’65 Revisited is a series that will return to some of the many widely successful albums of 1965. Each album that is revisited will not be reviewed, but rather brought back and analyzed, if only to give some of music’s classic records another spin 50 years after their release.
There apparently isn’t a cap to the number of Bob Dylan-related articles one can write. This is the second write-up of mine about ol’ Robert Zimmerman, whose latest album, released January, was just as thought-provoking—though perhaps not in the same way—as his classic album Bringing it All Back Home. The album was released, of course, in the fine year of 1965. And of all the albums which I’ve listened to in order to prepare for writing these articles, Dylan’s works undoubtedly grab the title of the most peerlessly unique.
Unfortunately, this is also what makes them the most difficult to analyze in context all these years later. Outside of the songs that have become too recognizable to feel like they belong in the album, most of the tracks strike me over and over as something I must have heard before. The result can be jarring when we attempt to look at the album simply for what it is. What remains to be said is something that is wholly unhelpful when trying to construct a thoughtful analysis, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway: this is one hell of an album.
“I was riding on the Mayflower when I thought I spied some land,” Dylan calls out in his signature voice, right before busting up into laughter. This joyous moment at the beginning of the track “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” lasts only several seconds before Dylan kicks himself back up and starts the song over. It also might be the most glorious moment of the record, epitomizing the entire album for what it is: a bundle of youth and fun.
The album can also be strikingly serious at times, however. For all the excitement of “Outlaw Blues” (“Well I might look like Robert Ford, but I feel just like a Jesse James”), there is also the slight tone of solemnity in “Mr. Tambourine Man” and the politically-charged lyrics of “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).” The latter track is incredibly relevant at times; “disillusioned words like bullets bark/as human gods aim for their marks” would not surprise me if I were told they were speaking to Americans in the 2000’s.
Dylan’s folksy storytelling rings through many of the tracks, and following along while bumping one’s head in motion is enough to re-capture the enthusiastic dancing and toe-tapping that I like to imagine took place in the 1960’s, one part of my “young person” perception of all things old. But the album is too outright spirited for a “nostalgic” remembrance to be influenced by whether one was alive then or not, even if my birth falls on the wrong side of the O.J. Simpson verdict. Which I suppose then asks: is it inevitable that anything once simply considered great must also have a layer of novelty and nostalgia pasted over when one tries to enjoy it? It’s the question we must ask ourselves when every track on Bringing it All Back Home feels like the soundtrack to a different scene of a film in which an American drives through the country roads of the South.
Before these were songs we remembered, these were simply songs, and terrific ones at that. Perhaps that’s the irony of “revisiting” the albums of 1965—people of my generation that find these albums may still be revisiting them, whether they had ever taken the time to listen to them for the first time at all. It is a challenge one must undertake when listening to this masterpiece to appreciate the music for what it is while also taking on every distracting notion that this song has popped up somewhere before, because it has. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter: no matter what feelings the songs from this album conjure up, the great Bob Dylan is there to bring them all back home.