Artist: Bob Dylan
Album: Bringing It All Back Home
Genre: Folk Rock
“Oh, get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance
Learn to dance, get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don’t steal, don’t lift
Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid”
Big changes are happening in my life. I’ve recently made some big decisions that will change everything as I know it. It was a long time coming, but it’s something I knew I had to do and am happy I decided to do. You see, for awhile I feel I’ve been stuck in some sort of rut. Things just haven’t been going well in general and I feel it’s for a variety of reasons. I just felt stuck. Stuck where I am, stuck in progress and stuck in motion. I feel difficulty moving forward where I’m at these days and it gets tougher and tougher as I feel I’m digging myself into a deeper hole I can’t get out of. I’ve been in Montreal all my life and have lived with my parents this whole time, so I kind of got stuck in this routine and never really noticed that transition from child to adult. And now that I’m really starting to feel it I realise how stuck I really am and the only way to move forward is by making big changes in my life. So here it is: I’ve left my job and am moving to Toronto.
Big change I know. I’m not just moving out, I’m moving to a completely different city. Quitting of the job was more a result of that choice and not the other way around, but was something I still felt I had to do. It was time to stop being unhappy and start pursing the things I really wanted out of life. No more time wasting, It’s time for me to go and grab life by the balls and tug as hard as possible (that’s how the expression works right?). I love Montreal, I love it with all my heart and it will always be my home, but things have become to toxic for me here. It’s time to move on with a fresh start, a clean state, a new me (but still keeping the good stuff of the old me) with a new attitude. That’s what I have to do.
Friday was officially my last day of work and I decided to end it in style. I arrived for my last day in full Liederhosen garb. If you don’t believe me, here’s a picture to prove it:
Let’s just say nobody expected to see what they saw and it was a great icebreaker for employees I never had the chance to talk to (a little too late, but whatever). It was a hit and brought smiles to people’s faces, which is really all I could have hoped for. There’s a story behind my decision to wear this specific outfit, but that’s for another time. My day ended with lots of beer and tears but I know I’m making a step forward to my personal future and I feel I’ve made the right decision.
It was incredibly fitting that the next album I would listen to was Bobby Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home. It’s funny how I have encountered quite a few albums that were incredibly fitting to what I was going through at the time of listening to it. But isn’t that was life is all about? Happy coincidences that we can’t explain? I’d like to think so, definitely makes things way more interesting.
How was this album fitting exactly? Well, just like I am currently going through major changes in my life, this was the album where Bob Dylan made some big musical changes in his career. This was around the time when he famously went electric, which was his way of distancing himself from his protest songs and folk acoustic roots, but also alienated him from his hardcore fans who saw this as Dylan selling out. Understandably so, it seems a major part of this decision came from when he famously met with The Beatles for the first time. They had a chat, smoked some weed and apparently influenced each other in many ways. The Beatles would go on to explore more surreal lyrics and introspection while Dylan would start incorporating rock n roll sensibilities into his music, hiring an electric band to back him on this album. The fans were justifiably angry. Rock was against the ideals they had and saw in Dylan and they felt betrayed.
But fuck them, Dylan was doing his own thing and he did it pretty damn well. What we have on this album is a way more polished Dylan, musically, and we see him taking those steps to distance himself from the folk music that started it all for him. Lyrically he is straying away from his straight-forward narratives and delves into more poetic verses, incorporating metaphors and symbolic imagery weaved seamlessly with his storytelling. He still manages to keep a lot of the stylings that made him famous from Freewheelin’, especially on the acoustic side of the album on songs such as, Mr. Tambourine Man and It’s Alright Ma (Im Only Bleeding), but it’s really the electric side that dominates the album as not only the strongest material on the album but also marks the moment that Dylan made it clear that he was making a change.
Songs like Maggie’s Farm and Outlaw Blues outline this change with clear lyrics signalling that he’s putting down the protest signs and moving more to a bohemian lifestyle. Bohemian themes really seems to dominate this album, from She Belongs to Me to On the Road Again, it’s clear he has some sort of fascination with it. Listening to it it’s hard to tell if he’s praising the lifestyle or openly mocking it. Knowing Dylan, he’s probably combined the two to create songs that exude introspective self-mocking. I don’t know if that’s the case but it’s definitely the vibe he gives off. He manages to capture that bitter-sweet feeling that he mastered in Freewheelin’ again here and it’s clear that Dylan is definitely the master of combining sadness and happiness to create a single cohesive feeling.
This is shown damn perfectly in the opening song (and the famous one too) Subterranean Homesick Blues. Keeping in tune of what he’s best at, it’s another rambling diatribe about the system and how society is affected by it. He may have made attempts to distance himself from the protesting lifestyle, but I think he will always be a punk at heart whether he likes it or not. The real difference here compared to his past efforts is that he sounds more apathetic. Whereas he expressed fear and anger and voiced what was going through everyone’s minds during times of cold war, here he sounds way more cynical about it all and says it how it is rather than tries to create a viewpoint. He’s not trying to express his feelings but rather just speaking the harsh reality of it all in an almost matter-of-fact way, which, if anything, is what makes the song and this album so damn good. The apathy only strengthens what he is trying to say and doesn’t alienate the listener in any way (Unless you were one of his hardcore fans who felt betrayed that he would dare not be protester, rabble rabble rabble). But to the average listener who is not a total nutcase, he comes across as more personable in a strange way and I personally found myself connecting with him way more here (But maybe it’s because I’m more of a cynic, I’m definitely not a protester).
I do have to talk about one song that stood out for me (there always seems to be one with Dylan): Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream. This song was everything I could hope for with Bobby Dylan and it’s what I had originally understood him to be when I first heard of him. The song starts with a false start. Dylan begins his acoustic play but immediately stops, laughs and breaking the fourth wall, decides to restart again, but this time with the electric band backing him up. It was so absurd and yet so beautiful. Here it was, his official fuck you to his old ways. No words needed, he just had to stop the song and replace the acoustic guitar with an electric one. Simple, yet effective. What follows is an almost non-sensical, surreal, non-linear, completely broken rambling retelling of the discovery of America. It’s almost as if it’s being told through the lens of a dream, with bizarre occurrences and events stringing us along as he mumbles his way through in the way only Dylan himself can mumble through a song. This was the Dylan voice I had heard of in many parodies and homages to the man. This was it, right here. I found it and now understood everything.
It was amazing… Please, never change.
Song of Choice: Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream