March 19, 2012

It was 50 years ago today...

... Bob Dylan taught the band to play.

I love Bob, but I never cared about the first album. In fact, someone gave me a copy of it as a gift, in about 1968, because she knew it was the only Bob Dylan album I didn't have, and I returned it. Come on, Bob, write your own songs!

As long as I'm doing "Young Althouse" material... The first Bob Dylan album I bought was "Bringing It All Back Home," which was the newest Bob Dylan album at the time when I started buying Bob Dylan albums. (Albums were expensive then, and as a teenager, I put a lot of thought into the decision to add each one to my possessions.)

36 comments:

Bob Ellison said...

Yes, music was expensive. I once paid cash money for a Supertramp album. That's value I'll never see again, nor has it appreciated.

Bob_R said...

But it wasn't until 1965 that he got The Band to play.

EDH said...

Albums were expensive then, and as a teenager, I put a lot of thought into the decision to add each one to my possessions.

Always the rebel. Is it just 60s bullshit that it sounds crass to say you added a Dylan album to your "possessions" rather than "collection"?

Meade said...

EDH, can't you imagine no possessions? Come on, dude, it's easy if you try.

Ann Althouse said...

@EDH I think it sounds pretentious to call whatever stack of albums I had back then a "collection."

Bob Ellison said...

Meade, that touches a nerve. That crappy song keeps getting acclaim. Imagine saying it's a lousy tune with lousy lyrics.

Ann Althouse said...

Was I a "collector"? No, I was just buying stuff that I liked. Some of the stuff was music. Some of it was mod clothing. Some of it was Mary Quant makeup. Some of it was posters. Some of it was art supplies. Like that. Stuff. Possessions. I was using it in the now. I was not "collecting." Not a curator of any sort.

Ann Althouse said...

It was not cool to think about the future like that.

A hard rain was gonna fall... so we were living for today. As we said in the 60s: la la la la la la.

John said...

I think you are bit hard on Bob there Ann. I like Highway 51 and in My Time of Dying are pretty good. For early 60s New York dork folk, it is about as good as it gets. Try listening to Joan Biez or Peter Paul and Mary (who were his real peers at that point) sometime.

And don't even try to dish on The Free Wheelin' Bob Dylan.

John said...

And as far as Imagine, I am still not convinced that Lennon wasn't being ironic and making fun of his hippie leftist fans. He was never a fan of the New Left. And in every other occasion, he was never anywhere near as stupid as the lyrics of that song, if taken literally, imply him to be.

edutcher said...

50 years ago, I was in a very good groove - school was good, home was good, TV was good, music was good, nobody on my neck, even the weather was good.

It was good to be 13.

So I can relate.

Ann Althouse said...

Was I a "collector"? No, I was just buying stuff that I liked. Some of the stuff was music. Some of it was mod clothing. Some of it was Mary Quant makeup.

Mary Quant? Say it ain't so!!!

You didn't follow her!

With your curves?

Tell me you didn't iron your hair and mash everything flat.

(that sounds more like 47 years ago; ah, well...)

Bob Ellison said...

John, your comment soothes me. I'll imagine that you're right.

John said...

Maybe it was the drugs Bob. A moment of weakness. But it is hard to believe the same guy who wrote "Revolution" which ripped the new left a new asshole, also wrote Imagine and mean it.

traditionalguy said...

The first Bob Dylan album was a favorite of mine. In 1963 we were refreshed to enjoy listening to a talented young man who was not another teeny bopper.

"See That My Grave is Kept Clean", "Fixing to Die", "Gospel Plow" and "In My Time of Dying" have that much more meaning to me 50 years later.

Amexpat said...

I love Bob, but I never cared about the first album.

I agree about the first album, it's one of a handful that I have no interest in owning.

Though I've listened to Dylan more than any other musician or band in my life, I didn't have any of his albums in my album collection during High School. "Nashville Skyline" came out when I was 12 and I secretly liked it, but thought the association with country music and Johnny Cash was uncool.

Some of my friends had his mid-sixties brilliant trilogy, but I wasn't sure if he was a genius that I didn't get or a pretentious hipster.

"Blood on the Tracks" was the first Dylan album that I owned. I was 17 and it was the most brilliant artistic work that I had experienced.

There have been some ups and downs with Dylan since, but IMO no other popular musician comes close to his body of work.

Ann Althouse said...

"The first Bob Dylan album was a favorite of mine. In 1963 we were refreshed to enjoy listening to a talented young man who was not another teeny bopper."

You must be older than I am. In 1963, when I was 12, I was all about The 4 Seasons.

John said...

"You must be older than I am. In 1963, when I was 12, I was all about The 4 Seasons."

12 year old girls, the scourge of the music industry.

John said...

"There have been some ups and downs with Dylan since, but IMO no other popular musician comes close to his body of work."

Argueably, Bob has done three of his best records (Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft and Modern Times) in the last 15 years. It is astounding. It is as if Paul McCartney produced another Revolver or the Stones another Exile in the 2000s.

Willie Nelson is the only songwriter who is even in Dylan's league for longevity and ability to produce quality new music into his 60s.

Amexpat said...

I think it sounds pretentious to call whatever stack of albums I had back then a "collection."

Might be a gender or regional (I grew up in NY) thing, but we called them "record collections". The collecting was not as curators to preserve for future use, but as a statement for who we were then. There were some records that I liked in my early teens that I would never have in my collection because they didn't square with who I wanted to be.

Ann Althouse said...

It's the music you love when you are 17 that sticks with you all your life.

John said...

"It's the music you love when you are 17 that sticks with you all your life."

Maybe in some cases. But I can think of music I listened to in my 20s or even as a child that has stuck with me better than music I was listening to when I was 17. When I was nine I was listening to old country music because that is what my parents listened too. When I was 17 I hated it. But now I realize my parents were right.

Some music sticks with you. And some of that music you listen to at 17 and some you don't discover or appreciate until you are older.

Bob Ellison said...

Love of art doesn't have to stop when you're young, and it doesn't necessarily reach its pinnacle then either.

Some of my favorite recordings (not songs or "music") from when I was 17 are still favorites of mine. Others sound pretty bad to me now. Which version of me was right? (I like the idea of objective quality in art.)

I try to challenge myself with new musics. One of my sons helps me with that, routinely making me listen to the crap he likes, and forcing me to see that some of it is pretty darn good.

traditionalguy said...

Bingo. In 1963 I was 17.

Beldar said...

Bob Dylan is a talentless hack and always has been. He's never had anything but the cool factor going for him, and the cool factor vanishes as soon as he actually begins making the noise he claims as singing.

Valentine Smith said...

It's more of an historical document than a rousing introduction to the greatest songwriter of all time. It certainly can't compare to the Beatles first album.

It's the perfect intro album for the artist who changed it all. Melds all the strains of American music. Gospel, blues, touch of country (Acuff), the major celtic connection (Maid of Fife, a scottish air made popular by the Clancy Bros and Tommy Makem all over the Irish cityscapes).

Dylan was a genius, not just for his art, but for recognizing his commercial potential every step of the way. He wanted to be Elvis and he became so much more.

Peter said...

Bob Ellison said, "Yes, music was expensive."

I thought that back in the day, everyone signed up for every record club's "twelve free albums" deal and then just didn't buy any more.

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

It's the music you love when you are 17 that sticks with you all your life.

No, hated the music around when I was 17 - Galling Stones, Smokey, Superbs, etc. Only good stuff was Moms & Pops - even the Beach Boys were getting weird.

Now, when you had Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, the Fatman, and the Drifters, I was about 9.

Bob said...

> I love Bob

Love ya back!

donald said...

Beldar, as a guy who appreciates your intellect a whole lot, screw you on Dylan.

Respectfully (really).

Bruce Gee said...

I remember hearing about Bob Dylan when I was a seventh grader. No one in Baraboo knew how to pronounce his name. I've been a fan since about then, but agree with the commenter who observed that his last three albums are by far his best.
I also know that he's one of those musicians you either love or completely don't get, like Beldar. I have a feeling I'd hate what Beldar is listening to.

yashu said...

Warning to Dylan haters, the following comment will make you gag.

Bringing it All Back Home: that's the chronological start of the Dylan I love. Electric Dylan.

It's the music you love when you are 17 that sticks with you all your life.

I used to think that too, but not so much any more. And that's because of Dylan.

I'm a latecomer to Dylan. Which is surprising, because (as a Generation X-er) I used to fancy myself quite the music geek/ connoisseur, but for some reason never got into Dylan. Didn't even broach him really-- I guess because I had some idea of "Dylan" (the folky "political" Dylan) that put me off.

It's only in the last few years-- my mid to late 30s-- that I've delved into the Dylan canon. And have come to love his music more deeply, I think, than any music I ever loved in my youth.

It's an interesting experience, because my relationship to his music (as someone about 2 decades past 17) is one I haven't felt for many years-- something like the kind of intense intimate involvement I felt for my favorite music between the ages of (say) 14-21. I didn't think I would ever feel like that about any musician again.

And I feel like Dylan's music is likely to be a companion to me for the rest of my life. Whereas much of the music I loved in my youth no longer speaks to me, no longer deeply moves or touches me. Let me amend that: it does move and touch me, but much of that is due to nostalgia, the Proustian rush, the poignancy of reembodying (remembering through the bodily experience of listening to that music) what it felt like to be the girl I once was (and in some sense will always be).

It's difficult to put into words what the relationship to certain music-- music that serves as something like the soundtrack of one's inner life-- is like. It's as much a meditation with/ into oneself as listening to the voice of an external other. Some verses of Wallace Stevens's on poetry come to mind.

In a way I've only just begun with Dylan. Started with Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61, Blonde on Blonde: these 3 albums were pretty much all I listened to, compulsively, for almost a year. They made me a Dylanophile for life. Then I got into late 60 to mid 70s Dylan: these are the albums I probably listen to most often these days, especially John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, Blood on the Tracks, Basement Tapes, Desire. But love the others too: Self Portrait, New Morning, Pat Garrett, Planet Waves, some of the concurrent live albums.

And that's as far as I've gotten. Late 70s and 80s and beyond, all that awaits me. Looking forward to listening to it all. (That's such a great feeling. It's like falling in love with a prolific novelist, poet, film maker, whatever, and having a great deal of his/ her oeuvre still before one, yet untapped.)

As a longtime Althouse reader, I have to say, her love for Dylan probably played a part in my my decision to seriously check him out. That, and my love for Luigi Ghirri-- one of my favorite photographers-- who deeply loves Dylan too. So, thank you Althouse. Even aside from your blog (one of my favorite blogs), I owe you so much-- just for playing a part in my discovery of Dylan, at a time in my life when that's just what I needed… and just what I wanted.

Roy Lofquist said...

Expensive? I remember paying a dollar for a 45. One good three minute song. Gas was 22 cents a gallon, cigarettes were 22 cents a pack and cokes were a nickel.

Dylan has been my favorite for 50 years.

Palladian said...

It's the music you love when you are 17 that sticks with you all your life.

Of that music, only Beethoven, Bach, Jethro Tull, The Beatles, The Talking Heads and R.E.M. and has stayed with me.

I came to Dylan much later. I always avoided him when I was young because I associated him with the politics that I disliked.

After a few listens to "Blood On The Tracks", I decided it was one of the greatest pop music albums ever made.

Bob Ellison said...

I don't understand the inability to recognize Dylan's accomplishments. "The Times They Are A-Changing" and "Rolling Stone" are enough to cement his place in song history. Beldar, what artists do you like?

Bob Ellison said...

Oh, my goodness! I just read that Dylan wrote "Quinn the Eskimo". I'm going to have to re-examine my limited appreciation of his work. Maybe the Professor was right all along.

eddie willers said...

Random thoughts:

I turned 17 in 1969...thank heaven for small favors.

"Blood On The Tracks" is a masterpiece.

It shares that distinction with The Band's first two albums: "Music From Big Pink" & "The Band".

Music from the 20th century that will be remembered hundreds of years from now:

The Beatles, George Gershwin and Hank Williams.