Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963)

(1963, Columbia Records)


Okay, I know what you're thinking...Same plate, same looking sandwich bread? This guy's a sham. He only eats bullshit. Well keep your horses in the stable and let me elaborate for a hot second. Today, I have prepared for myself another classic sandwich. You see, it's a hashbrown, topped with two kinds of cheese (muenster and provolone), tucked inside a baguette. I'm contemplating adding some ketchup for that all-American feel, for I'm an all-American boy with an all-encompassing appetite. Also, it's quickly becoming evident that I am horrible at photographing food. 

Speaking of classic and all-American, have I got an album for you. It's the Freewheelin' Bob Dylan of course. This is like the apple pie of American records, or at the very least, a sliver of browned crust in a larger pie for in which we are all invited to indulge. Everything about this album is iconic; from its album cover, to its opening track, to its descent into Dylan singing more like a goat before he REALLY started singing like a full-on goat. It's got it all!

(For reference only: Here's a picture of Tom Cruise on his way to Science church with Penèlope Cruz, Bob Dylan style)

While the self-titled debut is a rough, ragged, speed-blues trek jammed full of covers, the follow-up has a 10 to 3 ratio of originals to covers. It also finds our troubadour finally shedding away his Minnesotan past, embracing his time as King of  the New York Coffee House. By this time, Dylan was number 1 with a piping side of espresso in the hearts of many. This is evident by that ICONIC album photo where he is literally walking the streets of New York. Who's that woman with him, you may be asking? That would be his then girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, a source of endless inspiration for years to come. Don't get too cushy you hopeless romantics. The couple are no longer together, some short 53 years later. In fact, they'd break up shortly after because Dylan was becoming the hotter than a habanero in Hell. Rumor has it, Suze Rotolo's trip to England during the recording sessions for this LP caused Dylan to spiral into a writing frenzy, arguably turning him into one of the most prolific songwriters of a generation seemingly overnight. Which reminds me. One day, I would like to go to England too, just like Suze Rotolo.

Also, I'd like to point out today is Bob Dylan's (born Robert Zimmerman), 75th birthday. I did not prepare a cake, for which we are all saddened. 

Well, without any further hoopla, here's the album that eventually molded a brood of beatniks into hyper pretentious beatniks, and got people protesting the war before they new which war they should be protesting (not historically accurate). 


Blowin' In the Wind- 5 This is one of those songs I probably never have to hear again in my life, up there with "You Shook Me All Night Long" and, say, "The Electric Slide." It's lost all meaning to me, having witnessed endless terrible covers, parodies, and having it shoved down my throat about how this is a song that defines the '60s... Blah de fuckin' blah... Well, you know what. This IS an amazing song. So there. Dare I say, beatufiul? I just said it... Out loud to myself. You should have been here to see it. Now, to the skeletal pluck of Robert Zimmerman nickel wound strings,  I take the first bite of my delicious hash brown sandwich dinner. Also, fun fact: For years, people thought Bob Dylan stole this from a high school kid in NJ, when in fact the kid read the sheet music Dylan published in a magazine a year earlier. That twerp then performed it at a school talent show or something, causing early haters to accuse Dylan of stealing it from this pimply gloating dork. Anyway, as cool as that story is, it's not as cool as this sad, sappy tune for the ages.

(Most kids born in the late '80s first heard this song performed by the "luscious Bobbie Dylan" in the '90s)

Girl From the North Country- 5  This song is goddamn beautiful. Chilling too! Burr.... Dylan sounds confident in his subtle approach. I'm so captivated that I'm forgetting to eat my dinner through this whole song. I spent most of if with my chin on my fist, like some sort of thinking man. This melody is fantastic too! Apparently, ol' (young) Zimmy boy stole the melody from a version of the traditonal tune "Scarbourough Fair." Oh well, all's (scarborough) fair in love and theft (see 1999's Dylan LP Love and Theft in about 29 weeks or so). Just beautiful!

(When others get on you for using the word "beautiful" just raise a fist, remind them of this, and tell 'em Roberto Benigni sent 'ya)

Masters of War- This song just sounds like a bunch of kids sitting around painting picket signs and getting ready to organize out in the streets. Snarling, nasally, dire doomsday folk. Dylan sings about 50 of the best lines every written, and it's captivating, and punk as funck. This Dylan's gonna be trouble, I tell 'ya! If I were J. Edgar Hoover I would  a.) not be such a dick AND b.) still keep a file on this traveling Zimmerman kid.

(this song is precursor to video games such as Call of Duty)

Down the Highway- Okay, because "Masters of War" is such a long song, I've finished half of my sandwich. Honestly, I could have finished all of it, but I must pace myself. This isn't "See How Much I Can Eat During Bob Dylan's Never Ending Songs Blog," because that's a terrible title for anything. Also, after 3 masterpieces, this song is a letdown. I'm sorry Dylan fans, but I've never been able to champion this during his early brilliance. Pretty much only notable for Dylan strumming his guitar really fast and trying to play some pretty cool riffs. Kick up your feet and eat a sandwich of your own. This one's a snoozer.

Bob Dylan's Blues- What a selfish prickly little thing this guy was. Talking about himself in the 3rd person. Well, Bob Dylan would go on to do much stranger things than this. Also, this LP was originally titled Bob Dylan's Blues. I don't know which choice was worse! Dylan gets all "playful" on this one, and you can practically hear the crowds cracking up about what a charmer this Dylan kid is in between his songs of dying and pain. What a jovial mensch, for sure. Dylan even laughs at himself a couple times in this song. You know what Zimmy, you are a cute S.O.B.

A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall-  Speaking of food, I've finished my sandwich just in time for this marathon tune. One of his undisputed classics at 7 minutes long! Who knew all of Bob Dylan's songs would one day be 7 minutes or more!?!? With this one, a lot of people insisted Dylan wrote with the Cuban Missile Crisis in mind, and then Dylan was like, "Yup, yes I did," even though he recorded it a month before said historical event. Eventually, in like 1965, Zimmy went electric and was like "I don't write 'bout nothin' maaaaannnn," (sounding like a goat, and looking like a goat with black sunglasses). So is the man a liar? You better bet the farm, baby...Maggie's Farm, that is. Anyway, this is like a novel of a song, where he seems to "see, hear, and meet" all this crazy metaphorical shit along the way. I say metaphorical because if anyone saw, heard, or met any of these things or people they'd be in a psych ward. Honestly, there's live versions of this that blow this recording out of the water, but hell, got to respect the source.

(raining frogs is an example of a hard rain that could one day fall)
(another example of a hard rain, but spelled "reign" as in "to rule")

Don't Think Twice, It's Alright- In case you wondered, I never ended up adding ketchup to my hasbhrown and cheese diner sandwich because this album is New York Americana to me all the way. And in New York, they don't slather ketchup all over everything. SO, Dylan picks away like a maniac and weaves a beautifully simple melody that just hits hard and deep, like one of those emotional knives they sell at the feelings' store. The perfect song to kickstart your morning, if you wanna feel hopeful and shitty at the same time.

Bob Dlan's Dream- There goes that Zimmy again, talkin' 'bout himself in the 3rd person. Selfish bastard. This one's better than "Bob Dylan's Blues" at least, but nowhere near as good as "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream" off 1965's Bringing It All Back Home. But what can you do? Win 'em all? Someone's gotta lose. But you know who wasn't losing in 1963? Bob Dylan. He'd be a loser somewhere around 1979 or so. WOOF! Talk about trying to repair Satan's refrigerator, in the creative sense. But now's not the time. Also, this song would be great if it weren't so........ummm.......never ending! Still, a killer vocal performance and great lyrics of longing and self-reflection make this a worthy selection for any long car ride full of Dylan fanatics; an annoying bunch indeed.

(a short example of a dream someone could possibly have.)

Oxford Town- This song was celebrated as being about the first black student, James Meredith, to be accepted into the University of Mississippi. Dylan received much praise for this, and then years later said something like "I don't know, maybe this song ain't about that" (not an actual quote). Good God, Bobby, make up your mind. In fact, it really could be about any sort of racial prejuidce of the time. Social message is thumbs up here, but the song is kind of a novelty, bouncy folk piece.

Talkin' World War III Blues- 3 Before the Minutemen wrote "Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs," Bob Dylan wrote this song. Dylan was paranoid, and if the '60s taught us anything, every smart person was a bit paranoid. Duck and cover, motherfucker. That'd been a cool tattoo for Dylan to get at the time, but as a betting man, I'm guessing he didn't. Real bouncy blues folk with quick, clever, nervy stanzas all slathered in harmonica condiments.
 (this is what Bob Dylan was talking about, I believe)

Corrina, Corrina- A traditional blues/folk song that Dylan puts his own spin on. I like this better than the '90s Whoopi Goldberg movie of same name (the one I've never seen). An infectious little shuffle here, that's both saddening and tranquil. Wait, a minute? Are those drums and bass in this song? Dylan jams with a band, but not THE BAND, yet. That's coming though. Stay tuned.

(It's possible, some critics believe this movie was a prequel to Ghost, Field of Dreams, AND Goodfellas)

Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance- I've grabbed myself a little after dinner snack. A Sara Lee cinamon bun that tastes just terrible. Why did I think this would satisfy my after dinner cravings? It doesn't, but this song is way better than this cinnamon bun. Dylan shakes and fluctuates his vocals all over the place, playing a panicky folk song, hootin' and hollerin', and pumping a ton of priceless spit into that harmonica of his. Short and sweet.

I Shall Be Free- What a record. A bunch of solid standard sounding stuff mixed with some real groundbreaking, era defining classics. This one's along the lines of standard folk fair, talkin' 'bout paintin' the woodshed as a bucket of paint falls on his head. Name drops President Kennedy and Brigitte Bardot in regards to making the country grow (I think this is metaphor for an erection...). This one's in the "funny" category of the early Dylan folk catalog. Dylan's got his tongue firmly stuffed in cheek here as he talks about making love to Elizabeth Taylor and pissing off Richard Burton. I also have tongue firmly in my cheek, as I try to get some of this cinnamon bun out of my molars. Delightful.

Well now, you are free... until the next review when I eat some carbs and listen to some more harmonica. THAT, my friend, is the American dream.  Take care.

Help yourself to a mint. You earned it, Champ.

1 comment:

  1. Really like this one. A great mix of songs showing many different sides of The Bob.... including his goofy, funny side that is totally missing from the next album, but which fortunately is back again in spades on the next few albums after that.