Bob Dylanís album, Blonde On Blonde, is at once the finest American Folk and Blues tradition homage and Rock and Rollís very first version of postmodernism. It was released in June of 1966. How it accomplishes both is its mastery. Folk and Blues idioms are turned inside out by virtue of the words. The music is an evolution from Bringing It All Back Home (March, 1965) and Highway 61 Revisited (September, 1965), Dylanís previous albums that crafted what became known as Folk Rock, but the lyrics are a revolution.
Angry, sarcastic and paranoid diatribes are spat out with a blend of self-deprecation and caustic indifference. Sarcasm, blended in with venomous nonchalance, creates a hip detachment from absolutely everything that comes along. The lyrical world of Blonde On Blonde sounds as gone as gone gets without losing the urge to utter one last cosmic complaint, expressed through the literal sensibility each song has about it Ė there is nothing but exactitude sung, yet suddenly one realizes that all of the concrete imagery adds up to nothing.
Somehow there is respectability, though, as the Beat literary language of the songs boost the albumís inchoate beauty into permanence.
Pretext functions as a gateway to meaning, and it is as if the subject matter of the songs is before or after they are performed.
Blonde On Blonde is a magnificent farce, strung out through incomplete narratives and inchoate images colliding with mercurial music. The whole album reeks of Ďgetting away with it.í It is of the highest, cutting-edge literary achievement and the lowest possible cut on Rock and Roll culture. And when you cut something down with such brilliance, you elevate the work itself and its place culturally. Blonde On Blonde is responsible for the final move Rock and Roll took from low to high culture. It is self-aware like no other Rock album before or after it. Before there was a delightful lack of awareness, and after there was self-indulgence.
Blonde On Blonde challenged poets. The album drained the sodden inkpots of academic poets and gave street poets no parking space. It brought Rock and Roll into the realm of literature by destroying extant literary meaning and form: as Rock and Roll should, it created by virtue of destruction.
Every single Rock and Roll performer suddenly had to be more intelligent. Each Rock and Roll band immediately had to be more meaningful.
It was no longer enough to be entertaining. Being hip received a new aesthetic as there was a significant anti-standard now by definition.
It was the first double-album. It was the very first album to have one side of a record as one single song. The title made no sense. The interior album artwork did not relate to the songs. The cover shot was out of focus. Bob Dylanís Blonde On Blonde is the only Rock and Roll album that changed music, culture and literature. It is within American Song history the most important recording ever made, and it is no small matter of significance that after it Bob Dylan abandoned the Rock and Roll culture the album created. The huge production albums that followed it by other artists was answered by John Wesley Hardin, a return to American Folk and Blues traditions Ė but with the literary quality that Blonde On Blonde imploded.
Copyright 2004 By Martin Jack Rosenblum
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