What better after a Roy Harper day followed by a Nick Harper day to follow on with a Bob Dylan day. A day to celebrate one of the greatest songwriters who has ever lived.
My experience of Bob’s music goes right back to the release of that first album. My good friend Mutt had a copy and tried to convince me that he was the next big thing. At the time I was besotted with the Beatles, Stones, Downliners Sect, Kinks, Yardbirds, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Buddy Holly. I was getting into the Blues and discovering Woody Guthrie. I could not see it. It sounded OK but did not spark any great enthusiasm. It sounded a bit rough to me. Mutt argued that if he released singles he’d be in the charts. I laughed. I could not imagine, from the evidence I’d heard, anything from the guy challenging the likes of the British Beat groups.
I soon had to eat my words. Shortly after Dylan released the single The Times They Are a Changin’ and was in the charts.
I was not instantly won over. But then eventually I got it. I avidly absorbed those three acoustic masterpieces – The Times They Are a-Changin’, Another Side of, and Freewheelin’ and loved the three incredible electric albums that followed – Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. I revelled in the social comment, civil rights comment and anti-war songs. This was someone who was expanding on the stuff Woody Guthrie had laid down. He was introducing poems, stories and different formats. Amazing. I was then enthralled with the stream of consciousness Beat poetry and incredible music. Dylan was opening up different worlds of creativity. There was nothing quite like it.
Single-handedly he changed popular music – gave it meaning, purpose and intelligence. Dylan affected everyone who followed. He’d opened up song structure and added credence to what had largely been seen as teenage music with banal lyrics and sentiment. He brought it to the level of a serious art-form so that it had to be taken seriously. Rock music would never be the same.
Sadly, despite achieving great things with subsequent albums I don’t think Bob ever achieved the genius of that purple patch of sixties albums. They were extraordinary.
For me Dylan was the fulcrum point around which all subsequent popular music turned.
I’ll put out a few posts on my favourite Dylan Tracks.