Good evening, all startled dreamers; all finded foes; all questions lit. Welcome. This is Words From The Midwest.
What to say about the person about whom I’m choosing to write this particular entry? What to convey that – like my previous post about The Beatles – hasn’t been said over and over and over again? I almost just want to write a long poem – like He did about Woody Guthrie – setting time and place aside and casting the meaning of this artist about like a fishing line: in and out of the water; dunked and redunked until the wet sets claim to a palisade, seperating Him from the rest. But I’m not sure the man, the myth, would even enjoy anyone doing so, you know? Like, I’m pretty sure He would think me trite for even attempting it. And goddamnit, he would be right. I shouldn’t be writing this.
But…alright…here it is…this entry is all about Bob Dylan.
As you might have guessed.
Bob Dylan’s music was always around when I was growing up: my Mom had his Greatest Hits and all that and I was exposed to his music from the time I remember music being on. But Dylan didn’t really hit me on a guttural level until I was 11, maybe 12.
The albums I recall getting from the library around this time were Blood On The Tracks and Blonde on Blonde. These two records, along with Bringing It All Back Home, are my favorite Dylan, all three completely and utterly exclusive from the other. I mean, you could argue – and some have – that Dylan never got better, more direct, more moving, than Freewheelin, but that record never hit me in the way, say, Blonde on Blonde did. Don’t get me wrong, every song on Freewheelin is a small miracle. But I prefered and continue to prefer Electric Dylan: Bringing It All Back Home, Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited, etc.
Although, even as I write this I’m remembering how much I love Nashville Skyline, which is a straight-up country record, complete with Johnny Cash duet.
But, whatever. Dylan has so many good albums, it’s ridiculous. I mean, there’s a very good reason why people say he’s the greatest songwriter of the modern age: his lyrics are alternatively profound, silly, and harmonious and his Pop sensibility is outragious. His melodies are so goddamn simple that it kills me when I listen to a song like “It Ain’t Me, Babe” and just marvel at it. It was a downright Standard from the moment his voice was set to tape, and has been mentioned and alluded to in song after song (Laura Marling comes to mind) and for good reason. No, No, No. It Ain’t Me Babe. It isn’t. It’s Dylan.
And maybe that’s the song I should be focusing on. It’s the final track on Another Side, which, oddly enough, is one of my least favorite of his albums, including all his late-70s, early-80s, Born-Again nonsense (although some of those songs are downright classic as well. I’m thinking “Gotta Serve Somebody”). But the very fact that it pointed to his change in approach to writing songs (surrealism, Blues, etc) is kinda why I want to talk about it and it specifically.
But, wait. Maybe “Desolation Row” would be more apt: an 11-minute, comnpletely acoustic, tour de force at the end of a downright Rock and Roll record…
Jesus, I’m all over the place. Forgive me. I’ve been drinking.
Bob Dylan is. And that’s enough for me. It was enough for him. But if you haven’t seen his ranting word-play involving a sign above a newsprint shop, and if you haven’t heard Last Words about Woody Guthrie and if you haven’t been completely heartbroken, listening to Blood On The Tracks, weeping, perhaps, but so moved back to emotional health…all I can say is you’re missing out.
But I’ll bet you don’t need to be told this.
And that…that’s probably the best way I can put it: If you’ve heard it, you know.
And be changed.
Until next time,