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[music, albums]

XXV: 1966 Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde


Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde

Following Highway 61 Revisited from 1965 this was Bob Dylan's second album after he had gone electric. He was 25 years old, exactly the age where men often realise that love and the physical act of love-making do not always have to coincide (speaking of myself). A double album to be precise. 14 songs on women, some blues, some ballads and some tunes. 73 minutes and 18 seconds as my CD player display tells me. Not all of those tracks are gems. There are at least to my ears quite a lot of samey songs which are too long and which lose me. But still this is by far the best release of 1966. The album which has matured best and whose songs didn't become played to death like most songs on Revolver for example. Whose charm escapes me anyways as it heads towards the dire symphonic art rock direction of Sergeant Pepper's and Abbey Road which was then to dominate large parts of the first half of the seventies. Been there, heard that and don't want to listen to it again.

Blonde on Blonde was recorded in Nashville but it hasn't got anything country about it. It starts ironically with a kind of marching band theme called Rainy Day Women #12 & 35. Is rainy day women referring to Mary Jane? This song has always been interpreted as a reference to pot because of the refrain Everybody must get stoned. I can suggest a new take on the lyrics. Basically based on the lines

They'll stone you when you're playing the guitar.
Yes, but I would not feel so alone.

Dylan was a lot on tour in 1965/66 and he and his band were booed most of the time as Robbie Robertson recalls. It was the first tour where Dylan didn't play his folk songs on acoustic guitar but was accompanied by the electric guitar of Robertson. I think it is obvious what Dylan means when he sings about getting stoned. He is referring to the hostile reaction of the public and not to the effect of a drug. And he sees it in a positive sense. A lukewarm reception would make him feel much more alone than the negative feedback he got. Like Nietzsche said: "What does not kill you makes you stronger".

The next song is an electric Chicago Blues. Pledging My Time. Could have been by Muddy Waters.

Then comes the first of three long ballads on this album. Visions of Johanna. The fave of many Dylan aficionados. About two women. The physically present Louise and the unreachable Johanna. There is another line (on Johanna) reiterating the change of guitar theme:

The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of her face

One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later) is a song which is supposed to be on breaking up with Joan Baez.

I didn't know that you were saying 'goodbye for good'

nails it as they didn't talk to each other for a long time.

I Want You is the kind of wistful melodic song which breaks my heart. And that mouth harp at the end, it just sums it all up.

I wasn't born to lose you.

Another ballad follows, with the long title Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again. Flowing all right in the course of this album but not really necessary. Too long for my likes but come on it's Bob Dylan and he can get away with this kind of thing.

Leopard-Skin-Pill-Box-Hat refers to some female fashion utensil which was hip at the time. Chicago piano bar blues. A little on the slight side. The comment to the song before applies 100% again.

Fortunately Just Like a Woman is a Dylan original again. Edie Sedgwick anyone? The Andy Warhol Factory girl Lou Reed sang about in Candy Says (New York was a small world in the 60s). Apparently she was very much in love with Bob Dylan. He was in love with her too (but he married Sara). Why else would he have sung

Ah, you fake just like a woman
You make love just like a woman
Then you ache just like a woman
But you break just like a little girl

Two lovers are separating in Mostly You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine. It happens every day but not everyone can be so mysteriously frank about it as B.D.:

You say you disturb me
And you don't deserve me,
But you know sometimes you lie.
...
You say that my kisses are not like his

Temporary Like Achilles. A slow motion blues. Reversing roles in a way:

You know I want your lovin',
Honey, but you're so hard

Absolutely Sweet Marie isn't a musical fave of mine. There are some great allusions to sex though. It starts like this:

Well, your railroad gate, you know I just can't jump it
Sometimes it gets so hard you see
I'm just sitting here beating on my trumpet

(work in progress)

Here is the overview of the series 40 years, 40 albums of which part XXV was this post.


 
 

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