This Month in Music: Dylan ‘Brings It All Back Home’

MARCH 2011

By Lee Zimmerman

On March 22, 1965, Bob Dylan entered a dramatically different phase in his trajectory with the release of “Bringing It All Back Home,” and in so doing, he brought Rock ‘n’ Roll along with him. Dylan’s fifth album overall, and his first to break into Billboard’s Top Ten — it peaked at number six – it was also arguably the first actual example of what was later tagged as “folk rock.” Its first track, “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” gave Dylan his first chart single, but more importantly, the album introduced “Mr. Tambourine Man,” the song that would establish the Byrds as the kings of jangle pop and electric folk.

More significantly though, “Bringing It All Back Home” set a new standard for its creator, melding his rambling folk narratives with the new electric strains that had become more and more prominent in his music of late. While several songs were recorded solo with Dylan alone on guitar and piano, other tracks were given the benefit of a full backing band, including Guitarists Al Gorgoni, Kenneth Rankin, and Bruce Langhorne, pianist Paul Griffin, bassists Joseph Macho, Jr. and William E. Lee, and drummer Bobby Gregg. A subsequent session featured future Lovin’ Spoonful helmsman John Sebastian and noted producer John Hammond Jr. The majority of the tracks were written in Woodstock the summer before, although two songs, the aforementioned “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Gates of Eden,” were written earlier that year and originally slated for Another Side of Bob Dylan before being scrapped at the last minute.

In contrast to his earlier, more poetic and anthemic offerings, the songs that graced “Bringing It All Back Home” took on a more surreal quality, evidenced by the lyrics of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” and “She Belongs To Me.” (The change was not all that surprising; in August ’64 Dylan met the Beatles for the first time in New York City where he reportedly turned the Fabs on to pot. According to all accounts, the two camps exchanged musical ideas and concepts that would rub off on later Beatles’ projects in particular.) And yet, despite the fact that the album boasted an overwhelming number of songs that would become staples in Dylan’s fledgling repertoire (“Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Maggie’s Farm,” It’s Alright Ma, (I’m Only Bleeding)” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” chief among them), his first attempt at introducing them in concert would be wrought with bitter controversy and criticism from the fervent folkies who had embraced him as some great savior. He was notoriously booed at Newport and shouted down during his subsequent tour of the U.K., cries of “Judas” ringing in his ears.

Nevertheless, the album endures as one of the great recorded landmarks of the ‘60s, and for that matter, of all time. “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Blonde On Blonde” and “John Wesley Harding” would seize the attention of critics as the ‘60s strayed on, relegating “Bringing It All Back Home” to secondary status in the evaluation of his Dylans’ recordings overall, but as a conceptual work it certainly set the standard. Even its cover set it apart, capturing a decidedly insurgent-looking Bob, his bushy mane now fully sprouted, staring defiantly at the camera in front of a cluttered living room where manager Albert Grossman’s wife Sally casually reclines, cigarette in hand. Artifacts of the era litter the scene – albums by Lotte Lenya, Lord Buckley, Ravi Shankar, the Impressions, Robert Johns, Eric Von Schmidt and his own “Another Side of Bob Dylan” are clearly evident, as well as a copy of Time Magazine with LBJ on the cover, an advert for a Jean Harlow book authored by showbiz columnist Louella Parsons and a fallout shelter sign, typifying the Cold War paranoia that gripped the nation during that time. Trivia enthusiasts might also note the cufflinks Dylan’s wearing. A gift from Joan Baez, they were later mentioned in the lyrics to her 1976 homage “Diamonds & Rust.”

With Bringing It All Back Home, the Dylan dynasty fully took root.

Other March highlights in music history:

* The first FM radio station began broadcasting in Nashville – March 1, 1941
* Buddy Holly commenced his first – and only U.K. tour – March 1, 1958
* Gene Clark announces his intention to leave the Byrds due to his fear of flying – March 1, 1966
* Doors singer Jim Morrison is charged with lewd and lascivious behavior following a concert at Miami’s Dinner Key Auditorium – March 1, 1969
* Johnny Cash and June Carter married – March 1, 1968
* REM drummer Bill Berry collapses from brain aneurism onstage in Switzerland – March 1, 1995
* The Beatles begin filming “A Hard Days Night” in London – March 2, 1964
* The Buffalo Springfield, one of America’s most enduring super groups form in Los Angeles – March 2, 1966
* John Lennon’s comments about the Beatles being bigger that Jesus are published, setting off a firestorm of protest and indignation – March 4, 1966
* Elvis Presley makes his first television appearance on “Louisiana Hayride” – March 5, 1955
* Paul McCartney is knighted by Queen Elisabeth, to be known forever as Sir Paul – March 11, 1997
* John Lennon and Harry Nilsson go into a booze-induced frenzy at L.A.’s Troubadour, first heckling the Smothers Brothers, then insulting a waitress, and eventually getting into an altercation with the Smothers Brothers’ manager and a photographer. John is famously seen wearing a Kotex on his head – March 12, 1974
* Eric Clapton leaves the Yardbirds, telling the press that the band has become too commercial – March 13, 1965
* “Rock Around the Clock,” the film credited with kick-starting the popularity of Rock ‘n’ Roll – March 14, 1956
* Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Bill Wyman are charged with public indecency when they answer the call of nature and opt to pee on a petrol station wall – March 18, 1965
* Elvis Presley buys Graceland, eventually making it the kitsch capitol of all things Elvis – March 19, 1957
* John and Yoko are married in Gibraltar – March 20, 1969
* The Who make their U.S. concert debut – March 23, 1967
* The film of George Harrison’s Concert For Bangladesh makes its cinematic debut – March 23, 1972
* The Monkees’ weekly TV series airs for the final time – March 25, 1968
* John and Yoko’s Bed-in begins in the Amsterdam Hilton – March 25, 1969
* Phil Collins leaves Genesis, breaking the hearts of prog lovers worldwide – March 28, 1996
* The iconic cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is photographed – March 30, 1967
* Sandy Denny rejoins Fairport Convention having disbanding Fotheringay, the band she had formed with husband Trevor Lucas – March 30, 1974


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