• The Music In Me: The Spark



    Yeah, it’s a long one this time, but you should see what I took out. I’ll be honest: What we’re talking about, plus or minus, happened in the early sixties, so yeah, we’re talking about the era that everyone’s heard enough about: the Sixties. To get from the sixties to the Sixties, we’re going to start with folk music, which was a small but growing movement in the late 50’s, then blossomed around 1962. In its early days it was a little like punk rock in the mid-seventies: it was very visual so it got a lot of press, but it didn’t sell a lot of records. Folk music set the stage for the Sixties, provided the tinder, as it were. But for it to happen, for it to ignite, it needed a spark. Today we look at the spark.

    Rolling stone named him the greatest songwriter of all time. Yeah, yeah, he’s a genius. We know that. It’s just that many of us forget why that’s true. That’s why I’m here. Today everyone is shouting. Everyone is shouting. Back then Bob Dylan didn’t shout; he sang some songs and you can still hear the echoes. To whit:

    With the Second World War triumphantly concluded, what ensued was a period of prosperity and optimism; housing, education, recreation and social attitudes underwent a growth period whose principal beneficiaries became known as the Baby Boomers. Two of those benefits were that, coming through a youth defined by the Great Depression, parents had, to an unprecedented level, the means and a willingness to indulge, if not overindulge, their children; another benefit was the unprecedented time and permission given these children to live, learn and grow in relative freedom, which contributed to an unprecedented sense of entitlement. Entitlement among the masses? Who knows what might come of children steeped in such liberal attitudes? Why, ungrateful rebellion, of course. And so it was. And I loved it.

    Remember that part about indulging our young with an education? Well, it happened, and youthful souls, when allowed to think, to dream, to hope… why, what would you expect other than optimism? Were we worldly enough to wield such grand ideas as may come from optimism? Survey says: Not bloody likely. And therein we see that the roots of the Sixties were naiveté and optimism. Again: wouldn’t trade it for any other way.

    Radio was the soundtrack of our lives, and most of the songs in the Top 40 in the late 50’s and early 60’s were written for teens, sung by teens and bought by teens. And then there was an awareness—distant at first—of folk music. Top 40 was cool, man, but some heard another call, to a gentler, more acoustic music that was increasingly reflective of contemporary ills such as civil rights and nuclear proliferation. This was also a time when a small conflict in Viet Nam was starting to show up in the news, and put half of those students in the line of fire. Thus, some of said youth went off to college where they were allowed to hear any of a smorgasbord of New Age possibilities mixed in with all those liberal ideas about rights and such. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring came out in 1962, becoming the first warning of a coming global environmental catastrophe, and by 1964, enlightened teachers were urging students to read it, and it was discussed on campuses and in coffee houses where the hip met to drink java, listen to folk music or poetry, and discuss the issues, putting climate change on the radar for the first time. Oh, there were a host of other ills needing attention, but let’s focus on those four while, for the first time, pot, hashish and then LSD were competing with beer for the on-and-off-campus drug of choice. College kids, many who were living away from home for the first time—and still on their parents’ dime— with time on their hands, ideas in the air, and Viet Nam over their heads, and all this mixing with optimism and naiveté will get you a groundswell of unhappy idealists, a generation willing to try some new way of thinking…

    Some kids found this other music, and they could still like rock ‘n’ roll, but then everyone seemed to have to take sides, and that kind of divided the kids, with the rockers making up most of the crowd, but the folkies were a verbal and visual bunch who got a surplus of press because they were more video-ready than the regular Joes and Janes, and those two sides wouldn’t be united again until Bob Dylan did it in 1965 when he went electric at the Newport Folk Festival (I was there), but that would be a few years out from the initial spark, which is what we’re talking about, and anyway what he united was two flames—and it was he who’d started both of them—thus starting the biggest fire of all, the Sixties. Here’s how it happened:

    Looking for something beyond the froth of pop music, folk music had more to say to some kids, and its popularity was growing, but slowly. Songs by folk leaders Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie had a growing impact on the nation’s school-age youth, but these guys were both old, while Top 40 had handsome teen idols bopping to the beat. Still, interest in folk music was growing, growing, making inroads into the culture, and it was starting to sell records.

    Early in 1962, Dylan’s new manager, the infamous Albert Grossman, wanted a folk act he could sell, so he put together three folkies from the Greenwich Village folk scene, and they became known as Peter, Paul & Mary. Grossman gave them Dylan’s as-yet un-recorded “Blowin’ In The Wind.” AM radio was everything then, and the “summer single” was very important for a record company trying to attract the record-buying teens to their artist and maybe other artists. Folk was growing, yes, but would it hit? Warner’s chose “Blowin’ In The Wind” in a significant deviation from what was normal until then. Indicative of the popularity of folk music in 1963, Warner’s took a chance that maybe kids were choosing to think along with the usual summer fare of beach, sun and fun, and it hit #2 in its first week on the charts along with “Judy’s Turn To Cry” and “Wipeout.” And suddenly it seemed like every other girl in my school had bangs and was ironing her hair straight to look like Mary Travers.

    Another change was, as David Hadju observed in Positively Fourth Street, “a million Americans were now purchasing guitars every year and they all seemed to be sitting on college grounds in blue jeans and no shoes, strumming ‘Where Have All The flowers Gone’ and ‘This Land Is Your Land.’ Times indeed were a-changin’. In 1962, sales of blue jeans [aka dungarees] increased by 50% while in the same year sales of dress shoes reached an historic low.”

    So now we’re at 1962 and remember we’re not talking about the six thousand albums Dylan has put out over the years or his “Golden Age” of Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde, or any of his other important releases, and we’re not talking about after his Woodstock period when he went to Nashville, where some say he invented Americana Music with John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline. No, no right-thinking person would aver that a career retrospective of Bob Dylan should be pigeon-holed into a single album or period. But as a spark to ignite the Sixties, you need look no further than when Dylan got serious about social issues at a time when a movement, based largely on civil rights issues, nuclear arms and environmental concerns was gaining momentum. Large group demonstrations about social issues had already started, and for months before and after Spring Break in 1962, students in some northeastern colleges went south to work on voter registration drives and equal-rights protests. What was uniquely American about this social change is that it was brought about by distinctions in age rather than class. The gathering strength of the protest movement was youth-driven. This was new. Change was in the air, and Bob Dylan, whose first release, in 1962, had been mainly traditional folk songs that had been around for more than a century, would put something else in the grooves of his second record.

    Yeah, the revolution was on, but the leaders were old. Seeger was grey-haired and Guthrie was busy dying. The proponents of the new ethos were all young, and so was Bob, who’d been singing all the old traditional stuff along with everyone else in the folk community until his girlfriend urged him to write more songs like “The Death of Emmitt Till,” his nascent protest song about a poor African-American laborer who had been failed by the American justice system. As we all must do when our ladies so request, Dylan wrote a song, his manager gave it to Peter, Paul & Mary and it put the movement into overdrive.


    The success of “Blowin’ In The Wind” shined a light on Dylan and I guess you’d have to admit that things were a-changin’ when teen fan magazine Seventeen did a feature article on Dylan with an accompanying 3/4 shot that made him look… thoughtful. Contemplative. In a teen mag! Was intellectuality suddenly sexy to teenage girls? Seventeen must have thought so. Seventeen? Radicalism, protest and rebellion were sexy? You betcha. I wish I’d known that back then…

    In that article, he was dismissive of his first album. Change was in Dylan and it was about to go public in a big way. In June of 1962, Dylan recorded “Blowin’ In The Wind” for his second album, Freewheelin’, and no one knew it then, but the horse was leaving the barn. Perhaps more than any other song of its era, "Blowin' In The Wind" captured the essence of America's youthful disquiet in the early 1960s and quickly became an anthem of the civil rights, anti-war and save-the-environment movements. For all of its impact, Dylan claims to have written the song in about 10 minutes, and it remains his most often-covered work.

    Folk music was now a pop phenomenon. No one had planned on a generation of teens who wanted to think rather than dance, but the market geared up and provided for them. There were TV shows that featured folk music and there were magazines about it. Thanks, PP&M, thanks Albert and Bob.


    Dylan’s Freewheelin’ came out in May, 1963, and by now Bob had students’ attention all over America. But were they ready? “Blowin’ In The Wind” was melodic, almost pretty, a good group sing-along, but also on the record were “Masters of War” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” both of which had a much harder edge and immediately people heard the Voice of Protest. Not many people listen to these songs now, and I’ll bet a whole generation or two has no idea of their existence. But they had an impact. They were the spark.

    Performed for the first time live a month before the Cuban Missile Crisis, “Hard Rain” found instant resonance when it was released shortly after the crisis. The song is a nightmarish dystopian travelogue that paints as bleak a series of images as any in Hieronymus Bosch, and it drove a chill spike into the hearts of impressionable, nervous teen minds, and the impact was the same as when you forget which scary movie you it was you saw, but if you’re still afraid to be alone in the dark…

    I remember when David Crosby talked about “Ohio,” the CSNY song about the Kent State shootings, when four students were shot dead by members of the Ohio National Guard in 1970. “Ohio” would have an impact, Crosby crowed, saying, “We named names, man!” Yeah, they said, “Nixon,” man. He thought things were gonna change, ‘cause, y’know, he said Nixon.

    But you could hear Dylan’s echoes when seven years earlier, in “Masters of War,” Dylan called out:



    Come you masters of war, you that build all the guns
    You that build the death planes, you that build all the bombs
    You that hide behind walls, you that hide behind desks
    I just want you to know I can see through your masks




    He went on to excoriate the American war machine in clear terms, condemning them and praying for their death. No fun, fun, fun there, and by virtue of “Blowin’” alone, he was already the Voice of Protest. Now he was going over the top to impressionable teens who had never heard anything like this before, but many of whom were ready for it. Yeah, you that build all the bombs, are you listenin’?

    I went to a Bob Dylan concert at Yale University in November of 1964 (no, not a student), and I liberated a Xeroxed poster of the show from a tree. On 8 ½ X 11 paper it had the photo of Dylan from his just-released “The Times They Are A-Changin’” with the quote, “Yes, it is I who is knockin’ at your door if it is you inside who hears the noise.” Yeah, it was Dylan who was knocking. And I wish I still had that poster….

    And while there are no reliable statistics other than record sales, through the events that ensued we might surmise that they were listening in Teenville. Then, with a growing, reverential listening audience, in January, 1964, Dylan released “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” The opening lyrics were:



    Come gather ’round people wherever you roam
    And admit that the waters around you have grown
    And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
    If your time to you is worth savin’
    Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
    For the times they are a-changin’

    Other lyrics followed:

    Come senators, congressmen please heed the call
    Don’t stand in the doorway don’t block up the hall
    For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled
    There’s a battle outside and it’s ragin’
    It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
    For the times they are a-changin’

    Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
    And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
    Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command
    Your old road is rapidly agin’
    Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
    For the times they are a-changin’




    This wasn’t nothing like “Judy’s Turn To Cry!” It didn’t sound like singing at all! It didn’t have a story! Instead, it said: Watch out, parents, something rotten’s gonna hit the fan! This was some fearsome, threatening shit, and whoever heard it knew who was knockin’ at their door. Some kids heard it and shared the Word. Not a majority at first, maybe, but the word was spreading. “Blowin’ In The Wind” spoke to many who felt the wind blowing, maybe not enough and maybe not fast enough, but the dam had broken and the word was spreading. “Hard Rain” and “Masters of War” were powerful broadsides, and these lyrics were direct hits. Calling out to mothers and fathers—not just yours, but “throughout the land”—must have shaken up more than a few parents who weren’t used to being told that their children were ‘beyond their command,’ and to ‘get out of the way.’ Powerful words!

    “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” also had “With God On Our Side,” which dared us to challenge American values and our place in the world, it challenged our confidence that we were always right, and it was powerful material that made people think what they’d never thought before, to question if God really was on our side. But mainly I remember the warning in “When The Ship Comes In:”



    Oh, the time will come up when the winds will stop
    And the breeze will cease to be breathin’
    Like the stillness in the wind ‘fore the hurricane begins
    The hour when the ship comes in

    Oh the foes will rise with the sleep still in their eyes
    And they’ll jerk from their beds and think they’re dreamin’
    And they’ll pinch themselves and squeal and know that it’s for real
    The hour when the ship comes in

    Then they’ll raise their hands, sayin’ we’ll meet all your demands
    But we’ll shout from the bow you’re days are numbered
    And like Pharaoh’s tribe they’ll be drownded in the tide
    And like Goliath they’ll be conquered



    Yes, we heard him knocking. So did our parents. It was a call for unity and protest, and it was strong stuff for impressionable minds. Parents scoffed that he wasn’t singing the way they understood singing. This wasn’t Perry or Dean or Frank, and it wasn’t even any of the Bobby’s or Jimmy’s who were on the charts and our parents accepted. It was caterwauling, they said, but that was just fine with kids who were looking for ways to distance themselves from their parents, and was further proof that we “got it” and they didn’t. Ergo, we knew we were smarter than them. Thus Bob Dylan inserted himself into an age-old phenomenon best expressed by Mark Twain who said, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” We weren’t the first teens to rebel, but we had more support than ever before.
    So, y’know, please don’t tell me that the kids didn’t know what he was talking about, or to whom. We knew. He was talking to us from a different America than the one where “Judy’s Turn To Cry” was on the charts, and he was telling us we had to choose sides because it was an us-and-them situation. He was talking about serious issues, inciting urgency and seeding enmity and a general distrust of the establishment. Not everyone heard the call to arms; some heard nothing at all, some thought they heard something, and whatever it was, it was probably cool. Parents, not so much.

    Were parents freaked out at what was a-changin’? You a-bet. In 1965, my friend and I were going to the Philadelphia Folk Festival. I was going in my folkie clothes, of course—jeans, CPO shirt, funky shoes—but my mother, who was afraid of who I was becoming, saw me leaving the house carrying my cowboy boots and she gave me a choice: either the boots stayed at home or I did. That may seem silly in 2015, but in 1965 my mother was scared of what those boots represented; on Long Island no one respectable wore cowboy boots and those who did were trouble and must come from broken homes, and she didn’t understand what was happening to her son and she was having none of it in her home. And she wasn’t alone in any of it. Not significant? It was, and it started with Dylan.

    By the time Dylan came around, some had heard the early call of Elvis and Jerry Lee and others, and were bored with the Bobby’s, Jimmy’s and other Elvis clones the record producers and radio programmers gave us. Pat Boone? Really? But Dylan was never on those airwaves. Hey! Have you heard this guy? He was only available on an LP, and we gathered in twos and threes and played him in living rooms and dens and we didn’t dance, we listened. And we got the message: It’s all fucked up, and it’s up to us. The adults have fucked it up and we have to do better. That, friends, was very heady stuff in its day. We heard what he said in “Hard Rain” and “Masters of War;” we didn’t have power yet, but we knew we were right about the issues that mattered and we became a nation of disaffected youth, and by the time the Beatles came, well, some were ready to rebel, while others had already begun.

    And what a stroke of luck that someone just mentioned the Beatles because regular readers know I love a good aside, and this is one of the best. Did you know it was Bob Dylan who turned the Beatles on to drugs? Fun drugs? Yeah, it’s crazy- I know! Sure, they used a lot of speed to play those six- and seven-hour shifts back in Hamburg, but the fun stuff? Yeah, it was Dylan, who went to see them in one of their appearances in America, and they sang their hit, “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Dylan was Watching the screaming-girl phenomenon from backstage when the Beatles sang:

    “And when I touch you I feel happy inside
    It’s such a feeling that my love
    I can’t hide, I can’t hide, I can’t hi-i-i-de”

    Dylan thought they were singing, “I get high,” so when they all went back to their hotel, he pulled out a joint and got them high on pot for their first time. And you know what happened after that.

    So I want you to remember about that when you look at how big an impact Bob Dylan has had, and even though it might seem to come from out of left field, I want to share a story on a personal level.

    Like everyone else I knew in the summer of 1967, I was caught up in the fervid excitement and publicity that followed the release of “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” It was huge; it was a sonic bombshell that blew everyone I knew away. Nary a hipster in America was not in thrall to that album. One afternoon that summer, my aunt and uncle were visiting and my aunt came to my room as a friend and I were—like everyone else we knew—locked away in rooms, basements, dens, garrets or another secluded area, listening intensely, studying the lyrics, the liner notes, the amazing cover, the back, looking for every possible meaning in that album. And, whenever possible, smoking a little pot. But not in my room! My aunt came in near the end of the sweetly melodic and lyrically non-threatening “Fixing A Hole.” She saw me holding the album cover and said she’d heard about the record and asked if she could stay and listen as the song’s whimsical swell was ending and “She’s Leaving Home” was about to start. I said “sure, sit down,” and she sat on the edge of my bed. The song started with a gently plucked harp, and we all sat and listened as Paul sweetly sang, “Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins…” No one spoke, we just listened. We followed the story. When the song was over, my friend and I still sat, thinking about what we’d just heard, but my aunt stood up and we looked at her. She was sobbing, and she left without saying a word. That was a powerful song for teens and a rough listen for parents. My God, the Beatles were amazing! Everyone knows that.

    But don’t forget to add the Dylan. He was the spark.






    Click for a playlist of Dylan tracks via YouTube.









    Gilbert Klein has enough degrees and not enough stories. He’s been a radio talk show host, a nightclub owner, event producer, and has written two books: FAT CHANCE about the legendary KFAT radio, and FOOTBALL 101. He threatens to write one more. He spent 25 years in New York, 25 years in San Francisco, and is now purportedly retired in Baja.








    Comments 19 Comments
    1. woodford's Avatar
      woodford -
      awesome, thanks Gil.
    1. Bryan's Avatar
      Bryan -
      Thanks for the memories. I was around when Bobby started out in NY, not as early as Minnesota though. Remember old times down in NYC and up in Woodstock (Mid Hudson Valley town of, not talking about the infamous concert). Most people I knew (and those still living in NY) from that era favored early folk Dylan to the electric Dylan although more than a few became less discriminating as their dope consumption tilted-up. I understand musicians don't like staying static, they change with the times and are always searching for inspiration, but when Dylan went electric, I went to spinning my Odetta records. Pete S. (God rest his soul) wasn't just a stick-in-the-mud dinosaur, he realized the soul of Dylan's music was being lost. Bringing it all back home LP was interesting, but that electric Bloomfield guitar wreaked havoc on Bobby's lyrics. Thankfully he got his moho back later..and yes I've seen all those Dylan movies and heard all the opinions. This is just mine.
    1. Allan F's Avatar
      Allan F -
      Sorry Gilbert, but I have to correct you regarding "The Death of Emmett Till" (note the spelling). He was not a "poor African-American laborer". Rather he was a 14 year old black youth from Chicago who, while visiting family in Money, Mississippi, in 1955, was brutally lynched for whistling at a white lady in a general store. Many consider Till's murder, and the uproar that followed the acquittal of two of his killers a month later, to be one of the major events that provided momentum to the civil rights movement in the U.S.
    1. esldude's Avatar
      esldude -
      Thanks for this nicely conceived and executed article. It brought back vividly many memories. Memories that are personally mine, but also not so different from many others at the time. Such times in a culture aren't all that common. You have illuminated it well here.
    1. Gilbert Klein's Avatar
      Gilbert Klein -
      Quote Originally Posted by Allan F View Post
      Sorry Gilbert, but I have to correct you regarding "The Death of Emmett Till" (note the spelling). He was not a "poor African-American laborer". Rather he was a 14 year old black youth from Chicago who, while visiting family in Money, Mississippi, in 1955, was brutally lynched for whistling at a white lady in a general store. Many consider Till's murder, and the uproar that followed the acquittal of two of his killers a month later, to be one of the major events that provided momentum to the civil rights movement in the U.S.
      You are so right. I got so confused. Thanks for the correction.
    1. firedog's Avatar
      firedog -
      Good column, but I don't really agree with the viewpoint.
      What happened in the Sixities was due to a lot of different cultural influences building on one another, and mutually influencing each other.
      Was Dylan great and important? Yes. But before he turned to Rock, and before "Like a Rolling Stone" he was pretty unknown by most American youth - they didn't have his albums and or listen to his music.
      Did he influence the Beatles? For sure. But they also impacted him. Read about his reaction when he first heard them on the radio-and yes, I'm talking abut those early Beatles hits. He immediately realized the future was in electric instruments and Rock. Like with the other bands in the Sixties they each influenced the other - back and forth. You could just as easily write an article showing how The Beatles were "the Spark".

      So to say one person/band was "the spark" for the Sixites - no, I'm not buying it.
    1. Jud's Avatar
      Jud -
      Quote Originally Posted by esldude View Post
      Thanks for this nicely conceived and executed article. It brought back vividly many memories. Memories that are personally mine, but also not so different from many others at the time. Such times in a culture aren't all that common. You have illuminated it well here.
      +1
    1. lasker98's Avatar
      lasker98 -
      Thanks Gilbert. I really enjoy your articles. They're almost like reading a chapter out of a book.

      I'm kind of surprised they don't generate more feedback. I think Computer Audiophile is very lucky to have you as a contributor.

      Bill Street
    1. NOMBEDES's Avatar
      NOMBEDES -
      Looking at the state of the US and the world, I wonder why there is not more outrage in modern popular music. You have to listen to Masters of War at least once a month to get fired up. The Iraq invasion and its horrific result, the failure of any nation to truly address the Islamofacist state, slaughter in Paris, the list goes on. Yet today at Yale, the students complain of micoaggression and long dead Woodrow Wilson. I agree with Crosby, "We named Nixon". Well no one is naming names today.
    1. Allan F's Avatar
      Allan F -
      Quote Originally Posted by firedog View Post
      Was Dylan great and important? Yes. But before he turned to Rock, and before "Like a Rolling Stone" he was pretty unknown by most American youth - they didn't have his albums and or listen to his music.
      I don't know how old you were or where you lived at the time, but everybody I knew in the sixties was very familiar with Bob Dylan long before "Like a Rolling Stone". "The Times They are a Changin" was nothing less than the anthem of a generation. As far as The Beatles are concerned, Dylan's influence saw their music mature from teenbopper pop to songs of real substance.
    1. Gilbert Klein's Avatar
      Gilbert Klein -
      Quote Originally Posted by NOMBEDES View Post
      Looking at the state of the US and the world, I wonder why there is not more outrage in modern popular music. You have to listen to Masters of War at least once a month to get fired up. The Iraq invasion and its horrific result, the failure of any nation to truly address the Islamofacist state, slaughter in Paris, the list goes on. Yet today at Yale, the students complain of microaggression and long dead Woodrow Wilson. I agree with Crosby, "We named Nixon". Well no one is naming names today.

      Right! How about in every classroom? Same with "With God On Our Side." Now more than ever. Any other suggestions?
    1. Gilbert Klein's Avatar
      Gilbert Klein -
      Quote Originally Posted by firedog View Post
      Good column, but I don't really agree with the viewpoint.
      What happened in the Sixities was due to a lot of different cultural influences building on one another, and mutually influencing each other.
      Was Dylan great and important? Yes. But before he turned to Rock, and before "Like a Rolling Stone" he was pretty unknown by most American youth - they didn't have his albums and or listen to his music.
      Did he influence the Beatles? For sure. But they also impacted him. Read about his reaction when he first heard them on the radio-and yes, I'm talking abut those early Beatles hits. He immediately realized the future was in electric instruments and Rock. Like with the other bands in the Sixties they each influenced the other - back and forth. You could just as easily write an article showing how The Beatles were "the Spark".

      So to say one person/band was "the spark" for the Sixites - no, I'm not buying it.



      Well, as long as Allen F is agreeing with me, I’ll have to agree with him. Often enough in other essays I wrote about what I heard or know through other sources, but for a lot of this one, I was there. Again, it’s important to know the where, when, with who you were involved, but I remember being a high school junior in 1963 and someone asked me, “have you heard this guy?” We were years away from stereos, and some of us had Hi-Fi, but many of my friends had “record players” and some of those only played 45s, and I remember Coming to a classmate’s house to listen to this guy people were talking about, and it was Dylan. He was a sonic hand grenade that went off in living rooms, dens, bedrooms in several homes on Long Island that I know of, and by 1964 as a freshman in a Connecticut university, I found many like-minded people gathering in groups to listen to people playing his songs along with the other songs like “Where Have All The Flowers Gone.” It was a growing, dedicated community and the university made efforts to accommodate our gatherings until the protests became enthusiastic enough for them to take precautions, and that was happening in schools all over the northeast that I know of. Phil Ochs briefly held some importance for his songs like “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gv1KEF8Uw2k but it was Dylan who rose to the top and kept rising, leaving Ochs a barely remembered suicide, but I remember him. I loved what he did to “The Bells” by Poe, but again, it was Dylan. My memory is very clear: he was The Voice and when he spoke we listened and were influenced. And yes, there were many cultural influences building on one another, but as a candidate for the spark, Dylan is unequaled.
      As for his electrification, I was at Newport in 1965 when he brought on his electrified band, and there remains much confusion about what happened:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electr...an_controversy
      But I was there at Forest Hills two weeks later when (my best guess) 20-30% of the crowd was yelling, “Unplug! Unplug!” and about 50-60% were shouting “Let him play!” Quite a scene…

      Firedog was right that most of us weren’t aware of him in 1963 and -64, but some of us were, as I said several times on the essay, using terms like “growing, but slowly” and “Some kids heard it and shared the Word. Not a majority at first, maybe, but the word was spreading,” and “Not everyone heard the call to arms; some heard nothing at all, some thought they heard something,” and “some had heard the early call of Elvis and Jerry Lee and others, and were bored with the Bobby’s, Jimmy’s and other Elvis clones” and that is what I experienced, and those that heard the call early were in the forefront of the coming changes and some came later, and some not at all, but as this is about his pre-rock days, I’ll stand by what I saw. I think that recognizing his genius is important, but I wanted to show the earliest signs of his genius. And BTW, we included 2001’s “Things Have Changed” just because it’s a great song.

      One more thing to Allen F: When I acknowledged my mistake in calling Emmet Till a laborer, I phrased it poorly. I wasn’t “so confused.” That is an inelegant phrasing. I conflated that song with another, but I appreciate the correction. Also on Allen F: you are right in that it’s important to know the who, when and where. But thanks to all who comment. And I mean that this time.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by NOMBEDES View Post
      Looking at the state of the US and the world, I wonder why there is not more outrage in modern popular music. You have to listen to Masters of War at least once a month to get fired up. The Iraq invasion and its horrific result, the failure of any nation to truly address the Islamofacist state, slaughter in Paris, the list goes on. Yet today at Yale, the students complain of micoaggression and long dead Woodrow Wilson. I agree with Crosby, "We named Nixon". Well no one is naming names today.
      well said.

      Popular music seems much more about making a buck than an artistic endeavor to fight those in power. On the other hand, maybe the masses want something different from their music. They want an escape. Thus, all the musicians crafting anti-government songs are all on indie labels instead of being popular. Who knows?

      I hate to get to political because it can be bad for business but your post really nails it. When major universities are in an uproar about Halloween costumes more so than other items, we are officially out of problems. Living in a bubble.

      Where are the songs about fracking, climate change, terrorism, religious zealots, the Iraq/n war? No matter what one believes on any of these subjects, you gotta believe the popular artists of the Sixties would have crafted public opinion swaying anthems had this been their time.

      Gilbert - Just like a good song from the Sixties, your article has sparked real conversation and urged people to talk about things higher on the list of priorities. Bravo.
    1. Gilbert Klein's Avatar
      Gilbert Klein -
      Quote Originally Posted by Bryan View Post
      Thanks for the memories. I was around when Bobby started out in NY, not as early as Minnesota though. Remember old times down in NYC and up in Woodstock (Mid Hudson Valley town of, not talking about the infamous concert). Most people I knew (and those still living in NY) from that era favored early folk Dylan to the electric Dylan although more than a few became less discriminating as their dope consumption tilted-up. I understand musicians don't like staying static, they change with the times and are always searching for inspiration, but when Dylan went electric, I went to spinning my Odetta records. Pete S. (God rest his soul) wasn't just a stick-in-the-mud dinosaur, he realized the soul of Dylan's music was being lost. Bringing it all back home LP was interesting, but that electric Bloomfield guitar wreaked havoc on Bobby's lyrics. Thankfully he got his moho back later..and yes I've seen all those Dylan movies and heard all the opinions. This is just mine.

      Not about the essay, but you mentioned the town of Woodstock, and in the early 70's I used to live in Lanesville, half-way between Woodstock and Tannersville. Good pizza in Tannersville. Beautiful places, good people, good times...
    1. Allan F's Avatar
      Allan F -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gilbert Klein View Post
      My memory is very clear: he was The Voice and when he spoke we listened and were influenced. And yes, there were many cultural influences building on one another, but as a candidate for the spark, Dylan is unequaled.
      As for his electrification, I was at Newport in 1965 when he brought on his electrified band, and there remains much confusion about what happened:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electr...an_controversy
      I was at Newport in 1964, where Dylan performed alone and with Joan Baez. Phil Ochs was on the bill as well. Ochs was far 'edgier' than Dylan, but probably even more topical at that time.

      Interesting story about Al Kooper and "Like a Rolling Stone". He apparently showed up at the session hoping to play guitar, but Dylan had "the best guitar player in the world" (Dylan's words) in Michael Bloomfield. So, Kooper played the organ. When the tape was played back, Dylan kept saying, "Turn up the organ, turn up the organ". He was told that Kooper wasn't really an organ player. Dylan's reported response was, "I don't care, turn up the organ". From that point on, no one questioned whether Kooper was "really" a keyboard player.
    1. Bryan's Avatar
      Bryan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gilbert Klein View Post
      Not about the essay, but you mentioned the town of Woodstock, and in the early 70's I used to live in Lanesville, half-way between Woodstock and Tannersville. Good pizza in Tannersville. Beautiful places, good people, good times...
      Liked bicycling from Woodstock to Tannersville. Everyone loved tubing in Tannerville in summer out there and still do. Been back in past decade and Mid Hudson Valley is still glorious in so many ways from culture and arts to cuisine and shopping. I've lived all over US and abroad, and always chuckle to myself when I see those lists of "Best Places To Live" because I know the areas in or near many of them, and few compare to many of the small towns around Ulster and Dutchess County, NY. Having NYC a reasonable bus ride away is nice too. NYC great for day or weekend getaway, living there not so much (been there, done that). Just my opinion for what its worth (v:
    1. Bryan's Avatar
      Bryan -
      Interesting story about Al Kooper and "Like a Rolling Stone". He apparently showed up at the session hoping to play guitar, but Dylan had "the best guitar player in the world" (Dylan's words) in Michael Bloomfield. So, Kooper played the organ. When the tape was played back, Dylan kept saying, "Turn up the organ, turn up the organ". He was told that Kooper wasn't really an organ player. Dylan's reported response was, "I don't care, turn up the organ". From that point on, no one questioned whether Kooper was "really" a keyboard player.

      That was spoken about in "No Direction Home" DVD. What many don't realize is that Dylan would pull snippets from books of all types he found interesting and rework them into some of his lyrics.
    1. Paul R's Avatar
      Paul R -
      Quote Originally Posted by NOMBEDES View Post
      Looking at the state of the US and the world, I wonder why there is not more outrage in modern popular music. You have to listen to Masters of War at least once a month to get fired up. The Iraq invasion and its horrific result, the failure of any nation to truly address the Islamofacist state, slaughter in Paris, the list goes on. Yet today at Yale, the students complain of micoaggression and long dead Woodrow Wilson. I agree with Crosby, "We named Nixon". Well no one is naming names today.
      Well, part of that at least, is the age of the musicians. Most of the ones who knew out to put outrage in their songs are getting old. My age or older. It takes young voices to have that much outrage, and even then - they get old. Rap at first was filled with outrage, but then it turned into nothing more than a money machine based upon insulting and outrageous statements with little or no meaning behind them. Just sex and gratuitous violence.

      Yes, some truly horrifying things are happening these days - but the fact of the matter is, newer and younger countries need to deal with them. Us older dodgers are more than a bit tired of spending our blood and treasure defending assholes on the other side of the world who don't appreciate it anyway. Ask the French people how they feel right now...

      Personally, I think the entire middle east needs to be disarmed - permanently. No nuclear weapons, no standing armies, and no use of police or self defense forces outside their national boundaries. Radical perhaps, but those people are *crazy*. They need a few generations of peace, even peace imposed from outside, before their children's children can even begin to think about other things. Might be their children's, children's, children's children. Not a short term problem.

      In the meantime though, have you listened to some of the music coming out of the area? It's different, but right up there with Arlo and Joan in intensity and meaning.

      -Paul
    1. Bob Loblaw's Avatar
      Bob Loblaw -
      The Dixie Chicks and Pearl Jam did some George Bush protesting and got booed for it. Seems people don't want to hear such "nonsense" these days.

      Also, since we are writing about Dylan here's my favorite verse:

      Across the street they’ve nailed the curtains
      They’re getting ready for the feast
      The Phantom of the Opera
      A perfect image of a priest
      They’re spoon feeding Casanova
      To get him to feel more assured
      Then they’ll kill him with self-confidence
      After poisoning him with words
      And the Phantom’s shouting to skinny girls
      “Get Outa Here If You Don’t Know
      Casanova is just being punished for going
      To Desolation Row”

      Have no idea what that means, but man such beauty!