Monday, July 6, 2009

Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

Columbia, 1965

Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2006

Price: $4

I think my newfound boredom with Freewheelin’ stems from the two weeks I spent dutifully analyzing Highway 61 Revisited for a paper I wrote for my Pop Culture of the 1960s class last semester. I chose the topic mid-semester because I knew it would be an excuse to read up on and listen to tons of Dylan and pass it off as schoolwork. Ultimately, I felt it was one of the worst papers I’d ever written. I had set a goal for myself at the end of that semsester: That the last three papers I would ever have to write for college would be not only the worst papers I’d ever written, but they would become progressively worse. I think the absolute worst was the one I wrote for Film Criticism class, which I think was about Holocaust movies and ended up being, in my mind, one of the best papers I’d ever written (second only to the 25 page tome I wrote about Afro-Punk for Popular Black Music two years ago, but only because I legitimately worked hard on that one and didn’t bullshit at all). Anyway, the Dylan paper was better than I thought, or my TA was just a moron (which I think he might have been, but I’m not sure) because he gave me a 93% on it. “Nicely done, Mr. Hrabe,” the comments at the end read. “You have a clear passion for the topic, which good[sic]. Great sense of focus. Well-structured. Good use of lyrics as evidence. A pleasure to read.” I only cite this because this was one of my crowning achievements and made me feel like I’d really earned my PHD in Bullshit. Anway, in the process of writing that awful paper I had to pick quotes out of books about Highway 61 and Dylan and ended up getting caught up for hours just reading. There was this one book about the recording of the record that was absolutely fascinating and made me fall in love with the record again. Anecdotal things like how Dylan randomly grabbed the whistle from some other dude at the session and played it during the opening of the title track. How the excellent B-side “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window” took them forever to record and never quite sounded right. How “Desolation Row,” the only song that I can really consider Dylan a poet, had a full band version until he brought in some rad sort of famous dude to record that Mexican-sounding guitar and how it’s now a masterpiece. How Columbia was aghast at “Like a Rolling Stone” and, since management had recently been shook up, they wanted to split the song and release part 1 on side A and part 2 on side B and how some Dylan’s biggest supporter at Columbia leaked the song to the radio and thus forced the label to let him have his way. Anyway, this and Blood on the Tracks are the only two Dylan records I can listen to all the way through and I think this is easily his masterpiece. It’s earth-shattering and still sounds totally fresh. It’s one of the few records that has absolutely ZERO duds. Every track is a jam and it’s always a pleasure to put this one the turntable (earning it the title of the second-most played record in my collection). Despite being the greatest song of all time, “Like a Rolling Stone” never gets old and I think that’s why it’s the greatest song of all time. It’s always potent and I always (always) sing along even though I mix up the words most of the time. Anyway, I could have probably submitted this word vomit to that class (after dropping in random quotes from 8 sources) and still gotten an A. This record’s real good.

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