I recently received a copy of the latest Bootleg Series by Bob Dylan: More Blood, More Tracks. It’s a great piece documenting the making of Blood on the Tracks. These sets are put out for the purists and artist junkies like me, that eat anything their artistic heroes release. A behind the scenes look at the making of it.
This one’s different. This one stung. Blood on the Tracks has always been one of my favorite, if not my all time favorite albums. Those who don’t have a taste for Dylan, don’t really get it, but his different phases speak to you (me) at different times in my life in different ways. Time Out of Mind helped me get through my grandparents’ deaths. Blonde on Blonde helped me make it through college when I didn’t really fit in. Tempest is an unsung treasure that is special to my wife and I. But, Blood on the Tracks was always different. I felt an affinity and a relation to it that I didn’t with any other of his work. From the first line of, “Early one morning, the sun was shinin’, and I was layin’ in bed. Wondering if she’d changed at all, if her hair was still red,” the album felt like a compass for my life.
Knowing the pain, he was enduring when writing it, could make you view it poignantly. But, rather, he transfers the heartbreak to you, the listener. You FEEL it. If you don’t know what I mean, you probably should stop reading now. But, the songs show a meaning to you the listener. Not necessarily the author’s meaning, but your meaning. “Simple Twist of Fate” still cuts to my soul. I’ll never forget the first time I got the chords right on “Tangled Up in Blue.” “Idiot Wind” is bitter and pure and haunting all at the same time.
I don’t claim to know what’s in Bob’s mind. Heck, most of the time, I can’t claim to know what’s in my mind. But, this music stands the test of time and challenges me to be a better writer, a better story-teller, and a better poet. Dylan never seemed to want to challenge anyone (other than Donovan with “It’s all over now, baby blue”), he just seems to do it. That kind of ease would be great to have. Just translate it in every other area. No competition for being, for taking the best picture, for posting the best dinner. Just know your own greatness.