Favorites

•December 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

My list of favorite songs of Dylan’s has become quite extensive over the semester.  For someone who came into the course not sure I could ever appreciate Dylan’s voice, I sure have come to love his music!

“Man in the Long Black Coat” still has to go at the top of my list of favorites, because it was the first song of Dylan’s that I liked, and I still really love it (you can see my previous post about it for more information on why).

I also really enjoy the songs where Dylan and his band just act silly–like “Odds and Ends” and “Rainy Day Women Nos 12 and 13.”  Dylan is normally quite serious in his songs, and a lot of them are either about problems with love, or problems with society.  This is great, and I enjoy pretty much all of those songs, but I think it is a great deal of fun when he throws a song that is simply exuberant for exuberance’s sake onto an album.  It shows that he really does have an enormous amount of fun making his music.

Speaking of having fun, and of serious subjects, another of my favorite songs is “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”  This song has an upbeat rhythm and a rapid fire of lyrics that makes it seem like one of the silly songs, but really, it’s a blues song about the messiness of society and nothing in particular at the same time.

“Restless Farewell” is also a song that I still really enjoy.  This is because it was a song where as soon as it began I knew exactly where it came from.  The origin of Dylan’s songs has been a curiosity to me since the beginning, because we’ve talked so much about all his influences.  In addition to the intellectual excitement I felt the first time I heard this song, I love it’s simple melody and sad and appropriately restless lyrics about saying goodbye.  It’s unclear exactly what he’s saying goodbye to–a lover, a family, a town or life?  These similar qualities are present in “The Parting Glass,” the original traditional Irish song, which is why I like that song so much as well.

There are many more songs I enjoy by Dylan, more than I have the time to talk about right now.  I look forward to today’s class discussion, when I hope we can go over all the highlights of this semester’s discussions again and reflect on all the music we’ve been listening to.

-Chelsea

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Love Sick

•December 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Usually I don’t like Dylan’s music when it sounds produced, instead of natural.  This isn’t true with Love Sick though.  The tinny, far away sound is perfect with the dirge like keyboard in the background–it makes Dylan sound like a bitter, grumpy old man who’s complaining to someone who doesn’t quite care or understand.  And I kind of feel that this is probably how Dylan was feeling when he wrote and recorded the song.  Based on its lyrics, if nothing else.

The song has such a strong turn as well. Because it goes from sounding like a bitter old man, to sounding simply like a man who has been cheated on and/or left by a woman, and is upset about it.  I mean, the last lines are “Just don’t know what to do / I’d give anything to / Be with you”  That doesn’t make it sound like he’s sick of love, that makes it sound like he’s actually sick because of love, which is the usual meaning of “Love Sick”  the ending of the lyrics is very subtle, and then the music trails off in a way that sounds like it is the end of a performance at some old blues den in New Orleans.

This isn’t what I’m listing as my favorite song, but I do like it a lot.

-Chelsea

My Back Pages

•December 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I agree with Meg, this is pretty difficult. However, I’ve been stuck on My Back Pages and even more so now that I’ve had the opportunity to listen to a plethora of Dylan songs. Maybe it’s the context of the song and how he almost foreshadowed himself.

Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.

Dylan is constantly growing yet his ideas seem to circle. He began as young, grows to being older. He realizes he was actually older when he began because now he is where he wanted to be when he  first started. So basically he circles in cycles of life and thoughts and this song kind of demonstrates this wierd idea of “history repeating itself.” In a way its as if Dylan repeats himself because he still has these same mentalities and he works through them and finally comes to the end of what he was working through and all of a sudden he’s reached a point of beginning.

Maybe I’m off base, but I think My Back Pages really sets the tone for all of Dylan’s songs. He always seems to show us his perspective on things and this song really does the trick for me.

Favorite Songs

•December 3, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I don’t know, this is really hard.  I think a few years ago I would have said that my favorite Dylan song was Tangled Up in Blue, because I used to love that song and listen to it all the time.  I actually get visions of riding on the bus to the math empo when I hear it because I used to listen to it a lot my freshmen year, I guess on the ride to the math empo.  That could be why it’s not my favorite song anymore.  I also have always loved Blonde on Blonde, but I don’t think I could say what my favorite track off of that is.  I think the album that has stuck with me though is Bringing It All Back Home.  I think this album is really awesome and I love Subterranean Homesick Blues and the “music video” from Dont Look Back when he has that like “I’m-so bored-with-this demeanor” and is flipping the cards and Alan Ginsberg is in the background.  And I love “She belongs to Me” because of what it means to be personally and the line in Maggie’s Farm “They say sing while you work but I just get bored.”  I also think “On the Road Again” is a hilarious song, and really is meant to be just that–with no other meanings attached, which I think is needed sometimes.  Also Tambourine Man of course.  I think I might also like this album so much also because of the time period in Dylan’s life that it depicts–it sort of freeze frames Dylan in the age and with the attitude that I like to think of him as always.

-Meg

Favorite Songs

•December 3, 2009 • 1 Comment

Most of my favorite songs come from Blood on the Tracks. I feel that this album was one of his most personal but also most distanced albums. The songs, while rather depressing at times, are beautiful and sincere.

“Simple Twist of Fate” is probably my favorite song. Take this verse:

He woke up, the room was bare
He didn’t see her anywhere.
He told himself he didn’t care,
pushed the window open wide,
Felt an emptiness inside
to which he just could not relate
Brought on by a simple twist of fate.

Dylan takes such a simple rhyme scheme, such simple words, and conveys a complex feeling that listeners can relate to. He doesn’t try to describe the feeling, he says that he “could not relate,”  which is why it is so relatable. His use of words and descriptions just makes for such an emotional song.

The thing, however, that I like most about Dylan, was learning about his influence on other artists as well as his omnipresence in our culture. Everywhere you go there is a Dylan song, a Dylan lyric, or ideas that Dylan has explored. Even people that think they are not fans of Bob are usually singing one of his songs, just re-recorded by another artist. I dont think that anyone else has influenced our culture as much as he has. He has also helped to keep other types of music and literature in the mainstream through his reference, his own influences, and his ever changing persona. No matter what, you never stop learning from Dylan.

Madeline

Favorite Songs

•December 2, 2009 • 1 Comment

When thinking about my favorite Bob Dylan songs, “Restless Farewell” immediately comes to mind. I have an intense appreciation for Celtic music, so I really enjoy Dylan’s infusion of the style. The contrast of dark and light is particularly intriguing, as well as the confidence of his tone. The following stanza is one that most resonates with me:

Oh a false clock tries to tick out my time

To disgrace, distract, and bother me

And the dirt of gossip blows into my face

And the dust of rumors covers me

But if the arrow is straight

And the point is slick

It can pierce through dust no matter how thick

So I’ll make my stand

And remain as I am

And bid farewell and not give a damn

I find the image of the arrow piercing the dust rather inspiring. I like that it conveys a meaningful point without being cliché; Dylan manages to retain effective depth and refreshing individuality in these lyrics. His music is so dynamic and varies greatly, yet he does fundamentally “remain as [he is]” throughout his career.

Another song that I’ve developed an appreciation for is from Slow Train Coming. People may often view this album’s language as lacking in the usual Dylan sophistication. However, I find that some of the songs, especially “When You Gonna Wake Up?” still convey Dylan’s personality and ideals. In particular, I like that he takes on the teacher role in this one. The message–to appreciate what we have and not dwell on what lies ahead–is relevant to all audiences. Therefore, these lyrics fit well with my research goals, which are focused on implementing Dylan’s music in classrooms.

-Laura

Ring Them Bells Smack Down

•November 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Ring Them Bells is my favorite song on Oh Mercy. Dylan strips away the percussion and drives the song through his lyrics and through the piano. Because his core piano is the major dynamic of the piece, it stands separate from the other songs and shifts to a softer, poignant sound. It draws attention to his purpose with this song and it’s really beautiful.

In I’m not There, Sujfan Steven’s did a cover of this song. He completely revamped it.  It seems that many people have compared Sujfan to the Beatles and Bob Dylan. Which makes sense because Sujfan’s lyrics are stacked with metaphors, stories of life and real people beyond himself. He uses poetic techniques and ties in a lot of different genres of music, much like Dylan. He packs his music with bits and pieces of folk, bluegrass, acoustic sets, and some orchestrated snippets. It also sounds like he throws in some jazz and anything else that he feels like experimenting. He reminds me of Dylan a lot because there really isn’t anything to his vocals. Dylan is tolerable; it’s more or less what he says rather than how he says it. For Sujfan his voice is rather plain, but I think if it were fantastic it would take away from his musicality and poetic creativity. Same with Dylan, if he could sing better would we still appreciate him and look at his words as carefully as we do? Maybe, but there’s something about a raw sound, that isn’t over the top, that allows us to dive into the meaning and words of a musical poets work. It makes me think of musicians that have incredible vocals and honestly, I don’t give much thought to the words they are singing. 

  

Although I enjoy Sujfan’s rendition, I like Dylan’s version better. Sujfan meddles with it too much. It’s lost that clean, piano driven sound. Don’t get me wrong both are great and I’m extremely partial to Sujfan Steven’s music, but if I had only listened to his version and not Dylan’s I’d probably really like it. When you put the two next to each other, there isn’t much of a smack down. Both are very different, but Dylan’s cleaner sound really emphasizes the lyrics and the true beauty behind it. In an 1991 interview with Song Talk Radio, Dylan said:

“It stands up when you hear it played by me. But if another performer did it, you might  find that it probably wouldn’t have as much to do with bells as what the title proclaims. Somebody once came and sang it in my dressing room. To me. [Laughs] To try to  influence me to sing it that night. [Laughter] It could have gone either way, you know.  Elliot Mintz: Which way did it go? It went right out the door. [Laughter] It went out the door and didn’t come back. Listening to this     song that was on my record, sung by someone who wanted me to sing it… There was no way he was going to get me to sing it  like that. A great performer, too.”    http://www.interferenza.com/bcs/interw/1991zollo.htm

Even Dylan agrees that if another artist were to sing Ring Them Bells, it wouldn’t convey the images, ideas, and sounds as he does. On this smack down, Dylan is the winner.