Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Learn to Stay Away from Those Who Carry 'Round a Fire Hose

You could call me a Bob Dylan fan; my music collection has more albums by him than by any other artist. I acknowledge that he's an acquired taste, though. The first time I heard him on the radio ("Like a Rolling Stone" on 98.7 FM KISD), I thought it was a joke. What was this doing on Oldies radio? Organ music and a guy who can't sing? When it went on and on for minute after minute, I thought it was a joke on an immense scale. Then the song ended, and the next song began, without a single word from the DJ to explain what had just happened. Apparently, everyone else was in on the joke.

I think I heard other Dylan songs eventually--"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" at least--but it wasn't until I found out that he was a Minnesotan and had spent time around the University of Minnesota that I picked up one of his albums (Bob Dylan). I knew he was supposed to be cool, so I listened to it over and over again until I liked it. Honestly, that's pretty much what I did. When I found another album in the used bin at Cheapo, I'd buy it and repeat the process.

"Like a Rolling Stone" has grown on me somewhat, but it's still not my favorite. "Subterranean Homesick Blues" probably tops my list. I like the personal connection to "Positively Fourth Street" (I lived for three years in Dinkytown, on the titular Fourth Street). I drive Mrs. Chaka crazy by playing "You Ain't Going Nowhere" over and over again on our cheap acoustic guitar.

I say all that to say this: like Andrew Ferguson (HT: JT), I have no idea why people continue to revere Dylan and buy his albums, when he is in no way the artist he used to be. He never really sang the notes, but his inimitable style did have some charm and emotional resonance. Now his voice is shot so badly that he has only two notes, and only one emotional register: deep mortal anguish.

If Ferguson is right about what's going on inside Dylan's head, then maybe I wasn't so wrong when I heard his music for the first time. Maybe it is a joke on a massive scale.

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