The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #142469   Message #3285645
Posted By: Little Hawk
06-Jan-12 - 01:05 AM
Thread Name: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
Right on, ollaimh. You have expressed it perfectly.

I find it laughable that people would characterize Dylan's songwriting as mediocre...but it just goes to show that tastes differ widely. If someone doesn't like a specific style that a singer employs, it's not likely you'll ever get them to change their mind about it...because they'll never be motivated to investigate it closely enough to bother changing their mind.

Also...for the umpteenth IS possible to admire both Dylan's AND MacColl's work in music!!! I do. Seems like a far better use of one's time to appreciate both of them, than trying to prove that one of them is wonderful and the other one's an overrated asshole.

Richard Bridge - "The Times They Are A-Changin'" is a fine example of what Dylan so often does...he writes songs in what I call universal symbols. To say "how many times must the cannonballs fly" is a universal symbol for warfare throughout the ages. Who the hell cares if we use cruise missile and jets now instead of cannonballs? Songwriting is far more effective when using universal symbols than it is when it's dead literal, in my opinion. Poetry, likewise, is far more effective when using metaphor and universal symbolology than when being dead literal. Any idiot can write literally about something...but poets write in symbol and metaphor, and it's all the more powerful in that form.

He is in no way suggesting that HE should be the leader of anything in that song, he's simply describing a time of massive social change all around him when millions of young people were impelled to question the Vietnam War (and war in general), when they were impelled to question their governmental instutions and the conventional views their elders had passed on to them regarding just about everything.

That song touched perfectly on the tensions that were rising in young people at the time...that's why it had such a huge impact, specially when covered by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Good God, man, there was a revolution in social thought taking place! It transformed North America, it helped to end the Vietnam War, it helped to end segregation, it helped to bring social equality to women, Blacks, and Native Americans. Dylan's gift was that he articulated it so powerfully for others just as it was taking off.

I don't believe for a moment that he wrote that stuff just to ride on a trend or to make money. I think he wrote it because he couldn't help but write it. In fact, the songs really wrote themselves...he was the scribe.

He was also a person who would go way deep into something until he'd expressed it with full intensity and fully satisfied the need in him to express it...then he'd leave it and move on to the next thing. That bothered people. They wanted him to just stay in one particular mode forever, but that's not going to happen with someone like Bob Dylan.

The last verse in "Times They Are A-Changin'" is a masterpiece:

The line it is drawn,
The curse it is cast,
The slow one now will later be fast,
As the present now will later be past,
The order is rapidly fading,
And the first one now will later be last,
For the times they are a-changing!

Right fucking on! That is very good lyric writing, and as with so much of Dylan's material, it connects to various biblical references that go way back in our western culture. In that sense again, it's a song with universal symbology rather than narrow didactic literalism. (the latter was the main thing that constricted so much of Phil Ochs' songwriting and caused it not to age well with the passage of was too literal, too specific, therefore had a much shorter shelf life than songs written in poetic metaphor)