Cover of the Week 79 Sweetheart Like You

By on 4-30-2010 in CoTW, Cover of the Week Project

April 2010

After I flew back from Florida this week and watched three hours of the Goldman Sachs drubbing on Capitol Hill on the airplane satellite TV, I posted on Facebook/Twittered the snarky but undeniably cute mock equation: “Goldman Sachs = Pete Rose + $ $.” Simplistic, yes, but not far from the truth; guys betting with inside knowledge, hedging, and the ability to affect the outcome of the subject of the bet.

However, no matter how much money Rose bet, all he could do as compromise the integrity of the particular games he was betting on. That is a devastating sin to whatever baseball-fan innocents were left out there, the rest of whom have been wiped out in the post-steroid era. But Rose could do no amount of damage that could even amount to a drop in the ocean of damage the guys like these arrogant Wall Street pricks have wrought. As I also mentioned in that same post,” A wise man sang, ‘Steal a little and they throw u in jail/Steal a lot and they make u king.'” The lines are from the great Bob Dylan song, “Sweetheart Like You,” from the record, Infidels. About 8 or 9 years ago, I wrote about the song at Allmusic.com, see the link. It has been one of my favorite Dylan songs since it’s early-’80s release. The album is an underrated gem, commercial success notwithstanding.

Now, Bob may not have come up with those ideas, but his adaptation of them into his own, within the context of a rock song, typifies his brilliance. The first half is an aphorism credited to Samuel Johnson, the latter half (“Steal a little…”) is, from the best I can ascertain, a version of some lines from the Eugene O’Neill play, The Emperor Jones. One character says to another:

Ain’t r de Emperor? De laws don’t go for him. (judicially) You heah what I tells you, Smithers. Dere’s little stealin’ like you does, and dere’s big stealin’ like I does. For de little stealin’ dey gits you in jail soon or late. For de big stealin’ dey makes you Emperor and puts you in de Hall o’ Fame when you croaks.

I love how it ends with a Hall Of Fame reference at the end, given Pete Rose’s controversial banning from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Of course, Dylan would have no idea about this when he wrote the song. I won’t repeat here what I wrote at allmusic. If you’re interested in more discussion of this brilliant song, please check that review out and feel free to voice your own interpretations. But Bob’s brilliance is in his poetic ability to lay down these simple allegories, peppered with just enough prophetic-sounding lines to spur the listener into digging more. Dylan at his best is provocative, but never didactic.

[Since writing this, I think I have learned that Mick Taylor is the soloist.] My interpretation is, again, pretty straightforward. I have always felt agnostic at best about Knopfler, but he has tossed off some of the greatest guitar solos on record. His Hendrix/Mayfield lines on this song are beautiful. So I aim toward that vibe here (and though I am a rudimentary soloist, I nevertheless give myself twice as long to spotlight my solos than Knopfler had on the record). And I can still listen to the playing on “Sultans of Swing” all these years later. In a neat aside and dovetail with the last CoTW, Teenage Fanclub had brought out on the BT/TFC tour the legendary George Borowski as a guitar tech. He was a really excellent guy, gentleman, modest, a fantastic presence on the road.

Some housekeeping: Please come and see me play solo acoustic out in Chicago if you are there on July 16, at Schubas. I’m coming out to play a private shindig the night before, so this is a one-off. Tix on sale: http://schubas.com/Shows/07-16-2010+Bill+Janovitz+of+Buffalo+Tom


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