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Thread: Dylan: I just don't get it, and I never will

  1. #1
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    Default Dylan: I just don't get it, and I never will

    I just watched the second half of Scorsese's Dylan documentary. Predictably, I found myself admiring Dylan only for the way he dealt with imbecilic journalists and the organo-folk nazis; I remain mystified about the appeal of his words and music. Admittedly I am the most prejudiced possible observer --- but I found it surprisingly easy to maintain a position of total hostility towards Dylan's oeuvre. Prejudice has been stoked up by Baby Boomer fucks like Bryan Appleyard (in the Sunday Times) drooling that Dylan is just about the greatest poet ever to walk the earth (with Oxford academic Christopher Ricks quoted as saying 'aren't we privileged to be living at the same time as Bob Dylan' for Chrissake). It's not only that I personally don't share the judgement (there are many esteemed artists I dislike but at least have some comprehension of their appeal to others); it's that I don't on any level understand it. What is supposed to be groundbreaking or interesting about Dylan's tuneless voice, frankly hideous harmonica dirges and pisspoor lyrics, which alternate between stoner doggerel and the stupefyingly inane (Bad Things are like gonna happen; hey, old folks, society's moving on y'know)? Dylan summarises everything that I so despise about the Sixties (bliss was it in that dawn NOT to be alive), it all just seems so ramshackle, so earthy, so earnest, so hairy, so unglamorous, so monochrome, so OLD...

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    do you like any early American folk and country? what do you think about Woodie Guthrie? or any of the Harry Smith collections? what about mississipi delta blues? or 30s Chicago gospel? or is it only Bobby D that gets on your nerves?

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    The rhythmic interplay and guitarwork on albums like Highway61, Desire, 'live at albert hall, 'the rolling thunder bootleg series' (with Mick Ronson) 'the Last Waltz' and even his recent 'Time out of mind' is not to be denied. Obviously yr not a rockist and don't get it. I had the same attitude as youth bred on indie and punk and having fucking people sing 'blowing in the wind' and 'like a rolling stone' at youth camps, until I heard those boots and saw him live, and all my Richard Hell& the Voidoids and Pavement records sounded kinda, I dunno, *dated*.
    All I do now is dick around Sparks, 2006

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  4. #4
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    Default please

    At this point in time, after so much has been written by so many intelligent people (ie, not Brian Appleyard) about Dylan, I don't see how it's possible to not get what the appeal is, unless you're really determined not to. Sure, you don't have to like it, and a good argument why he's not a genius would definitely be more interesting at this point... but to say you just don't understand at all, you have to be deliberately sticking your head in the sand.

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    Default please part ii

    (and when i say a good argument against would be more interesting, i don't mean that childish ranting you're offering up top)

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    Quote Originally Posted by joeschmo
    At this point in time, after so much has been written by so many intelligent people (ie, not Brian Appleyard) about Dylan, I don't see how it's possible to not get what the appeal is, unless you're really determined not to. Sure, you don't have to like it, and a good argument why he's not a genius would definitely be more interesting at this point... but to say you just don't understand at all, you have to be deliberately sticking your head in the sand.
    Well, I've never read anything about Dylan that didn't baffle me when I actually heard the object of this reverence.. and of course vacuous and fallacious appeals to self-evidence and canonic authority aren't really going to persuade me.

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    What are you after, though? All of the things you've written you don't like about Dylan are just describing your responses. Others will have different responses, and might present some post-hoc analysis of why they feel that way, which doesn't agree with your post-hoc analysis of why you feel the way you do. Then what?

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    Actually, sorry, post-hoc analysis might not be fair. It sounds like you're coming to the music with a whole lot of notions about what constitutes good and bad music. As we all do, I guess. But do you want it affirmed that the same things you are looking to hate other people love? Sounding earnest, ramshackle, old (maybe repackaged as "classic" or of a certain lineage or something), etc.?

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    The problem with 'getting' Dylan is when people over-psycho-analyse it and the fact that his appeal is one of the most 'innerlectyul' in rock - I can't think of any artist that has been more written about except for maybe Lou Reed, Neil Young, the Beatles and U2. As Richard Meltzer said 'Dylan frees us FROM meaning'.

    If you don't like old-school, raw transcendent rock, fine, you'll never get it, go listen to MBV or the Smiths or Spacemen3 or Pavement or Sonic Youth or whatever.

    But I can see yr confusion or inability to get it.

    At the end the music speaks, nothing else. But I urge you to get the bootlegs first if you're curious.
    All I do now is dick around Sparks, 2006

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  10. #10

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    Feel somewhere between the doubters and the believers. Was never into him but recently bought Highway 61 Revisited after hearing a few tracks off it. It's good, but somewhere between the then and the now. Clever lyrics I guess and not a duff track on it. Don't think my Pavement records suffered as a result of exposure to Dylan though.

    I'd say that the current boomer nostalgia is possibly down to another factor as well. Do you think it's possible that a lot of the cultural establishment now who love Bob Dylan were folkies then and not into more proletarian rock and roll/soul etc. at the time?

    Pushing Dylan allows them to ignore the fact that they missed music of great importance (like dismissing hip hop in the 80s) and also appear culturally in tune by putting someone from a pop culture canon in a classical context - the whole Dylan vs. Keats thing. Why do people feel the need to make these judgements? It's art not sport! It's not supposed to have league tables.

    ...oh and another thing. Has anyone noticed how it's the literary critics who foam at the mouth? Too much attention to lyrics? I'm not saying Dylan isn't worthy of praise - I like him, but Savage, Morley, Bangs, Reynolds, Pareles etc didn't have the same rabid praise that I see from the ... dare I say it... logocentrists.
    Last edited by treblekicker; 28-09-2005 at 10:34 AM.

  11. #11
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    Just to clarify, I don't like Dylan at all.

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    I don't belive in Zimmerman.

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    While one must wholeheartedly agree with K-Punks comments in regard to Dylan's " tuneless voice, frankly hideous harmonica dirges and pisspoor lyrics", it is important not to overlook Dylan's greatest crime. He must be held responsible, along with Lennon/McCartney, in making it obligatory for all pop groups/singers etc. to write their own material. Most of whom are obviously not vey good at it.

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    ha i do second that, but i'm going to out myself as a Dylan apologist here- if you draw a line under the horrible grotty anti-sensualism of the folkie stuff (and pretty much everything after 'blonde on blonde' (ie, the three electric albums) then he works as a kind of precursor to howard devoto or vic godard- cheap, clattery, overstuffed speedfreak lyrics, that sense of trying to say a million things at once, a determinedly urban, paranoid sound.

    also he looked fantastic at the time- lovely, semi-Maoist coats, thick Eraserhead hairdo...

  15. #15
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    spot on post owen. also, the mushy, muddy sound of Highway 61 (esp like a rolling stone), too many instruments, not much separation or hierarchy, the sense of everyone including dylan battling to get their own ideas heard, is great. Even by blonde on blonde though, there wasnt that same energy, everything sounds more in thrall to the Masters Voice.

    And, a whole book on like a rolling stone? greil marcus has really lost it to his dylan fixation hasnt he? not that I've read it.

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