John Wesley Harding, Bob Dylan
Columbia Records, December 27, 1967
Track Listing: 1. John Wesley Harding, 2. As I Went Out One Morning, 3. I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine, 4. All Along the Watchtower, 5. The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest, 5. Drifter's Escape, 6. Dear Landlord, 7. I Am a Lonesome Hobo, 8. I Pity the Poor Immigrant, 9. The Wicked Messenger, 10. Down Along the Cove, 11. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
No, I am not a fan, never have been, never will be, but everyday a long, long time ago this album was on the turntable until the grooves were worn smooth and the needle practically slid across the vinyl. Oh that terrible high pitched harmonica and nasal voice to match, but oh those incredible apocalyptic lyrics for dreadful times.
“‘No reason to get excited,’ the thief, he kindly spoke
‘There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke’”
-from “All Along the Watchtower”
I was still contemplating life as a joke and recovering from the truth of that statement when several months later along came Jimi. The cataclysm that was only hinted at became fully realized and exploded over the airwaves and into darkened smoke filled rooms all over the country. After this even Dylan himself proclaimed All Along the Watchtower to be Jimi’s song.
Decades later several of us went to see Dylan in a relatively small old time dance hall. Actually we didn’t see much of him as he was at the keyboards with his back to the audience the entire night, but it was a great show. Then his band began one of the last songs of the night. It was a dark rumbling song like the rolling thunder of an approaching summer storm. It was coming in on us as the sound filled the hall. It wasn’t until Dylan pierced through the gathering sonic energy with “There must be some way out of here,” did I recognize it. He had done it again. I shook my head and thought to myself I’m not a fan.
We walked out into the night for the long drive home feeling lucky to be alive while Dylan walks the planet.