Saturday, May 25, 2013

Photo challenge: Lyrics

He's not the important figure in musical culture that he once was, but when I am asked to specify something about lyrics, I point to Bob Dylan, and then have to decide which of his songs -  among the hundreds he has written  - to talk about.

Never cared much for the shirt, but Triumph
Motorcyles were made right up the road from
here in Timonium, MD!
1965's album "Highway 61 Revisited" marked Dylan's passage from nothing but acoustic folk to almost nothing acoustic at all.  Of course, folk purists screamed bloody murder, but Bob was moving along with the times, which he had already told everyone were a-changin'.  The capper for the album was the long, long story song "Desolation Row," which, while minimally accompanied, still stood more in the rock pile than, say, something by the Kingston Trio.

Speaking of the instruments on this song, that Mexican-style fingerpicked guitar was done by Charlie McCoy, who would go on to play harmonica on about 75% of the country hits coming out of Nashville in the 70s and 80s.

If you don't know this song, never heard it before, I urge you to click on this link and check it out on Vimeo.  The lyrics will roll on the screen as you listen, but this is not karaoke material.  What it is, is thinking material.  Lovers of poetry can read this verse over and over, marvelling at the man's ability to string words together:

Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much
About desolation row


And for those who study their history, especially all that happened in the 60s, how about asking the passengers on the Titanic which side they're on?  It was during the turbulent 60s that everyone started choosing sides ("Love it or leave it!" vs. "Change it or lose it!") and after all, did it matter to the people of the Titanic which side of anything they were on, just a few days into their cruise?

This is why Dylan's lyrics were more like poetry.  

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