Mr. Tambourine Man

It’s amazing that Bob Dylan was doing this in 1965. Maybe we take him for granted, with his iconic weirdness and the sheer inescapability of his influence. But think of how bleak and Brylcreem conservative most of pop culture was in ’65. Psychedelia wasn’t even a thing yet, the surrealist explosion of the counterculture wasn’t in full swing. Most pop stars still wore neatly pressed suits and sang about holding hands. Then this guy comes along, and poof! minds blown.The thing about Dylan, at his most Dylanesque, is that his songs have the unshakable internal logic of a dream. When Dylan looks the camera in the eye and delivers a line about his magic swirling ship or whatever, he does it with such conviction, it makes complete sense. Like a dream, you don’t think to question it, you just go along. Then, when you think about it, it makes no sense whatsoever and all the logic collapses and you’re left feeling like you’ve come out of a fever dream. A lot of Dylan’s classic sixties songs have that effect. In the case of this song, you can judge if the effect is more or less effective when the man himself comes at you, or if The Byrds’ more stylistically trippy cover works better. A lot of people think the latter, because Dylan’s singing is, well, it’s Bob Dylan’s singing and it’s not to everyone’s palate. Either way, the song is its own journey.

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