Bob Dylan / Blonde on Blonde

Allow me to indulge, briefly. Amber lit, the brown, wood laden college bar looked like it was cloaked in the light of embers. The redhead in the red leather jumpsuit had been looking towards me awhile. She was new to the place. New Paltz, NY, a Kerouac town of sorts at the time. I approached and half-heartedly said, “If you want to see the sunrise, hunny I know where?” Hey if it worked for Dylan in 66’ right?!?

Well, turns out she was a weather girl from Italy. Well, it turns out when I asked if I could smoke in her apartment, after she invited me back in broken English, she said, “One, if you know what I mean.” I was ‘picking up what she was putting down’, as dad would say.

The point of this reminiscing? Other then the smile on my face currently and the ‘Blonde on Blonde’ reference, is to illustrate how irreverent both that situation and this album turns out to be. ‘Blonde on Blonde’, double the excitement? Double the heartache? Not quite, double the album is the case. Unlike Dylan’s two folk albums in 92’ and 93’; (both with the same recording sound coming out of his New Orleans garage), where the latter, ‘World Gone Wrong’ has more personality; these albums certainly share the same DNA and have very similar blues thumb prints. Fraternal audio and lyrical twins per se.

Where to begin? Well, comparatively of course, (or try)? No, holistically. The ‘ghost of electricity’ howls through each album if not a bit subdued on ‘Just Like a Woman.’ And the ‘harmonica plays the skeleton keys’ throughout on this double blues album.Yes, that is correct. It appears by 1966, Dylan is turning more into an irreverent, bombastic blues artist then his folk persona can a lot for. Dylan throws images of a new type of blues at the wall and regardless of whether they stick, it’s up to the listeners to decide what they mean. Yes, if taken track by track, ‘Blonde on Blonde’ either musically, lyrically or both, sits on blues roots and temperament. This is a newer revelation to me on an album that is a ‘go to’ when I’m unsure of another Dylan album to play. These albums have the ‘highway blues’, dig it. The kind you get when you live a life on the fly; like a ‘rolling stone’.

As far as lyrically; of all Dylan’s albums, this one uses word collage (as I’ve deemed it) most frequently. Meaning, like a Roshark Blot, Dylan leaves an impression for one to derive the meaning. Examples? ‘Jewels and binoculars, hang from the head of the mule.’ ‘I watch upon your scorpion who crawls across you circus floor’, even ‘stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again.’ All these lines paint an image, no definitive meaning but it seems we all have our own definitive interpretation of what the speaker is digging for. As years pass, sometimes our meanings even morph and change to something new. Always, Dylan is able to be interpreted and reinterpreted. That’s the joy in part.

With a total of fourteen songs, I don’t have the wear-withal to delve into each; latent A.D.D. Has set in with me, (can you tell?). Bottom line, to know it is to love it. A top five release of all masterpieces the bard has done. There is just something about the feel, no other album in history shared this sound. Listen and re-listen to the collage, the blot and like me, through the years, develop different meanings as you go and grow further in life.

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