Thursday, October 16, 2008

My "Relationship" With Bob Dylan

In 2004, my parents went to see Bob Dylan at the Campinelli Stadium in Brockton, Massachusetts. They continually asked me if I wanted to go and I had told them that I would rather not. You see, that summer, Dylan toured the Northeast with Willie Nelson, and I am no Willie Nelson fan.
That was a rather silly reason for a fourteen year old kid not to see Bob Dylan. At the time, I could hardly have been called a Bob Dylan nut. Only three Dylan discs were in my grasp, The Essential Bob Dylan, Greatest Hits, Vol. 3 and Time Out Of Mind. In the Boston metropolitan area, so-called “Oldies” stations kept “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and “Hurricane” in regular rotation, so it was hard to escape the ramblings of an old rocker. In 2004, I was the biggest Beatle nutcase at my high school, where I was just about to enter my sophomore year. The only thing I had ever listened to on the way to school was a Beatle/Solo Beatle CD. That was the extent of my musical education.
So, how the hell did I get to like Dylan so much that I felt that I needed every single album? This, again, goes back to 2004. (In this story, the summer of 2004 is like November 5th, 1955.) With Bob Dylan in town, all the music stores had all the Dylan albums on sale. My family and I wanted whatever album had “Blowin’ In The Wind” on it. I was convinced it was on his first album, which I, convinced that I am forever right, believed was The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Of course, I later learned I was wrong. That was his second album. Anyway, I heard it and to me, a person who grew up on just one album over a half-an-hour (that’d be The White Album) it went on forever. Here was this guy, rambling for six minutes about a hard rain falling, a weird dream about World War III and making love to Elizabeth Taylor. To my surprise, I found out that it lasted just barely fifty minutes and really, that’s all it took to blow my mind.
Now, four years later…and with a lot less money, I am stuck with all twenty – nine of Mr. Dylan’s original studio albums. I’m still missing the majority of the Bootleg Series. I don’t have Biograph, The Basement Tapes or any of the live albums. I only have one of the three greatest hits records. I haven’t read Chronicles, Volume I. I have seen neither No Direction Home nor Don’t Look Back. So, I guess I’m still a newbie to Dylan.
Today, I am stuck at Hofstra University, as a liberal, forward-looking student, eyeing my future. Still, I cannot stop looking back at Dylan. This past Wednesday, Hofstra held the presidential debate. So, I thought “The times they are a-changin’, aren’t they?” No matter how much it annoys my roommate, I started on Monday listening to Dylan’s studio catalogue with his debut Bob Dylan. Today, I am at the conclusion of his acoustic period, Another Side Of Bob Dylan. Starting tomorrow, I will begin covering all Dylan albums that I have not previously written about.
I think it might be completely useless, but I’ll do it anyway. After all, how many reviews of the same record can you read? Can I say anything that hasn’t been said? Probably not. I’ll still remark that everything he did from 1962 – 1969 is ridiculously good. I already said that Self Portrait is mediocre. I’ll still call Blood On The Tracks amazing and I’ll still say that his 1980’s LPs are dodgy at best. However, I hope that the way I say these things is different enough to keep you reading. The albums that I have yet to write about are the ones I never could even think I could write about. I never wanted to touch The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan with a ten-foot pole. Its’ stature as one of the most important LPs ever recorded has already been cemented by people who are much more qualified than me to talk about this stuff.
What I want to do with my discussions/reviews of these LPs is show you how they look from the point-of-view of a young adult, born twenty-seven years after a young Bob Dylan walked into Columbia’s New York studios to record his debut album. I grew up on The Beatles, who always seemed to satisfy my desire to hear loud, quick songs that were easy to understand. Today, I find Dylan to be the antithesis of that desire I had as a kid. His songs are all puzzles and it takes so much to figure out what they mean. None of them can be taken at face value. Even straight-up love songs, like “Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight”, my favorite part of Infidels, are multi-faceted.
I may never meet Bob Dylan and who knows if I’ll ever get a chance to see him live, but he has changed the way I think. His songs supply thousands of uses of the English language that I could not even begin to comprehend. Yet, I feel a connection to his stuff that is hard to explain.
I hope you enjoy this month on my blog as I roll through Dylan’s timeline. I know I will…now let me get back to Another Side Of Bob Dylan. I’m just at the end of “Ballad In Plain D”.

Here are the Dylan albums I have already written about:
Bringing It all Back Home (1965)
Nashville Skyline (1969)
Self Portrait (1970)
New Morning (1970)
Desire (1976)
Empire Burlesque (1985)
Knocked Out Loaded (1986)
Oh Mercy (1989)
Under The Red Sky (1990)
Time Out Of Mind (1997)
Modern Times (2006)
Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Sreies Vol. 8, Rare And Unreleased 1989-2006 (2008)

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