February 1, 2013

Steven Tyler appears in drag on "American Idol" and quotes Bob Dylan's "Talkin' World War III Blues."

He came out as if he were the last contestant and maybe it took half a second to recognize the big rock star (who was on the judge's panel last season). The news reports of the little stunt emphasize the drag and the (miniscule) surprise, but even where the lyric is quoted, the attribution to Bob Dylan is missing. Here's the NY Daily News:
"What the, what?" Randy Jackson said when he got a first glimpse of his former co-star on stage.
"My name is Pepper. I'm going to sing a song called 'Tell Your Ma, Tell Your Pa, Our Love Going to Grow, Wah Wah,'" he joked to judging panel. "But before I do I'm going to judge you all (bleeps) first."
I'm not finding any news reports that place the lyric — which I have engraved on my brain — in the old Bob Dylan song. "Talkin' World War III Blues" has 12 verses of Bob talking his way through a dream he had about walking through post-nuclear NYC, with all the people gone from the "lonesome town." Here's the 9th verse:
Well, I remember seein’ some ad
So I turned on my Conelrad
But I didn’t pay my Con Ed bill
So the radio didn’t work so well
Turned on my record player—
It was Rock-a-day Johnny singin’, “Tell Your Ma, Tell Your Pa
Our Love’s A-gonna Grow Ooh-wah, Ooh-wah”
Tyler said "Ooh-wah, Ooh-wah," by the way, just like Dylan, not "Wah Wah," as the Daily News would have it.

Now that you get the reference, is there anything to be made of it? Maybe Dylan was making an in joke at the time and Tyler was referring to that joke. Maybe Tyler wanted to alert us to the threat of nuclear war. Maybe Tyler wanted to wink at Dylan fans. But the best clue I found — as I did a Google search to see if anyone had recognized the Dylan quote — was an article from back in November about  friction between Tyler and current-season judge Nicki Manaj. Tyler had said in an interview:
“If it was Bob Dylan, Nicki Minaj would have had him sent to the cornfield! Whereas, if it was Bob Dylan with us, we would have brought the best of him out, as we did with Phillip Phillips....”
Manaj thereafter tweeted:
“Steven Tyler said I would have sent Bob Dylan to a cornfield??? Steven, you haven’t seen me judge one single solitary contestant yet!”
And:
“I understand you really wanted to keep your job but take that up with the producers. I haven’t done anything to you. That’s a racist comment.” 
Racist because it's against her... or because sending someone "to the cornfield" is a reference to slavery?
“You assume that I wouldn’t have liked Bob Dylan??? why? black? rapper? what? go f— yourself and worry about yourself babe.”
To quote Bob Dylan — especially while dressed in a garish blonde wig and big inflated breasts — is to tweak Nicki. Talking blues is related to rap, somewhere in the ancestry. The quoted line, which is talked, is about singing, singing like a rockabilly guy — "Rock-a-day Johnny" — and Tyler was acting as though he were going to sing the song Bob Dylan heard. Dylan is all alone in his dream, looking for company, and in his desperation, he turns on the radio, and then puts on a record, and it's this pop culture idiot, singing nonsense — ooh-wah, ooh-wah —but it's very poignant, because, after the war, Bob is longing for any kind of a voice. In the 10th verse, he calls the telephone number where a recorded voice says the time, and he listens to that voice, repeating the same time — 3 o'clock, the time the war started — for over an hour.

So Steven Tyler had a lot to say, if anybody wants to notice. He's saying we don't get artists like Bob Dylan anymore. The music industry — like NYC after the bomb — is devoid of real people. We're desperate for a human voice. And Nicki Manaj is the embodiment — for all her voluptuous physicality — of emptiness. He was spoofing her, critiquing everything, crying out for real human art, which — for him — Bob Dylan embodies.

But did anyone hear him? He pranced out as a clown. He was dressed as a woman. It resonated in the hollowness that has always been television. In drag, with that wide smile, he even looked like Milton Berle.



IN THE COMMENTS: In this post where I chide others for missing the Dylan reference, Mumpsimus dings me for missing a reference:
"To the cornfield" refers to the SF/Horror story "It's A Good Life" by Jerome Bixby. Or, more likely in this context, to the Twilight Zone episode based on that story.
Dust Bunny Queen links to this TZ clip.

68 comments:

Colonel Angus said...

I thought that was Steven Tyler for a second.

Julius Reincarnate said...

In drag, with that wide smile, he even looked like Milton Berle.

Perhaps you can do drag effectively when you have the famed proportions of Berle, and the confidence that comes with it?

Amartel said...

Shorter Nicki Manaj:
How dare you, I'm black!

ricpic said...


Bob's God....in unreconstructed hippyland.


Baron Zemo said...

I warned you.

Niki Minaj is the reason I have forsaken American Idol forever.

She is what is wrong with America today.

An anti-Catholic bigot who lectures everyone else and calls them racists.

Welcome to Barack Obama's America.

phx said...

You may be interested to know that "Tell Your Ma, Tell Your Pa, Our Love Going to Grow, Oo-Wah Oo-Wah" was the B-side to "I Yove You and You Love Me, and Let's Go Over to the Banks of Italy."

Or you may not be.

Ann Althouse said...

I should say: I actually think Nicki Manaj is a very talented comedienne. The costuming is very entertaining and she's playing a character. She knows what she is doing, and she belongs in show business. Tyler has never been a significant artist. He's no Bob Dylan. He's done the very sort of stagey showmanship that Minaj does quite well. Why he has a beef with her, I do not know.

She prepared for the show, and she always gives a performance. She expresses love and appreciation for the contestants, in fact. Much more than the other judges.

The main problem with her is that she's so emphatically her character that it makes the others seem wan.

And what's with the breasts? Is it written into the contract that Mariah can have hers out and Nicki cannot? I've checked out Nicki Manaj's videos. They make a big display of her body, which is cartoonishly voluptuous. But you'd barely notice when the judges are empaneled on AI. And Mariah's boobage is always popping out. It's like they needed to find a way to equalize the 2 women.

Henry said...

If Bob Dylan appeared on American Idol, he should be sent to the cornfield. Or the cornballfield. Or wherever. It's not his venue.

Ann Althouse said...

"An anti-Catholic bigot who lectures everyone else and calls them racists."

I haven't seen any of that on the show.

I know she did an absurd exorcism based routine in a Grammy performance and drew criticism from some Catholics.

http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/nicki-minaj-angers-catholic-league-with-grammys-exorcism-2012132

traditionalguy said...

Did he light his cigarette on a parking meter?

Mitchell the Bat said...

Years ago it somehow got to be a fad to throw firecrackers at Aerosmith.

Joe Perry quipped: "Maybe if I learned to play guitar better we'd attract higher class fans."

Something along those lines.

Baron Zemo said...

Let me know how tolerant you would be of her if she did an anti-gay themed performance.

What?

Yeah didn't think so.

Mumpsimus said...

"To the cornfield" refers to the SF/Horror story "It's A Good Life" by Jerome Bixby. Or, more likely in this context, to the Twilight Zone episode based on that story.

Baron Zemo said...

Think of all the producers and directors and publicists who thought that abortion with a faux pope and preist and molested altar boys was just fine.

She is the perfect embodiment of liberal thought. Hate on the Catholics or traditional values and get promoted.

Critize her and you are racist.

Mitchell the Bat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bagoh20 said...

Steven Tyler is to Niki Minaj as Bob Dylan is to Carol Channing.

phx said...

Steven Tyler is to Niki Minaj as Bob Dylan is to Carol Channing.

Well, I don't know. I can think of a couple of advantages Niki has over ST.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

because sending someone "to the cornfield" is a reference to slavery?

Guess what black people.....everything ISN'T about you.

Everything isn't about RACE.

Sending someone to the cornfield is a reference to a twilight episode.

Kevin said...

Yes you guys beat me to it, Twilight Zone episode. Besides, they're talking about sending a white guy, so where does slavery enter into it? And how is slavery associated with corn anyway? Cotton and tabacco. Duh. Yeah those Indiana and Ohio corn farmers driving those slaves out into the fields... Geesh.

Ann Althouse said...

"If Bob Dylan appeared on American Idol, he should be sent to the cornfield. Or the cornballfield. Or wherever. It's not his venue."

I think Dylan would have taken advantage of whatever entry point he could find. If the portal of the day were AI rather than Folk City, he wouldn't have been above using it.

But I think your point is that he wouldn't have been considered good enough. If that's all you're saying, it's either the typical put down of Dylan or the typical putdown of American Idol or both. I strongly disagree.

Baron Zemo said...

Nicki Minaj tries to make up for her lack of talent by being stupid.

If you took a conservative estimate there would be about a billion people who would be better judges including Honey Boo Boo and that prancing Chinese Gangan guy.

phx said...

I think Dylan would have taken advantage of whatever entry point he could find. If the portal of the day were AI rather than Folk City, he wouldn't have been above using it.

That could be but he wasn't completely unprincipled. Don't forget he walked away from the Ed Sullivan Show when they told him he couldn't sing John Birch Society Blues.

Amartel said...

"Tyler has never been a significant artist."

He's Mick Jagger Lite.
But Tyler:Minaj::Dylan:Channing.

Bagoh FTW.

Baron Zemo said...

Niki Minag makes Paula Adul look like Albert Einstein.

Baron Zemo said...

And Albert had a better haircut than this nasty cunt.

Smilin' Jack said...

Mumpsimus is correct. Also, when you're so has-been that you need to appear on American Idol in drag, it's time to move to one of those states where assisted suicide is legal.

Kelly said...

As a mother of a fourteen year old, I'm forced to listen to all the current music and dare I say that I like Nicki. In fact, I liked her before my kid did, we use to argue about it.

Anyway, I think Minaj is one of the best judges, better then the bland Mariah who reminds me a little to much of Paula Abdual with her bloviating and colorless personality. Keith Urban isn't exactly outgoing, either.

Maybe it wasn't racist, but why would Tyler assume that Minaj can't recognize talent outside of rap?

Ann Althouse said...

"Niki Minag makes Paula Adul look like Albert Einstein."

Spelling tip: When calling other people stupid, check spelling.

Ann Althouse said...

I hope no one is getting drunk this early in the morning. I know it's always evening somewhere, but not on the east coast right now.

Colonel Angus said...

Oh...heh it is Steven Tyler. I saw Bob Dylan and thought it was him.

Ann Althouse said...

Just saying.

Smilin' Jack said...

But I think your point is that he wouldn't have been considered good enough. If that's all you're saying, it's either the typical put down of Dylan or the typical putdown of American Idol or both. I strongly disagree.

These put-downs are typical for a reason. Neither Dylan nor AI can ever be put down enough.

Triangle Man said...

I will be surprised if Minaj lasts the season.

Stars who don't like their fans don't last long.

Kelly said...

Why does American Idol have to be out down at all? It's the one show my kids and I have watched together for years.

MayBee said...

Kelly- Tyler did not say Minaj couldn't recognize talent outside of rap. That was Minaj's invention.

Baron Zemo said...

Blogging tip. When you are a notorious box wine aficionado maybe it is not advisable to accuse other people of being drunk when they misspell something because they are so angry that they dash off comments without editing. Pot. Kettle.

Just sayn'

Dust Bunny Queen said...

If you can scream a song at the top of your lungs and throw in lots of unnecessary vocal gymnastics that totally obscure the tune, lyrics and meaning of the song and strip it of any real emotion, you are going to be a hit on American Idol. It is a plus if you can also add some real low class Jerry Springer style drama.

traditionalguy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
traditionalguy said...

No we are not drunk this morning. But last night's bottle of Estancia Pinot Noir is still fondly remembered.

Is pop culture awakening to Bob Dylan's talents?

Dylan seems to be mentioned lately as often as Wisconsin got mentioned e last year...everybody is doing it.

What are the odds someone mentions Dylan on the Super Bowl broadcast?

Johnny Cash just got his own postage stamp. Could Dylan be far behind?

Baron Zemo said...

Hey don't duplicate post or someone will say you are drunk.

Meanwhile a bigoted piece of shit like Nicki Minaj gets the Barack Obama Professors Chair on American Idol.

Nicki Minaj is to Bob Dylan as Barack Obama is to George Washington.

Smilin' Jack said...

"Niki Minag makes Paula Adul look like Albert Einstein."

Spelling tip: When calling other people stupid, check spelling.


Caring about the spelling of nonentities like Nickey Minage is one of the prime symptoms of stupid.

joe said...

I'll take "On The Beach", while listening to the radio PECKing out some Morse Code for survivors of those WW3 blues, Alex.

On The Beach. 1959

Dylan's WW3 blues;1963

There must be someway outta here the Indifference to source allows us to assimilate what we read, what we are told, what others say

Baron Zemo said...

Her real name is Onika Tanya Maraj.

Nicki Minaj is her slave name so I don't feel so bad that I didn't get it right.

Of course spelling doesn't address the fact that this nasty twat is an anti-Catholic bigot who should not be on what is supposed to be a wholesome show.

Baron Zemo said...

I am nominating Cedarford and whores-of-the-internet for next year.

They would make great judges.

bagoh20 said...

Do I really have to explain it?

Tyler and Minaj are caricatures of sex symbols and Dylan and Channing are caricatures of singers.


You guys got an "A" on your SAT right?

Henry said...

But I think your point is that he wouldn't have been considered good enough.

Not that. My point is that the pop is not Dylan's venue.

Pavarotti wouldn't do so well either.

Henry said...

Especially since he's dead.

But let's just pretend that AI was running in the late 60s and early 70s. Neil Diamond vs. Bob Dylan. Neil Diamond wins in a walk.

Ann Althouse said...

Why get bent out of shape about Nicki Manaj? Fight the real enemy.

Just yanking your chain.

mccullough said...

Looks like Fake Blonde on Fake Blonde spat between Tyler and Minaj

bagoh20 said...

I doubt Dylan would make the first cut. The competition isn't for original lyrics. He would have to nail those high notes, make the girls swoon, or be a fat black guy underdog. Jewish guy singing "Over the Rainbow" - like nobody else would even try - just ain't gonna do it.

mccullough said...

Bob Dylan hit it big when he was 22 and has sold a shitload of albums.

A young Bob Dylan would clean up on this show.

Henry said...

Freddy Mercury vs. Art Garfunkel.

I think Garfunkel wins. Freddy Mercury is one of the greatest singers & charismatic performers in rock history, but he'd just be a cut too much for American Idol. Art Garfunkel would sing his ballads and look sheepish and walk off with the votes.

el polacko said...

look, i like bob dylan too, but i'm a little baffled by the reverence he gets here. is it a wisconsin thing ? a clinging-to-the-sixties hippie thing ? most performers get a pretty good mocking on this site, yet, when it comes to dylan, we are to genuflect and cross ourselves while we ponder the significance of his every utterance..?? huh?

but then, i'm a big dummy...i thought that nicki minaj was a dude.

Pogo said...

Nicky Minaj looks like one of the citizens of 'The Capitol' in The Hunger Games

phx said...

American Idol is like music without a soul. Which seems to fit with the culture today. It's hard to tell the difference between Glee and AI most of the time.

phx said...

Bob Dylan hit it big when he was 22 and has sold a shitload of albums.


Relatively speaking Dylan wasn't such a big seller though. I think why Columbia valued him so much was that he helped them attract other top-tier artists (and ones who sold more albums).

Baron Zemo said...

I get bent out of shape about Nicky Minaj because she gets a free ride when she is an anti-Catholic bigot.

Just imagine if she did a performance mocking gays or Muslims? Would she get the acceptance and the chance to ruin one of my favorite shows.

But I tell you what. The next time somebody disses the gays I will give the same advice.

Baron Zemo said...

Make no mistake.

Nicky Minaj is the real enemy.

Baron Zemo said...

On a much happier note...former Idol Judge Kara Dioguardi just had a baby.

Of course it was through a surrogate but that's Hollywood for you!

Maybe Nicki can get a surrogate to get some talent.

President-Mom-Jeans said...

Saw Dylan play with Tom Petty circa 2004. Thank God that Petty was the headliner, as Dylan was unintelligible, one of the worst sets I had have ever seen. As a songwriter he is okay, when somebody other than him is performing.

Minaj is unnattractive, talentless, and stupid. The perfect celebrity for the Obama years.

Valentine Smith said...

What is AI? Who is nick minaj and why is everyone talking about him? I know bob dylan. He used to be a contendah for heavyweight symbol of the world. Him and coleridge used to hang with simon down by the schoolyard in mobile gambling for clothes til the thin man whupped that old hattie woman with a cane when she cheated and ol' high and mighty skated cuz no one cares about hollis brown's drawers even with the crimson flames shooting out the back in unison with those chimes that kept ringin' while the lowland lady wept ...

Baron Zemo said...

American Idol is a talent show that has jumped the shark.

Nicki Minaj is Barack Obama in drag.

A rapper judging a singing contest who feels about Catholics the way Obama feels about the Jews.

Don't waste your time. Check out Honey Boo Boo instead.

EMD said...

I really doubt Tyler's "To the cornfield" is a reference to a Twilight Zone episode. Maybe it is, but maybe it's just because old Bob came from Minnesota, where they have cornfields.

And Nicky Minaj amping up fake racism is hilarious. She uses a fake British accent for crying out loud.

EMD said...

Mimi's boobs are sloppy.

Correction, Mimi is sloppy.

Technically, MInaj has probably been the best judge so far, but that's like being anointed tallest midget.

Keith Urban is useless. Randy is trying to be the heavy but he's no good at it, and Mimi is boring.

ken in sc said...

“Tell your Mama, tell your Paw, I'm gonna send you back to Arkansas.” Nobody thought of this lyric? That's what I thought of when I first heard Bob Dylan's talking blues. I figured he changed it for copyright reasons.

betamax3000 said...

Naked Steven Tyler Robot is no Naked Bob Dylan Robot. Mechanics.

tiger said...

Yikes, professor! Could have gone any further over the edge with your analysis?

Your writing reads like a liberal arts intellectual wanna-be that doesn't realize sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

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