Sunday, October 2, 2016

John Wesley Harding (1967)

John Wesley Harding
(1967, Columbia Records)

Meatless beef tips with a white cheddar mac and cheese and a side of kale (Two crescent rolls not pictured)

Welcome back fellow Dylanites and fans of the feastive bite! Speaking of bite, this summer's taken one large bite outta me and I've been slacking on my Dylan and dining. Not to say I haven't eaten dinner the past two and a half months. I'd be dead or a martyr, but I strive for neither. 
On a personal note, which I don't do too often on this, I've been absent due to dealing with some life's heavy handedness, including the passing a of a close family member. When shit hits, sometimes it hits hard. I'm getting back in the saddle, or various saddles, and forging ahead. Life goes on, and even if the tears are a comin' I can't stop my fingers from typin' and my jaws from chompin' at the bit for Dylan, Bob. Thanks for reflecting with me.

So, summer came and went, and HOLY HELL, is that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Halloween commercials I see already? Sure is. At any rate, I'm back once and again, spearheading the well balanced diet of Dylan on a food pyramid that looks something like this.

(if you look closely, you may see Robert Zimmerman at the top of this Pyramid [aka, the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame], munchin' on a chicken wing. Don't strain your eyes.)

This week, I have prepared myself a special wonderment of assortments. What you see above is meatless beef tips with a white cheddar mac and cheese and side of kale (two crescent rolls are not pictured). After all, nothing screams end of summer dining like warm vegan friendly beef and hot crescent rolls. I should be fired from concocting these one man disasters. 

NOW, to the Dylan. Following Dylan's amazing run of triumph, gold medal worthy folk-rock-country-garage-blues records, the man with the wild hair took a step back, dropped out of the limelight for a hot second, and put out one gray cloud downer of an LP. 

By the time 1966 was in the heat of it's '66-ness, Dylan was losing his mind (which is like 400% crazier than a some normal guy with a desk job), so you know it must have been really bad. Tweaked out, exhausted from touring and resentful from the hero to a generation, Dylan did what any tax paying citizen might do; he crashed his motorcycle and broke his neck.

Ok, Dylan did not intentionally crash his bike, and he did not mean to break his neck (allegedly on all accounts). A good deal of people wonder if the crash really happened at all, a conspiracy involving Dylan intentionally removing himself from his whirlwind schedule to focus on being an all-American family man with his now wife, Sara (the one he sung so fondly about closing out Blonde on Blonde). 

John Wesley Harding is a sudden step out of the rock n' roll wading pool and into the overcast, muddied forests of folk-country that no one asked for. It's a downer of a record mostly, little thrills throughout. But through it all, it remains not quite folk, not quite country; it's a mature record from a man finding himself more concerned with fatherhood and marriage rather than sucking on French cigarettes jumping into limos with journalists. 

In short, this record sounds like the album cover itself. I mean, really. What's going on here? Dylan is devilishly smiling next to what appears to be two men in costume and someone's uncle who happened to wander into the shot looking for a paint can opener. In reality, the two men are Bengali musicians who were visiting Woodstock NY, and the other guy, a local carpenter (possibly looking for a paint can opener). Still, that doesn't help answer what is going on in this photo. 

(the alternate cover to John Wesley Harding, perhaps, still making about as much sense as the original)

Without any further ado, let's dig in and get this slow train a rollin' once again. 

John Wesley Harding- So I never met this John Wesley Hardin(g) in person, because he was shot dead in the 19th century and I was born a child of the Nintendo generation. However, according to all accounts, this outlaw was a real "piece of feces," (not a lyric in the song, by the way). Here, Dylan opens his record, showcasing a new direction for his musical smatterings and offers up a story about John Wesley Harding, being a misunderstood outlaw, lending a "helping hand" and lifting the spirits of the down-and-out. Well, what does Bob Dylan know? This song proves Dylan is really bad at history. Actually, he's acing his revisionist history exam, and even managed to misspell the guy's name! It's "Hardin," as in "I reckon this Bob Dylan record is gonna be hardin than a bag of frozen snowballs to dance the Lindy Hop to." 
(Speaking of "hardin," this is a picture of another shitty dead John. This John, known as Dillinger, was rumored to have a larger than normal genitalia because of this photo. FACT)

As I Went Out One Morning- Acoustic guitar, bass walking and crisp drumming. Very stripped down. This is like Dylan goes lo-fi, after losing his marbles going electric. Another simple narrative song. Okay, all the songs on here are narratives, folk tales, and parables of some sort. The bass carries this one while Dylan lays down a subtly catchy vocal line. So simple, so effective. So delicious.... MY DINNER THAT IS!
Betcha thought I forgot to eat it, just as I thought I had all summer long. This mac and cheese is a little bland for me, but when combined with these vegan beef tips?.... Now we're talkin'. I'm eating this kale, only to try to eat a little healthier when eating straight up garbage. Thankfully these crescent rolls will negate any health benefits of the kale. Only the full die young!

I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine- MMMM, nothing says dinner time like a folky ballad about St. Augstine, the most rockin'est of all the Saints.  Yes kids, it's Saint Augustine. I'm not sure what St. Augustine accomplishments are, nor do I care to look them up at the moment. I'll consult a priest if need be on this, thank you.  Something tells me this guy "allegedly" could kick back a casual miracle or two in his day. Now, it's a miracle anyone's even blogging about him. Am I right? Or am I right? On this tune, we've got that bass holding it down AGAIN, really anchoring the whole song, and a true bright spot. It's a good time to declare that Charlie McCoy is laying down these sweet little bass walks. I wanna quit writing this blog, put on a cowboy hat and take a brisk stroll through the dense woods of Woodstock, hopefully to find that cool Carpenter on the front cover of this LP. 
(Some say St. Augustine was a heavy gambler, who could drink a giant under the table. He was known for his crude humor, classically trained guitar skills, and street magic. It's said that he was named after a town in the state of Florida)

All Along the Watchtower- 5 Your misinformed, uncool father or stoner uncle who only listens to classic rock radio during drive time hours might tell you that this Jimi Hendrix song is the greatest thing on God's green earth besides Led Zeppelin 4. Okay, well they can keep their opinions in their shirt pockets because this scathing country tune full of implied imagery was Dylan-famous before Hendix turned this into a song only The Wonder Years could love. Apparently, this song's about Dylan's hatred for the record industry as told through biblical allusions. Well, I've never been one to breakdown poetry outside of college courses for a fair enough grade, so I'll leave it to the scholars on this one.

(That moment when Kevin Arnold learned this song was written by Bob Dylan, and he flunked his music appreciation course big time!"

The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest- A humbling little ditty of a tune that goes on and on. And on. ANNND on. If you thought Hendrix covering the last song was the definition of cool, then guess who took their name from this song? No, not Mad TVs' Frankie Caliendo. Try "Judas Priest," the same band who wrote "Turbo Lover." This never ending country narrative is supposed to be somewhat loved by Dylanphiles, but I can't get through this one without letting my mind wander. Example: I'm currently Googling pictures of the band Judas Priest, and I'm seeing that all 5 members seemed more concerned with looking tough than looking like Bob Dylan. Huh? 

Might I add, these vegan beef tips are truly a marvel. I have moved on from forking around the macaroni and kale at the beginning of this song, and I'm going for the fake beef. Very juicy. My god!

Drifter's Escape- A short bouncy pop-tastic ride after the long-wided "Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" saga. This is practically a number 1 hit backing that mind-number. Dylan rambles about, telling this straight up tale. But Charlie McCoy should win the Oscar, Emmy, and Daytime Soap Opera awards for his bass playing on this one, basically constructing the entire melodic flow under Dylan's ONE note he strums throughout. AMAZING display of less-is-more. 

Dear Landlord- Hmmm, something seems to be missing here, but you don't know what it is? Do you, Mr.  Jones? 
"Nope"- Mr. Jones

Well, I'll tell you what it is. Where the hell is Dylan's acoustic guitar? Finally, after 6 string scrapers, Dylan ditches the box of coils for a piano. A real stripped down, bluesy waltz of sorts. In other hands, this one might sound like a pretty '70s AM radio hit. However, Dylan sings like crap most of the time, so this one orbits around the rad-osphere of the universe.

Also, I'm done with my dinner yet again because eating and typing is bullshit. Also, food and me are like an electric vacuum and dust. Obliterated.

I Am a Lonesome Hobo- By this point, Dylan had more money than 99.9% of all "hobos" in American, in the traditional sense. However, that did not stop ol' Bobby from weaving another "hobo" like tale in typical Dylan style. Here's food for thought: Perhaps Dylan was the first crust punk?  The guitar is back on this one, after "Dear Landlord's" all you can pound piano buffet. A bit of a snooze overall, I must say. The groovin' bass along with Dylan's acoustic strums add up to the most "rock" song on this otherwise bluesy, country record. However, this is still a cloak of blues you can wrap yourself in out in the country, far from the nearest rocks. (Poetry, I make).

I Pity the Poor Immigrant- Years before Mr. T made the word "pity" chic and less about the topic of "pity," Bob Dylan was dropping pity slang in his song titles! A real subtle, almost hymn-like refelction full of weepy harmonica intervals and pained, patient lyrical patterns. If you came here looking for Mr. T, forget it. This is Mr. D all the way, and I ain't talking Mr. Deeds. I'm talking Bob DYLAN. This is some old granddaddy stuff, but damn, what a cool, old granddaddy he is.

(Donald Sutherland is just one of planet earth's cool, old grandaddies)

The Wicked Messenger- Some more groovin' Motown-like bass holds this bouncy quicky together. Nearly over before it starts, it's not particularly memorable, nor is it offensive in anyway. If you added an organ, and stretched this out to 8 minutes, I'm sure this could've been a welcomed throwaway track on Highway 61 Revisited.

(Some parents of the late '90s thought this man was in fact "The Wicked Messenger")

Down Along the Cove- Did someone tell Dylan we was allowed to have a birthday party rather than sulk around the woods all year with an acoustic guitar and a bible? This song is a downright BOOGIE laden compared to some of the somber tunes, alluding to every bible character and the like. The drumming is the standout here, with nifty jazz interludes and a solid shuffle throughout. The bass walks all over the place while still jumping back in the pocket. Overall though, seems out of place, tacked on at the end. Mehhh.

I'll Be Your Baby Tonight- A tasteful pedal steel guitar, I hear? Yes,me ears do. This is the most "country" Dylan gets on his first "country" record. One might actually begin to believe this teller of tall-tales is from the country, and not NYC. I mean, one might begin to believe he's actually from some place like rural Minnesota rather than attending grammar school at PS-121 in Manhattan Time Square! This one never gets old, despite its lame-o title. A real short, tasteful country closer that leaves the faint smell of old beer behind. Or, that could just be me.

And if you thought you liked Dylan going' country on this outing, just WAIT until his next one.... 

"YEEEHAWWW, NASHVILLE!!!"- a hobo on a train holding a jug marked with 3 large X's.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back! I was afraid that, since you stopped with Blonde on Blonde, perhaps you had suffered a near-fatal motorcycle accident in upstate New York or something.... Sorry to hear about the real reason for your absence, my sympathies for your sad loss.

    My mobile device refuses to display the picture of your meal of "meatless beef tips", although everything else came through fine.... but then my mobile device has rather snobbish tastes regarding food, so maybe I can understand it.

    Never saw that photo of Dillinger before, but had heard the rumor you mention. If said rumor was caused by that photo, then people must have thought that Dillinger's schlong grew out of his navel....

    Regarding the album itself, my favorite thing about it is that it has probably more harmonica playing per capita than any other Dylan album.... and, after his singing voice, Dylan's harmonica is the thing I like best about his music. His lyrics are good too, of course, but come in third place for me. Seriously.