My Dad Playing Along to Bob Dylan on his Bontempi Organ
Gareth K Vile
From their earliest works – That Sunday Dinner Where I Was Told to Eat in the Toilet by Myself if I wanted to Behave like that or You Are Not Going to See Watford Beat Marlowe, I am Taking your Brother – the Vile Family has displayed a consistent interest in deconstructing traditional genres. In My Dad…, a founder member presents an energetic and optimistic solo show that considers the impact of music on self-esteem, while craftily examining the nature of fan-fiction and retro instrumentation.
From the bold resetting of Dylan’s melancholic and poetic rhythm to a jaunty samba, through the bold baroque ornamentation of the melody, to the half-sung, half-recited sing-along, My Dad transcends the predictable cover version to explore the artist’s ability to ‘make a song their own’. Despite this being a cliche of music journalism, My Dad sits in the tradition of Hendrix and Frank Sinatra – and more ironically, Barry Manilow in his rendition of I Write the Songs, which he didn’t write – by discovering a distinctive interpretation of an artist that removes the gap between script and performer, resolving the dynamic tension into a singular entity, over-writing the source material while acknowledging its legacy.
What makes My Dad closer to Live Art than music is the sensitivity to context and the ontology of performance. By rejecting an audience – although My Dad did join a band a few weeks ago – and leaving the source recording playing in the background, the dramaturgy is suggestive of a negative version FK Alexander’s take on Somewhere Over The Rainbow: where she consciously engaged the audience in a fake emotional connection, My Dad could not care less whether anyone listens or responds.
With Dylan’s legacy up for grabs – his apologists are finding hidden meanings in “I’m just a patsy like Patsy Cline / I never shot anybody from front or behind” rather than recognising that he couldn’t be bothered to think about what he was saying – My Dad questions the authenticity of the text by subverting it into a joyous dance beat, something Dylan did do himself with the maudlin Isis on the Rolling Thunder Revue. But in the exuberance of his Bontempi trills, My Dad ultimately celebrates the intimate connection between the fan and the musician, expressing with the clarity how meaning is the moment of connection between art and audience.