005 | Planet Waves. April 2, 2017. Our first album, celebrated with a harmonica I found hiding in my old guitar case. I’d’ve worn my harmonica holder but I’m, at once, an amateur podcaster who would have knocked into the microphone and not a monster.
To understand Planet Waves, we looked at the musical landscape in 1974 (2:30): Joni Mitchell’s Court & Spark (a contrasting record to Blue, covered in our talk of “Tangled Up in the Blue”); Kiss, Rush and Kansas all release debuts; Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic; Queen had Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack months apart; John Lennon and George Harrison released new music (Walls & Bridges and Dark Horse); Bonnie Raitt’s debut masterwork Streetlights; Leonard Cohen’s New Skin for the Old Century; Eric Clapton’s first since rehab 461 Ocean Blvd; Neil Young’s perfect On the Beach; the New York Dolls’ Too Much Too Soon; David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs; and, finally, Fulfillingness’ First Finale by Stevie Wonder.
In the era of streaming and playlists upon playlists, I’d reduced this record to “Dirge,” “Going Going Gone,” and “Something There is About You” if the mood struck me. To hear another side of Planet Waves (6:17), to listen for again, was insightful. “Bob Dylan hates a chorus,” Kelly says (10:00), while praising the “harmonica for days.”
“Seven of the ten songs have harmonica in them. 7/10. Would harmonica again.”
We coalesce around “Dirge,” “Wedding Song” and “Forever Young.” Shelton writes about the unity of the record (“no album to date since Blonde on Blonde”): “The songs ‘speak to each other,’ and certain motifs—dreams, sea, waves, mountains, hills, edges, ledges, and lonely, high places—reappear (26:20).” We discuss in so many circles what it means that “I should get over that” — annotated below (29:27). Kelly’s dissection of “Forever Young” that involve Canned Heat and Kermit the Frog need to be heard to be believed (35:20).
We discuss the Band (8:00) and their place on the Dylan timeline. We overview (9:05) David Geffen, Dylan’s switch from Columbia to Geffen Records, and the sweetness sprinkled over Planet Waves and Before the Flood — such as an unprecedented 80 cents an album (Planet Waves has sold over 700,000 copies in the US to date) and his ability to keep the masters. The Band showed up in Malibu and, according to Robbie Robertson, Dylan didn’t have much written and they just recorded it (27:40): “Planet Waves was as good as we could make it in the situation … he really didn’t have a bag of songs there so it was just a last-minute thing…”(Heylin).
The album is wrapped up in the present while bent seamlessly on the past — a trick that would be perfected with ’75’s Blood on the Tracks (12:07). Robert Shelton, in No Direction Home, writes:
“Dylan’s recurring theme that pain has to be endured along the way to pleasure, and that pleasure is, above all, transitory.”
Perhaps that’s my own draw to Dylan, I’ve thought. There are many iterations of myself scattered along the road — and this is just one of them — but I firmly believe that pain and pleasure are intertwined, one needs the other. Ideas like monogamy and religion are touched upon but held tighter to the chest. I quote Shelton again (16:00):
‘On a Night Like This’ opens in bright and neighborly spirit, with commonplaces and clichés of the standard love song—it’s cold outside and I’m all the warmer because I’m inside with you. The mood and content flow directly from the idealized life Dylan painted in ‘Sign on the Window,’ only now we’re behind that cabin door.”
Life is varied and people are different — but we all need shelter from the storm.
Ian Bell, author of Time Out of Mind, sees the Boulder of Blood on the Tracks coming (19:30):
“Had Planet Waves been produced by any other artist, reviews would have ranged from ‘not bad’ to ‘pretty fair’. The competition Dylan had provided for himself, the unrelenting competition with which he would have to contend for decades to come, rendered the album a middling affair.”
That was reinforced when Dylan and the Band hit the road for Before the Flood and drown out anything new from Bob. That tour was astounding, even in the age of Beyoncé and Taylor Swift (32:05) — from Clinton Heylin: “The statistics for the 1974 tour remain remarkable—even in an era when the most banal country-rock combo can command $250 a ticket to replicate their greatest-hits CD in the flesh, so to speak. An unprecedented top-dollar ticket price of $9.50 led to 5.5 million pieces of mail, applying for up to four tickets each, some $92 million in check and money orders, sent by close to 4 percent of the American population.”
Our final thoughts before everything ends (39:20) and “Endless Endings” by Dillinger Escape Plan begins (41:21).
LOST. New Belgium’s Voodoo Ranger.
Kelly spent the week around repeat listens of “You Angel You” with Frank Ocean’s new single “Chanel,” as well as binging on ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder.”
Daniel wanted to know if he got all the facts right as he caught up to the mid-point of Girls final season, as well as listening to new albums from Laura Marling, Crusades, Self-Defense Family and The Shins.