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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Table of Contents Links for Each Music and Memory Blog Series

Below are the tables of contents URL links for the 4 musician-centric series I have done thus far, including the 2012 “Stepping Stones” series inspired by the music of the Rolling Stones, the 2014 “Forever Young” series inspired by the music of Neil Young, the 2016 “Under the Big Top” series inspired by the music of the Who, and the 2018 “Master Blueprints” series inspired by the music of Bob Dylan.   Each series has 50 entries.  For the original “Gem Music Video of the Week” series, I do not have a table of contents.  To get to that series, you will need to connect with the 2008 and 2009 entries (100 in all) which are typically accessed on the right side of these blog pages (scroll as far as you can go). 


Master Blueprints Series

Inspired by the music of Bob Dylan



Under the Big Top Series

Inspired by the music of The Who



Forever Young Series

Inspired by the music of Neil Young



 Stepping Stones Series

Inspired by the music of The Rolling Stones



Master Blueprints Table of Contents (personal reflections inspired by the music of Bob Dylan)


Below are links to each of the 50 Master Blueprint entries, which are personal reflections inspired by the music of Bob Dylan, written throughout 2018. 

# 1
# 2
#3
#4
#5
#6
#7
#8
#9
#10
#11
#12
#13
#14
#15
#16
#17
#18
#19
#20
#21
#22
#23
#24
#25
#26
#27
#28
#29
#30
#31
#32
#33
#34
#35
#36
#37
#38
#39
#40
#41
#42
#43
#44
#45
#46
#47
#48
#49
#50

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Master Blueprints # 50: “Someday Everything is Gonna Be Smooth Like a Rhapsody, When I Paint My Masterpiece”

(Personal reflections inspired by Bob Dylan songs)

Song: “When I Paint My Masterpiece”
Album: Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II
First Recorded: March 1971

Welcome to my final Master Blueprint entry, capping off a yearlong commitment of listening almost exclusively to the music of Bob Dylan, and in the process, writing down the thoughts and memories that his music ignites in me on a weekly basis.  When I started this series, I must admit it was with a bit of dread, which I hope you can come to understand as you read on.  That feeling began to seep in a full 6 years earlier, when I made the decision on the order I would tackle this overriding Music and Memory concept.  At the time, I zeroed in on 5 musicians/bands who I believed I had enough ammo on to dedicate an entire year each of weekly writing; those being the Rolling Stones (2012), Neil Young (2014) the Who (2016), Bob Dylan (2018), and the Beatles (planned for 2020). 

One early idea I had was that I would alternate between the three established bands and the two musicians who are known better as individualists, which has helped to keep things fresh (as it turns out this alternating also happens to be between British and North American musicians, which has also kept things fresh).  Another early thought was that I would write every other year, taking a break in between each series.  A key reason I did this was in anticipation of this Master Blueprint series.  I knew I would need an extra year to prep for Bob Dylan; the depth and breadth of his material was simply too expansive to dive right in after wrapping up the prior series.  Dylan was intimidating in other ways too.  Just listen to any of his albums.  He’s challenging his listeners all the time, and I felt strongly six years ago that this all-encompassing challenge was going to translate big time when it came to writing thoughts that centered around his music.  Sure enough, it most certainly did. 

Perhaps because Bob Dylan is always challenging us can at least partly explain why many people struggle with making inroads to his Nobel-winning ‘literature’ (music) despite its grandeur.  In other words, the ear training is much more than just adapting to his oft simple, sparse arrangements and even more-often raspy vocals.  Indeed, there are multiple layers of peeling needed to truly connect with this artist, who can only be embraced a bit at a time.  Put it all together though – the lyrics, tonality, instrumentation, grammar, phonality, semantics, melody, attitude, sincerity, longevity, spirituality, depth, breadth - and you ultimately have a very good angle on truth.

I’m sure I surprised a majority of my family and friends this year with the intensity of my connection to Bob Dylan’s songs.  Anyone who knows me well is fully aware of my on-again/off-again enthrallment with the Who, Neil Young, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, among other great musicians.  But not so much Dylan.  The fact of the matter is that I’ve always found it relatively easy to get those other band’s music on to my turntable when entertaining others.  Bob Dylan, however, has ended up being the one musician I listen to primarily on my own.  Why?  Well, not only is Dylan an acquired taste (as discussed above), he also requires focus.  Accordingly, my guests would have had to deal with my being constantly distracted or immerse themselves in my distraction.

And so, like the boy who hears the jingle bell in The Polar Express or, closer to home like my Dad when listening to Mozart, I’ve kinda had to accept this semi-private world as is.  How do you explain the jingle bell?  You don’t, unless you are in communion with others who hear it.  I long ago concluded that it is up to the individual to make inroads into Bob Dylan’s music. No one’s going to compel you….at least audibly.  The written word might be another matter though, seeing as over the past year I think I’ve been able to relay my Dylan fascination to those who read this blog series on a regular basis.  Regardless, we all know there are many ways for people to tap into the deeper meaning of things.  This just happens to be a significant one for me, which has allowed me to expound.

Listening to Bob Dylan’s music this past year has taught me a few things about myself.  For example, I’ve always known that I have an odd tendency to refrain from taking in or tackling the entirety a good thing, be it a band’s discography, a television series, a programming language, a coin collection, a book series, etc.  In the past I’ve explained this away as my taking comfort in the fact that there would always be some undiscovered treasure out there.  I mean, what fun is it to know you’ve found it all?  To a degree I still believe this to be true. 

But now I know there’s much more to it.  Bob Dylan has committed himself fully to his craft, which is a very difficult thing to do. This includes the musical historian in him, and the artist, and the poet, the writer, the stage act, the DJ, and of course, the musician.  Enveloping it all is his spirituality; his quest for salvation.  I now see my resistance to taking in the entirety of something through this prism.  I’ve tried to put my all into this blog series however (as well as the ones that preceded it), and I hope to build on that effort with other works in my future, be they related to writing, faith, or any other endeavor.

As with my other blog series on the Rolling Stones, Neil Young and the Who, there were a handful of Bob Dylan songs that blew me away for the first time this past year, including “Desolation Row” (more on this one below), “Heart of Mine”, “I Feel a Change Comin’ On”, and “Roll on John”.  Other songs cut deeper than they ever had before, including “Foot of Pride”, “Brownsville Girl”, and “Chimes of Freedom”.  Alternatively, I knew I was not going to soar much higher than I already had with anything off Bringing It All Back Home, John Wesley Harding, The Basement Tapes, Blood on the Tracks, Slow Train Coming, Infidels, Oh Mercy or Time Out of Mind.  In those circumstances, it was up to me to recall my highest of highs from the past.  Capturing a past high can be a lot harder to do than taking a fresh perspective on something of quality, where you have never reached the mountaintop before.  Those new peaks for me were achieved with the overall essence that is Blonde on Blonde, Street Legal, Shot of Love, and Modern Times.

Back in 2008 and 2009, before I started these blog series, I wrote 100 email letters to family and friends, which I dubbed Gem Music Video of the Week (these can be found on this blog site, if you scroll to the very beginning).  My very first entry began:

Hey everyone, here’s my new home email address.  I'm launching this address with a weekly series: Gem Music Video of the Week.  It's pretty amazing having all this video music at your disposal on YouTube, so for those who are search-challenged I am tracking some chestnuts.

The idea started small – posting music videos and concert tracks of many of my favorite musicians and their songs with some commentary - but grew over those 2 years, leading to what I’m doing today.  The very last of those 100 email letters was centered on Bob Dylan’s song “When I Paint My Masterpiece”.  In a rare case of double dipping, I would like to use it again here.

In that writeup, I wrote about the concept of quality, having just finished the Robert Pirsig novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which has this concept at the core to the storyline (so much so, that the word is capitalized throughout).  The book had been recommended to me earlier that year by one of the recipients of those emails, one of my great Canadian friends, Pat Shea. I went on to write about some of Pat’s unique qualities and then followed up writing about the unique qualities of several other recipients. To sum up, I then went on to say:

Yet the concept of Quality can be related to other things as well:  Music, writing, friendship, parenthood, anything you put your mind to.  I hope by opening myself here over these past 2 years, a bit of Quality came out in this writing.  As for the selected set of Gem Videos, well, there's no question.’

When I was back to Ottawa this past fall for work (and an opportunity to see Pat), a guy sat next to me at a bar as I watched my hometown Boston Red Sox in the World Series against the L.A. Dodgers.  He was an amiable fellow and I soon concluded that my undivided attention to the game was not going to happen.  That was ok.  This guy was interesting.  At one point, he mentioned Robert Pirsig, and asked if I’d read his books.  I told him, yes, I’d read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  He then responded, ‘how about the sequel, Lila’.  I told him no, I had not.  He finally suggested I check it out.   

I just this week finished Lila, and although not as good as Zen, it has its moments.  Where the central concept of Zen is quality, with Lila, its morals. While reading, I was probing for a tie-in to this closing writeup.  I’d pretty much concluded that thoughts related to Lila were not going to fit in with this series.  That is, until I got to the last sentences of chapter 26, near the end of the book, which references the 18th century short poem “The Tyger” (also referred to as The Tiger: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43687/the-tyger  ), by 19th century artist/poet English William Blake.  At the time, I’d thought, ‘ok, I’d never heard of this poem until 3 months ago (when I referenced it in Master Blueprint # 39), and here I am hearing about it again’.  That first occurrence was initiated by a Bob Dylan twist of the poem in the closing lyrics of his last original song on a studio album to date; “Roll on John” off 2012’s Tempest.  It was just another serendipitous moment in a year loaded with them.

There’s all sorts of intriguing stuff going on here, but I need to hit the homestretch, else I could be in danger of starting my own sequel (and besides, much in relation to “Roll on John” and “The Tyger” was already covered in that earlier #39 entry).  The connection I want to focus on has to do with a lyric in this week’s closing Master Blueprint, “When I Paint My Masterpiece” (https://vimeo.com/75113136 ).  It’s what gave me a nice final headshaking moment to this amazing year.  The lyric goes:

Oh, those mighty kings of the jungle, I could hardly stand to see em’

“When I Paint My Masterpiece” is a song that Bob Dylan appears to have had a lot of fun with.  He’s messed with the lyrics over the years, and blended ancient history with modern times.  It’s like a painter trying to figure out color and layout. What I’d not observed until this week is that he also appears to have lyrics out of place.  For example, “young girls pullin’ muscles” doesn’t seem to fit where it is with “clergymen in uniforms”, but it most certainly would fit with “had to be held down by big police” (connoting a Beatles-like fan riot).  Same with the notion that “a long, hard climb” would fit much better with “when I ran on the hilltop following a pack of wild geese”. 

I believe what Bob Dylan is saying here is that you can have all your pieces to a masterpiece there right in front of you, but if you don’t see how to arrange them you may as well be sitting in front of a blank canvas.  It gets an artist to do inconsequential things like messing with the color or the layout.  These thoughts are what “mighty kings of the jungle” jarred out of me.  The line before, Bob Dylan sings of lions in the Coliseum.  The thing about lions is, they live in savannah’s not jungles.  But their close relative, the tiger is a jungle dweller.  Perhaps Bob Dylan never had this nuance in mind, but I do think he had a lot of riddle-like fun with this song.  Regardless, I’d have never gone down that thought process without reading the aforementioned last sentences in chapter of Lila. 

It’s been so much fun making these kinds of observations of Bob Dylan’s songs this past year.  I’ve made a good number of them, although I’m sure there are many more left on the cutting room floor.  A favorite of mine was when I tackled “Desolation Row” (Master Blueprint # 36).  One thing for sure, if you are going to paint a masterpiece it’s going to have to be from that proverbial place, Desolation Row.  It’s a mental space, and anyone who explores the arts, be it music, literature, painting, is going to have to pay a price to find it.  I may or may not have painted my masterpiece with this blog series (there likely being one too many pieces out of place?), but I do believe I at least found that mental place to write it.  I’ll take it.  It puts me in good company.

Pete

Friday, January 4, 2019

Master Blueprints # 49: “Try Imagining a Place Where It’s Always Safe and Warm, Come in She Said I’ll Give Ya Shelter from the Storm”

(Personal reflections inspired by Bob Dylan songs)

Song: “Shelter from the Storm”
Album: Blood on the Tracks
Release Date: January 1975

Well, I’m about at the end of the line with this yearlong odyssey of routinely listening to the music of Bob Dylan and then writing down follow-up thoughts that percolate to the surface on a weekly basis.  One more entry to go after this one.  It’s hard to fathom I’m on this end of the storyline, seeing as there were points this year where I’d felt drained of the energy and time I needed to fuel this nova.  At other points I’d felt intimated to carry through with a specific idea.  Are some things better left unsaid?  Will I be putting myself out there a bit too much for my own wellbeing? 


I’m grateful to say I persevered on all accounts, guided by good conscience and prayer, but I could not have done it without support.  And so, this entry is to acknowledge everyone who helped me get to the finish line.  I’ll be breaking it up into 2 sections:  Acknowledging those who I’ve connected with for the first time this year, followed by acknowledging my long-term support.  Finally, I’ll close with a bit of gratitude to Bob Dylan himself.

Let me begin with Karl Erik Andersen, who hosts the phenomenal Bob Dylan internet news site “Expecting Rain” ( https://www.expectingrain.com/ ).  Karl posted my blog entries every week on his site, never missing one.  There were a handful of times where I thought a given entry may have been a little too personal or outlandish or spiritual, or verbose, but this did not deter him.  My thinking is that Karl could see from the beginning that my proposed entries aligned with the goodwill nature of his site, and always had Bob Dylan deep in the mix.  Expecting Rain is as classy a website as you are going to find out there, which one can sense almost immediately upon entering.  Thank you, Karl

Next up, Linda Stroback.  Linda welcomed me into her home in Hibbing, Minnesota back in March, as I made my way through town on a work trip to International Falls (see Master Blueprint # 10).  Zimmy’s - the Bob Dylan-themed restaurant that Linda and her husband ran for close to 2 decades - was a labor of love and will always be recognized as such by myself and many others (for a ‘taste’ of all this, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB8MHpF6LgM ).  Linda was as genuine as I’d deduced after our online exchanges.  The real deal.  She brought to life the town of Bob Dylan’s upbringing, and then went on to support my writing endeavors for the rest of 2018.  Thank you, Linda

There was a second Linda at the Stroback residence when I visited Hibbing.  Linda Whiteside.  This ‘thank you’ entry is not in top down order, but if it was, Linda Whiteside would likely be first at bat.  Our deep discussion on the music of Bob Dylan in Linda Stroback’s kitchen carried on throughout the year via email.  Linda has been a reliable sounding board as ideas brooded in my mind from entry to entry.  She has also been the most kindred of kindred spirits in all things Bob Dylan, from Theme Time Radio Hour to “Forever Young” musings, to Al Kooper to transfigurations.  Thank you, Linda.

Kees de Graaf delves into the spiritual interpretation of Bob Dylan’s lyrics more than anyone I know.  His brilliant web site is ‘Testament’ alone to this conclusion, be it Old, New, or otherwise ( https://www.keesdegraaf.com/index.php/98/bob-dylan-song-analysis ).  I had several enlightening exchanges with Kees on a handful of Bob Dylan’s lesser understood spiritual songs, including “Roll on John”, “Jokerman”, and “All Along the Watchtower”.  I believe Kees is a soothsayer in terms of understanding where Dylan’s legacy is heading (Read: In a deeply spiritual direction).  It’s always good to know you have someone of like mind when you make such statements yourself.  Thank you, Kees.

Glenn Pud Parker Jr., the administrator of the Facebook Page Dylanology is next on the docket.  As be the case with Expecting Rain (see above) I could sense nothing but goodwill on these pages.  Entries submitted to Dylanology must pass the ‘sniff test’, which requires “Due Dylan-gence” (I just came up with that one).  With over 16,000 members, this can take time, and I appreciate that level of effort from Mr. Parker (and his cohort Tony Rockwell).  By the way, my original title for my blog series was going to be “Dylanology”, but once I saw this name taken by Parker, Rockwell, et al., I resorted to “Master Blueprints”.  I also take this moment to recognize the other Bob Dylan Facebook pages that supported me in this endeavor (8 in all).  Thank you Pud Parker. Thank you all. 

Musician Dave Tilton recently produced an excellent album, Street Legal Revisited, which covers every song on the original Bob Dylan album Street Legal.  I highly recommend it ( http://newhatrecords.com/dave/ ).  I had just done a writeup centered on a song off Street Legal (“Changing of the Guards”) when Dave reached out to ask me to give his new album a review.  I was honored.  Dave was emblematic of the many folks I heard from this year whom I’ve never met:  Real, creative and engaging.  Like Bob Dylan’s character ‘Alias’ in the movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, a good number chimed in anonymously with their thoughts.  Thank you, Dave Tilton and all you other contributors; both those with associated names, as well as the anonymous.

A thank you too goes out to 1) the wonderfully quirky cast of characters I met in Woodstock - see Blueprint # 34, 2) Ou Kaiwen, who is in the process of tuning my ear into Bob Dylan’s ‘Never Ending Tour’ vocals, 3) Ms. Joan Osborne, 4) Mr. Al Kooper and 5) all you Facebook Thumb-uppers.

Ok, now for my more long-term network.

First up, Mom and Dad.  As a son who has the love and support of parent’s such as mine, you never want to let them down.  In that regard, an endeavor such as this one has its risks: Topics can be misunderstood in a multitude of ways be they faith-based misunderstandings, generational ones, political.  A writer’s thoughts can also be too revealing for those close to them.  I delved into all these territories at one time or another, and so I always wanted to be sure that anything I was writing about was coming from the heart.  My parents were the motivation behind not straying from that focus.  Their weekly support has been my reward. Thank you, Mom and Dad.

My wife, Nancy has been a stalwart too.  Often, I’d ask if I could read a draft copy of any given entry to her before release.  She would readily oblige.  Listening to myself during these times would allow for off-the-cuff auto-correct to kick in.  The two of us worked in tandem as verbal editors, and immediately I’d go and make the changes.  I am certain we did not catch everything, but enough so that when I would go back to a given release I’d rarely be embarrassed by grammatical screw ups.  Nancy was also a trooper in observing that she was the most frequent subject matter in my writeups (other than Bob Dylan and myself).  There’s something to be said for that.  Thank you, Nancy.

My brother Fred has been my strongest support over the years, particularly during my blog series on Neil Young (Forever Young) and the Who (Under the Big Top).  This year he sits in a three-way tie in this regard with my close Canadian friend, Luc Polnicky, and my cousin Tommy Gilligan.  Fred, Luc and Tommy have given me amazing, heartfelt feedback all year long.  With each of them, I could tell I touched a chord at one time or another, and is that not the goal of such an effort: To make those strong bonds in your life even stronger?  Solid, insightful feedback can inspire.  Thank you, Fred, Luc and Tommy.

I credit Jeff Strause, my colleague of many years at USGS, for expanding my knowledge of Bob Dylan back in the late 80s.  At the time, I was already well versed in my other top-tier musical influences: The Who, Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles.  Jeff added Bob Dylan to the list, and that musician would ultimately rise to the top of the heap in terms of my coming to understand that, of all these songwriters and bands, his contributions to the world are the most profound.  Jeff’s approach to educating me was not what one would expect.  Yes, he did tie me more strongly to the music of Bob Dylan in a direct way, but in many ways he did it indirectly too, by opening me up to the music of several of Dylan’s contemporaries and compadres: The Band, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot are a few examples. Jeff also connected me to Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour, sending me dozens of tapes that I’ve listened to again and again.  He’s also been a regular on my Master Blueprint site and has given me some great feedback, which I’ve quoted in these pages.  Thank you, Jeff.

Three others I’d like to single out: My sister, Jen, my brother, Joe, and my cousin Becca.  In years past, Jen and Joe rarely gave me feedback, which was perfectly fine by me.  I have no qualms about someone passing over such commitments; I do it myself.  However, this year, for whatever reason, both Jen and Joe responded on numerous occasions with one insightful comment after another. I felt the brotherly/sisterly love.  As for Becca, well, these are heavy times we live in, and on the occasion where I would address them (and other occasions as well), Becca was there, like she always is.  Thank you, Jen, Joe, and Becca.

Thank you too goes out to all my other family and friends who contributed thoughts at one time or another, including Charlotte, Peter, Amy, Pat, Mac, Tim, Karen, Conrad, Madeline, Jeff, Dave, Pete, Bob, Patty, Chris, and Kitty.

Finally, my gratitude extends to the man who inspired this year’s lengthy chain of thought: Mr. Bob Dylan.  That chain really began in the winter of ’87, as I listened to the Rolling Thunder Revue’s live version of “Shelter from the Storm” off Hard Rain, ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12rUOLtbQDk ), on my car radio, which I chronicled in Master Blueprints # 1.  It opened a new world for me; a world where I could indeed be sheltered from the storms raging around me, around all of us, if only for isolated moments. 

How is that?  Well, it is always good to know that there are people out there who can rise above it all.  Seems like a paradox, ehh? …. sheltering someone from something vs. motivating them to rise above it?  Think about it though, they really go hand in hand:  The best shelter is the shelter of a knowing, caring, faith-centered, searching, yearning, hoping, loving mind.  At the same time these are the types of traits of someone who can give you the fortitude to make the best of yourself.  To get out there and rise above.  To be a soul who is busy being born, not busy dying.  Bob Dylan’s got it in spades.  I find myself fortunate to live at the same time with such brilliance.  Thank you, Bob Dylan.

49 down, one to go.

- Pete

Monday, December 31, 2018

Master Blueprints # 48 "You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows”

(Personal reflections inspired by Bob Dylan songs)

Song: “Subterranean Homesick Blues”
Album: Bringing It All Back Home
Release Date: March 1965

In my most recent entry (Master Blueprint # 47), I hit on 2 big-ticket items that had been significant ‘loose-ends’ for much of the year.  This current entry, which is my 3rd to last, is to address all the other relatively minor loose-ends that were never quite able to see the light of day. All remain in their embryonic stages.  Who knows, maybe someone else can run with one or two of these.  And yet, they are but a few drops in a very large bucket, seeing as Bob Dylan offers us an endless cache of lyrics and music to spawn off our own musings.

And so, without further ado here is what remained in my ‘to do list’ file; a smorgasbord-bulleted-catchall of unpolished Master-Blueprint-centric thoughts so to speak:
  • Bob Dylan seems to reinvent himself every 3 years.  If I ever got around to writing a book that revolved around this concept, here’s a rough sketch for chapter titles: “61-63 Folk Hero”, “64-66 Plugging In”, “67-69 American Roots”, “70-72 Destroying the Myth”, “73-75 Back on the Tracks”, “76-78 The Renaissance Man”, “79-81 The Gospel Years”, “82-84 Hebrew Foundations”, “85-87 Sucking in the 80s”, “88-90 Hit the Road Jack”, “91-93 Acoustic Rebirth”, “94-96 Studio Silence is Golden”, “97-99 Old Man River”, “00-02 Riddle Me This” “03-05 Dear Diary”, “06-08 Mr. DJ”, “09-11 The Blues Highway”, “12-14 Closure”, “15-17 Musical Inspirations”
  • I was pondering doing an entry centered on the stunning “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”, but 3 strikes were working against me: 1) It’s such a personal love song - about Bob Dylan’s ex-wife, Sara Lownds Dylan - that I found it difficult to translate to my own world, 2) the Joan Baez cover version is omnipresent, which I find odd and complex on a certain love-triangle level, and 3) I cannot get out of my head a vision of the late, great, comedian Jerry Lewis shouting “LADY!” on an imaginary stage with Bob Dylan at the moment Dylan sings the same word in the line “should I leave them by your gate, or sad eyed ‘LADY’ should I wait”.  This is just not right (but funny nonetheless).
  • The best Bob Dylan setlist I ever witnessed was at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston on October 9, 1994 (2nd row seats): 1) Jokerman 2) Señor 3) All Along The Watchtower 4) Queen Jane Approximately 5) Tangled Up In Blue 6) Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine) 7) The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll 8) Master Of War 9) Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right 10) Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door 11) Highway 61 Revisited 12) In The Garden 13) Maggie’s Farm 14) Ballad Of A Thin Man 15) It Ain’t Me, Babe.  I would have loved to elucidate on this experience, however, I was not as appreciative at the time as I am sure I would be today.  My basic premise with live concerts (of which I have seen many) is that you can reap the harvest of your experience if you are in the moment.  There were other closely-related ideas in that same to-do list mini-pile, including a note to give Neil Young’s “Thrasher” a fresh listen.  Given the subject, I would have most certainly explored Bob Dylan’s relationship with Mr. Young in the same entry, which I believe is a mutual admiration society (think: The Neil Young reference in Dylan’s “Highlands”).
  • Speaking of mutual admiration, there are many more of Bob Dylan’s musician friends who would have been great to tackle if I could have come up with enough unique material to make a solid blog entry out of any one of them: Robbie Robertson, David Bowie, Ronnie Wood, Marvis Staples, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, Jerry Garcia, Tom Petty, Warren Zevon, and Van Morrison are but some of the most intriguing of these relationships.  For example, in a Morrison entry, I could have fleshed out that Bob Dylan and Van Morrison are the only musicians I know of who cut off their past entirely to start anew (Dylan in NYC and Van the Man in Boston).  What does it take to start anew?  One clip alone, of Dylan and Morrison performing together in Athens, Greece, has tremendous potential for anyone with enough writing-muse to take it in and spit out ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1EoT9sedqY ).  Anyhow, someone should write a book with a chapter dedicated to each one of these Bob Dylan musical relationships (I did tackle George Harrison by the way – see Master Blueprints # 24).
  • One of the first things I can recall about Bob Dylan when I was a kid was his frequent use of the word "ain't" in his songs.  I was raised in parochial schools for goodness sake.  Penmanship and grammar were at the top of Sister Margaret Ester's list.  I eventually cleared that mental barrier, coming to understand Dylan’s reasoning behind frequent use of the word as a link to his Middle-American musical roots.  Anyhow, lots of fun left on the table there. 
  • Its’ odd… the more Bob Dylan reveals of himself, the less we know him.  How is this? 
  • In the film, Amadeus, the Emperor doesn’t ‘get it’ and falls asleep at one of Mozart’s brilliant concerts.  What causes people to not recognize genius when they see it?  Is it about not letting go of inhibitions?  Is it generational? Cultural? Societal? Upbringing? Lethargy? A hardening of the heart? All the above? On the flip side, what opens your mind up to see genius?  Is it all in the heart?  Maybe.
  • As I scan through, it appears only one set of Bob Dylan lyrics made my to do list, those being: “Well the moral of the story, the moral of this song, is simply that one should never be where one does not belong.  So, when you see your neighbor carryin’ somethin’, help him with his load. And don’t go mistaking Paradise for that home across the road”.  I never really expounded on these closing lines from “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest”. I find them fascinating and I sing them aloud whenever the song plays out.  Talk amongst yourselves. 
  • Another note went as follows: “Woodstock, the concert. People flocking to Bob Dylan’s home region in the Catskills, many of them to connect with his aura, his music, him.  But he’s not there.  Dylan launched the 60s, almost singlehandedly, which culminated in this event.
  • Oh, to be in attendance at ‘The Last Waltz’ concert.  It was the end of an era - Bob Dylan’s relationship with The Band, which began 10 years earlier. Flash back to all those interrelationships between Dylan and the Band members. That’s a movie that needs to be made.
  • Related to Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, my good friend Jeff Strause wrote to me at the beginning of the year how Dylan’s music must be part of the Nobel story, not just the written lyrics.  In Jeff’s words: “Tambourine Man is I suppose one of the key songs from his catalog with that uber-literate Nobel Prize blah blah with the spectacular lyrics. But for me none of the songs have much meaning without the musicality that surrounds the song and gives it its feel. I've always had trouble following the story in more dense songs and only really pay attention to the lyrics of any song unless they kind of hit me over the head. Which of course a lot of good songs do, but only when the music matches the message. And that is after spending most of my life listening in the past 40 plus years at folkie type venues and listening to less pure 'rock and roll', more lyrics-oriented stuff.”  These words of Jeff’s reverberate so true.  I have fleshed these thoughts out some in this blog series, but not nearly enough.  Of course, we all know Bob Dylan hesitated to accept the Nobel Prize: He too was grappling with equating his music writing to literature.  Still, I believe the Award is so deserving, and I’m of the impression that Dylan eventually came around to understanding the rationale of the Nobel Committee.
  • Divine inspiration/Existentialism/Authenticity. I think I’ve tackled these topics throughout, but this is a storyline that can never be quenched.
  • Bob Dylan was the last of the ‘Big Five’ for me in terms of my top-tier music inspirations, the others being (in chronological order), the Beatles, the Who, the Rolling Stones, and Neil Young.  Is this the path I had to take, in this order?  Would I have been better off in a different order? Is it all related to where you’re at in any given point in life and intellect? 
  • I once read where Bob Dylan ran into Barry Manilow at a party and told him to keep up the good work.  This freaked Manilow out.  Was Dylan being sincere or cynical? There’s very little here to write about, but it was a note nonetheless.  Being an anti-Disco, anti-commercial rock-and-roll listener, I could have had fun with this.
  • Oh Mercy > The first Bob Dylan studio album I enjoyed thoroughly upon release (unless I count the Travelling Wilbury's in '88, or even "Silvio" and a few other songs from the dead 80’s…. but there was nothing even close to Oh Mercy).  What was it about the 80s that sapped 60s musicians of their mojo? I mean, I would have connected with Dylan a lot earlier otherwise. The late 80s were about the time some of those 60’s musicians began climbing out of the doldrums (i.e. Neil Young, Lou Reed, the Rolling Stones). For Bob Dylan it would be that 1st Travelling Wilburys' album, soon followed by Oh Mercy. 
  • Bill Belichick is the coaching equivalent to Bob Dylan:  Brilliant, elusive, and adept in deflecting reporters’ questions. What questions would you ask Bob Dylan in an interview?  From what I’ve read, he’s still waiting for someone to ask the right question.
  • do a little research on Alan Ginsberg” …. I never did
  • The Basement Tapes album cover: The best of all time? I think it’s better than Sgt. Pepper.  An entry on great album covers would have been fun (Who’s Next, Sticky Fingers, Abbey Road, Wish You Were Here, Eat a Peach, In the Court of the Crimson King). What makes a great album cover?  Dive into the meaning of some of Bob Dylan’s great album covers”.
  • A famous Woody Guthrie quote: "It's a folk singers job to comfort disturbed people and to disturb comfortable people".  Nuff said.  Bob Dylan certainly took this to heart.
  • What's so wrong with the concept of a court jester when you really think about it? (Don McClean’s “American Pie” reference to Bob Dylan).  I mean, the jester is trying to point out the King’s flaws, is he not?
  • Dylan the soothsayer”.  (sorry, that’s all I’ve got)
  • Oops, one other set of lyrics made my to-do list: "There are no Truths outside the Gates of Eden".  It’s enough to send a young man to the monastery and a young woman to the convent.
  • Despite it being one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs, I could never put to words my love for “Simple Twist of Fate”.  The bass guitar sets the heavy mood. I’m now thinking the song is another one that is simply too personal to translate to my own world (see 2nd bullet above)
  • Bob Dylan is the closest I have ever come to connecting with poetry.
  • My Daughter Charlotte’s connection to Time Out of Mind
  • My Quebec colleague Mike’s connection with Oh Mercy
  • I had a note to do an entry on “My Back Pages” (the “Forever Young” entry – Master Blueprint # 37 - may have tackled the potential subject close enough)
  • An entry on “Love is Just a Four-Letter Word” never materialized.  It’s one of the few Bob Dylan songs that he never performed himself (at least nothing unearthed to date).  The Joan Baez cover version is mesmerizing.  I also have a note which says, “early years of marriage”, but I have no idea what I meant by that at this point.
  • Oh, one other note: “Must memorize and perform ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGxjIBEZvx0 ) .  Ahhh, ok, well yeah, I moved ahead with that one, despite reservations that it may neutralize everything I’ve written about in this entire Master Blueprint series.  And so, for anyone who managed to make it to the end of this entry and gets these notifications via email (friends and family), attached is a treat for you (in Google Docs).  For those on Facebook, you will simply have to send me a note and I’ll do my best to forward it on.

Happy New Year.

Pete