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When Dylan went electric

Discussion in 'Music to Your Ears' started by Larry F, Mar 27, 2017.

  1. elihu

    elihu Poster Extraordinaire

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    I just got Dylan's autobiography Chronicles Volume One and started reading it this morning. Here's an interesting bit from Bob's book.

    A few years earlier Ronnie Gilbert, one of The Weavers, had introduced me at one of the Newport Folk Festivals saying "And here he is... take him, you know him, he's yours." I had failed to sense the ominous forebodings in the introduction. Elvis had never even been introduced like that. "Take him, he's yours!" What a crazy thing to say! Screw that. As far as I knew, I didn't belong to anybody then or now. I had a wife and children whom I loved more than anything else in the world. I was trying to provide for them, keep out of trouble, but the big bugs in the press kept promoting me as the mouthpiece, spokesman, or even conscience of a generation. That was funny. All I'd ever done was sing songs that were dead straight and expressed powerful new realities. I had very little in common with and knew even less about a generation that I was supposed to be the voice of. I'd left my hometown only ten years earlier, wasn't vociferating the opinions of anybody. My destiny lay down the road with whatever life invited, had nothing to do with representing any kind of civilization. Being true to yourself, that was the thing. I was more a cowpuncher than a Pied Piper." (P-115)

    As per the book and his interviews, Dylan got into Folk music because of the greater lyrical content (and the fact that every time he put a rock-n-roll band together back in Minnesota it got stolen out from under him by guys who had connections to better paying gigs). I still think Dylan got out because folk music became associated nationally with specific political views and causes and he didn't want the responsibility. One could argue that he was partially responsible for Folk music's popularity due to the success of his social commentary songs so maybe this was a bit hypocritical, I don't know. I do know that his songs in the early 60's caught a wave of social unrest and I think their success surprised even him.
     
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  2. Uncle Bob

    Uncle Bob Tele-Holic

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    More like I had an idea of what folk was, but when I dug deeper I found it was something else.
     
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  3. Mjark

    Mjark Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    It's just as wide and rich in depth as Rock. I was very fortunate in my youth to live close near a folk club “coffee house” that had no liquor license but booked everyone back in the late 60’s early 70’s. It was the Main Point in Bryn Mawr, Pa. I’ve seen Dave Van Ronk, Jerry Jeff Walker, Eric Anderson, Tom Paxton, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Rush, Muddy Waters, Doc Watson, Michael Cooney, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and many more. It was a wonderful musical education.
     
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  4. Drubbing

    Drubbing Friend of Leo's

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    If it hasn't already been said, Maggie's Farm says everything about the folk movement that Dylan wanted to say at the time. Music critics waffle on about all the things it could be about, racism, nationalism etc. But the fact Dylan spat it out loud and angry at Newport makes all critics' intellectual assertions look stupid. Some are still debating it today.

    Dylan was not interested in being crowned king of the protest movement, and had no time for the people in it who wanted to use him, his fame and image, as leverage for the rest of them. He was accused of selling out, but he never bought into being what the leaders of the protest movement claimed he was.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2017
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  5. Drubbing

    Drubbing Friend of Leo's

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    Sometimes he was, sometimes he wasn't. His early stuff was young and angry, as you'd expect of a young artist. Rolling Stone and early protest songs were about concrete things and people.

    But the late 60s and 70s - his prime - was mostly love and relationship songs. Often he didn't just write, he created mosaic or collage. Sometimes it didn't make sense lyrically, but it was meant to hang together musically. I'm not a huge fan, but the man is interesting, and I have come to appreciate his craft.

    I liked his book a lot. It shows at heart he's a writer, and he put it to work crafting songs. In it, he maintains his enigma sometimes self consciously. I found he revealed things between the lines of what he was saying, giving you glimpses of what he's about without giving too much away.

    Some people expected a Dylan autobiography to say big things, name names and make things clear, that he previously couched in metaphor or allusion. He's never done that, he takes you the scenic route, so you can see things for yourself and make your own story up.
     
  6. Minimalist518

    Minimalist518 Tele-Afflicted

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    My parents listened to a lot of folk music when I was a little kid. There was this myth of purity and authenticity that called for an almost academic attitude combined with a sort of reverence for traditional instrumentation and cleaving as close as possible to what was thought of as the essence of folk music. This is what Dylan ran afoul of.
    However, the music as performed in the early ‘60s was, in fact, not terribly pure or authentic; it was sanitized, crew-cut and stuffed into matching Sunday best for white-bread college educated America. When you listen to it now it seems overly earnest, stiff and stagey. It’s not the music of farmers, blue-collar working men, prisoners, sailors and slaves; it’s the music of the middle class trying desperately to identify with the lower classes they champion.
    When you think about it, Folk is by definition a malleable and evolving form of music. So to insist on “the original” arrangement, earliest available iteration, traditional instruments or an authentic sound is contrary to the spirit of folk music which has adapted itself over the centuries to changing, or should I say a-changin’, times.
    As for Bobby Z, he was already an outlier by Folk Movement standards before Newport; just in abandoning the repertoire and writing his own material he broke from that reverent faux-musicological mindset. It was OK with those folks as long as he was writing protest songs because they could tell themselves he was attached to a tradition – one that didn’t go back that far when you think about it, one generation to Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger – but it was at least identifiable as folk-derived and didn’t cause too much cognitive dissonance in the Club.
    By Mr. Tambourine Man and songs like that, he was losing them. There’s this interview with a bookish, middle-class-accented British fan in the Scorsese documentary where he complains about the opacity of the lyrics and too much pointless blowing on the harmonica. I wish I could remember the whole bemused, befuddled and slightly condescending quote. In the end, Dylan did what Muddy and John Lee had done before him, he plugged what he was already doing into an amplifier and rocked the house. He cut the umbilical to the Folk Movement with a Stratocaster where Pete Seeger failed to cut the power to Dylan’s amp with a hatchet.
     
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