Bob Dylan’s only #1 Billboard hit, and Armageddon

Hits: 30

In my series on Crappy Album Covers, Bob Dylan has appeared at least twice. I had also written about his singing skills or lack thereof at least once before. Needless to say, I have established my not-very-high opinion of Dylan’s singing and album covers on this blog.

However, I had always complimented him on his songwriting and poetry skill. His skill was good enough to win him the Nobel Prize for literature in 2017. However, the songs Dylan wrote were always best sung by other people.

Among the most frequent cover artists were Joan Baez; Judy Collins; The Band; The Byrds; Glen Campbell; Johnny Cash; Cher; Eric Clapton; Joe Cocker; Fairport Convention; Bryan Ferry; Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs; The Grateful Dead; George Harrisson; Jimi Hendrix; The Hollies; Peter, Paul and Mary; Tom Petty (with and without The Heartbreakers); Elvis Presley; Pete Seeger; Yes; Steve Howe; and Neil Young.

More modern artists cover him less frequently. They include: XTC; The White Stripes; The Red Hot Chili Peppers; Sinead O’Connor; My Morning Jacket; Jason Mraz; Ministry; Maroon 5; Dave Matthews Band; Diana Krall; Alicia Keys; Kesha; Norah Jones; Indigo Girls; Robyn Hitchcock (with and without The Egyptians); Green Day; Dream Syndicate; Miley Cyrus; Nick Cave and The Badseeds; and The Black Crowes.

And what I didn’t know until earlier today, is that at age 79, Dylan’s hit song, “Murder Most Foul”, has reached #1 on the Billboard chart for “US Digital Song Sales”, which is the first time he had a #1 hit singing in his own voice on any of the Billboard charts. This song will be part of his up-coming album “Rough and Rowdy Ways”, to be released at the end of next week.

The 17-minute hit beats Don Maclean’s “American Pie” by 7 minutes, and The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” by 10 minutes.

“Murder Most Foul” is a montage of artist titles, singer names, and cultural references that keep going back to the Kennedy assassination. At first listen, it is difficult to understand why all of the name-dropping and song title mentions are there. It feels kind of chaotic, and you feel like there is no structure. It requires another listen. And when you listen again, try not to make sense of anything. Then the song works perfectly, in that it begins to make its own sense. It objectively refers to Kennedy, and a multitude of artists and songs contemporary to the early sixties, with the odd mention of artists from later and earlier decades. Like a painting, you can’t examine the painting by examining each brushstroke. You need to listen to this song by allowing your mind to “step back” so to speak, and admire the song as a whole piece as you would a painting.

To say it is a sad song is an understatement. It seems more like a funeral march. It is a eulogy to a dying culture, and the end of an era. It reveals to us all what we already know: it’s not the sixties anymore. American culture is wounded, and the prospects appear grim.

[Audio] The Difficult Listening Moment: Doing Dylan worse than Dylan I

Hits: 18

Welcome to the first episode of The Difficult Listening Moment. On today’s episode, we explore some music by Bob Dylan. Those who know the music of Bob Dylan knows that his songs had been made a whole  lot more popular by other acts such as The Byrds, The Band, Joan Baez.  In fact, nearly anyone who sung Dylan can do it better than Dylan does.

Nearly anyone. Yes, there are those in the minority, who make it into the dustbin of popular culture, who, when they attempt to sing a Dylan tune, actually sing it worse than Dylan himself, if such a thing is possible. When you think about the way Dylan sings — sort of like a cat being run over by a car that needs to be put out of its misery — you can appreciate that this is something of an achievement.

Here, then, for your perusal is the late Sebastian Cabot (1918-1977) reciting “It Ain’t Me, Babe”.

Why I’ve Avoided Discussing Certain CACs

Hits: 27

Crappy Album Covers have been a staple of this blog for over a year now.  I think I may have posted over 400 album covers in that time, and I have particularly, but not always, targeted the unintentionally bad ones.

There have been certain themes/artists/genres I have avoided:

Metal: I’ve said it before that many metal/punk/hard rock bands release sucky/disturbing covers on purpose, because they know their audience will buy the record/cd. Picking on metal or punk bands would be like shooting fish in a barrel. I have made exceptions (Pantera and Stryken, notably) when the album crosses the line of bad taste to unintentional bad taste.

Bob Dylan: I’ve noticed on some blogs, many commenters pick on Dylan’s albums as a source of bad album art. Face it, folks. Nobody buys Dylan for the album cover, so no one cares. However, in a future post, I make a point that there is a Dylan album art concept that is getting a bit repetitive: the blurry-photo-of-Dylan-in-concert idea. Oh, and yeah, there was also that Starbucks promo CD I discussed earlier.

Nobody buys Leonard Cohen for his album art, either. Or Joni Mitchell for hers, even when she draws the covers herself in crayon (Ladies of the Canyon, and Court and Spark, I believe are two examples) .

Most “lounge lizard” acts and Gospel acts are the same way. For the most part, you tend to get a picture of the artist, the album title, and at least a partial track listing. The whole intent is predictability, and a total avoidance of any artistic risk-taking. Lounge acts start crossing the line, however, when they become too grandiose, or too “nerdy”, or show a total lack of thought in the photo/artwork.

This is at least a partial rendition of my thought processes when making these CAC entries.

Crappy Album Covers #88 — Boots that smell

Hits: 13

album_cover_crap_126_-_dylan_starbucksThis is a 2005 first official release of a 1962 recording that Dave Van Ronk  helped record which had been a bootleg for decades.

Now, I have nothing against Dylan making money where he can. But does anyone agree that putting “The Times They Are A-Changing” in a bank commercial, as he agreed to do for Bank of Montreal in the last decade constituted good product placement and promotion of the “Dylan” brand? Do you want that message to be given to you by a folk singer or your bank?

This album was recorded by Dylan before he became well-known. It is done in the packaging which Starbucks approved of for their 6-month exclusive 2005 deal for which he once again became infamous as a sellout. Much ink and electrons have been spilled on this topic, and I won’t venture there. More interestingly, he was also reviled by record/CD retailers such as HMV for doing this. After all, HMV feels (somewhat rightly) that they shouldn’t be competing against a coffee shop to sell CDs.

Give Dylan a break. First of all, “Live at The Gaslight” is a bootleg, and what better way to stick it to the bootleggers than having your own authorized relase? And coffee shops are where common, ordinary, grass-roots people meet, isn’t it? That is, common people who commonly order $5 lattes and $3 biscottis in fake Italian. Near where I live, such common folk walk their 3″ tall toy poodles and wear Florsheims. These customers take about 3 minutes to say the order in a nearly operatic key; then the server takes another 3 minutes to repeat the order in-tempo to another server who works the espresso machine. Who will sing their songs? Who will sing about the time that the chashier, who has a nose ring and a Master’s degree in Anthro for his thesis on “The Impact of the Roncesvalles Streetcar Terminal on Popular Culture in Toronto”, thought he nearly got skin cancer by scanning so many fifty-dollar bills under the UV? And after the customer pays an inflated price for coffee, he leaves out that tip jar. Now, that takes real guts. And no one sings their pain like Dylan.

Here’s one way to really “stick it to the man”: Go to Starbucks, and order “instant”. That ought to throw a monkey wrench in the system. I guarantee you that because most of these people are from a generation that hasn’t heard of “instant” and don’t know how to cook their own meals, no one will know how to handle the order, but everyone will feel that they absolutely must or fear getting fired. For one thing, it’s not fake Italian, and it doesn’t take 3 minutes to say.


This is also believed to be a bootleg. Now I am beginning to believe that if Leonard Nimoy can be bootleged, anyone can. Wonder what price bootleggers were getting for this album?

Two late ’60s standards are on this single. One is Peter, Paul and Mary’s “If I Had A Hammer”, and the other is Bobby Hebb’s jazz standard “Sunny”, which quickly got covered by Ella Fitzgerald, Pat Martino, James Brown, Dusty Springfield, and just about every lounge lizard act with a pulse. My father had a James Last LP with Sunny on it. Boney M even put out a disco version of Sunny.

In case you were not alive during the 60s, I started scratching around for a You Tube video to show you. The original Bobby Hebb versions are out there, but you have to go to You Tube directly to view them. Instead, I have a double-bill: a duet with Tom Jones and Ella Fitzgerald from 1970, more than likely on Tom Jones’ own variety show:

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