Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Blonde on Blonde (1966)

Blonde on Blonde
(1966, Columbia Records)


Do not attempt to adjust your screen. THIS RECORD COVER IS OUT OF FOCUS! Yes, Bob Dylan's double LP MASTERPIECE is a blurred mess! No matter how much technology has advanced since 1966, we can not alter this cover in ANY way possible.

Actually, I lied. What you see above is an altered photo from the year 2016! The future is now...The thing is, I made it. It took me about 4 minutes, and I have limited computer skills. It's like a bumper sticker one can sell on Etsy. I might put this on a t-shirt and make a lot of unauthorized Zimmy bucks (which is like bit coins for Dylan fans).

WELCOME BACK... Diners, Drive-ins, and Dylanites, to another addition of Dinner with Dylan. Yes, I was gone for 2 weeks, not eating dinner and turning my ear away from the Pride of Minnesota. (not true, I'm gluttonous). July 4th came and went, and I'm pleased to report I still have all my appendages (the same would not be true for Dylan after July 4th, 1967, and the dreaded "fireworks incident")..... Just kidding here, friends. Dylan had no such incident with fireworks,  although there's probably some information on Dylan's fireworks use in that minutia riddled Bob Dylan Encyclopedia tome I bought, that now serves as a great doorstop.

(a handy doorstop, and heady bathroom reader)

I shall lay out the doormat, as well as placemat, and welcome you all to Bob Dylan's FIRST double LP. When you're cookin' with gas, like Dylan was in '66, why turn down the flame? To finish up his EPIC run of unabashed experimentation, Dylan brought a blowtorch to a butane factory, and left the apologies blowin' in the wind . If the folk fans hadn't gone screaming Chernobyl style down Bleecker Street at this point, this 73 minutes of Double Dylan should have done the trick. 

However, Blonde on Blonde, Dylan would close the door on his electric poetic drug trip into mid-60s counterculture. This bloated, but immortal record serves as the endpoint to his holy trilogy of rock/blues/country/folk/frenchpoeticnewyork perfection before Dylan's "motorcycle crash incident," effectively making him a country crooner (this is more true than that fake fireworks incident I simply made up, above).

Also, for my dinner tonight, I've chosen some real "blonde on blonde" food themes for you. I'll be slurping and enjoying a creamed corn extravaganza; corn, heavy cream, mushrooms, creole spice, salt, etc.... The whole thing came out more like a soupy stew rather than traditional creamed corn. I can not take credit for coming up with this concoction. This was put together by my girlfriend, who is not only an amazing cook, but continues to think this dinner music site is a good idea. Without her help, it'd be Cheerios and Hot Pockets for me (at the same time). ALSO, with dinner but not pictured; yup, you guessed it....blonde brownies. I've purchased 2 of them from the Whole Foods. Oh boy! Sugar.

A few things about the record. It's LONG. It was recorded after Dylan completed a tour of England with his new touring band, The Hawks. This band would eventually go on to sell millions of records and call themselves the Band, because they were Bob Dylan's band. The Band would also make an appearance on The Basement Tapes and Planet Waves, both of which I will be reviewing over a later submarine sandwich or something.

Also, important to note, this is the first double album in ROCK HISTORY. Bob Dylan, 2 slabs of wax, in all of its gatefold glory. Take that, Physical Graffiti, Zen Arcade, and Exile on Main Street. Or how about the first triple LP debut album 1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts? Still, not as historic as Blonde on Blonde. Yeah, take that, the lot of ya!

("what?"-Jad Fair)

Rainy Day Women #12 and 35- Bob Dylan kicks off the epic Blonde on Blonde with one of his most mysterious, obtuse, righteously cool titled songs of his "electric" era. It's also one of the weakesr songs in the cannon, but still wholly memorable and repeatedly joyous in its absurdity. Overall, it's
more of a New Orleans jazz band on downers marching slowly out of a foggy hell than your standard rock classic. Yet, it's played on classic rock radio about 4 times a week. This one drags and bobs along as Bobs Dylan laughs his head off and proclaims "everybody must get stoned!" The lyrics are so weak they barely have the strength to pick up a feather in an antigravity chamber (because they are lyrics). Still, this is a relatively awesome way for the "voice of generation" to kick off an album at the apex of his creative whirlwind.

(this opening track literally makes the D.A.R.E. Lion roll over in his grave every time it's played. Keep rollin' Lion!)

Pledging My Time- Well now that that's over, let me dig in to my meal. Smells great, steaming up, tickling my senses. Let me put the spoon in here, and dig IN!
I have successfully burned the rough of my mouth. I will let this dish cool as I settle into track 2 and tongue the forming blister on the rough of my mouth out of curiosity. 

Well, I hope you all had a good time with Zimmy's marching band of seed smokin' tuba players, but it's now time for some of the darker themes that pervade most of B on B. This one's a traditional blues walk full of smokey, humid, and brutal turns. Open the window, cause you might suffocate in this damned blues bar of regret. Dylan's harmonica should be confiscated during the bridge for causing nausea and diaharea of the ear. At the same time, it's kind of cool. Killer moody tune that's far rom breaking new ground, but attempts to GO FOR THE WIN!  GO TEAM!

(You can't take the boy out of Minnesota? This song helped the Minnesota Twins beat the Atlanta Braves in the '91 World Series. It's also know as "Kirby Puckett's Jam", or so one would not believe)

Visions of Johanna- 5 If this song don't make you feel some sort of way, then you're either braindead or you just don't like Bob Dylan songs (which is possible. A lot folks hate this guy). A slow grower, a slow burner;  the dynamics fluctuate with Dylan's voice. The bass walks around melodically under the sparse organ drawls and brittle guitar. Instrumentally, this is as delicate as rice paper in a hail storm. Dylan meanwhile unravels about 30 scrolls worth of narrative through an easily digestible word soup. Yummmm... Excuse me while I dab the tears. 

One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)- 4 Speaking of word soup, I've really been digging this creamed corn, blonde on blonde concoction! And my dirty, creamy secret, you ask? I've got a whole pot full so I'll keep replenishing my bowl like they're army rations, and I'm the lucky guy at base camp who gets 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, and then gets to be first in line at the latrine. The creole seasoning and the heavy cream really complete this. Shut down the artieries. Bring on the diabetes. And now to the song!!

Wait? A prominent piano and organ together? That's like mixing red delicious and granny smith together (a shoutout to all you apple lovers out there)!!! It's like, no matter where you turn you ear, all you're gonna get is some flutter of keys. The production on this song is out of control, but it's practical paradise for obsessive ivory ticklers! The swelling build of the verses, to the explosion of the chorus, is enough to make one spit up your soup (or delicious blonde on blonde themed creamed corn). Zimmy's lyrics are pretty lucid here, describing a shitty relationship, but who wants that from the Wizard of Fractured Narratives, a nickname Bob Dylan never possessed previously.

I Want You- 5 For those who know Belle and Sebastian, it's as if they entered a time machine and made one of rocks' only time traveling apperances. There's something cutsie and heartbreaking about this song at the same time. Apply it to a nostalgic memory, apply it to a melancholy one, it's gonna break your heart. Very light, upbeat, with but with a vicious hangover throughout. Dylan's love life is all in shambles in these songs. I guess that's the price of fame. One day you're in love, the next you're in love with making weird jokes to journalists while smoking cigarettes and forgetting to call your girlfriend.

("Are you my girlfriend?"- Bob Dylan talking to a pack of cigarettes in a journalist's shirt pocket in 1966)

Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again- There's a couple versions of this song floating around the bootleg world. The one's I've heard recently blow this one of the water and instantly make me wish this didn't sound so much like DAD Rock. The lyrics are a sack of looping weird alienating imagery centered around a great walk-down chorus. Still love it, but that upbeat organ riffage is starting to sound quite dated this century. Still, the crux of this song is incredible, and I can't get enough of it. Also, Hank Aaron is from Mobile, and he's the home run king. And Big Star is from Memphis, and I think they are incredible. Makes you start to wonder what it'd be like if Hank Aaron and Big Star got together and formed a band. 

(Hank Aaron, after hitting homerun number 715, joins Big Star to record the ill-fated Sister Lovers LP. Note Alex Chilton's cool shoes).

Leopard-Skin Pill Box Hat- This song is some pointless, who-gives-a-shit blues standard. Luckily, it's saved by Dylan's smokey vocal performance, ridiculous lyrics, and cool-guy arrogance. Speaking of cool-guy arrogance, I'm on my third helping of Blonde on Blonde Creamed Corn. Take that, sucker. I just named a dish while dishing it out. 
Anyway, this Dylan guy sounds like one cool son-of-a-smokin'-gun throughout. The slow fuzzed guitar solo is on fire too, possibly in the literal sense. Could you imagine someone's guitar bursting into flames while they're actually playing it? That sounds like a horrible scenerio, and your doctor probably would not believe your story.  EXAMPLE.

Doctor: How'd this happen? (looking at 4 fingers where 5 used to be)
Me: My guitar burst into flames...
Doctor: You're a liar. But here's a prescription for pain killers. 
Anyway, Dylan really wants to jump on a hat in this classic tune, although it could be an allusion. Go for it Bobby. 

(A Bob Dylan impostor who hates hats)

Just Like a Woman- According to historians of fine institutes such as books and the internet, this song is about Andy Warhol's favorite play thing not named Nico. It's, allegedly, about the late Edie Sedgwick. Well, this iconoclastic woman might have helped inspire Dylan to write one of his most beautiful, if not overly sappy songs. I'm gonna keep my veg friendly Blonde on Blonde Creamed Corn down and avoid barfing it up over the overt sentimentality of this dreamy classic. Boarders on cheesy, and feels like at any moment a wedding ceremony might breakout, BUT stays the coarse, sailing into the seas of immortality. 

(This is the first image to come up when you google the word "woman.")

Most Likely You'll Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)- 5 This is one of the more raucous ones on the album, Dylan adding some infectious repetative harmonica riffs over distant trumpeting. The lyrics are pretty snoozy, but something about this shuffling boogie just gets me every time. I surmise generally speaking, this ranks rather low in the Dylan cannon of fan favorite songs. Giving this a perfect score will probably disqualify me from ranking any other Dylan songs, but I should have probably been barred already! Also, I'm noticing a B on B Creamed Corn splatter on the keys. The following is an unedited version of what happens when you wipe up creamed corn from a computer key board. 


fsuioijpsxdfgchvjbknl;'ytyrew4         kl;;;;;;;;;

Temporary Like Achilles- 4 I hope you all learned a lesson in corn wiping just now. At any rate, the keyboard is better on my end. But how 'bout on Zimmerman's end? Well, no electric keyboard to be found on this track! Just a sleepy piano riding true throughout this brittle but catchy boogie. Zim's voice box sounds nicely scratched up, like a used copy of Blonde on Blonde pulled from a dusty flea market milk crate or a used record shop in Chicago. The song certainly takes its time as it sort of infiltrates you from the inside out, making you a believer. 

(Jack Black continues to sell used copies of Blonde on Blonde to unsuspecting customers to this day in the Windy City, TMZ reports). 

Absolutely Sweet Mary- Twenty years later, John Fogerty would take this song, organ and all, and turn it into a really sentimental cheeseball song about playing "Centerfield" (not legally accurate).  Woof. But before that, it was this somewhat lifeless, mundane rockin' Beatles B-side of tune. Not bad, but that drumming never stops stomping like a crummy upstairs neighbor trying to kill a steady line of roaches. To boot, that organ is just too goofball throughout.
(that feeling when you listen to "Absolutely Sweet Marie")

4th Time Around- 3 A shuffling country-like folk tune held together by some meticulously swirling guitar lines. Subtly catchy, clunky, and flowing. Also, this song sounds just like the Beatle's "Norwegian Wood." In fact, everyone knows this song sounds exactly like it. Apparently, Dylan made this song as an homage to The Beatles, but then denied it, while John Lennon screamed that it was just a parody of it. Who knows what Dylan's explanation is? One minute he's a street hobo, the next he's a rich poet, the next he's actually Allen Ginsberg and Woody Gutheries' love child, then he says he's actually not from Minnesota, but next he's the manager of the Minnesota Twins. So who can really believe this chump? Actually, I meant CHAMP! GO TEAM!

(Billy Haywood, former manager of the Minnesota Twins hearing "Norwegian Wood" for the first time.)

Obviously 5 Believers- This song has the coolest guitar riff. Damn! And all with that CLASSIC little interlude after every verse. It's oozing with cool and blues badassitude. This songs feels like the air conditioning broke and you're standing there with your stupid ice pop melting in your sweat filled clammy hand, and you will never be as cool as this song. Damn!.... damn.

Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands- 5 Well, this is a fucking beast of a song. Also, it's a great time to break out my BLONDE brownies and nibble away like a man smoking a fine cigar on a veranda overlooking the Swiss Alps. Welcome to Bob Dylan's never ending song written to his soon-to-be wife, Sara. Word has it he wrote this while staying up for hours at the Chelsea Hotel, scrolling endless poetry, tweaking on all sorts of goof juices and powders. Eventually,  as the story goes, Sara and Bob would give birth to their son Jakob. Jakob eventually gave birth to the band the Wallflowers who gave birth to the hit single "One Headlight." Eventually, that song wound up on a Geico commercial. So every time you hear this song, think about how you can be saving 15% or more on your car insurance!
Also, this is one of the most beautiful songs ever, even if it is just under 86 minutes long. Goodnight. 

(other things that happened at the Chelsea Hotel in NYC include the stabbing of Nancy Spungen by one Sidric V. Vicious Esq., who some called England's answer to Bob Dylan)

That's all for another exciting dinner session with me and the big Dyl. 

I shall be back next week, as Dylan turns down, gets woodsy, and writes a dank, excellent record that's not quite folk, not quite country, but all easy street. Stay tuned!


  1. Great album - but too may 4's and 5's to my taste. RDW and LSPBH rated 4 are hard to digest.

  2. Undeniably one of Dylan's great albums... but even so, maybe just the tiniest bit over-rated. It seems like you might agree with that. Makes up for the dozen or more Dylan albums that are horribly under-rated, I guess.

    You forgot to put a number rating on "Fourth Time Around", so I'll do it for you - it's a 5. In fact, along with "Visions of Johanna", it's my favorite song on the album. (I suppose it is a little bit like that Beatles song, except it's about a gazillion times better - and I really like "Norwegian Wood".)

    Are you sure that picture of your dinner wasn't taken after you had brought it back up? :-P

  3. Hot chili Peppers in the blistering sun.....And one more cup of coffee