If You’ve Nothing To Say, Shut Up

It was only a little dance, but it annoyed Steve Beauchampé…

Back home from Birmingham City’s big day out last Sunday I was watching the highlights of the India/England World Cup cricket match from Bangalore. After Sachin Tendulkar’s breathtaking century, India’s middle and lower order were self-destructing, a batting collapse that would ultimately cost them victory (the game ended in a tie). Throughout much of the World Cup coverage, at the clubbing of each boundary or the fall of each wicket, the pitch level TV cameras swivel round and hone in on a very small section of the crowd, who unfailingly respond by grinning into the lens and dancing around, joy unbounded.

Another Indian wicket fell and the camera alighted on an attractive young Indian girl. Was she anxious, forlorn or just a little frustrated? Was she concerned at the manner in which Tim Bresnan was ripping through her country’s batting order? Did the prospect of defeat and possible elimination from the tournament worry her? Would she know a googly from a doosra? Could she explain to us the intricacies of Duckworth Lewis?

Of course she bloody couldn’t! All she cared about was that the camera was on HER. For about four seconds she was probably the most watched human being on the planet. She could have given a smile or a little wave but no, she was going to gyrate, dance and shake it for all she was worth! Most likely she’s since tweeted about it, posted it on her Facebook page or uploaded the moment to YouTube. Had India just hit a boundary or taken a wicket her behaviour might have made some sense, but like many other spectators during this tournament, the sight of a television camera is too much, evaporating all thoughts of self-restraint.

Two days earlier Suze Rotolo had died. She was 67 and had been suffering from lung cancer. Rotolo was a leading light in the Greenwich Folk scene of the early 1960s. For three years she was both Bob Dylan’s girlfriend and his muse, famously appearing on the front and back cover of his 1963 debut album The Freewheeling’ Bob Dylan. It’s a lovely series of photographs; a young couple, clearly in love, walking arm-in-arm along a snow covered New York street, off to change the world. Rolling Stone magazine tells us that Suze Rotolo played a huge rôle in Dylan’s political awakening. She introduced him to much poetry, to the works of Bertolt Brecht, and generally filled in his intellectual education. She also influenced or inspired classic songs such as Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, One Too Many Mornings and The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.

Not an extrovert, Rotolo was uncomfortable with the profile that came with being Dylan’s girlfriend as his fame increased. They broke up in 1964 while she was away studying art in Italy for three months. Dylan’s new girlfriend Joan Baez began singing and recording some of the songs Suze had inspired, and to much acclaim, which must have been both heartbreaking and painful for her. But she continued her political activism, this in the decade when civil rights and the Vietnam War politicised white middle class American youth as never before.

In his 1994 memoirs Chronicles: Volume 1 Dylan spoke fondly of Suze, a compliment she returned when she finally talked about their relationship both in Martin Scorcese’s 2005 documentary No Direction Home and in her own 2009 publication A Freewheelin’ Time: Greenwich Village in the Sixties.

She closed that book by saying of the period: “(Our generation) were not driven by the market. We had something to say, not something to sell.” Birdbrain of Bangalore could learn from that.