Life of an Artist: A New Interpretation of Bob Dylan – The Mask-querading Era (Mid-January – Spring 1965)

The Mask-querading era started in early 1964 started in early 1964 and ended late spring 1965. This brief period’s name derives from Bob Dylan’s famous 1964 Halloween concert, which is a great summation of the era. An audibly intoxicated Dylan was in a loose and easy going mood. It was a time of great growth by Dylan, both personally and professionally. It was during this era that Bob Dylan went from a singer and became an artist.

You could see it unfolding at the 1964 Halloween concert in New York. This Dylan was in control of the stage and the audience. He shyly joked and bantered with them and Joan Baez, who he sung several duets with. It was probably the most sociable anybody had ever seen Bob Dylan. This wasn’t the “aww-shucks-cap wearing-Okie” that dominated the first album. This Dylan was urbane, witty and charming. Everything was different. He still performed the Gone were the topical songs, This Dylan would no longer be the spokesman of a generation. As Wikipedia would note:

“New compositions like “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” showed Dylan moving in a new direction, becoming more immersed in evocative, stream-of-consciousness lyrics and moving away from social, topical songwriting. Even as he was moving in this new direction, Dylan was still portrayed as a symbol of the civil rights and anti-war movements, and the Halloween concert of 1964 caught Dylan in transition.”

There was no turning back. The new album’s first song and single stated, Subterranean Homesick Blues stated as much:

Johnny’s in the basement

Mixing up the medicine

I’m on the pavement

Thinking about the government

The man in the trench coat

Badge out, laid off

Says he’s got a bad cough

Wants to get it paid off

Whatever remnants of the Woody Guthrie era were long gone, smothered and knifed in back in some Beatnik dive bar in the village. For too long Dylan had been masquerading. This was his new protest song.

This era saw Bob Dylan’s popularity explode, not only with fans, but critics as well. Bringing It All Back Home‘s legacy is in no doubt:

Bringing It All Back Home is regarded as one of the greatest albums in rock history. In 1979 Rolling Stone Record Guide critic Dave Marsh wrote: “By fusing the Chuck Berry beat of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles with the leftist, folk tradition of the folk revival, Dylan really had brought it back home, creating a new kind of rock & roll […] that made every type of artistic tradition available to rock.” Clinton Heylin later wrote that Bringing It All Back Home was possibly “the most influential album of its era. Almost everything to come in contemporary popular song can be found therein.”In 2003, the album was ranked number 31 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, maintaining the rating in a 2012 revised list.”

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