While I had friends whose older brothers introduced me to Bob Dylan in the late sixties it was a school teacher when I was about 15 who truly introduced me to Dylan.
I remember his words “Dylan is the beginning the middle and the end” and I have no doubt he meant it. I am not sure whether they were his own words, an adaption of someone else’s or a direct quote. Another quote I liked was “Dylan is the barometer of our times”. Again I’m not sure to whom that quote should be attributed, however through the sixties and seventies it seemed apt.
So,why the discussion about Dylan?
It’s because of an article in The Guardian’s Sleeve Notes talking about a new Basement Tapes by the great man and that he is once again touring Australia.
As I have mentioned before I have seen Dylan in concert on a couple of occasions and loved him both times. The first was his Budokan Tour and the second about 35 years later when he toured to promote his Modern Times,album. I have many friends who went to both concerts with their reactions mixed. I loved them both. I guess I would have stayed at the infamous Newport Folk Festival concert where Dylan turned electric and not booed as so many apparently did.
Still as I listened today to the Budokan concert it was an opportunity to reflect on Dylan as the “Beginning Middle and the End” or the “Barometer of our Times”. Budokan is Dylan reggae and seventies style. It’s awesome. The songs, pretty much all classics, sound just right in this style as they did as originally recorded. The Budokan album was heavily criticised however for me it was another example of Dylan picking up the vibe and going with it. More evidence as the barometer of our times. I love his versions of Like a Rolling Stone, Mr Tambourine Man, All I really want to do – I could go on.
This album reflected the music of the time. His early sixties music was also able to reflect the era, acoustic and amazing. His move to electric did just the same.
To many in the words of Ronnie Gilbert who introduced Dylan at the infamous Newport Jazz Festival concert “And here he is…take him, you know him, he’s yours” is how they see Dylan. It’s personal and they have put him in a box or on a pedestal – frozen in time. They wanted no change. With a discography that spans fifty years the evidence of change in style is everywhere to see. He writes, plays as he has seen fit: folk, electric, seventies style, reggae, gospel, rockabilly etc. As further evidence, Dylan and Tom Petty played Dylan classics like never before.
Dylan probably can no longer claim the mantle he once held. It matters not to me, his discography is just enormous and amazingly varied and to me he has been the “Barometer of Our Times”.