Thursday, January 10, 2013

SOTW - January 10, 2012 - Left Turns

Bob Dylan was prone to Left Turns. Unless he was on a motorcycle, they all led to Glory. Nothing I could ever say or think could ever change what's been said and thought about Bob Dylan. I may try nonetheless, but later. Tonight, let's focus on one song, starting with a bit of context.

Beginning with his arrival in Greenwich Village in January 1961, Dylan became a closely-shorn folk tornado bringing peace on earth and goodwill to men in 3 minute intervals. (See The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan). When we think of this Dylan, we think in black-and-white. We see him at protests surrounded by rapt followers with an acoustic in his hand and a harmonica around his neck. "The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind."

Then, in 1965, he decided the World needed changing again, so he did. [Cue Left Turn 1.] The 1965 release of Bringing it all Back Home brought us Electric Dylan. (The live debut of this incarnation was his over-analyzed summer 1965 appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, which came a few months after Brining It was released). This is the first Dylan we think of in color; the too-far-too-fast young man hiding behind black Wayfarers seen unravelling in D.A. Pennebaker's Don't Look Back. This is the Dylan of "that thin wild mercury sound" on eternal display in Highway 61 Revisited (1965) and Blonde on Blonde (1966). "Johnny's in the basement mixing up the medicine, I'm on the pavement thinking 'bout the government..."

As Electric Bob wore thin, his thoughts turned to the country. (Who could blame him?) That's where he wrecked the Motorcycle (in July 1966) and that's where he stayed to recuperate, in then-unknown Woodstock, NY. After three masterpieces in 18 months in '65-'66, it would be that long before he recorded again. [Cue Left Turn 2.]

That brings us to 1967, and the release of the sparse and contemplative John Wesley Harding. Against a canvas of recuperation and decompression, he painted a gritty landscape of the robber heroes (title track), jokers and thieves ("All Along the Watchtower"), and supernatural redemption ("Drifter's Escape") set on the American frontier. The theme of open space carried over to the recording, with distance placed between the simple acoustic guitar, harmonica, bass, and drums. The somber adventure of John Wesley ends the only way it could, with an intra-album Left Turn and your Early Evening Song of the Week for January 9, 2012. Stepping down from his storytelling soap box, Dylan bids us goodbye with a simple lover's plea in the form of a pedal steel lullaby. Anyone who's longed can relate.    
Close your eyes, close the door.
You don't have to worry, anymore.
I'll be your, baby tonight.  
May such harmony and good fortune find you this weekend, and always.  

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