The last time Bob Dylan played in Bangor was 1997, to a crowd of 3,000 at the Bangor Auditorium. Fourteen years later, he’ll play the second-to-last date of his 2011 North American tour on Saturday at the Bangor Waterfront, to a crowd that’s now used to seeing a wealth of rock legends play on the shores of the Penobscot River. Not that it makes a Dylan visit any less exciting. Fifty years since he first burst onto the folk music scene, his words and music retain their impact and meaning. Though perhaps it’s not at the rate of the 1960s and ’70s, Dylan still attracts young new fans with each passing year. That kind of influence is reserved for only a small handful of people.
Here at the Bangor Daily News, we have a lot of Dylan-philes on staff. In honor of his concert with Leon Russell this Saturday, we decided to poll our staffers on all things Dylan. Whether you love him or not, he has always had the power to ruffle feathers and make you think.
Tom Groening, Editorial Page editor
Favorite song: “Fourth Time Around,” his answer to John Lennon’s “Norwegian Wood.”
Favorite album: “Blood on the Tracks,” probably because it came out when I was 15 and could “own” it in a way that I couldn’t own the ’60s records. It’s got it all: the free-wheeling, beat storytelling of “Tangled Up in Blue,” the raw pain of “You’re a Big Girl Now,” the howling rage of “Idiot Wind.”
Dylan live: I saw him in 1986 (backed by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers); in 2001; and in 2006. The 2001 show, in Portland, featured my favorite of his bands: Larry Campbell, Charlie Sexton, Tony Garnier. Those dudes can play, but in a subtle, acoustic way. I’ll never forget the way Dylan opened his mouth and joyfully sang the first song, the traditional bluegrass gospel tune “Hallelujah, I’m Ready.”
Favorite lyric: “Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free / Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands / With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves / Let me forget about today until tomorrow.”
Charlie Campo, BDN librarian
Favorite song: “The Times They are a-Changin’.” This was the anthem of the ’60s.
Favorite album: Also “The Times They are a-Changin’,” released on Columbia Records, 1964. It was a revolutionary album for revolutionary times.
Dylan live: Have not seen him live.
Favorite lyric: “Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call / Don’t stand in the doorway / Don’t block up the hall / For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled / The battle outside ragin’ will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls / For the times they are a-changin’.” A lyric for all time, from Mark Twain to Will Rogers to Dylan to the present day.
Emily Burnham, Living reporter and columnist
Favorite song: I could listen to “One More Cup of Coffee” on repeat for a long time.
Favorite album: “Blonde on Blonde” or “Bringing It All Back Home.” I used to get home from school and sit underneath the table my parents’ record player was on and listen to both of those. But I also think “Desire” is criminally underrated.
Dylan live: Once in 1998, at the Cumberland County Civic Center, with Natalie Merchant, at the height of my teenage Dylan fascination; again in 2007, at the CCCC, with Elvis Costello. He was better the first time.
Favorite lyric: “He not busy being born is busy dying” is one of the great lyrical one-liners of all time. I also love “Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you / Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you / The vagabond who’s rapping at your door / Is standing in the clothes that you once wore / Strike another match, go start anew / And it’s all over now, Baby Blue.”
Judy Long, Digital Desk senior editor
Favorite song: “Visions of Johanna.”
Favorite album: “Blonde on Blonde” is my true favorite, but for those who already know all about “Blonde on Blonde,” “Blood on the Tracks” and “Highway 61 Revisited,” I can’t say enough about 2001’s “Love and Theft.” Hearing Dylan’s cracked voice sing, “I want him dead or alive / Either one, I don’t care / High water everywhere” (on “High Water (For Charley Patten)”) or the introduction to “Honest With Me” (“Well, I’m stranded in the city that never sleeps / Some of these women they just give me the creeps”) is even more visceral for me than the old Dylan tunes.
Dylan live: My future husband took me to my first Dylan show, which was the 1997 Bangor performance. I have seen Dylan six more times since then. We saw him perform after Phil Lesh & Friends at the Augusta Civic Center in 1999, and members of both bands did an encore version of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” that just set the place on fire. The crowd was great and I swear that Dylan looked right at me and laughed. No, really, he did.
Favorite lyric: From “Brownsville Girl” (on 1986’s “Knocked Out Loaded”): “Strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections than people who are most content / I don’t have any regrets, they can talk about me plenty when I’m gone / You always said people don’t do what they believe in, they just do what’s most convenient, then they repent / And I always said, “Hang on to me, baby, and let’s hope that the roof stays on.”