In 2014 I got massively into Bob Dylan. At uni I picked up a few of his albums (I can’t remember how many) including The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and Highway 61 Revisited. I was becoming interested in politics, reading about the Vietnam war, wanted to listen to some of the iconic protest music of era, and had been recommended Dylan by my best friend, on account of the former’s lyrics. In retrospect, The Times They Are a-Changin’ would’ve been the most obvious place to start, with its title track being written specifically as a protest song –but that’s by the by. It was Freewheelin’ for ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and Highway for ‘Like a Rolling Stone’; both of which I quickly came to love. And that was largely it for my love affair with Bob Dylan at uni, other than somewhere along the line getting three other albums, including Blood on the Tracks, which became my favourite (and remains so today).
Fast forward a few years and there are number of occasions coming up wherein I will be making long, night-time drives home. I decide to use the occasions to begin listening through Dylan’s discography. I’ll confess now that I didn’t make it through even half of them all (so many are there), but the time spent listening through half a dozen or so, from his self-titled 1962 debut up to 1975’s Blood on the Tracks, was wonderful.
What made these experiences wonderful, I think, was a combination of time, place and music. I had in the past enjoyed albums whilst driving somewhere on dark, empty roads, but this was different. That place – a road rendered empty due to night-time, and thus effortlessly navigable – is the perfect place to play the closest attention to an album. Setting aside alone time to sit and listen intently obviously works, but (I think) can feel forced, and I personally can find myself getting fidgety. In a car, attention is focused on the road ahead, the music plays, and soundtracks your journey. The darkness, meanwhile, puts more emphasis on your sense of sound. It is just you and that album. What better way to get to know one another?
And this is something I think I’m going to get back into. I still have many Bob Dylan albums to hear. Where will I drive to? I’ve no idea. But I still remember the songs that jumped out at me on those drives: ‘To Ramona’. ‘New Morning’. ‘One More Weekend’. ‘If Not for You’. ‘I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine’. ‘Winterlude’. ‘With God On Our Side’.
I need that again.
This doesn’t just extend to albums you’ve never heard before, of course. Other than a long walk to anywhere, there is (again) almost no better place to rediscover a favourite album than an easy drive to somewhere.
If there’s something you’ve been meaning to listen to, but it hasn’t been convenient to dedicate your attention to music; make the time, take a drive and listen.