Monday, October 24, 2016

Dylan- My First Ten

Well, Dylan has sure been keeping everyone in suspense. As of this writing no one has heard from him and he isn't answering the phone. Is he just being "Dylan" or what? (Yes, there are those who have refused the prize, or have been forced to  by their country- the Soviet Union.) I hope that isn't what Dylan is up to.

Anyway, I said I was going to post about some of my favorites. Instead of ordering them, an impossible task, I am going to list mine chronologically. (I will do the three iconic, forever great songs in a separate post.)

So here are the ten in that first decade of greatness.
(All lyrics, Bob Dylan)

Protest- As a folk-singer in the early 60s, Dylan would naturally have been seen as a protest singer. That's what the Greenwich Village scene would have been all about. But Dylan was not one to do it as blatantly- or unambiguously as some. You were often uncertain what he was getting at, thanks to incredibly well-written verses. These three from that era spoke volumes, even when he would deny or be non-committal about meanings.
1. A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall (1963)

I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall
2. Masters of War (1963)
Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul
3. Chimes of Freedom (1964)
Starry-eyed an’ laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look
Spellbound an’ swallowed ’til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing
Musical Revolution- Yes, everyone points to the Newport Folk Festival and Dylan "going electric." But it sure didn't change his writing style any. In fact, the electric sound only enhanced the words.These five are truly my top favorites among all Dylan's songs. They are fun, they have depth, they can be inscrutable. But they are Dylan at his poetic best. He took the poetry and made it rock- and sing- and go into all kinds of unusual places. The protest songs had poetry and power. These are just immortal.
4. Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
Now the rovin’ gambler he was very bored
He was tryin’ to create a next world war
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
He said I never engaged in this kind of thing before
But yes I think it can be very easily done
We’ll just put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it on Highway 61 
5. Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965)
Maggie comes fleet foot
Face full of black soot
Talkin’ that the heat put
Plants in the bed but
The phone’s tapped anyway
Maggie says that many say
They must bust in early May
Orders from the D.A.
Look out kid
Don’t matter what you did
Walk on your tiptoes
Don’t try “No-Doz”
Better stay away from those
That carry around a fire hose
Keep a clean nose
Watch the plain clothes
You don’t need a weatherman
To know which way the wind blows
6. Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
Though you might hear laughin’, spinnin’, swingin’ madly across the sun
It’s not aimed at anyone, it’s just escapin’ on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin’
And if you hear vague traces of skippin’ reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it’s just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn’t pay it any mind
It’s just a shadow you’re seein’ that he’s chasing

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you
7. Maggie’s Farm (1965)
I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
No, I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
Well, I try my best
To be just like I am
But everybody wants you
To be just like them
They sing while you slave and I just get bored
I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
 8. Rainy Day Women #12 and 35 (1966)
They’ll stone ya when you’re at the breakfast table
They’ll stone ya when you are young and able
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to make a buck
They’ll stone ya and then they’ll say, “good luck”
Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned
New Depth- Here was a whole new Dylan- again. Motorcyle accident, Nashville singing, reacing middle age. The poetry was no less profound, and he was still speaking for himself. No, he was not the poet for a generation. He spoke from his life and his views. The fact that we could go with him was a bonus. These two of that first decade spoke to a longing we didn't even know we had.
9. All Along the Watchtower (1968)
“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief
Businessmen, they drink my wine, plowmen dig my earth
None of them along the line know what any of it is worth”

“No reason to get excited,” the thief, he kindly spoke
“There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late”

All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too
10. I Shall Be Released (1971)
They say ev’ry man needs protection
They say ev’ry man must fall
Yet I swear I see my reflection
Some place so high above this wall
I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released

Let's end with an iconic music video. A classic of a fun song. Yes, it is the song that gave the "Weathermen" radical group its name. It is fun, it makes you smile.

It's Dylan.

No comments: