Bringing It All Back Home
This is IT.
This is where, in retrospect, it all started. I didn't realize it at the time but I do now. There were two sixties, the early 60-64, Beach Boys, Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, early Beatle "I Want to Hold you Hand", crew-cut, clean-cut, A-line dress, beehive hair, Bass Weejun, khaki, American Graffiti sixties, and the other sixties, the Revolver, Sgt Pepper, Jimi Hendrix, Steppenwolf, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Cream, United States of America, hippy sixties that everyone today thinks was the sixties, happened AFTER 1965. And it all started with this album!
Bob Dylan, the antiwar, civil-rights, Woody Guthrie-imitating darling of the folksingers, the Voice and Conscience of his Generation, after penning "Blowin in the Wind", and "The Masters of War", stunned his purist followers with "Bringing it All Back Home". Electric instruments and a turn from trying to change the world by preaching at it to a bemused surreal satire. This, and "Revolver" are the two most influential albums of the sixties, maybe of music history. I remember.
The Beatles were wildly popular with younger listeners, but generally dismissed by music critics of the time as being a wildly sucessful but totally Pop phenominon. Dylan said they were "Bubblegum". Dylan's friend Al Aronowitz (sp?), said that the Beatles weren't that bad. Dylan and friend were introduced to the Beatles at a certain party in Manhattan AUG 64, whereat someone offered Lennon his first smoke. Lennon "took a drink from Dr Robert's special cup". Dylan and Lennon talked and found they had a lot in common. Dylan suggested Lennon should put more of his feelings into his songs. Following this party, the Beatles became much better, more introspective, and a few months later "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver'!. See DVD "No Direction Home" directed by Martin Scorsese for details...
"Subterranean Homesick Blues"
Johnny's in the basement
Mixing up the medicine.
I'm on the pavement
Thinking about the government.
The man in the trench coat
Badge out, laid off,
Says he's got a bad cough
Wants to get it paid off.
"Look out kid
It's somethin' you did,
God knows when
But you're doin' it again
You better duck down the alley way
Lookin' for a new friend."
The man in the coon-skin cap
And a Bic pen
Wants eleven dollar bills
You only got ten.
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 "the Many say
They must bust in early May,
Orders from the DA".
"Look out kid,
Don't matter what you did.
God knows when, but you're doin' it again!
Better walk on your tip toes
Don't try, 'No Doz'.
Better stay away from those
That carry around a fire hose.
Keep a clean nose
Watch for Plainclothes,
You don't need a Weatherman
To know which way the wind blows".
Get sick, get well.
Hang around the ink well.
Hang bail, hop tail,
If anything you're going to sell.
Try hard, get barred
Get back, ride rail,
Get jailed, jump bail. Join the army, if you fail.
Look out kid
You're gonna get hit
By losers, cheaters,
Hangin' around the theaters.
Girl by the Whirlpool
Is lookin' for a new fool.
Don't follow leaders.
Watch the parkin' meters.
Ah get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a suck-cess.
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don't steal, don't lift
Twenty years of schoolin'
And they put you on the dayshift.
"Look out kid
They keep it all hid.
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don't wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals.
Don't wanna be a bum
You better chew gum".
The pump don't work
'Cause the vandals took the handles.
How that for starting off with a (paranoid) bang? The first rap song about being surveilled in a police state.
the Weatherman faction of the SDS (some 60s anarchists) took thier name from this song!
(and where are those Weathermen, now that we need them... ?)
or how about the heartfelt:
"...She's got everything she needs
she's an artist
She don't look back.
she can take the dark out of the nighttime
and paint the daytime black..."
or the workaday world of:
"...He hands you a nickel,
He hands you a dime,
He askes you with a grin if you're having a good time?
And he fines you every time you slam the door.
I aint gonna work on Maggie Farm no more..."
(have you had bosses like that?)
or the surreal 115th dream:
"I was riding on the Mayflower when I thought I spotted land
I yelled for captain Arab, I'll have you understand,
Who came running to the deck, said 'boys, forget the whale
we're goin over yonder, cut the engines, change the sail' ...
...I think I'll call it 'America' I said as we hit land.
I took a deep breath, I fell down, I could not stand...
...A telephone was ringing, it just about blew my mind,
When I picked it up and said 'Hello', this foot came through the line...
...I repeated that my friends were all in jail with a sigh,
He gave me his card, he said 'call me if they die'..."
I went by a (rich) house with the US flag upon display
I said "could you help me out
I've got some friends down the way?"
He said "get out of here, I'll tear you limb from limb'"
I said,'you know, they refused Jesus, too'
he said 'you're NOT Him'..."
or from It's all Right Ma, I'm only Bleeding:
"...While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have
To stand naked..."
(I can't wait for George W Bush standing naked to be judged by the American people)
Anthony Soprano (the teen) in the last Sopranos episode, listened and comments "there it is, Dylan said it ALL and he did it 40 years ago!"
Now those are lyrics!
Pure poetry, funny, insightful. The sheer volume of Dylan's genius is so overwhelming you can only get it in small amounts - I remember I didn't understand all at first. I still hear new ideas in these songs after all these years. Notes from the Underground.
And the backup band isn't "The Band", as I always thought, it's blues guitar great Michael Bloomfield and Al Kooper, trying to learn organ.
After this brilliant album, Dylan met and influenced the Beatles. The folkies (who had played for years in coffee shops where they learned to play and sing harmony and write meaningful songs) all picked up electric instruments. Country Joe and the Fish, Lovin Spoonful, etc. The Byrds did an electric version of his Pied Piper song "Mr Tambourine Man" ("...take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind..."). Then came Donovan's "Sunshine Superman", Vanilla Fudge's "You Keep me Hangin On". After that, there was a sea change in culture and in popular music. There was an explosion.
It started here.
This album cannot be recommended too highly (despite the fact that Dylan doesn't have a singing voice like Jim Morrison or Frank Sinatra).