02 March 2010

Sarah Bringing It All Back Home

I became a fan of Bob Dylan on Facebook and my friend Sarah commented and asked me "Are we supposed to think you're cool now?", which is funny for a couple reasons. First, poseurs become fans of stuff they think is cool because they think it's cool. Second, Sarah is teasing me for being a poseur when she knows I love Bob Dylan. Sarah loves Bob Dylan too. Last year at this time my friend Dana gave me a Dylan biography and while I was reading it I listened to the records Dylan recorded at each particular time I was at in the book. It made me realize that Dylan's first six records were recorded in a little under four years. And then my head blew up. "Blowing In the Wind", "The Times They Are A-Changing", "Like A Rolling Stone", one of my personal favorites "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry", as well as freakin' "Visions of Johanna", and umm..I don't know, all of HIGHWAY 61! Incredible! At the end of this prolific period, or maybe just towards the end, Dylan had his mysterious motorcycle accident and disappeared up in the wilderness of New York somewhere. The changes that Dylan's music went through during this period are remarkable. He hit in '62, writing and singing "protest" songs while the Beatles were crafting pop love songs. Dylan went through his changes faster, "going electric" at Newport in '65 and then touring with, ahem, the (Freaking) Band(!), one of the best Americana bands, if not THE best, of all time. Highway 61 absolutely kicked the door open to my favorite rock and roll music, a blend of Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, and primal energy. Dylan's lyrics and music blend so that one drives the other. Singing along to Dylan with the rhythm of his phrasing is the closest I can get to playing rock and roll guitar. Dylan's music after '65 wouldn't be the same. He released one of my favorite records to listen to on Sunday mornings, Nashville Skyline, a record with "Lay Lady Lay" on it, and dismissed at the time by some fans as a novelty country record. But I love "Country Pie" and the duet with Johnny Cash, and the laid back feel of it all. I wasn't around to be a snob in the Sixties so I just take the music as I've discovered it and I've come a long way since wondering who this guy Bob Die-lan was when he sang for USA for Africa in 1984. I don't know everything. But when I heard and saw Dylan sing "Tangled Up In Blue" on footage from his '75 tour, I knew I had to get that song, which brings me to Blood On the Tracks. Talk about Sunday morning music. I'd play this one summer when I was going out with a red headed girl (wondering if she had changed at all, if her hair was still red) who was with me when I bought it. Of course she is long gone but the memory remains, which seemed to be the point of this record. Connection and loss, and then reconnecting with someone who had changed, bitterness, optimism crushed by our own faults, Dylan sings about it on this record. Between "A Simple Twist of Fate", "Shelter From the Storm" (I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn), and "If You See Her, Say Hello", Dylan takes something personal and makes it universal to anyone who has felt heartbreak. Like Bruce Springsteen, Dylan was a guy who had to become Dylan. He aped alot of music and people, like Woody Guthrie, until he broke out as himself. Springsteen is similar in that he lived his dream, no matter where it took him, and was transformed. So that is my riff on Bob Dylan. I hope you think I'm cool now, Sarah.

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