Another Side and Another Direction for Bob Dylan
The album Another Side of Bob Dylan represents an important step in Dylan’s transition from folk to rock and shows the artist moving away from one audience without completely addressing another. Although played with folk instrumentation (acoustic guitar, harmonica, and piano), several of the songs that appeared on the album were, in fact, rock songs. It’s as if Dylan had graduated from the solo acoustic tradition in everything except the solo acoustic musical format
This is attested to by the numerous rock versions — several of which were hits (some major) — of these and other songs written during this period that were to appear in the years immediately following the album’s release. These include:
• “Mister Tambourine Man,” the Byrds
• “All I Really Want to Do,” Cher and the Byrds
• Spanish Harlem Incident, The Byrds
• “Chimes of Freedom,” the Byrds
• “Lay Down Your Weary Tune,” the Byrds
• “It Ain’t Me Babe,” the Turtles, Johnny Cash
• “My Back Pages,” the Byrds
• “I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met),” as performed live
in concert by Dylan and the Hawks
• Jack of Diamonds,” a section of the liner notes (“Some Other Kinds of Songs”)
from Another Side of Bob Dylan set to music by Ben Carruthers and performed by
Fairport Convention on the group’s first album
• “California,” sections of which later metamorphosed into the electric “Outlaw
Blues” on Dylan’s Bringing it All Back Home
• “If You Gotta Go, Go Now,” Manfred Mann, Dylan (on a single released only
in Europe), and, in French (“Si Tu Dois Partir”), Fairport Convention.
The hybrid and somewhat unfocused nature of the album — part folk and part rock — marks it as a product of its time. In the early 1960s, the only viable — and intelligent — creative outlet for many of America’s young musicians was folk music, but after America had experienced the Beatles in 1964 through their appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” concert tours, recordings, and film A Hard Day’s Night, things would never quite be the same again. The Beatles’ influence cannot be underestimated. They simply changed everything — from music to fashion to poetry and performance and, in the process, served as the inspiration and model for a generation.
For America’s young musicians, the Beatles and the other groups which made up the British Invasion represented a creative impetus and a challenge by reintroducing them to their own vital musical heritage. British groups and performers, borrowing heavily from early American rock ’n’ roll and rhythm and blues music, now set the style for America’s youth, and ruled the airwaves, the charts, and sales figures. Dylan himself had met the Beatles on one of their American tours and had attended performances by groups such as the Animals, Manfred Mann, and the Yardbirds during his own tours of England. For him, these groups were “pointing the direction” the music had to go in.
America’s formulation of a musical response to the British Invasion, however, would take time as a bridge between folk and rock was worked out. Another Side of Bob Dylan, along with other transitional works such as the demos recorded by the Byrds in World Pacific Studios that later appeared as Pre-Flyte, are part of the process through which this new music was developed. But for Dylan in 1964, the moment was not yet right to challenge his audiences with an electric backing band. (That time, however, was not far off.) The creative sparks set off by the British groups had convinced him that lyrically he had to go beyond the “finger-pointing” songs that much of his reputation and repertoire rested upon and learn to write from within himself and for himself.
Ultimately, what would result was a form of music that combined the beat and instrumentation of rock with the thoughtful lyrics of folk and that came to be known, for better or worse, as “folk rock.” It was through the manifestation of this union in such recordings as “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Subterranean Homesick Blues” by Bob Dylan, “Mister Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds, “All I Really Want to Do” by Cher, and “It Ain’t Me Babe” by the Turtles that the British challenge was met in 1965.