The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #142469 Message #3850843
Posted By: GUEST,Jackaroodave
17-Apr-17 - 11:53 AM
Thread Name: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
Dylan and MacColl seem to be drawing on two overlapping but otherwise quite different traditions. Dylan's included commercial recordings of old-timey, jug band and hokum, urban and rural blues. (Dave van Ronk did an album called "In the Tradition" which mainly comprised early jazz songs.) Dylan's tradition probably had more in common with R. Crumb's and the Grateful Dead's than with MacColl's, so it's moot to compare them as interpreters of their respective traditions as if they were trying to do the same thing.
Exposure to this world was very liberating for lyricists. It was full of colorful metaphor, allusion, very specific references to God knows what, all tremendously evocative and equally cryptic. Performer after performer has testified to the influence of Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, which is just full of this kind of stuff.
For better or worse, it gave the songwriters permission to trust the associations in their unconscious, and when they came through, it was overpowering: "All Along the Watchtower," "Hard Rain," "Every Grain of Sand," or "Chimes of Freedom," for example, seem to me precise recreations of this simultaneously hyper-specific and ominously cryptic lyricism. And of course these performers came of age when sinister weirdness was thick in the air--along with other substances.
(It's also relevant that many strands in this tradition had very different approaches to originality, authenticity, "borrowing," and getting paid for selling recordings--or sheet music.)
Many traditional ballads in the forms they reached Dylan's contemporaries had the same mysterious but vividly evocative images and stories, partly, I suppose, because their original audiences already understood the background, partly because of the omissions and accumulated mondegreens that shaped their eventual form.
Even aside from the difference in their traditions, it seems to me almost inevitable that MacColl--and Dylan's early traditionalist followers--would abominate the actual hallmarks of Dylan's creativity. MacColl, I gather, was a traditionalist who sought to preserve, rescue, and restore historic forms; Dylan was a modernist (like Joyce) who sought to highlight them, exploit them, stretch them, and create his own very different work in part out of them.
All this, of course, is old hat, but I think it is relevant to some of the disagreements in this thread. They don't strike me as just matters of opinion, but rather expressions of two different and valuable approaches to "the tradition" that stem from the differences in our formative experiences of it.