IN ITS FULL GLORIOUS MONO SOUND

It was a few years back that I picked up a copy of the album with the catalogue number CBS – PBG 62572. It’s the original Mono recording of Highway 61 Revisited, released on 30 August 1965 to this sort of acclaim:-

In the British music press, initial reviews of Highway 61 expressed both bafflement and admiration for the record. New Musical Express critic Allen Evans wrote: “Another set of message songs and story songs sung in that monotonous and tuneless way by Dylan which becomes quite arresting as you listen.” The Melody Maker LP review section, by an anonymous critic, commented: “Bob Dylan’s sixth LP, like all others, is fairly incomprehensible but nevertheless an absolute knock-out.”The English poet Philip Larkin, reviewing the album for The Daily Telegraph, wrote that he found himself “well rewarded” by the record: “Dylan’s cawing, derisive voice is probably well suited to his material … and his guitar adapts itself to rock (‘Highway 61’) and ballad (‘Queen Jane’). There is a marathon ‘Desolation Row’ which has an enchanting tune and mysterious, possibly half-baked words.”

It would go on reach #4 in the UK charts. His previous album, Bringing It All Back Home, released some six months previously, had reached #1. Is it fair to say that Highway 61 Revisited is now considered to have a greater legacy, notwithstanding that the former album included Subterranean Homesick Blues, Maggie’s Farm, Mr. Tambourine Man and It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)??   Over to those of you within the TVV community who are better qualified to articulate relevant views and opinions……..

The reason I’m posing a question rather than offering an opinion is that I’m not a huge Bob Dylan fan, but there’s an awful lot about this slightly crackly album that I like. And let’s face it, for a piece of plastic that is now almost 56 years old, it’s in decent condition:-

mp3: Bob Dylan – Like A Rolling Stone
mp3: Bob Dylan – Tombstone Blues
mp3: Bob Dylan – It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Lot To Cry
mp3: Bob Dylan – From A Buick Six
mp3: Bob Dylan – Ballad Of A Thin Man

mp3: Bob Dylan – Queen Jane Approximately
mp3: Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
mp3: Bob Dylan – Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
mp3: Bob Dylan – Desolation Row

Side 1 of Highway 61 Revisited (mono)
Side 2 of Highway 61 Revisited (mono)

If you’d said to the 18-year-old me that, some 40 years on I’d be writing a few words in praise of Bob Dylan, I’d have laughed out very loud in your face and with a great deal of contempt.  I’m glad my tastes have matured to some degree.

JC

19 thoughts on “IN ITS FULL GLORIOUS MONO SOUND

  1. This is the only proper Dylan album that I own (though I also have the 2007 Dylan 3CD box set and a free promo Carnegie Hall EP from Zavvi back in 2005). The main reason I got it was for Desolation Row, which a friend had included on a mixtape in the late 1980s, to convince my cynical teen self that Dylan was more than The Travelling Wilburys (!) I really like this album, and I enjoy reading about Dylan, but I’ve never really felt the pull to buy another.

  2. Funny one Dylan. I get the feeling most of us in our 50’s were a bit sniffy about him in our teenage years and then we would hear or see things where we would give him a bit more kudos – eg finding out the Byrds Mr Tambourine Man was written by him; the video for Subterranean Homesick Blues- all small and incremental steps. Then someone you like would do a cover and slowly you were drawn in…..

  3. I think there are certain artists you grow into. Steely Dan was one for me. I remember in my 20s, 40-something colleague who liked similar music to me trying to turn me onto SD… but I just didn’t get it. I do now.

    As for Dylan, his last album was the first I’ve ever included in a year end countdown, so I guess I’m growing into him too.

  4. Dylan has written a bunch of great songs, but I tend to always prefer when someone else covers them…
    Let me just say All Along The Watchtower to start with.

  5. I was that 80s indie kid that dabbled with Dylan until it became a serious addiction and I’ve yet to kick it. Blood on The Tracks is still the favourite although the ‘thin wild mercury sound’ from ten years previously and the peerless trilogy of Bringing It, Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde take some beating.
    Go-Betweens were Dylan obsessives of course (the loving homage of the Before Hollywood sleeve and the lyrical and musical nods in That Way are a giveaway). Don’t Look Back is on YouTube; nothing matches the cool of Dylan in the movies.

  6. I think Rol is spot on and had the same experience with Steely Dan . First listened to when they were name checked by loads of bands I liked in the mid 80s but it’s only the last couple of years that I’ve begun to understand the appeal. Not got there with Dylan yet and am with Martin always prefer the covers

  7. Martin posted my thoughts exactly – which is a little scary – specifically All Along The Watchtower.

    As a writer (I know little of Dylan’s comprehensive body of work) I’m confident he’s skilled but … as a singer? Nah. Not for me. His voice goes right through me. Maybe that’s my short-coming but it’s how it is.

    I wouldn’t dare count him out as a writer as a good deal of Dylan covers, that I am aware of, are firm favourites – the above by Mr Hendrix, included.

  8. You could fill a few months of your blog with his songs in your “Songs that are great short stories” feature. As another TVV reader in his 50’s I also was programmed to keep Mr Dylan in the category as “old and boring”. But little by little he crept into my album collection. Richard Thompson did the same.
    Good for Hendrix to interpret Watchtower as well as he did. I almost like the Red Hot Chili Peppers version of Subterranean HSB. Interestingly the covers which reinterpret his songs and not try to “one up” him are to me the best. Regarding this album, PJ Harvey does a great job with Highway 61 revisited. With 39 studio albums, 95 singles released, and a trunk full of unreleased songs surely someone can pull off a cover better than the original, there is a lot to work with. Yes his voice is unique but he is a coffee house busker with gift for writing. This voice serves him well. It’s raining and dreary out today and I think I’ll put on Blood on the Tracks…

  9. Luckily I didn’t have to come around to Dylan. My best friend in high school was a fanatic so I was familiar with his whole catalog by the time I got to college. I agree with
    @chaval’s comments about Highway 61 and the so-called ‘trinity’ but personally prefer Blood on the Tracks above everything else.

  10. This is funny, when I read Rol’s comment on Steely Dan I felt totally the same. Back in the 90s I was browsing CDs in WOM or so and thought The Nightfly must supercool and when I played it I was WTF!? Later in 2002, after German band Die Sterne did a (German) cover of Any Major Dude I gave it another try and have grown rather fond since. And of course I second Martin. Only listen to what Sinéad does with I Belive In You. Good ol’ Robert Z. has its moments… Not to forget, great to know Friend of Rachel Worth is in our team too!

  11. Not much to add to the above, the 3 Thin Wild Mercury albums are all astonishing, not least BIABH. The wordplay, the playing, the density of he sound, the playfulness (whistles etc) with the intensity of the lyrics, its all there and in glorious mono. I first got this album on cassette in the late 80s and still pull it out (a vinyl copy, bought in the 90s) from time to time to see if it still sounds as good as it used to. It does.

  12. Dylan is one of those artists that divides opinion. All I can say is that the first time I heard Like A Rolling Stone it changed everything. I’d never heard anything like it before and I wanted to hear/discover more music like it. 50+ years later I am eternally grateful to have heard said track and sent me on my personal journey into music.

  13. @ bluebetty44

    A striking testament to the power music can have on an individual, and in this case, the music of Dylan.

  14. The album that began my Bob fandom, picked it up in my teens because Like A Rolling Stone was on it, but came to love the whole, and was fascinated by Desolation Row. Superb stuff.

  15. Somewhat similar experience with Dylan as JTFL. His music was always around. My parents, who were too old for 50’s Rock and Roll, found some pleasure in Folk Music and Bring It All Back Home was in their music collection, but most of the Dylan songs I heard were at friends houses – those friends who enjoyed sparking up a joint or two after school and before the parents got home. He got lumped in with a lot of Greatful Dead and Crosby Stills and Nash, and Neil Young. I was rebelling against that music as early as 14 and was way more successful over time bringing the Dead Heads over to the Punks sound than they ever were in getting me to enjoy “Truckin'”
    As I got older, putting Dylan in the context of the rebel that he was, brought me closer to much of his music. Dylan is now part of the fabric of American Culture and it pleases me that there are rebel threads in our crazy quilt.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.