The Music Blog: Bob Dylan

I was born in 1963 in Fort Worth, Texas, so again it’s not exactly a hotbed of musical innovation and activity even now. Most of the music I remember from childhood is from the 70’s, childhood, adolescence and those upper teen years as I moved towards manhood. I graduated in 1981 so the music I most remember is that 70’s arena rock we listened to driving around in cars, looking for girls and being afraid when we found them. It was not unusual though in the 70’s for music from the 60’s to be played. My high school classmates have this love affair with Pink Floyd. I am more towards the Aerosmith spectrum and the harder stuff although I never really had a problem with Pink Floyd, love them but I am more of a Gilmour guy and not a Waters guy.

What I am trying to say is that 60’s music was as much a part of my growing up as the 70’s. Given who I am I think I probably fit more into the 60’s than the 70’s but maybe if I am honest I don’t fit in anywhere. I am writing today at a really low point with everything falling apart but I still have music. I remember how Don Maclean was just run into the ground so much so that I really don’t like the song American Pie anymore. It doesn’t irritate me as much as Blinded By the Light. I want to hurl when I hear that song. I guess what I am getting at is that I never really got into Bob Dylan at all. I really don’t remember him being played on the radio much, but again it’s Texas. I can really blow your mind by saying hey I don’t like the Eagles either. I think Glen Frey was one of the worst bandmates in the history of music. I don’t like them. You can’t make me.

See how gifted I am? In just a few short paragraphs I have managed to annoy or downright piss off everyone who loves Roger Waters, the Eagles, Glenn Frey especially and everyone who thinks Blinded by the Light is the greatest sing along song ever written. A few of Manfred Mann and Bruce Springsteen fans out there probably think I am directing some sort of ire on them. That doesn’t even include the Bob Dylan fans who believe he hung the moon. Oh yea Bob Dylan, remember Bob Dylan. This is a blog about Bob Dylan. I wish I had a camera just so I could see the faces of people who are making faces at me because they want to know when the heck I am going to get to the point. Hah well it’s pointless to expect me to have a point. If you are one of the 5.4 readers (yes the average is up a tick) then you know it’s pointless to expect me to have a point that anyone can follow.

Ah Bob Dylan. You see I never really listened to much Bob Dylan and I am pretty sure that if a Bob Dylan song came on the radio I would have switched the station. His songs were rambling and not very melodic and I was pretty sure as horrible a singer as I am that I could carry a tune a bit better. I found the songs played on the radio difficult to digest. Again music that is easy to digest is a target. It’s all well and good to have music that makes you think that serves some sort of purpose but ultimately people like to listen to music that is enjoyable. That’s a relative term enjoyable as it means different things to different people. For some that means there is nothing better than a cold Busch beer and some Warrant on the old cassette player and for some after a hard day they want Megadeth the louder the better. There are many who love Bob Dylan. I have a good friend who loves Bob Dylan and listens to him regularly.

But wait just a second there soldier, hold your horses. In the mid 80’s I was working with at risk youth and I was lucky enough to have a little leeway with what I presented to them. Now there were a lot of things going around about the evils of certain types of music. I attended a seminar so that I could hear exactly what they were saying. Oh it was brutal judgmental diving into satanic and evil album covers to lyrics and songs about suicide. All of this was having a deteriorating effect on youth or so these misguided people thought. Youth simply lacked the resources to deal with such messages. Hogwash! It was all a bunch of hogwash. Kids know because it’s their world. It’s why artists like Marilyn Manson come around. They know that most adults are going to be repelled by Manson’s images. I love Marilyn Manson. This is about Bob Dylan though and this thing I did with the kids I worked with. I guess you could call it like a school of rock except we didn’t play instruments. Mostly I wanted to do two things; one to give them a history of music across cultural lines and two I wanted to teach them to make their own judgments and decisions about music. No one should really tell you that you should not listen to certain types of music, certain albums and certain artists, except maybe Frank Zappa. No one should listen to Frank Zappa ever. Really no Zappa. That should be a rule or one of those law thingamajigs.

To do what I wanted though I recognized that I did not have near enough music, especially 60’s music and I covered everything from Motown to anti-war protest songs. Naturally this meant covering one of the most important figures of the period Bob Dylan. I was lucky to have two friends who helped me gather music by mailing me cassettes as neither lived locally and that music included a few artists that I lacked music for. This inspired me to obtain a little more and the first Bob Dylan album I bought was Highway 61 Revisited. I suppose if you have to start with one that’s a pretty darn good one. For a long time that is the only album I had by Mr. Dylan and then at a book store, you know one of those that suddenly offered nice comfy chairs to read, a coffee bar and even some select music I found Blood on the Tracks for a cheap price and bought it. So you can see I wasn’t out there buying every Bob Dylan album I could get. I liked a few songs but honestly he just wasn’t an artist that I understood very well. Now some of that can be explained away that he began his career in a decade where an artist found it difficult to talk openly about drugs, or even the war in their songs. Artists had to be a lot more careful about what they put in their songs, and so some songs can slip right past you with references that unless you lived the times would be really hard to catch unless you got a Bob Dylan book that explained all of his songs, but he didn’t and to a large extent still doesn’t pass that test of mine that music has to be, needs to be digestable. I will give you a good example, Bob Dylan wrote and recorded the song All Along the Watchtower. As far as Dylan goes, it’s a wonderful song one of my favorites up there with The Times They Are a Changing, Lay Lady Lay, Hurricane and Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. That’s about it for me when it comes to Bob Dylan songs I like. But Jimi Hendrix took All Along the Watchtower and did something magical to the song. It’s the same basic melody same words but man oh man is it ever a different song. Now you say, well geez morgon (I am more gone than a moron) that’s Jimi fricking Hendrix. Yeah but it’s also Bob fricking Dylan. Tell me that the Byrds didn’t make Mr. Tambourine Man better despite the fact it’s the same melody same words. Look there is just a reason why I think music has to be digestable. I know a lot of people who love Bob Dylan and I am not saying I don’t really like him really respect him. I do. I now have over a dozen albums from Bob Dylan almost all of them because they are on Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 500 albums. There exists music that I could listen to and do nothing, just listen sit on my back porch maybe smoke a cigar maybe drink a beer or just a good cup of coffee. It just isn’t Bob Dylan.

I was thrilled though when he was recognized for the poetry he writes, because ultimately lyrics are just poems by another name. I think to see him live in New York when he was becoming the voice of a generation would have been life changing. I do think he is that kind of performer. There is a Sopranos episode in the last season where AJ and his hot little girlfriend are making out and they are listening to Bob Dylan talking about what a genius Dylan is. It is just an off moment and every time I see it I think what 20 year old would choose to listen to Bob Dylan, old Bob Dylan at that and actually be able to relate to it especially a character who is more or less a moron. Maybe there would be a few but when I listen to Bob Dylan and I was born when he was really just starting to make a name for himself I simply don’t get it. But I can read those words and get a sense of the man, the man he was and the man he became and since you know I dabble a bit in poetry the really bad poet inside of me can certainly relate and believe in that.

Mike out

One thought on “The Music Blog: Bob Dylan

  1. I have never been a big Dylan fan. However, after watching Ken Burns’ “Country Music” series and learning about the endearing relationship he had with Johnny Cash, I’ve come to respect him more than I used to.

    Like

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