The reason, my friend…

August 4, 2008 at 1:08 am 1 comment

I said I’d do this post one day, and dammit now is the time. I’ve got nothing better to do, and I feel like talking to someone about why I love Bob Dylan with all of my heart (without being interrupted), and there’s nobody here but you and me, Internet.

I figure that Dylan is one of those characters, like Che Guevara or Hunter Thompson, who just seems to have had hipness thrust upon them. I guess Dylan is probably open to a little more scrutiny than the other two, since he was a little more ambivalent towards rebellion, and he’s been such a public figure for so long (Thompson and Guevara had, as far as public notoriety goes, nasty/brutish/short spans that were marked by feverish bouts of rebellious, controversial attitudes, and as such, their hipness is unassailable. Though the same can’t be said for their legacies or their characters). Dylan has been with us longer – he’s still current, and not a relic.

I don’t particularly appreciate Bob Dylan for his career as an activist, although I know that what little activism he engaged in means a great deal to many college-aged kids and that’s cool. I really dig his music, both early and late. His earlier stuff can be divided up in a bunch of sub-categories as well, the two primary ones being his acoustic, folk-inspired period, and his electric stuff (“Maggie’s Farm” performed at the Newport Folk Festival).

Anyway, I like selections from all of them. I’ve never been a huge fan of “Blowing in the Wind”, but “Just LIke Tom Thumb’s Blues”, “Visions of Johanna” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” all rank right near the top of a list of favorite songs. I said in my last post that I find it tough to relate to lyrics, but Dylan has the delivery and the poetic chops to write songs that I can connect with.

That is, I can CONNECT with them, not necessarily identify with them. To be honest, I couldn’t say for certain what “Visions of Johanna” is about. My best guess is that, on the most literal level, it’s about a guy whose girlfriend has just left him, possibly for another woman, and the resulting paranoia and insecurity that rises from that. I can’t identify with him (well, not EXACTLY), but what I can connect with is that insecurity.

But the funny thing is, the lyrics are about 80% NONSENSE. The harmonicas play / the skeleton keys in the rain. Huh. I hate preaching about how awesome Bob Dylan is without being able to explain his songs, but that’s the position in which I often find myself. Other times I know exactly what the guy is saying, largely because of the way he’s singing. He’s not a great singer, but you can listen to him sing

Louise, she’s all right, she’s just near
She’s delicate and seems like the mirror
But she just makes it all too concise and too clear
That Johanna’s not here
The ghost of ‘lectricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place

He sings Johanna’s not herrree… with just the right amount of hesitation – he’s putting on a play and singing a song all at the same time. Dylan can make his songs rise out of themselves to become incredible theatre.

His later stuff, while varied, is often just as good. the album Blood on the Tracks (from which my last clip, “You’re Going to Make Me Lonesome When You Go” was taken from that album) and Time Out Of Mind from 1998 are both spectacular. Actually, I’m not sure Blood is considered his later stuff…maybe mid-career? Anyway, Time Out Of Mind might be something to look into if you want to know what all the fuss is about. His voice has changed, his sound is darker, and the tune is probably a little closer to what the kids are listening to know. It’s a classic rock kind of thing, grunge-Dylan. The guitars are soaked in reverb and the drums are brittle. It’s a good tone.

Fuck. I think I’ve missed being able to explain myself here. The guy just writes sweet songs. I like the way he sings them. I’m not going to bother rechecking this post, because I’m distracted tonight, and pretty tired. Let’s get together with drinks before the year is out, and I’ll thump the table a little bit and explain just how awesome he is.

**Addendum**

Okay, I was just listening to a little more from one of his bootleg albums. The thing that I forgot to mention is actually one of the best features of his tunes; the musical DYNAMISM of his finger-picking and chord changes. The earlier sophistication of his acoustic sets probably should have predicted his eventual shift towards electric, and his electric songs are pretty badass in their own right – it seems to me he was always something of a rocker. Have a listen to “Song to Woody” or “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue“. They jump despite their sombre subject matter. They feel heavy but mobile at the same time. Crazy.

Crazy.

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Ten Minutes Just the ‘Fax

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. cait  |  August 4, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    “folk-inspired”

    Reply

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About Upper Lip

It's mostly a collection of sweet links and copious amounts of talk talk talk. I like it more and more every day. And yes, even the ugly blue/green color scheme is not without a certain charm.

Yours Truly

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