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Bob Dylan - Bringing It All Back Home (1965)

Bob Dylan - Bringing It All Back Home


Released March 22, 1965

Recorded January 13-15, 1965

About the Album

Bringing it All Back Home is Bob Dylan’s fifth studio release. The album was transitional for Dylan, showing two sides of the artist and his internal musical struggle. He was inspired by the Beatles and electric blues. Dylan had the desire to strap on the electric guitar and rock out. Yet he was considered the greatest acoustic folk artist, and his core fans of college radicals wanted more folky acoustic protest music with profound lyrics. So for the first side of the record, Dylan jammed on some electric music, and for the second, he returned to his acoustic roots but moved further away from his protagonistic spirit. At this point, he had grown tired of being the educator of a generation, and he wanted to be more of a traditional songwriter instead. Despite being somewhat schizophrenic as an album, the record did well and peaked at #6 on the Billboard Charts, making it Dylans’ first top ten record. In the U.K., it peaked at #1. As for sales, it went platinum in the States and gold in the U.K. Many believe the record to be his best, and it is often cited as one of the most influential albums of its generation.

Dylan in 1965

Leading up to the recording of Bringing It All Back Home, Dylan hung around Woodstock in the summer of 1964, constantly sat before a typewriter, and wrote many lyrics in a stream of conscious type state. Late in the summer, he met with the Beatles for the first time in New York and supposedly gave them their first joints. His relationship with the Beatles impacted Dylan, and it was a connection that he continued and cherished. He was also excited about the electric blues music of John P. Hammond, the son of John H. Hammond, the musical visionary who first signed Dylan to Columbia.

The first acoustic session was made on January 13, 1965.Tthe next day, he bought in the rock band, which included guitarists Al Gorgoni, Kenny Rankin, and Bruce Langhorne recruited, as were pianist Paul Griffin, bassists Joseph Macho, Jr. and William E. Lee, and drummer Bobby Gregg. The group laid the tracks down quickly, were back at it the next day, and finished the record.

Following The Release

Following the record's release, Bob Dylan thoroughly dug his heels into electric music, which caused great controversy for the singer. On July 25, 1965, he performed his first electric concert at Newport Folk Festival, which was perceived by many as a big FU to the many people who hung on his words and prophecies as an acoustic folk artist. Many fans rebelled at his new electric direction, booed the singer, and called him a “sellout” and a “Judas.” Dylan, who had an ultra-rebellious spirit, countered Bringing it all Back Home with two more electric masterpieces, Highway 61 Revisited (August 1965) and Blond On Blond (June 1966).

Side 1

(+ means "recommended track" and * means released as a single)

Track 1- “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is Dylan's first top 40 hit in the U.S. is one of my favorite Dylan songs. It was also notable for its music video in which Dylan held cue cards with many lyrics to the song. The song was inspired by and borrowed from the words and music of artists like Jack Kerouac, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Chuck Berry’s song “Too Much Monkey Business.” The song references drugs, a Bohemian lifestyle, Vietnam's turmoil, a far-left organization called the Weather Underground, and much more. The title pays tribute to the Jack Kerouac book The Subterraneans. The bluesy tune is essentially a glimpse into the many thoughts of a brilliant mind (*+)

Track 2- “She Belongs To Me.” There is much speculation about who the “she” is in the song. Bob Dylan had quite a few relationships at the time. It could be about former girlfriend Suze Rotolo, fellow folk singer Joan Baez, the German singer/songwriter/model Nico, or Sara Lownds, the woman Dylan would wed in November 1965 and have four children with before they split in 1977. Surprisingly none of these women were on the cover of the album. Instead, it was Sally Grossman, the wife of Albert Grossman, who appeared on the jacket. The tune has a pretty solid groove and some well-played lead guitar work. Of course, Dylan has to play the harmonica on this one. Dylan's harmonica playing irks me slightly, as you may know by now.

Track 3- “Maggie’s Farm.” The literal lyrics make it pretty clear that Dylan does not want to work for Maggie or any of her family members. If we look past the literal meaning, the lyrics may represent Dylan’s desire to move away from the constructs of folk ideals and the box they placed him in. The track may be his announcement that he wants to make a break from his current image and acoustic music. It may also be a statement regarding the struggles associated with the American work environment and mentality. Musically the song is pure electric blues, and it was Dylan’s performance with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band of the more of “Maggie’s Farm” at the Newport Folk Festivals that caused outrage amongst some of his fans. “Maggie’s Farm” was released as a single in the U.K., and it is one of the strongest cuts on the record, and it was done in one take (*+)

Track 4- “Love Minus Zero.” The song uses surreal imagery. Some authors and critics believe that the song was inspired in part by Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Raven" (the final lines are "My love she’s like some raven / At my window with a broken wing") and the biblical Book of Daniel. Critics have also remarked that the style of the lyrics is reminiscent of William Blake's poem "The Sick Rose." Bob Dylan is obviously excellent lyrically, and the song might have nothing to do with these referenced works and may just be a product of his genius.

Track 5- “Outlaw Blues.” This is an electric blues reflection of a fugitive on the run who stumbles into a cold, muddy lagoon. As a fugitive on the run with no home to hang any pictures, he wishes he was free and on some Australian mountain range. He also misses his woman. Dylan also recorded an acoustic version of the song for these sessions, which was later released in 2005.

Track 6- “On The Road Again” reflects the absurdities of a bohemian lifestyle and possibly dealing with some nutty inlaws. It's blues, as only Dylan would do it.

Track 7- “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream.” Dylan dreams and thinks a lot, and like many dreams, this one is a little wacky. In it, Dylan combines elements of Christopher Columbus’ travels, the voyage of the Mayflower, and Captain Ahab's adventures from Moby Dick. The song is a lengthy rant with historical references, short stories, and unique imagery-it’s somewhat like a psychedelic drug-induced mind adventure. He tried the song as an acoustic track before recording the electric version of the tune. The track begins with a botched acoustic false start which cracks up Dylan. Not sure why it's so funny. There's a good amount of instrumental layering behind Dylan’s lyrics.

Side 2

Track 1- “Mr. Tambourine Man” is brilliant and one of Dylan’s most beloved songs and the Byrds folk-rock remake of the song later in the year reached #1. It was, however, not a hit for Dylan. Musically the track includes only Dylan strumming the acoustic and Bruce Langhorne’s playing lead behind the verse, and then, of course, Dylan has to play the harmonica. The lyrics are among Dylan’s most discussed, and most believe it is about drugs, but Dylan has denied that. He was smoking pot at the time of the writing but did not discover LSD until a few months later. Some think it may be a song about religion and transcending. Sometimes I think Dylan just strings together words remarkably and leaves the meaning up to the listener. Either way, his lyrics always sound important, and the vagueness is part of his brilliance as a songwriter. (+)

Track 2- “Gates of Eden'' is Dylan alone; many liked him best that way.. Again the song lyrics appear to be part of a dreamlike state and a search for paradise in a decaying world. Honestly, who knows what the hell he is talking about sometimes? It is a great mind exercise to try and figure it out, though. I often find that with Dylan, you can interpret each verse as a song within a song. I think, honestly, he’s brighter than most of us, and his mind works differently. I interpret the lyrics to mean that all the conversation, political turmoil, thoughts, and absurdities of the world mean nothing when we pass on.

Track 3- “It's Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” is incredible and is one of his greatest works. Like many genius works of art, you can find new meanings and interpret them differently with each listen. The over seven-minute-long song has a contemplative and negative tone; I think the lyrics comment on American ideals. The imagery of a son explaining his concerns, fears, and pain to his mother is quite poignant, especially because she brought him into this decaying world. Like any great orator, Dylan lands on some memorable lines and phrases. A few lyrics stand out, and they generally come at the end of a verse. Here are a few:

1- “He not busy being born is busy dying…”

2-“ Don’t fear if you hear a foreign sound to your ear.”

3- “Hate nothing at all except hatred.”

4- “It’s easy to see without looking for that much is really sacred.”

5- “Even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked.”

6- “It is not they or them or it that you belong to “ (a reference to fitting into a pronoun?)

7- “The masters make the rules for the wise man or the fools.”

8- “One who sings with his tongue on fire gargles in the rat race choir…”

9- “Money doesn’t talk; it swears obscenity.”

10- “If my thought-dreams could be seen, they’d probably put my head in a guillotine.”

Track 4- “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” is Dylan performing with bassist William E. Lee. The song's chorus seems to reference the end of a relationship. Dylan scholars have tried to figure out who ‘baby blue” was. One person who has been regarded as the subject of the song is folk singer Joan Baez. Dylan and Baez were still in a relationship when Dylan wrote the song. Another possibility is a singer-songwriter named David Blue, a friend of Dylan's from his days in New York City's Greenwich Village. Some have suggested that the subject is Dylan's one-time friend, folk singer Paul Clayton. Clayton had accompanied Dylan on the famous 1964 road trip across the United States on which "Chimes of Freedom" and "Mr. Tambourine Man" were written. By 1965, Clayton's use of amphetamines may have made him difficult to be around, and their relationship became fractured. It may possibly be a combination of all of these individuals. Another interpretation of the song is that it is directed at Dylan's folk music audience. The song was written at a time when he was moving away from the folk protest movement musically, and, as such, the song can be seen as a farewell to his days as an acoustic guitar-playing protest singer. Dylan's choice of performing "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" as his last acoustic song at the infamous Newport Folk Festival of 1965 supports this theory.

In Conclusion:

Bob Dylan’s- Bringing It All Back Home is a masterpiece and one of the essential albums of Dylan’s career, showing that he was never comfortable at being comfortable and willing to take a greater risk by incorporating more rock and blues elements. His combination of poetry and prose blended with easily accessible musical elements repeatedly brings listeners back to Bringing It All Back Home.

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