You know what you’re getting when that intro blares out. Impresarios and impersonators take a deep breath. We’re about to go into it…
“Johnny’s in the basement mixing up the medicine I’m on the pavement thinkin’ ‘bout the government”
…& we’re away. The early (ish) Dylan anthem of beatnik word soup is a live wire jolt with arms around what would later become punk with a delivery that can be cited as a key influence in pop and (at a real push) hip hop.
“Look out kid, don’t matter what you did, walk on your tip toes, don’t tie no bows, better stay away from those that carry around a fire hose, keep a clean nose, watch the plain clothes, you don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows”
The songs a riot. Hollering along to it (and doing the voice) is a rare pleasure. As pure as the driven snow. A joy.
The fact that the accompanying promo is one of the most influential pieces of rock music on film ever is testament to both D.A Pennebaker’s documentary (Don’t Look Back) and the strength of the concept of those cue cards with the lyrics. Watch Yer Pawkin’ Meters indeed.
“Oh, get born, keep warm, short pants, romance, learn to dance, get dressed, get blessed try to be a success, please her, please him, buy gifts don’t steal, don’t lift, twenty years of schoolin’ and they put you on the day shift”
These lyrics have influenced countless other lyrics by other artists and will continue to do so. One of my very first albums as an emerging music fan myself was Transvision Vamp’s Pop Art. 1989 and they were ripping lines from this song on their hit single Revolution Baby. Get to the mid 90’s and Radiohead are referencing it on OK Computer swapping Blues for Aliens. 1990’s & 2000’s Hollywood used the po-faced reveal of the cue cards to memorable effect on the Wall Street Rap section of Tim Robbins vehicle Bob Roberts and in the UK’s warm and cosy Christmas staple Love Actually. I’d say Bad News did it second best way back when, on the B-Side of their video single for Bohemian Rhapsody. Unfortunately the internet doesn’t seem to have that, so the one I’m going to post below is from when INXS did it with aplomb on Mediate.
Subterranean Homesick Blues is a set text for all sub-culture rock and rollers. From pop to folk to indie to metal and everywhere inbetween.
“Don’t want to be a bum, you better chew gum, the pump don’t work ‘cause the vandals took the handles”
Boiling Bob Dylan down to one song is absolutely impossible but trumpeting his genius is also a tad too predictable. Especially as he’s possibly the most overly written about rock musician ever. I’ve only got a handful of his albums that I’m familiar enough with to espouse about without fear of the Dylan Literati going in with an armful of ‘well, akchullay’s.
I’ve already made a post about how I arrived late to the party in my pajamas moaning that I didn’t want to come. The mountain came to Mohammad. I cannot deny the man, the song book or the quality.
Dylan covers though? There are lots and lots and lots of those. So in another push of the envelope that is our ‘song a day’ + ‘final ten’ rules. Let’s have a week in a day of Bob Dylan covers… Shall we?