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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Subterranean Homesick Blues"

Bob Dylan - "Subterranean Homesick Blues" (1965)

Producer Tom Wilson was an African American who cut his teeth producing Sun Ra in the 50s but really came into his own in the 60s, producing Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, The Mothers of Invention, The Animals, and The Velvet Underground. His influence on Rock and Roll can not be denied. He died of a heart attack in 1978.



The title is a reference to a Kerouac novel The Subterraneans, the lyrics reference Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger's song "Taking it Easy", the guitar lick and lyric rhythm is a take on a Chuck Berry tune called "Too Much Monkey Business". Add to that the fact that this was Dylan's first "electric" single, his first single to hit the top 40, and one of the earliest examples of a "music video" and you can see why this song made the list of 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die.

The song is a very repetitive acoustic folk guitar and basic drum set chugging away. On top of that, we get an electric guitar and an almost dirty fuzzy bass. There is also a cleaner bass playing the same walking line. Or something like that, I swear you can hear a clean bass and a fuzz bass on some parts. There's also a harmonica playing a lot of the time that Bob isn't singing. What's he singing about you ask? It's very stream of conscious, doesn't really man anything, and therefore everybody has an opinion. Jet took the name of their first album Get Born from one of the lines, and radical leftist group The Weathermen took their name from another.

There have been numerous covers, way to many to list, but some noteworthy ones include pop singer songwriter Harry Nilsson, known for "Everybody's Talkin'" "Coconut" and "Me and My Arrow" doing a surprisingly heavy rock version produced by John Lennon. The Red Hot Chili Peppers put a seriously new spin on it. There a a few Reggae covers to be found, this one is by Sizzla. The funniest take on it is Weird Al's classic spoof "Bob". He even gets friends to play Allen Ginsberg and Bob Neuwirth in the back of the video. About the video, sorry about the copy up above, it sounds fine, but it's the only one on the Internet that hasn't been taken down, so you only get a small version. If you are looking for something really different as far as "covers" go, check out Julez Santana Featuring Yelawolf. Their "Mixin' Up The Medicine" uses the song as a starting point. It's rap, and full of cursing and crude language, so consider yourselves warned away.

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