Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 284
Tuesday, Oct 23, 2012
“So what the fuck is a winding wheel anyway?” imagine you’re Ryan Adams and that’s what the American Bard, the living legend himself, Bob Dylan just asked you, inquiring what you’re song “My Winding Wheel” means, what do you do? Ryan talked about the night he met Dylan when he explained, “and [Bob Dylan] goes, ‘So what the fuck is a winding wheel?’ And I went like, wait a minute, I’ve got a hundred of those for you, man! But I didn’t say that, I just very humbly went, no, I’m not kidding, ’cause Bob Dylan’s standing there, and he looks like— he’s amazing, he looked like a Spanish conquistador, you know, like he was about to slay the bull! He was in this rad suit, and he had this six-foot-five girlfriend, and he had long nails, it was just too much; I just went, ‘I dunno!’ I had like a hundred responses later, I was like, should I go back? That fucking guy, Jesus. Oh, and he scratched me, which I thought was kinda cool. [His nails were] really long! I don’t think he uses guitar picks, I’m quite sure. They’re long and thick, he could really scratch your eyes out.”
I love the fact that all that Ryan remembers from meeting Dylan is his nails. That’s because Adams is a writer and his attention to detail like Dylan and his modern contemporaries like Jeff Tweedy and Conor Oberst is impeccable. But since Dylan mentioned it, what exactly is a winding wheel, anyway? When I hear ‘My Winding Wheel” I always remember what former Cardinals guitarist JP Bowersock once said this about Ryan Adams, “The reason he makes so many records is that he wants to capture his songs as close to the moment of inspiration as possible.”
When Ryan sings “be my winding wheel” it sounds like he’s taking a lyrical snapshot moment of asking the girl to ride on his handlebars on his bike. I say this because when I lived in New Orleans, very pretty ladies would ride their bikes in the spring and summer time in dresses and skirts. What a sight to see a skirt rider. Such an iconic image that Adams brings to life in my interpretation of “My Winding Wheel.”
He’s asking her to trust him on this bike ride. It’s as close as a twenty-six year old Ryan Adams would come to asking a girl to marry him. This bike ride is a symbol of belief, I’ll steer us as you sit on my handlebars and you trust me as I pedal us. “My Winding Wheel” is Ryan’s leap of faith towards romance before discovering Love is Hell in 2003.
“My Winding Wheel” is one of the Heartbreaker songs that Adams resurrected on his 2011 acoustic Ashes & Fire tour as documented on his dynamic collection Live After Deaf. It’s really insignificant what Ryan’s lyrical intentions were for “Wheel,” what matters most is how we feel when he starts strumming those stirring acoustic chords. It brings me back to short skirt and dress bike riders in New Orleans. Elton John once described Ryan Adams as, “He’s just a rough diamond – sharp, witty, and a brilliant songwriter.” “My Winding Wheel” is one of his sharpest and vivid cuts from Heartbreaker. A song so popular it has been covered by Ryan’s good mates Laura Marling and Counting Crows. “Wheel” is about anticipation and the excitement just before the fall. Whether you’re walking, riding your bike, in a train, streetcar or car—make sure you take this gem from Ryan Adams with you down your long road, I urge you to get lost with “My Winding Wheel.”
Although I perfer the live acoustic version, recorded in London, for the Live After Deaf collection, any version of ‘My Winding Wheel” will do.