Later this year the honorary Bob Dylan will honour us with his stage presence at nine different venues including the seaside town of Blackpool, Glasgow and London. The legendary US singer-songwriter is said to have a ‘sell-out’ response to his pending UK tour as folk fanatics hit the box office.
Bob The Controversial Figure
Bob Dylan has been a cult figure in the UK since the beginning of time. He is an individual thinker who tells his message through his music. A pacifist that came to fame in the ’60s who dared to decry the Vietnam war and who’s grounded views and ‘out of the box’ thinking still has all the charm of his early years.
Bob The Musician
Bob Dylan started playing guitar at secondary school; performing on stage in several bands. He also played digital piano and later the harmonica was integrated into his folk idiom which added feeling and intensity to Bob’s song lyrics. He was at his musical height in the ’60’s singing songs that expressed anti-war messages and reflected social unrest of the time. His followers were so mesmerised by his visual image and engaging songs that they named him ‘The Prophet’. This was to haunt Bob Dylan for years to come as he never really wanted such a label and idolatry worship.
Getting His Message Across
Early songs such as ‘’Blowin’ In The Wind’’ had great impact. The lyrics asked questions and then answered them in riddles as the title of the song suggests pastoral imagery allowing the listener to use his imagination. The ‘’How many’’ lyrics at the beginning of each line are embedded in the storytelling and drive the music forward accompanied by acoustic guitar, tambourine and harmonica. The later instrument cries out in the middle-eight as if in pain; it’s improvisatory elements twisting and turning as the underlying melody is underpins the song.
Bob’s Rocking & Rolling Experience
Bob’s roll over to rock was a time of controversy for both himself and his devoted fans. Many thought their prophet had deserted the folk cause and made their feelings known. Bob just played his music louder which was characteristic of the less discerning sounds of rock anyway. The song ‘’Like A Rolling Stone’’ is a lengthy 6 minute waltz version of the original as recorded in 1965. The digital piano crudely stomps its way through the track as Bob fires his lyrical arrows’’ How does it feel’’ – once again asking those rhetorical questions that the listener has to address under self-examination. Use of an electronic line-up upset many fundamental folk lovers; digital piano with an organ setting, heavy drum beats and electric guitar strumming with greater prominence than in folk music. The gentle fusion of the harmonica makes this an interesting fusion of traditional and the ‘shock of the new’ – but for many it was a ‘Judas’ act and the prophet was no more.
Bob’s return to the UK later this year will be a time of reminiscence for many. He has uttered his protestations for decades and still they listen. Perhaps there’ll be a model of his made at Madame Tussauds with a ‘’Kiss Me Quick’’ hat on instead of his Stetson cowboy hat. Well Bob Dylan may not be a prophet any more – but I’m sure he’ll make one. They say it’s a sell-out.