Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Back Pages

So here begins a few of my favorite Bob Dylan songs. I remember playing his Highway 61 Revisited album to death in high school and college. It's amazing to me how long those songs have been in my head and I appreciate now how influential that album was. Mainly due to the poetic imagery of his lyrics which encouraged bands from The Beatles to Jimi Hendrix to try to emulate. No one did it better than Dylan. Of course for me Dylan peaked early and subsequent albums disappointed me to the point of total discouragement and I eventually gave up on him, but I guess lightning can't strike twice in one spot.

"Don't Think Twice" is a folk classic and gives a hint as to what was to come later. Basically a song about a guy leaving a somewhat conflicted relationship. We're left to wonder at the end if she asked too much or if he had it to give. Introducing a new guitar, a Taylor 12 Fret that I'm really fond of. Click on the link below and give it a listen.

Don't Think Twice

Well, next up is, well how can I say this, one of the most depressing songs ever written. Seriously. Bummer alert! It's the kind of song that when you play it, you can't help but feel some kind of uplift simply because you think, "well, at least I'm not that guy. . ." But when you're in your late teens, as I was when this song came up, it taps right into the heart of that confused teenage angst so prevalent at that age. The song, combined with that whole 60's disillusionment thing going on at the time, was quite potent.

In this song, the lyrics are just one allegory after another and I love it's imagery and vividness.

Cinderella, she seems so easy
"It takes one to know one," she smiles
And puts her hands in her back pockets
Bette Davis style

I mean, seriously, how cool is that? And. . .

All these people that you mention
Yes, I know them, they're quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces
And give them all another name

As written, the song ran over 11 minutes on the album, so to spare you all, I only did my favorite 4 verses. You can find the lyrics here.

Desolation Row

So, two months later, I've managed to add two more of my old Dylan favorites bringing a close to this particular walk down memory lane.

Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues is a typical enigmatic song title for Dylan. Exactly what quality of blues does Tom Thumb have, I dunno, but what it does is paint a picture of some guy doing shady things with some shady people down in Mexico. A few verses offer some anti-establishment sentiment popular in that day but my favorite is the final verse; "started out on burgundy but soon hit the harder stuff. . ." What is particularly good in Dylan's writing is the cadence of his prose, his syllables lilt off the tongue like Shakespeare.

Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues

Finally here's It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry, another head scratcher of a title, but at least there's a train theme in the lyrics. If I knew more about it, I'd guess this is a kind of traditional 40's Woody Guthrie type of American folk song. It evokes the lonely romance of trains and the eternal longing of a guy trying to hook up.

It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry

A note on recording, I'm not intentionally trying to imitate Dylan's sing style, but it's impossible not to. The recordings were second or third take with no editing out mistakes and a continued experimentation on how to mix these things. If it's sounds raw, that's how I intended them.