Tuesday, April 23, 2013

#16 Blood on the Tracks - Bob Dylan

My first impression of this album was, oh man, Bob wrote this for girls like me.  And it kind of made me smirk because I think most people hear this album and they direct Dylan's anger, raw knife-edged emotions, and empty despair at someone else, someone they are trying to dehumanize try as they might, and can't; but I've never really felt that way about anyone because I always did the breaking up.

But I guess that's not even true either.  Sexy image, I suppose, but probably not realistic.  You see, to trivialize this album and call it a break up album, cathartic as it might be, seems to miss the point entirely.  The point is about perspective.  And we don't get to see his ex's.

To make it all more confusing, I grew up with this album deeply ingrained in my brain before I could understand what the lyrics meant.  My childhood was imbued in the sounds of Dylan's harmonica.  But I gave it a shot and did my best to listen with fresh ears.

It occurred to me that the reason Blood on the Tracks is so very successful, is because Dylan gets at the heart of human feeling without making it totally gay.  You can feel the universe's pain and healing process and all the simpering threads of memory from anyone else who listened to this album and felt their heart strings tug too much to be comfortable.  But the songs are so surreal, mostly Tangled up in Blue, You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome when You Go, and Shelter from the Storm they feel like they have always been here (and that's true for me in this lifetime) but Dylan found a vein in the collective unconscious and sucked it dry for the sake of this saturated star in a galactic sea of musical milky ways.

But did he puss out like James Joyce after Finnegan's Wake?  Or get worn out from whiskey dick like Faulkner did after Absalom, Absalom?  No fucking sir.  That man is still making awesome music because he GETS it.  He's here, probably like Shakespeare and Milton were, to make us understand ourselves better.  Yeah, Harold Bloom, I just made that comparison.  Get over it.

So shut the fuck up and stop whining about how he sounds like a belching pig and pick up this album before you die a miserable life without a glimpse of your own soul.

The new epiphany I had when I tried to listen to it anew was the idea that what makes Bob Dylan so dynamic are his perspective changes and paradigm shifts visible from album to album as he's grown up.  It made me think that, every few years we should shed our programming and start fresh.  Get some new values, be different people, start making different decisions, get some Descartes' Fireside action.  I think I do that, rather a lot and can appreciate things like Dylan's Christian album because I get it.  It's all about perspective.

And it's also weird to think that two people can be in the same car listening to the same song and have drastically different experiences and memories and day dreams.  Paradoxically, both are sharing in the music and are connected, but they are both disconnected from each other.

For example:

My Dad and I were driving through the dirt, rugged roads in northern Idaho a few days before my wedding with sirius radio cutting in and out through the forty foot tall pine trees and mountain interference.  We were singing along to "Tangled up in Blue" on one of the classic rock stations.  The song would cut out but we'd keep singing and Dylan would chime in and out to check on us to make sure we were keeping good time.

When we got to the end of the song, my dad said, "I never understood what he meant by that ending; "some are mathematicians, some are carpenter's wives..."

(don't know how it all got started
I don't know what they do with their lives
but me, I'm still on the road,
headed for another joint,
we always did feel the same
we just saw it from a different point of view
tangled up in blue.)

My interpretation came so naturally to me; I tried to control my excited tone.  I said, "well, you are a geologist.  Your point of view is to see the earth as a living organism on a timeline most people cannot comprehend.  You can see what it was and what it might be.  That's how you understand 'being,' thus, that's your perspective.  I see the world in poetic moments full of irony (like schooling my father on a song he's heard for 30 years), understandings, misunderstandings, human interactions, and philosophical ideas.  We can both listen to this song and take drastically different things away from it; yet we're sharing the experience together.  We can't see the world through other perspectives, but we all feel the same sometimes about the direction our lives are heading or the way we feel about people and each other; I guess, sometimes Dad, we all get tangled up in blue."

We continued to drive and I wondered what this song might have reminded him of.  Probably his days of living in New Orleans or further back in Kentucky, or sleeping on the floor in someone's house in Kalamazoo. or rocks, rocks, and more rocks.
But me, I'm still on the road...

Blood on the Tracks Album Cover

Columbia, 1975
Bob Dylan once introduced this album's opening song, "Tangled Up in Blue," onstage as taking him 10 years to live and two years to write. It was, for him, a pointed reference to the personal crisis – the collapse of his marriage to Sara Lowndes – that at least partly inspired this album, Dyl­an's best of the 1970s. In fact, he wrote all of these lyrically piercing, gingerly majestic songs in two months, in mid-1974. He was so proud of them that he privately auditioned almost all of the album, from start to finish, for pals and peers including Mike Bloomfield, David Crosby and Graham Nash before cutting them in September – in just a week, with members of the bluegrass band Deliverance. But in December, Dylan played the record for his brother David in Minneapolis, who suggested recutting some songs with local musicians. The final Blood was a mix of the slow, pensive New York sessions and the faster, wilder Minneapolis dates. Together, they frame the gritty anguish in some of Dylan's most passionate, confessional songs – from adult breakup ballads like "If You See Her, Say Hello" to the sharp-tongued opprobrium of "Idiot Wind," his greatest put-down song since "Like a Rolling Stone." "It's hard for me to relate to people enjoying that type of pain," Dylan said after the album became an instant success. Yet he had never turned so much pain into so much musical splendor.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/500-greatest-albums-of-all-time-20120531/bob-dylan-blood-on-the-tracks-20120524#ixzz2RLfJ6Vhd 
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