Bringing It All Back Home, the album that begins with “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” marked a major sea change in Bob Dylan’s career, for two main reasons. The first reason is well-known and much-discussed: Dylan went electric. The first side of the album, including “Subterranean,” was all electric, alienating many of his loyal folk fans.
Along with that change, though, came a more subtle change in the kind of lyrics Dylan was writing. As a folk singer, his songs had been of a more traditional folk variety: Most of the songs on Dylan’s first four albums could be classified either as love songs or protest songs.
Of course, Dylan stretched the definitions of both of these classifications, coming at them from new perspectives and angles (“Blowing in the Wind,” generally considered a prototypical “protest” song, for example, doesn’t actually “protest” anything in particular), but he was generally working within an established genre or framework; the lyrics to his early songs are straightforward and at times even literal.
“Subterranean Homesick Blues” changed all that. Continue reading »