Happy Birthday, Bob
The Bob Dylan Rankings have been on an extended hiatus, but they’re back today—in honor of Dylan’s 70th birthday— with “Down the Highway,” from The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. It’s something of an odd selection: In addition to not being a particularly memorable song, it’s also incongruous with Dylan hitting an age so neatly associated with old age. “Down the Highway” is a playful and undeveloped song, and in some ways immature.
Nevertheless, “Down the Highway” allows us to delve into one of the most ubiquitous motifs of Dylan’s now seven-decade-long life: the road. What, after all, is Dylan’s obsession with highways? Continue reading
What we read while trying to replace Tim with Ashton Kutcher…
What we read while Colin Firth managed to give a stutter-less acceptance speech…
In yesterday’s Pretty Little Liars recap Tim called the opening line of The Outfield’s “Your Love” his favorite opening line to any song ever. He even dared me to come up with a list of songs topping it.
Well, in the immortal words of Barney Stinson…
And I have bad news for you, Tim, “Your Love” doesn’t even crack my Top 50.
Of course, the topic raises several tricky questions: What constitutes an opening line? The first complete sentence? The first rhyming couplet? Until the first pause? And what criteria should we use to evaluate “the best” opening line? The catchiest? The most memorable?
I ended up being pretty flexible on both questions. Some of these lyrics were chosen because they are legitimately great lyrics. Others were chosen because of how they’re sung. Others are chosen because they are the most iconic moments of great songs. I’m sure I’m forgetting some great ones (I had only one day, chill out!), but here is an initial draft of the Top 50 opening lines in music history: Continue reading
What we read while telling WikiLeaks they couldn’t use our server….
- John Paul Stevens was interviewed on 60 Minutes. Even more interesting is the full transcript of his April interview with Jeffrey Rosen.
What we read while boldly enriching our uranium…
- The highlight magazine story of the week is a no-brainer, with J.R. Moehringer’s GQ glimpse into LeBron James in and around The Decision earned headlines across media platforms. Here’s Moehringer answering questions about his story, here’s GQ compiling some reactions, and here’s Buzz Bissinger angrying up the blood at the magazine (justifiably so, it seems). We, of course, psychoanalyzed LeBron’s Decision weeks ago, when Tim defended it before it happened, John S defended it after it happened, and Tim took issue with one thing LeBron said. (The GQ issue, on the whole, is very good by the way.)
- Speaking of, another one of those “Man, I’m trying real hard to stay off Twitter in order to remain literate” stories, this time from NBA blogger Ryan Corazza. (We don’t mean to be sarcastic; we like these stories.)
They don’t come much more finger-pointing-y than “Masters of War.” Just a little over a year after The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was released, Bob Dylan would tell The New Yorker’s Nat Hentoff that his next album (Another Side of Bob Dylan) wouldn’t have any “finger-pointing songs”:
“Those records I’ve already made, I’ll stand behind them, but some of that was jumping into the scene to be heard and a lot of it was because I didn’t see that anybody else was doing that kind of thing. Now a lot of people are doing finger-pointing songs. You know—pointing to all the things that are wrong. Me, I don’t want to write for people anymore. You know, be a spokesman…. From now on, I want to write from inside me.”
And yet what makes “Masters of War” so effective as a protest song is that it is so intensely personal. If you look at protest songs of the last few years (and George W. Bush spawned practically a whole genre of them), they are full of vitriolic plays on words (“Texas führer,” “this Weapon of Mass Destruction that we call our President,” “you and Saddam should kick it like back in the day,” etc.) and clichés (“Fuck Bush,” “No blood for oil,” “Does he ever smell his own bullshit?”). Basically, they pick an easy target and toss schoolyard insults at it. In other words, they suck. Continue reading
Grandma Simpson: How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?
Lisa: No, Dad, it’s a rhetorical question.
Homer: Rhetorical, eh? Eight!
—“Mother Simpson,” 1995
Like so many great lines of literature before it (“To be or not to be?” “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” etc.), the refrain of Bob Dylan’s most famous song has become a cliché. The line—“How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man?”—has become so commonplace and simple after nearly 50 years in the public consciousness that it is easy to laugh at the plainness of the sentiment.
Even at the time of its release, though, people were laughing at “Blowin’ in the Wind.” According to Bob Spitz, Dave Von Ronk, one of Dylan’s early mentors, had a pretty dismissive reaction to the song: “Jesus, Bobby—what an incredibly dumb song! I mean, what the hell is ‘blowing in the wind’?…I figured Bobby could grind out a tune like that on the worst day he ever had in his life.” Even Dylan himself would occasionally sound modest about the song, saying in 1966, “I was never satisfied with ‘Blowin’ in the Wind.’ I wrote that in ten minutes. ‘Blowin’ in the Wind,’ was a lucky classic song…but it was one-dimensional.”