Bob Dylan- Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964)
Updated: May 9
Bob Dylan - Another Side of Bob Dylan
Released August 8, 1964,
Recorded June 9, 1964
Before writing Another Side, Dylan embarked on a 20-day trip in a station wagon with a friend in search of inspiration and folk tales. The idea was to stop along the way, talk to as many people as possible, and gather stories. During the trip, the Beatles arrived in America; Dylan heard them on the radio and bugged out. He was amazed by their music's more advanced harmonies and song structure. He could hear they were moving in a new, more creative direction and wanted to be a part of it. Meanwhile, the Beatles had become deeply inspired by Dylan and wanted to add more meaningful lyrics to their music.
Around the time Dylan wrote the album, he was going through some stuff. He was apparently having an affair with folk artist Joan Baez, and his girlfriend Suze Rotolo had enough of his cheating ways and broke things off. Dylan then began experimenting with LSD and the electric guitar. In February, Dylan then went to Europe, where he met Nico, an angelic German model who later joined the Velvet Underground with whom he had a brief affair. When he returned to New York, he began to write feverishly, and the album Another Side Of Bob Dylan was born. The record was intended to be a new direction for Dylan as his songs now dealt more with personal reflections and less with activism. It's a transitional album leading to Bringing It All Back Home (1965), where Dylan would piss off many of his folky disciples by playing electric music. In The US, Another Side Of Bob Dylan charted at only 43 but eventually went gold. In the UK, it peaked at #8. What is most remarkable is that Dylan recorded the entire record in one day.
(+ means "recommended track" and * means released as a single)
Track 1- "All I Really Want To Do" essentially lists everything Dylan doesn't want to do in a relationship, likely with a woman or his audience. Dylan's yodeling shows the influence of Rambling Jack Elliot and Hank Williams. In the last verse, Dylan can be heard laughing as he cracks himself up a bit. When it comes to music, the song is about as simple as it gets. The tune was covered by Byrds and Cher, who both had hits with the tune. (+)
Track 2 -"Black Crow Blues" is different because Dylan plays piano, the first recording in which he does so. Otherwise, the song is just a standard 12-bar blues inspired by the musicians of the Mississippi Delta.
Track 3 -"Spanish Harlem Incident" is a portrait of a "gypsy" girl living in New York with whom the author takes notice, possibly romantically. When questioned about the song's meaning, Dylan claimed, "I have no idea." He had a way of being cheeky and standoffish at times with his responses. The Byrds and Dion covered the song.
Track 4 -"Chimes of Freedom" is a seven-plus minute exploration. The lyrics are a bit cryptic, but many critics believe it to be Dylan's response to the Kennedy assassination. Dylan sings about a thunderstorm, the oppressed, and the less fortunate. More intelligent men than me have tried to find the deeper meaning of the lyrics. Sometimes it's hard to know precisely what Dylan meant in his lyrics, but you can tell they were important somehow. Part of the joy of listening to Dylan's is trying to unlock the meaning and the mind of one of the great voices of a generation. I sincerely appreciate Dylan, but his harmonica playing often irritates me. If the "chimes of freedom" sounds like his harmonica playing in this song, I would rather not be free.
Track 5- "I Shall Be Free No. 10" sounds a lot like Woody Guthrie and derives from Lead Belly's "We Shall Be Free," recorded with Guthrie and Sonny Terry in 1944. The song is essentially a sequel to "I Shall Be Free" from Dylan's first record (Columbia, 1962). The tune is presented as a stream of consciousness dealing with many Dylanisms. Bob Dylan talks more than sings on this one. It may be a stretch, but a connection between Dylan's brand of folk can connect to rap and hip-hop. The similarities between his brand of folk and hip-hop stem from the vocal line, which is often limited in terms of melodic shape, and the lyrics overshadow the technical simplicity of the music. Dylan mentions two newsworthy 1964 figures in the song, including boxer Cassius Clay (Mohammad Ali) and former ultra-conservative US Senator and 1964 Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. This one is not my favorite, and I wish I were "free" from his harmonica playing and, honestly, from this song. During the final lyric, Dylan speaks the truth by saying, "You are probably wondering what this song is about," but once again, he gives no answer. Remember, he was using LSD at this time.
Track 6 -"To Ramona" was likely written with folk singer Joan Baez in mind; in her autobiography, Baez explained that Dylan sometimes called her "Ramona." The song is a cowboy song in which the author reflects upon Ramona's phobias and insecurities as she plans on returning "south" Throughout, the narrator appears to be offering Ramona life advice. The song shows a shift in Dylan as a songwriter, and unlike "I Shall Be Free No.10" and "Chimes Of Freedom," the lyrics are less abstract and more literal.
Track 1 - "Motorpsycho Nitemare"- This is a storytelling song of a rough-looking traveler who comes upon a farmhouse. The farmer is not too pleased with the visitor and threatens to kill him but then reluctantly decides to provide shelter to the traveler under the condition he doesn't touch his daughter Rita and that he milks the cows. Of course, he breaks both rules. He looks to get chased out of the farmhouse without milking the cows and tells the patriotic farmer he likes communist Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro to piss him off (lousy plan). The farmer chases him out with his gun. The title and lyrics pay tribute to the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho.
Track 2, "My Back Pages," is a favorite amongst Dylan fans. In the song's chorus, Dylan admits, "I was so much older than/I'm younger than that now." Many feel that the song and those lyrics are announcing his rebirth and that he no longer wants to be a vessel for political movements and protest songs. Dylan now doubted his preaching quality in his earlier work. Musically "My Back Pages" sounds like many of his other tunes. "My Back Pages" is a signature tune on the album and shows that Dylan was looking for a creative transition. Also, his harmonica playing is decent on this one. (+)
Track 3 - “I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)” is about a one-night stand and the emotional disconnection the woman shows afterward. Dylan plays some solid harmonica on this one. Once again, Dylan cracks himself up on the recording. I know I often tell corny jokes, but I don't find him funny. One of his most underrated songs. (+)
Track 4- "Ballad in Plain D" is an 8-minute long song. The song deals with his challenges with his ex-girlfriend Suze Rotolo and her family. He even calls her sister a "parasite." Although Rotolo said she was never hurt by the song, Dylan later showed regret for recording the tune "Oh yeah, that one! I look back and say 'I must have been a real schmuck to write that.' I look back at that particular one and say, of all the songs I've written, maybe I could have left that alone." I'm glad he didn't. (+)
Track 5, "It Ain't Me Babe," is another song showing complete honesty and vulnerability over his breakup with Rotolo. The piece shows Dylan's maturity as a songwriter who could write timeless and relatable material without being political or preachy. The Turtles and Johnny Cash reinterpreted the song. It's a beautiful song that may offer Dylan's best vocal performance to date. (+)
Another Side of Bob Dylan is one of the songwriter's most personal and thought-provoking works. Dylan is a complicated guy who sometimes would come off as charming and, at other times, defiant and standoffish. His words and music seemed necessary. Despite his unique lack of technical musicality, there is a mystery to the man's music and persona that makes us want to understand all sides of Dylan and his intentions. Awards and Positions (#43 on the Billboard Charts, Gold Record)