9/26/2005

Like a Complete Unknown

Filed under: — Kate @ 5:25 pm EST

Tonight I should really be doing laundry or varnishing a cabinet or something, but I will instead be watching No Direction Home: Bob Dylan with Edo and a friend. I’m really looking forward to it, in spite of only catching two hours of sleep last night.

The documentary covers what are probably the most important years of Dylan’s career (1961-1966), and will include a lot of previously unseen footage from that era, as well as recent interviews done exclusively for this project. Directed by Martin Scorsese, it has received wide critical acclaim from both fans and casual observers alike.

Bob Dylan is more than just a musical icon. He’s one of the most important artists of the 20th century, and whether you love or hate him, his legacy is a piece of our cultural heritage. No Direction Home is premiering on PBS tonight and concluding tomorrow (it’s a two-parter), so I encourage all of you to watch.

You got nothing to lose.

24 Responses to “Like a Complete Unknown”

  1. Kamin Says:

    I have never heard a song of his I liked. Granted, I didn’t live through his era or ever really know/understand the depth of his influence. I just can’t get into his music and don’t much care about anything else if I can’t stand the songs.

    Same way with the Beatles. Hate ‘em.

  2. Kamin Says:

    The Chemical Brothers… MAN… Talk about musical influence!! Those guys changed the WORLD!!!

    /sarcasm

  3. Kate Says:

    I have never heard a song of his I liked.

    Two questions for you then:
    1) How many of his songs have you actually heard?
    2) What about when other artists have performed his songs? Do you hate those, too?

    And regarding the Beatles, I just… wow. I really can’t understand how someone could hate them. I mean, you don’t have to love or even like them. But hate them? What makes you hate them?

  4. Kamin Says:

    I dunno…

    Maybe it’s all the hype about them and when I hear their songs, I’m just not impressed. I couldn’t even tell you which songs I’ve heard because I know so little about them.

    I think part of it, too, is the whole 60’s / drugs / hippy stuff. I have absolutely zero patience for any of that stuff. I see it as the beginning of a lot of today’s problems in our country… and so I have zero interest in the music that was born out of it.

    Good excuse? Probably not. I guess they’re just not my thing.

  5. Kamin Says:

    Dylan and Beatles… that is! Not “good excuses”! I have lots of those! :)

  6. Manchild Says:

    I was never a fan of the Beatles either. I like about 3 songs of theirs, maybe. And I probably haven’t heard all their stuff, but then I’ve no interest either. (Hey Jude, Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane are the 3 I can think of)

    As for Dylan, I’ve probably heard his stuff, but I couldn’t pick it out of an audio line up.

    The 50’s/60’s didn’t mean much to me. But I can totally get behind the use of psychadelics, and other mood altering substances.

  7. Melissa Says:

    Drugs = good, Beatles = boring

  8. Holz Says:

    Gotta go with the consensus, while I can listen to The Beatles, I would never intentionally do it (I don’t think I’ll ever buy a Beatles album), and Bob Dylan has always been a performer I’ve ignored… just never liked any of his stuff.

    Plus, I have a similar excuse to Kamin in that I never liked gospel hymns and country music, because I see it as the beginning of a lot of today’s problems in our country… and so I have zero interest in the music that was born out of it.

  9. Kate Says:

    Oh wow. Where do I start? I’m a bit flabbergasted by this reaction. I’m certainly not asking all of you to become instant fans, but my god you have to recognize their place in the history of music! I know history isn’t for everyone, but it’s not like they are obscure. And I realize that everything is subjective, especially when you’re dealing with music and art, but you would be hard pressed to find a musical artist who wasn’t influenced by Dylan and the Beatles.

    Maybe it’s all the hype about them and when I hear their songs, I’m just not impressed.
    Well I suppose I can understand that. In my opinion, many of Dylan’s (and the Beatles) best songs are the lesser known ones.

    I think part of it, too, is the whole 60’s / drugs / hippy stuff. I have absolutely zero patience for any of that stuff. I see it as the beginning of a lot of today’s problems in our country… and so I have zero interest in the music that was born out of it.
    I’m having trouble responding to this… I keep typing and then deleting what I typed. I just think it’s such a broad dismissal without any real understanding. I’m sure I’m guilty of that in other areas, we probably all are. It might surprise you to know that Bob Dylan actually rejected a lot of the “hippy stuff” you to which you are referring. And I’m actually amused that you didn’t say “freakin’ commies,” since you’d actually be closer to the truth than you usually are with that statement. ;-)

    I probably haven’t heard all [The Beatles] stuff, but then I’ve no interest either.
    Okay, but I would like to mention that Beatles music varies widely from album to album, from the inception of their career to the end.

    As for Dylan, I’ve probably heard his stuff, but I couldn’t pick it out of an audio line up.
    I’m sure you’ve heard his songs. There aren’t many people who haven’t heard a Bob Dylan song. Not all of them are aware of it, but they’ve certainly heard his words. That’s because SO many other performers have sung Bob Dylan’s songs. Now as for Dylan himself, his voice is sort of unmistakable… you’d probably remember it. :-p

    I have a similar excuse to Kamin in that I never liked gospel hymns and country music, because I see it as the beginning of a lot of today’s problems in our country… and so I have zero interest in the music that was born out of it.
    Okay… now that I’m finished banging my head against the wall, let me be as clear as possible: without those things, there would be no rock and roll. Modern rock music as we know it today was born out of rhythm and blues, jazz, gospel, folk, and country music. I would encourage you to read the Wikipedia entry on rock and roll.

    Also, this music was a generation’s voice of protest against those problems. I don’t see how you could possibly equate it with the problems of today. You need to view this music as having taken a divergent path from the one that led to modern day gospel and country, which you know I can’t stand any more than you can.

    I am going to put some Bob Dylan songs up on the radio blog so I can show all of you what I mean. I promise I’m not trying to convert you into fans, and I’m not expecting to see comments of love and praise, but I do hope you will listen to it with an open mind and give it a fair shot.

    It’s kind of funny, I didn’t think anyone even would comment on this post at all.

    By the way, the documentary was fantastic.

  10. Manchild Says:

    I went through Dylans discography. He released a lot of tracks that I’m sure he didn’t write (they were much older folk songs) but of the ones he wrote, I knew a few.

    House of the Risin sun
    Blowin in the Wind
    Times They Are A-Changin’
    On The Road Again
    Mr. Tamborine Man
    Like A Rolling Stone
    Just Like A Woman
    Lay Lady Lay
    Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
    Let’s Stick Together

    Of those, the only one I liked was House of the Rising Sun.

    At some point, the forerunners are always going to fall out of popular favour though.

    When Space invaders came out, it was so popular that Japan ran out of yen coins and the government had to quadruple the supply. Nowadays, you can argue that there would be no arcades or games or PSP’s without space invaders, and some of us old timers might look back at it fondly with nostalgia.

    But we don’t play it. And kids who would see it today would think it was crap.

    Dylan is Space Invaders.

  11. Kamin Says:

    “Dylan is Space Invaders.”

    There’s a quote for the history books! :)

  12. Kate Says:

    Of those, the only one I liked was House of the Rising Sun.
    It figures, since he didn’t actually write House of the Rising Sun. Oh well.

    At some point, the forerunners are always going to fall out of popular favour though.
    But Bob Dylan hasn’t fallen out of favor. That’s why I didn’t understand the reaction here. He’s widely regarded as the greatest songwriter of the 20th century. His songs are still played, he still sells out concerts. If anything, he’s achieved an almost “guru” type status, though that’s a role he doesn’t really want.

  13. Manchild Says:

    “But Bob Dylan hasn’t fallen out of favor.”

    I didn’t say favour. I said “popular favour”.

    When was his last number 1 hit? Number 1 album?

    So he sells out concerts. So what? Plenty of bands can fill a venue.

  14. Kate Says:

    When was his last number 1 hit? Number 1 album?
    Dylan never had a #1 hit, and only a few #1 albums. His last two albums of original work (in 1997 and 2001) did chart in the top 10, and he won a Grammy in 1997. The soundtrack to this documentary is on the charts right now.

    But you can’t measure greatness by popularity alone. You also have to look at influence and endurance. One of Dylan’s greatest strengths was that his songs were timeless. They sounded like they could have been written yesterday or a hundred years ago. That’s why he’s endured longer than any of the others from his heyday.

    So he sells out concerts. So what? Plenty of bands can fill a venue.
    Fair enough.

    Dylan is Space Invaders.
    It’s a cute analogy, and I see your point, but it’s a bit of apples vs. oranges logic. I don’t think you can compare the historical progression of gaming (or computers or television sets, etc) to that of music, art, or literature. Otherwise, why do we still perform Shakespeare, read Chaucer and go to the opera? Why do we value artwork that’s centuries old?

  15. Melissa Says:

    Dylan is ok on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I can certainly agree the Beatles and Dylan influenced music, wouldn’t dream of arguing that point. Still though? Beatles = boring.

  16. Manchild Says:

    Fair enough Kate, but I wasn’t arguing his signifigance or even historical importance. I’m just pointing out why you might actually be in a minority (I don’t know if you are, but it seems that you are around here at least) in terms of actually liking his stuff now, today.

    Was he significant? Sure. Did he at one time have mass appeal? Apparently not. Is he recognised by those who know his work well, as a genius? Yes.

    Shakespeare. Chaucer. Dylan. Seems like they’re quite common there. But ask around if anyone has recently read or can quote from the Canterbury Tales, (But by the cause that they sholde ryse, Eerly, for to seen the grete fight, Unto hir rest wenten they at nyght ) and I think you’ll find the response is pretty damn similar to our attitudes on the Beatles and Dylan.

    Oh, and computer games are too recent to see if they’ll be lauded and remembered in future times. Personally, I’d love to think that kids in 100 years will be forced to play “Doom” in a history class. :)

  17. Kate Says:

    I’m just pointing out why you might actually be in a minority…
    I know lots of people who don’t like his voice, and I understand that, but I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t at least have a respect for Bob Dylan. That’s why I was so stunned by the reaction to this post.

    I don’t know if you are [in a minority], but it seems that you are around here at least…
    Yes, well when it comes to music that’s nothing new, is it? :-p

    Ask around if anyone has recently read or can quote from the Canterbury Tales
    “For well he knew a woman has no beard…” but again, I’m probably in a minority. Everyone can quote Shakespeare, though.

    I think you’ll find the response is pretty damn similar to our attitudes on the Beatles and Dylan.
    I don’t think it’s similar. You don’t have to read Chaucer every day to appreciate his place in history. That’s all I’m asking for here—an appreciation instead of a broad dismissal. I could make the same argument for classic film, but one thing at a time.

    And Melissa, Beatles = boring? Really? Really??

  18. Holz Says:

    I think the issue at hand is you’re trying to argue the point of “look at his impact on music, look at the respect others have for him, how can you not like him?!?” It comes down to a perspective of taste. Sure, he can write music, but when I listen to him, it sounds like my grandfather reading from a Sear catalog with marbles in his mouth. Just not my cup of tea.

    Of course, I can respect the writing. I find the people who cover his stuff much more enjoyable than his originals. In fact, I would put Dave Matthews’ version of Watchtower above Hendrix. But the voice… such a turnoff.

    In regards to the “impact on others”, I have the same thought when it comes to Nirvana… I’m sure there’s some significant influence, but on a whole, it’s overrated.

  19. Kate Says:

    …you’re trying to argue the point of “look at his impact on music, look at the respect others have for him, how can you not like him?!?”
    I actually tried to avoid coming across that way. That’s not what I’m trying to do, and I’m a little disappointed that you think so. My feeling is closer to “look at the impact he’s had, how can you not find that interesting?!” I’ve questioned people who admittedly know little about the subject saying things like “I see it as the beginning of a lot of today’s problems in our country… ”

    In regards to the “impact on others”, I have the same thought when it comes to Nirvana…
    Holz, you can’t seriously be comparing Bob Dylan to Nirvana. Whether you think it was for better or for worse, Nirvana did have an effect on music (one of these days you’ll have to concede that). But they don’t hold a candle to the impact of Dylan.

    Honestly, I was only encouraging people to watch the documentary because I thought it would be interesting and insightful. I love stories about musicians, finding out who influenced them and who they then influenced in turn. I’ll watch or read anything like that, even about genres that I generally avoid, like rap.

    Since this film was getting wildly high praise from everyone, and critics were saying things like “A treat for Dylan fans, a great history lesson for others,” I thought I’d mention it here. As I said, I never even expected anyone to respond, and I certainly didn’t anticipate such a dismissive attitude.

  20. Holz's Mom Says:

    Kate:

    I so so so apologize for not teaching my son the more important facts of life - first grandchildren are every parents right - and Dylan is and will always be the most influencial poet of my generations lifetime. Dylan allowed us to speak out against the injustices we saw; yet our parents would not recognize, in a loud and powerful voice.

    He changed the tone of rock and roll - risking the ridicule of his fans by picking up the electric guitar - while keeping true to the poet within his soul.

    And finally he showed us all how stupid the media was (IS?) and how we as a people must have the courage to speak out against those who would use their power to mislead and malign the truth.

    His voice … well …. it is the finger nail on the chalkboard that allows the teacher to get the students attention - listen with your mind and souls - it is and will always be all about the words with Dylan.

  21. Kate Says:

    Amen, Holz’s Mom! About Dylan, anyway. ;-)

  22. Holz Says:

    About Dylan, anyway.

    Yeah, that grandchildren comment didnt get by you, either…

  23. Melissa Says:

    And Melissa, Beatles = boring? Really? Really??

    Yeah, sorry about that. I’ve just never liked them. And I’ve heard most of their discography, including the lesser known/played stuff. I can understand the British invasion and their impact on music history, but I won’t own an album, request a song or ever be in a Beatles mood like I am for most music. It especially bugs me that even with all that, I still know the words to a majority of their popular songs.

    Dylan though? Never had any argument with you there.

  24. Kate Says:

    Yeah, sorry about that. I’ve just never liked them. And I’ve heard most of their discography…
    Well I can’t argue with that. :-) I understand sometimes things just don’t click. I was just surprised since you and I seem to have many common music tastes.

    I still know the words to a majority of their popular songs.
    It’s kind of hard not to know at least a few. They probably got into your brain by osmosis.