Monday, 10 November 2008

My Desert Island, All-Time, Top 5 Bob Dylan Tracks

I was brought up in a Dylan-free house. My parents weren't against him, per se. They agreed he was an excellent lyricist, but they just couldn't stand his voice. As a good little kid I believed my parents were right about everything, both musically and otherwise. It was only somewhere between hearing them praise Alison Moyet and having John Miles 'Music' played to me under the impression that it was worthy of being my first and last love that I started to realise they could, on occasion, be wrong.

Eventually I came round to Dylan. Or, more accurately, as soon as I gave him a chance I came round to him. He is, as my parents always said, a masterful lyricist. But he is also, and I don't need to tell you this, a wonderful singer. In chronological order, my top five Dylan tracks:

1. The Times They Are A'Changin'
Simple, and perhaps a little obvious. But then I've never shyed away from the obvious just because it is so - usually they are deservedly cliched, and here we have a perfect example. I was given a DVD earlier this year of Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival between '63 and '65 and though this song never features on the film, the whole time I was watching I couldn't get it out of my head. It's a time captured, but it's also very much timeless. The other day I read about Obama planning to close Guantamano Bay, and again this song came to mind. It's been doing that a lot recently.

2. Rainy Day Women #12 and 35
Two of the songs on my list come from the fantastic 1966 album Blonde on Blonde - my favourite of Dylan's. There's something about the rompy rhythm and the less-than-sober cheers throughout the song that throws you into a moment. You feel like you're in a very modern cowboy saloon, or a non-traditional Irish pub. It's swaggering excellence, and all the more lovable for it.

3. I Want You
Again, Blonde on Blonde strikes. I don't know where I'd heard this song before I discovered Dylan, but something about it brought back a plethora of memories when I first head it. It still does, gladly, in the same way that the taste of passion fruit does - oddly, unexpectedly, but most welcome.

4. Handle With Care (w/The Traveling Wilburys)
Whilst at first Dylan's influence is not as obvious on the opening track to super-group The Traveling Wilburys' debut album - or at least not as obvious as that of his fellow bandmates, it is ultimately Dylan that makes the song so listenable. Sometimes it's hard to place who is who in the track - Harrison opens vocally, I think, with Orbison taking over for the chorus. Who does the bridge? I'm not sure. Who does the brilliant harmonica that sets the tone for the whole song? Oh, that I can help you with...

5. Most Of The Time
The most recent of my top five is, incidentally, the track that I first got into amongst Dylan's back catalogue. The reference in the title to Nick Hornby's 'High Fidelity' was done entirely because of my love for the book, though is fitting, considering the soundtrack to the film introduced me to this track. It's slow, heartfelt, and everything I couldn't say about love and the resulting moods. High Fidelity's soundtrack was a revelation to me when I first heard it - a change in the way I saw music. It introduced me to so many artists: The Beta Band, Love, The Velvet Underground, John Wesley Harding and - though I already was a firm fan of the artist - the genius of Stevie Wonder's 'I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)'. But the artist who got the most out of that album was Dylan. So thanks Nick Hornby, and thanks people behind that soundtrack. You did good. You did real good.

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