White Rabbit Records - Blog

2023/4 Albums Thing 357 - Bob Dylan “The Times They Are A-Changin'”

Posted on


We’ve come across a few in my collection like this one, bruised and wounded, records that have lived a life, but records that are so good that it feels wrong to banish them to the £1 or £2 bin where they would end up. So I bring them home, clean them up and play them and as long as they don’t jump or skip (I’m lucky enough to own a pair of Technics SL-1210’s and if a record jumps on them it really is shot) I understand that the pops and clicks and crackles are part of it’s journey.

I’ve never really been a big Bob Dylan fan, that was my Dad and my Brothers thing. Don’t misunderstand me, I understand his position and influence in the grand scheme of scheme things (without Dylan there is likely no Springsteen) but I tend to prefer my Dylan songs performed by others, The Byrds (“Mr Tambourine Man”, “All I Really Want To Do”, “Chimes Of Freedom”) and the Chocolate Watch Band’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” spring to mind, but for some reason as a teenager I found my self in possession of this album on cassette.

I knew the title track well but the song that completely fascinated me was “With God On Our Side”, which I played over and over and over again to the point where, hearing it again this morning for the first time in many years, I still know all the words. I’ve never been convinced by (organised) religion, to this day I think it’s a dangerous mental illness. If you need that to get you through life then knock yourself out but please, keep your fairytales away from me and stop using your imaginary friend to justify killing people with a different imaginary friend (or those of us that don’t need an imaginary friend). 

Over 7 minutes of stumbling guitar strumming and harmonica “With God On Our Side” addresses Americas obsession with “God”, it’s slaughter of the indigenous population, the Spanish American war, first and second World wars, hating the Russians and the impending nuclear war everyone was expecting in the ‘60’s and Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, each verse proclaiming all sides had/have “God on their side” (the First World War verse ends with the callous yet devastating “For you don't count the dead, When God's on your side”). The final verse sees Dylan making a plea “That if God's on our side, He'll stop the next war”…we’re still waiting. It’s a song I don’t think I’ll ever tire of.

That’s the song I focus on but there are obviously others “The Times They Are A-Changin'” is a 60’s folk “This Is The Modern World” (“And you better start swimmin’, Or you'll sink like a stone” leads to “I know where I am and going to”); “The Ballad Of Hollis Brown” covers a story of a desperate farmer driven to familicide due to poverty; there’s the gorgeous “One Too Many Mornings”; “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll” looks at how white people effectively got away with murdering African Americans by looking at the killing of Baltimore barmaid Hattie. All this is delivered with one guitar, one voice and some harmonica.

This was Dylan’s third album and the penultimate release before he horrified the folkies and went electric on “Bringing It All Back Home”. He wasn’t the first protest singer and he certainly won’t be the last but it’s arguable he may be the most important. There’s a straight line that can be drawn starting with the travelling troubadors of Medieval times through the Blues and string band musicians of early 20th century America to Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger in the 40’s and onto Dylan and Joan Baez in America onto the likes of Ewan MacColl, Dick Gaughan and The Dubliners this side of the Atlantic and continuing still through Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg and now Frank Turner and Sam Fender. Call them folkies, call them protest singers but those dissenting voices have always been, and always will be, important to me.

With God On Our Side - https://youtu.be/5y2FuDY6Q4M?si=yDILiADvR7tiG2AZ

Add a comment:

Leave a comment:


Add a comment