Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Tangled Up in Blue" -- Bob Dylan (Blood on the Tracks)

Dylan...boy, I dunno. I really don't, actually. It isn't that that I don't like Dylan--"Buckets of Rain," from the same album is another song on my completely imaginary all-time top-20 songs list--I just don't get him. I think he's somehow untimely. So let me now be the nth person to take up the question, "What is it about Dylan?" (where n is a very large number).

The song is an interesting story, told idiosyncratically, atemporally. Onion satire notwithstanding, the man could construct a rhyme. It's 1975, so the accompanying 12 string guitar sounds good (the 80's 12 string sound's bad). There's an entire other point to be made about his voice, though I don't know if I have an opinion about whether he's a good or bad singer. The only thing I've got to add is that he's unapologetic about the way he sings, and he sells it.

Is the point here that I, who was 2 in 1975 and thus have no experience of the cultural context in which this song was released (and, you know, never will) and, unable to hear this song in context, will never actually understand what made it a popular song? I might be able to appreciate it/like it/love it/form some totally new association with it because my girlfriend put it on a cd of narrative songs that I listened to on a drive across the country/whatever, but I'll never get it. Similarly, I didn't grow up in the 60's and I didn't get Dylan in context, so I'll never get Dylan.

Is there an even larger point about context that I am missing? Possibly, but it will take me in another direction, so I'll leave off here for now.


fronesis said...

Here's a context comment. First, I don't get Dylan either. I have no criticisms of him, and for those who think he's the greatest, I'm sure he is. I don't think I own any Dylan.

But I LOVE this song. Why? The Indigo Girls covered it live in a show I saw at Red Rocks in about 1992. It was this 12 minute extravaganza that was absolutely unthinkably genius. They traded verses in this way that made it seem like the song was written that way. Emily's verses were beuatiful. Amy's were lusty and dangerous. They put this song on a their live disc, and it's been a favorite song of mine ever since.

That seems to say something about context (covering the song 17 years later), but I don't know exactly what...

Transient Gadfly said...

The Indigo Girls cover came up the other day when mtg and I were talking about this, and about how frequently and famously (perhaps a better word is "successfully") other artists cover Bob Dylan songs. Where I was going with the context thing, but didn't because it would have taken forever, was sort of about that. It also sort of wasn't.