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Monday, 24 May 2021

Monday's Long Song

Today Bob Dylan turns 80, so let's start the week by wishing Bob a very happy 80th birthday. Bob Dylan, it almost goes without saying, is an artist who set the pace in the 1960s, burning through the decade at a pace even he couldn't keep up with. He showed exactly what could be done with the artform of popular music, the marriage of words and poetry to electricity. His political songs in the early 60s (Masters Of War, It's A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall, Blowin' In The Wind) put him in the position of being hailed as the voice of his generation, the leader of the young, and then had to spend years to get away from it. Bob himself said if he wasn't Bob Dylan, he'd probably think Bob Dylan had all the answers too. 

I vividly remember hearing Like A Rolling Stone on the radio, 1987 or '88, that snare crack at the start and the band lurching in, especially the wheezy organ, and then the tumult of words in that speedy, nasal voice- I went out and bought some Dylan the following day, probably the Greatest Hits album originally released in 1966 (available for under a fiver with the mid price sticker attached to the front) and then from there heading out in all directions- Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (second hand shop, £1.00), Blonde On Blonde, John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, Blood On The Tracks, The Basement Tapes, Another Side..., Desire (an album that used to litter second hand shops and charity shops nationwide), Oh Mercy (bought on release in 1989, a world away from what else I was listening to in 1989), some really cheap iffy Dylan 80s releases (I owned at one point both Down In The Groove and Empire Burlesque, neither among his best work, both bought in Our Price for pennies), New Morning, Planet Waves... and so on. Anyway, enough blather, best to stick to the music and the words. This song, Visions Of Johanna from 1966's Blonde On Blonde, is a masterpiece, seven and a half minutes of wonder that starts with these three lines that are as good as anything written by anyone...

'Ain't it just like the night to play tricks when you're trying to be so quiet?/ We sit here stranded, though we're all doing our best to deny it/ And Louise holds a handful of rain, tempting you to defy it'

And it closes with these...

'The harmonicas play the skeleton keys and the rain/ And these visions of Johanna are now all that remain'

Happy birthday Bob.


The Swede said...

One of the greatest pieces of art ever created, by anyone...anywhere. '...the ghost of 'lectricity howls in the bones of her face...' How on Earth does one even begin to write something like that?

Walter said...

Great post to honor a great musician that also was part of my musical education.

Anonymous said...

Yes to all that and Bringing it all back home, Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde all recorded within 15 months, Jan 65-March 66. Staggering!!

Swiss Adam said...

SRC- The speed he was working at and the quality control in that 15 month period was incredible.

Swede- yes, you're right. I avoided that line in my post because I don't know where to begin even writing about it