by request: the americanization of emily (arthur hiller, 1964)

music friday: bob dylan, blood on the tracks

My Dylan obsessions go something like this:

The first Dylan album I bought was Bringing It All Back Home, when I was 12 years old. I was more taken with “Like a Rolling Stone”, which was released a month or so before the album on which it appeared, Highway 61 Revisited. My memory is that my brother had a lot of the early albums, and many of the songs I liked from them were the energetic ones: “Pretty Peggy-O”, “Gospel Plow”, and “Freight Train Blues” from his underrated debut, “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance” from Freewheelin’. I preferred the raucous electric side of Bringing It All Back Home, although I have always been taken with “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”. But “Like a Rolling Stone” was my national anthem. And “Desolation Row”, also from Highway 61, has always been a favorite, although when I was 12, I didn’t know it was funny.

Then came the classic period ... I wasn’t taken with Blonde on Blonde as much as most people, liked John Wesley Harding more.

In 1972 or 1973, I took a class at junior college from a professor who had gone on the road with Dylan as the latter headed to New York in the early-60s. His enthusiasm was infectious, and when Planet Waves came out, I bought it, one of the few records I purchased in those first, broke, married years. “Dirge” was such a downer, Dylan has never even played it in concert, and he has played a lot of concerts. It started with “I hate myself for lovin’ you and the weakness that it showed”, and went downhill from there.

All of which led up to the big tour, Dylan and The Band, in 1974. It was the first concert my wife and I attended together. This was the period of my biggest Dylan obsessions ... I even went so far as to wear a scarf on my head, which I had never done before and never would again, because Dylan wore one for the Hard Rain TV special.

Which brings us to Blood on the Tracks. If we only count the completeness of my obsession during the moment, this was my favorite Dylan album of them all. I guess “Tangled Up in Blue” remains the most-acclaimed song, for good reason, but I also loved “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts”, and made a short film with me and my newly-born son of “Shelter from the Storm”. But I was as mean-spirited then as I ever was, so “Idiot Wind” really grabbed me.

The first official release of The Basement Tapes followed, and we played them over and over. I made another short film, this one based on “Tiny Montgomery”. Much of Desire seems unfortunate now, although I still like hearing “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)”. Street Legal was awful, but we did go to see that tour, which was more Neil Diamond than Bob Dylan (check out Bob Dylan at Budokan if you must).

Then there was 1997:



Dylan was one of the certainties in my parents' houses. I think I still have some of his stuff on vinyl, actually. I remember that once upon a time I had a ticket to see The Band with Dylan, and then they turned it into a big ass farewell concert and that was that for me.

And not to be a cliche or anything, but I've taught his lyrics to high school students. They mostly didn't know who he was until they heard the music.

(I have seen him more times than I can count ... and with the Dead too.)

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