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Bob Dylan’s new direction home

Bob Dylan

Subterranean Homesick Blues

Columbia

Release Date: March 8th, 1965

Words by: Roland Ellis
March 11th, 2015

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Released on this day in 1965 as the A-side of a 7-inch single (B-side being "She Belongs To Me"), "Subterranean Homesick Blues" was a foray into new territory for Bob Dylan. The territory being the 'electric' aesthetic that would land him in hot water with fans and critics alike - at least until years later when the move was almost categorically hailed as a stroke of genius.

Dylan's songs that may be deemed 'electric' resemble virtually no structural or thematic similarities with 60s chart-toppers

The frenetic pace of "Subterranean" is probably what made it so difficult for many Dylanites to swallow at the time - he cycles through each subversive jibe so quickly that it's pretty easy to feel overwhelmed and flat-out confused by the end. And let's not forget, this frenetic mayhem came on the back of a few brilliant yet fairly 'traditional folk' sounding records; thus adding insult to injury for those fans who thought they had locked down the saviour of America's traditional music.

'Traitor' was the call that would frequently follow Dylan's full band/electrified live performances in 65-66. Others considered it Dylan's 'sell-out' attempt to lock onto the pop group sound of the British invasion. With the benefit of hindsight, however, such claims appear both parochial and baseless: who was he meant to have betrayed, the fans and/or genre that he'd promised nothing to in the first place? Second, Dylan's songs that may be deemed 'electric' resemble virtually no structural or thematic similarities with 60s chart-toppers from, say, The Beatles.

Bob Dylan’s new direction home Bob Dylan - 1965

As we have all come to realize over time, only Dylan knows why Dylan does anything - why he went electric, why he released an album of Sinatra covers, why he allowed Empire Burlesque to hit stores. But more often than not, a critical mass has been thankful when looking back on the mysterious swerves in the career of Bob Dylan, and that's because many of his unpredictable turns have also brought with them whole new dimensions of artfulness. "Subterranean" should certainly be included in any such categorization.

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