Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Song Obsessions: Bob Dylan Edition

Though they certainly aren't mutually exclusive, of the big name folk singer-songwriters from the 60s, I tend to be more of a Paul Simon girl than a Dylanite.  I listened to Dylan in college, but not obsessively (minus Blonde on Blonde); and while I really enjoyed some of his lyrics, his music didn't emotionally resonate with me in the same way some of Simon's songs did (blasphemy, I know!).  Lately, however, I have been listening to a ton of Dylan.  I'm not sure what spurred this development. Perhaps, I just listened to Sounds of Silence one too many times and decided I needed something darker and more ironic (sorry Paul!).  Anyway, below are five Dylan tracks I can't get enough of currently:

1).  "Like a Rolling Stone" from Highway 61 Revisited.  I kept this album in my car stereo an embarrassingly long time just because I could not turn off this track once it had started.  This is pretty obvious Dylan, but I really like him at his meanest.  Dylan is great at crafting insults.  Here, he is able to be both ruthless to the song's subject while being occasional empathetic, especially at the end: "When you got nothing, you've got nothing to lose/ You're invisible now, you've got no secrets to conceal."

2).  "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" from Blood on the Tracks. There are a lot of great tracks off this album, but I adore the pessimism of this love song.  The song perfectly captures the early glow of a new relationship, "Flowers on the hillside, bloomin' crazy/ Crickets talkin' back and forth in rhyme/ Blue river runnin' slow and lazy/ I could stay with you forever and never realize the time."  However, the narrator has been down this particular road a few to many times to expect a happy ending, "Situations have ended sad/ Relationships have all been bad/ Mine've been like Verlaine's and Rimbaud's."  So, the most romantic thing he can muster up to say to his lady love is that she'll make him lonesome when she leaves. 

3).  "4th Time Around" from Blonde on Blonde.  I've been listening to this album on-and-off since college and I just recently learned it's a parody of the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood."  John Lennon's lyrics sounded a little too Dylanesque for Dylan, so he decided to show him how it was done. Now, when I listen to the song, I can definitely hear the similarity.  But really I like it because Dylan portrays himself as hilariously jerky in these lyrics.  It's one of two songs on the album that make me laugh out ("Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat" being the other).  I love what a little punk Bob Dylan was on this album.

4).  "Mr. Tambourine Man" from Bringing It All Back Home.  This is one of the few Dylan songs I actually listened to growing up.  My father did not become a big Dylan fan until later in life; so while I was growing up he pretty much only listened to the "Greatest Hits."  Since my dad loved this song, I didn't allow myself to like it until recently (Dads are so uncool).  However, I really admire the complexity of the rhymes with in this song.  The lyrics are little more poetic, and less flippant than my favorite Dylan.  However, the guy was like 23 when he wrote, so I'll give him a pass.  It's much less literary mag than the stuff Paul Simon wrote at that age.

5). "Idiot Wind" from Blood on the Tracks.  This is a Bob Dylan put down song of the finest caliber.  The lyrics have the bitterness and biting of his earlier angry songs like "Positively 4th Street" and "Like a Rolling Stone," but their is less self-righteous coldness and more emotional pain in "Idiot Wind."  Dylan sings the song so passionately, that at times he sounds vaguely like a pirate.  One of my favorite line sequences in the song nicely sums up the hurt accompanying the end of a long relationship, "I can't feel you anymore/ I can't even touch the books you've read/ Every time I crawl past your door/ I've been wishin' I was someone else instead."  By the end of the song, Dylan even includes himself as equally culpable, "We're idiots, babe/ It's a wonder we can even feed ourselves."  Awesome song, awesome album, check out both!