Bob Dylan In The ’60s

The best 10 albums of his first seismic decade.

Bob Dylan In The ’60s

by Phil Sutcliffe |

Dylan in the ’60s. He burned the place down, he rebuilt it. He lit a flame in Bruce Springsteen, aged 15, in Freehold, New Jersey, probably July 21, 1965, his mom driving, the radio on, listening to the WMCA chart rundown when the DJ said, “At Number 56, Bob Dylan, Like A Rolling Stone”. That opening snare shot jerked Springsteen’s head around and he heard “that question, ‘How does it feel, to be on your own?’ and that was the first time that I realised that I really was… it sounded like somebody’d kicked open the door to your mind… The way that Elvis freed your body, Bob freed your mind.”

But four days later, at the Newport Festival, electric Dylan was throwing other good souls into mortified agonies. He played with Mike Bloomfield and friends. A lot of the crowd booed, Pete Seeger hollered he wished he had an axe to cut the cables because he couldn’t hear the words through the racket and, backstage, Woody Guthrie ‘discoverer’ Alan Lomax traded punches with Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman – all over similar musical differences.

Mostly, the feuding and fighting arose from people’s deepest principles, where art met the intellect – and the body. Dylan had stood music on its head by playing folk-style, writing about politics and making hits. For which many came to depend on him. Then he changed. He got loud and wrote about emotions, relationships, wild things beyond rationality, ideals and good intentions. And so, “Judas!”

But when Seeger calmed down he got it better than anyone, telling MOJO in 2006: “I was always impressed by Bob’s independence… I remember someone introducing him one night saying, ‘He’s one of ours.’ Bob got up and said, ‘I don’t belong to anyone.’”

Dylan in the ‘60s: listen to the sea change.

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10. Nashville Skyline
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10. Nashville Skyline

COLUMBIA | 1969 - This charming stetson-doffer closes what was a very lively decade – for Dylan more than most. To mark the auspicious occasion he went full-on country, duetting with Johnny Cash (Girl From The North Country) and creating a new voice, barely recognisable from the old: palatal and fruity. It was all change again, then. Even the writing came from a Dylan previously unknown. Straight, no metaphors, no surreal excursions, only love, sweet or on the fritz – sexy and meaning it in Lay Lady Lay and To Be Alone With You, sexy and punfully double-entendred in Country Pie and Peggy Day ("Love to spend the night with Peggy Day"). The smile suited him.

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