Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Forever Young

Album: Planet Waves
Release Date: 1974

When Planet Waves was released in late 1974, the album did not garner rave reviews. It is typically considered one of Dylan’s weaker efforts, despite the fact that it’s one of his collaborations with The Band, a group of backup musicians who had by now gained fame outside their affiliation with Dylan.

There are actually two versions of Forever Young on Planet Waves. The one most people are familiar with is the one on side 1, which is sung slowly. The other is a little more upbeat.

It is generally accepted that Dylan wrote this song after the birth of his first son. Dylan married Sarah Lownds in November, 1965. Less than 2 months later she gave birth to Jesse. In July of ‘66 he was involved in his famous motorcycle accident, and took a lot of time off from touring afterwards. He did not stop writing or recording however. Planet Waves was the ninth album to be released after Blonde on Blonde (although 2 were greatest hits compilations, they both contained newly recorded tracks).

Forever Young is certainly one of Dylan’s most poignant accomplishments, and remains one that evokes a great deal of emotion, even to this day.

Best Lyric: (I should probably just post the whole song, but I’ll go with the last verse)

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Positively 4th Street

Album: Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hitsgreatesthits

Release Date: September, 1965

Although this song was released in September of 1965, it did not appear on an album until the following year, when the first greatest hits compilation was released. The song was recorded during the Highway 61 Revisited sessions, but was left off that album. It was released as a single, and as such, reached the “Top Ten” lists both in the US and Europe. The list of people the song may be about is rather long. You can read the possibilities on the song’s wiki page.

This is one of my favorite Dylan songs. I love the dichotomy between the song’s lyrics and the arrangement. The instrument that is most noticeable is the organ, which gives the song a really upbeat sound. The lyrics are certainly among the most acerbic the he ever wrote. It’s very Jekyll and Hyde.

Best Lyric: I could go with the whole song, because I just love it so much, but I’ll just go with this.

“I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
You'd know what a drag it is
To see you”

Here’s a more subdued version. Enjoy.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

With God On Our Side

Album: The Times They Are A-Changin’


Release date: January 13, 1964
Cover Photo: Barry Feinstein
Produced by: Tom Wilson

This is one of Dylan’s most cynical songs. Many would argue that it also one of his angriest, but I don’t find it to be an angry song. He just simply is questioning God, and war. Let’s not forget that this song is about war.

The song holds its relevance to this day. All one needs to do is to look at the wars being fought today, and how each faction claims that God is on their side.

As I listened to this song the other day, I decided that this had to be the next song I discussed. With God On Our Side has probably had more influence on my core beliefs than any book, movie. song or any other type of media. Back in 1964, when the song was released on the album, The Times They Are A Changin’, I was still in college. I grew up in the post World War II era, and have vague recollections of the Nuremburg Trials. I remember having nightmares as a young child, in which I was being chased by Nazis.

The Holocaust formed so many of my beliefs about God. Even as a very young child, I questioned how God could allow such a thing to happen. So many of the 6,000,000 Jews killed in the camps were very pious people, who followed Judaism to the letter of the law. Yet God allowed them to die.

They did not just die, but died under horrible circumstances. They were treated as animals, experimented upon, tortured beyond our wildest imaginings, forced to watch their loved ones die excruciating deaths, all while God stood by. And so I asked, why?

Today, of course, I realize that there is no answer, because there is no God. I think, Dylan figured that out a lot quicker that I did.

There is a bit of controversy about the song, as Dylan was accused of plagiarism by Domenic Behan. Behan wrote a song, The Patriot Game, whose melody is borrowed from a traditional Irish folk song.

Best Lyric:

When the Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side.

ziggy martin

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bye and Bye

Album: Love and Theft


Release Date: 2001

Thoughts: When I first heard Love and Theft back in 2001, it was pure joy. Bye and Bye was one of the songs that just jumped out at me. The song seemed so “undylan” like.

It was one of about four songs on the album that reminded me of Louis Armstrong. I could hear Satchmo singing this song. I remember wishing that there was some kind of software that could recreate Louis singing, for I know that if he were alive, he would have covered Bye and Bye in a heartbeat.

Coolest thing about the album art: The image of Dylan. This image and slight variations of it seem to have become the standard. Bob has not changed much (appearance wise) since 2001.

Best Lyric:

I'm tellin' myself I found true happiness
That I've still got a dream that hasn't been repossessed

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ziggy martin

Saturday, February 7, 2009

4th Time Around

Album: Blond on Blond


There is something very reminiscent of the Beatles Norwegian Wood here. It’s definitely the instrumentation that first makes me think of that song when I hear 4th Time Around. The few bars of solo guitar followed by a few more with just the harmonica are very similar to Harrison’s sitar introduction on Norwegian Wood.

This starts to get complicated here because Blonde On Blonde was released at least a month before Revolver. But we mustn't forget that Dylan and the Fab Four met in 1964. So who is to say who influenced who. Certainly after meeting Dylan, the Beatles grew into a much more creative entity. Dylan’s phrasing on this song, and perhaps the subject matter shout out other similarities to me. But I digress.

The song itself is a linear tale. It pretty much starts at point A and goes to point B. Ah, but the getting there; is he with a hooker, a friend of his lover (with whom he has had a tryst), a stranger. We certainly wonder. The rhymes in this song are wonderful. “I tapped on her drum and she asked how come.” But as Dylan often does, he sticks them in whenever he pleases. It’s just one of the things that makes Dylan, well Dylan. Another is his ability to leave us scratching our heads and wondering at the end.

Coolest thing about the album art: There seems2908932929_43a8866ac2 to be a controversy about some of the photo’s that were on the gatefold. The original shown here, has an image of Italian actress Claudia Cardinale. This image was published without her consent and was removed in 1968. Rumor has it that Dylan, himself, was responsible for its inclusion. He was thumbing through photographer Jerry Schatzberg’s images, saw the one of Cardinale, and asked for it to be included. Schatzberg agreed. How Cardinale had the image removed, because the photographer owns the images, and can use them as he pleases. Perhaps Ms. Cardinale was such a big star that she reserved the right to choose where the photos were used.

Best Lyric:

And I tried to make sense
Out of that picture of you in your wheelchair
That leaned up against …
Her Jamaican rum

Anything about rum is …

This is an absolutely fantastic video.

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Friday, February 6, 2009


It was during my freshman year in college that Bob Dylan's Freewheelin' album came out, and I became an instant fan. I have been a fan ever since.

What I plan to do on this blog is, first of all, post 3 times a week, by randomly selecting one of Dylan's songs (except for today), and commenting on it.

Today's selection: Blowin’ in the Wind I chose this song as the premiere song, because it is the first track on Dylan’s breakout album. Freewheelin’ made Dylan a household name on campuses across the country, and repopularized guitar playing.

Album: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan


Coolest things about the cover art:
Attempt to recreate a
photo of James Dean (sans chick)
Photo of Suze Rotolo (Dylan’s girlfriend at the time)

Release Date: May, 1963

Best Lyric: Yes, ‘n’ how many years can some people exist Before they're allowed to be free?

The ascension of an African-American to the presidency certainly shows we are close if not there yet.

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