Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline – rebought after 46 years.


I’ve just bought the Bob Dylan Nashville Skyline CD.

I first bought the album back in 1969 when it first came out. I was a young hipster of coming up twenty. The sixties was raging and Bob Dylan had been a hero of mine.

I’d loved the acoustic albums full of civil rights and anti-war protest, great lyrics, poems and humour.

I’d loved the three classic sixties electric albums with their ground-breaking liquid mercury sound, snarling voice, stream of consciousness poetry, biting words and Beat sensitivities. He created a new genre, new voice and music that was on another plane.

Dylan was the coolest dude on the planet with his polka-dot shirt, tousled hair and shades, hip drawl and amphetamine wit. He epitomised all that was about to happen in the sixties. Dylan was the underground revolution.

Then came the accident/breakdown/rehab in 66. Just as the balloon went up on the whole sixties vibe, at the start of 67 when all the groundwork laid down by Dylan was about to bear fruit and the underground exploded, Dylan was nowhere to be seen. The voice was gone.

We missed him.

Then he tentatively returned with the slightly low-key, stripped down, countrified ‘John Wesley Harding’, which was OK. We felt it was dipping the toe back in the water. There was nothing outstanding or new about it. But he was back.

The next album would be brilliant.

I remember the excitement as I carried the album back home. The image on the front was a bit disconcerting. This was no cool dude; this was a smiling geek, but looks can be deceptive and Dylan was always playing games.

I put it on and the needle came down. The twee sound drifted out. What came out was as far removed from cutting-edge Beat poetry and creative Rock as you could get, this was all superficial country drivel.

I tried to do it justice and give it a thorough listen but it was all too much. This was trivial crap, devoid of substance and trite. This was a Muzac embarrassment.

I smashed the album on the side of the dust-bin and threw it in with disgust. Perhaps that motorbike accident had addled his brain and shaken the genius out of him? This was not the Bob Dylan I knew. This was an impostor, an inferior creep.

Dylan meant too much to me to produce this mindless crap. I was mourning his passing.

The years passed and Bob resurfaced a few times with memorable songs and albums but nothing that came new to the revolutionary periods of the sixties. Sometimes, as with the dreadful religious crap of 1979/80, I despaired, and sometimes I thought he was back on track. He has always been an enigma. I think he does it on purpose.

Over the years the music of the sixties has died with the idealism it inspired and I have come to look at music differently; no longer is it part of the idealism and philosophy that reflects my ethos; now it appreciated for different reasons. I listen to it differently. It is no longer part of that on-going revolution; it is just music. Some is good, some bad and some reflects my philosophy. I’m not the young idealist I used to be. I’m an old idealist now who doesn’t expect the world to change overnight – it is going to be a long process. I’m wiser.

I’ve just bought Nashville Skyline again. I’m going to play it now.

Who knows? In a short while I may have smashed it up and chucked it in the bin in fury and frustration.

I’ve taken the hammer out of the shed!