David Bowie - Rebel Rebel (1974)
This song is the lead single from Bowie’s follow-up to Aladdin Sane, 1974’s Diamond Dogs, which marks a transitional period in Bowie’s career during which he was trying to shake off the glam of Ziggy once and for all.
A final send-off for that era by Bowie, “Rebel Rebel” is an anthem for the androgynous youth following of the movement, an ode to a young rebel who defies the strict categorization of gender. The song is Bowie’s last song in the genre, and as glam as he still looks in this performance for Dutch television, with his bright orange mullet and campy little neckerchief and eyepatch, Bowie was soon going to ditch the glitter entirely, before the movement became bloated and outdated. Bowie is extremely self-aware as an artist, and the fact that he is so comfortable with change and so conscious of the right moment to do so is why he has had such longevity in his career. He pioneers an emerging musical movement, and then he drops it as soon as it is no longer revolutionary.
By the time of the 1980 Floor Show, Bowie already had begun devising his next project: a rock and roll musical retelling of Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984, but those plans had to be scrapped after the late author’s estate did not allow Bowie the rights to the story. So, Bowie instead crafted his own dystopian future in the form of a concept record, Diamond Dogs, which happens to contain fragments of this earlier project. The narrative of Diamond Dogs is a bit less coherent than Ziggy Stardust, and songs such as the album’s title track serve to create a sense of the atmosphere of the degenerate “Hunger City” in which the album is set, rather than actually furthering a specific story. The world’s protagonist is Bowie’s next persona, Halloween Jack, the characteristics of whom are far less developed than Ziggy Stardust. Rather, Diamond Dogs is more of an exercise in science fiction world-building than straightforward storytelling, and there is a richness in the detail and imagery that went into the lyrics and music of this album. It would be Bowie’s last concept record for quite awhile.
David Bowie - Changes (1971)
Bowie’s restlessness brought about yet another of his swift musical genre shifts with 1971’s Hunky Dory. Having dropped the heavy metal stylings of his previous album, Bowie adopted more of a singer-songwriter approach to pop music and drew upon his eclectic and diverse influences, from Dylan, to Warhol, to various disparate philosophies. Hunky Dory was also a further development of Bowie’s androgynous presentation of himself on the album cover, with the singer looking the part of a screen siren, with his long blond hair, delicate features, and wistful stare.
The song “Changes” from the album has come to be viewed as something of a motto for Bowie, an early manifesto by a young artist predicting the “chameleon-like” shifts in musical genre with which he would become inextricably associated. Even in spite of its association with this particular conception of Bowie’s work, the song is part of what would become a constant fixture in Bowie’s career: keen social awareness. Beyond the distinctive stuttering chant of “ch-ch-ch-changes”, the lyrics reflect more of a Dylan-esque contemplation of the shifting cultural and political climate at that moment, and its connection to the inevitability of change in a more general and personal sense. Lyrics such as “And these children that you spit on / As they try to change their worlds / Are immune to your consultations / They’re quite aware of what they’re going through” are paired with musings on “the stream of warm impermanence,” and the equation of youth revolution with the fact of the natural transience of life gives a sense of Bowie’s notion of the idea of change in general.
Though often perceived as an uncannily prescient statement by Bowie about the changes his career would take in the future, I feel the song reflects more of Bowie’s personal comfort with and acceptance of the very idea of change, which would ultimately contribute to his ability to make so many career transformations in the first place. In the previous post, I touched on Bowie’s intense desire to achieve artistic renown, which led him to not only adopt emerging musical styles, but also to embrace the swelling social movements of the early 70s as another path to artistic distinction. Although he was to some extent motivated by a self-seeking ambition, I would not be so cynical as to say that all of his work in this vein is innately negative or exploitative. On the contrary, Bowie’s ability to encapsulate the particular social currents of the time in which he was writing are often fascinating, insightful, and, in the case of the later Ziggy Stardust character, a driver of that change in and of itself. Essentially, Bowie was aware of change, comfortable with it, and used it to his advantage, but the actual reasons and methods with which he did so are far more compelling than the fact that he did it.
Gillian Welsh - Elvis Presley Blues
A little bluegrass blues for ya’ll.
Counting Down Bruce Springsteen: #71, “The Hitter”
The following is an excerpt from Counting Down Bruce Springsteen: His 100 Finest Songs, a new book available now from American Songwriter contributor Jim Beviglia. We’ll be offering a sampling of song entries — one out of each batch of 10 — over the next few weeks. Purchase the book here.
Anyone who thinks that Bruce Springsteen has mellowed somewhat as the years have passed would be hard-pressed to explain the severity and grit contained within 2005’s “The Hitter.” The song may not get the recognition of other songs because it’s featured on Devils and Dust, an unheralded album in Springsteen’s canon, but it demands your attention and commands your respect and fear when you hear it, much like the title character.
Absolutely one of the utter best latter-day Springsteen songs, and just one of his best in general. This song is a masterclass in story-songwriting, it’s sublime.
It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry - Bob Dylan
Well, I wanna be your lover, baby
I don’t wanna be your boss
Don’t say I never warned you
When your train gets lost.
French Open dance battle between Gael Monfils and Laurent Lokoli…
Yep, that’s Gael, again.
Laurent is great but that was not égalité Gael totally won.
Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35 - Bob Dylan
They’ll stone you and then say you are brave
They’ll stone you when you are set down in your grave
But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned
They don’t make double entendres this good anymore. This is Blonde on Blonde.
Love Minus Zero, No Limit - Bob Dylan
My love she speaks softly
She knows there’s no success like failure
And that failure’s no success at all
Inspired by Sara, the woman he would soon marry and have four children with, this is one of the most beautiful love songs in the vast history of love songs.
Ballad Of A Thin Man - Bob Dylan
Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
If ever there was a song to establish a menacing presence, this is the song. This is my favourite track off Highway 61 Revisited, mostly because I’ve imagined up so many insane movie scenes just by listening to it.
It might be the only Dylan song where the lyrics are not as important as the melody.
That booming piano lurks over your shoulder waiting to surprise you at your most vulnerable moment. It creates a tingling in your spine that something isn’t quite right, but you have no idea what.
It’s that moment in the movie right before the bad guy appears for the first time.
It is so dark, so layered, so strange. Even the way Dylan sings it is different from how he normally intonates in songs.
It is perfection.
Ta-Nehisi Coates discusses white supremacy and ‘The Case for Reparations’ with Bill Moyers
from The Atlantic cover story: 'The Case for Reparations'
Mad Men - E707 - Burt’s Song & Dance Number (by Dingus Flotbottom)
You’re welcome, tumblr.
Maggie’s Farm & Like A Rolling Stone Live at Newport Folk Festival 1965 - Bob Dylan
Yes, this is the infamous performance where Bob first went electric and was booed with great intensity by his loyal, folky fans.
There’s something so very poetic about him playing this song in that moment - essentially the ultimate screw you to the audience for expecting him to be what they want him to be, instead of allowing him to be what he chooses to be.
Well, I try my best
To be just like I am
But everybody wants you
To be just like them
They say sing while you slave and I just get bored
I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more
A song about rejecting the idea of being a slave to ‘the man’ whoever that man may be. All punk rock stems from this song.
If you’ve ever had a terrible job - and I’ve had a few - there’s nothing better than “Maggie’s Farm” to motivate you to escape, or to scream along and dance to once you have finally escaped. It’s the most cathartic song on the planet.
No paycheck is worth selling your happiness for.
My first terrible job as a teen was as a maid at a hotel in Niagara Falls. It was where I learned just how filthy human beings are capable of being in a very short time, when they know someone else is going to clean up after them. Especially if they have kids. It also showed me how cheap people are, because most of the time, no one tipped.
On the glorious day that I finally quit, after seeing enough shit and vomit to make me loose my lunch, I drove down the highway blasting “Maggie’s Farm.”
That is what freedom feels like.
"Maggie’s Farm" remains one of my top 5 Dylan songs. It taught me where my line is, and just how much bullshit I am willing to tolerate before standing up for myself.
To Ramona - Bob Dylan
I have an intense attachment to this song, if only because I’ve often felt like Ramona. The first time I heard this song, it was like he was talking directly to me, shaking me awake for the first time. Every girl that has ever struggled to fit in has felt like the Ramona in this song. Every girl that’s ever felt like she had to change herself, “better” herself, is this Ramona.
Sometimes all it takes is a well written song to remind us that we are fine just the way we are.
It grieves my heart, love
To see you tryin’ to be a part of
A world that just don’t exist
It’s all just a dream, babe
A vacuum, a scheme, babe
That sucks you into feelin’ like this
I can see that your head
Has been twisted and fed
By worthless foam from the mouth
You’ve been fooled into thinking
That the finishin’ end is at hand
Yet there’s no one to beat you
No one t’ defeat you
’Cept the thoughts of yourself feeling bad
I could go on and on about every single track on Another Side of Bob Dylan, but this day is coming to an end, so all I can do is tell you to listen to it. Get a copy on vinyl, turn it up loud, read the lyrics, and listen to it. Just sit there and hear it the way it was meant to be heard, away from your smartphone and your tv and your computer and all the other shit we multitask and distract ourselves with now when we listen to music. If you give the album what it requires, it gives back in spades.
That’s the thing about Dylan, he demands you pay attention.
Quilt | Saturday Bride