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I only started collecting records in the early 1970s. My interests were primarily in the music of that time, mostly the glam rock of David Bowie and Alice Cooper. But right from the beginning I found myself looking back. I bought a Sha Na Na album as my second LP; it was a very secondhand introduction into 1950s rock and roll, but it was start. My first LP though, was the 1960s archetype, 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'.

Once I'd begun, I did not stop. I rapidly picked up most of the worthwhile music of the early to mid 1970s, rapidly because there really wasn't an awful lot going on. In 1974, the New Musical Express music paper published a list of their 100 best albums, and I began to use that a buying guide. I'm glad I did too, for I ended up with a lot of music I might not have heard otherwise.

No. 1 in that list was 'Sgt. Pepper'. No. 2 was Bob Dylan's 'Blonde on Blonde' I bought it in 1975, nine years after it was originally released.

Nine years in rock in those days was a lifetime. Looking back, it's astonishing how compressed the development of the music seemed, from its beginnings in the mid-1950s into the 1970s. Music that was just a year old at that seemed to belong to another era. You did not expect any album from an artist to sound much like its predecessor. Rock was exploding in dozens of new directions all at once, recording techniques were being revamped and refined all the time, and the pressure to be new and exciting seemed to be at its peak. It was only in the 1970s that self-referential music began to appear with the neo-1950s rock and roll of bands such a Sha Na Na, or the much more subtle incorporation of those influences into the music of glam art artists like Roxy Music.

So when I heard 'Blonde on Blonde', I was hearing a sound that had already passed. Dylan himself had long abandoned such a style, and new recordings by other artists were not picking up on it. Not until the 1980s and 1990s would a comprehensive attempt be made to revisit the sound of the mid 1960s. In 1975 the vogue was for spacious, multi-tracked recordings frequently incorporating a much wider range of instruments than the piano, guitar, organ, bass and drums of almost all of 'Blonde on Blonde'. Only on that album's 'Rainy Day Women Nos. #12 & 35' was there much of any brass (and brass that was quite at odds with conventional 1960s rock or soul music – more like a Salvation Army band).

So I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. Bob Dylan's voice always takes a bit of getting used to, a sound like 'sand and glue' as David Bowie described it in his 'Song For Bob Dylan'. The tracks are a blend of blues songs, lengthy folk-derived ballads and some prettily melodic tunes such as 'Just Like A Woman'. What does catch the ear from the first are the lyrics. These are playful, surreal, arresting and often quite profound even when there seems to be sense of word-spinning almost for its own sake. What does not catch the ear at first, but does on the second, tenth or the fortieth listening are the most subtle musical arrangements you could hope to hear. The interplay of guitar, piano and organ, bass and drums is simply astonishing. It appears to verge on the ramshackle, but close attention reveals the perfect placement of every note. Much of this credit goes to the electric guitarists, notably Robbie Robertson of The Band, who (in contrast to the rapidly developing penchant for loud and lengthy guitar solos emerging at the time) chooses to weave his lines within the body of the music, adding rhythm and color to an already gorgeously fluid pulse generated by Nashville session players like Charlie McCoy and Kenny Buttrey. Paul Griffen plays a similarly critical role on piano.

The result is a very hard rocking record that sounds deceptively unforced and casual. This is rare quality in rock and roll playing and one to treasure. These days when I listen to 'Blonde on Blonde' I listen the music more than the lyrics, most of which I've internalized and digested. This is where my interest currently lies. And I'm enjoying it by listening to both the mono and stereo versions of the album. It's a treat.

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