Sunday, January 3, 2010

CD's I can listen to without hitting skip: Bringing It All Back Home

You know I kind of have a Bob Dylan thing, right? This is my favorite Bob Dylan album, Bringing It All Back Home, from 1965. This is the album where Bob first went electric. The A side was acoustic, the B side electric, and at the time that was apparently a big hairy deal. Bob had been one of the leaders of the folk movement, so his use of an electric backup band caused folkies to go insane and call him a traitor. Did they listen to the B side at the time? Because it's amazing. He had grown tired of the whole "folk music hero" tag, and reinvented himself with this album.

This work is a testament to three components of creative inspiration: amphetamines, nicotine and youth. I don't know anything about the first on that list, but the words on this album just bubble over in a manic, surreal fizz. It's almost impossible to keep up with the language here. It kicks off with "Subterranean Homesick Blues," and I have spent most of my adult life trying to sing along with that song word for word without missing a single one. Still hasn't happened, but attempting it while driving always makes me giggle. Plus, the line "Twenty years of schooling, and they put you on the day shift," has been my personal motto for years.

Stuck smack in the middle is probably my favorite Dylan song of all time, "Mr. Tambourine Man." Also a glorious spill of beautiful words, this song is so lyrical and winsome, it always sort of wells up inside of me. Bracketing the CD at the end is "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," one of Dylan's amazingly caustic breakup songs. I've never quite gotten over the line, "Yonder stands your orphan with his gun, / Crying like a fire in the sun." Beautiful.

In the middle, you get romantic songs ("She Belongs to Me"), silly songs ("Bob Dylan's 115th Dream"), and political songs (the unbelievably fine "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," which gave me another of my favorite life mottos, "He not busy being born is busy dying"). Dylan doesn't get much better than this.

To truly get the whole effect, check out the 1967 documentary, "Dont Look Back," a chronicle of Dylan's 1965 tour of the UK. It's worth it for a couple of scenes--one with the elfin and fey Donovan exchanging songs with the wired and urban Dylan, and the other with Dylan in a verbal sparring match with some poor Englishman. Guess who won that one?

Also, you get the great "Subterranean Homesick Blues" on dropping cue cards bit with Allen Ginsberg in the background with a big walking stick. Cooler than cool. I saw this movie as a young child, and it had a great impact on me. Fun game: Try and count how many cigarettes Bobby smokes throughout the movie. Hint: It's a whole lot!


  1. I love that last photo of him ha ha! That's great! I'm not familiar with that album--have to check it out :)

  2. I once took a roadtrip to cincinnati ohio, by myself, on New Years eve, in a borrowed volvo wagon and played this album (on tape!) the entire way. The most glorious way to spend 6 hours in a car! rock on MAB!

  3. I have the CD in the car right now. It will probably stay there for a couple of weeks, just playing over and over. Also, I forgot to say, my hair looks exactly like Bob's when it's humid. Another thing he and I have in common!

  4. It will be great to watch Bob Dylan,i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.