Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Bob Dylan direct mp3 links

Including the performance of Maggie's Farm at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival that is generally recognized as the official moment that "Dylan went electric".

You've all heard the story. Dylan plugs in an electric guitar and the folk purists go nuts. End of an era. Yadda yadda.

But if you're like me and you grew up in a post-Woodstock, post-metal, post-punk, semi-grunge era when electirc lead guitar was expected to be a brutal affair indeed, the electricness of the guitar on songs like "Like a Rolling Stone" and even "Subterranean Homesick Blues" just isn't that threatening. Sure, it's amplified but so what, on my stereo it doesn't sound any louder than the harmonica on "Blowin' in the Wind".

But listen to this version of Maggie's Farm, and you'll finally get it. By this time in 1965, Dylan had already released Bringing It All Back Home, which featured electric guitar and nobody really cared. But the moment that everybody talks about as when "Dylan went electric", he (and his band), really went electric, not only blasting to smithereens the boundaries of folk but serisouly pushing at the edges of rock and roll.

After a long, boring, and way too adoring spoken introduction, you can hear someone (Dylan?) say "louder". The band (which is not, on this occasion The Band, but instead composed mostly of members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band) kicks a up minimalistic, one-chord Bo Diddley juke joint rythym that paired with Dylan's voice sounds almost like some of the less artsy, more bluesy moments of the Velvet Underground.

And then the lead guitar comes in, answering Dylan's every phrase. Mike Bloomfield (who IIRC was also the guitarist on Bringing It All Back Home album) really cuts lose. The tone is probably about as distorted as an amplifier in 1965 (before they started building them to be distorted on purpose) was capable of being pushed to produce. Only a fuzz pedal could have given it more sustain and more crunch, but would also possibly have taken some of the trebly edge off of it. As it is, the sound has a bite that must have been ear-splitting live, considering that the amp probably had to be turned up to 10 to get it sound like that.

Bloomfield bends the strings mercilessly, sort of reminscent of the solos on early Beatles and Stones recordings but more so, if you know what I mean. He plays the same licks again and again, dissonnant unison bends that ring with resultant tones. Presumably that spot he keeps hitting is the exact spot that caused the most pain to those present at the time, and just he won't let it be.

Bloomfield puts himself in the same league with Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton's work with the Yardbirds. Not until Jimi Hendrix would the electric guitar be pushed any harder than this.

And all this masterminded by Dylan: one-time darling of the folk movement, earnest Woody Guthrie imitator, the real-life Mitch to Joan Baez's Mickey.

This concert is probably the second most important thing Dylan ever did, right after introducing the Beatles (and consequently the general public) to marijuana. In five or six noisy, ill-received minutes, Dylan left folk behind and moved forever into rock. Later forays into country still never got him back to where he was before. And he brought the entire angry protest aspect of folk into rock with him.

Dylan's movement into rock is quite possibly what made the whole late-60's protest/hippie/acid rock thing happen. And what makes it possible for us even today to have rock stars who care about liberal social causes. Without Dylan, every single left-wing act that you can think of would still be trying to sound like the Kingston Trio.

In other words, this MP3 is history in the making, but you'll never hear it on your local oldies station. Or, for that matter, your local rock station unless they're so desparate to differentiate themselves from the other classic rock stations that they've started going nearly free-form before finally giving up and changing formats altogether (this actually happened to Z-93... I really heard them play this song very shortly before they turned into Dave FM).

Download it NOW before something happens to this website.