I've been maintaining this blog (for better or for worse) over the last eight years. Over these years, its natural evolution has led it into becoming something of a niche place for discussion of music in general and Qawwali in particular. Rather than trying to return my existing blog to its pre-Qawwali eclectic roots, I decided I’d start anew on Tumblr. So if you’re interested in music, Qawwali and subcontinental culture, keep reading/listening/watching/commenting here. For all of the above and everything else under the sun, head on over to my Tumblr page .

Thursday, May 19, 2011

....Of Me And Mr. Dylan - A 'New Morning'

"My love, she speaks like silence
Without ideals or violence.
She doesn't have to say she's faithful
Yet she's true like ice, like fire".

Love Minus Zero/No Limit.

I have been putting off Dylan posts ever since I started this blog. There's just so much to say that the thought of writing it all down makes my lazy bones tremble. But now that the great man's turning 70 and it seems that everyone and their mothers have lined up to pay tribute,it only seems fair that I should overcome my procastrination and get writing.. Still, there’s too much to say for a single post. So, laziness permitting, what follows is a series of posts, all of which deal basically with Dylan and how he's affected me…

This first post is about the start of my personal Dylan journey.

I thought I’d begin from the beginning, from the first Dylan song I ever heard. It was “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” and I still wonder how everything would’ve turned out if it had been Dylan himself singing it. As it turns out, it was Rod Stewart. I was in seventh grade and had just bought one of the "Princess Diana Tribute" albums on tape from the local record store. This was immediately after my embarrassing but thankfully short dabbling in Boy-bands (still makes me wake up shuddering at night) and my desire to break free from the all enveloping John Denver.

Of all the songs on the tape, “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” struck me. It was a mixture of Rod Stewart’s ragged “lost boy” voice and the strangely appealing lyrics. It would be presumptuous to say that I understood what the song meant. I didn’t. But I could see the astounding images, see them crystal clear.

“…draw conclusions on the wall.”

“…in ceremonies of the horsemen,
Even the pawn must hold a grudge.”

“The bridge at midnight trembles…”

“The wind howls like a hammer…”

I didn’t know who had written the song, of course. It was only later that I found out. That was the end of that till about seven years ago. By that time I had made up for my earlier misadventures and gradually developed an ear for passable music. What I remember clearly is a series of three events coming in rapid succession that finally got me hooked.

The first was a Readers’ Digest article written by His Bobness himself, about his relationship with Woody Guthrie. Now Guthrie I knew; had read up on him and heard snippets of a few of his songs. Thus Dylan’s name was linked with Woody’s and a relationship had developed.

The second was getting to see Dylan perform. Random channel-flipping brought me to an ubiquitous music channel and there he was. It was a snippet from the MTV Unplugged sessions, hardly the right stuff for a neophyte, and he was singing "Dignity", the outtake from the "Oh Mercy" album. That thin reedy frame,that frumpled mess of hair, those strange, almost Tourette's like twitches and that voice.... this was something new and interesting.

I must admit I was hooked.A quick google of Dylan's name showed one song title again and again, "Like A Rolling Stone". A quick trip to a file sharing site (God bless 'em !!) resulted in a listing of almost a dozen versions of the song (this was before I stopped being amazed by Dylan's chameleon-like re-interpretive skills). I randomly selected one and put it on download. The name of the track was, "Like A Rolling Stone - MAnchester Free Trade Hall 1966". Little did I know that I had, in Dylan's own words,  "bargained for salvation an' they gave me a lethal dose." I played the song, there was a second of silence before someone said "Play it f*ckin' loud!!" and suddenly, a snare-drum went boom! What followed were eight minutes of the purest, most brain-meltingly alive rock and roll I had ever heard. Guitar licks and organ pieces fought with each other behind the impudent screech-howl that was Bob's voice. At the end of those eight minutes, I was an honest-to-goodness convert. I still think that if I'd heard any other version , even the studio version of 'LARS', it wouldn't have affected me the way that (as I was to find out later) legendary recording did. It was like a 'Corkscrew to my heart' and Dylan had found his way in.

In the next installment, I'll write about how, among all his various faces and phases, I found 'my' Dylan.


  1. there's nothing to go back to once you've heard dylan... and when you've lived a part of your life in his songs, you'll realise there's nothting else to live for


  2. Unlike some, ahem, You found him so gradually and kind of on your own. That is great. But I comment to personally thank you for kind of being the reason why I came about to listen to Bobby, (Not to mention the books and albums I got from you) And boy what a discovery. A gazzilion thanks.
    Looking forward to the impending Dylan related posts.
    by the way this was the man who shouted the infamous JUDAS.