Every Friday from 6-8 p.m. on WCWM Radio’s “This Ain’t No Picnic,” DJ Kevin Sumner gives a landmark album a spin for listeners to rediscover aural bliss.
The September 19 edition paid tribute to Bob Dylan with his first electric folk masterpiece, Bringing It All Back Home.
Bob Dylan was without peer by 1965. Having spent the first two years under his contract with Columbia tackling American issues with protest songs, Dylan offered up “another side” of his personality with his fourth LP, Another Side of Bob Dylan. Listeners were shocked to hear Dylan sing for anyone other than themselves.
Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues
Instead, Dylan crooned on a number of topics that enforced the multiple personalities underneath his skull. Some of these songs, shockingly, were downright funny, with Dylan calling out Cassius Clay and ending up with the Dean of Women in “I Shall Be Free No. 10.”
This approach shocked listeners, but at least Dylan still relied on his acoustic guitar as his musical backbone.
Dylan’s appearance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival changed all that. Viewed by many as a radical who forgot his roots, Dylan plugged into his amp and introduced the electric guitar to the world of folk music. His fans turned immediately, calling him Judas and pelting him with garbage. The release of Bringing It All Back Home, his fifth album, forever changed the public notion of Dylan’s approach to folk music. Dylan segregated the music on the record into two halves with Side A reserved for the shorter, electric numbers and Side B saved for the longer acoustic numbers. The first half featured
“Subterranean Homesick Blues,” a stream-of-consciousness narrative that has been disputed as the first rap single, “Maggie’s Farm,” Bob Dylan’s farewell to the protest song movement, and “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” a re-tread of “Motorpsycho Nitemare” from Another Side Of with an electric arrangement.
Side B, by contrast, featured only four tunes with Dylan alone with his acoustic guitar.
“Mr. Tambourine Man,” originally recorded for Another Side Of, was later famously covered by The Byrds as the first folk-rock single. “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” the longest cut on the LP, saw Dylan delivering fifteen verses with stunning voracity as he offered the famous mantra: “He not busy being born is busy dying.”
Bringing It All Back Home literally shook the foundations of folk music as Dylan offers an LP full of vivid, surreal imagery and a strong musical foundation to match.
Few albums delivered both an entirely fresh vocabulary for rock music and a consistently phenomenal album at the same time.
Without Dylan, music would have probably regressed rather than progressed boldly into the future.