To kick off the “Album of the Week”, I thought I’d start with one of the greatest albums of time, and what is perhaps my favorite record.
“Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” was the song that caught my attention as a 14 year-old kid. My older brother had picked me up from school and popped a cassette of Bringing It All Back Home. “Check this out,” He said pressing the fast-forward button. “This song is hilarious.”
I rolled my eyes. Not that I didn’t like Dylan, but Pete was playing him every time he picked me up. The song seemed like any other Dylan song to me. “Did you hear that?” Pete asked pressing the rewind button.
“Hear what?” I demanded.
Pete hit the play button and Dylan’s voice came through:
Just then the whole kitchen exploded from boiling fat. Food was flying everywhere, I left without my hat.
It might have been the funniest line I had ever heard in a rock song. It was so silly, and cinematic. It was easy to imagine a kitchen exploding, and the narrator running for his life, like a scene right out of Ghostbusters.
Once the song was over, I asked Pete to replay the song one more time, and found myself engrossed and laughing at almost everything Dylan sang. It’s a wonder that Pete’s rewind button didn’t break that day. We barely made it 20 seconds without hitting the button trying to figure out what exactly was going on. From one stanza to the next, Dylan’s “dream” gets wilder and funnier. And it just keeps going.
At this point, I’ve listened to “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” hundreds of times, and each time it has never failed to make me laugh. As a teenager, its absurdity reeled me in. In college, it was the surrealistic imagery. Now, it’s the historical jokes and how Dylan re-writes American History.
And that is the essence of Bringing It Back Home. Rock music was split into the two distinct eras once the album was released. After Bringing It All Back Home, rock lyrics no longer had to be curtailed specifically for the music. Topics were as wide open, as anyone’s imagination. Everyone noticed the shift. Even the Beatles, who were the biggest celebrities in the world at the time, realized that they had to change their approach.
Being groundbreaking only tells part of the story of Bringing It All Back Home, though. More so than any other Dylan album, it showcases every facet of his personality. It’s funny (“Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream)”, heartfelt (Love Minus Zero/No Limit”), angry (“Maggie’s Farm”) and socially aware (“It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”).
If there is a theme to the album, it’s Dylan as the outsider ready to fire back at his detractors and critics. He’s slaving away during “Maggie’s Farm”, but ready to tell off Ma, Pa and whoever else gets in his way. His friends end up in jail in “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” and goes on a mission to rescue them, only to abandon them later. On “Outlaw Blues” he “looks like Robert Ford, but feels like Jesse James” and hides behind his dark sunglasses. “Don’t ask me nothing about nothing,” He threatens later in the song, “I just might tell you the truth.”
Dylan would go on to make better albums, but none showed the artistic leap forward that Bringing It All Back Home did. After this Dylan’s genius was already certified, this is the album where he truly showed what he was made of.