Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bob Dylan: The Countdown To The Nobel Began In March, 1965.

Certainly I've seen this video many times, and the earliest viewings were somewhere in the dim recesses of the past. But when might I have first seen it? The release date was early 1965, and opportunities to view something like this were few, yeah, let's just say, "few." Maybe on a Scopitone? Remember those? I laid eyes on a Scopitone on only one occasion, at Max's Kansas City, where I was not, repeat, not a regular.

But, without even having begun, I digress.

Bringing It All Back Home was the first of three remarkable albums that were released within a fourteen month period in 1965, '66. It came out on March 22, 1965; Highway 61 Revisited came out only five months later, on August 30, 1965. Blonde on Blonde was released on May 16, 1966. Think about it, that's really FOUR albums within fourteen months.

And they were a revolution at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute. Bob Dylan didn't come up with those new ideas in a vacuum; I wouldn't say that he did. I'm not a real musicologist, so don't expect chapter and verse from me, but I'd bet my tattoo that other artists were also, or even had already been, mixing up the rock and the folk and the attitude and the blues and the Rimbaud poetry and the politics in ways that may even have been similar. But if those people existed, I'll also bet, maybe an eye tooth this time, that they would admit that Bob was doing a fine job of it on his own.

Throw into the mix that in July, 1965, Bob performed that electric set at the Newport Folk Festival, where he received a somewhat civil reception. He played a couple of electric sets in Europe as well, where his reception was decidedly less than civil. It's hard for us to see what was pissing people off from our considerable remove.  By now people might even be forgiven for believing that it was all an obvious step in the first place, undeserving of any particular credit. People in our cynical age will probably figure the whole thing for a purely commercial move. Ahhhhhhhhh . . . no.

I don't think so, mostly because of the furious effort that went in to the changeover. Perhaps some YouTube commenting genius could find hints in Another Side of Bob Dylan that such a change had already begun before 1965. But really, all of those pre-1965 albums were simple, unembellished productions of one guy singing and playing a guitar, with maybe a harmonica, mostly annoying and mostly political, slightly pretentious, and hopelessly folksy. Then, beginning with Subterranean Homesick Blues and accelerating like the shock wave of an atomic bomb, came four LPs worth of something totally new that developed rapidly within the space of fourteen months. That effort has clear indications of compulsion about it.

I'd earmark that as a heartfelt effort, entirely sincere, and artistic in nature.

So thanks, Bob. (If I may call you Bob.) And enjoy your Nobel Prize. You earned it fair and square. Thanks for everything.


Michael Dooley said...

This proto-MTV music video – with the best-minds-of-my-generation Howl-er silently buddha-ing in the background – was originally a section of “Dont Look Back,” released in 1967, after the album, obviously. I recall seeing it sometime in the fall, probably at the 34th Street East Theater. Like so many of D.A. Pennebaker’s films, it’s an extremely important and insightful historical document. It also gave me my first glimpse of what an obnoxious little sh!t this snide, caterwauling “spokesman of a generation” could be. Don’t follow leaders.

fred c said...

That's probably where I first saw it too, Michael. It would have been a few years later for me. In '67 and part of '68 I was busy amusing the Navy with my lack of military bearing. Might not have taken long. I was a regular on that Bleeker Street Cinema/New Yorker circuit, and they probably had "Don't Look Back" in heavy rotation. Thanks for the reminder!