Somehow, I’ve made it into my 30s without ever having listened to Bob Dylan‘s first album. That is, not that I can remember; my mother informed me over the weekend that I indeed heard it many times as a young one, but truth be told I don’t remember much from my diaper-wearing days (but we’ve already gone over how terrible my memory is).
In honor of the March 1962 release of Dylan’s eponymous album, I’d like to share my first-listen experience with you. Click on the song titles to listen to previews on Dylan’s website. Share your own impressions of Dylan’s first album in the comments – when did you first hear it? What did you think of it?
The First Two Tracks
“Talkin’ New York” by Bob Dylan: This pretty much sums up my first year in NYC (brrr that was a cold winter)
“In My Time of Dyin’” arr. Dylan: This is more to my liking, a moany, bendy blues tune. Dylan can really sing! This must be where the White Stripes got the inspiration for their sound.
“Man of Constant Sorrow” arr. Dylan: We switch to a major key, but Dylan’s soaring voice makes it sound, well, sorrowful. Ooo and I like that overlong harmonica note that’s mimicking his voice.
We Hit the Middle
“Pretty Peggy-O” arr. Dylan: Your standard upbeat tune about a girl with yellow hair who runs away.
“Highway 51 “: I like the recurring syncopated chord-pattern, I hear in it the nascent cries of heavy metal.
“Gospel Plow” arr. Dylan: Heart attack harmonica playing! I always wondered how harmonica players can play those super fast rhythms without passing out in the middle of the song.
“Baby, Let Me Follow You Down” arr. Eric von Schmidt: Cute story at the beginning about meeting Schmidt in the green pastures of Harvard University. This is the most pop-rock-sounding song on the album so far.
Pulling into the Station
“House of the Risin’ Sun” arr. Dave Van Ronk: The only song on the album I recognize (but as recorded by The Animals). I love this song, and Dylan brings out the lamenting bass line expertly.
“Freight Train Blues” arr. Roy Acuff: Crazy gear change as we veer off into harmonica hyper-drive again. Aw, he’s imitating a train whistle when he sings “bluuuues”. Ow, ok, enough!
“Song to Woody” by Bob Dylan: It’s amazing how differently he sings when he’s singing his own songs. Much more intimate tone, really touching, confessional song.
What was I doing at the tender age of 20? Certainly nothing that some scrappy blogger would want to write about 51 years later. Cheers, Mr. Dylan.