Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Times They Are A-Changin' (1964)

(1964, Columbia Records)

A black-and-white close-up of Dylan's face looking down


So clearly, I am not the best at plating my food. I think I give up trying to get my name into Platter's World Magazine. Is that a magazine? Lord, I really hope not. But you see here, I did not plate this dinner my faithful readers. I have tricked you with my initial statement, for I am a trickster of the written word. This stuffed concoction was purchased from the locally famous Cinco De Mayo restaurant in New Brunswick NJ, home of the burrito bigger than your head, yet easy on the wallet. The dinner tonight was of the take-out variety, practically room temperature by the time I got it back home some 40 minutes later. The burrito is a Texano Burrito (so says their menu), vegetarian style with a side of guacamole (already devoured at the point of picture taking).  But enough about this 6 dollar delight. Onto Dylan's 3rd LP...

In 1963, Bob Dylan's popularity was on the rise. While still not an everyday household name, the sheer output of new original material began to attract the attention of other performers, chomping at the bit to cash in on performing this HOT new Dylan kid's songs. While everyone under the sun was releasing other writer's "marketable music" in the early '60s, Bob Dylan's 3rd LP is made up entirely of original material. Yup, young Robert Zimmerman of Duluth Minnesota left the covers in the coal bin for this one. The Beatles, in comparison, had to release around 43 LPs before finally settling on including only original material (I believe it was on George Harrison's 1982 Gone Troppo LP). 

For the first time in his short career,  Dylan switched producers, now working with Tom Wilson (a jazz engineer who said he thought Dylan's music was a snooze, but his lyrics were tops!).  This relationship would carry into the next few Dylan LPs, influential in the rock/folk music lexicon beyond anyone's wildest dreams. How does Tom Wilson's production fare on this folk record, you ask? Well, we get more harmonica than usual. In fact, the harmonica is so damn sharp in the mix, my left ear bleeds to the point of near fatal hemorrhage every time I revisit this great record. It's like an aural Q-Tip.

While not as historic as The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (mostly because the album cover isn't as cool, I'm convinced), this is still a solid, solid follow-up, chock full of early Dylan classics all waiting to individually be inducted into the Rock N Roll of Fame.

Also, speaking of the cover, what is going on here? On his self-titled LP a year and half earlier, Dylan looked like a 16 year old kid trying to emulate a doe-eyed raccoon hunter. Here he looks like a 42 year old man who smokes 400 cigs a day, losing sleep for fear he will one day be hunted by racoons. But fear not. By 1980, Bob Dylan would actually be a 40 old man who smoked 400 cigs a day. Just be patient.

(A raccoon in search of Robert Zimmerman)

Let's get this ball rollin'....


The Times They Are A-Changin'- 5  This song is an undisputed classic that may or may not be about Day Light Saving time. Something tells me it's no, but I'm not an Encyclopedia or Junior High History book so don't ask me. I am a person with feelings and an appetite. While we're talking about feelings, as far as this tune is concerned, no matter how many times I hear it I'm still a sad nostalgic son of a gun weeping in my blankets. It's beautiful, haunting, and goddamn life affirming. Sue me, you black-hearted lawyers for the Apathetic. Some of Dylan's best lyrics, oozing with metaphor, this is the verbal cannon that finally catapulted this kid into the big time. How's that old joke go? Oh yeah. Q: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? A: Be Bob Dylan. You can have that joke

(a man who is not Bob Dylan attempts to change the times. He would fail)

Ballad of Hollis Brown- 5 This is one downer of Dylan song. Jesus, Bob. I'm eating here, for Christmas sake. And let me tell you about it for a second. The burrito, not only stuffed with tangible ingredients, but with love. The rice, cooked to perfection. The tortilla, so soft and buttery. Mmm, who can discount this delicious sour cream topping? Okay, here Dylan tells of ol' Hollis Brown, the family farmer who ends up killing his whole family and his wife in desperation. Seven shots apparently to kill his family in this song. Morbid shit, but another Dylan classic. So chilling, it's like hanging in a freezer on Halloween.

(The song produces an emotional response, much like this illustration might to a toddler who doesn't know things)

With God On Our Side- This is another one of those CLASSIC Bob Dylan songs. Strap on your boots and load up your buckshot, 'cause this is a LOOOONG one. If you're on your rickety porch, kick back in Pop-Pop's rockin' chair and let the words (hard) rain down. The lyrics to this are long like the Dead Sea Scrolls, but don't need to be translated by some sort of scholar with a monocle. Tales of war,  expounding on how ol' God would not side with countries but humans in general, and how senseless humanity can be getting blinded with our war mongering ways. Which reminds, me. This guacamole is fantastic! Whoa nelly! Also, back to the point, Dylan drops some current Vietnam in there (current for 1964, y'know).  It's a long tale, but it's got it all. Although a masterpiece, I often have to skip this one due to length so I'm not late for school. And to think I graduated over 10 years ago!

(some say THIS is God, a mythical being who crowd surfs while point-shouting the lyrics of his favorite punk song to a unseen charismatic frontman)

One Too Many Mornings- A brittle, saddening composition that feels like the moment you wipe away the hangover and regret from your sleep riddled eyes and try to figure out what the hell is gonna happen when you step foot out the front door. I'm assuming you've been there. I say this as I crack the wine to tonight's dinner. Drink up! Nothing like mixing this salt bomb of a burrito with some alcohol. This won't dry me out at all. I'm young, vibrant, and full of liquids. Also, this song is esstentially the same as "The Times They Are A-Changin'," in terms of melody. If he made a whole album like this, I'd cry myself to death. 

North Contry Blues- 3 Just one LP ago, he was singing 'bout "The Girl From North County." Now Dylan's got the blues, AGAIN! Guy was always sad at this time, even though his public life was taking the velocity train to BANKsville. In comparison, this one's a snooze. We get traditional sounding folk, Dylan telling of a mining town going to hell in a handbasket. If this were incidental music in a movie about a ghosttown, or a mining community going belly up, I'm all for it. Otherwise, it's yawn worthy. Where's my wine? 

(an artist's interpretation of Bob Dylan leaving another successful gig circa the early '60s)


Only a Pawn in Their Game- 5 I have found my wine and I have consumed somemore. This really is not mixing well with my burrito at all, which his delicious, but I have to admit I'm getting quite sick of it at this point, with only another bite left. I've got grains of rice in between my "6" and "Y" key and I can only imagine what this keyboard will smell liken the morning (probably delicious). For SIDE B, Dylan pushes the proper social activism through the bedroom speakers to kids around the nation. Dylan speaks of the assassination of social activist Medgar Evers, who was shot in the back in Jackson, MS. A great simplistic series of rhyme schemes while an extremely heavy underlying tale plays out. A hopeful tune comes out of terrible social injustice. For real...

Boots of Spanish Leather- 5 It's happening. Between the Mexican takeout salt explosion, and the wine, I think I'm turning into a sodium dowsed slug. My eyes are morphing into sun dried crocodile skins, and my mouth, the far reaching Mexican plateau in mid-August.  Dylan plucks away gently, like a babbling brook. Okay, wait a minute. This song sounds like "The Time's They Are A-Changin'" too! I'm telling you, if the whole LP sounded like this I'd cry myself into the oblivion. Damn, Dylan just keeps latching onto this beautiful formula and reworking it. Stop stealing from yourself, Zimmy! Start stealing from other folk singers like we're used to.

(Other famous boots include the hit film, and eventual musical, Kinky Boots)

When the Ship Comes In- Okay, this one sounds like a FASTER version of "The Times They Are A-Changin'" Like, exactly the same song! Okay, this guys got the right idea. I can't get enough of this song structure. If I were producer Tom Wilson, I'd say "Zimmy, let's slow this one down. No. We'll put this fast version on a rare 7'' or something, but hear me out. Slow it down, and everyone will cry themselves to death because these songs are beautiful, even if they are the same." This would remain faster, and another classic was etched into magnetic tape. Of course, I can't get enough of Dylan plagiarizing himself on this record.  If I were Bob Dylan's lawyer in '63, I'd sue Bob Dylan for all he was worth,  and then make him take me out to dinner with all the money he'd have just won from himself. I should have gone to law school.

(Ouch... Too real)

The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll- Another tale of racial injustice as Dylan sings about the real life murder of black "barmaid" Hattie Carroll at the hands of white tobacco heir William Zanziger in early '60 Baltimore. Dylan points out the bullshit justice system, as real life Zanziger only served 6 moths, after taking the lonesome life of Ms. Carroll. A folk account of another stain on this great nation, Dylan helping to raise the conscience bar a notch higher. It's not too late to take action, you know. Especially now! Eventually, Dylan would end up just covering songs by Frank Sinatra while trying to look cool enough to chaperone his grandkids to the prom.

(Dylan of the future)

Restless Farewell- A fitting, goosebumps inducing parting ditty. I'm WAY done with my dinner so I can cheers to this, as I'm done with this album in particular. This mostly solemn collection is a real winner and deserves all the accolades you wish to bestow upon it. "Restless Farewell" is a prickly farewell best served cold in the sprit of how the times really did change. Man, I need to go out and PARTY after this downer of a record. No wonder the '60s (and ever other decade) was so messed up. Thanks, Bob Dylan for the lack of party tunes on this one. Sheesh. Drop the bass, dude!

A FITTING FAREWELL FOR NOW.... The Times they HAVE changed.

Stay tuned next week for Another Side of Bob Dylan, and album in which he sounds exactly like the SAME side of Bob Dylan as he does on his past 2 records. 


  1. Brilliant, all-time classic songs, no doubt - but still not an album I want to hear all that often. It's so damned earnest and preachy... worse than the gospel period in a way. At least the gospel stuff really came from his heart. This album is Dylan making a (hugely successful) career move to give the leftie folkie crowd what they wanted... yech. He regretted it almost immediately, and has spent the last 50+ years trying to undo the popular image of him that this album created.

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