Monday, 8 May 2017

Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues

Some musical  respite. "Subterranean Homesick Blues" is a song by Bob Dylan , originally released on the album  Bringing it all Back Home in March 1965.  Bob was a little ahead of the 'music video' trend when, on  this day May 8, 1965, he got the idea to make a short film of the song.He was filming what would become the documentary "Don't Look Back" when the idea hit him.
The short film that follows  features him standing in an alley next to London's Savoy Hotel , just accompanied by his friends Allen Ginsberg and Bob Neuwirth, flipping giant cue cards with the lyrics of the song on them.
The video, which many feel was one of the first "music videos," would become an iconic rock moment. The song sounded like nothing nobody had  heard before and  it utterly transformed Bob Dylan's career and the history of popular music along with it.
In 1963 Dylan had become one of  the leading figures in the folk revival, writing socially conscious anthems like "Blowin' in the Wind." As of his fourth album, Another Side of Bob Dylan, released in August 1964, he was becoming less interested in political material and more interested in songs with poetic, allusive imagery, but he was still playing them on an acoustic guitar or piano and his ever-present harmonica. In January 1965, however, Dylan went into the studio with a five-piece electric band -- two guitars, piano, bass, and drums . The first product of this effort was "Subterranean Homesick Blues," In four lengthy verses, with no real chorus (though the line "Look out, kid" appeared in the second part of every verse) and no mention of the title, Dylan delved into a free association of rhymes and catch phrases. This was Dylan’s first successful attempt to integrate the emotions of the Beat Generation which he had understood from Alan Ginsberg and others combining the thoughts of the moment with three minutes of everything that was happening in the world of the mid 1960s.
Like the Beat Generation poetry before it took a scatological approach to lyrics and rhyme, rejecting all that had gone before, linking the future to the past and back again, finding new models, new expressions, new ideas, even if no one knew what they meant.
The song contained depictions of a variety of characters including Johnny, "the man in the trench coat," "the man in the coon-skin cap in the big pen," Maggie, "girl by the whirlpool," and others, and, in the second parts of each verse, various pieces of cautionary advice for the kid, including everything from "Don't try No Doz" to "try to avoid the scandals." It wasn't a protest song in the way that some of Dylan's earlier songs had been, but the lyrics clearly expressed social discontent, with lines like "Twenty years of schoolin'/And they put you on the day shift." Dylan spat out the words in a staccato rhythm while the band rollicked along in a ramshackle manner.
The whole thing was oddly exhilarating, but "Subterranean Homesick Blues" was easily the strangest single Columbia Records had ever released. It was also a hit, at least a modest one, peaking just inside the Top 40, Dylan's first single to reach the charts. Rolling Stone magazine has it in the top 500 greatest songs of all time. A personal favourite of mine.
Here's Bob in London, 52 years ago today.

(As for those) in the basement
(Marijuana's) the medicine
(And those) on the pavement
(Burning down the false) government
The man in the trench coat
Badge out, laid off
Says he's got a bad cough
Wants to get it paid off
Look out kid
It's something you did
(Jah) knows when
But you're doing' it again
You better duck down the alley way
Looking' for a new friend
The man in the coon-skin cap
In the big pen
Wants eleven dollar bills
You only got ten

Maggie comes fleet foot
Face full of black soot
Talking' that the heat put
Plants in the bed but
The phone's tapped anyway
Maggie says that many say
They must bust in early May
Orders from the D.A.
Look out kid
Don't matter what you did
Walk on your tip toes
Don't try "No Doze"
Better stay away from those
That carry around a fire hose
Keep a clean nose
Watch (those) plain clothes
You don't need a weather man
To know which way the wind blows

(You) get sick, (then) get well
Hang around an ink well
(Things fell), hard to tell
If anything is going' to sell
Try hard, get barred
Get back, write Braille
Get jailed, jump bail
(Don't stop, you don't) fail
Look out kid
You're going to get hit
By users, cheaters
Six-time losers
Hang around the theaters
Girl by the whirlpool
Looking' for a new fool
Don't follow leaders
Watch the parking' meters

Ah get born, keep warm
(Girls come) learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her (to please me)
Don't steal, don't (shop) lift
Twenty years of schooling'
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid
(You come out from the dark zone)
Light yourself a (fire torch)
Wear (your) sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don't want to be a bum
(Get yourself a gun)
The pump don't work
'Cause the vandals took the handles

No comments:

Post a Comment