Bob Dylan recorded many songs in his career and his “electric” album ‘Highway 61 revisited’ was his fifth. He has recorded 36 Studio albums. Here is a list of all the songs that he recorded that put him on the charts and made it to #1:
That’s right. There aren’t any. His highest chart position is #2. For example “Like a Rolling Stone” hit #2 even though when he plugged in people booed him. The Byrds recording of Mr. Tambourine man charted at #1. However his own recording of “Mr. Tambourine Man” has never charted. The album it was on peaked at #6 on the billboard charts.
What then is the point to continue to insist that sales somehow equate to the quality of the song or artist in question? Music has never confirmed or conformed to sales when it comes to theoretical and historical analysis. Many classical works even famous operas initially tanked and yet now are considered amongst the greatest ever written. The first performance of the Barber of Seville was hissed and booed at just like Dylan’s first electric performance. For Rossini,This was because of “mob mentality” and due to the fact that a previous composer (Paisiello) helped stir animosity towards this new interpretation of this story he had already composed a version of.
To remain in opera, merely because it involves lyrics and music together; Carmen by Bizet was critically ridiculed and shocked its initial audience who by the end were described as being “cold”.
“dull and obscure … the ear grows weary of waiting for the cadence that never comes” -Léon Escudier
The management had to give away tickets to fill the emptying houses during its initial run. During that run Bizet passed. Then, finally, it gained some interest. Fast forward—
Today, how have we become more enlightened than our ancestors? We watch the award shows and we listen to the top 40. Yet is this success really how great music is created or maintained as a part of our human heritage? Clearly history shows us the opposite. That sometimes the best things in art are under-appreciated simply because of prejudice and crowd control. The media and advertising circus makes instant #1 hits because radio DJs don’t seem to even choose whether or not they play a song.
Have you ever loved a band that just never even really received radio play? Or maybe you hear a song over and over again and you don’t know a single person who thinks the song is that good. When is the last time you heard a DJ introduce a new local artist that clearly wasn’t signed. This isn’t anything new.
This has been happening for centuries. It is about power and corruption. Sometimes it’s about fear of something new. Sometimes it’s about payola. Maybe it’s about exposure. It could be based on advertising budgets.
Folks, music is about- sound. It is about what that sound does to us. What story do we hear and how does that effect us as humans when we listen. Does it relate to our human experience? Then there is the theoretical analysis. Something the average listener probably doesn’t care about, but something that can be quantified in certain ways. Some songs are made up of more simple parts and others more complex. This is akin to how a novel can be analyzed for quality or say— a poem:
Is this good haiku
Even though it’s in English
Not in Japanese.
Subjective and theoretical interpretation and analysis. Traditions and evolutions. Personal taste and educated pallets. To really appreciate music you have to— appreciate music. You have to first start by listening to things you might not like. You have to be adventurous. You have to listen to old music, new music, jazz, pop, country, indigenous chants, choral pieces. You could spend your whole life only listening to disco. You could become an expert in disco. You could spend your entire life just listening only to the genre disco. Or soul; or big band.
You could only look at paintings in a museum that have the color red in them or you could eat only dishes with noodles. Musical education has developed a musical appreciation course to expand the horizons of those studying music beyond the shallow pond of self interest. Why?
Music doesn’t happen in a vacuum like most radio stations appear to be caught in. It doesn’t happen in a corporate vortex. It doesn’t happen in genres or in marketing schemes. It happens when humans perform and make noise- beautiful, harmful, eloquent, complex, rambunctious, soulful, softly intoxicating, sultry, fingerpicking, hand clapping, voice raising, spirit filling— NOISE. Sounds. We could repeat our mistakes and continue to live In a world where #1 means no one else is important. We could believe the lies of the corporations that proclaim there aren’t any artists better than what we have now. Or we could look back and realize that the best music that ever existed was typically the music that happened outside of the elitist propaganda and in our own communities. Bob Dylan doesn’t need a #1 to be known as one of the best singer/songwriters of his generation. And no amount of #1 artist hype can diminish the quality of his work. After all quantity isn’t quality- quality is quality. #SetMusicFree