July 29, 2006

The mystery of Bob Dylan's motorcycle crash.

It happened a long time ago, and it's now written up as history. Since he was not very seriously injured -- no ambulance was called to the scene -- why did his music change so much? And aren't you still sad that the brilliant run from "Bringing It All Back Home" to "Highway 61 Revisited" to "Blonde on Blonde" came to an end? Or should you be happy, on the theory that he would have died if he'd kept up like that?


amba said...

As I recall, "New Morning" came out after the crash. That was then and still is one of my favorite Dylan albums.

amba said...

And it was definitely very different. Startlingly so.

Hamsun56 said...

No, I think he went as far in that direction as he could. He was definitely headed for some sort of burn out or crash.

Although the three albums before the crash were the most brilliant, I actually enjoy listening to his later stuff more. If I had to choose 5 Dylan CDs to take to a deserted island all the top candidates would come after the crash - John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, Blood on the Tracks, Desire, his portion of the Basement Tapes, Time out of Mind and World gone Wrong.

cyberbini said...

My three favorite Dylan songs:

Lay Lady Lay
Knocking On Heaven's Door
Tangled Up In Blue

All post crash. I remember watching "No Direction Home" waiting for the "good stuff" not realizing that the story ended with the motorcycle crash.

Mark Daniels said...

I love that brilliant run of LPs you cite, Ann. But, as others have said, some of my favorite Dylan songs are all post-crash.

My three favorite Dylan albums came after the accident:

Planet Waves
Blood on the Tracks

In fact, I think BOT is one of the best LPs ever by anybody.


SippicanCottage said...
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Ann Althouse said...

I didn't realize "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine" was considered obscure. Great song. Too bad he used the "whom" -- one of the most annoying grammatical mistakes in rock and roll. The most annoying one, btw, is: "'Till the stars fall from the sky, for you and I."

Ruth Anne Adams said...

A singer can change the "whom" without adversely affecting the song. How would you you change the other?

...'til the stars fall from the galaxy, for you and me.

....'til the stars fall from the sky, we'll sit and sigh.

The orignal version is too ingrained to change it.

By the way, thanks a lot. Now I'll hear that and be annoyed, too.

RSwan said...

I think the answer is much simpler in a way. The accident and the convalescence it required changed Dylan's outlook on life. He realized he didn't want to spend his entire life either in the studio or on the road. He discovered he like things other than work. The accident probably crystalized some things he had been thinking about.

I had a co-worker like that. He was up there in years and swore he would leave the job only when he died. He fell and broke some ribs and was forced to spend time at home. He realized he like life and home and retired.

P. Froward said...

Nah, the most annoying grammar error in rock and roll is when they incorrectly sing "was" for "were", in cases when "were" would sound better. I don't mind errors if they sound right. It's rock and roll, after all. And sometimes a sibilant is the right thing to do.

Now, the coolest grammar error in rock and roll, that's a more fun question. I nominate John Lee Hooker:

I heard papa tell mama, let that boy boogie-woogie.
It's in him, and it got to come out.

Meade said...

Due to an annoying snobbery, many Dylan fans don't care for Nashville Skyline, his second album of new music post-crash. Nashville Skyline is country and country just ain't cool with those who self-identify as being hip.

But, Ann, if you have it, pop it in your TT's player as you drive back across the... country. It is the most layered, tight, playful, and musically interesting sound he and his musicians ever created. The lyrics, on every song with lyrics, are exceptionally clear, honest, humorous, powerfully concise, and poetic. As a singer-songwriter, his singing on this album is peerless.

Oddly enough, in general, Dylan's above-average-in-intelligence fans have a tough time setting their personal prejudices aside, relaxing their ears, and opening their minds. No wonder Bob has always had such a love/hate relationship with them. And yes, thank god for the crash... whatever it was.

P. Froward said...


I like country, and I don't care who knows it. And I have a pretty high tolerance for Bob Dylan. And I have a copy of Nashville Skyline. And I think it sucks. I'd rather listen to Merrell Fankhauser. That entire album isn't worth one tenth of that impending Scissor Sisters track that just snuck out.

There are clued, intelligent people, with open minds, who disagree with you, and that's a fact.

But they don't disagree with me. Just so you know.

Palladian said...

The Scissor Sisters?!

Give me a break! That urban-decadent thrift-shop seventies-revival gay-bar cover band was over before it started.

I often try to like Bob Dylan, but he's a supreme example of a person whose work I can't tolerate because it reminds me of the kind of people that like his work. It conjures memories of every THC braized, scraggly-chinned sophomore year mystic that I've had the displeasure to know and I end up having to turn it off. This is probably a character flaw on my part.

Meade said...

yes, P., I know. But thanks for reminding me, and for the Sisters thingy. I think.

And, Palladian, you're right, it is a character flaw. Work on it, will ya, pal?

P. Froward said...


They're not a cover band. And the rest applies equally to some of the coolest rock and roll ever made. The Sisters are clearly aware of that, too.

They're cool, they're catchy, they're fun, they're as dumb as rock and roll should be, and they've got a heck of a good singer. What more could a rational person want from a rock and roll band? Dylan's worst flaw is the miserable conviction that it's all Great Art. Bleh. Who needs it? I'd rather see a bull-fruit junkie in platform boots ripping off Howlin' Wolf. Or this stuff. (Thank to S.C. for that one).

SippicanCottage said...
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Finnpundit said...

Blood On The Tracks and Desire are my faves, too, though I love the assortment of hits he had in his early days, too.

I'd like to get to know his later works, but I suppose the older one gets, the less music one consumes. Dylan is destined for a postage stamp, after he's gone, though. Not bad for someone with a voice David Bowie once said sounded like sandpaper and glue.

christopher uggen said...

i'm with amba. i get something from new morning that i don't get from much of the earlier or later work: have a bunch of kids, catch rainbow trout. new day rising, another personal favorite, seems to mark a similar transition.

Steven Alm said...

I, too, find this a mystery and have ever since I cringed listening to his country-western breakthrough. It even inspired me to post on my own blog.