Friday, 25 October 2013
Part of the problem is likely to be that, musically speaking, I am a child of the 70s rather than the 60s. I didn't buy my first album until 1970 (admittedly that was the Beatles, but it was late Beatles), so I never felt any of the emotional attachment that many do to the whole ethos of the 60s - but what that means is that I listen to Dylan as music per se, and to my mind he comes up wanting.
My modernised folk (I think folk rock is too heavy a term) heroes would be Simon & Garfunkel and Al Stewart (who I saw perform last Saturday - at age 68, he is still going strong, unlike certain croaky elderly types, naming no names). For me they are streets ahead of Dylan. Now don't start moaning to me how my choices are much too light and fluffy, and not meaningful enough. I'm talking about their merits as songwriters, not as revolutionaries. Don't be an intellectual snob.
Why don't I like Dylan? Well, it doesn't help that I can't stand the harmonica, but basically I have three problems. He can hardly sing, there's just a sort of blaring croak that makes the present day Paul McCartney sound musical. (Oops, named that name.) Secondly I can only understand one word in three. There's no point being deep and meaningful if you can't enunciate. And finally his 'tunes' are monotonous, often literally. It's like listening to a goat trying to sing.
Now don't complain if Dylan's your musical hero. There is no objectivity in music appreciation. Just as I managed to wind up a lot of people by pointing out what a load of rubbish opera is, similarly I'm sure this will hit a tender spot with some. But this is my subjective opinion, which when it comes to music is all you can possibly do, and is just as valid as any other.
If you haven't heard Al Stewart, or only know Year of the Cat, one of the reasons I like him is he does a lot of songs with historical content. I wanted to include one of my all time favourites, Josephine Baker, as it is so simple yet evocative, but it doesn't appear to be on YouTube, so I am instead popping in one of his more engineered numbers, Antarctica, in part to share something he said at the concert, which was that despite apparently being about the attempts to get to the South Pole, this is a really a song about a woman who didn't find him attractive.
One more, to show a more straightforward history song, Lord Grenville, but also one that's interesting to demonstrate Stewart's humour, as I hadn't spotted into recently that musically it's a tribute to Space Oddity, but once you realize that, it's pretty obvious.
Image from Wikipedia