T for Tom

Day 7 – Blonde On Blonde – 1966

Posted in A Dylan A Day by johnsontoms on June 29, 2016

 

blonde.jpg

Just as I was starting to figure him out, Dylan goes and inverts the game again. After six days and six records in a row, I had claimed that he put forth his most honest song as the top track on any record before descending into the surreal. And yet, I should have known that on the next record, Blonde On Blonde, would have the rambling and nonsensical pot-smoking anthem “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” leading off a record that otherwise started, if not cemented, his status as a pop icon.

Dylan for the first time doesn’t play games. When he wants you, he says “I Want You.” When he wants to go his own way, he says “Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine.” When he wants to give you all his time, he says “Pledging My Time.” It’s enigmatic that a man who so often told the truth in riddles speaks, for the first time, without subtext.

This has always been my interpretation of this record, even when I was younger and knew less of the man and his music. Often considered the closing ballad in a trilogy of rock’n’roll records (including the two previous), Blonde On Blonde gets the softest touch and the sweetest legacy; it is, after all, the pop anthem. But for all its beautiful orchestration – the saloon piano on “Temporary Like Achilles” or the roaming guitar on “Fourth Time Around” are some of his sweetest, most well produced musical elements ever – Blonde is a directly pop production, and it remains the single reason why I can’t crown it the highest achievement of a man who otherwise never wanted to be understood.

Dylan went into the studio with The Hawks, his backing band that had been around long enough to get a name of their own. But in the month they spent recording in January, only a single track was yielded. A couple weeks and a trip to Nashville later, and here appears the entirety of this now legendary recording. Maybe the need to produce a few hits preempted the need to be mysterious, but maybe he’s saying just what he wants: I can do hits, too.

The Beatles wouldn’t release Revolver for another two months. Think about that.


Song: Obviously Five Believers

He nailed the blues with “Pledging My Time” and “Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat” but I’ll be damned if this song doesn’t get me movin’ every time I hear it. That fucking harmonica man, it just rails through the night.

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