I Was Wrong About Bob Dylan – Nemo Memo

I was a huge fan of Bob Dylan’s music from 1963-1970. I didn’t listen to many of Bob’s songs or albums during the following decades, with the exception of his CDs Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong from the early 1990s. Good As I Been To You is a raw and raunchy roots music retrospective, and is the better of the pair.

I lived in Phoenix, Arizona, during the early 1990s. Blockbuster Music opened nearby, and I visited. There was a central listening area where staff carefully opened any CD a customer wanted to sample.

Bob Dylan recordings were at a large table containing years of CDs I had never heard. I chose one of each album and spent the next few hours hearing his tracks from the prior 22 years. I was not impressed. The Bob I had embraced during my formative years was ancient history, replaced by someone with whom I hoped I wouldn’t have to spend much time. I purchased one CD, Infidels, because it was the best of a bad bunch, and I have listened to it rarely.

Fast forward over 20 more years and most of Bob’s CDs are now available on Spotify. I am a music educator, and I’m considering creating a non-credit adult learning course on the best of Bob’s post-1970 songs.

I spent last weekend listening to part or all of every recording after 1970 that features original music, as opposed to live recordings and outtakes. I chose 44 tracks on Spotify that are the most musically interesting to me and my potential students. Most CDs have two superior songs, and some have one.

It was ear-opening to hear the remastered CDs played at top streaming quality through a set of outstanding headphones, the On2 from thinksound.com. Every note was crisp and full, except when the original recording was inferior beyond modern improvement.


I was wrong about Bob Dylan. His middle and later periods have a lot of gems, many of which I had not heard. He’s an imaginative and versatile songwriter, performer, arranger, producer, and band leader. His best selections have elements of blues, rock, storytelling, and occasional crooning, plus some gospel, folk, hymn tunes, and love songs. .

There is a rough division between his middle and late periods that occurs after 1990. The final album from his middle period is Under the Red Sky (1990), and the first one from the late period is Good As I Been To You (1992). The middle period includes his religious recordings, and the late period looks back to Bob’s early blues influences, all among other genres.

It is easy to identify both consistent and irregular approaches within Bob’s music, as well as in his lyrics. Many people concentrate on the meaning of Bob’s poetry. My emphasis has always been on the music and how it conveys the meaning of his words.

Bob’s voice got worse as he got older, but he can still sing with style. He is now 75 years old, and he continues to tour and record. His repertoire includes more standards and songs composed by other people than previously was the case.

Below is the working playlist from my intensive listening sessions. I will fill out the information with the musical keys and whether a capo was used on Bob’s guitar. Then I’ll create a slide show with album covers and lyric sheets, all of which are available on bobdylan.com. Next I’ll use the Internet to learn about how and when the songs were created. If these songs were collected into two or three greatest hits compilations they would make excellent listening for all Dylan followers

Modern technology allows all this to be developed. I can switch back and forth between iPad, iPhone, Macintosh, plus wired and Bluetooth headphones and speakers, as is necessary and convenient.

FYI, Spotify is not happy with exclusive deals other streaming services have with some artists, but Spotify has most of Dylan’s output and some competing services don’t. In a perfect world, All of Bob’s (and everyone’s) music will be equally available on every paid musical network.


Bob Dylan 1971-2015 — Best Songs of His Middle and Later Years

WHEN I PAINT MY MASTERPIECE DEMO 1971

Another Self Portrait

FOREVER YOUNG

WEDDING SONG

Planet Waves 1974

CALL LETTER BLUES

Bootleg Series Volume 1-3 1974

MEET ME IN THE MORNING

Blood on the Tracks 1975

MOZAMBIQUE

SARA

Desire 1976

TONIGHT I’LL BE STAYING HERE WITH YOU LIVE

bootleg-series-volume-5-rolling-thunder

Bootleg Series Volume 5 1976

NEW PONY

Street Legal 1978

GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY

GONNA CHANGE MY WAY OF THINKING

Slow Train Coming 1979

A SATISFIED MIND

ARE YOU READY

Saved 1980

EVERY GRAIN OF SAND

THE GROOM’S STILL WAITING AT THE ALTAR

shot-of-love

Shot of Love 1981

ANGELINA

The Bootleg Series 1-3 1981

SWEETHEART LIKE YOU

MAN OF PEACE

Infidels 1983

I’LL REMEMBER YOU

TRUST YOURSELF

Empire Burlesque 1985

PRECIOUS MEMORIES

DRIFTIN’ TOO FAR FROM SHORE

knocked-out-loaded

Knocked Out Loaded 1986

DEATH IS NOT THE END

NINETY MILES AN HOUR

Down in the Groove 1988

EVERYTHING IS BROKEN

RING THEM BELLS

Oh Mercy 1989

DIGNITY

MTV Unplugged 1990

T.V. TALKIN’ SONG

CAT’S IN THE WELL

Under the Red Sky 1990

SITTIN’ ON TOP OF THE WORLD

HARD TIMES

Good As I Been To You 1992

BROKE DOWN ENGINE

World Gone Wrong 1993

NOT DARK YET

MAKE YOU FEEL MY LOVE

Time Out of Mind 1997

LONESOME DAY BLUES

CRY A WHILE

Love and Theft 2001

BEYOND THE HORIZON

ROLLIN’ AND TUMBLIN’

modern-times

Modern Times 2006

FORGETFUL HEART

SHAKE SHAKE MAMA

Together Through Life 2009

I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS

Christmas in the Heart 2009

EARLY ROMAN KINGS

Tempest 2012

AUTUMN LEAVES

WHAT’LL I DO

Shadows in the Night 2015

COVERS: 

WHEN I PAINT MY MASTERPIECE by Josh Turner

WATCHIN’ THE RIVER FLOW by Charlie Watts and Friends

FOREVER YOUNG by The Tenors

FOREVER YOUNG by Handsome and Gretyl

HARD TIMES by James Taylor and Yo-Yo Ma


Thanks to several close friends who helped me with this article. You know who you are.

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About John Nemerovski

John “Nemo” Nemerovski is MyMac’s Reviews Editor. He is a private and small group personal technology tutor in Tucson, Arizona, USA, with an emphasis on iPad and iPhone training, plus basic computing, digital photography, and Photoshop. Nemo is an accomplished music instructor on keyboard and guitar, and an expert artisan bread baker. If you are interested in writing reviews or requesting a product review on MyMac, contact him: nemo [ a t ] mymac [ d o t ] c o m.

2 thoughts on “I Was Wrong About Bob Dylan – Nemo Memo

  1. Comments from three friends:

    LEE

    This is a great and extremely thoughtful piece of work. I certainly couldn’t improve it; however, I would add Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ to the Together Through Life tracks and I like Thunder On The Mountain and Workingman’s Blues on Modern Times. I think Modern Times is a far superior album, compared to Together Through Life, and to me, almost stands up to the early works’ standard.

    Reading this made me think of the Rolling Stones and how despite a 55 year history, their best work was done before 1974. There are gems on every album since, but in their first decade, almost every track is a gem. Their best work to me is Exile On Main Street, after which everything started to pale in comparison. 

    STEVE

    Found your post very interesting. You’re deeper into Dylan than I am so I defer to you but maybe my favorite cut from Blood on the Tracks is Tangled Up in Blue.

    ROB

    I did listen to some of the Spotify playlists that you sent. Most are from an era of his music that I was not too familiar with, although I do have a couple of his later albums, which I found difficult to get through even though the material was good. I didn’t care for the voice and delivery, I guess. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by what I did hear on your playlists, and liked it very much. Autumn Leaves and What’ll I Do really surprised me in their presentation, I liked them very much. He is using the Willie Nelson approach to singing standards, all about the feeling, as it should be. 

    You include the Blockbuster article for context I believe, and boy, does it deliver that. It paints a picture that the younger folks will find quite informative of the weird culture of the “old days.”  70 “personal listening posts!” It is an adult learning class, but younger folks would really benefit from the information you want to provide. The link in the synopsis felt strange at first, but I believe it has a place. The listening posts were modern versions of the booths in the record stores where you could audition potential purchases. History lessons. 

    I really like the following, gets right to the point:

    “It is easy to identify both consistent and irregular approaches within Bob’s music, as well as in his lyrics. Many people concentrate on the meaning of Bob’s poetry. My emphasis has always been on the music and how it conveys the meaning of his words.”

    “Bob’s voice got worse as he got older, but he can still sing with style.”

    One great thing about BD, he doesn’t settle, doesn’t get stale. Great he keeps putting it out there, for better or for worse.

  2. I have quite a few Dylan tracks on my always-carry devices, from early on through the 1970’s. He is or was very versatile, and based on how many of his tunes I keep around, I’d say that he’s one of my biggest influences. Bob left many of his fans of early protest music extremely disappointed when he branched out with some very different material, his country-flavored songs for example. He disappointed many fans again when he became a religious convert, and recorded Serve Somebody, to name another example. I for one was not at all enamored with his ‘new’ music at those junctures, in fact for many years afterward, but I came to understand the quality of his newer music, and eventually added some of those songs to my heavy rotation. I just wish there were a longer studio version of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.

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