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The Times Are Not So Changed

I’ve been getting some more Dylan over the last week, in particular his third studio album "The Times They Are A-Changing", released way back in 1964. What strikes me most is that the things he was singing about then are still the big issues of today. Take Hollis Brown: living in poverty, just like so many are increasingly so today. The menace in the guitar strokes on that song – fantastic musicianship. “A cold coyote calls in the wilderness” – what a great picture. Then the gruesome ending as “seven shots ring out like the ocean’s pounding roar” – this is thrilling story-telling. I notice how Dylan, like so many of the greats, uses images of nature in his lyrics. Those “seven breezes blowing”, “with no water in your well”… it’s a simple technique but effective as it’s something we can all relate to, no matter where we live or how civilised we vainly hope we have become.

North Country Blues could be written about the mine closures by Thatcher in the 1980s here in my homeland of Great Britain. There is still much bad blood against the Tories for the social cleansing that large numbers of people felt was enacted by Maggie and chums. The words Dylan uses are nostalgic and longing for those forgotten times. “The summer has gone” for large parts of northern Britain today too.

Meanwhile poor Hattie Carroll takes the rap for a rich man, and no one seems to mind at all. Activist and writer Owen Jones has written extensively about the demonization of the working class (I’ve just finished his fine book “Chavs” – get some of that if you can!), and it is maybe the shambolic treatment of the modern day Hattie Carroll that OJ is trying to alleviate. These are not comfortable issues that Dylan chooses for his lyrical content, but they force us to question ourselves and the direction that society is taking. Well done Bob, you’ve really got me thinking now.

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