Rough and Rowdy Ways
The first time I met Bob Dylan, he had possessed one of my friends at high school, leading that friend to play me Dylan’s 1976 album, Desire. Though I loved the outraged tale of racial injustice behind the song Hurricane, Dylan mostly confused me. His voice was like “sandpaper and glue”, as Bowie once said.
His mordant and mysterious lyrics were over my head. His sheer oldness felt ancient. Dylan was, in fact, only 35, but already deified as one of the gods of modern music. It was as if my friend wanted me to pray to Dylan.
By the time I was attending university, in the late 1970s, I was discovering the boy-genius Dylan, the protest singer of the early ’60s, moving from his spartan folk tunes to the electrified and surreal poetry of mid-’60s classics such as Subterranean Homesick Blues. Dylan no longer needed to possess my friends to reach me; he had entered into my being with revolutionary intensity.