Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Songs of BOB DYLAN - Part 2

We'll start this series in the most obvious of places ... the BIG hit songs that came from the pen (and the guitar) of young ROBERT ZIMMERMAN (better known as BOB DYLAN) in the early '60's.

BOB burst on to the folk scene in a big way ... all of his contemporaries recognized immediately the talent that he possessed and wanted to bring his music to a bigger audience. Possibly the greatest (and most popular) folk singer / songwriter since WOODY GUTHRIE (one of DYLAN's biggest idols and influences), artists jumped on the BOB DYLAN bandwagon and soon the times they were a-changing. (In 1959, the newly-christened DYLAN ... he would LEGALLY change his name three years later ... went to visit his idol, WOODY GUTHRIE, who had been paralyzed for the past eight years with a rare hereditary disease known as Huntington's Chorea. To get there, he traveled most of the way down HIGHWAY 61.)

First up we'll give you PETER, PAUL AND MARY, who had already scored a Top Ten Hit with folk singer extraordinaire PETE SEEGER's IF I HAD A HAMMER in 1962. The trio was one of the most popular cross-over acts around in folk circles back in the early '60's, placing five albums in Billboard's Top Ten between 1962 and 1965.

After scoring a #2 smash with the controversial PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON in 1963, PETER, PAUL AND MARY next went to #2 with DYLAN's BLOWIN' IN THE WIND later that year.

For many, this was their first exposure to the music of BOB DYLAN. (DYLAN himself would first hit Billboard's LP chart that year with THE FREEWHEELIN' BOB DYLAN, a #22 album that included his original version of BLOWIN' IN THE WIND as well as other future classics like A HARD RAIN'S GONNA FALL and DON'T THINK TWICE, IT'S ALL RIGHT, which would go on to be PETER, PAUL AND MARY's follow-up hit. FREEWHEELIN' was actually DYLAN's SECOND album ... the first, featuring several of his covers of other popular folk songs, never charted at all.)

In all, PETER, PAUL AND MARY would hit the pop charts with four BOB DYLAN tunes. WHEN THE SHIP COMES IN went to #83 in 1965 and a great FORGOTTEN HIT, TOO MUCH OF NOTHING, went to #35 in 1967.

THE BYRDS kick-started their career by covering BOB DYLAN tunes. In fact, after hearing "electrified" versions of some of his songs, DYLAN shocked the folk world by adding a band and electric guitars to his sound in 1965. (He was immediately accused of "selling out" by much of his audience and peers.)

BYRDS' leader ROGER McGUINN was very in-tune with LA's folk scene in the early '60's. At the time, he was playing guitar behind BOBBY DARIN who was himself a very big BOB DYLAN fan. They saw this as the music of the future and in 1965, THE BYRDS went all the way to #1 with DYLAN's MR. TAMBOURINE MAN.

They would chart with three other DYLAN tunes over the years: ALL I REALLY WANT TO DO hit #9 in Cash Box later in 1965 (despite only peaking at #40 in Billboard, where the CHER version was more popular), MY BACK PAGES went to #26 in 1967 and YOU AIN'T GOING NOWHERE went to #74 in 1968.

We have covered THE TURTLES a number of times before in FORGOTTEN HITS. They hit The National Top 40 eleven times between 1965 and 1969 ... but they made the list for the very FIRST time with their version of the BOB DYLAN tune IT AIN'T ME, BABE, back in 1965.  FLO and EDDIE and the gang took this one all the way to #8.

Starting out first as a surf band, they became a driving force in the protest rock / folk movement that was growing back in the early and mid '60's. (In fact, they were actually given first dibbs on EVE OF DESTRUCTION, before BARRY McGUIRE took it all the way to #1.) Lead vocalist HOWARD KAYLAN says that they discovered the music of BOB DYLAN and, after the success of THE BYRDS' single MR. TAMBOURINE MAN, decided to go with IT AIN'T ME, BABE as their first release. (He says they tried to meld the folk / rock sound of THE BYRDS' record along with the successful British sound of THE ZOMBIES ... and the sound of THE TURTLES was born in the process!)

Apparently, they, too, were captivated by the sound and music of BOB DYLAN ... their first album also includes the DYLAN tracks LOVE MINUS ZERO/NO LIMIT and, believe it or not, LIKE A ROLLING STONE, which would become DYLAN's first (and only) #1 Record, later that year.

OK, we’ll cheat a little bit and give you BOB DYLAN’s version of LIKE A ROLLING STONE, often voted as one of the ten most important singles of all-time.  (Besides, our FH buddy AL KOOPER finagled his way into the recording session for this one … and that is AL KOOPER that you hear on the keyboards throughout this track!)


DIDJAKNOW?: Before he became one of the leaders of the folk movement, BOB DYLAN (then using the pseudonym ELSTON GUNN) toured the country as the PIANO PLAYER for early '60's teen heart-throb BOBBY VEE.

DIDJAKNOW?:  After the success of IT AIN’T ME, BABE, THE TURTLES had the chance to actually meet BOB DYLAN.  When they did, HOWARD KAYLAN was a little bit tongue-tied … and the best he could muster up was “You know, we recorded one of your songs” … to which DYLAN responded (in the most bored, driest tone ever) “Oh yeah?  Was it any good?”