Rambling Around with Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan?  (Shrug)  I wouldn’t say I dislike his work, but doesn’t he borrow heavily from literature?  Without crediting or attributing.  So, I’ve never sought out his music and have only come across it inadvertently and incidentally.  Like second-hand smoke.

While I don’t know much about his discography I know his career has spanned decades and he’s considered a legend.  He’s also worked with some of my favorites, including Tom Petty, Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson and Mark Knopfler.

One fine day a text vibrates against my hip:  “Join me at Bob Dylan?”  Oh, he’s in town?  I happily accept because, why not?  I feel a little badly knowing many people who love Dylan are unable to attend his sold-out shows for various reasons.

The stadium fills quickly and swarms of eager concert-goers descend on the merchandise tables.  Among the t-shirts, hoodies, ball caps, tote bags, coffee mugs, key rings, guitar picks, vintage-looking posters and more are nicely-packaged CDs.  I look on with scant sociological curiosity while others shop because, you know, second-hand smoke.

We find our seats as the lights go down and he takes the stage.  No opening act?  Then I realize it’s exactly the start time as indicated on the tickets.  Impressive.  He respects his audience.  Now, I am fully open to what he has to say.

Since I’m not too familiar with his catalogue the only song I clearly recognize is “Tangled Up in Blue”.  I identify the hits or favorites by audience response.  His accompanying musicians–who are they?–are outstanding.

He requested no recordings or photography and this is enforced.  The great outcome:  no sea of bright screens detracting from anyone’s experience.  Nothing interferes with the music — except people trying to talk to me.  I find myself wanting to shush people, people I know!  At a rock concert!  (Well, mildly rock-ish.)

I’m wholly focused on the music; it’s not about the show or performance.  He doesn’t have any effects or pageantry.  It’s not even about the lyrics, most of which I don’t catch anyway.  It doesn’t matter to me in these moments whether he pilfered from those who came before him.

He doesn’t build momentum or try to elicit emotion.  It’s about communicating; not fabricating connection.  I’m drawn in more and more with each chord.

Each song is its own self-contained story and experience.  At times the structure reminds me of jazz.  Other times the ambience calls to mind Leonard Cohen.  I’m attuned in a cerebral way; it’s not passionate or even intellectual.

The song sequence takes me on a ramble through thoughts and sensations, rolling around, and meandering.  Not lost or confused, but an eclectic journey over fields, through forests, along the water’s edge, breathing warm air, then cool damp mist, then pelted by freezing rain, through the dark, coming out into the light, turning down dim alleyways, pausing under streetlamps, finding shelter from a brewing storm, laying back on plush pillows, gazing through ambient light, meeting in the mind’s eye.

He doesn’t regale with stories.  I prefer musicians playing music to chatting in concert, but he doesn’t speak at all.  Not a word.  He doesn’t need to.  His music speaks for him.  I can only imagine the experience in coffee houses and small venues.

So, I thought I didn’t care for Bob Dylan.  After this live experience, if he extends another invitation, I’ll go on that ramble with him.



This post is my contribution to Blog Dylan — A Community Collaboration.

Version 2

On December 16th some of the finest bloggers in the wild world wide web gather to share their thoughts, feelings, memories, reviews and critiques of Bob Dylan — the man, the music, the legend

Love Dylan?  Loathe him?  Somewhere in between?  Everyone knows who he is and most have an opinion.  Visit here for links to all Blog Dylan contributor posts.

The aforementioned bevy of bodacious bloggers delve deep and in different directions, so visit them all for their unique perspectives, insights and stories.  They’re all music aficionados and welcome your comments and discussions.

Come on by and have your say!


Version 3


Video posted to youtube by user BobDylanVEVO.

Purchase song “Tangled Up in Blue” or album Blood On the Tracks here.

Blog Dylan artwork by Bruce at Vinyl Connection.



Copyright Disclaimer:
Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as comment, criticism, scholarship, teaching, research and news reporting.  Fair use is a use permitted.
“Fair Use” guidelines:  http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html.



42 thoughts on “Rambling Around with Bob Dylan

  1. As for borrowing from literature – its an age old tradition (as is the use of old folk tunes at times) – Shakespeare borrowed plots from Ovid – some of his audience would have recognised that fact but some would not. It really doesn’t matter as long as the creative process makes a thing larger than it was and creates a new original piece. Lots of poets do it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Moon!

      Yes, I agree that borrowing takes place especially with respect to folk tunes that become part of popular culture. For me, in this case, it’s about degree and presentation. Especially when profits are being made and copyright enforced.

      Thank you for visiting and commenting!


    1. It was an incredible and surprising experience! I really had no expectations going in and was immediately impressed. Then, it just got better and better. I’d recommend his shows to anyone.

      I wonder if I’ll be similarly drawn in listening to his albums?


      Liked by 1 person

    1. Which live experiences gave you an appreciation for an artist? I’m trying to think of others that may have had a similar effect on me.

      It’s got me thinking that the way to listen to his music might be official album by official album…rather than isolated tracks or different mixes and compilations.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. jprobichaud

        Would you believe Cake? I always thought they humorous and catchy but then, I saw them live and they were fantastic. There are plenty of others like that. And there others that I saw first opening for other acts and later became huge. I love live music.

        I’m in agreement with you studio album theory and Bob. That’s what I’m going to try over Christmas.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s a great feeling when the live experience can make us believers – and it was a great feeling seeing ‘Blog Dylan’ all over my wordpress reader today!
    Thanks for hosting Danica and for the invite to join the ‘bevy of bodacious bloggers’ (nice alliteration too!) 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed Blog Dylan!
      Thank you for helping make the event happen, Geoff. I particularly liked your contribution. Who else could weave Dylan with the Beastie Boys?
      Ah, our friend Bruce had a little something to do with the bevy of bodaciousness. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed this but I have never seen, or wanted to see him live. I hold his early records in too great esteem – I want them preserved in the aspic of my memory as they are, perfect.

    He plays Liverpool quite frequently and I have a friend who goes to see him and he says that very often you can’t spot your favourite song until he’s on his second go around with the chorus.

    Maybe I should lighten up.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I understand that perfectly. There are some concerts I’ve declined attending because I wasn’t convinced any live performance could live up to the love I hold for the music. Other risks include variations on songs you hold dear. That’s usually a disappointing experience, even if you’d like the new rendition if you’d heard it under different circumstances.

      The shows I’ve enjoyed the most (other than this Dylan revelation) are the ones where I like or even love (a mild, Sunday kind of love) the music but am not too invested in it. So, if things go sideways it doesn’t really bother me. John Fogerty comes to mind. I really like his music, sometimes a lot, and his songwriting. I’ve had a great time seeing him live. He’s an energetic performer and stays true to his album releases. Another example is Ray Davies. There’s a lot for me to love about The Kinks and his songwriting generally. In concert, however, he talked a little too much and a little too negatively. As a result, I was put off. Luckily, I didn’t hold The Kinks too dearly, otherwise that experience could have been rather crushing.

      If I’d loved Dylan or even been familiar with his work, it’s hard to say whether I’d have had the same experience at his show.

      Live performances can be risky business. Your approach is wise and reasoned, and you don’t need to lighten up at all.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I get the issue with a performer speaking too much.
        However, depending on the artist, speaking between every song is their thing, and that’s cool too.
        Stompin’ Tom was a real cool and funny dude. His banter was awesome.
        Also, I saw a performance with Randy Bachman solo in which the stage was full of different guitars. He would grab a guitar, tell about it’s heritage, what it meant to him, speak about famous musicians that played that guitar, and play riffs.
        I was front row centre at that Bachman show, and it was one of, it not the best show I ever saw.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Stompin’ Tom is all about the banter, isn’t he? Even his songs. I’d have loved to have seen him!
          I agree, it depends on the artist and the content they’re delivering. If they’re sharing something meaningful like the history and emotions surrounding instruments, that would be welcome to most of the audience. I’ll keep this in mind if I ever have the opportunity to see Bachman. Come to think of it, he’s on tour pretty much all the time isn’t he?

          Generally, I prefer little-to-no talking and all music. For me, songs can mean something that have nothing to do with the artist’s intent. I prefer hearing music my way, and not necessarily their way. “Boys in the Bright White Sports Car” comes to mind. That one had a bit of a Thin Lizzy’s “Boys Are Back In Town” vibe for me and I loved it. Then, I accidentally heard a snippet of a radio interview where Trooper said, “Oh yeah! That one! There was this commercial with guys in a white sports car waving their arms around and so we wrote that song.” Thump. So much for my love for that song.

          Some artists can also fail to appreciate what it means for a lot of the audience to be there…a history with the music, a love affair with the music, then the practicalities of obtaining the ticket and the time to be there; what it means in peoples’ lives. The ones who understand this really knock it out of the park. Every time. Springsteen, for example.

          Liked by 1 person

                1. Lol. Well, there’s that too.
                  I take it that you haven’t seen Trooper at a large fair, as the sun sets brilliant red, your skin warm and glowing, the lingering scent of coconut suntan lotion in the air, cotton candy floating by, and the lights of the rides and attractions in the background….
                  I love it the way I love “Jessie’s Girl”.


  4. J.

    Excellent, Danica! Your Dylan live experience was certainly more positive than mine. The only time I saw him was in 2005 and he looked completely disengaged (so too the band). Admittedly, I was also expecting something truly great (cause that’s what folks say – “it’s Dylan! A gig you’ll never forget”… though, in fairness, I guess I haven’t) and it was all just a tad flat. The reviews for the following few gigs were glowing, right enough. Which was only more frustrating!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, J! I wish you’d had a similarly positive experience. It’s really disappointing when a show doesn’t live up to our expectations or even really reflect their catalogue. Disengaged and flat isn’t what anyone sets out to see. After that, the effects can linger and even taint your enjoyment of albums…including previously-loved ones.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s not easy to write a concert review with barely any references to specific songs or performances, but you’ve managed that here Danica. I only saw Dylan once, on a double-bill with Santana back in the early- to mid-’90s. I enjoyed the show but didn’t find it inspiring. I think it depends on both HIS mood on a particular night and the mood of the concert-goer. He never performs the same show twice, and he likes to keep his audience and his band guessing from song to song. It’s a unique way to put on shows but I can’t imagine him doing it any other way. So glad the show you reluctantly attended was a good one. Have you delved further into his discography as a result?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much, Rich! At first I wondered what I could possibly say without referencing songs. Then, I decided to write what I knew — which was my experience. I’m glad it worked out. Interesting pairing with Santana. They strike me as very different, maybe too different, for a double-bill. Their sounds are both quite dense and a listener would really have to shift gears. I could see his shows varying with his moods — and that might get to the heart of what his music is all about. His band must find it challenging to be surprised from song to song. They were phenomenal though and definitely rose to the occasion. I wasn’t reluctant to attend his show, but more curious and interested but from a distance, if that makes sense, interested in what this legend was really all about. I haven’t had a chance to delve into his discography — yet, anyway. I’d like to listen to his albums in chronological order and from original releases only…my idea is to hear his story the way he wrote it. I understand that Mavis Staples will open his next tour and that would be worth attending.


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