Jim James and Calexico: Going to Acapulco (2007)

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Jim James and Calexico: Going to Acapulco (2007)

Acapulco in Mexico is widely known as a party destination for many Americans, but in Bob Dylan's Goin' to Acapulco -- which appeared on The Basement Tapes -- the mood is anything but celebratory, party-on-dude and joyous.

Dylan and the Band drag their way through the lyrics as if the weight of the world was on their shoulders, and the idea of "goin' to have some fun" (in a Mexican brothel) hardly sounds convincing at all.

It is one of the best but largely ignnored songs on that double Basement Tapes album.

Yes, there's some sly sexual innuendo: "blow/plough my plum[?]" and "when the well breaks down I just go pump on it some, Rose Marie she likes to go to big places and just sits there waiting for me to come".

But the sex doesn't sound enjoyable either.

The mood suggests this is a scratch-livin' wicked world where humour is refused, and whatever optimism there is ("if the clouds don't drop and the train don't stop I'm bound to meet the sun") sounds qualified and hollow.

This bleak song turned up in Todd Haynes' Dylan film I'm Not There in an especially fine version by Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) with Calexico.

The original song's weary mood now became more yearning, defeatist and anxious because of the setting.

The Dylan character (Richard Gere) stumbles into a world which looks like the fag end of the Civil War where broken soldiers, farmers, the dead, carnival folk and circus animals seem to drift aimlessly and without hope. Or are waiting for something to happen which will redeem their sad situation.

James sings as if he knows he and they will never leave this place, for Acapulco or anywhere at all . . . and the people looking on know too that this is the end of times.

And they are characters who could have walked out of the "old weird America" where much of Dylan's songs around this period were coming from.

If you are interested in Dylan on film then check this out.

For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory use the RSS feed for daily updates, and check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.

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