Friday, December 4, 2015
it takes a phantom engineer
------------------------ [excerpt, Remnick article] ------------------- For Dylan, the greatest and most abundant songwriter who has ever lived, the most intense period of wild inspiration and creativity ran from the beginning of 1965 to the summer of 1966. (Yes, I get how categorical that statement is. If you'd like to make an argument for Nas, Lennon & McCartney, Smokey Robinson, Joni Mitchell, Carole King,
Jacques Brel, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern ... or fill-in-the-blank, write to email@example.com.) Before that fifteen-month period, Bob Dylan, who was twenty-three, had already transformed folk music, building on Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams.
Now he was scribbling lyrics on pads and envelopes all night and listening to the Stones and the Beatles and feverishly reading the Surrealists and the Beats.
In short order, he recorded the music for "Bringing It All Back Home" (the crossover to rock that ranges from "Mr. Tambourine Man" to "Subterranean Homesick Blues"); "Highway 61 Revisited"
(the best rock album ever made; again, send your rebuttal to firstname.lastname@example.org); and "Blonde on Blonde"
(a double album recorded in New York and Nashville that includes "Visions of Johanna" and "Just Like a Woman").
In that same compacted period, Dylan travelled the U.K. as a solo act, a tour which is memorialized in D.A. Pennebaker's documentary film "Don't Look Back";
scandalized Pete Seeger and much of the crowd at the Newport Folk Festival, on the night of July 25, 1965, by "going electric" and performing raucous versions of "Maggie's Farm," "Phantom Engineer" (later known as "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry"), and "Like a Rolling Stone" with members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band; and toured North America and the U.K. with the Hawks, a rootsy Canadian-American combo that soon became The Band.
(The record of the U.K. tour, "Bob Dylan Live 1966: The 'Royal Albert Hall' Concert," is, as a live album, in a rarefied class with James Brown's "Live at the Apollo"
and B.B. King's "Live at the Regal.")
Dylan was exploding with things to say and sing. -------------------------- [end, today's excerpt from "Bob Dylan and the 'Hot Hand'" - written by David Remnick - The New Yorker - November 9, 2015] -------------------