Last Call is a feature celebrating the best album closers. In case our readers are unaware, “albums” are collections of songs created by artists that are thematically, conceptually, and/or contextually linked. They are meant to be listened to from beginning to end–not on shuffle–and are slowly going the way of the Dodo. Fun fact! Most people born after 1995 do not possess the attention span necessary to listen to album from start to finish.
Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.
– Mark Twain
Growing old is a funny thing. We all do it. We all expect it. Yet we all deny it. Some of us buy fancy clothes to look younger. Others dye their hair blonde or brown or anything other than grey. Wealthy men get themselves trophy wives and wealthy women buy themselves new faces. It’s as if people actually believe they can hold back aging and their inevitable demises. Industries would collapse if people realized that just because they got themselves plastic surgeries, their friends and colleagues can still count age and still know that after someone’s 43rd birthday comes a 44th (and so on), despite any “enhancements” that have been done.
Musicians are just like the rest of us. However, celebrities can become freakazoids when it comes to aging. Celebrity musicians are actually the worst of the bunch, since most of these musicians cater to a younger audience. Particularly when a musician has been around for a while, making his/her mark decades ago, their audience wants to believe that moment has been frozen in time, along with the musician. Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney, I’m talking to you both. Do you expect us to believe you both are in your seventies with hair that is anything other than grey? You’re old, deal with it.
That being said, there are a number of albums about getting old because the thing is, you’re only young once, but you’re old for all the time after that. Two musicians have embraced aging and death to a point that deserves respect. These are Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. (We’ve already mentioned Dylan here and here, but hey, he’s kind of a “big deal”. And he’s old and cranky…so the shoe fits.) It turns out that these are also our two humble resident rock poets. The following is a lyric from each:
Well, my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play.
– from Leonard Cohen’s “The Tower of Song”
The sun is beginning to shine on me
But it’s not like the sun that used to be
The party’s over and there’s less and less to say
I got new eyes
Everything looks far away.
– from Bob Dylan’s “Highlands”
Both have written great treatises on the trials and tribulations of aging, but in terms of the best album, Bob Dylan’s Time out of Mind, wins handily. From “Not Dark Yet” to “Can’t Wait” to the aforementioned showstopping closer, “Highlands”, this album has it all. It’s as if Dylan was waiting to age so that he could become that pissed off geezer with a walking cane singing about all the young women he can’t have and all the sunny days that just won’t come around any more. I imagine it’s the perfect musical accompaniment to the moment you realize that all the fast cars and second, third, fourth, and fifth wives in the world won’t stave away the sad conclusion that is awaiting you.
In case you don’t believe me, he’s got a song called “Standing in the Doorway”. And for those that don’t understand figurative language, beyond the doorway is death, and our hero, Mr. Dylan, is standing right next to it. I’m not sure why he doesn’t just move away from the door, but maybe when you get old, at some point you just say screw it.
-“Standing in the Doorway”, written by Bob Dylan, but played by some guy who thinks at age 20 something, with his guitar, a laptop, and his parents out of town, he can become an internet star by playing something by a 50-plus year old Bob Dylan in what is clearly his parent’s living room. (The harmonica’s a nice touch bro. Cuz Bob Dylan also plays harmonica. Got it.)
Getting old isn’t a great thing, but at least we have Bob Dylan to tell us that. To our face.