Bob Dylan's Seventh Album (and then he took a break)
July 8, 2019 6:53 PM   Subscribe

Bob Dylan released one album in 1966. It was recorded across the first half of the year and was released on June 20. On July 29, he wrecked his motorcycle and disappeared for quite a while. Blonde On Blonde [Wikipedia article with vastly expanded background and context] is (contestedly) regarded by some as the best rock album ever recorded. It is also rock's first studio double album. Side One: Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (Everybody must get...), Pledging My Time (even Dylan gets the blues), Visions Of Johanna (they're all that remain), One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later) posted by hippybear (23 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I gotta say, I've always hated Rainy Day Women... I think it's probably the worst song I know of on a truly great album. In fact, being the opener, I many times don't put Blonde on Blonde on because of it. I think it's among Dylan's worst songs -- though admittedly he doesn't have a lot of them.

I've loved Dylan for 35 years now and that track's existence still frustrates me.

(That said, when talking of "best rock album ever," Blonde on Blonde cannot hold a candle to Astral Weeks, imo. Or Veedon Fleece, for that matter. Though I'm sure there are plenty of people who do not even consider those 'rock'.)
posted by dobbs at 7:43 PM on July 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

I've always taken Rainy Day Women as Dylan's gigantic middle finger toward everyone throwing stones at him for the journey he'd been on. The song is obnoxious, but it's also got that double entendre at its center (not really if you listen to the lyrics) which made it destined to be picked up by the culture. It's also the longest album ever recorded, it's full of what Dylan had already been exploring that everyone throwing stones at him hated him for... it's like the Preface or the Executive Summary at the beginning of the book.

I don't like the song, but I appreciate it. If that makes any sense.
posted by hippybear at 8:55 PM on July 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

It's also the longest album ever [until then] recorded

Missed the edit window.
posted by hippybear at 9:04 PM on July 8, 2019

I never had any particular taste for Dylan until I became friends with a songwriter whose music turned my life upside-down in the best possible way. I dropped out of school to tour with him, and when I'd take the bus down to NJ from Boston, he'd play this album - and pretty much every Dylan '65-'66 bootleg under the sun - and reveal their genius to me in a deeply personal, friendship-sealing kind of way. "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" was always my favorite, but he advocated for "Visions of Johanna" as the album's unsurpassable peak (reinforced by the version by Peter Laughner, of whom he was also a huge fan). My friend passed away unexpectedly eight years ago, and I'm not sure I've listened to this album since. I can't even hear the name of this album without thinking of him. Might be time to give it another spin.
posted by mykescipark at 9:31 PM on July 8, 2019 [8 favorites]

I don’t like Dylan. That said, Visions of Johanna is a towering skyscraper of a song. Just incredible.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:36 PM on July 8, 2019 [6 favorites]

I don’t like Dylan

I admire Dylan more than I like him. I did recently watch the Netflix Rolling Thunder Review of his and I've seen a few other documentaries about him from the period and I will say, real fan or not, the man can deliver a song I've never heard before and drive the lyrics directly into my spirit in a way very few other anyone's I've ever encountered ever could. I may not play his songs regularly, but when I see that footage, I'm nailed to the spot and forced to participate in the poetry.
posted by hippybear at 9:45 PM on July 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Blonde On Blonde.
posted by chavenet at 10:11 PM on July 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

[Puts on jumbled opinion hat]

Maybe his most over-rated record, if not one of the most over-rated in general? Over half the songs are pretty much self-parody and diving up into his own asshole, some are just shit (Looking at you, Leopard-Shit Shit-Box Shit), electric white-boy blues is generally painful, oh this song isn't bad oh wait these lyrics are fucking vile. Know who's annoying? Al Kooper is annoying, as both a musician and a raconteur and probably as a human being. Hey let's get Snobby Robbie in here to overplay and shmaltz the joint up. Even the great/good songs (Visions..., Most Likely...) are left far in the dust by live versions. Somehow the whole thing sounds embarrassingly dated in a way Highway 61 Revisited and Bringing It All Back Home don't. Man, I do not like this record.

[Leaves jumbled opinion hat on just in case someone needs feedback on some other stuff I am in no way qualified to judge]
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:08 AM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Well, you look so pretty in it
Alvy, can I jump on it sometime?
Yes, I just want to see
If it’s really the expensive kind
You know it balances on your head
Just like a mattress balances
On a bottle of wine
Your brand new jumbled-opinion hat
posted by The Toad at 3:54 AM on July 9, 2019 [6 favorites]

Bob Dylan is like tomatoes. I like things made from tomatoes, but not tomatoes themselves. Other people really get enthusiastic about them, so every once in a while I try them to see what I'm missing. But still, I don't like them. Tomatoes or Dylan. I wish I did, I feel like I'm missing out, but no... Still don't like them.
posted by jzb at 4:55 AM on July 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

"Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" was always my favorite, but he advocated for "Visions of Johanna" as the album's unsurpassable peak

Agreed on both counts
posted by each day we work at 4:57 AM on July 9, 2019

For worst song on the album, I do think Pillbox Hat edges out Rainy Day Women. Just my opinion.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:59 AM on July 9, 2019

Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat is an insufferably silly song - all the more reason to like it.

Of course, Dylan is at his best when he's doing sneery, nerdy self-parody. For Christ's sake, if there's one thing I'd expect Mefites to like, it's sneery, nerdy self-parody!
posted by The Toad at 5:24 AM on July 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

I gotta say, I've always hated Rainy Day Women...

Oh. Yes, well, probably not as much as me.

In 2005, I was at the graduating ceremony for my first class of students. I was the program director of a web design program and the ceremony included an entire movie theater of students from all of the other programs (film, photography, etc.) as well as their friends and family. So maybe 200 people in total?

Before handing out the diplomas, there was a brief "multimedia" presentation of student work set to music (a single Boards of Canada song). For reasons I can no longer remember, the video and audio playback were manually synchronized: The tech started the video, then switched to the audio player and pressed "play", and then faded down the music by hand when the video ended.

The multimedia presentation went without a hitch, and I got up on stage and was about to start my speech when all of a sudden "Rainy Day Women" started blaring across the theater. The post-mortem revealed that iTunes was being used to play the audio and Bob Dylan comes after Boards of Canada and the volume had been turned back up.

Dear reader, there are probably worse songs to accidentally start playing while you are on center stage at a graduation ceremony, but I can't think of any at the moment. That wobbly trumpet blast at the beginning, the jangly background accompaniment, and of course then Bob Dylan singing about getting stoned. Objectively, I can't tell you how long it took for the volunteer student tech who was running the board to figure out what was happening, but it felt like eternity.

It all worked out fine, btw, but to this day, that song gives me something akin to PTSD.
(I mean, pre-electric Bob would have never embarrassed me like that!)
posted by jeremias at 5:53 AM on July 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

I will go on record as being a big Bob Dylan fan (I've seen him live 10+ times), but I've always thought this record to be occasionally self-indulgent and meandering. You could cut "Temporary", "Pledging", "Most Likely", "Rainy Day", "Obviously", half of "Sad-Eyed Lady", and have a great single album.

My absolute favorite album of his is the one that followed, officially. John Wesley Harding is spare in ornamentation and lyrical excess. A Puritan tonic to correct the excesses of psychedelic whimsy, of which Blonde on Blonde is a stark example. Around the time of JWH's release, Dylan said in an interview “What I’m trying to do now is not use too many words. There’s no line that you can stick your finger through; there’s no hole in any of the stanzas. There’s no blank filler. Each line has something.” Its all verses and no chorus.

JWH really sets the tone for Dylan's later Christian period. I mean, just the title itself contains such a suggestive acronym. And "I Pity the Poor Immigrant" is narrated from the viewpoint of Christ. I could go on....

Don't get me wrong, though. "Visions of Johanna" is a masterpiece. The album is just a bit much.
posted by seed at 8:18 AM on July 9, 2019

Of the Dylan albums elevated to mythic status by critics and list makers, this one is likely my least favourite. The album always struck me as such a product of its time and Dylan's headspace at that one moment. As much as I love the turns of phrase in a lot of these songs, most of them are caustic, truculent and/or goofy in a way I think can be pretty off-putting for just everybody other than Dylanheads. Of all the songs on here my favourite has always been 4th Time Around, which is often thought of as an answer song to the Beatles' Dylanesque Norwegian Wood. Maybe Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowland as well. Least favourite is likely Rainy Day Women if only because its overplayed at concerts and was always, when I was in university, inevitably the only song jerks knew of Dylan.

Of the outtakes from these sessions, to go full Dylanhead on this thread, I like I'll Keep it With Mine (which popped up on the first Bootleg Series release). Which has a much different tone then a lot of this album (so it makes sense to cut it out) but still I'm rather fond of it.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:28 AM on July 9, 2019 [4 favorites]

You could cut "Temporary", "Pledging", "Most Likely", "Rainy Day", "Obviously", half of "Sad-Eyed Lady", and have a great single album.

That's true of just about every double album though, isn't it? The pruned-down single album version in your head is always better.

John Wesley Harding is one of the Dylan albums I'm not familiar with, but your post has convinced me to I need to put that right. For me, he peaked with Blood on the Tracks, Desire and the Rolling Thunder Revue gigs wedged between those two albums (everyone seems to agree the 1975 leg of that tour was better).

That's not to dismiss all Dylan's other work, of course. There's stuff I love from every phase of his career.
posted by Paul Slade at 8:36 AM on July 9, 2019

Stuck Inside of Mobile was playing on the cd player (doesn't sound quite as good as "on the radio", does it?) when my mother died. Oh, Mama, can this really be the end? So that bumped it up my list of favorites considerably.

We still have seven more posts to go to get to my favorite Dylan album and song. I'll be waiting....
posted by lyssabee at 8:36 AM on July 9, 2019

Bob Dylan is like tomatoes. I like things made from tomatoes, but not tomatoes themselves.

I'm absolutely stealing that phrase. "Jazz is like tomatoes..."
posted by booth at 10:54 AM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

MetaFilter: pretty much self-parody and diving up into [our] own asshole[s]

But seriously, have you met Introspective Pop?
posted by klanawa at 3:59 PM on July 9, 2019

I'll be waiting....

My Dylan post phase is probably done. But you're welcome to create any post you would like to see on the Blue! Post about your Dylan album!
posted by hippybear at 10:48 PM on July 9, 2019

If we agree that "Rainy Day Woman" is the most overrated song on this double album, can we agree that "Absolutely Sweet Marie" is the most underrated? I mean, really, who else in the entire universe could write a song like this?

"Well, six white horses that you did promise
Were fin'lly delivered down to the penitentiary
But to live outside the law, you must be honest
I know you always say that you agree
Alright so… where are you tonight, sweet Marie?"
posted by softjeans at 11:36 PM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's funny. Blonde on Blonde means something, because people still think about it and talk about it all these years later. But I'd agree that a lot of the material on it are just toss-offs & filler. I think it gets attention because it symbolizes a transition in his career, the end of Bob's punk phase.
posted by ovvl at 10:38 AM on July 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

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