chapter  4
26 Pages

Bob Dylan and Collage: ‘A deliberate cultural jumble’

Bob Dylan launched his career in the hallucinatory, multifarious, patchworked metropolis of 1960s New York City. It was in Greenwich Village that he wrote many of his best and most successful songs, drawing inspiration from the ‘cultural junk’3 and juxtaposed discourses, voices, and traditions, which exist predominantly in cities. Dylan found the processes involved with collage compelling, and whilst he discovered that it was not always possible, nor indeed relevant, to use the technique directly within the context of his songs, his songwriting on Bringing It All Back Home (1965), Highway 61 Revisited (1965), Blonde on Blonde (1966), and Blood on the Tracks (1975) (as well as certain songs on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan [1963] and The Basement Tapes [1975]) regularly employs what might more accurately be termed the collage-esque. The liner notes to two of his albums feature a version of Burroughs’s cut-up technique, as does his collage-novella, Tarantula (1965).4 So too, to a certain extent, does the ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ video, in which, in an alley behind the Savoy in London, Dylan slings to the ground laconic cue cards featuring fragments of the song’s lyrics, on occasion deliberately misspelled or misquoted. These, in addition to numerous songs on the albums listed above, as well as many of his interviews and performances between 1962 and 1975, are clearly indicative of his larger desire (and ability) both to be ‘hip to communication’ and to create what he referred to as a ‘collage of experience’ for his listeners and for himself.5