Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse"

For those of you who don't know how I feel about Bob Dylan I think this sums it up nicely.

I just find new elements of tragedy to focus on, new reasons to be empathetic. This is especially true of every Bob Dylan song that has ever touched me. There are people who hate his voice, who think he's too nasal and can't sing...but they won't understand that for real Dylan fans, the sound of his ragged, edgy vocal cords is the sound of redemption.

Elizabeth Wurtzel-Prozac Nation

I watched the Bob Dylan Documentary on PBS. In college I took a History of the 1960's course, during the course of listening to the music for the course I listened to some Bob Dylan. I don't know if it was the state I was in at that point in my life or if it was just the music but I can honestly say I've never been so deeply changed by anything else in my life. For the class we read a book called Flowers In the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and Roll 1947-1977. Just reading the section detailing when Dylan goes electric made me realize his impact:

Dylan had reinvented himself as a hobo minstrel, then as a troubadour of dissent. Reaching out to a wider audience still, he was about to become a rock and roll Rimbaud.

When it came the metamorphosis was abrupt, surrounded by controversy, and greeted in some quarters as scandal.

Dylan became on of the most storied figures in rock and roll history, completely transforming music and its expressive possibilities in the minds of those who played it and those who listened to it.

The voluable lyrics to a song like "Rolling Stone" lie dead on the printed page. What matters is Dylan's voice: the poetry of the song depends on it.

Still, it was with some trepidation, one imagines, that Dylan prepared to issue a more formal, and irrevocable, declaration of musical independence from his friends at the Newport Music Festival in July 1965.

After he arrived the tension only mounted. Instead of the Bob Dylan of the 1964 festival-who had worn blue jeans and a work shirt, in the customary folk singer's gesture of solidarity with the working class-the Bob Dylan of the 1965 festival arrived with shades on, wearing a puff-sleeved shirt with op-art polka dots, very pop, very provocative.

He chose to rehearse with a group of musicians who had never played with him before: this was his first foray into performing live with amplified instruments.

Jeers floated from the crowd...Dylan abruptly left the stage, as did his band. The jeering intensified. Finally, in an apparent effort to mollify the crowd, Dylan returned by himself and sang 2 more songs in his customary "folk" style.

In retrospect, it is hard to see what all the fuss was about. A film was made of this performance, and it shows a poorly rehearsed band and wobbly singer-it was obvious that he was stoned...

But any strictly musical account misses the drama of the moment. The use of electric instruments, turned up LOUD, was an act of aggression. And it worked...A demonstration of the kinds of raw emotions that a rock and roll musician, if he wished, could stir up.

He could irritate and enrage. He could prevoke an argument, cause a furor...

And that is one of the ways in which Bob Dylan became a new kind of rock and roll hero...A poet and prophet, he would write out of his own life, with no apparent regard for the pieties prevailing in society.

Tonight, as I watched one of Dylan's first electric sets chills went down my spine and I despite how much I appreciated his music before, tonight I finally understood it. His attitude of defiance toward the crowd, coupled with the open use of drugs on stage, and his general disposition towards was rock and roll. I knew it before-but I saw it today. When the crowd jeered he responded by telling the musicians to "turn it up louder." Rock and Roll is Jim Morrison saying "Light my Fire" on the Ed Sullivan show despite being warned not to, it's Pete Townsend smashing guitars, it's Paige and Plant and the chemisty they had together, it's that feeling you get when you hear your favorite Beatles song-but mainly it's Bob Dylan and the effect he had on all of them by challenging himself, his fans, and defying their expectations to do something that in the end turned out to be pure greatness.

Bonus fact: Listening to the things The Beatles as he was driving his car in Colorado inspired Dylan to go electric when he realized what they were doing could only be done with other musicians and a rock and roll band-at the time The Beatles had 8 of the 10 top ten songs.

Bonus Link: 101 Things you didn't know about Rock and Roll

1 comment:

GStarDragon said...


I'm a HUGE HUGE Dylan fan, as well as a fan of The Doors...
I gotta say, if anything could turn me even MORE on to Dylan, this post could.
Some nice writing there!

Great musical taste you have, hehe.
I base all my opinions of people on their musical taste :)

Take care and all the best, and come visit my site sometime if you'd like to.