What’s in the bag? (92)

I was delighted to find an old copy of one of my favourite Dylan albums in the used vinyl crate at Head records in Leamington Spa. ‘Bringing it all back home’ is from that period when Dylan turned electric and received rather a lot of abuse for doing so, however, I’ve always thought this was a little bit of false indignation by the fans. It all kicked off at the Newport folk festival in July 1965 when, it was reported, that the audience was shocked and appalled by the noise coming from the stage. It may well not have been that good a noise as the stage was set up for acoustic performances, thought the crowd probably wouldn’t have considered or cared about this, and booed Dylan. The thing is, the album had been out for 4 months, it was his latest, of course he was going to do tracks from it, and, if I remember rightly (and I may not) it was only the second half of the set that was electric (checked this and I was wrong). Here is a good quote from somebody both integral and there:

Al Kooper: “The reason they booed is because he only played for 15 minutes and everybody else played for 45 minutes to an hour.” , and he was the headliner of the festival… The fact that he was playing electric… I don’t know. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (who had played earlier) had played electric and the crowd didn’t seem too incensed.”

The album isn’t entirely electric, with the four tracks of side 2 being entirely acoustic and side 1’s closer, ‘115th Dream’. Album opener is probably the best known track on the album just from the film that has been often credited as being the genesis of music video, taken from D. A. Pennebaker’s documentary,Don’t Look Back, here it is, you probably know it:

IMG_0218My copy of the album does play really nicely, that’s it over there, in the picture. It’s always a risk buying used vinyl, as even if it looks fine to the naked eye, it could play really badly. I have, for the most part, been lucky with my purchases so far, though I do have a few that are fit for melting into fruit bowls that were advertised as VG++.

Trawling around the internet I see the word ‘Underrated’ applied to this album, but I really don’t think that’s the case at all, it’s just that with so many albums from Dylan, over such a long period of time and with a lot of brilliant tracks it may go somewhat unnoticed, but it isn’t underrated. It’s a brilliant album, one of his most celebrated and often hailed as one of the best albums in the history of modern music, just look at what we have:

Side one

1. “Subterranean Homesick Blues” 2:21
2. “She Belongs to Me” 2:47
3. “Maggie’s Farm” 3:54
4. “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” 2:51
5. “Outlaw Blues” 3:05
6. “On the Road Again” 2:35
7. “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” 6:30

Side two

1. “Mr. Tambourine Man” 5:30
2. “Gates of Eden” 5:40
3. “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” 7:29
4. “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” 4:12

There’s not a bad track on there and there are so many that are just wonderful. As a collection of songs it is pretty damn close to being about as good as it gets. I’m surmising a little here but it often seems to me that ‘Filler’ wasn’t quite as prevalent as it seems to be today. Every song was more likely to be fully completed and to match the quality of those around it. In recent years, a couple of singles and seven or eight make weights is much more the norm, in popular music at least. Perhaps there was more competition in the market, or perhaps the performers just had more pride in what they did and didn’t just look at it as a money making exercise. Maybe it was felt that it had to be good or it wouldn’t sell, before the industry discovered the current model. I don’t know, it’s something I feel emotionally rather than intellectually.

There has been a lot written about this album, and a lot of it can be found here in this wiki article:

WIKIPEDIA

I’m not going to regurgitate it all, follow the link if it’s something you are interested in knowing more about, I will just take a brief moment for a direct lift about the cover though, as I do love covers that were designed for the large format:

The album’s cover, photographed by Daniel Kramer with an edge-softened lens, features Sally Grossman (wife of Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman) lounging in the background. There are also artifacts scattered around the room, including LPs by The Impressions (Keep on Pushing), Robert Johnson (King of the Delta Blues Singers), Ravi Shankar (India’s Master Musician), Lotte Lenya (Sings Berlin Theatre Songs by Kurt Weill) and Eric Von Schmidt (The Folk Blues of Eric Von Schmidt). Dylan had “met” Schmidt “one day in the green pastures of Harvard University and would later mimic his album cover pose (tipping his hat) for his own Nashville Skyline four years later. A further record, Françoise Hardy’s EP J’suis D’accord was on the floor near Dylan’s feet but can only be seen in other shots from the same photo session.

Visible behind Grossman is the top of Dylan’s head from the cover of Another Side of Bob Dylan; under her right arm is the magazine Time with President Lyndon B. Johnson on the cover of the January 1, 1965 issue. There is a harmonica resting on a table with a fallout shelter(capacity 80) sign leaning against it. Above the fireplace on the mantle directly to the left of the painting is the Lord Buckley album The Best of Lord Buckley. Next to Lord Buckley is a copy of GNAOUA, a magazine devoted to exorcism and Beat Generation poetry edited by poet Ira Cohen, and a glass collage by Dylan called ‘The Clown’ made for Bernard Paturel from coloured glass Bernard was about to discard.

Dylan sits forward holding his cat (named Rolling Stone) and has an opened magazine featuring an advertisement on Jean Harlow’s Life Story by the columnist Louella Parsons resting on his crossed leg. The cufflinks Dylan wore in the picture were a gift from Joan Baez, as she later referenced in her 1975 song “Diamonds & Rust”.

On the back cover, the girl massaging Dylan’s scalp is the filmmaker and performance artist Barbara Rubin.

I should think that, at the time, the artifacts mentioned above were the well spring for a hundred different theories on their significance, because people really used to care much more about this sort of thing than they do now, even though it is probably meaningless. What we used to do (even in the late 70’s when vinyl was still the format of choice) was put on an album and lounge around, discussing it, discussing the cover, the lyrics and their meaning and generally socially interacting while actually in the same room, hearing the same thing at the same time. I remember going to a friend’s house and spending an entire afternoon listening to 7” inch singles, one after the other, each having to be removed and replaced with the next one, after we’d also listened to the B Side of course. ‘Tommy Gun’ by the Clash (‘1-2 Crush On You’ on the B) was played several times before we moved on, as was ‘Alternative Ulster’ by Stiff Little Fingers (78 R.P.M on the B). At another friend’s house we listened to Foreigner 4, I knew nothing about them but strongly suspected they’d made three other albums. The number of times I listened to ‘Suppers Ready by Genesis at my friend Dave’s house is definitely in double figures. It’s something most people, teenagers and early twenties, did, we had no internet then so it was that or hang around in the park being dicks for most of us.

I’ve meandered way off track, so getting back to it, if you have never just sat and listened to this album all the way through, I heartily recommend that you do, the whole thing is below from Spotify. It’s not the vinyl so you don’t get the pleasure of the 12×12 cover, or turning the disc over for the second side, but the songs are there and your ears could not ask for a better meal.

Just found this so added to the bottom here:

What’s in the bag? (24)

IMAG0456

I knew nothing about this album until about 10 years ago. It was released when I was 8 and isn’t the sort of thing an eight year old listens to really. When I did come across it during a Dylan phase where I listened to everything in the back catalogue I was rather hooked, it’s pretty obvious, to me at least, why this album is considered to be one of the best ever made, well it’s in most top 100 albums ever lists which I always disagree with, but I’m sure everybody does. The NME’s version, for example, has Suede’s ‘Dog Man Star’, and Kanye West higher in their top 500, nothing wrong with those albums I guess but neither are better than this.’Blood on the tracks’ is one of those rare albums that doesn’t have a single bad track on it, some are rather unpleasant, sure, but they’re still good and, as with many Dylan albums the lyrics have meaning, and complexity, there’s just no fluff. I’m not going to try to dissect the album, it’s been done to death (and there’s an interesting article here:  popmatters), I’m just going to say that it is a milestone piece of work and everybody should listen at least once.

9.3/10

What’s in the bag (3)

IMAG0451Sometime in the 80’s (I think it was 1987) I saw Bob Dylan at the NEC in Birmingham. It was a little odd as the support act, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, did a long set that lasted about an hour and a half and then Dylan came on with the Heartbreakers as his backing band and did about an hour. At the time I was a bit disappointed, but I have subsequently managed to get a bootleg recording of the gig and it is a much better gig than I remember it being. I think that one of the reasons is that I was listening to ‘Desire’ a lot at the time and they didn’t play a single track from it, so it was my own expectations that were at fault more than anything.

‘Desire’ is one of my favourite Dylan albums, and I have a copy on CD, but £4 for a decent vinyl copy was a must really.

IMAG0459

8.4/10