July 14, 2010

Advice to the Dylan neophyte.

What order to listen to the albums. There are other orders. Perhaps you can suggest. But what I liked about the list is that it begins where I began, in 1965 — and I mean, for me, it was literally 1965 — with "Bringing It All Back Home." (Note how the album title suggests we have a history with Bob, but I was coming in new.) It goes on to "Highway 61 Revisited," and I'm not sure if that's where I went next or if I went backwards to "Another Side of Bob Dylan" (1964 and #7 on the list) or "The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan" (1963 and #6 on the list) or and "The Times They Are-a-Changin'" (1964 and #8 on the list) Amazingly, "Highway 61 Revisited," like "Bringing It All Back Home," were both in the year 1965. Ah! 1965! I was 14.

41 comments:

rhhardin said...

Listen to old Imus bumpers.

c3 said...

I wonder how many non-boomers on this blog see the header and just move on

rhhardin said...

Lay lady lay cover by the Everly Brothers.

Gets rid of Dylan's rough edges.

Palladian said...

I started with "John Wesley Harding" in 1994 but didn't really like it. I had earlier been exposed to his "protest" music and hated it. I despised most Bob Dylan fans I met, because most of them were really into "authenticity", which I also despise.

My first serious listening was to "Bringing It All Back Home", when I had the revelation that Bob wasn't into "authenticity" either. So I went from that, to "Highway 61 Revisited", to "Blonde On Blonde", back to "John Wesley Harding" which I like much better than I did in '94. I skipped "Nashville Skyline", "Self Portrait" (which most everybody did) and "New Morning" (though someone in the lithography/letterpress shop at the school where I work had that in heavy rotation and I liked it well enough). The next album I got was the last one I ever got, "Blood On The Tracks". I like it, but to me the three albums, from "Bringing It All Back Home" to "Blonde On Blonde" were the most interesting and the only ones I frequently revisit.

Palladian said...

In other words, like most artists, Bob Dylan had a peak of inventiveness followed by a career of variations.

The only musician who had a long career who stayed consistently brilliant was J.S. Bach.

bagoh20 said...

Stay that way.

ricpic said...

When you think back on those who impressed you in your youth...the shame, the shame.

traditionalguy said...

The Freewheelin Bob Dylan started my acquaintance with a powerful delivery of some old songs by this interesting kid. The Hwy 61 Revisited later became my favorite. I would estimate at most 10% of the 18 to 22 year olds at that time ever listened to him apart from a hit single or two on radio. He was somehow bringing us a new point of view that was hard for most to accept as entertainment back then. When I told my music loving son one day that Dylan was my favorite singer, he went and got a collection for me as a gift. But to this day he cannot see any thing good in Dylan's horrible voice and music. I tell him that it is the lyrics that we loved, but he is not convinced that we were not all just on drugs...which was not true. You had to have been there hearing a message we needed.

Lem said...

Nice avatar Palladian.

Bob_R said...

I have to make the very uncool confession that I bought the two "Best of" albums first. But it was the early 70's, I couldn't decide which of the other albums to buy, they were on sale, and I think they still cost me a couple hours of baling hay. I count 14 of these that I've owned in one format or another - none of which I'd consider a "mistake." Of the albums that they put in the lower tiers I like The Basement Tapes the best - But I like The Band at least as well as I like Dylan.

Charlie said...

I grew up in the sixties but could never understand what all the fuss was about. Then I saw him with The Band in January 1974, and I understood.

Disregard everything after 1985, though.

edutcher said...

He lost me with "Rainy Day Women".

cathy said...

My brother came down from UCLA with some albums and left them when I was 13-14. After the first time through it was Times...Changin and Freewheelin. The cover with the NY street was so radical for a beach kid. I used to romanticize the North Country and tried going North. But now I think that was a mistake.

El Pollo Real said...
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El Pollo Real said...

I suggest starting with his latest Christmas album and then working backwards in time. Things only get better and better and isn't that what we seek?

By the time we get back to 1965 we are able to appreciate the weaker very beginning.

Conserve Liberty said...

As Bob_R wrote, I know The Band better than I know Dylan.

I'd never (and still don't) owned a Dylan album and really didn't pay much attention in my youth. Certainly I heard the play-list songs on the radio in the late 60's and 70's, so I recognize Dylan when I hear it - but I don't associate songs with albums nor spoken lyrics with tunes.

But my wife is a devoted follower.

By coincidence, on my wife's fiftieth birthday, Dylan played St. Louis at a beaux arts restored Fox Theater here so I got the best seats, did the dinner and "surprise" and dated tour poster thing - and now I "get" it.

But I still can't understand a word he sings.

And I was actually more excited to see Waylon Jennings.

Meade said...

Palladian's right about Dylan's inauthenticity. Like many great artists, he's a master thief and a superb liar.

One could do worse than starting HERE.

It has seemed to me since I was 15 that His clothes are dirty/but his hands are clean/And you are the best thing that he's/
ever seen
concisely summed up a the essential human experience.

LonewackoDotCom said...

I suggest starting with Dylan's early work and then moving forward into his brief tea party period.

virgil xenophon said...

Lets see Ann, spring of 65 was my Jr year in college, the fall start of my Sr. Always liked Dylan--the whole "protest movement" thing not so much for this future Air Force pilot. Of his very uneven later work his Traveling Willbury's "Tweeter & The Monkey Man" always knocked me out--still does..

Meade said...

Amen, Lonewanker.com!

AST said...

There's an order? I've been doing it all wrong.

When I want to listen to Dylan I dig out "Desire" with Emmy Lou Harris backing him and start with "Black Diamond Bay" Then whatever my mood calls for.

Lately, I've been thinking about "Neighborhood Bully" from the Infidels album a lot.

John Stodder said...

Lots of cynics out tonight.

I love the music of Bob Dylan. He has had a few bad albums and a few bad stretches, but he is still making great records, as his last four albums (not counting the Christmas one) attest.

I have a 20 year old son who is slow about getting into Dylan. It's hard too because he is a songwriter who like a lot of other stuff I like. I think it's the voice that throws him off.

So anyway...my approach would be to forget history. What's going to draw someone in in 2010. I don't think Bringing it All Back Home or Highway 61 is where I'd start, although they come up early. I would start with the one album that even Dylan skeptics usually like, and then ease them in with other stuff that sits well on the ears, then begin to challenge them:

1. Blood on the Tracks
2. Desire
3. Nashville Skyline
4. Blonde on Blonde
5. Modern Times
6. Highway 61
7. Another Side of...
8. Bringing it All Back Home
9. The Times They Are A-Changin'
10. Time out of Mind
11. Slow Train Coming
12. The Basement Tapes
13. Infidels
14. Before the Flood
15. Shot of Love

I think a Dylan neophyte would fall in love with the guy's music by that time, and would no longer need my guiding hand.

Sheepman said...
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Sheepman said...

If I had to choose one album to make a case for the range of Dylan's talent it would be "Bringing It All Back Home". So I guess it would be a good starting point for a neophyte.

I'm a '56 model and I first heard heard his albums at a friend's house when I was around 13. I knew that there was something there but his singing was too rough to have in my record collection. I secretly liked "Nashville Skyline", but it was too country and soft for me then.

"Blood on the Tracks" was the album that really got me into Dylan. I was 18 and every one of them words rang true and glowed like burnin’ coal.

k*thy said...

In all fairness, I have enjoyed much of his later works, but due to no fault of my own, I'm a tail-end Boomer and, in turn, one of those "Dylan deprived people" your link speaks of. I will give it a go - starting at this suggested beginning and see how far I get. As we are traveling the next week and a half, this will provide me with plenty of ear-bud time (I doubt it'll be appreciated being played through the car speakers, as my co-pilot is a Springsteen fan).

Mick said...

What I always admired about Dylan was his refusal to be associated with any political group. Lefties had a great gnashing of teeth over his moving on to Electric music and refusal to associate with them and promote their folkie Communist causes. He was also great at toying with the press. Hendrix also refused to politicize his music.

c3 said...

This is an amazing thing:
What I always admired about Dylan was his refusal to be associated with any political group. Lefties had a great gnashing of teeth over his moving on to Electric music and refusal to associate with them and promote their folkie Communist causes. He was also great at toying with the press. Hendrix also refused to politicize his music.

An entire paragraph without the phrase "Natural Born"

Michael said...

Listen to Theme Time Radio Hour, and hear all the stuff that influenced him first. Not to mention, get a feel for his jokey, self-amused personality...

In any case, listen to Theme Time Radio Hour, it's well worth it.

Psota said...

On a related note: if someone is resisting Dylan because they can't stand his singing, make them listen to:

1. Blood on the Tracks
2. Blonde on Blonde
3. Love and Theft
4. Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
5. Infidels

His songs are generally difficult to sing well, but when he cares enough, he does a good job.

Eddie said...

I started with the live Budokan album (not even on that list), which shows you can make your entry from anywhere. It was a long time before I could appreciate his first album, but I would take that over most of the other 60s stuff now. What amazes me about Dylan is how much he has managed over the years to put the music first and to place himself within the American musical tradition. Who would tour like he has except from a love of the craft? He has aged as gracefully as anyone could, I believe.

Charlie said...

His voice used to be great, back in 74-75. Listen to the Rolling Thunder Live 1975 box set if you want hear him at his best, vocally.

Bryan said...

@ Palladian: Yes, J. S. Bach is a great example of a long, consistently brilliant musical career (well, except for that one stupid minuet...) but he is not the only one. I can't imagine anyone saying Beethoven's career was not consistently brilliant and pretty long given the average lifetime of the period. Same with Shostakovich whose first symphony (age 19) and last symphony (age 65) are both strongly in the repertoire. Then there's Haydn... As for performers, you can't top Arthur Rubinstein 1887 - 1982, a great pianist his whole life. Oh, and Andres Segovia 1893 - 1987 and whose concerts spanned the period from 1909 to three months before his death...

As for Dylan, wow, what a great songwriter. I've never really understood people's complaints about his voice. He is a true original and as such more musically interesting than a hundred empty divas with perfect vocal technique and nowhere to go with it.

Luke Lea said...

It would be nice if he got the Nobel Prize for literature. For better or worse he was the poet of our generation.

The Crack Emcee said...

Screw all that:

Let him come to you like I did.

He's better that way.

bobcat1963 said...
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bobcat1963 said...

in 1978 I started with a bootleg! “great white wonder” thats suiting with Dylan, isn’t it?
that kind of music I didn’t know (crawl out your window , man of constant sorrow, cocaine, million dollar bash) & it was the start of a live time love (maybe one of this songs didn’t really were on this albums, sorry if I’m wrong, its 30 years ago...)
then i started searching for the official albums with the songs on it that i already knew from the bootleg. I never have been dissapointed! so all the 60-stuff is a good starting point. later on I discovered blood at the tracks, also as a bootleg.... (the new york sessions)
it’s good when you start listening to mix all the songs from 1960 till 1976. after 1978 I followed mr dylan, but maybe you can do without the 15 years after 1978, & take “as good as I’ve been to you” & “world go wrong” as a new starting point for his last era.

Pablo Velasco Quintana said...

Good post!
I started with de 30 anniversary concert celebration. But the first time I heard Dylan was in the voice of my mother when I was playing and she was working at home. She always sings Blowin in the wind and The Times They are a changing. So, the second album I heard was The freewhellin, and the third (at the same time) The times...

Thank you for the post!
Greetings form spain! And if you had time, visit my Bob Dylan blog dylan-es.blogspot.com
(I'm Law teacher too)

Dr. Knowledge said...

I'd start with the first album, "Bob Dylan", although I personally heard the second album, "The Freewheelin Bob Dylan", first. Why "Bob Dylan"? Because you hear traces of what was yet to come: country ("Freight Train Blues"), blues "In My Time of Dyin'"), folk ("Song To Woody"), and topical ("Talkin' New York") performed in a most compelling manner. In my opinion, this was his real self-portrait.

Dr. Knowledge said...
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Chase said...

Blonde on Blonde --> Time Out of Mind --> Blood on the Tracks --> The Times They Are-A Changin' --> Bringing It All Back Home --> Love & Theft --> Another Side of Bob Dylan --> Nashville Skyline --> Desire --> Self Portrait (kidding, nobody should ever listen to Self Portrait)

tiltingsuds said...

His 'Christian' albums are great, including the much maligned Saved, which I absolutely love. Also, Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong were both viewed at the time of their release as proof that Bob was lost, but I listen to them constantly.