It’s not like I haven’t tried. I’ve listened through The Times They Are A-Changing 1964) twice, John Wesley Harding (1967) twice, Bringing it All Back Home (1965) four times, Blood on the Tracks (1975) eight times, and Slow Train Coming (1979) maybe half a dozen times. So a decent selection of Dylan albums from most of his major periods, all given a real chance, and I have been waiting and waiting for the “Oooohhh … I get it” lightning to strike. It’s not happened, and after twenty opportunities I am beginning to despair that it ever will.
So I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that I am just never going to like Dylan and I should give up trying.
And yet, and yet …
I’m reluctant to accept it for four reasons.
First, a lot of people whose musical taste I otherwise share think Dylan is brilliant, and it’s easier to believe I’m missing it than that they are all hallucinating. When people refuse to see the glory of prog rock, I know that they are mistaken, because I do see it. So on the same basis, if they see the glory of Dylan and I don’t, isn’t it parsimonious to conclude that I’m mistaken?
Second, his influence is so vast. It’s seen most obviously in Dylan-impersonation songs like Paul Simon’s Simple Desultory Philippic and John Lennon’s You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away. But of course it goes much deeper than that: for example, it’s widely felt that the whole of the Beatles’ Help! album was recorded under the influence of Dylan, and I absolutely love that album.
Third, I do like quite a few of other people’s versions of Dylan songs: for example, Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower, Adele’s Make You Feel My Love, and World Party’s All I Really Want to Do. So there must be something in there that has an appeal for me.
And fourth, it took a long while before I could see what the point of Hendrix was, but then a moment came when it suddenly all swam into focus and then he was all I listened to for a year. So I can’t quite free myself from the idea that one day, I will have a Dylan-swims-into-focus moment.
I don’t know. What do you think? Should I give him another spin?