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PostPosted: Thu July 13th, 2017, 16:43 GMT 

Joined: Mon May 11th, 2009, 12:16 GMT
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One Thousand Become Nine Thousand Drums

““For the doer suffering” is a saying three times old”. Chorus, Libation Bearers, Oresteia

“For the eye that opens toward the grave sees the core of things and is prophetic.” Chorus, Agamemnon, Oresteia

What to make of Triplicate? What to make of it in the context of the extraordinary interview granted Bill Flanagan at its release? Why do the 1,000 drums of Day in, Day Out become 9,000 by the final verse?

And why do I open with two quotes from Aeschylus’ Oresteia? Well, because Dylan directly alludes to the Oresteia in the Flanagan interview as an inspiration for the structure of Triplicate. “I was thinking in triads anyway, like Aeschylus, The Oresteia, the three linked Greek plays.” And, of the three discs he says – “thematically they are interconnected, one is the sequel to the other and each one resolves the previous one.” This is certainly true of the Oresteia.

And, if you wish, you can readily find correspondences between Triplicate and the Oresteia. Bear with me – I’m going to push these correspondences beyond any reasonable limit and I know it; just to see if it gets us anywhere
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Starting with Dylan’s titles for each part of his triad. “‘Til the Sun Goes Down”. Here Dylan is probably punning, as he so often does, on the Sun/Son. But maybe the son in Triplicate’s case is Orestes – the long awaited, avenging son of the Oresteia, who is compelled and cursed to kill his mother. In the introduction to his Oxford World Classics translation of the Oresteia Christopher Collard describes Orestes as representing “the light of salvation” in the trilogy – a trope common, apparently, to both pagan and Christian mythology. Then, “Devil Dolls”. Devil Dolls as good a description as any of the Furies – female, of course - that hound Orestes for that matricide. And finally, Comin’ Home Late. There is a resolution, a homecoming at the end of the Oresteia. Orestes returns to Argos, his guilt lifted from him and the Furies transform into “the kindly ones”, venerated in their new home of Athens.

You can hear Oresteia in some of the individual songs too. And perhaps, but with even more of a strain, in the narrative arc of Triplicate. At the start of the Oresteia Agamemnon returns from the Trojan War to find his wife, Clytemnestra, shacked up with a new man. “I should’ve realised there would be another man” – Agamemnon may well have mused to himself, as in I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plans – Triplicate’s opening song. “I missed that point completely”. The song’s “blue pyjamas” a nod to the bath-time gown/net in which Clytemnestra wraps and traps Agamemnon before killing him. In The September Of My Years the singer is an older man. Just like the elderly male chorus of the first part of Oresteia. My quote at the head of this piece is that chorus’ assertion of the credibility of their narrative. Their age has brought them close to the grave and means they have wisdom and insight unavailable to younger men. In September we’re told the singer “never paused at wishing wells”. By contrast Orestes seeks refuge at the Oracle at Delphi as he flees the Devil Dolls. The oracular nature of wishing wells and the allusion is confirmed in the Flanagan interview, when Dylan says of his own past that like the exiled Orestes – “I’ve been all over the world. I’ve seen oracles and wishing wells.” And like the older men of the Oresteian chorus, Dylan tells Flanagan that it was only after he became older himself that the oracles and signs began to have meaning. I Could have Told You evokes Cassandra’s warnings – voiced early in the Oresteia and never heeded - of Clytemnestra’s treachery – “I could have told you she’s lying.” In It Gets Lonely Early the children have “like starlings flown away”. The imagery here is reminiscent of the birds of augury in Oresteia, especially those birds that are the harbingers of Agamemnon’s murder-sacrifice of his daughter, Iphigenia. Iphegenia’s mother, Clytemnestra, is left “lonely early” by this terrible murder. Trade Winds concerns a husband and wife separated by the seas, with the singer, like Agamemnon, recognising – “Though I’m returning it won’t be the same, she traded her name.”

Braggin’ speaks to the Oresteia’s themes of the pity of war and machismo. It’s obviously an important song on Triplicate, because it’s the only one on all three “Sinatra” albums never to have been sung by Frank. Why did Dylan choose it? I’d say because Braggin’ expresses Clytemnestra’s disgust with the male braggadocio that leads to war and to husbands sacrificing their daughters in return for a change in wind direction. It is clear the target of the singer’s scorn is a man and that the singer is criticising from the perspective of a woman. Agamemnon is a “no-good rooster”. Clytemnestra condemns those “medals” – the cheap kind you get at “the five and ten cent store”, or back at Troy, where life was cheap. The braggart ought, instead, to be “plowin’ and a’plantin’”. The sword ought to be a ploughshare. Clytemnestra would disapprove too of the male ego’s warmongering “fight for love and glory”, that tragic “same old story”, in As Time Goes By. Dylan’s choice of this song reminds us of the war-time setting of the movie Casablanca. Of Triplicate’s songs Flanagan says to Dylan – “It’s hard not to think of World War II when we hear some of these”. Just as it’s hard not to think of the horrors of the Trojan War that is the backdrop to the Oresteia.

There is a sense of foreboding through Oresteia. An inevitability to its unfolding tragedy – an inevitability brought by the longstanding curse on the house of Atreus, passed from generation to generation. The tragedy is enacted behind the door of the home, within its sanctum. This idea of the curse on and in the home is found in Triplicate too - in P.S. I Love You and There’s A Flaw In My Flue. In the first it is the unexplained absence of the wife/mother from the domestic scene that brings disquiet and catastrophe – “I burned a hole in the dining room table.” There’s more anxiety about fire and burning in Flaw. This song is even more precise in its worry that the integrity and security of the home has been compromised – the very hearth itself, the centre of the pre-industrial home, is flawed – is cursed. As others have noted there is also a phallic aspect to Flaw – the chimney flue being a standard Freudian phallic image. That means there is castration anxiety too in this song – “now it won’t draw, my flue has a flaw”. This is resonant with the Oresteia, where the chorus repeatedly worries about the humiliation of the warrior-king Agamemnon - by a woman. In Stormy Weather the threatened unmanning of the alpha male is evident in the warning – “that old rocking chair’s gonna get me”. Sitting in an old rocking chair in front of a flue with a flaw – the male is emasculated and impotent. And Agamemnon dead.

The Oresteian theme of the age-old curse on the house of Atreus – the result of misdeeds many generations before, but ineluctably passed down the years chimes with Christian ideas of Original Sin. And these can be found in abundance on Triplicate. Mankind’s original sin in the Garden of Eden was to eat the fruit from the tree of life. The Fall. “If you fall, you fall and I’m thinking, I wouldn’t mind at all” – But Beautiful. In Once Upon A Time the lovers “sat beneath a willow tree”. But now the tree is gone and the Eden is lost. Paradise is lost too in This Nearly Was Mine. In My One And Only Love the singer laments “the heaven I’ve never known”. Trade Winds opens with “a new world, where paradise starts” – but its paradise is taken from the singer. In The Best Is Yet To Come the “tree of life” gets a direct mention, as it does too in the song most comparable to it in Dylan’s canon, Death Is Not The End – both highly religious songs.

Highly religious? How about – “You think you’ve seen the Son, but you ain’t seen it shine.” Or “We’ve only tasted the wine, we’re gonna drain that cup dry”? The best which is yet to come is paradise, of course – death is not the end - and Dylan knows it. The song was co-written by lyricist Carolyn Leigh, who, as Dylan points out to Flanagan, also wrote the words for Shadows In The Night’s Stay With Me, another highly religious song.

The tree of life is back in When The World Was Young; this time an apple tree. The apple blossom that brings back exquisite, intolerable memories of a lost paradise. And Stardust, another bitter-sweet reminiscence about lost love and paradise, is set in a lost Eden, the now sundered lovers once in each other’s arms “beside a garden wall”.

Orestes is hunted through the final third of the Oresteia, distracted to madness by the pursuit of the Furies. The Furies are dramatic creations. Aeschylus gives them their own lines in the play, but they can be understood to be interior to Orestes – to be his guilty conscience for his murder of his mother. We see Orestes drive himself mad – “Imagination is silly, you go round willy-nilly” - Imagination. I Couldn’t Sleep A Wink Last Night – such is Orestes’ self-torment. The Furies are driven on by the ghost of Clytemnestra, itself given voice in the Oresteia. For Orestes – “the ghost of you clings”. These Foolish Things. In You Go to My Head Orestes knows “he hasn’t the ghost of a chance” while Clytemnestra still clings to him as a “haunting refrain”. The guilt/ghost still “haunts my reverie” in Stardust. Orestes eventually finds peace – Comin’ Home Late - after the Goddess Athene brokers a deal with the Furies that puts an end to the curse. Triplicate, by contrast, ends with pained rumination. Why Was I Born? - another great Bob Dylan question, along the lines of What Good Am I? or What’ll I Do?.

How persuasive do you find all this? Because there’s more. First, here are Dylan’s comments about the themes of Triplicate – “grand themes, each of them incidental to survivors and lovers or better yet wisdom and vengeance, or maybe even exile – one disc foreshadowing the next.” We can debate the persuasiveness of my attempt to point out Triplicate’s allusions to the Oresteia or even Triplicate’s success in creating a cohesive whole. But the Flanagan interview insists we consider Triplicate as related to Greek tragedy. Dylan’s mention of Oresteia and this listing of grand, tragic, Greek themes make this unavoidable.

And there are the “triads”. The Oresteia is riddled with them. Three plays. And recurrent threes. My opening quote – “”For the doer suffering” is a saying three times old.” comes in the second play. For some Dylan fans rebelling against the Sinatra releases maybe the quote should read – “for the listener suffering three times over” (though I must say, I love ‘em). Clytemnestra strikes Agamemnon with her sword three times. Orestes knocks at the door of the house of Atreus three times. The Furies threaten to drink pure blood “to the third draught”. The woes of Atreus are the “third family storm”. The Furies give Orestes “three throws” (of the die) as he defends himself before Athene’s court. And, throughout, Zeus is associated with the number and power three. The third libation or draught of wine is always, ceremoniously, offered to Zeus. The chorus prays to Zeus, swearing Orestes will offer “triple repayment”. And Orestes gives thanks at the end of the trilogy – “Thanks to Pallas (Athene) and to Loxias (Apollo) and to him the third, the Saviour, who accomplishes everything (Zeus)”.

The Oresteia is structured around the number three. And it’s no surprise the way Dylan explains to Flanagan why Triplicate, which could easily fit onto two cds, is instead a trilogy – “It’s the number of completion. It’s a lucky number and it’s symbolic of light.” Note the trio of justification.

And of course there is a huge literature about the symbolic meaning of the triad, in pagan and especially Christian exegesis. Three – the number of divine perfection.

So Triplicate is the third Sinatra release – symbolic of light; “Orestes, the light of salvation”, “wait ‘til you see that sunshine day, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet”. It is itself a triple album. 3x3. 3x3 = 9. And here is why, very deliberately, in the last verse of Day In, Day Out when Dylan sings of the “ocean’s roar”, that roar has become that of not 1,000 drums, as it was in the earlier verse, but of 9,000 drums. 3 squared. Father, Son, Holy Ghost x Time, Space, Matter = "the number of completion".


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PostPosted: Thu July 13th, 2017, 18:29 GMT 
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Sinatra also sang 'Nine Thousand Drums' on the 1958 'Come and Dance With Me' album version. I think it's his 4th? studio version of the song and the best IMO. Sinatra absolutely nails it.
Dylan's version pretty much copies the arrangement, one of the worst performances on Triplicate.


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PostPosted: Thu July 13th, 2017, 18:53 GMT 
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I was listening to Where is the One this morning, a few times in a row. I can't believe the immensity of these performances and I'm fortunate to be on this earth to hear them. In AARP, Bob said he'd want to be a Roman history professor. Tempest is Shakespearean. I love the analysis.


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PostPosted: Thu July 13th, 2017, 20:05 GMT 
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Fair Play wrote:
Sinatra also sang 'Nine Thousand Drums' on the 1958 'Come and Dance With Me' album version. I think it's his 4th? studio version of the song and the best IMO. Sinatra absolutely nails it.
Dylan's version pretty much copies the arrangement, one of the worst performances on Triplicate.


He didn't make 4 versions of the song for his studio records. He made one earlier Nelson Riddle arranged one for Capitol around 1953-54 (released on an EP) and that was it. 2 versions.

Peggy Lee does my favorite version, but Sinatra's 1958 is swell, too. All of Billy May's charts for the Come (no and) Dance With Me album are great.

Far as I know, the only songs Sinatra recorded / released 4 times for his official releases were, Night & Day, The Song Is You & I've Got You Under My Skin (5 times for Skin if you count the lamentable Duets version with Bono.)

Not counting posthumous live releases, but including live things like Sinatra at the Sands released in 1966, and The Main Event from 1974. I've gone slack on keeping up with the live albums coming out since his death.


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PostPosted: Thu July 13th, 2017, 20:48 GMT 

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Fair Play wrote:
Sinatra also sang 'Nine Thousand Drums' on the 1958 'Come and Dance With Me' album version. I think it's his 4th? studio version of the song and the best IMO. Sinatra absolutely nails it.
Dylan's version pretty much copies the arrangement, one of the worst performances on Triplicate.

I have to disagree about Bob's version. I'm quite critical about some of his vocal performances on Shadows in the Fallen Trip (I regard them as one 5 CD set), but I think 'Day In, Day Out' is one of his better performances in the project.


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PostPosted: Thu July 13th, 2017, 22:03 GMT 
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Ain't Talkin' wrote:
He didn't make 4 versions of the song for his studio records. He made one earlier Nelson Riddle arranged one for Capitol around 1953-54 (released on an EP) and that was it. 2 versions.

And in '53 at his first session at Capitol with Alex Stordahl.


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PostPosted: Thu July 13th, 2017, 22:30 GMT 
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Fair Play wrote:
Ain't Talkin' wrote:
He didn't make 4 versions of the song for his studio records. He made one earlier Nelson Riddle arranged one for Capitol around 1953-54 (released on an EP) and that was it. 2 versions.

And in '53 at his first session at Capitol with Alex Stordahl.


If he did one with Stordahl in '53 it's on a bootleg, not circulating as part of the "official canon" as they say. The one he did with Riddle was definitely 1954 (I checked the date.) So, 3 versions (maybe.)


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PostPosted: Sun July 16th, 2017, 10:23 GMT 
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Nice one, ntrain.

Dylan's Christian, Greek and Roman allusions that were gathered up in Tempest have found their American origins in the songs of Triplicate. Domestic quarrels and grand opera; a fight for love and glory. From the dawning of man to the end of time, these fundamental things apply, as time goes by.


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PostPosted: Sun July 16th, 2017, 11:30 GMT 

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Thanks ntrain. Interesting read. I agree that said grand themes seem to be continued from Tempest. The classical references are mostly new to me, though I did pick-up the tree motif.


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PostPosted: Sun July 16th, 2017, 15:28 GMT 
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ntrain, that's pretty deep stuff. Nice work! I was born on April 3, so I'm all over your 3 theory.


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PostPosted: Sun July 16th, 2017, 20:06 GMT 
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Love it. Thanks ntrain.


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PostPosted: Mon December 11th, 2017, 09:22 GMT 

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ntrain, you should have got a co-write on Thomas's book Why B.D. Matters . . .


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PostPosted: Mon December 11th, 2017, 09:38 GMT 

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Way better writing than Christopher Ricks (who, in my opinion, totally fails to 'get' Dylan).


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