ALBUM (1965)

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 August, 2011, 12:00am


Bringing It All Back Home
Bob Dylan

In 1964, Bob Dylan was a folk hero, 'the spokesman of a generation', as the media called him. He had four albums to his name, most of which were socially conscious, including many of the intensely political songs - including The Times They are a-Changin', Blowin' in the Wind and A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall - that helped make him famous.

The next year, Dylan released Bringing It All Back Home and suddenly he was a folk villain. The album, a complete change in direction for the singer-songwriter, marked not only his first foray into electric instrumentation, but also a forsaking of the protest themes that had characterised his music to date.

The album was split into two sides: acoustic and electric. On the first side, Dylan's new electric aesthetic burst forth in the Chuck Berry-inspired Subterranean Homesick Blues, an acerbic romp that sarcastically catalogued the absurdities of the screw-the-system lifestyle. The song would become Dylan's first single to chart in the US, peaking at No 39. Also on the electric side were Maggie's Farm - a rock-heavy rejection of the protest folk movement that so revered him - and Bob Dylan's 115th Dream, which highlights the artist's stylistic shift by starting out as an acoustic ballad before being interrupted by laughter and recast as electric blues.

Even the acoustic side of the album put an exclamation mark on Dylan's sea change. The surrealist Mr Tambourine Man, originally recorded for 1964's Another Side of Bob Dylan, was soon covered and electrified by The Byrds, who made it a hit. It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), meanwhile, lamented the futility of politics ('There is no sense in trying') and, most emphatically, It's All Over Now, Baby Blue served as an effective goodbye to his former protest-folk self.

The results were met with derision by many in his folk fan-base. At the Newport Folk Festival, his short electric set was met with boos - even though some have speculated that the expression of disapproval was actually directed at the sound system, the MC, or the brevity of Dylan's set. The berating continued, however, at concerts in New York and Britain, including a show in Manchester when during a quiet moment between songs a member of the crowd famously shouted out 'Judas!'

The controversy ultimately served only to burnish Dylan's legend. Bringing It All Back Home was Dylan's first album to break into the US top 10, reaching No 6 on Billboard's pop album chart. In the Beatles-mad Britain, it hit No 1.

By picking up an electric guitar, Dylan might have temporarily lost a large folk following, but in its place he found mainstream appeal. He hasn't looked back since.