Sunday Music – Positively 4th Street – The Bob Dylan Series (Part 17)

Posted on Sun 07/25/2010 by

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Today’s music video is ‘Positively 4th Street’ from Johnny Rivers.

This video was posted to You Tube by JFBRASIL

There comes a time to draw a line under this series. The intent was to show that in those early years, while Bob already had a huge following among those who were aware of his vast body of work, the average person in the street was not all that aware of him as a renowned performer. They were however aware of his many songs, even if they did not always associate them back to Dylan. So many of his songs were covered by so many artists, both male and female, and bands, and quite a number of those songs became hits, some of them in fact huge hits. With the release of his ‘Planet Waves’ album in 1974, Bob had now been around for more than 12 years, and now, people throughout the World knew in an instant who Bob Dylan was.

That’s not to say that after ‘Planet Waves’, no more of his songs were covered by other artist, because that still went on. Now, Dylan could rely on his own work, and performed by him, to tell the stories he composed.

This song featured above is out of the context with those I have been posting, and for no particular reason really. I have been posting songs working them up with the time line that they were originally composed, from that second album, ‘Freewheelin’ up to ‘Planet Waves’. This song above was not released on any of Dylan’s earlier studio albums. It was in fact released as far back as 1965, and Bob only released it as a single. It charted very well for Dylan. Oddly, it’s one of those songs where the title itself does not appear in any of the songs lyrics, but is typical of Dylan’s compositions around that time when those lyrics just told the story of itself. It is one of Bob’s most enduring songs, and one of my personal favourites. This is one song that I think can only be done by Dylan himself.

This version by Johnny Rivers was the first cover version of this song, and Rivers released it in 1968 on his ‘Realization’ album. Oddly, this is one of very few songs that Bob thought came off better than his own original of the song. Rivers had a huge career in the 60’s with ten Top Ten Singles, which included one Number One hit, ‘Poor Side Of Town’. His two other biggest hits were ‘Secret Agent Man’, and a song that was a favourite of mine,‘Baby I Need Your Lovin’ shown at this link.

In these times when the word legendary is used more often than some cases might warrant, Bob Dylan truly is legendary. He has been one of the driving forces in the direction music has taken over the years since he came on the scene in 1961/62. When others found a niche and stayed there, Bob moved in directions that were ‘outside the square’. Some of the times he did this, it was not well received, not that that really bothered Dylan. He wanted to explore those boundaries and go beyond them. His songs were so popular that they have been covered by literally thousands of artists, male, female, and bands. Some of those songs were made into huge hits by those other artists, and some people were blissfully unaware that the song was indeed from Bob Dylan. His music covers every area of the musical spectrum. There would be very few people in the Western World who have not heard the name ‘Dylan’.

He has produced 34 studio albums, the first in 1962 and the most recent in 2009. There have been 12 Compilation albums and 10 Live albums. He has released 66 singles. Of them, only 6 have gone into the Top Ten. Having said that, it would be difficult to count the number of Bob Dylan songs that have been inside the Top Ten across the Planet from every other artist who has ‘covered’ one of Bob’s songs. He has been recorded in many other languages as well.

A list of the Awards he been honoured with would be too long to detail here. He has won 11 Individual Grammy Awards. As well those individual Grammy’s, 3 songs and 3 albums of his have been Awarded Grammy Hall Of Fame Awards, and five songs have been awarded Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Awards. He has won an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe.

When it comes to the best songs, albums, and covers, all composed by Dylan, that is something best left to compilations taken from large groups, because everybody would have an opinion on that.

So for me, I’ll just list the ones that are my favourites.

When it comes to albums done by Bob, Dylan, I have two distinct favourites, and I like both of them equally. They are ‘Blood On The Tracks’ released in 1975, and ‘Desire’ released one year later. Some albums were less than special, but Dylan was one of those artists who was always at the top of his craft, never willing to really just coast along doing stuff that sold well. He pushed the boundaries into directions that some may not have liked, but what that showed was that Bob was never willing to just ‘hang in there’, but to continually take his music and lyrics into differing directions. On these two of my favourite albums, Bob exceeded his own high standards in his ability to tell a story in a song.

With respect to songs that are my favourites done by Dylan himself, I am one of those who like listening to the stories Bob had to tell with his songs. To that end I like the usual suspects, especially ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ which would be Number 3 on my list of his songs. Number 2 would be the song I have highlighted above, ‘Positively 4th Street’. These 2 especially are the sole province of Dylan in my opinion, and are the only true versions of these songs I like. My favourite Dylan song is ‘Lily, Rosemary, And The Jack Of Hearts’ from Bob’s ‘Blood On The Tracks’ album. Because of its length coming in at nearly nine minutes, it is a song I rarely hear on radio, so that’s what makes it so special for me. I have to make the conscious decision to play the album to listen to it, and it never fails to leave me satisfied. It’s almost in the realm of a short movie that you watch in your own mind while Bob tells the story.

Now, as to cover versions of Bob’s songs, there are just so many from so many artists. True, I like the usual suspects here, Hendrix’s  ‘All Along The Watchtower’, and The Byrds ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’, but again, I prefer two others as my favourites. Manfred Mann released ‘Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo)’ in 1968 and it was a monster hit for them in the UK, and here in Australia, making it to Number One in a long stay in the charts. I love listening to that song to this day. However, when it comes to my favourite cover, that song is ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right’. This version was done by Australian band The Seekers. You may think this an odd choice, but it’s always been a sentimental favourite of mine. It was from an album brought out by The Seekers in 1964, after they moved to the UK and were just starting to make it big. I was 13 at the time, and the only access I had to any music was on the radio. The album this song was on was the very first album that I shelled out my own money on, and I saved my pocket money for it. I still have that album in my collection to this day. Why this song is my personal favourite is that this was the song that introduced me to Bob Dylan. I had heard covers of his songs already made into hits by Peter Paul and Mary, and one or two others, without associating them back to Dylan, as you might imagine aged twelve or thirteen. However, with this, my first album, as I listened to it playing on the record player, I avidly read the liner notes, virtually every time. I liked this particular song, and noted that it was credited to ‘Dylan’. It took me a while to find out who he actually was, and even though I didn’t get my first Dylan album till years later, I was now aware that he was the one who was making all this wonderful music and telling those stories in his songs that hit the mark with that generation. From that point, whenever a new cover of Dylan’s songs became a hit, I knew of the origin.

This series of covers is the way I have tried to show that the voice of that time in History when music became a larger part of the lives of those people was indeed Bob Dylan.

In closing this may seem a schmaltzy ‘pop’ version of a Dylan song to close on, but the two songs featured today are large on my list of Bob Dylan favourites, and this would be my most favourite Dylan cover.

This video was posted to You Tube by dazbluey