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Tuesday 15 May 2012


Ever seen a great song on YouTube that has only 20,000 views; and there's a fan saying "How can this song only have 20k views, when the Bieber track has 30 million!"

We all buy into that at least a little bit. A sense of confusion and injustice, or worse-- we think maybe it's a sign the world is ending, because people don't recognise when something is amazing.

But it's a difficult position to take, because it's quite pretentious. After all, art is subjective. There are no facts.

But surely there ARE some facts. 'Shawshank Redemption' IS a near perfect film. 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Queen is astounding, and 'My Girl' always sounds great on the radio.

The thing about Bob Dylan is that there are die-hards who see him, literally, as a GOD! And then there are those who respect him because of his amazing writing, and then there are those who just don't care.

But I think the thing about Bob Dylan is that eventually, if you're a music fan, you'll find your way to him some way or another. It's unavoidable. I mean, it might be avoidable if you like Trance music or Techo. But if you are interested in songwriting, or subtlety, where better to go than Dylan?

Sometimes his voice sounds truly horrific. Usually on record it's okay, but performing live, it's atrocious. Yet on so many of his records, it's his voice, and a clever turn of phrase, that absolutely cuts to my core. A poor writer or performer overcooks a line, much like a new comedian, or an over the top TV show. The masters go in a different direction. We see it in Aaron Sorkin's dialogue, or Woody Allen's delivery; or, yes, a Bob Dylan lyric.

They sat together in the park, 
As the evening sky grew dark, 
She looked at him and he felt a spark 
Tingle to his bones 
It was then he felt alone 
And wished that he'd gone straight 
And watched out for a simple twist of fate.

You can be influenced by the masters, you can learn a lot, but can you ever match it? I've heard so many covers of 'Simple Twist Of Fate' but none of them have ever nailed the subtleties. There's a really sweet and poignant moment when he sings 'She looked at him and he felt a spark tingle to his bones' -- and seconds later it's wiped away when he announces "It was then he felt alone". So simple, and you'd think anyone could write a line like this -- but Dylan is able to take us to big highs and then immediately to heartbreakingly truthful lows. To feel a connection and then feel alone is what it is to be a human being, and that's what Dylan nailed and that's why he is loved and adored -- because he cuts through the bullshit and gets to who we really are. And he makes it seem so SIMPLE! We all try so hard to be complicated, to  be deep and profound. But Bob Dylan just sings about feeling a spark followed by loneliness. 

The masters get to complexity through mind-boggling simplicity. They turn these dull words and phrases that the rest of us use to navigate through the day, and they make them into poetry. 

Here's another song where he contrasts the beauty of love with the lows of getting yourself in the way. This is 'Buckets of Rain'.

I like your smile and your fingertips 

I like the way that you move your hips 
I like the cool way that you look at me 
Everything about you is bringing me misery.

Don't you just love those lyrics? I like, I like, I like, I'm miserable. Ain't that life! You won't love every Bob Dylan song; but when you find the ones you love, you keep going back to them, just to find those tiny little scattered moments where you hear exactly who you are reflected back at you. 

And somehow his voice is perfect. If his voice was better, the songs wouldn't mean as much. I'd love to see the 'X Factor' and 'The Voice' people get their heads around that. Imagine this guy trying to get noticed through the reality TV paradigm, he'd have NO CHANCE, yet think of what the world would have lost. 

Yet somehow, in a world that values instant gratification above all else -- somehow Bob Dylan still got through. How? I blame it all on a simple twist of fate. 


  1. Nice. Thank you - as you said, I have been slowly moving toward Dylan, but haven't become incredibly familiar with a lot of his work yet, so this was new to me. And beautiful.

    1. Glad you're getting there with Dylan. It's worth it. Happy to recommend some songs if it helps you navigate :)

  2. Cool. This has always been one of my favorite Dylan songs.