I don’t want to be a drug dealer

While I have been unable to find the actual source of the phrase “nostalgia is death” (generally attributed to Dylan) I did find this interview fragment with Malcolm Jones:

“I’m just rooted back there in the `50s, and what’s got me this far keeps me going,” he says with a grin. “I know people who’ve got that online thing and games and things, but I find it too inhibiting to sit in front of a screen. On any level — I don’t even like to sit and watch TV too much. I feel I’m being manipulated.”

Dylan called his latest, Grammy-winning album “World Gone Wrong,” and meant every word of it.

Two songs are by the late Georgia bluesman Willie McTell, a musician whose passing he mourned in one of his greatest songs, “Blind Willie McTell” (“Power and greed and corruptible seed/ Seem to be all that there is”) and whose work, for Dylan, symbolizes a level of craft fast vanishing.

“If you’re looking for depth,” he says, “you gotta go back.” McTell’s songs, most written in the `20s, `30s and `40s, are touchstones to reality for Dylan. “To be around a long time, a musician has got to learn what he can trust. These songs are based on reality, like these drawings. These were real things that happened.”

Dylan’s increasing fascination with the legacy of the past extends to his own early work. “I’ve been working on some songs for 20 years, always moving toward some kind of perfection,” even though “I know it’s never going to happen.” (The latest incarnation of those songs will appear next month in an album of Dylan’s much-lauded MTV “Unplugged” concert.)

But art for him has always been about subversive change. As a result, he can’t abide those fans who want him to continue performing his old songs exactly the way he recorded them.

“I’d rather live in the moment than some kind of nostalgia trip, which I feel is a drug, a real drug that people are mainlining. It’s outrageous. People are mainlining nostalgia like it was morphine. I don’t want to be a drug dealer.”

Chuckling at his own joke, the man who has made a career out of reinventing himself stands up to go find more cigarettes and coffee and get back to work.

(The Vancouver Sun. Vancouver, B.C.: Mar 14, 1995. pg. C.7)