Jeff Time: Day 17

I keep forgetting that I can do as many “Jeff Times” as I want to each day.  I say it’s a different “day” but it doesn’t have to be like that really.    

I’m listening to a Bob Dylan cd right now so I might seem distracted.  It’s called Live 1964.  It’s a concert at the Philharmonic Hall.  At least that’s what the library sticker says.  I think this might be the era of Bob Dylan’s music that I am most familiar with.  

The first record of his I got was The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.  Many of the songs on this live cd are from that album.  The performances aren’t all that different (weren’ those live too?).  There are a bunch of funny interactions with the audience.  They clap and cheer pretty regularly.

Talking about Bob Dylan is an almost frightening to do.  He’s hallowed ground.  I don’t want to say anything too dumb here.  

I think when I was growing up I had always heard of Bob Dylan but I didn’t get The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan until I was about 20 or 21 years old.  I bought it at a cd store in Denton Texas.  It’s that store across the street from the school.  Is that Cd Warehouse?  Maybe.

Well, I remember taking it home and being really curious to listen.  I got the idea to buy it because it’s in a dream sequence scene in the movie Vanilla Sky.  They do a play on the cover with Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz.  It made me want to find the record and listen to it.

I remember what struck me immediately was how quiet the recording was.  At that point most of the music I listened to was big, radio pop and alternative rock.  I was accustomed to hearing heavily produced music.  I think that’s why when I was growing up I never thought musicians were real people.  I always thought they were aliens or something because cds never sounded like real environments.  

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was different.  It was mostly just him and acoustic guitar and the occasional harmonica.  It was mindblowingly simple.  I think that’s what knocked me down.  I couldn’t believe how spare the recording was and how full the songs still seemed.  They didn’t need anything else.  And that simplicity has always been a thing I think about when I myself am writing songs.  My goal with songwriting has always been to write the songs solidly enough to where they could stand alone without any other instrumentation.  I would never have dreamt that was even possible if I hadn’t listened to the early Bob Dylan recordings.  I remember getting a real lesson in musical economy from that.  

Songs are such tight little things.  

I’ve listened to several of his albums since then but I still think that the first few have always meant the most to me on a personal level.  And that’s not even an opinion.  That’s just the truth.  

I was thinking tonight about the quality of his music.  I had just listened to Lady Ga Ga on Saturday Night Live.  She was wearing some sort of metal hula hoop thing.  I really didn’t get it.  I’m not familiar enough with her music to even have an opinion.  That was just what was on my mind when I put the Dylan record on.  I kept thinking about what a pristine artist he is.  His songs are so deep with meaning.  It’s a quality that is aimed at by so many but something that only he truly possesses.  

It’s just so strange to hear such originality.  I know that Dylan has his influences but he is completely in his own universe.  When you put on his music it’s like there is nothing else happening in the world.  And I say that because there really are so few artists with that level of originality.  It seems like everybody is just another version of somebody else.  And I don’t know if that is a criticism.  I think it might just be the truth.  It’s like there was one Jesus, there was one Shakespeare and there is just one Bob Dylan.  There are copies and imitations but only one genuine article.  

Even he himself has to put on his Bob Dylan mask.  

Just think about that one for a minute…

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