Bob Dylan: Day of the Locusts (1970)

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Bob Dylan: Day of the Locusts (1970)

In anticipation of the forthcoming set in Bob Dylan's on-going Bootleg Series -- Another Self Portriat which collects material from 1969-71 -- it has been interesting to re-explore not just the songs from this era, but what Dylan was saying about his life at this time.

In his autobiographical Chronicles Vol 1 (can we expect Vol 2 soon, this one is almost a decade old now) he writes about he was forced to retreat from the world -- he now had a family -- and the expectations put on him as "the Big Bubba of Rebellion, High Priest of Protest, the Czar of Dissent, Kaiser of Apostasy, Archbishop of Anarchy, the Big Cheese".

But even at his home in Woodstock the lost and needy kept coming: "Moochers showed up from as far away as California on pilgrimages. Goons were breaking into our place all hours of the night. At first it was merely the nomadic homeless making illegal entry -- seemed harmless enough, but then the rogue radicals looking for the Prince of Protest began to arrive -- unaccountable-looking characters, gargoyle-looking gals, scarecrows, stragglers looking to party, raid the pantry . . .."

It sounds intolerable, and even in town when out for a meal with his family people would stop eating and stare: "Is that him?" Even Robbie Robertson asked him where he was going to take the whole music scene, and his old partner Joan Baez was calling him out on record to rejoin the world and take a leading role.

Such pressure was so acute he could perhaps do nothing else but retreat, make myth-denying albums like Self Portrait and fantasise about a nine-to-five existence.

Yet there were also some remarkably good songs from this period (which Elsewhere has already noted here, here and this previously unreleased song from the new collection).

And this interesting one, which appeared on his New Morning album, and sounds like a throwaway, with venting.

For reasons not entirely clear given he was reluctant to go -- although he says "every look and scent of it spelled respectability and had something of the spirit of the universe in it" -- Dylan decided to accept an honorary doctorate in music from Princeton ("a weird adventure") and took along David Crosby who "could freak out a whole block all by himself".

But even there, the pressure was put on him and he recoiled from it : see the extract from Chronicles Vol 1,  Simon and Schuster, 2004, below.

And so he wrote the cynical Day of the Locusts about that strange hot day. This song is not on the collection Another Self Portrait (although an alternate version of If Dogs Run Free is, despite him saying in Chronicles it was done in one take).

As far I am aware he has never performed this in concert.


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