Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ballad of a Thin Man...The Bob Dylan Story Part One...Show # 209

Bob Dylan was born as Robert Allen Zimmerman in May of 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota. While in High School he formed a rock and roll group called The Golden Chords. In 1959 he went to the University of Minnesota. While studying at University, he began to develop an interest in folk music. He also began performing acoustically at coffee houses and he started using the name Bob Dylan. Originally he wanted to call himself Robert Allen, but he eventually decided upon the name Bob Dylan. In 1960, Dylan went to Denver where he was said to have met Jesse Fuller who was a blues musician. He had a big influence on the style of Bob Dylan. He was also influenced by folk artist Woody Guthrie and Country artist Hank Williams. By January of 1961, Dylan dropped out of school and moved to New York City to become full time musician.

When in New York, Dylan went to visit Guthrie who was in a hospital in New Jersey. Dylan made repeated visits to see Guthrie who was dying of Huntington's Chorea (He would pass in 1967). He also began performing and developed a following. He opened for John Lee Hooker at Gerde's Folk City. A few months later Dylan received a positive review in the New York Times and was offered a recording contract by Columbia A&R man John Hammond. He was signed to Columbia in the fall of 1961. He released his first self titled album in 1962. The album was comprised of Folk and Blues covers and two original compositions. The album was recorded in two short sessions in November of 1961. When recording Bob Dylan recorded mostly in first takes and was produced by Hammond. The album did not make a huge impact (it sold about 5000 copies) and Columbia considered dropping Dylan from the label. He also recorded 12 songs under the name Blind Boy Grunt for the Folk magazine, Broadside Magazine.

in 1962, Bob Dylan legally changed his name to Robert Dylan and signed Albert Grossman as his manager (who would be his manager until 1970). Bob Dylan's next album would be released in 1963. The Free Wheelin' Bob Dylan contained two cover songs and the rest of the songs were Dylan originals. The album was comprised of political protest songs (lyrically). The album featured songs such as "Blowin' In The Wind", "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall", "Masters of War", "Girl From the North Country", and "Corina, Corina". Another interesting fact is that before its release Dylan recorded a rock single called "Mixed Up in Confusion". He also recorded several tracks with a backing band. The songs were described as having rock and rockabilly sounds. The sessions also produced numerous other outtakes, some of these songs can be found on The Bootleg Series or Biograph. The album did very well climbing to number 22 on the Billboard Charts. "Blowin' in the Wind" was seen as the anthem for the 1960 Civil Rights movement. Dylan's next album, The Times They Are A-Changing came out in 1964. On this album Dylan drew in more R&B and Blues influences and was lyrically influenced by poets such as John Keats and Arthur Rimbaud. In the same year Bob Dylan released Another Side of Bob Dylan. The album reached #43 on the US Charts and #8 in the UK. The album also showed Dylan changing his sound. This would be his last album that was recorded with just Dylan and his acoustic guitar. It was recorded in one session on June 9th, 1964.

Around this time the world was hit by the British invasion. Groups such as The Beatles and the Rolling Stones dominated the charts. Dylan would also change his musical style, grow a large afro and start wearing dark sunglasses. He Would began work on his album Bringing it All Back Home in 1965. The album featured two sides Dylan's rock side and his acoustic side. The album also saw a change in the lyrics that Dylan was known for. He drifted away from political stylings of "Blowin' in the Wind" and "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall". The album distanced his music from the folk community, which he had a large following. The album was a top ten US hit. It featured songs such as "Subterranean Homesick Blues" a song that addressed the issues of anti-establishment politics and was influenced musically by Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business". The music video for the song featured Bob Dylan with giant cue cards. "Maggie's Farm" was Dylan addressing his independence from the folk community, other interesting tracks include "Love Minus Zero/No Limit", "Outlaw Blues", "Mr. Tambourine Man" (originally recorded in 1964), "Gates of Eden", and "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)".

In 1965 Dylan played at the New Port Folk Festival. This concert was seen as controversial by the folk community. Dylan was booed. The appearance of Dylan with an electric guitar and rock band (his backing band was the Paul Butterfield Blues Band) outraged his folk fans and was documented on film. The result was some fans were alienated, but Dylan continued with his electric rock backing band. As a result Dylan would gain more fans in the rock community.

Recorded entirely electric with a rock band Highway 61 Revisted sprung the single "Like a Rolling Stone". The song was one featuring heavy organ work and the unique and interesting lyrics of Bob Dylan, it was also originally intended to be used for a play. The song went to #2 on the US Charts, #4 in the UK. The album featured Mike Bloomfield (guitar), Harvey Brooks (bass), Al Kooper (organ), and Bobby Greg on drums; there were also other musicians featured on the album comprising Dylan's backing band. The title of the album can be traced to an actual place called Highway 61, which has been the subject in many blues songs. The album Highway 61 Revisited featured many interesting songs such as "Tombstone Blues" a song that musically has drums that sound like trash can lids crashing together, "Ballad of A Thin Man" a song about people that always ask questions (and an interviewer from The Village Voice), and the song "Highway 61 Revisited". The album went to #3 in the US and #4 in the UK. Other songs were recorded during these sessions. The song "Positively 4th Street", is seen as a comment on his former folk contemporaries which he had known during his club days on West 4th Street. "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window" was another song recorded during these sessions. It would later be re-recorded with The Hawks (later known as The Band) as Dylan's backing band.

In support of this album Dylan had to get new band members to make up his touring band, since most of his backing band from the Highway 61 Sessions would not go on tour. He assembled some of the Hawks Robbie Robertson, and Levon Helm to play two dates in the US. He then got the entire band The Hawks (who were an early incarnation of the Canadian band, The Band) to be his backing band for his 1965-1966 world tour. Dylan recorded his next album Blonde on Blonde in 1966 in Nashville and New York. The album would be a double album and reach #9 in the US and #3 in the UK. The backing band also contained some of the members of the Hawks. The album would be a mix of Blues, Rock, Folk, Country, Gospel, and more. The album was the last in the style Dylan created with Bringing It All Back Home, and Highway 61 Revisited. Blonde on Blonde contains wonderful songs such as "Rainy Day Woman #12 and #35", "Pledging My time", "Visions of Johanna", "I Want You", "Leopard-Skin-Pill-Box Hat", "Absolutely Sweet Marie", and "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands". Dylan toured in support of this album with The Hawks backing him and the last concert of the tour was in England at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. This concert was famously documented (released on The Bootleg Series Volume 4) The concert was played with incredible energy thanks to The Hawks.

After this tour in 1966, Dylan went into seclusion and was said to have been involved in a motorcycle accident. Some people believe this was just an excuse for Dylan to get away from all the pressures that were around him. In 1967, he recorded a large amount of material with The Hawks. He recorded covers, demos, originals. These would be documented on The Basement Tapes which were released in 1975. It featured selections from the sessions. Bootlegs exists of the complete sessions which are four sometimes five CD's long. In November of 1967 Dylan returned to a studio in Nashville to record John Wesley Harding. The album featured the song "All Along the Watchtower", and was different from Blonde on Blonde. It featured shorter songs and lyrically drew on subjects from the Bible and the American West. Musically it was acoustically and more traditionally based. It did very well going to #2 on the US charts.

Next Week I will do part two of my Bob Dylan history as well as part two of my Bob Dylan radio special. Leave a request in the comment section if theres anything you'd like to hear.

Bob Dylan Play List:

1. Outlaw Blues (Bringing It All Back Home 1965)
2. If You Gotta Go, Go Now (Or Else You Got To Stay All Night) (The Bootleg Series Vol 1-3 1991)
3. Everything Is Broken (Oh Mercy 1989)
4. I Can't Make It Alone (Tree With Roots 1967)
5. On A Night Like This (Planet Waves 1974)
6. Tough Mama (Planet Waves 1974)
7. Tombstone Blues (Highway 61 Revisited 1965)
8. Jokerman (Infidels 1983)
9. World Gone Wrong (World Gone Wrong 1993)
10. Santa Fe (The Bootleg Series Vol 1-3 1991)
11. Wallflower (The Bootleg Series Vol 1-3 1991)
12. A Simple Twist of Fate (Blood On the Tracks 1975)
13. Wicked Messenger (John Wesley Harding 1967)
14. Leopard-Skin-Pill-Box-Hat (Blonde on Blonde 1966)
15. Obviously 5 Believers (Blonde on Blonde 1966)
16. Odds and Ends (The Basement Tapes 1975)
17. I Wanna Be Your Lover (Biograph 1985)
18. Masters of War (The Free Wheelin' Bob Dylan 1963)
19. Dreamin' of You (The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs 2008)

Some Videos:

Blowin' in the Wind (Live 1963)
Girl From The North Country (1964)
Chimes of Freedom (Live 1964)
Subterranean Homesick Blues (Music Video)
Like A Rolling Stone (Live 1966)
Leopard-Skin-Pill-Box-Hat (Live 1966)
All Along the Watchtower

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