Dylan (Black Elk II) Speaks

I love Bob Dylan: the man, the music, the whole enchilada. I even like the endless tour, (currently playing triple A ballparks), which he seems determined to continue on until, to use that famous line from Midnight Cowboy, he "dies on the stage."

His vast achievements aside, the man is and always has been genuinely off kilter. Yes, yes, that's what makes him a great artist, yada yada yada. But I really don’t mean that in the usual he's a maverick artist so he’s gotta be nuts, kind of way. As he's grown older and grown that pencil thin mustache, he’s become a gaunter, even more solitary version of himself. And his pronouncements, once a confounding treat, are becoming ever more cryptic and dry.

Speech, ordinary everyday human conversation, of course has never been a Dylan strong suit. He may be hard wired for songwriting and thin, reedy singing, but when it comes to speaking in full sentences, with thoughts that flow logically from one sentence to the next, Bobby Zimmerman just ain't got it. Not a criticism, just an observation. With that proviso in mind here's Dylan in a recent Rolling Stone interview talking about recorded sound. It's up to you to do your own translations from Dylanspeak.

"I don’t know anybody who's made a record that sounds decent in the past 20 years, really."

"You listen to these modern records, they’re atrocious, they have sound all over them. There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing… just like static."

"Even these songs probably sounded ten times better in the studio when we recorded `em. CDs are small. There's no stature to it."

The sound of Dylan's records over the years is a matter of great debate. He says that his early records sound best. Of course his voice also sounded better back then as well. And his songs were a tad stronger. Of course Bobby being Bobby, he's also given off mixed signals. He cares, for about five minutes, and then he doesn't. On one hand he bemoans new studios as sounding bad and digital technology as being cold and lifeless, yet his recent concerts routinely sound worse than other tours and he could make better sounding records but he doesn't. Most of his records since the mid 1980's have featured haphazard sound quality. Love and Theft being the exception.

Fun stuff though. Always great to hear Bobby babble.

Rob CT's picture

More specifically recent tour has covered minor league baseball parks (AA/AAA).

Adam Sohmer's picture

Dylan fans and those who love them should check out his show on XM. He's the best 70's late night FM DJ-style announcer on the air, and the mix is as eclectic as the host is not self-referential. On his show, Dylan comes across as learned and mostly clear-headed.