Subterranean Homesick Blues: The Evolution of Elston Gunn!

Didja  know that it was on this day March 23, 1965 that Bob Dylan released his fifth studio album Bringing It All Back Home. The album was the first of Dylan’s albums to break into the US top 10, and it also topped the UK charts later that Spring. The lead-off track, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ became Dylan’s first single to chart in the US, peaking at No.39. The album’s iconic cover, photographed by Daniel Kramer, features Sally Grossman, wife of Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman, lounging in the background. The artefacts scattered around the room include vinyl LPs by The Impressions and Robert Johnson. The album’s “provocative and mysterious cover provided the inspiration and fodder for every Dylan fan to spend hour upon hour perusing and scrutinizing every pixel of the photograph looking for clues ! ?

As you may recall, the  album was divided into an electric side (Side One )and an acoustic side, ( Side Two ) although the acoustic side included some tracks in which other instruments were backing up Dylan and his guitar, no drums were used!  On side one, or, “The Electric side”  of the original LP, Dylan is backed by an electric rock and roll band—a move that further alienated him from some of his former peers in the folk music community.[] Likewise, on the acoustic second side of the album, he distanced himself from the protest songs with which he had become closely identified (such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall“), as his lyrics continued their trend towards the abstract and personal

Dylan spent much of the summer of 1964 in Woodstock, a small town in upstate New York. Dylan was already familiar with the area, but his visits were becoming longer and more frequent. His manager, Albert Grossman, also had a place in Woodstock, and when Joan Baez went to see Dylan that August, they stayed at Grossman’s house.

Baez recalls that “most of the month or so we were there, Bob stood at the typewriter in the corner of his room, drinking red wine and smoking and tapping away relentlessly for hours. And in the dead of night, he would wake up, grunt, grab a cigarette, and stumble over to the typewriter again.” Dylan already had one song ready for his next album: “Mr. Tambourine Man” was written in February 1964 but omitted from Another Side of Bob Dylan. Another song, “Gates of Eden“, was also written earlier that year, appearing in the original manuscripts to Another Side of Bob Dylan; a few lyrical changes were eventually made, but it’s unclear if these were made that August in Woodstock. At least two songs were written that month: “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” and “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)“.

During this time, Dylan’s lyrics became increasingly surreal. His prose grew more stylistic as well, often resembling stream-of-consciousness writing with published letters dating from 1964 becoming increasingly intense and dreamlike as the year wore on.

Dylan eventually returned to the city, and on August 28, he met with The Beatles for the first time in their New York hotel (during which Dylan reportedly turned the band on to marijuana), a meeting which would bring about the radical transformation of the Beatles’ writing to a more introspective style.[5] In retrospect, this meeting with The Beatles would also prove to be equally influential to the direction of Dylan’s music, as he would soon record music invoking a rock sound for at least the next three albums. Dylan would remain on good terms with The Beatles, and as biographer Clinton Heylin writes, “the evening established a personal dimension to the very real rivalry that would endure for the remainder of a momentous decade.”

Finally, for us, the best thing to come from this period with Dylan is what they called “promotional clips.” Dylan’s short film for Subterranean Homesick Blues, turns out to be not just a great clip, but for us, one of the best “Music Video’s Of all time! Including  THEE most clever use of Sub-Titles in the history of movies!

Enjoy Dylan at his Rockin Electric / Acoustic best:

1 Comment

  1. Ya Know. I was a huge Dylan freak. When this album came out I was initially kind of perplexed. I was expecting the usual Acoustic harmnonica thing. By the end of the electric side, I was pretty excited to see what side 2 was gonna be. I flipped it over and BOOM,There it was, stripped down again. I like all of Dylan’s work, but this is one of my favorite albums. Think about it, if Dylan were to do another acoustic thing, (kinda back to his roots) an album of new songs, I bet it would do quite well. FYI, If any of you haven’t, you need to check out Dylan’s book, “Chronicles, Volume 1”. It is a fantastic look at his personal life and creative processes through his early years.

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