Another in the Sonicbond’s On Track series; this time looking at Bob Dylan’s work from his beginnings as a Woodie Guthrie acolyte, through the media-driven frenzy of the “Voice of a Generation” (an epithet that annoyed him enormously), onto the drug-fuelled, electric “Judas period”. We finish in the rehab of the reclusive family man and his temporary re-invention as a country singer.
Opher Goodwin, author of 2022’s On Track: Captain Beefheart book, has now tackled the thornier topic of Bob Dylan 1962 to 1970. He goes album-by-album through the eleven studio releases in that period, as well as covering additional tracks associated with those albums. He also has a chapter on the welter of bootlegs (official and unofficial) that has followed Dylan through his career.
Goodwin starts with an excellent, short introduction. Fleshing out the origins of the Dylan persona. A persona that is slippery and hard to pin-down fully. He is a character that evolved through a lot of self-mythologising. Goodwin tries hard with the unenviable task of trying ‘to unravel the man from the myth’ but it is near impossible to find a complete solution to this conundrum.
There is little connection between Dylan’s music and progressive rock, as his focus was and is on blues, r&b, folk, 1950s rock’n’roll and the American song book. However, arguably, there is a link between his masterful lyrical wordplay, and in his opening-out frol the three-minute straight-jacket of popular music.
From the release of Like A Rolling Stone, a 6 minute 11 second single, the world of popular music rapidly began to blossom and become more complex. Witness the change in The Beatles, who, influenced by Dylan, moved from their rock’n’roll and pop to (four years or so later) releasing Strawberry Fields Forever and more.
Dylan’s lyrics may have had an influence on prog-rock in that I can’t imagine the flights of wordsmithery of Jon Anderson in Yes, nor the prose poems of Peter Hammill‘s solo and with Van Der Graaf Generator, without the freedom afforded by the general changes in popular music, helped in no small way by Dylan.
Goodwin gives a readable and concise take on Dylan’s music, not hiding his fandom, nor so blinkered that he can’t criticise the poor albums Dylan released in the last years of the 1960s. If you want to dip into Dylan, but don’t know where to start, then Opher Goodwin’s On Track…Bob Dylan 1962 to 1970 is a great roadmap to the commencement and growth of the Dylan enigma.
Thank You Martin!