Monday, February 09, 2009

Lay, Lay, Delay

How bloody naive am I? Watching The Doors live from 1968 on Sky Arts the other night I was wondering where the bass player was. Was he hidden backstage? It took me ages to work out that Ray Manzarek was playing the bass lines on his keyboard.

Of all the sixties bands, only the Beatles outdid The Doors in the classic albums stakes. Six great albums with Jim at the helm. That's some going in only five years.

Sky Arts are also giving us the Classic Albums series. The Band's The Band was one. Not a classic album, really (you could maybe cobble one together with its best songs and the best from Music From Big Pink). But me and Betty both like The Band and whenever they're mentioned we always seem to get onto the Bob Dylan question.

You see, Betty doesn't really *get* Bob Dylan. She likes a few songs and liked his drug addled performance from the 1966 tour. But that's about it. I almost *get* him. I don't understand the lyrics but love the songs and what he does with them.

Which makes me think that there are lots of different ways that people react to Bob Dylan. You can like his songs, but only done by other people. You can like his lyrics but not his songs, in the same way I like Leonard Cohen. You can like his acoustic stuff but not his electric stuff like the bloke who shouted "Judas!" Or you can like his electric stuff but not his acoustic stuff like I did up 'til last year. You can like everything he's ever done, including the latter strangled voice stuff. Or you can just like his 60s and early 70s stuff, like me. Of course, he could give you the absolute creeps and you'd rather stick knitting needles in your ears or listen to Trout Mask Replica on repeat for 48 hours. You could think the young Bob Dylan was sexy. Or you might prefer the young John Taylor from Duran Duran.

Only in the last case would I question your sanity.

So what about it? Where do we stand on the Bob?


  1. THE BAND.


  2. Anonymous2:28 PM

    Dylan and I have been engaged in a deep love affair since a scandalously young age. My parents don't *get* him, which was probably one of the reasons I originally started liking him (my teenage rebellion was pretty pathetic). Nothing gives me more pleasure than informing my mum that her new favourite song is a Dylan cover, just to prove that he is a God despite what she says. I love the words because I can make them mean what I want them to mean, and I like it when he gets angry and turns complex feelings into single syllables. I love his '60s voice - the way he skews words around and hits all the notes without you realising he's doing it. And I love the fact that he has other voices, the way Bowie has other faces and icecream comes in a million different flavours. I really love the fact that he's probably a total dick-end. And yep, I think he was (and secretly think he still is) hot.

    I'll always have a soft spot for the '60s albums because these are the ones I grew up listening to. I didn't immediately like the electric switch, having fallen in love with the softly-softly folk albums, but after a few listens I suddenly got it and can't imagine how he could have done anything else. It's all just another part of him. Sometimes i hear a dylan track I've never come across and it might take me a while to decide whether or not I like it. But I know I'll like it. I finally got round to buying Modern Times a few weeks ago and thought 'what on earth has he done?' But then one day it clicked, and now I love it like I love all the others.

    I could go on forever being sickly and sweet about how much I love this man and his music, but you're probably vomiting enough as it is, so I'll be quiet now....

  3. Anonymous2:29 PM

    jesus god that was a long comment...

  4. I love pretty much everything he did up to the bike crash, and about two and a half songs after it.

  5. Being a lyrics person, I like his songwriting... it's just that bloody voice I have a problem with.

    Actually, I think his voice has got a lot better as it's got older (and deeper). Unfortunately, his best songs were written back when he was still skinning cats.

  6. Bringing it all Back Home, Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde were the classic triumvirate of Bobness. I still get a tingle when I hear Like a Rolling Stone or Love Minus Zero. The other half has to go out of the room with two fingers in throat.

    Great Title Geoff - 10/10!

  7. Predictably I like the earlyish ones as well. Am I agreeing with Rog?
    But - unlike Rol- I must have my Dylan sung by Dylan.
    It doesn't come any better.

  8. Anonymous5:41 PM

    I love picking out trilogies of Bob, where you can identify one of his purple patches. You can ignore the occasional dud, or transitional album, that way. Ignoring the debut, you have three great "folk" albums, followed by three great "folk rock" albums. My personal favourites are the three great "country rock" albums (Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait and New Morning), though others prefer the three great pre-Christianity crisis albums (Blood on the Tracks, Desire, Street Legal). But how could you ignore the incredible power of the three great gospel albums?

    I refused to listen to the gospel stuff for years, even though I secretly knew it was brilliant.

    Unlike a lot of other people, Bob keeps coming back with greatness, even after he's been written off. This is what makes him the Shakespeare of our times, and I don't mean that as mere hyperbole.

    I think he had a beautiful face when he was a young man, and I think he's one of the great vocalists - he knew it was all about the words, and his singing style was always about getting the words across. He encompasses within his wiry frame the entire history of popular music, he's a walking encyclopaedia.

    You're allowed not to like Dylan, in the same way that you're allowed not to like Shakespeare, but your dislike can't reduce their status.

  9. I like some of his songs. Probably the earlier stuff. By other people. Can't get past the voice, but am not writing him off just yet.

  10. Ooh I quite like Bob, though I can only listen to him in certain moods.

  11. MJ - A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one.

    Fathorse - Blimey, you've got it bad. I envy your immersion in all things Bob. I didn't really have anything to rebel against when it came to my parents' musical taste.

    Tim - I love everything up 'til Nashville Skyline so I was wrong about the early 70s. I like Blood On The Tracks though so maybe I ought to explore a little further.

    Rol - It's one of those voices, like Rufus Wainwright's, which you either love or you hate. I hate Rufus's.

    Rog - Betty baulks when I have one of my Bob phases and have to play his albums in a week. I think she's grateful I only like a few Springsteen albums, though.

    Kaz - He does do them best though there have been some great covers by The Byrds, The Band, Bryan Ferry, Jimi Hendrix and many more.

    Bob - Give me Dylan over Shakespeare any day. I respond to music emotionally and though his words don't move me on their own, the way he sings them does.

    Beth - It was Nashville Skyline that first did it for me. And I'm not usually keen on Johnny Cash.

    Billy - He's best for me in the early morning when I'm just waking up.

  12. I think when I read Chronicles was when I realised that Bob was actually really a bit special. I always liked him, at least up to Self Portrait (lost touch after that) but the book is seriously good! Actually I can see how the book wouldn't be everyones cup of tea, a bit like Bob himself I guess.

  13. Great, timeless songs, but I'm always wondering if he's putting the voice on for a joke.

    John Taylor's wife used to cut my hair in Wolverhampton.

    Oh no, hang on, it was Roger Taylor's wife.

  14. Tom - I found Chronicles too heavy going. Then again I love Julian Cope's autobiography which isn't the most serious of tomes.

    Malc - The joke just gets funnier as time rolls on. I hope Mrs Taylor didn't give you Dunranny hair.

  15. Couldn't listen to the voice for long but really liked his song penned for the film The Wonderboys a few years ago.

  16. I had never even heard of that film. I am so out of touch.