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
Welcome to a new series! You’ve read Josh’s attempts to rank the Bill of Rights. You’ve read Tim’s attempt to rank everything in history. Well, now John’s going to rank Bob Dylan songs. Keeping it manageable, he’s sticking with songs from the 1960s. No live versions and no bootlegs. We’re going with songs from studio albums, from “Bob Dylan” to “Nashville Skyline.” And what the heck? Since the Basement Tapes were recorded in ’67, we’ll throw that in the mix too. So including all nine studio albums, plus the Basement Tapes, but NOT including songs on the Basement Tapes that don’t include Dylan as a writer/performer, we’re looking at 121 songs. We won’t be ranking the first 111 in any particular order, but the top ten will be counted down once we get there (probably in like 2013).
62nd may seem too low for such an iconic song, but for a while I was debating whether or not to put this in the top 100. “The Times They Are a-Changin’” is certainly Bob Dylan’s most overrated song. If and when Dylan ultimately dies, “The Times” will most likely be one of the first three songs mentioned in any obituary (the other two being “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Blowing in the Wind”). And yet it is a very flawed song: It sounds a little too preachy and predictable—like the cookie-cutter protest song. It doesn’t attain the protean magic of “Blowing in the Wind” or innovative audacity of “Like a Rolling Stone.” Continue reading