I grew up listening to American Pop-Music from the age of five, back in 1956, when Rock 'n' Roll was the rage
and the teen-agers in my neighborhood prided themselves on being cool, tough, juvenile-delinquents who had
switch-blades in their pockets and Elvis for their idol. In our house, we had one of the first Hi-Fi record
players in 1958, with Sam Cooke, Little Richard and Jackie Wilson playing most of the time.
After Elvis went into the Army in 1958 rock-music changed and softened a bit. Other teen-idols like Ricky
Nelson emerged in the rock arena - while at the same time folk-music began its early rise thru songs like
'Tom Dooley' and clean-cut groups like the Kingston Trio. This was also the time when the American
Bandstand TV dance show began to be aired ever weekday afternoon around the country.
When Elvis returned from the Army, in 1960, the world of rock music had changed and so had he. An era of male
crooners like Boby Vee, Bobby Vinton and the Four Seasons were on the music charts - along with lots of great
girl-groups like the Shirelles and Ronettes, who were singing lots of mostly romantic music suited for the times.
During the early sixties there were a few instrumentalists, like Dwayne Eddie and groups like the Ventures who
were focusing purely on electric guitar-sounds, expanding on the 1959 sounds of Santo & Johnny's highly
popular song called 'Sleep Walk' and instrumental songs like 'Tequila' by The Champs. In 1961, Del
Shannon's 'Runaway' become the Number 1 song and set a trend for solo electric-guitar singers.
Into this 1961 era, Bob Dylan arrived quietly and entered the Greenwhich Village Folk Song scene. By 1962
he'd released his first folk-music record album (though very few people today realize that Dylan's first single
was a fast paced, rocking song called 'Mixed Up Confusion'). Bob Dylan had deep roots in the rock
scene of the 1950s and had a musical-ephinay after seeing Buddy Holly's rock show around 1957.
Bob Dylan's rise in the world of folk music happened fast. His records become popular with the university
crowd and were played at beatnik coffee houses and on college campuses through-out the country.
As for me, at my age of 12, I was too caught-up in the standard rock 'n' roll songs of the times to have
any interest in Dylan and his acoustic guitar. I liked electric music too much and when I bought my first
record album, in the Summer of 1963, I chose to buy the Ventures' guitar instrumental LP called 'Surfing'.
Just a few months later President Kennedy was killed...and the world as we knew it stopped. The era of
Camelot was over at the White House and the era of semi-placid, Early Sixties, American Rock 'n' Roll had
likewise reached an end - though few people realized it at the time. Just a month after the death of JFK the
Beatles record 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' was released. It was such a phenomenal new sound that the two
Top 40 radio stations in my hometown played it 20 times in a row, trying to satisfy the requests of listeners.
Within 40 days, the Beatles came to America, played the Sullivan Show and were broadcast over national TV.
The arrival of the Beatles, with their happy personas, was basically a God-send to the shocked and saddened
teens of that grief-filled time. Teenagers instantly went bananas over the Beatles. It was as if the group had come
directly from Mars (that's how unusual they seemed), bringing a whole new spirit, a new fashion sense and
totally new music with them. Such an instant cultural shift had never happened before in America. Never ever.
Especially one that so quickly followed such a staggering event as the murder of an American president.
Perhaps Destiny itself brought America the Beatles - because the timing seemed that magical.
Everybody loved the Beatles. Even adults were intrigued by the uplift they brought the nation. Perhaps the most
impressive thing about them was their grouped, electric-guitar playing. Few American acts were composed
solely of electric guitars, except for the Beach Boys who were still new on the music scene. Besides the group
called The Ventures, there weren't many other bands around. For years, Rock 'n' Roll acts were mainly
comprised of solo-ists, duets & trios, or a popular front-man with a combo behind like Holly's Crickets.
Yet, none of them were seen as much as a "team" as John, Paul, George and Ringo were or took
their music to such an elevated level as the Beatles did. The times were right for the Fab Four.
The sound and spirit of groups like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, the Animals and the whole
electrified British Invasion & Mersey Beat dominated the music-charts in a way that had never happened before.
Bob Dylan, then in his second year of national stardom was certainly taking notice of this phenomena as well.
In March 1965, at the Newport Jazz Festival - Bob Dylan unveiled his new, electronic approach to music that
was definitely designed to show these Brits that Dylan was not about to be left behind as some fading folk-hero.
It took Elvis years to recover from his de-throning by the Beatles. Dylan, instead, met the occassion head-on
through the electrification of his instrument and a completely new and deeper style of Rock 'n' Roll.
I never knew a thing about Bob Dylan until the Summer of 1965. By then he'd left his acoustic guitar behind,
"went electric", changed his entire style of playing folk-music, alienated his former folkie-fans, reverted back to
his Rock 'n' Roll roots, revised his Hobo Fashions, started wearing Edwardian suits and Pop-Art polka-dot
shirts, grew out his hair, and became the most modernized rocker to ever come down the pike.
'The Times Were Changing' quickly and Dylan revolutionized himself and the world in 1965 and 1966, starting
with his first-of-three, revolutionary albums...aptly and rightly called 'Bringing It All Back Home' (1965). It was
as if Dylan brought the spotlight back onto American rock-music and brought the championship title "back home".
The three, Mid-Sixties' albums Dylan released definitely changed my life and lots of other peoples' as well.
They came during the time when the Beatles had reached a slight lull and fans began to wonder if the group
had become too passe and frivilous for the seriousness of the times. Now it was the Beatles who were taking
notes on what direction Dylan was heading, as was everyone else in the music world and society at large.
Dylan's second 'electric album' was released in August 1965, just four months after his other one. This album
was titled 'Highway 61 Revisited'. The title referenced what was known as the 'Blues Highway' that ran from
New Orleans to Duluth Minnesota (just miles from Dylan's hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota). This new
electric-music by Dylan had a huge, inspirational effect on the Beatles that lead them to make Rubber Soul
and their amazing Revolver album. Dylan had upped-the-ante on every other rock group of the era.
Dylan would later say these words about his album: [it was] "just a rhythm thing on paper, all about my
steady hatred, directed at some point that was honest. I'm not gonna be able to make a record better than
that one. Highway 61 is just too good."
Yet, in May of 1966, Dylan (at age 25) released, arguably, his best record ever - titled 'Blonde on Blonde'.
Often referred to as being the best double-album of the 20th Century. Salon.com has this to say about the
album..."Dylan swaggers, brags, sighs, loves, loses, smiles, grieves, pleads, lusts, swoons and trips - and
that's just on 'Pledging My Time' and 'Visions of Johanna."
'Blonde on Blonde' marked the end of an era for Dylan, for me, and lots of other people. Dylan went into
either a required or forced seclusion (depending on what story you care to believe) and didn't emerge again
until a year and a half later with his January 1968 album of Non-Electric, completely Acoustic music called John
Wesley Harding. It was stunning in its simplicity, if for no other reason. But, the rare Golden Age of Dylan that
happened (between 1965 and 1966) and the surrealistic, electric rock and blues he made is something that's
gone with the wind. The new, psychedelic, 1967 sounds of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper, the Doors and Jimi
Hendrix caused another cultural shift. One that Dylan couldn't or didn't want to be a part of.
"To everything there is a season".
Bob Dylan has made music steadily thru the last 5 decades. The longevity of his remakable career is almost
beyond comprehension. He's provided us with many deep flashes of genius and brilliance along the way.
Now, as he heads into his 70th year, he's coming to play Caesars Palace Collesium in Las Vegas. How good
his performance will be is anybody's guess. Some of his live shows have let people down thru the last 50
years. His performances and mood swings are mercurial. He's an odd man. He doesn't seem to want people
to count on him in any way, or to expect things he can't always deliver. His appearance in Vegas might send
some of his fans rushing disappointedly for the exits. Or else his concert will one of the the most amazing
performances of his life. Buying tickets might be a risk well worth taking. Or maybe not. It's a gamble
in a gambling town. And maybe Bob's main intention is to make people publicly place their bets.
Either way. I'll always love the music this man has provided and honor him for the success he's achieved.
But, the main thing I learned from Bob Dylan's music and mind is to never idolize anyone. Not even him.
At the age of fifteen I took his advice: "Don't follow leaders and watch the parking meters." It's a wise
quotation I've lived by thru most of my adult life. Thanks Bob. It was advice worth following.