist, a performance artist….”




JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Story–Flies & (154) ARTSY Summertime

A Date With Flies

I am going to warn you, I have saved this story till late.  And I did this purposely.  I hope we’ve separated the sheep from the goats.  This is one of the truly traumatic experiences of my life, and this is not “remembrance.” When a guy is lying on a couch and the psychiatrist finally unearths this juicy nugget—the guy yells “Yeah!  Yeah, it’s true! Uh, uh,” is this reminiscence?  Is he being nostalgic?  No.

We’re just discussing the true-life-existence that we all go through.  Each one of us in our time—most of us cleverly erase these things as we go.  Some you never quite erase, but you rarely bring to mind.  The really bad things that happened, the bad, unexpected things that have really happened, that are deeply buried down in our own private storehouse of useless garbage, stuff that our lives would have been much better off without.

It happened in a June.  I’ve long since had this theory that the truly bad stuff—the stuff that really impresses you for being bad, are things that occur when all the indications were pointing in the opposite direction.  In other words, when things looked like it was going to be fantastic—and a total fiasco occurred.

Well, it was June.  I was about sixteen.  When you’re about sixteen, particularly when you’re sixteen and up, as a male, you get an almost pathological interest in the opposite sex.  This is not hearsay evidence.   I speak from experience.  The male at sixteen is a walking cake of human yeast.  Fantastic, hot currents flow through the blood like you wouldn’t believe.  I don’t know if this is true of girls.  I can only speak from the male standpoint.  I am not being a male chauvinist, I’m merely being a male realist.  And he retains it to a lesser or greater degree throughout his life.  The constant interest in the other sex.  Don’t make it too simple.  It’s not necessarily as an object of sex, either, it’s a whole, complex thing, the whole mystique of the girl.  Girls—it’s a different ballgame, you know?  And you’re drawn to it, You’re fascinated about it.  You form theories about it.  And it’s occasionally even discussed back of the garage.

Rumors float among the males.  Of one type or another.  And no matter how specific the information or knowledge gained through lectures, through film, it still has nothing to do with the real thing!  You can study warfare all you want, but the first time you get shot at, that’s another ballgame.  Whole new kettle of fish.




One of these mornings
You’re going to rise up singing.
Then you’ll spread your wings
And you’ll fly to the sky.

As I’m enthralled by Billy Stewart’s over-the-top scatting of Gershwin’s “Summertime,” I decided to see how a few others have sung it in a jazzy way. Apparently the song is a major item for singers to interpret. I’ve watched/listened to a number of other renditions on YouTube. There are many, including elegantly traditional vocals by opera singers, who performed  without adding special interpretations, but those below represent ways some artists have altered the standard words and lyrics in ways that especially caught my ear. The jazz musicians all did wonderful interpretations. Janis powerfully expressed her usual emotional intensity.

As much as I’ve enjoyed jazzy takes on songs by all of the above, and interpretations by Frank Sinatra and others, it’s never occurred to me to make side-by-side comparisons. I enjoy them all, but none approached the quirky stratosphere of Billy Stewart. It’s Stewart’s “Summertime” and Ferry’s “Hard Rain” that got me to explore  other musical variations on a theme.

Ella gets shown twice—singing with Lois’ singing and playing trumpet, and her solo singing. Janis Joplin gets shown twice because of the dark, fuzzy images—and because her varied/expressive facial expressions deserve it.



JEAN SHEPHERD SYNDICATED–Ticket to Ride= The Beatles

These four shows are about Shep’s Beatles trip.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Next post= another kid story.


JEAN SHEPHERD Kid story—Turkeys & (153c) ARTSY Hard Rain screed 3 of 3

Final Turkey Adventure Segment

She looks at me with these two cold blue eyes.  She says, “That’s probably true.”

And I say, “But, Patty, I got—well—Patty—.“  I get an inspiration.  I get her to walk outside with me and there is my car.  It looks like a chicken coop with wheels.  I say, “Patty, I’m going to tell you the truth.  I got trapped by seven-thousand, five-hundred-and-fifty turkeys.”

She looks at my car.  The feathers are still falling off the Ford and three turkeys had sat on my shoulders during the melee.  She looks at me.  She says, “You are a slob!”

I say, I’m a slob? The turkeys!  I didn’t do it!”

She says, “Alright, let’s go.  It’s date time.”

I had to wipe off the door handle and she got in.  She had her dress on under her store uniform and now she was all dressed up.  It was a very bad scene.  The turkey in the back seat had gotten excited too.

I was supposed to take her to dinner.  We pulled up in front of this restaurant and we walked in.  What do you think the special was that night?  I don’t even have to tell you.  With gravy and stuffing.

As soon as we had our table I got up and went to the men’s room.  I started wiping stuff off my shoulder.  There was an attendant in there with combs and cologne.  He came up and he said, “How are you, sir?”

I said, “I’m fine.”

“Can I help you, sir?”  He takes out his spot remover.  “What is that?”

I said, “Well—“

He said, “It can’t be what it looks like.”

I said, “It is.”

He said, “Chicken?”

I said, “Worse than that.”


“No, no, worse than that.”

He said, “What is it?”

I said, “Turkey.”

He said, “Turkey!  That’ll never come out!”

That’s right.  It never came out.  Today I’ve got an electric blue, turkey-spotted sports coat in my closet.  If turkey ever really comes back as a decorative item, I’m ready.

Turkeys ended, stay tuned for next kid story.



Part 3 of 3 of Ferry’s “Hard Rain.”




Dylan’s studied and satisfying refusal to alter his equanimity, avoiding the emotional excess his words seem to insist on for the listener, seem to emphasize the steady power of his meaning –its timeless folk-origins. While Ferry has transformed “A Hard Rain” into an over-the-top emotional affectation, an extravaganza not made to persuade but to enthrall—a new esthetic object.

From Dylan, Ferry has made a new, stirring mental construct, a new object of obsessive originality—fabulous, awe-inspiring, mesmerizing in his fierce-eyed repetition from which one cannot avert ears or eyes. And yet, of course, he has not killed off the Dylan itself—he’s only transmogrified our notions—leaving us with the old revered Dylan plus the newly fabricated Ferry.

Recently, at my goading, my wife, who’s not a big Dylan fan, watched Ferry’s “Hard Rain” for the first time, proclaiming it “brilliant!”

In an Internet review of Ferry, Douglas Wolk writes: “A Hard Rain” is one of the most awesome Dylan covers ever, the kind of interpretation that leaves its source bruised, hung over and covered in Sharpied taunts. Ferry ripped apart Dylan’s apocalyptic tapestry fiber by fiber and reconstructed it in Day-Glo plastic thread; his performance’s deliberately affected mannerisms….

In an Internet essay, Robert Forster commented: “Ferry, though, pulled off a stroke of genius. With ‘A Hard Rain’, he took one of Dylan’s greatest and most revered early works, a stark and compelling piece of protest-era song-writing, and put it into the glam-rock blender. And by God, it worked. ‘A Hard Rain’ being a three-chord folk song, Ferry not only saw the possibilities of pounding it into a fantastic three-chord rock song, but the opportunity to add all the touches so characteristic of his work at that moment: grand camp gestures that the song just had to lie down and take.”

Sympathetic/poetic vs ironic/bombastic.

I am both conflicted and seduced by these

diametrically opposed artworks.

Bryan Ferry’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” is the strangest, best Dylan cover ever.

Th-th-that’s all, folks!


JEAN SHEPHERD Kid story—Turkeys & (153b) ARTSY Hard Rain screed 2 of 3

A turkey just sitting on the hood is looking in the window at me.  He’s looking right in.  This big, fat, forty-seven pound turkey.  You can see he’s lost ten years off his life—his feathers are turning white.

And we sit there.  The turkeys won’t move.  They just sit.  Once in a while one looks up and goes gwaglewaglewagle.  If you think Chicken Little was afraid of the sky falling—you don’t know what a turkey’s like!

We sit there for around fifteen minutes.  This farmer’s walking around chewing Mail Pouch and spittin.’  He’s bugged.  He’s got his lantern going, and finally, one by one the turkeys start walking off my hood, they’re looking around.  On the road they start falling in to company formation once again.  Slowly we go down that road, me, my Ford, the scared turkeys, the farmer spittin’ in the ditch, and we go two or three-hundred yards.  The farmer comes to a farmhouse and the turkeys all turn left.  Off they go.  I put the car very carefully in first and I move down the road.

The car smells bad.  (The car smelled with a smell that, to the day I got rid of it, never fully was expunged.  It was a very ripe Ford that I sold.)  It’s got a –I don’t know how to say this—fear acts on a turkey the way that marvelous product that tastes just like Swiss chocolate, acts on a nine-year-old kid after  he’s eaten two packages of it.

I’ve got my electric blue sports coat on, the car’s covered with a thick coating.  It’s just been a bad night all the way down the line.  I finally get to the next town.  The girl’s name is Patty and she works in a drugstore, and she got off her job about seven o’clock and I’m showing up about ten.

I drive up in front of the drugstore.  It’s open till midnight, so she’s sitting inside at the counter.  Waiting.  I walk in.  I say, “Patty, you will not believe this!”



Part 2 of 3 of Ferry’s “Hard Rain.”


Dylan: [


Comparing a Bob Dylan rendition of “Hard Rain” with the Bryan Ferry staged performance, first one should note that Ferry’s short version (his “official” rendition = more financially acceptable) runs three minutes, eleven seconds, while Dylan’s complete playings in varied performances, run from six to over ten minutes. (It’s also a fact that Dylan, early in his career, performed shortened versions.)

I present here Ferry’s cut version, with my annotations, including his added words of embellishment in red, besides cutting two whole stanzas of Dylan’s lyrics that apparently didn’t fit his up-tempo extravaganza. I experience Ferry’s “Hard Rain” as bombastically ironic. The black stage set with bright spotlight features Ferry at a pure white grand piano, with three attractive back-up singers who, in their jazzy costumes and flashy/ironic expressions and voices, bounce along to the up-tempo rhythm. Ferry and the back-ups are frequently videoed in over-the-top, extreme close ups—faces and mouths. Ferry’s opening, with ironic smugness, introduces the whole rendition.

          Ferry’s Dylan

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains,
Walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways,
Stepped in the middle of seven sad forests,
Been out in front of a dozen dead oceans,
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard.

It’s a hard, and it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, and it’s a hard,
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

                   [Entire stanza missing—“What did you see…”—etc.]

Oh what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
What did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder that roared out a warnin’,
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world,

One hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazing, heh,

[Here the video begins inserting war scenes—Considering Ferry’s context, I don’t buy the phony emotional play.]

Ten thousand whispering and nobody listening, heh,
One person starve, I heard many people laughin’,

       [The three girl backups do a pronounced, ironic laugh.]
I heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter,

 [The back-up singers give an ironic-sounding “awwww!”]
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley,
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, hard, hard, hard,
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

    [Entire stanza missing—“And who did you meet,….”etc.]

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
What’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
Walk through the depths of the deepest black forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
Where the executioner’s face is always well-hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color, and none is the number.
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I’ll stand in the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’

[Ferry “sings” in a vocal tone and facial expression which I see as ironic comment, including in the following line, the apparently ironic, “ha-ha-ha-ha”]

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a ha ha ha ha hard,

[As though laughing at the thought.]

And it’s a hard rain’s a gonna fall.
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, and it’s so hard so so hard,
And it’s a hard rain’s a gonna fall.

             [Throughout, Ferry and the three singers express in actions and sound a disparaging irony–especially, see his expression lower left. Video ends with camera pulling back, revealing singers and Ferry at his white piano.]

In a 1977 interview, there was this approximate exchange:

INTERVIEWER: …a song like “Hard Rain,” which is a Bob Dylan song, it was actually totally different. Being such a major fan of Bob Dylan’s were you a little bit worried that there was one version….

FERRY: There were plenty of other people as well….I thought that he’d underplayed it kind of. He did it during his kind of protest period, and it was just a kind of beautiful poem to me, you know, done to a guitar-strumming accompaniment.

Other comments by Ferry:

“To me a cover is just changing the vocal performance. I like to change a song.”

“Virtually anything you did would have to be different because all [Dylan] did was guitar and voice and mouth organ,…“

Ferry in an interview. “So I did it over the top, real kind of pounding piano and everything, sound effects and so on.

End Part 2 of 3.




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