Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bob Dylan

In exactly one week I will see Bob Dylan live in concert, and one of my great dreams in life will be fulfilled. So in honor of this momentous occasion I thought I'd discuss my love for Bob.
Bob and I first met some three years ago (only three years? It seems like ever so much more) in the midst of one of my periodic Beatles frenzies. My love for the Beatles is forever strong, but is interspersed with bursts of peculiar passion. I was reading "The Beatles: A Biography" and it kept talking about how influenced the Beatles were by Bob Dylan and how they thought he was the la la...etc. and I thought to myself "Well if he's so great, I better listen to him."
So I went Circuit City and bought Blonde on Blonde, and went home to listen to it. I anticipated that his music would forever transform my life, and so I drew a bath, and nestled in with a diet coke and lime, and put on disc 1.
I was greeted with Rainy Day Woman #12 and 35 declaring that "everybody must get stoned!"

"All right," I thought, "that was fun, now the real music will begin," but it didn't. It was just this whiny voice speak singing about Visions of Johanna, and the Memphis Blues, and Leopard skin pill box hats, interspersed with prolonged harmonica solos.
"What is this?" I thought, "This is terrible" But I was in the bath, and I couldn't reach the stereo to turn it off and I just had to listen to it.
I had spent the money, so I figured I might as well listen to the whole thing, so I threw in the second disc, and somewhere in the midst of Sad Eyed Lady of the lowlands was the moment that I first loved Bob Dylan.
"Oh my gosh" I kept thinking, "He's singing this song for me I swear," so I listened to it again and again and again, until his voice didn't sound whiney, it sounded comforting and safe. Like the voice of an old friend.
I started buying up his albums in a frenzy, two at a time, which when you consider my income at the time was a huge purchase, and my head was flooded.
Subterranean Homesick Blues, Girl From the North Country, Tangled up in Blue, Don't Think Twice it's All Right, Like a Rolling Stone, I couldn't get enough. I read his biography, I read his chronicles, I watched documentaries. No matter how much I found out about him there always seemed to be more, and even now there are Bob Dylan songs that I've never heard. It's good to know that they're out there.
And whatever happened in my life, there was a Bob Dylan song for it, and he always seemed to say it better than I did. There was a whole summer where I don't think I ever took "Highway 61 Revisited" out of my car stereo.
I feel like Bob is one of my friends, because his voice has narrated so much of my recent life. And when you read about his life, one comes to realize that he is one of the few people in the world who plays by his own rules, who lives on his terms, and I almost can't believe that he's a real human being. He's too mythic, too epic, to be true, and that is why I can't quite comprehend that I'm actually going to see him next Sunday.
I know almost no one else who enjoys Bob Dylan, and I understand completely, but I feel a little sad that they don't hear what I hear.
Quite simply I love Bob, and I love his music, and to try and explain why is pointless, because there simply aren't words, so "love" will have to be enough.


Joe said...

Nice blog! You can check mine out, if you like. (
Of course, I just ranted bitterly about live Bob, but don't throw any cyber-tomatoes.

I too used the Beatles as a gateway drug to Dylan. I too devoured his numerous and glorious back pages. But I'm sort of a human cautionary tale on burnout. 16 Dylan concerts has been enough for me. I own all the albums and listen to them some, if nowhere near as much as I used to. I annoy my wife by bitching about everything Bob does that isn't the way I think it should be. In other words, I became one of those critical a-hole fans I always swore in my early Bob devotion I never would be.

Thing is, I still love Bob too. His music has meant a ton to me, and apparently to you, and to plenty of others besides. Enjoy this time in your Bob-fandom. And enjoy that first show. If I could go back to 1997 and start over again, I'd do it in a minute.

Shoot me an e-mail if you'd like to talk Bob. Again, enjoy that show!


Matt Groneman said...

Have fun at your first show. I still remember mine. It was at a festival, and I only showed up for Bob. He went on early and I came in halway through Stone Walls and Steel Bars (a cover of an old folk tune, not the song "Steel Bars" that he wrote for Michael Bolton (?!?!)) and didn't realize it was Bob until he started playing Mr. Tambourine Man.

My second show was a lot better. I missed the opening act due to getting lost. I drove 9 hours for what should have been a five hour drive. I regret missing Asleep At the Wheel, but the adrenaline rush I had of running in just as Bob played the nights opening chords meant I was on a euphoric rollercoaster and Bob just kicked total ass. I saw him twice last year. In the summer he was awesome, but in the fall he was a little disappointing. Hope you enjoy the show.

I have some Dylan related stuff on my blog at if you want to check it out. Some Beatles-related stuff too, actually.

Fred Mecklenburg said...

Hey after about 35 years of Bob fandom I couldn't think of a better word than "love" either. He was the first person that made me realize art was something deeper than just surfaces.

Consequently life was deeper, and more mysterious, and filled with more potential--and more worth living. My young self really needed to know that. So Bob taught me some important things, and he caught me before I forgot some others, and I too think of him as a friend.

Kim said...

I went to my first Dylan concert this month in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. I am no longer a Dylan virgin. Have fun at your first concert, and if you smell the nag champa incense then lucky you! I've never heard of it before, but I found out that it is the lovely smelling incense Dylan burns at his concerts. I bought some today and I love it!

Anyway, is it just me or is the way he sings Buckets of Rain from Blood on the Tracks soooooooo sexy????