Rocks In The Attic #180: Bob Dylan – ‘Greatest Hits’ (1966)

RITA#180I was listening to Neil Young the other day, and suddenly realised that I’m much more in tune with Young’s brand of folk music. It’s not that I hate Dylan – I’ve recently become a convert (to his earlier material at least) – but his music seems completely devoid of humour. I’m sure if I took the time to decipher some of his lyrics, I’d find plenty of humour, but I really don’t have the time.

Neil Young, in comparison, comes across as more of a dangerous entity – all vague traces of threat and darkness. I sometimes wonder if North America got it wrong putting Dylan into the (unwanted) position as spokesman for the generation – perhaps they should have searched further North, over the border.

I’ve written before about my inability to remember (and in many cases, hear) lyrics. For me the music is far more important – regardless of how much credit is accorded to a songwriter purely for the words written down on paper. I find it much more satisfying to listen out for hidden things in the music – like the fact that Clapton is playing the melody of Blue Moon in the guitar solo of Sunshine Of Your Love, or the way Andy Summers strums chords to symbolise crashing waves in the post-chorus ‘breaks’ of The Police’s Message In A Bottle. This beats a handful of vague verses involving tambourines or the blowing wind any day.

Hit: Blowin’ In The Wind

Hidden Gem: She Belongs To Me

4 thoughts on “Rocks In The Attic #180: Bob Dylan – ‘Greatest Hits’ (1966)

  1. Matthew Gibson

    I’m fairly sure that I read once that this was the first ever album with the name “Greatest Hits” although I’m not sure if it’s true.
    But I feel that I have to defend Dylan from accusations of humourlessness. His albums are full of humour. I’m not saying it’s the kind of humour that actually makes you laugh, but it’s there all the same and I don’t think that you have to listen very hard to find it in say Rainy Day Women 12 & 35. What’s more in Dylan & the Dead, he actually released a bona fide comedy record. But I would say that there is at least one joke song on every album he recorded in the 1960s.
    Neil “giggles” Young meanwhile has to be the most humour free singer in recorded music history. He’s very good, but very serious. He did used to drive around LA in a hearse in the mid sixties though, which must count for something.

  2. mrjohnnyandrews Post author

    Yes, I wasn’t trying to say I prefer Neil Young because I find him funnier – it’s just that his stuff just suits me better.

    I find Dylan very earnest – and I don’t get that from Young. Serious – yes. Moody – yes. But not earnest.

    One thing about Neil Young is that he’s aged better than Dylan. He’s still relevant to young people (as in, his material nowadays). You wouldn’t find Neil Young doing a Christmas album.

    Anyway, this wasn’t intended as a bag-on-Dylan post. I just prefer Neil Young. Simple as that.

    I guess it’s like Springsteen. I’d prefer to listen to Meat Loaf. That’s who Springsteen ripped off, right? (((wink wink, nudge nudge)))

  3. Matthew Gibson

    I think Dylan’s first few albums are very earnest yes, but already by the fourth album he’s messing about and on My Back Pages he specifically rejects all that earnestness. I don’t claim he then became a barrel of laughs – the jokes he did make were “serious” jokes. I just mean that he wasn’t all that serious.
    As for Springsteen, I don’t know how you can say something as stupid as that. He didn’t rip off meat loaf, everyone knows he ripped off Southside Johnny and the Ashbury Dukes.


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