Is This The Best Bob Dylan Site Or What?
March 21, 2002 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Is This The Best Bob Dylan Site Or What? Every single song of his reminds us how deeply in debt we are.
posted by MiguelCardoso (52 comments total)
This is the song I'd like to be buried to.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:34 AM on March 21, 2002

Actually, the content is terrific, the design could be better but that's a small quibble, that link to the Last Waltz Box Set has me drooling. There goes another 50 or so of my hard-earned bucks. Thanx a lot, Miguel! :)

And this gem from Billy Joe Shaver is what I wanna be buried to.
posted by jonmc at 11:43 AM on March 21, 2002

I always preferred Phil Ochs myself.

Since you brought it up though, I want to be buried to "Grateful Dawg" by Jerry Garcia & David Grisman ( no it's not a Dead tune ). I mean, since you brought it up.
posted by remlapm at 11:43 AM on March 21, 2002

I'll second that motion, Miguel. Dylan has made some truly terrible albums. But he's also broadcast most of what is rowdiest, most clear-eyed and most moving about American song, staying utterly personal all the while.

And The Basement Tapes has to be among a handful of the greatest records of all time.
posted by argybarg at 11:52 AM on March 21, 2002

I'm on a crusade to establish Hard Rain as the greatest live album of all time. It takes half the songs on Blood On the Tracks (itself a brilliant album) and roughs 'em up to the point where the already profound feelings of loss in them shine that much brighter. The rumor is Sara, Dylan's estranged wife, was watching from the wings, which pushed good old Bob to even higher levels of spite. God, what a great album.

I love Phil Ochs too, but like Dylan famously said, he was only a journalist.
posted by turaho at 12:03 PM on March 21, 2002

Amazing album Hard Rain, but there's no Tangled Up in Blue on it if I remember correctly. Idiot Wind, well, it's pretty hard to argue that the live version is better than the album's, only a minority of Dylan's fans are with you on this. (Rick Moody is also a huge Blood on the Tracks by the way, for those of you who appreciate his writing).
But you're right, Hard Rain is one of the greatest live albums, maybe one of the best three -- I'm thinking about the Who Live at Leeds here for position no. 1, sorry tho

thanks for the link Miguel
posted by matteo at 12:11 PM on March 21, 2002

All I need is my credit card statement to remind me how deeply in debt I am.
posted by laz-e-boy at 12:18 PM on March 21, 2002

Rain on tin roof, her scent in my pores, and Dylan's wine and weave pouring from a cheap AM radio.

You tangled me in a blue almost forgotten, Miguel. Thank you.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 12:33 PM on March 21, 2002

The Bard (still) rocks on!

If you haven't yet seen him in concert, what are you waiting for?
posted by BentPenguin at 12:35 PM on March 21, 2002

I'd seen Expecting Rain, but in this context I realized for the first time: It's DylanFilter! Or BobLog. Anyway, it's like MeFi, but Dylan. Me like.
posted by luser at 12:39 PM on March 21, 2002

Site's not so easy to look at, but a very comprehensive site. Thanks again.

On a lighter note - when getting buried, you could do a lot worse than "Take It With Me" from Tom Waits' Mule Variations.
posted by groundhog at 12:41 PM on March 21, 2002

Dylan is one of those phenomena where I'm convinced it's an emperor's new clothes type of situation. To me his voice is grating, and what he has to say has been said elsewhere with greater musicality, and/or force.
I'm not trolling here, I'm open to the possibility that I'm wrong, and that I just don't get the point. if anyone wants to break it down to me (and, of course, others with the same lack of understanding who simply haven't said so), I'd love to hear it.

Yes, I know the true appeal of pop music doesn't squeeze into words very easily, but go on, give it a whirl.
posted by dong_resin at 12:51 PM on March 21, 2002


I don't see why the fact that Dylan grates on you leads to conclusion that it's the emperor's new clothes.

If you don't like the man or his songs, that's fine. Why, however, would you believe that Dylan's fans are deluding themselves?

In other words, isn't it possible to believe that other people genuinely like something you don't?
posted by argybarg at 1:00 PM on March 21, 2002

Dong_resin: When Dylan came along, he was totally unexpected, unexplainable, and unprecedented. No one was asking for the culture to throw up a skinny, self-righteous Jewish kid who sang like an old man and wrote cryptic, angry lyrics. Perhaps you are too young, or have been brought up on too many Bob Dylan imitators to realize how totally unlikely and startling Dylan was when he first appeared. NOBODY ever sang like that. NOBODY wrote songs like that. And nobody who ever looked, sang, or wrote songs like that had ever been a success before. For me, it's all in the songs. "Spanish Harlem Incident," "Tambourine Man," "Subterranean," "Rolling Stone," and too, too many others to mention. For me, the "Dylan Problem" is that he is not taken to task for his truly awful work -- which most definately includes his two most recent albums. Horrible. Horrible. If all you know is those Grammy nominees, Dong, no wonder you think it's the emperor's new clothes.
posted by Faze at 1:06 PM on March 21, 2002

dong-Dylan ain't for everybody. But the man opened up pretty much every artistic tradition to rock and roll and blew the boundaries clean away without betraying the musics roots. On Live 1966 I thik you can actually hear the walls crumbling.For that, everyone who comes after owes him a debt.

The voice does take some getting used to, although it is appropriate to the material. To get an idea what I mean, check out "She's Your Lover Now" from The Bootleg Series or "One Of Us Must Know" off Blonde on Blonde and think of whatever significant other haunts you the most while you do it.
posted by jonmc at 1:06 PM on March 21, 2002

Dong_resin: Also, without Dylan, there could never have been an Iggy Pop. In fact, I've always thought of Iggy Pop as a kind of combination of Bob Dylan and Freddie "Boom Boom" Cannon, who can't write songs.
posted by Faze at 1:09 PM on March 21, 2002

It took me a long time to get Dylan--a LONG time--but once I did, I had to buy every album he put out. Even the crap he put out in the mid-80s. For about a year, I didn't listen to anything but Dylan. I wish I could live forever in that one moment when I realized how amazing Bob is.

The album that did it for me was Blonde on Blonde (though I recommend skipping the first track, the infamous Rainy Day Women #12 & 35), which I listened to on repeat for an entire weekend, contemplating how I was going to break up with my girlfriend (an event completely unrelated to the purchase of the album, in case you were wondering). I think his music has this amazing combination of beautiful intimacy and incredible vitriol that just clicked with me at the time, and still does.

That said, I can completely understand how he doesn't do a thing for you, because hey, I've been there.
posted by turaho at 1:10 PM on March 21, 2002

At any rate, Dylan has been, at various times in his career, one of the worst singers ever committed to tape and one of the best. At best, his voice is the equivalent to a slightly fuzzed-up electric guitar, with lots of pops and squeaks and string resonance. This is an old tradition in American music: Listen to Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music and you'll hear voices that sound like they came right out of the the earth: croaking, keening, booming, pinched, flat, reedy -- but almost none sounding technically impressive or ready for pop music. After a while of listening, you begin to hear how beautiful it is -- all these amazingly different voices passing by.

Dylan's songwriting has been like his voice. He's mastered all sorts of idioms, American and otherwise, with an assurance so total you cease to recognize the sources. Which is to say, he really does sound like Rimbaud and Leadbelly and Dylan Thomas and Stephen Foster and advertising slogans and Smokey Robinson and Jack Kerouac -- but, in the end, he sounds absolutely like himself. Unlike the more self-conscious pastiche artists like Tom Waits, Dylan sounds as if his idiomatic sense is in his bones and not on the surface.

I also wonder if you've given his best albums a chance. My recommendations, in no particular order, would be: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, The Basement Tapes, Highway 61 Revisited, Love and Theft, Blonde on Blonde. If you sit with those for a while and still come away unimpressed, then you know Bob Dylan will never take hold of you.
posted by argybarg at 1:12 PM on March 21, 2002

I came late to Dylan also. But I won't let the man go now. While I haven't gotten into any of his newer stuff, Albums like Blood On The Tracks, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde are essential to me now. The reason? I like music with passion, where you can tell the singer/songwriter is pouring is soul into his words and music, feeling every bar and note.

Dong, I beg you, go mp3 yourself some "If You See Her, Say Hello", "Desolation Row" or "Visions of Johanna".

They'll make it all seem worthwhile.

Unlike the more self-conscious pastiche artists like Tom Waits

Ugh. I don't agree. Let's leave it at that. I don't think "Tom Traubert's Blues" or "Shore Leave" are self-conscious.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:25 PM on March 21, 2002

All of the responses ( except for Kafka's in preview ) to Dong's question seem to be about Dylans impact and timing, rather than his actual merits as an artist. Take Dylan out of context and let's see him emerge as a new artist in 2002 without all of the history. I say he would have a tough time. ( granted "time out of mind" and "Love & Theft" are great albums, but Dylan only wrote the chords, the backing bands musicianship and arranging made them outstanding )

As a songwriter, I can't stand how the simple G C D progressions and mumblings get him so much clout ( also, as a musician, lyrics are the last thing I listen to ). Maybe I should stop listening to Dream Theater and Phish.

Take away the lyrics, and to me his songs are mediocre campfire tunes. Well, that's a bit harsh. I have tried so hard to think otherwise, but I just can't.
posted by remlapm at 1:28 PM on March 21, 2002

Thanks for the suggestions. I'll check those specific songs out, then the albums that spawned them. (As for the emperor's new clothes remark, the only people I know personally who listen to Dylan do it because there is a cache of instant cool there. They wish to balance out the Chicago's Greatest Hits disc that they feel some sort of shame for having in their record collection. I realize this speaks more of the people I surround myself with than the music of Dylan, hence my inquiry.)
posted by dong_resin at 1:33 PM on March 21, 2002

I personally think that Dylan's voice is his greatest asset. His voice gives him the ability to make everything sound so sincere. He's a great actor. He sings in a way that makes you feel the emotions he wants you to even if you aren't listening to the words. That's pretty damn refreshing in light of most (and i do stress most, not all) of the new stuff trickling down the pipes.
posted by ttrendel at 1:34 PM on March 21, 2002

footnote: Blonde on Blonde was George Harrison's favorite album
posted by matteo at 1:42 PM on March 21, 2002

I think there are different ways of listening to music.

My wife, for example, doesn't even listen to lyrics. Couldn't tell you the words to a song if her life depended on it. For her it's all about the music. I am very into lyrics. Bad or hackneyed lyrics ruin a song for me. Is this because she is a visual artist, while I write? I think there may be a correlation in there somewhere.

With Dylan, Cohen and Waits all three, I have heard numerous times that people just can't listen to them because of their voices. This would also apply to Nick Cave, Lou Reed, and some would say Elvis Costello. What can I say? I like distinctive voices as well as melodious ones I suppose.

But this thread, as with the Velvet Underground shennanigans in the What Is Cool thread all come down to the same thing: Who gives a rat's earlobe what I like? If you like, listen to it. I'm not going to tell you what to like. I will, however, listen to the opinions of those I respect.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:45 PM on March 21, 2002


I love Tom Waits' music as well. I should have been a bit clearer than that. I just think his songs call their sources to mind a bit more than Dylan's songs do. Thus on "Jockey Full of Bourbon" the Ennio Morricone, the beatnik standup bass and the nursery rhymes jump out of the background so that they ring bells in your mind. But with Dylan's "Too Much of Nothing" -- I know, listening to it, that it grows out of some deep roots in American music -- but what the hell are they? Or "This Wheel's on Fire?" What kind of music is it? You could spend your life trying to locate it.

remlapm: In 20 years of loving Bob Dylan's music, I've given not one moment's care about the number of chords he uses in his music. Why should you?

Also, I don't think I said anything about Dylan's historical context. When I was sixteen years old and Blonde on Blonde was twenty years old I loved that record as if it had come out a day before.
posted by argybarg at 1:45 PM on March 21, 2002

Here's what brought me to Bob Dylan: his amazing, amazing lyrics.

If you're a Dylan fan, I can not recommend this book enough (although...if you're a Dylan fan you probably already have it).

In fact, if you're talking about sheer poetic power, Bob Dylan should be named America's Poet Laureate for the rest of his life for "Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie."
posted by ColdChef at 1:57 PM on March 21, 2002

I know it's not representative, but the first time I ever saw Dylan perform a song, it was on David Letterman's Nth anniversary show (don't remember which one). He had some notable ladies as back up singers, and in the middle of the song, they were looking at each other with panic in their eyes because they had no idea what lyrics he was singing and couldn't figure out where they were in the song. He was completely and utterly incomprehensible, and I remember laughing myself off the couch.

From then on, any time I hear Dylan sing all I can think of is "nesreFAYen collAYaburgen, FARiggen oletaggin". It's completely damaged my view of him, and it will probably take until I'm 40 (coming up fast!) before I'll begin another attempt to appreciate him.
posted by grum@work at 1:57 PM on March 21, 2002

argybarg: because that's what I do, I am a jazz guitarist and I over-analyze songs until the life is sucked out of them. Unless there is a Gmaj13 or F#sus chord with the Locrian mode or an odd time signature somewhere in the tune, I get bored. I'm certainly not proud of this, but what can I do? That's why I love techno and rap, the focus is on the rhythm more than anything else, there is no guitar for me to stress out about, lol.
posted by remlapm at 2:01 PM on March 21, 2002

You sound just like my friend the mathematics genius. He loves Charles Mingus and the trickiest techno. I've never said a word about Bob Dylan to him; it's not worth trying.
posted by argybarg at 2:12 PM on March 21, 2002

Don't Look Back, the documentary of Dylan's UK tour in 1965, is a hoot, and a very good film to boot.

Otherwise, I got into Dylan young, still love the early stuff, and haven't made the effort to listen to anything post-Desire, though I probably should. And I feel much like kafkaesque about croaky poets. Thanks, Miguel.
posted by liam at 2:20 PM on March 21, 2002

yeah, who says ritalin doesn't have side effects.
posted by remlapm at 2:22 PM on March 21, 2002

From "Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie":

And it ain't in the fifty-star generals and flipped-out phonies
Who'd turn yuh in for a tenth of a penny
Who breathe and burp and bend and crack
And before you can count from one to ten
Do it all over again but this time behind yer back
My friend

The ones that wheel and deal and whirl and twirl
And play games with each other in their sand-box world
And you can't find it either in the no-talent fools
That run around gallant
And make all rules for the ones that got talent

And it ain't in the ones that ain't got any talent but think they do
And think they're foolin' you
The ones who jump on the wagon
Just for a while 'cause they know it's in style
To get their kicks, get out of it quick
And make all kinds of money and chicks

And you yell to yourself and you throw down yer hat
Sayin', "Christ do I gotta be like that
Ain't there no one here that knows where I'm at
Ain't there no one here that knows how I feel
Good God Almighty

posted by ColdChef at 2:22 PM on March 21, 2002

Unless there is a Gmaj13 or F#sus chord with the Locrian mode or an odd time signature somewhere in the tune, I get bored

I feel your pain. I went through a period of this. Don't worry, you'll be out of school someday, and music can again be a pleasurable experience. After college, it took me a while before I could listen to my Jimmy Reed records.

You might want to try deprogramming - lock yourself in a room with a bunch of John Lee Hooker records and a fifth of vodka.
posted by groundhog at 2:28 PM on March 21, 2002

Actually, as great as Bob Dylan's lyrics are, they aren't the whole story. For instance, his best work was done when he had the Hawks(aka The Band, for the uninitiated) backing him up. "Tell Me Momma" on the Live 1966 album has mind-bogglingly simple lyrics, but the song rocks like a son-of-a-bitch and Bob's voice weird as it is, fits perfectly. Other examples of Dylan tunes driven as much by music as lyrics would be "Positively 4th Street"(which is the rock equivalent of a well-crafted MeFi flame)and the electric version of "I Don't Believe You"
I always considered the Jayhawks to be the best Dylan emulators ever, since instead of merely strapping on a harmonica and writing weird lyrics, they emulated his sound(as opposed to technique) as much as the words.
posted by jonmc at 4:04 PM on March 21, 2002

Re: burial to Dylan

"The Man In Me" (also the theme to The Big Lebowski) is my choice. It makes me happy and sad at the same time, which is a pretty neat trick.
posted by frenetic at 4:29 PM on March 21, 2002

It's also worth noting that, in addition to writing the greatest put-down songs of all time ("Like a Rolling Stone," "Positively 4th Street"), Dylan also wrote some of the greatest love songs of all time -- "I Want You," "Love Minus Zero/No Limit," and the worshipful/ambivalent "She Belongs to Me" -- all from his "thin wild mercury music" period (1965-66).

There's also his wicked sense of humor, of course. On this note, listen to the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood," and then check out "4th Time Around," from Blonde on Blonde. (The song drove Lennon crazy.)
posted by macrone at 4:49 PM on March 21, 2002

Macrone - for me his(arguably the) greatest love song of all is "Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands", which back in the vinyl days, occupied a whole side of "Blonde on Blonde". "With your mercury mouth..." In "Sara", from "Desire" he mentions "writing Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands for you". Doesn't get any better than that, does it?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:05 PM on March 21, 2002

argybarg, I was in high school when Blonde On Blonde came out and, heck, I know just how you feel...

I used to have this theory that of the Stones, Dylan and the Beatles, their double albums--Exiles On Main Street and the White Album for the other two--were their masterpieces. My other theory was that if Dylan had bought the farm with his motorcycle accident in '67, there'd be churches built to him by now...

I must point out that I've linked and alluded to Expecting Rain ad infinitum in commentary here, musing on the Norwegian connection to him and the Band any number of times. Those winter nights must make for total complete-ists.

I e-mail Karl Erik every new show and get a link on Expecting Rain, which boosts my hits every time. Heck, I got my minstrel post here included in my last link--that's marketing, baby!

Or at least my feeble attempt as same...
posted by y2karl at 5:14 PM on March 21, 2002

You will start out standing / proud to steal her anything she sees. / But you will wind up peeking through her keyhole / down upon your knees. (From "She Belongs to Me")

If there's a more succint summation of the "man-woman thing", I don't know it. This line and many others--as well as his intonation--are the reasons Dylan is one of the few artists who I can listen to year after year. I never tire of how my "current situation" affects my understanding of his songs.
posted by dobbs at 5:18 PM on March 21, 2002

I knew I'd seen it somewhere. Sorry, y2karl - credit where credit's due...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:20 PM on March 21, 2002

Miguel: For Valentine's day last year, I placed this in the newspaper lovelines for my girl:

From "Sara"
How did I meet you? I don't know.
A messenger sent me in a tropical storm.
You were there in the winter, moonlight on the snow
And on Lily Pond Lane when the weather was warm.

Sara, oh Sara,
Scorpio Sphinx in a calico dress,
Sara, Sara,
You must forgive me my unworthiness.

If it weren't for Willie Nelson's "Valentine", this would be our first song at the wedding. Well, that and the fact that it's about his divorce...
posted by ColdChef at 5:21 PM on March 21, 2002

I wasn't bitchin', Miguel, it's well worth an FPP or three...

But check out this RA clip from a bootleg of the Royal Albert Hall concert in '66. After being booed like shit for the electric set, the Bobster introduces the Band from an altered state perspective--can't remember Richard Manuel's last name--and is so < sarcasm> gracious < /sarcasm> to the audience... It cracks me up just about every time.
posted by y2karl at 5:33 PM on March 21, 2002

Well, ColdChef, we must be brothers or something. I named one of my daughters Sara because of that damn song. (The other Tristana, because of the Buñuel film - hey, we were like that back then...) And yet the brat is still too young - a mere 21, about your age - to be able to sit still till the end of the song. Kids nowadays, huh? :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:38 PM on March 21, 2002

Hey ColdChef--You left out my favorite part:

You can either go to the church of your choice
Or you can go to Brooklyn State Hospital
You'll find God in the church of your choice
You'll find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital

And though it's only my opinion
I may be right or wrong
You'll find them both
In the Grand Canyon
At sundown
posted by bjgeiger at 6:02 PM on March 21, 2002

That clip i just linked was from here on the Band site, by the way...
posted by y2karl at 6:09 PM on March 21, 2002

bjgeiger: To tell you the truth, I wanted to post the entire poem here, but I thought that it might be too much for people to handle.

But, yes, you're right. That's the most amazing end to the most amazing poem.
posted by ColdChef at 6:12 PM on March 21, 2002

Jeez, I got the Band site on my links page, which I haven't updated in years, and I never even ever listened to I'm Your Teenage Prayer. Well, goddamn.... Well, THANK YOU, MIGUELCARDOSO for the reminder.
posted by y2karl at 6:37 PM on March 21, 2002

5 - Is This The Best Bob Dylan Site Or What? Comments on Expecting Rain and Bob Dylan's music - (MetaFilter) (link found by Karl Kotas)

Sheesh, I was just passing on the compliment... Now the world is exposed to the MiguelCardoso meme.


Is this something like Invasion Of The Body Snatchers? What hath I wrought?
posted by y2karl at 10:40 PM on March 21, 2002

What hath I wrought?

You've let the beast out of his cage, Karl. All we can do now is sit back and enjoy the carnage.
posted by jonmc at 10:53 PM on March 21, 2002

Hmm... carnage...

But perhaps the most noticeable contribution across the Islands is their kindly and humorous approach to life, with a large body of jokes and a reputation for non-stop chattering.
posted by y2karl at 12:50 AM on March 22, 2002

For any of you doubters: Bob Dylan is, in many cases, not a musician's musician... he's an English major's musician. I drove my old roommate (a music major) insane with Bob Dylan. Ah well. He's still great. I saw him in concert last November, too... yay...
posted by dagnyscott at 7:00 AM on March 22, 2002

Unless there is a Gmaj13 or F#sus chord with the Locrian mode or an odd time signature somewhere in the tune, I get bored
This is why people hate jazz. (Not me. People.)
posted by Faze at 7:19 AM on March 22, 2002

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