Other than the great “Song To Woody,” which I praised last week, I haven’t ranked the songs on Bob Dylan’s first album very high. In fact, if you leave out “Song To Woody,” the average ranking of the songs from Dylan’s debut has been about 99th, and none of the other tracks has come in higher than 70th.
This may give the indication that I don’t like Bob Dylan as a whole; comparatively speaking, I don’t. But it’s not as if I don’t still end up listening to the album often—I find something to like in every (well, almost every) one of the tracks.
“Pretty Peggy-O” is a nice example of this. This song is not going to blow anybody away or change the way you think about Dylan, but there are actually several things to like about this song. For one, the harmonies between the guitar and the harmonica are some the best and most natural from Bob Dylan’s early period. Compared to a lot of the tracks on his first album, which were mostly recorded in single takes, “Pretty Peggy-O” has a professional shine to it. The quick pace and bouncing rhythm of the song also showcases some of Dylan’s more impressive vocal gymnastics. As opposed to sounding artificial, as his voice does on some other tracks from this album, here it sounds more playful and effervescent.
The main reason to enjoy this song, though, is that Dylan himself seems to be enjoying himself. One of the things that stands out from reading Chronicles is the romanticism of the early folk part of Dylan’s career, and this song gives an impression of what that period was like: Here is Dylan, singing a simple love song, but capturing the energy through the rush of his guitar and his harmonica. You can almost see him on stage, living it up…