I make my living as a tax accountant. I'm finishing up my 26th season of preparing tax returns for individuals, corporations and partnerships. Before that I was a posting clerk, then a bookkeeper, then a controller for a business with sales offices all over the country. I have made a good living because I'm good with numbers. Most people aren't, which is why I get the big bucks. One time I read another tax accountant's description of our work as a matter of doing other people's homework for pay. That sums it up pretty well.
But my passion is music and musical performance. So the "Numbers" in my blog title isn't about the kind of numbers I use in making my living. It's about musical numbers, particular songs, musical pieces, or distinct performances in a musical show. When you've been to a particularly moving or exciting show, you might say that some of the numbers were burning. They were hot, full of passion and fire. Those are the ones that interest me and the ones that can inspire me to write about them.
I didn't create that phrase myself. Whenever I'm searching for a brilliant turn of phrase to describe something, the first place I turn is to Bob Dylan. I've been listening to his music and his lyrics since 1966. I found my blog title in a Dylan song called Series of Dreams, a great song in which he's "thinking of a series of dreams."
What I like about the phrase from the song that I use as my blog title is that it perfectly describes what interests me in musical performance, but it isn't so identified with Dylan, as to be universally used in language, with the Dylan connection always obvious, such as "blowin' in the wind" or "the times they are a-changin'." If someone spots the phrase as a Dylan line, I can be sure that they're pretty deep into Dylan. In fact the phrase comes in the first line of the last stanza of the song, as it was copyrighted in 1991. But when Dylan released the song for the first time on a CD, that line was not included in the performance. He had changed the lyrics.
Of course Dylan has done that a lot. Those who are big into Dylan are often fascinated by these lyric variations that appear in various outtakes from recording sessions, or sometimes appear when he performs the songs live. In the case of Series of Dreams, there have been two official releases of the song on Dylan albums, with the same recorded performance in both cases. That performance does not use the "numbers were burning" line, even though the official version of the song that was copyrighted and appears on Dylan's own website, has the line!
In one, numbers were burning
In another, I witnessed a crime
In one, I was running, and in another
All I seemed to be doing was climb
Wasn't looking for any special assistance
Not going to any great extremes
I'd already gone the distance
Just thinking of a series of dreams
To hear Dylan sing that version, which could be considered the "official version" of the song, one must search out a bootleg album which is not sold by his record label, called Genuine Bootleg Series #1. So it's a rarity, as are the numbers that are inspired performances, full of passion and fire, worthy of being written about by those who witness such numbers. Those rarities are the subject of this blog.