YouTube clip sourced from Dylandude89
Share house, West Geelong, 1983
In the end, we all hated Jill.
I mean, like, I thought it was a bad idea from the start, but I guess the really bad idea was me moving in with the ex-girlfriend I was still sweet on. So when she suggested we accommodate a temporary guest, I bit my tongue, silenced my better judgement and nodded. I mean, yeah, cool. Why not?
“Jill’s really nice, you know” said my ex- to me and our two other housemates. “She’s quiet and funny and only needs a place to crash for a couple of weeks. And she’s happy to take the couch.” We all turned and looked at the dilapidated, frayed, stained and structurally unsound three seater and thought, ‘why not?’
The next day Jill moved in. No, she was not ‘quiet and funny’, as we had been led to believe. Instead, I’d describe her as hippy, drippy, trippy, kaftany and beady. She brought innumerable bags of stuff that jammed themselves into our tiny backyard shed. Along with all her gear, she also carried a metaphorical grab-bag of quasi-revolutionary ideology, second-hand leftist theory and undercooked philosophy which she espoused in a lazily dogmatic tone. Most of Jill’s verbs were tagged with the phrase ‘sort of.’ When she moved from one room to another, from – say- the loungeroom to the kitchen, which wasn’t often, she did so in a (sort of) slow drift of body, tone and energy. Like a damp fog. In all this vague fluffiness, however, we discovered she was, at heart, a literalist. Or, to put it another way, when we welcomed her by saying ‘make yourself at home’, she did.
Two weeks became four weeks became two months became six months. Somewhere in this time Jill hooked up with Phil (of course!) and he (sort of) moved in too. Phil didn’t say much but when he did he concluded most utterances with the word ‘man’, as in ‘the government is fascist, man’. Realising he was only addressing one half of the world’s population, he’d then try and literally retract his non-gender neutral phrase by making a sucking sound with his teeth. He’d look into mid-space, confused and would sit silently for the next half hour while Jill held court, (sort of).
Soon our couch became their bed, our lounge room their bedroom, and the fridge, kitchen, and bathroom were invaded, annexed and occupied. Time and space expanded as this droob and her drip made our house musty. “Rent is on the way”, declared Jill, on more than one occasion, “as soon the bloody CES process my form”. “The government is fascist, man” said Phil.
One day when Jill and Phil were out, the four original housemates held a meeting. We sat around the Laminex table in the kitchen wondering what to do. I stared up at the Nuclear Disarmament Party poster Blu Tacked to the grease-browned walls, and pondered the relationship between Jill’s occupation of our house and the half-life of uranium.
“Someone has to talk to her,” someone said.
“Yeah,” someone added
“Who?” someone asked.
No one answered.
Time passed. Meeting adjourned. More time passed.
One day, some months later, I spotted Phil sitting on a rug (was it our rug?) at a local market.
“We’re off to India, man”
“Of course you are,” I answered, more excited than he was.
Prior to travelling to this holy land, Phil was divesting himself of all material possessions, man. Fortunately, I was on hand to help him cleanse himself of the most evil of these things, his LP records. In this pile my eye caught a wordless album sleeve with a happy, hatted Bob Dylan waving to me. It captured my new mood perfectly. I had read about how this disc was Dylan selling out, to country music of all things, and one to be avoided. Still, I was intrigued.
“Two dollars, man”.
Nashville Skyline became one of my favourite Bob Dylan albums. It is everything that Jill and Phil were not – warm, inviting, smooth, playful and, fleeting. At 27 minutes and seven seconds it has the shortest stay of any Bob Dylan album. The irony continues into the title of the final song, my favourite of the disc, Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You and its bridge line I find it so difficult to leave.
Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You is one of the most passionate and carefree of Bob Dylan’s love songs. Here he is throwing his suitcase, train ticket and troubles to the wind and surrendering lustily to his lover. With besotted and beguiling bravado, Bob sings with more focus and purpose in these three and a half minutes than were present in those long, long months of co-habiting with Jill and Phil.
I eventually got over our two sticky freeloaders. I don’t ever want to get over Nashville Skyline.
© Stephen Andrew.