Bob Dylan Blonde On Blonde- 1966
RMR Album Rating- 10
Along with Bringing It All Back Home, and Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde completes the epic trilogy of albums that Dylan released during his peak period of 1965 and 1966.
The sound of Blonde on Blonde is completely unique, eclectic, and textured. Although Dylan wrote all 14 tracks on “Blonde on Blonde,” he was just one of 16 musicians who played on the album, and in total there were 10 different instruments used to create the record. All the sounds and players on the album are great, but the combination of Dylan’s vocals and harmonica layered over Al Kooper’s organ resonates with me the most. This combination of sound and texture seems to build up and get stronger throughout the album. Plus, Dylan and Kooper seem to play off each other in perfect unison on every track.
All the songs are winners, but the string of songs that starts with “Pledging my Time” and runs through “Stuck Inside A Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” is my favorite sequence of songs. This run of songs also includes “Visions of Johanna,” “One of Us Must Know,” and “I Want You.” It is important to note that on the original record you would have had to flip the first record over to complete this string of songs, but now (in the digital age) this is a not an issue, and the songs can be enjoyed without an interruption or break in the flow of music.
Click here to listen to Visions Of Johanna
Click here to listen to Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
In addition to the string of songs I’ve already mentioned, the other highlights are “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine),” “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” and “4th Time Around.” The latter is particularly interesting because it is Dylan’s take on the Lennon penned Beatles song “Norwegian Wood.” It is commonly cited that Lennon wrote “Norwegian Wood” in Dylan’s style, so on “4th Time Around,” Dylan is emulating Lennon, who had emulated Dylan.
Click here to listen to Dylan’s 4th Time Around
Click here to listen to The Beatles’ Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
Lastly, there’s “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” which Dylan wrote for his new wife Sara Lownds. Many fans and critics call it Dylan’s masterpiece. While I enjoy the song, I tend to disagree, for the song lacks a certain emotional resonance that Dylan is certainly capable of creating, and that I would expect from him, especially on his seminal love song.
There’s some interesting irony to the song’s lack of emotional resonance as well. In 1975 (10-years after the release of “Sad Eyed Lady”), Dylan released the song “Sara,” which he wrote while he and Sara were separated. Thus, if “Say Eyed Lady” is Dylan’s ode to his love for his new wife, than the song “Sara” is its counterpart, as it is his song of heartbreak and memories of their estranged relationship. So, here’s the ultimate irony: “Sara” resonates with me on an emotional level much more than “Sad Eyed Lady” does. I’ve listened to “Sara” countless times, and its emotional resonance is so strong that I still get chills every time I hear it. You can just hear Dylan’s heartbreak in every line, especially when he references the time he spent writing “Say Eyed Lady” in the 4th verse when he sings that he was “Staying up for days in the Chelsea Hotel/ writing ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ for you.” That line just makes me shiver every time I hear it, as does the line where he pleads to his estranged bride… “Sara, Sara/ you must forgive me my unworthiness.” Here are both songs for comparison:
Click here to listen to Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands
Click here to listen to Sara
Although “Sara” strikes more of an emotional chord with me than “Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands,” I don’t want to down play “Sad Eyed Lady’s” importance to Blonde On Blonde. It is a very vivid and poetic song, and the variety of imagery and metaphors that Dylan uses to describe Sara over its 11+ minute run time is simply astounding. Plus, on the original double album, it was the only track on the final 4th side, giving the listener a sort of added climax or sturdy bookend to conclude the album in proper form.
In conclusion, for Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, I’ll just give two words: complete perfection. And lastly, since Blonde on Blonde represents the end of Dylan’s epic trilogy of albums, I will share some of my favorite lyrics from all three albums. Here are my top-10 favorites in no particular order…
#1: “Love Minus Zero/ No Limit”: In the dime stores and bus stations/ people talk of situations/ read books/ repeat quotations/ draw conclusions on the wall
#2: “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”: Leave your stepping stones behind/ something calls for you/ forget the dead you’ve left/ they will not follow you/ the vagabond who’s rapping at your door is standing in the clothes that you once wore/ strike another match/ go start a new/ and it’s all over now, Baby Blue
#3: “It’s alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding”: Temptation’s page flies out the door/ you follow, find yourself at war/ watch waterfalls of pity roar/ you feel to moan but unlike before/ you discover that you’d just be one more person crying
#4: “Like a Rolling Stone”: When you got nothing/ you got nothing to lose/ you’re invisible now/ you got no secrets to conceal
#5: “Pledging My Time”: Well, the room is so stuffy/ I can hardly breathe/ everybody’s gone but me and you/ And I can’t be the last to leave
#6: “Visions of Johanna”: In the empty lot where the ladies play blind man’s bluff with the key chain/ and the all-night girls they whisper of escapades out on the “D” train/ we can hear the night watchman click his flashlight/ ask himself if it’s him or them that’s really insane
#7: “Visions of Johanna”: Oh, jewels and binoculars hang from the head of the mule/ but these visions of Johanna, they make it all seem so cruel
#8: “Sooner or Later One of Us Must Know”: I couldn’t see how you could know me/ but you said you knew me and I believed you did/ when you whispered in my ear/ and asked me if I was leavin’ with you or her/I didn’t realize just what I did hear/ I didn’t realize how young you were
#9: “Stuck Inside a Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”: Well, Shakespeare, he’s in the alley/ with his pointed shoes and his bells/ speaking to some French girl/ who says she knows me well/ and I would send a message/ to find out if she’s talked/ but the post office has been stolen/ and the mailbox is locked
#10: “Stuck Inside a Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”: Mona tried to tell me/ to stay away from the train line/ she said that all the railroad men/ just drink up your blood like wine/ and I said, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that/ But then again, there’s only one I’ve met/ and he just smoked my eyelids/And punched my cigarette
So, I invite you to share your comments, but also share your favorite lyrical passages from Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde.
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