Bob Dylan - Nashville Skyline

Bob Dylan: John Wesley Harding & Nashville Skyline

Episode 9

Episode date - August 2, 2007

How Music Changed

    When Dylan emerged from his self-imposed exile in 1967, his return was tentative and restrained. He did not wish to attract more attention to himself, so he requested that his recordings be released with little or no fanfare. Longtime fans each had their own expectations, but Dylan thwarted almost all of them by releasing a set of musically simple songs, consisting mostly of three-piece country-style arrangements.

    This flew in the face of modern convention. Contemporary pop music had become ornate, full of sound effects, production tricks, and psychedelic imagery. Dylan spurned all of that, and populated his songs with imagery from the American folk music canon and the Bible. Stylistically, “John Wesley Harding” was a significant step away from youth culture, while simultaneously displaying Dylan’s usual penchant for independence. The “Sgt. Pepper’s” crowd didn’t get it, but a large number of fans accepted it instantly, both as an alternative to the norm, and also because it was long awaited.

    Dylan took almost two years to follow this album with an even more country flavored offering entitled “Nashville Skyline.” This time, the reaction grew to be mixed. By aligning himself with the ‘new’ country of Nashville, Dylan was moving dangerously far away from the contemporary scene.

    By 1969, rock music had developed an incredibly strong and indelible character of its own. The Beatles, Cream, and Jimi Hendrix (whose re-arrangement of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” displayed how Dylan’s material would sound with a contemporary arrangement) owned the charts, along with Crosby, Stills & Nash and numerous other acts that challenged convention. Bob Dylan’s new ‘crooning’ voice did not fit into that equation at all, and the country songs seemed somewhat out of step with rock music’s trend toward a ‘musical revolution’.

    Despite all of this, “Lay Lady Lay” sounded great on the radio. Once again, Dylan found himself immersed in controversy, as critics disagreed vehemently on Dylan’s contemporary relevance and the album’s net worth. Soon, though, the squabbling would end, and critical opinion would become virtually unanimous following his next release… Here’s a list of songs featured in this program;

    John Wesley Harding

    As I Went Out One Morning

    I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine

    All Along the Watchtower

    The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest

    Dear Landlord

    I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight

    Lay Lady Lay

    I Threw It All Away

    Peggy Day

    Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You

    Channel 133 - Bob Dylan