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“D-Day”: A Dylan Fan Anxiously Awaits Tuesday’s Release Of Modern Times

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So I gotta tell you.

I'm pretty stoked about the new Bob Dylan album Modern Times that arrives in stores this Tuesday. But what I'm not gonna do here is bore you with a lot of analytical bullshit about Dylan.

Well, at least not too much. You see, I'm not really that much of a Dylanologist.

I actually came to the party relatively late in the game, as we will shall soon see in the paragraphs about to unfold. But I am a fan. A huge fan.

And as such, I have gone through Dylan's various ups and downs as an artist every bit as much as the obsessive types who've been known to traipse through his garbage cans in the dead of night. As much as any fan looking for any clue in the way of a lyric as to just what makes this man — this icon if we are to be truly honest — really tick.

Based on my own personal experience with this artist, I'll simply tell ya what I know.

There's been a lot of Dylans over the years. There's been the heir apparent to Woody Guthrie Dylan that horrified the folkie purists when he strapped on an electric guitar at Newport (brilliantly captured for posterity in Scorsese's No Direction Home documentary).

There's been electric wiry haired protest "spokesmen of the sixties" icon Dylan.

There's been the "non-smoking" Dylan who put out the silky smooth vocals heard on Nashville Skyline in 1969 (quitting smoking was his explanation at the time for the dramatic vocal change).

There's been the "song and dance man" Dylan that did a tour in greasepaint and put out out the album Street Legal (vastly underrated in my personal opinion) and the Rolling Thunder tour and Renaldo And Clara movie.

There's been the "born again Christian" Dylan of the Slow Train Coming era…

And I mean it just goes on and on. It really does. Which is what makes Bob Dylan so uniquely fascinating as an artist. So right now, I'm going to try to put all of this into a personal context as to how I came to appreciate Dylan.

Like I said, I'm certainly no Dylanologist. When I first heard "Like A Rolling Stone," I may have been ten years old. But even then I recognized the difference between what I was hearing, and everything else on the radio at the time in the sixties. Which was basically a lot of Beatles, a lot of Motown, and a smattering of the other folk-rock artists doing Dylan songs like the Byrds ("Mr. Tambourine Man") and The Turtles ("It Aint Me Babe") that were changing the shape of top forty radio at the time.

As that Buffalo Springfield song said so appropriately, "there's something happening here."

I was far too young to realize what was really going on at the time of course, (and we won't even go into the "soundalikes" of the time like Donovan and Barry McGuire). But I still recognized, even at my young age, that there was a new sound emerging on the radio. I distinctly remember a trip in my parents car from Seattle to Yakima as the time I first noticed it. The radio was playing John Sebastian's Lovin' Spoonful and John Phillips' Mamas and Papas. There was clearly something in the air and on the airwaves.

The next time I really noticed Dylan was in 1969 when he put out Nashville Skyline. I still wasn't a full fledged fan — my tastes ran far more to the psychedelia of the Jefferson Airplane and the Doors as an emerging thirteen year old hippie wannabe in the sixties by that time. But I did notice the raspy voice of songs like "Highway 61 Revisited" (songs I knew by this time), had been replaced by the smooth croon of "Lay Lady Lay."

About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Thanx for publishing this Gordon. As always you are both gentleman and scholarly editor dude.

    -Glen

  • Scott Barkley

    Enjoyed the read Glen. I never delved deeply into Dylan early on….i saw him as coming more out of the Beat generation and he was just too cerebral and poet-like for me in my youth (other than the songs that got radio play ie Like a Rolling Stone… although it was Hendrix’s version that really grabbed me) even tho I was VERY aware of what was going on in the world in my late preeteen and early teen years in the mid to late sixties and early seventies and saw his importance musically in all of it. In short, overall, I didn’t “get it”….I was much more into the hard driving rock and roll of the 60′s and early 70′s as we have discussed before. As I grew and developed in my music tastes, I learned more and came to appreciate his incredible talents, and his eclectic body of work. Some of it was Clapton’ fault as the first time I heard his version of “Knockin on Heaven’s Door” I was floored. It has become of my top 20 all time favorite songs and one that I often sang in the clubs a decade or so ago with the various bands that I “sat in” with from time to time. Realizing thatit was a Dylan song served to whet my interest and I delved past Dylan’s hits and discovered some of the gems that you mentioned in your article. My appreciation for the man and his music grew, as did my appreciation of much of his less “mainstream” work.
    I’m still no afficianado by any stretch, but also look forward to this forthcoming collection, and to your review.

    Keep em coming my friend. Always enjoy your thoughtful musings…..

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Well the “thoughtful muse” in me thanks you very much for that compliment Scott. I was up very late last night, both writing this article and listening to a lot of my Dylan albums. And I spent most of today editing and re-editing this because I really wanted to make sure I got my thoughts down just right (I’m also particularly thankful that BC held off on publishing my earlier version).

    Anyway, ya know what? I just finished re-reading it for the first time on BC, as well your comment, and I can’t believe I missed one very important part of Dylan’s career.

    Blood On The Tracks. I actually wrote an entire article about Dylan without mentioning Blood On The Tracks. Not even once. Shame on me.

    So I’ll just try to say it quick as I can here. Blood On The Tracks was the first of what would become many career rejuvenating records for Dylan. But of those, it remains far and away the best of those “comeback” records.

    After the confusing jumble of Self Portrait, and the only slightly more satisfying New Morning and Planet Waves, Dylan really found his muse again on Tracks. Whether railing away at the world with the venomous sounding scorn of “Idiot Wind” or writing as lovely and lyrical a ballad as he ever has in “Shelter from The Storm,” Tracks found Dylan’s songwriting powers once again at a somewhat unexpected peak. It remains one of his two or three best period.

    Anyway, I apologize for using your comment to fill in that gap in the story Scott, but it’s a crucial one that needed to be addressed.

    Glad you liked the article Scott. And thank you again for the compliment and for the comment.

    Your favorite thoughtful muse,

    -Glen

  • http://spatulaforum.blogspot.com/ Nik

    Great piece. I came pretty recently to Dylan and am curious to see what he comes up with next. If it’s at all similar to the last two albums, it should be a treat.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Thanks Nik. From everything I’ve been hearing it’s supposed to be very much in the same vein as Love And Theft. Which if thats the case makes the wait till Tuseday even tougher. Dylan’s voice these days…the low bluesy gutteral howl of age that its become…emphasizes his incredible gift for phrasing better than ever in my view. So I’m all about another trip through the delta swamp like the one we got on Love And Theft.

    Thanks for the comment Nik.

    -Glen

  • Jenn Beeler

    I just read the Rolling Stone review (they gave it five stars) and it sounds like Bob may have gotten that ol time religion again too. Lots of references to apocalypse and prophecy in the review, especially on some song i think was called “Thumder On The Mountain”.

    Just between you and me, Doomsday Dylan suits me fine too…it’s kind of apprppriate in these “modern times” of ours actually. Nice job on the preview sir.

    jenn

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Personally Jenn, I like Dylan just fine when he’s spitting the hell, fire, and brimstone. He’s always struck me as being at his best when he’s full of such fire and righteous indignation. I loved Slow Train Coming for example…and I think if you took the best parts of both Saved (“Solid Rock”) and Shot Of Love (“Every Grain Of Sand”), it would have made one hell of a followup…pardon the pun.

    So Rolling Stone rates Dylan’s new one as a five star prophetic vision of Armageddon then? I say bring it on.

    Thanx for the comment.

    -Glen