The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #142469   Message #3291318
Posted By: Little Hawk
16-Jan-12 - 07:17 AM
Thread Name: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
Beautiful explanation, Shimrod! I understand you perfectly. You could have been describing my own childhood and subsequent development in your post, except that the timing for me was a little different, that's all.

I also tended towards a strong anti-fashion stance pretty much from the beginning, and I did reject a lot of things "out of hand" simply because they were hugely popular, and I preferred to discover things on my own rather than "go with the crowd".

My parents were living a rather unconventional lifestyle in certain respects. One of those respects was the music they purchased...they bought folk music from about 1955 on...and classical music...and European ethnic music of various sorts. They paid little attention to country music, pop music, rock 'n roll, rock music...that is, what mostly constituted mainstream radio music.

So I ended up listening to and discovering for myself all kinds of folksingers and other stuff that most kids my age weren't listening to...they were listening to Elvis, Buddy Holly, and later the Beatles, Stones, Monkees, etc...that was the popular mainstream in the small town schools I went to. Hardly anyone I knew liked Dylan or listened to the other folksingers such as Baez, Judy Collins, Ian & Sylvia, etc. They listened to the big rock bands...all composed of 3 or 4 slender young men playing LOUD music. (Dylan did that when he was in high school, but he'd moved on to acoustic folk & blues music by the time he began to record anything.)

I was aware of Ewan MacColl through one vinyl record my parents had bought when I was maybe 10 or 12 years's called "Songs of Robert Burns"...I still have it and I love it! But I didn't look further into Ewan's material than that one album.

I was also somewhat aware of Dylan by indirect association...that is, we bought all of Joan Baez' albums, and she sang a large number of his songs. I loved the songs themselves, liked them better than anything else she did, something in both the words and the melodies spoke to me very powerfully. As for Dylan himself, though, I only heard him on very rare occasions, and his odd-sounding vocal put me off. I thought that folksingers had to have "pretty", very pure-sounding voices, and I wasn't going to listen unless they did.

So much for that. ;-D I had literally only ONE friend all through high school who liked Bob friend Larry...and he loved Dylan, but I wasn't ready to listen to someone with a voice like that.

I didn't deliberately listen to Dylan with any real attention until 1969! I was pretty much unaware of his fame. You have to realize how far outside the commercial mainstream I was to not know about it...but I didn't listen to commercial radio (only listened to Canada's CBC which didn't seem to be playing very many Dylan songs), and I hadn't been watching television either. I'd been going to record stores, buying records by folksingers, and listening to them on the stereo. That was it.

Hell, MacColl was more "mainstream" in my private little world than Dylan was! ;-D

Then I moved to Toronto, the big city, started taking guitar lessons from this amazing guy who'd been a draft resistor in the states and a campus demonstration organizer. He'd had to leave the USA with the FBI on his tail, set up in Toronto as a guitar teacher, and I became one of his students. He was a brilliant man, he knew about all kinds of stuff I was hungry to know about, and I profoundly respected his opinion on anything.

I told him about all the folk stuff I'd been listening to and liked. He said, "You should try listening to Bob Dylan." I said, "Oh, yeah, I know about him, but he's got such a weird voice." He said, "You have to develop a taste for his developing a taste for beer or coffee...but listen to the words and see if you get it."

He suggested that I buy the album "Highway 61 Revisited" and listen to it "at least 3 times" before making any judgement of it.

I respected Matthew more than anyone else on Earth at that point, so I went right out and bought the album. Took it home. Put it on the record player. And was blown away.

Just like you said about MacColl: Dylan's "music 'hit me like a train' at a very impressionable age. And I suppose that part of his appeal (to my personal brain wiring) was that I discovered him for myself (with Matthew's help) and no-one told me that I 'ought-to-like-him-because-he-was-famous-and-fashionable'"

Matthew told me that I would probably like him because he was brilliant. Matthew was brilliant himself. No question about that. He was a person who thought outside the box. So did Dylan. So did I. I'd been doing so ever since I could remember.

Nothing else I ever encountered in my life struck as powerful and perfect a chord with my own nature as Bob Dylan's words and his way of delivering them when I finally got around to giving him serious consideration. You could call it "love at first listen" or something like that. ;-D

I'd had little or no idea that he was so famous and fashionable. But after I did listen to him with some serious attention, I knew why.


Kinda like that with Celine Dion the other day too... ;-D I knew she was hugely famous all these years, didn't care, paid no attention, saw her picture on magazines and shrugged, had no idea why she would be that popular.

But when I saw the video of her doing her stage performances a couple of weeks ago, I saw right away why she would be that successful. Oh yeah...she's damn good at performing all right. She's a real pro.

The artistic content of what she does (the words of the songs) isn't of any real importance to it's not the same thing as someone like Bob Dylan, it doesn't demand my interest in any way...but I DO understand why she has become very successful in her field of music, and I'd say she deserves that success.