It turns out, friends, that this here website — yes indeed none other than What’s Wrong with the World itself —, has a connection to Paul Butterfield of the eponymous band which backed Bob Dylan in the mid-1960s. ‘Tis true. The man of whom Dylan later said he knew no better guitarist, whose band played with Dylan during the first disillusionment of the modern sans culottes, in their belief that they could claim this great American troubadour for their own, is first cousin once-removed to one of our Contributors.
There have been many moments of shattering disillusionment for our poor sans culottes, our dear hippies and hipsters, in the drama of Dylan’s career — moments of forced realization that this the troubadour did not, in fact, share their project, their dreams, their Utopia. “It wasn’t better world a-coming, you know. It just wasn’t that,” says someone in Martin Scorsese’s fine documentary No Direction Home. He is speaking of Dylan performance at the Newport Folk Festival on July 25, 1965, when Bob Dylan stood on stage before thousands of folk fans and sold out, right there, in front of their eyes.
He went electric, horror of horrors, and (over some considerable booing and heckling) delivered some of the greatest performances of some of his greatest songs.
He began with “Maggie’s Farm,” in its hard-blues variation, a song of marvelously infectious defiance and provocation which only the dullest, most inebriated could have mistaken for anything else. (Watch and listen here.) He played “Like a Rolling Stone” (watch and listen here), and I do wonder if it has ever been played better. Later he played “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” (watch and listen) and for many of the leftists, who wanted “topical songs,” i.e., leftist propaganda, it was indeed.
Of course he did not “sell out,” then or ever: Certainly not a few years later when he answered the Vietnam protest movement with simple country songs about loss and regret. Certainly not a dozen or so years later when he converted to the Cross of Christ, the most radical thing a man may ever do. Certainly not two years ago when he solidified beyond most doubt his mastery of his art, above all (in my view) with a song which is named after, and begins with an adaptation of the second verse of the first chapter of Genesis.