135. it’s alright ma, I’m only bleeding

Bringing It All Back Home being Bob Dylan’s other 1965 album, the one that preceded Highway 61 Revisited and the apocalyptic Like A Rolling Stone snare shot which gave this whole project impetus. But such is the nature of apocalypse, the space-time continuum gets scrambled. Which makes It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding an appropriately timely version of the Six O’clock News circa 1965. Young man wired on amphetamines and Beaujolais and a truckload of symbolist poetry, grabs a great roll of paper and gets to typing, Jack Kerouac style. The words seem to be about all manner of stuff. The words††† seem to be about everything. Hell, I remember an old cab driver friend insisting it was about Jesus Christ himself, up on the cross, having his moment of doubt, seeing through messianic eyes all the future desolation of so-called modern man. Then the vision fades and he notices his mom, Mary, in real time, no doubt as worried as any mother has ever been. So he gives her a wink, says not to worry, he’s alright, except for all the bleeding.”

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209. kicks

In which Lou Reed delivers the amphetamine kicks all night long (and probably the next day too, and then maybe another night and day, and at least one more night). Speed doesn’t kill, or so I’ve been told, it just makes you so crazy somebody kills you for being such an asshole. Either way, I’ve been happy to mostly avoid it over the years. But some of the postcards have been fascinating, particularly when it’s somebody like Mr. Reed doing the sending … or Bob Dylan for that matter.

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(PHOTO: Getty Images)

392. please crawl out your window

“True fact. Though The Band may have been Bob Dylan’s favourite band, they didn’t do much actual studio work together. Whatever they had, it was mostly a live thing, which is certainly how Please Crawl Out Your Window feels: just plug in and go for it. Released as a single in late 1965, it mostly missed the charts at the time, thus freeing it up to land freshly with me maybe twenty years later (again via the Biograph box set). Like a postcard from some past cool scene I only wish I could’ve known. The light itself must’ve been different in those days. And it probably was, given all the speed those guys were doing.” (Philip Random)

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400. Visions of Johanna

“Back in 1999, I recall somebody somewhere putting forth the argument that Bob Dylan’s Visions of Johanna was the single greatest record of the twentieth century. Something to do with the line about the ghost of ‘lectricity howling in the bones of her face, or maybe it was the part about infinity going up on trial. Either way, he was talking about the studio version that showed up on Blonde on Blonde, which is weird, because that’s not even the best version, which is the 1966 live take that did the rounds on bootlegs for years, then finally showed up on the Biograph box set. Something about it being pared down to just Bob, guitar, harmonica, voice – nothing else getting in the way of his accelerated brain and the amphetamine precision of the impossible images it was putting forth. Which is entirely the point, I think. Young genius stepping up to his confusion, surfing its twists and convolutions, letting it take him places he could never have imagined existed … and then finding a way to channel it all to into breath and voice and words. Call it a song. A damned fine one. Yet not beyond parody.” (Philip Random)

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