Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bob Dylan Song #16: Masters of War


Just in case anybody was actually wondering, I'm going to make it a point to stay as far away from any discussion of wars, past/present/future, in writing this post. I've never been the most educated human being when it comes to current events (although I try to be, intermittently), and attempting to formulate any opinions that go farther than "war is bad, kthxbai" will only serve to embarrass myself. And, quite frankly, if I'm going to embarrass myself, it's going to be strictly on my opinions on Bob Dylan. So, there.

Instead, let's think about movements in musical history. There is a tendency, when people look back on different eras of modern popular music, to shine a spotlight directly on the cream of the crop and quietly sweep the less interesting/good stuff under the carpet. Even a brilliantly conceived box set like Nuggets or No Thanks! or The Anthology of American Folk Music will tend to focus either on highlights or on lesser-known great songs from these diverse periods of music. You never hear about the crappy bands, the artists glomming onto what's hot to make a few bucks, the groups that get the sound right but don't get the inherent soul that makes a great recording great, the also-rans that help a movement slowly make its way to irrelevance and the great cultural scrap heap.

This makes sense, of course - why would anybody want to dwell on the shit? Take the British Invasion, for example; when you've got classics by The Beatles, The Kinks, the Rolling Stones, The Animals, and any number of great bands, why would you want to listen to some jerkoff who ripped off the chords to "She Loves You" and churned out a brutal piece of chiming-guitar pap? There is enough great punk music out there to avoid any number of idiots who thought three chords, a sneer, and lyrics about hating stuff was enough to put out a 45. There is plenty of forgotten great music out there - just ask DJ Shadow - but there is also a ton of forgotten terrible music out there, and good riddance to bad rubbish.

On the other hand, the ratio of terrible music to good music, like the ratio of just about everything you can think of, slants way towards the side of terrible music. In a sense, that's what musical movements really are: a few vanguard bands pushing things forward, a few good bands making good music, then you've got some one-hit wonders, some bands that don't really make good music but make a lot of money anyway...and then just lots and lots of utter crap. That's why musical movements tend to die; after a while, the dreck overwhelms the quality, and people find something else to start listening to.

The upshot of all this, then, is that you can see how the great bands manage to stay great throughout the years. Every great band, no matter who, are always both of their time and not of their time. Forgive me for making that sound stupidly simple, but I think the point is fair. A band like The Beatles has recorded a lot of songs that sound like the guitar pop of the early to mid 1960s, and then a lot of songs that you couldn't put a finger on, era-wise, if you didn't know The Beatles had recorded them (and yes, there are people that can't immediately recognize every Beatles song ever recorded, if you can believe it). Greatness, amongst other things, lies in being able to transcend time periods, if not outright genres.

This will probably look like an unfair analysis, but I think it's pertinent to the issue at hand. Take a look at "Masters of War" and another famous anti-war song, Country Joe & The Fish's "Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag". Both songs are ostensibly about why war sucks and is bad. Both songs were performed acoustically, and written in the 1960s. Both of them were inspired by major events of the times - "Masters of War" by Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex" speech, "Fixin' To Die Rag" by the Vietnam War. And both of them became very well-known protest songs of the period, practically talking points for the burgeoning anti-war youth movement.

So why is it that "Masters of War" is still considered a classic and "Fixin' To Die Rag" is consigned to the history bins? Look no further than the lyrics of the songs. "Fixin' To Die Rag" is very, very, very specifically about Vietnam. References are dropped about commies, the Cong, and "Vietnam" is said in just about every verse. Most of the lyrics could apply to other wars, sure, but it's pretty apparent which war is being talked about (if not outright being sledgehammered into your skull). "Fixin' To Die Rag" is a funny, goofy, and even thought-provoking tune - although the very definition of "preaching to the choir" - but basically has no real interest outside of being a period piece today. And that's probably just fine with Joe McDonald.

But what puts "Masters of War" on a different level is the fact that it's being written on a whole other level. First of all, it's not specifically an anti-war song, the same way most anti-war songs tend to be. If nothing else, it's a distant cousin to "My Generation" - a song that points the finger at the elderly, the people in power, that have forgotten what it meant to be young and idealistic, and only know how to destroy and kill and make money. It's not as pithy as "My Generation" is, or as visceral, but the general point is there. The song could've been "Masters of Smoking Tobacco" or "Masters of Pure-Grain Alcohol" and it would've had the same impact, because the sentiments would've stayed exactly the same.

And there is the lasting impact of "Masters of War", the reason its relevance has burned brightly for over 40 years, the reason so many artists have covered the song, and the reason why with every new war somebody (yes, including Bob) takes the song out for another whirl. Is the song against war? Yes, of course it is. Does it feel like it's as much a relic of its time as a "McGovern '72" button or Our Man Flint is? Not by a long shot. "Masters of War" will always be timely, always be pertinent, and always be malleable for whatever time it's in - provided, of course, as long as there are young people to hear its words and believe its message.

Final note: on the "No Direction Home" version of "Masters of War" (from the fabled 4/12/63 Town Hall show), Dylan uttered a quote that might, just might, have some relevance to our current times. Here it is:

I believe in the ten commandments, the first one: “I'm the Lord thy god,” it's a great commandment if it's not said by the wrong people.


It's interesting to note that Dylan, for whatever reason, felt the need to put a little speed into this song as the years went by. At first, he performed the song more or less as found on Freewheelin', which should be expected. Then, as he moved away from performing protest songs, he put "Masters of War" (a defining Dylan protest song if there ever was one) on the backburner for a while. And on the backburner it would stay, as inferior songs got airings on his tours (I mean, I like "Mozambique" and "Ballad of Hollis Brown" just fine, but they ain't "Masters of War"). Then, for the ill-fated 1984 "Real Live" tour, "Masters of War" suddenly makes a reappearance (ETA: it actually showed up in 1978 and 1981 - I'd totally forgotten about that, mainly because I usually prefer the 78 rehearsals over any of the actual 78 shows and the 1981 shows...well, I'm an idiot sometimes). And it's fast.

I wonder why Dylan wanted to electrify this song. Maybe it's not such a mystery; of his many acoustic songs, this was more well-suited for a full band treatment than most, and the fiery words deserved an equally fiery instrumentation. Then again, Dylan tended to rip off his versions of the song, especially the Interstate 88 "these go to 11" versions, at a quick tempo; the words could get a little lost in the rush. I guess, like most Dylan decisions, it was just his whim; Lord knows I'm not complaining. Just interesting, that's all.

And then, in 1994, Dylan goes acoustic again, in Hiroshima (of all places). The acoustic version, for whatever reason, seems to be a better fit; the tension is more contained, ready to leap out of the amps, as opposed to the electric versions firing off tension like shotgun shells. This time, you can hear every word, every nuance, every subtle expression of anger and frustration. His band, always made up of professionals, gives it a beautiful treatment as well, with expressive acoustic solos bridging the verses and a gently propulsive bassline moving everything along. I seriously doubt Dylan ever thinks about whether or not he should've used a band for his acoustic albums...but if he does, this is probably what he'd have wanted them to sound like.

So with that in mind, here's video of Bob Dylan and His Band performing "Masters of War" at Woodstock '94. The best part of his Woodstock performance, as shown in this video, is that he more or less performs the same set here as he would've in Wheeling, WV - and it rules. Enjoy!

Special thanks to Justin Shapiro for his help on this post.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bob Dylan Song #15: Girl of the North Country

Ed. note: As recently as 5 minutes ago, I was planning on combining this entry with the Nashville Skyline version, both because it's the same song (essentially) and because I have a great affection for that version and wanted to jump the gun and write about it. In the end, I decided against it; not only would it be cheating, but there's enough things to talk about for both this and the NS version that I could keep the entries separate. Also, the Freewheelin' version of this song deserves its own post. So there you go.


Those of you that have seen Citizen Kane will surely remember the "white parasol" speech delivered by Mr. Bernstein, Kane's business manager and greatest admirer, who is important enough to warrant interview but not important enough to be granted a last name. At any rate, Bernstein, in the course of talking to inquiring reporter Thompson, discusses just how powerful human memory is, and brings up a specific example from his own life. One day, many years previous, he was on a ferry about to disembark just as another ferry was pulling in, and he saw a woman on that ferry holding a white parasol. Quoting him, "I only saw her for one second. She didn't see me at all, but I'll bet a month hasn't gone by since that I haven't thought of that girl."

It's a very powerful moment, one often cited as a highlight of the movie. Roger Ebert has stated that it's his favorite scene, even though it has nothing to do with Kane. And I'm not going to disagree - rarely do you get to see a sentiment so universal and beautiful as that one condensed as well as Herman Mankiewicz did for that screenplay. It really doesn't have anything to do with the story proper, but that doesn't even matter.

Regret is an emotion that doesn't get the same billing as some of the bigger ones - love, hatred, anger, etc. And yet it's hard to disagree that regret plays a major part in our lives, and often drives us far more than we would ever admit. Think about parents pushing their kids into sports or God knows what hobbies, or about someone buying a used '72 Mustang because he wishes he'd spent more time with his dad in the garage, or somebody trapped in a loveless marriage and sleeping around in the hope of rediscovering the man that got away. To me, that's why the concept of the time machine holds such interest (other than the desire for wealth and fame); who wouldn't want to go back in time to fix their mistakes, to kiss that girl, to take that job in Italy, or simply to tell someone you know that you loved them?

People often talk about "moving on" and "not looking back", and they're right, of course - the only thing dwelling in the past does is to take away from the present. But the damn problem with the past is that it isn't something abstract, like the future, or continually in flux like the present. It's already happened. It's there forever, both for good and for bad, and will always remain as a reference point whenever you feel the need to think about it. Nobody's life is every really informed by what they might do in 20 years, but everybody's life is informed by who they were 5 years ago. How often can you really just leave something entirely behind, ridding yourself of any physical/emotional/mental evidence that that something ever entered your existence? Hardly ever. It's almost like being an addict - you can get only so far away, but you'll never truly be free, and you have to live with that until you die.

It is the very luckiest of us that can take our past, then, and create something out of it. Whether it's a book, a poem, a painting, a song, or even just a particularly emotion-fraught entry in a journal, the ability to face your experiences head on and bend them to your will is truly remarkable. And, if you're really lucky, that piece of work will become as beloved as the memory you're writing/singing/what have you about, if only because so many of us share those same emotions, the same hurt, and the same desire to go back and either do it different or exactly the same. We all want that woman in the white parasol, and who knows - maybe she likes Illmatic as much as I do.


Try to follow me on this. Let's say you've got a centuries-old English recipe for chicken noodle soup, passed through generation after generation, learned by only a select few and renowned as a classic, beloved recipe. You teach the recipe to some young kid in New York visiting London, along with a few other old recipes you've learned over the years; he then takes that chicken noodle soup recipe, keeps only the soup base part, and makes a brand new recipe for beef and potato soup, which he then releases to an adoring public. You then teach that soup recipe to another kid from America; he then takes that recipe, combines it with a recipe for dumplings, and releases this new recipe as his own, without crediting the original source. That would probably get your goat a little bit, wouldn't it?

It got Martin Carthy's goat, and I can't really blame him for it. He held a grudge against Paul Simon for three decades, based around "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" being released as an original Simon/Garfunkel composition, instead of a traditional, or even "trad arr. Simon/Garfunkel (at least Young Bob was smart enough to know that racket). For somebody like Carthy, who holds a very deep respect for traditional English music, that had to be a pretty ugly slap in the face. I'm not sure he holds the same grudge for "Girl of the North Country", but that probably didn't sit too well with him either. There's a lot to be said for upholding the past, and Carthy deserves a ton of credit for his stance.

Then isn't Carthy's song, now is it? You can defend something you didn't create as much as you want, but that doesn't change the fact that, at the end of the day, you didn't create it; somebody else did, and unless they're around to take credit for their own work (or, as the case may be, copyright it), that work is free to be used as someone wishes to use it. And it's not as though this is a melody that was written in 1962 and should be protected from that sort of blatant theft. "Scarborough Fair" was written centuries ago, derived from yet another traditional ballad (Scottish - damn those plundering English pigs!), and the melody has been around long enough that nobody's feelings ought to be really hurt if it's used in a different way.

The really amazing thing, to me anyway, is that the melody was actually written by somebody. Doesn't it sometimes astound you that certain melodies weren't just handed down by Moses, but were actually composed by somebody? Surely the Ramones didn't come up with "E-A-D" for half of their songs - somebody had to have thought of that progression long before, right? That's one of the coolest things about music, to me; great strides have been taken in this century, but there was a very long and established history of popular music before 1900, and there are still arrangements and chord progressions from that time being used today. And somebody, maybe sitting in a straw-roofed hut or in the fanciest English castle, had to write those melodies. It's a staggering thing to think about.


I'm probably not the only Dylan fan that hears the opening of the Freewheelin' version of "Girl of the North Country" and thinks, ever so briefly, of "Tomorrow is a Long Time", one of those great Dylan songs that nobody's really heard of, and a prime example of how often Dylan likes to leave classic songs off his albums, the jerk. The ringing guitar intro is basically picked the same way, made up of the same chords; hell, they were written about the same time, and Dylan just figured "Girl" was the better song to release. And it's not like Dylan doesn't do these sort of things - he'll take the chords of this song and attach them to a brand new one not much later. It's how he operates.

Dylan's future as a viable musician (not just a viable folk musician), brought into focus with "Blowin' In The Wind", is completely confirmed with this song; just two songs in, and it's already clear that this man is going to be around for a long time. After all, even though traditional "folk" songs often sang about love and lack thereof, the modern-day folk movement Dylan was spearheading was far more preoccupied with the issues of the day, with protest and trying to change the world. There are more than enough songs like that here (and that movement would consume Dylan on the next album, to its detriment), but there are still plenty of songs about emotions and about personal issues here, and thank God for that. Dylan is allowed to be a three-dimensional human on Freewheelin', not a moppet-haired mouthpiece for civil rights and Stopping The Bomb, and that kept him from being painted in a corner - or having to paint himself into one - down the line.

The Freewheelin' version is an instance where Bob's acoustic-only metier suits him quite well - who would want to hear this song electrified? There's a brief chuckle in the 3rd verse, but for the most part Dylan plays things low-key, quiet, and gentle - perfect for the lyrics, which speak of true love lost with the weary sigh of a man who knows he'll never see that woman again, and probably doesn't believe that the person he's speaking to will ever see her, either. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know immediately that Dylan's speaking from personal experience, both in the tired pleading of his vocal and in the words themselves, full of longing and hurt. His voice breaks on the very last word, only adding to the feeling that Dylan really does want you to travel up north, brave blizzards and winds, seek this woman out, and tell her "there's a man that still loves you". That final harmonica run, blown like a siren, is almost a cry of sorrow, heartache in musical form. It's a fitting end to a gorgeous, truly affecting song.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bob Dylan Song #14: Blowin' In The Wind


I wish I could exactly remember what it was my father told me once, but here's the general upshot: in a given lifetime, the absolute limit of information about the world we live in that a typical human can absorb is about 20%. That means that roughly 1/5 of everything one could learn about - basketball, skydiving, playing the harmonica, trigonometry, flying a jet - is the most we could ever learn. If you think about that, it both sounds like a lot, and not very much at all. On the one hand, given the vast amount of topics anybody could ever dream to know anything about, let alone specialize in, and given that we only use 10% of our powerful brains to begin with, it's impressive to imagine you could soak in that much. On the other, it is a sobering reminder of just how large, how imposing, and how staggering the universe we live in truly is. A lifetime of reading, experience, of just plain living, and the most we could ever learn is that much? My goodness.

Of course, it's near impossible to imagine that anybody could learn that much to begin with, and it's not hard to understand why: our frame of reference, in our lifetime, is almost pathetically small. Even the most jetsetting individual, in his lifetime, will only experience a fraction of the locations you could live in on this planet, from the biggest metropolis to a tent in the middle of the vastest jungle. On top of that, you will only experience that one area in the present tense, i.e. the moment that you're in right at that second. A person living in London today will never know what it was like to live there in 1966, let alone 1566. Also, your own personal path of life determines both what you'll experience and what you won't; a bachelor at age 55 and a father of 4 at the same age will have very divergent experiences and ways of looking at the world. Education, ever-shifting political and social landscapes, economic considerations; when you add everything up, you will have one very specific way of looking at the world. I'm never going to know what it's like to be a 35-year old Danish woman with two kids working in Beijing as a reporter on the 2008 Olympics. That's what our human experience is all about, and it's a painful notion indeed.

So, then, I will never be able to understand what it was like to live in a world before "Blowin' in the Wind", one of the most famous songs ever written, did not exist. No amount of books written, interviews conducted, or even films watched will convey to me that distant time, that point in American history when Bob Dylan was just a cat from Minnesota who made up stories and sang traditionals, before The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan changed everything. I'll never know what it felt like to not have "the answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind" as a reference point, to not have a song Douglas Adams used to create The Ultimate Question, to not have the iconic album cover Cameron Crowe would attempt to glom off of in cringe-worthy fashion for one of his lesser movies, and to not have a song so universal and brilliant that the late great Sam Cooke would draw inspiration from it to write a song that might be even better. That knowledge, that my meager frame of reference cannot encompass a world without this fantastic album and this world-renowned song, is both something that humbles me and something I am truly thankful for.


The quantum leap between the fresh-faced youngster of Bob Dylan and the, well, fresh-faced youngster of Freewheelin' is something rarely seen in music, and something only the best bands are capable of duplicating. The best example of this is the leap The Beatles made between With The Beatles, a fine pop-rock album, and A Hard Day's Night, one of the greatest pop-rock albums ever recorded. With The Beatles, even for a group as wildly successful as The Beatles were, was a backwards thinking album; I love their versions of "Money" and "Please Mr. Postman", but it seems strange to think that two covers (let alone six) would be taking up valuable real estate on the second album of a group so big in England that With The Beatles would sell 500,000 advance copies and sit atop the charts for 21 weeks. A Hard Day's Night, on the other hand, dispenses with covers entirely, and is a complete Lennon-McCartney collaboration. This was shocking as hell for the time - nobody put out an album of just their own songs - but seems entirely natural in retrospect, as surely both the group and their handlers realized that the only way success would become permanent would be to make that step, to shake off those old influences, and to firmly establish the band as their own songwriting unit. It worked, thankfully.

Dylan's album was expected to work the same way - after the flop of Bob Dylan, Tom Hammond wanted very badly to make the 2nd album a success, whatever it took. At first, it looked like it would be more of the same; the original sessions featured a number of traditionals and blues songs, as well as some originals (which, it needs to be said, were not up to the quality of the eventual released originals). Thankfully, there was no rush to put that 2nd album out, allowing Bob to work on some newer, better songs (as well as to work through a brief rockabilly phase that probably would've screwed everything up, no matter what you think of "Mixed-Up Confusion") and create the album that we have today. Bob had a full year to make things work, and he delivered the goods in spades.

Still, how does that explain how we got from "The Death of Emmitt Till" to "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"? Is there even a satisfactory answer to this question, or a way of ever knowing for sure? Was he truly a product of his times, of a decade that moved so fast that the America of December 31st, 1969 was completely unrecognizable from the America of January 1st, 1960? Was it the fact that he'd so completely synthesized traditional/folk/blues music (and figured out the best melodies to steal, wink wink) that he had morphed into an incredible conduit for folk music's finest qualities? Hell, was it just the pain of Suze Rotolo choosing Italy over him? There's a million culprits, and no smoking gun.

You listen to Freewheelin' and hear the work of a man who's realized the potential of his genre, who knows how to make his guitar walk and talk, who can write songs of emotional agony and intellectual fire, who understands that he's a great songwriter singing his own amazing songs and has all the confidence of somebody who's reached that understanding. It's incredible to hear, and I'm not going to lie and say it doesn't make me insanely jealous. To be that young and suddenly find yourself at the forefront of a major musical movement, on the basis of an album light years ahead of its peers, is something beyond my understanding; probably Bob's, as well. Sometimes you work hard and create something great, and sometimes you work hard and create something so amazing you have no choice but to ride the wave it creates. Freewheelin' created that wave for Bob, and he rode it as far as he could - or, at least, as far as he wanted to.


I'd mentioned how Sam Cooke had been inspired by "Blowin' In The Wind" to write "A Change Is Gonna Come", and how Cooke's anthem might even be better than the song that inspired its creation. I might not be alone in this notion; Cooke's song is almost crushingly beautiful, buoyed by an epic string and horn arrangement that nearly reaches Disney-bombastic levels, sung so incredibly well that any possible cover would simply shrivel up and blow away in its presence. And, if you'll forgive me pointing this out, "A Change Is Gonna Come" has the massive, society-defining weight of the civil rights movement behind it ("Blowin' In The Wind" does, too, but that's more tangential - it's almost impossible to think MLK et. al wasn't foremost on Cooke's mind when he wrote his song), which adds even more drama and gravity to an already dramatic tune.

What interests me, though, is the fact that as much as Cooke was influenced by "Blowin' In The Wind", "A Change Is Gonna Come" is more or less the ying to Dylan's song's yang. While both songs tackle weighty issues in a universal manner, they go about different ways of doing it. Dylan keeps his questions as non-specific as possible; Cooke draws from his own experiences (or, at least, experiences he'd be familiar with) to hook the listener in. Dylan uses only his trusty acoustic guitar and his voice, while Cooke has that powerful orchestration behind him. Dylan sings his song with the absolute minimum of emotion, while Cooke pushes his incredible voice as far as it will go. Finally, as previously mentioned, Dylan's song is more generically about the big questions we as humans face, while Cooke's reflects our own struggles and experiences through the prism of civil rights and hundreds of years of black struggles and experiences.

Of course, both songs share this in common - they're absolutely classic songs, ones that force us to think as well as to enjoy listening to them. I guess the comparison helps strengthen that old adage that "there's more than one way to skin a cat" - or, in this case, "there's more than one way to write a classic protest song". Dylan would cover Sam Cooke's song many, many years after "Blowin' In The Wind" came out, and (as much as I hate to say it) his version still cowered in the shadow of the original. But that Dylan would bother to perform the song at all, to acknowledge that one great song had given birth to another, speaks volumes.


What is most interesting about the Freewheelin' version of "Blowin' In The Wind" is just how innocuous it might seem, after 40-odd years of having the song make up part of our national consciousness. Dylan, for whatever reason, had ditched the vocal affectations of his debut, and sings in the Bob voice we all know and love, biting off his syllables and coming ever so close to talking his way through the song. His guitar is pitched very high, so that the notes chime out in counterpoint to Dylan's low half-mumble. And, as usual, there's a sense of casualness in the recording - why else would the album take feature Bob having a brainfart in the 3rd verse and needing a half second to remember the words? You add all those up, and it doesn't really sound like the formula for one of the defining songs of the folk movement, does it?

You can see where I'm going with this, I'm sure - it's the lyrics that makes the song what it is. You could play the song in a different key, with only 3 chords, on piano, with a ukelele, a-capella, or like this, and as long as you get all the words right, the song is going to retain power and the ability to spark the imagination. What's great about the lyrics is that Dylan doesn't feel the need to answer his own profound questions, merely giving us that even more thought-provoking answer; trying to answer the questions would probably ruin the effect anyway (and he was only 22 at the time - how much could he know about ANYTHING?). By putting the onus of thought on the listener, he looks all the smarter - maybe he really knows the truth, but just isn't telling us. That's far more brilliant than a popular song is supposed to be, isn't it?

PS: Mr. Stan Denski, a writer with far more credentials than I could ever dream of having, was nice enough to compliment my work and sent me a link to his own blog where he dedicates an entire post to Freewheelin'. It's a very thoughtful, well-written post, and I'm sure he won't mind me putting the link here for wider consumption. Go read it here:'

PPS: As an audio bonus, I was originally going to put up a version of "Blowin' In The Wind" from 1974 (a version I've seen described as "Overblown' in the Wind" - clever!). However, since 1974 is still a ways off and that tour is so divisive with Dylan fans to begin with, I instead offer Dylan's performance of "A Change Is Gonna Come", from the Apollo Theater's 70th Anniversary concert. Enjoy!
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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Every Bob Dylan Song - the (re)introduction

Hello. Again.

My name is Tony Ling, and this is my blog, Every Bob Dylan Song. Thanks for reading it!

This blog is dedicated to looking at the creative work of Mr. Bob Dylan, song by song. It's projected finishing date is sometime around 2021. Hope you'll stick around for that!

So why a blog about covering the career of an artist who's released dozens of albums and hundreds of songs, and that's before you even get to his archived and live material? That's a good question. And I think I have some good answers.

First off, I enjoy writing, and don't do it nearly enough. Like any muscle in your body, I feel like your writing ability needs constant exercise, and this is a way to work it out as much as possible. And if I can't write about my favorite artist, who or what can I write about?

Secondly, as I'd just mentioned, Bob Dylan is my favorite artist of all time, in any medium. I listen to his music every day, have read books about him, seen movies about him, and have seen him live in concert. And I realize that I am far from the first person to attempt to pay tribute to him in some way, but this is really the only way I can think of how to do that. And maybe, in some miniscule way, I can contribute to the legend that is Bob Dylan; I'm certainly contributing to the libraries worth of commentary and analysis and what have you about the man and his music.

It's not that writing about him is THAT hard, if I'm going to be honest. Look, there are certain bands and musicians for whom the music is only part of the appeal, just like there are certain bands and musicians for whom the music is the ONLY part of the appeal, completely self-contained. This is obviously just opinion, but look at a band like Coldplay. What do you think of when you think of Coldplay? Sure, you might think of the fact that they sound a lot like Radiohead (a meme that's reached the point where Chris Martin has to publicly state that Radiohead "gave them (their) career", which might not be true but had to be said just to get vultures like me off their backs), or that Martin might be the luckiest man alive for who he gets to wake up with every morning. But the music, to me, has no appeal outside of the fact that it's music, occasionally well-performed and well-written, but just music. It doesn't find any higher planes of existence - and, for the record, doesn't have to. But a Coldplay song is, in the end, just a song. Nothing more.

Now, of course, it's entirely unfair to compare most any musician/band to Bob Dylan and the body of work he's created. But let's think about this for a second. Depending on when you think rock and roll (i.e., modern music) started, either 1951 with "Rocket 88" or 1955 with Chuck Berry and Bill Haley, it's only been in existence for five-plus decades. Dylan has been alive for that entire span, and an active musician for maybe a decade less. Imagine that! Imagine having your recording career span folk music, 60s pop, 70s rock, 80s, er, whatever it is, 90s music, and the 2000s. Imagine a man as intelligent as Dylan, as capable of writing about damn near anything as Dylan, and think about how many topics he could cover, how many walks of life he could go through, how many pieces of our existence on this planet he can collect and synthesize into his own music. Dylan wrote about himself, and he wrote about us. That tends to make things easier to write about.

As a final note, I'm just going to say that this is NOT going to be an outright analytical blog, nor will it be biographical. If you want to read a great biography about Dylan (as well as a level of curmudgeon-ism that defies belief), Clinton Heylin's will do just fine. If you want to get really in-depth on the songs and how they were recorded, Paul Williams is your man. I'll go to websites and do some research to make sure I'm not printing something egregiously wrong (and even then...), but for the most part, I'm doing this from the gut, the same way I play poker. I'm a mediocre poker player, but that's not the point. This blog might get personal at times, and if that bothers you, I understand completely. But that's the way Dylan has affected me. He is as intrinsically a part of my life as baseball, The Simpsons, and Hunter S. Thompson's books are. I cannot imagine my life without him, and it's difficult to remember what life was like before I'd heard of him. My blog will be written, and should be read, with that in mind.

All right, pep talk over. That's all from me for now. Thanks to everyone that reads this blog, thanks to Expecting Rain for linking me (I've read the site since college, and it's truly amazing), and thanks, of course, to our man Bob, for everything.

PS: The hardest thing in life is to read about something you have no interest in; Lord knows that if I'm forced to read about quantum physics or changing spark plugs my eyes cross and I lose my sense of time. With that in mind, if anybody reads this blog once and decides it's not for them, I will not have a problem with that. Read more!

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bob Dylan Song #13: See That My Grave Is Kept Clean

So here we are, the end of the line, the final song of Bob Dylan's debut album, and it's this classic blues song by Blind Lemon Jefferson. I'd mentioned in the last post that I really thought "Song for Woody" should have closed things out, and I think that if Dylan was a little more established it would have (although, come to think of it, if Dylan was more established, he wouldn't have recorded an album of mostly covers to begin with). However, since Dylan wasn't that established and didn't have that kind of pull, a song like this would have to do. I'm okay with the decision.

I'm not exactly what you'd call a theologian by any stretch of the imagination, but I don't think that there's any mystery as to why a) people in abject poverty, like most bluesmen, would write songs dedicated to death and the everlasting beyond, and b) why people in abject poverty often turn to Christianity as inspiration for their lives. After all, Christianity made its mark in its earliest days by appealing to the poor, illiterate, toiling masses through its promise of everlasting salvation and a kingdom of Heaven that awaits those that pray real hard and stay on the straight and narrow. Most pagan religions tended to ask worshippers to live their lives as fully as possible, to reap the benefits of earthly life, and that a good life lived is the real reward. I'm not saying Christianity doesn't, either, but they're more about the carrot at the end of the stick. And, when you haven't got much in your earthly life, that carrot looks pretty good, doesn't it?

Without getting too deep here, there's always been a thread running throughout human existence of attempting to understand the prospect of death and what comes after, trying to unravel that ultimate mystery. There's no real answer you can get, of course, but that doesn't stop people from thinking, occasionally obsessing on it. If nothing else, it's something that binds all of us - maybe the one thing we all, no matter the race or creed, have in common. That's a hell of a downer, but it feels true enough. And bluesmen, who tended to keep things simple in their songs (you're not going to find Thom Yorke's fractured lyrical style in, say, "Cross Road Blues"), could find plenty to mine in that subject, if only because it's one that will never go out of style. Synthesizers sound dated as all hell, most of the 1960s folk movement sounds hopelessly naive and over-optimistic, but people will never stop getting chills when they hear a song like "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean".

Young Bob, apparently knowing that this one's going to be the closer, puts his all into singing the song (with only his acoustic as accompaniment, that's all he could really do anyway), and there are moments where it's hard not to feel your heartstrings tug, just a tad, at how much he pushes himself here. His voice, already raspy to begin with, is as coarse and strained as it ever is on the album. And the last verse, in particular, features Dylan pushing every last vocal cord - you can hear his voice waver and shake in the first lines of that verse, as though he's one false move away from completely losing it and having a breakdown. It suits the mood, as you'd expect, but it's also entirely moving that somebody so young would go to such lengths to sell himself that way. It's enough to make you wish more people had bought the album, if only to reward that kind of exertion, to say to Bob "we get it, and we appreciate the effort".

So that's that - Dylan's debut in the books, and it only took me 2 months to knock this baby out. The next post will be a reaffirmation of the blog's mission statement, since I'm going to actually be advertising its existence and try to write for more than 5 people, and then comes The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. I, for one, cannot wait. Read more!

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bob Dylan Song #12: Song To Woody


When I'd written about how artists often end up as a mishmash of the styles of their heroes, I should've made another, equally salient point: more often than not, our own personal way of life is modeled on those of our heroes. Whether it's your mother and father, your eighth-grade algebra teacher, Superman, John F. Kennedy, or somebody you had a conversation with on the subway 5 years ago, it is inevitable (and perfectly understandable) to absorb some of their traits through osmosis and adopt them as your own. Take me, for example; my natural walk has a slight strut to it I got from my brother (which is funny, because anybody that knows me knows I'm not the strutting type), I like to throw in phrases I've heard from TV and the radio during everyday conversation, and I play around with my cousins the same way my mother and aunts played with me when I was 3 years old. Of course, my natural personality always comes to the forefront, but all the extraneous traits help magnify and amplify it; sort of like icing on a cake.

So, with the knowledge that you've adopted some of the characteristics of your heroes, how to properly pay tribute to them? With your parents, it's easy; with other people, not as much. Plenty of famous people express their admiration and admission of debt in various ways - essays, novels, movies, and songs. David Bowie and Cat Power have even written songs about our man in question. There's no real reason to do this, of course; with the knowledge that everybody owes some small debt to someone, in the end you're answering only to yourself and not to anybody else. But that's the way many of us work: we take, so we must giveth back. It only seems right, doesn't it?

The question, then, is why Dylan would choose to give back to one man and one man alone, especially when it's already been established that other people helped Young Bob shape his musical style. Is it just because of the name recognition? Would Young Bob really have been shrewd enough to understand that "Song for Van Ronk" wouldn't have the same charge amongst the folk community, or command the same respect and awe? Maybe Bob just felt Woody deeper in his bones, knew that he'd taken more from him, not just musically but in attitude, in the way that Woody knew what music meant, how it could affect people, how it could change the world, even just a little bit. Either way, that's the song we've got, and we have it forever - Dylan's ode to his hero of heroes, the man whose shadow fell over everything he did.


In Eric Weisbard's fantastic 33 1/3 series book on Guns N' Roses' Use Your Illusion I & II, he discusses how Soundscan changed the face of the music industry by pinpointing the exact number of albums sold through bar codes. At one point, he slips in a very interesting remark - the old way of compiling album sales numbers was to poll record store clerks and managers and have them try to remember how many albums were sold. I mean, think about that! Imagine figuring box office grosses by having ushers guess how many people went to go see Iron Man, or polling ticket takers to see the total attendance for an Orioles/Red Sox game. That would be insane. Yet, for many years, album and single sales were compiled that very way.

I bring this up to underscore just how different things used to be. I'm not old, by any stretch of the imagination, so I'm not prone to any "in my day" fogeyism; honestly, I find it really educational to think about what it must have been like for a musician way back in the day. Imagine not having Myspace or Facebook to draw fans, or being able to kit out a van and tour your ass off to build a following, or having the might of Capitol Records backing up your debut, or being able to pass around mp3s of your demo in the hopes that somebody with influence might think you sound like the next U2. Then go back even farther, and imagine what it was like before The Beatles changed everything, before Chuck Berry changed everything, before rock and roll was a commercial commodity, before musicians could actually book venues to perform shows, before there was such a thing as Billboard, before AM and FM radio existed in the ways they do now, or even then.

That, right there, is the world where Woody Guthrie became a star. It's insane to think about how big, popular, and influential he became, in an era where a staggeringly small number of musicians could become big, popular, and influential. He couldn't burn "Grand Coulee Dam" onto CD to be passed around - he recorded with Moe Asch and tapes were painstakingly duplicated, pressed to vinyl, and slowly passed from person to person like the Holy Grail. "This Land Is Your Land" never got him on "Top of the Pops" or spins on Hot 99.5 - the song ended up getting exposure many years later through sheet music form. Woody never sold out Madison Square Garden or made an appearance on VH1 - he canvassed the country, played on the radio when he could, and wrote for a Communist newspaper to spread his name. And he didn't have an e-mail address or a publicist where he could be reached - when a young goofus from Minnesota wanted to find him, he had to hitchhike his way to the Brooklyn hospital where his hero lay, slowly wasting away.

Woody Guthrie never went platinum, never brought intensity in ten cities, and never had to deal with paparrazzi. He did the best he could, with what the world had to offer him, and in the end he became as beloved an icon as any genre of music has ever produced. He had it harder than any of us ever will, and in the end he almost made it look easy.


Sidebar - I'm guessing most of you have seen No Direction Home (Martin Scorcese's comprehensive and brilliant documentary on Dylan up to the motorcycle crash), and a number of you have heard the accompanying soundtrack/Bootleg Series entry. It's pretty remarkable - a collection of outtakes, live performances, stuff even Dylanologists have never heard, all in fantastic audio quality, and much of it essential. However, the compilers managed to throw in two previously released tracks - the infamous "Judas!" performance of "Like A Rolling Stone", and "Song to Woody".

In a symbolic way (at least, as half-assedly thought up by me), this makes perfect sense. "Song to Woody", in so many ways, is an embracing of the folk lifestyle, in its out-and-out hero worship and pining for the singing hobo lifestyle Guthrie so embodied. The Manchester performance of "Like A Rolling Stone", on the other hand, is the ultimate repudiation of the folk lifestyle - Dylan clearly stoned, blasting a song that was played on Top 40 radio, his gang of hoodlums letting loose behind him, amplifiers assaulting the crowd. And he's not even singing about the issues of the day!

The released soundtrack could've done without both songs - surely there were other outtakes that could've made it there, like "Long Distance Operator" from Berkeley, or one of the songs from the legendary Bob Dylan in Concert, that were left out from those two spots. But leaving those songs in gives the soundtrack continuity, even beyond its chronological order, and helps it tell a story as well as the documentary does. Nice how that worked out.


Don't worry, I was getting to the song at some point. Some people might complain about how Dylan ripped off one of Guthrie's tunes for his tribute, but I think that makes sense - not only is it a strong melody, but Dylan probably wanted every possible bit of mojo he could squeeze out of his idol. In a way, it sets up the unabashed hero worship of the lyrics, while sort of subtly setting up the listener to remember the person singing the song, not just the person it's being sung about. After all, this is the other original on the album, by far the superior one, and probably what Tom Hammond figured was the real showcase for this debut. It damn well BETTER be good, right?

It is, of course. Dylan's performance reverberates with respect and deference, walking a fine line between nervousness at setting his tribute onto tape and confidence that this song is worth it. The lyrics are evocative in the way "Talking New York" isn't - he invokes Guthrie's musical tropes, legendary bluesmen, and even mentions that his fears for a world that "looks like it's dying and it's hardly been born" match the master's. But he also takes pains to note that he's traveling down well-worn roads, standing on the shoulders of giants, and that he still has a lot left to learn. There's something kind of sweet about the sentiment, actually. even if it's not entirely certain how much of it is genuine.

I'm still surprised this wasn't the album closer. It should have been, honestly - this whole album, full of traditionals and blues songs and spirituals and such, would never have existed without Guthrie, and it's hard to argue that everything shouldn't have built to the final word, the last thoughts on Woody Guthrie and the legacy Dylan was attempting to harness for himself. At the very least, it would've felt better from a karmic standpoint. Ah, well.
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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bob Dylan Song #11: Freight Train Blues

"Trad arr. Dylan" again, eh? Well, whatever; the song's been around since 1935 and been covered by everyone from Hank Williams to (gasp!) Ramblin' Jack Elliott, so I suppose nobody would really mind. Of course, with four chords to work from, the arranging must've taken all of five seconds. "You want that in the key of E, Bob? Okay, good. Roll it!"

The concept of using trains as a metaphor for damn near anything has a long and fruitful history - I'm probably not the only one that thinks of Johnny Cash singing about watching rich folks eating in their fancy dining car. Before leaving on a jet plane or driving away or, I dunno, teleporting away from your sweetheart 100 years from now, there was no better way to say "baby, I gotta move on" than tossing some malarkey about trains out there. I myself happen to love trains and riding on them, so my memories of them are more tied up on a relaxing ride to New York than, say, jumping in an open car and riding the rails. But hey, I've seen Sullivan's Travels, so there you go.

The best I can say about this song is that Dylan seems to be having a whale of a time - he uses the words "blues" and "shoes" to draw out a high note a la Hank Williams on "Lovesick Blues", and at one point he holds the note for exactly 14 seconds, letting out a little chuckle at the end like "can you believe they're PAYING me to do this?" I'm guessing he chose this one so he could have a little fun and goof around, and it's nice to have that here. All the same, it feels like a throwaway, more of a setup to the song that comes next, and I'm afraid to say that this blog post will serve the same purpose. Fear not, though - next week, there's gonna be some real meat to sink our collective teeth into. Read more!

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Bob Dylan Song #10: House of the Rising Sun


What is it that makes a good cover? Most of us can probably figure out quite easily what makes a good cover from an awful one, but it's not always a cut-and-dry process; more often, there's something more ephemeral going on, something you can't really put your finger on. Take, for instance, Hendrix's beloved version of "All Along The Watchtower", and, say, Orgy's affront to nature that is their cover of "Blue Monday" (and, thankfully, the last we've seen of Orgy). Both of them were big hit singles, and yet one of them is a stone-cold classic and the other one is a dated relic from the late 90's that hardly anybody thinks of today. Admittedly, it might seem unfair to compare an amazing showcase for possibly the best guitar player to ever live with a one-off from an alternative also-ran; nevertheless, the comparison is educational. Hendrix's version manages to be distinctive right off the bat, propelled by the sheer energy of all the players, those famous chords serving as bedrock for solo after solo. It sounds like an original, and you could be forgiven for thinking Hendrix wrote the song himself. Orgy's version, on the other hand, is limp, way too dependent on the original, and sounds a lot like the derivative alt-rock nonsense that helped kill alternative music radio. Not only does it have way too much to do with the original, but it does very little to kill the memory of New Order's version.

So does it really just come down to talent? I wouldn't think so - plenty of crappy bands with nothing else on their resume have recorded great covers. In fact, another New Order song has made for a fantastic cover version - Australian pop also-ran Frente's version of "Bizarre Love Triangle". And in this version is a hint to what makes a truly great cover. Performed acoustically, the guitars actually suggest the synthesizer lines of the original, while the vocals make the song sound sweeter and, oddly, more joyful than the original. It brings to mind New Order's version, but doesn't lean on it for that famous-song rub.
Leaving aside the obvious notion of how subjective musical tastes are, it seems obvious that the best, most enduring covers manage to walk a fine line between paying homage to the original and keeping it at arm's length. In that sense, the original should serve as a blueprint for an old house that's being spruced up for resale; the foundation's there, but the walls need repainting and the carpet has to be cleaned. Hendrix's version is fully informed by the John Wesley Harding original, but Hendrix's remarkable arrangement turns it into something far more incredible than could ever be expected.


I covered a lot of what I wanted to talk about with "House of the Rising Sun" in the "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down" post, but let's get this out of the way: the Dylan Chords page for this song notes that the arrangement - along with some records - was "borrowed" by Dylan from Dave Van Ronk, one of Dylan's folk heroes in the early Greenwich Village days. Van Ronk has also stated that Dylan beat him to the punch with the Bob Dylan version before he could record his own, which probably caused a hurt feeling or two. And, remarkably, this version was NOT the basis for The Animals' chart-topping version in 1964 (although people would later say that Dylan ripped off the Animals' version, forgetting the two-year gap; such is perception when one version is far more successful than any other). Obviously, Dylan was in the wrong here - far from the more abstract borrowing from Ramblin' Jack, to steal an arrangement from a man you consider a mentor and stick it on your own album is simply not cool.

Then again, Dylan must have known something, because his version is decidedly dramatic and, after some consideration, my choice for the best song on the album. Beginning with those familiar chords (strummed here, unlike the circling guitar notes of the Animals' intro), Dylan keeps everything as low-key as he can. He drops most of the vocal affectations he uses throughout the album, making this sound closer to something on The Times They Are A-Changin', and this suits the song very well; he infuses the already-dramatic lyrics with an additional tension that builds as the female narrator's tale reaches its climax and she heads back to New Orleans to die of whatever venereal disease that she contracted as a woman of ill repute. Even when he does push his voice, it works, because that just rachets up the tension even more. Somehow, Dylan manages to be convincing as a woman prostitute, which is something he should be very, very proud of.
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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Bob Dylan Song #9: Baby, Let Me Follow You Down


A few months ago, one of my favorite radio personalities, Don Geronimo, retired after nearly three decades of being on the air, both as a DJ and as a more talk-oriented personality. On top of the many, many hours of entertainment he gave me in my afternoons, he mentioned something that I've thought a lot of since, even though it seems entirely obvious. He once said that any great radio personality, rather than choosing a persona for his broadcasts from a stock list of traits, instead crafted his own persona as a mishmash of his influences and heroes, eventually forming something that could be viewed as at least somewhat original and (hopefully) worth listening to. As long as you didn't outright steal your idol's entire act, but cherry-picked the parts of his act that worked for you, you were paying homage more than committing an act of theft.

This makes sense, of course - very few people arrive with a fully formed personality in any particular walk of life - and yet it does raise a few thorny issues, the least of which is how to properly pay tribute to said heroes once your career has taken off and you've reaped the rewards of your own fame. A mere mention of thanks might satisfy some people, but that sort of seems like a cheap reward for having crafted your own career, carved out your own niche, and then had some unknown person leap into the fray, having absorbed some of what it was that gave you your career, and become famous themselves as a result. It's hard to say what can be done for you, but it does seem like you're owed something, right? And if your career has taken a bad turn and you're all but relegated to the dustbin of history, then you damn well better get something, right?

I haven't seen The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and I'm only going on what I've heard and read about the movie, but I would think that Elliott probably has a thing or two to say about this very issue. After all, the documentary states, it was Elliott that taught Dylan all about Woody Guthrie (having been his longtime traveling companion) and helped him mold his folk style into something closer to the master's. Then, once Dylan had become a superstar, he cast Elliott aside and left him to a life of relative obscurity and poverty, not making his debt to Elliott known for many years. All that fame, all those albums sold and shows attended, and it never would've happened if Elliott hadn't shown Dylan a thing or two about finger picking.

This does seem to be overstating things, and I'm sure even Elliott wouldn't go as far as to say that Bob Dylan never would have existed without him. Even so, it does make you wonder why Dylan wouldn't have even so much as thrown Jack a bone while his star was on the rise and Elliott's was on the, well, whatever it was. Maybe there was something between them that only they could ever know about. Maybe Dylan's just a huge asshole (there are probably a few people that would back up that statement). Either way, it does seem rather shabby for Dylan to treat Elliott that way, and it kind of puts a damper on things. Not a total damper, but a damper nonetheless.

Of course, Dylan fan I am, there has to be an "on the other hand", and here's the best I can come up with. Elliott, by his own ambition, never had the ambition and drive that Dylan did to make it to the top and become a star. He obviously saw something in Dylan (as Woody Guthrie had), at least enough to satiate Dylan's constant hunger for all things Woody in the early days. And, as has been noted many times, that secondhand schooling in Guthrie's style paid dividends, as Dylan managed to get his foot in the door of folk music and slowly morphed into the phenomenon of the 60s. So, in that sense, Dylan HAS paid proper tribute to Elliott. Without him, the Bob Dylan that we know today would exist in a very, very different form, and quite possibly not the legendary form he exists in right now. Again, that's not to say that Dylan wouldn't have made it big without Jack, or made it at all, but Jack had his role in Dylan's rise, the same way Tom Hammond did, the same way Suze Rotolo did, and the same way Joan Baez did. Elliott had a fantastic career, helped shape a giant in the world of American music, and deserves all the praise in the world for both.


Speaking of influences, we have the one moment on Dylan's debut album when he takes a second to give a shout out, and it happens on "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down", the one song on Bob Dylan that Bob thought enough of to anthologize on Biograph, his exceptional 1985 retrospective. Over a fingerpicked intro (see? Elliott's fingerprints already at hand!), Dylan mentions that folk singer Eric Von Schmidt taught him this song while the two were hanging out, either in New York or Cambridge, MA. He doesn't mention that yet another influential folkie, Dave Van Ronk, also had a hand in arranging the song; Van Ronk's influence on Dylan, while not as properly documented as Elliott's, was also considerable, and you'd think that Dylan would've had something to say about that at some point. I'm sure he has, actually; just wanted to get you all more fired up about what a dick Bob is.

The version on Dylan's debut is sparse and lovely, entirely finger picked, to match the stripped-down romantic sentiments of the verses. He only sings three verses, two of which are the same (the song's about 2:30 long), and the language is so basic, it's amazing to think that somebody actually wrote them in the first place. That doesn't take away from how good the song is; it's just honestly surprising that there are so few lines. The melody carries a lot of the song, actually - it's a really sweet melody, too, sort of bouncing from note to note with the sprightly energy of any good finger picked tune. It feels like a throwaway, but it's definitely one of Bob Dylan's main selling points, mainly because Dylan isn't trying so hard to impress his invisible audience, something even other highlights on the album occasionally do. Here, Bob knows the song needs a light touch, and he supplies it expertly.


I suppose the regard Dylan holds the song in is best illustrated by the fact that he included it in the electric portion of his infamous 1966 world tour (and, actually, in the 1965 electric shows as well), a strange inclusion given any number of original electric tunes he could've pulled out. The 1966 version, probably because the song isn't as striking as the others included in the setlist, kind of gets lost in the shuffle; a quick respite before Bob lets loose with "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues". However, that's not to say that Dylan doesn't pay the song some heed - starting with a blaring harmonica intro, the band blasts its way through the song, carried by Mickey Jones' thumping, rapid-fire drumming and Robbie Robertson's economical guitar fills. Dylan adds his own lyrics, sharper and more Dylan-like than the original, possibly to flesh the tune out, but just as possibly to make the song more his own (you know, outside the fact that he turned it into a powerful rocker). As galling as the whole electric business must've been to the outraged folkies in the audience, it must've been even more horrible to hear Dylan take a well-known traditional, one he performed on his debut album, for Pete's sake, and turn it into a wild melange of swirling organ, biting guitars, and Dylan's drugged-out sneer. And the worst part, of course, is that it sounds great.
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