Jesse Jarnow

“playmate” – pearls before swine

“Playmate” – Pearls Before Swine (file expires on December 8th)
from One Nation Underground (1967)
reissued by ESP-Disk (buy)

Watched a fair bit of Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home Dylan documentary last month. In it, Dylan talks about how musicians began imitating him, doing “some kind of jingly-jangly thing” (I think that was his phrase). He doesn’t name names, but — clearly — Pearls Before Swine’s “Playmate” falls under this heading. It’s got a jangly thing going, alrighty: the still-fresh organ-driven buoyancy of Blonde on Blonde backed by a rhythmic hook lifted directly from “Desolation Row.” And vocalist Tom Rapp sounds more like Dylan than Dylan (at least on this cut) (1). It’s pretty alright, as far as these Nuggets-style derivatives go. As Dylan himself (most likely) knew, there really was a peculiar emotional effect created by that particular combination of carnival organ and electric guitar that probably couldn’t be described as anything but jangly. There’s material on One Nation Underground — recently rereleased by ESP-Disk — that’s far more original (and, er, “influential”), but “Playmate” is certainly a curiosity for the cabinet.

(1) Rapp grew up nearby Dylan in Minnesota. If you believe what you read on the internets (and why shouldn’t you?), Rapp once beat l’il Bobby Zimmerman in a songwriting contest (finishing 2nd to Zimmy’s 6th). No shit? Maybe when they’re singing they’re both doing imitations of the Iron Range’s regional ghosts?

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