Up until a few years ago, if someone used the word “troll,” I had a pretty firm understanding that they were talking about a mythical creature who lived under a bridge. As I used social media more, I learned that there is another kind of troll ... a person whose sole purpose in life is to seek out online content for which they can make snarky comments. Just when I thought I understood trolls and their behavior (called “trolling”), I began writing this column and discovered a brand new species of troll ... the Squawker!
The Albany Herald’s powers-that-be decided to give readers an outlet to anonymously comment on anything they saw fit, and thus the Squawkbox was born on Sept. 11, 2001. This was the perfect place for people who wanted to have their points heard but didn’t want those views to be connected to them, folks who just wanted to say something silly to lighten things up, and self-important know-it-alls who wanted to prove their intellectual superiority.
My column and I have been the subject of several squawks ... some squawkers basing their opinion of me by the content of my column, others coming to my defense (thanks, Mom). I will say if you don’t like my column, you probably wouldn’t like me in real life because I am a “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” kind of person.
There is a series of recent squawks I want to address that have absolutely nothing to do with me ... the ones about the Beatles and Bob Dylan.
One Squawker said ... “Hate to shatter your delusion, early Beatles were that good. Lennon/McCartney were one of the great tunesmith teams. Their quality declined after Bob Dylan introduced them to illicit drugs.”
Then there was the Squawker who said, “There’s a line between what the Beatles wrote as sober young men and as inebriated potheads as clear as if it were drawn with a pencil and ruler. Their ‘peers’ at that time were all rope-smoking dopeheads, like you. Anything sounds good when you are stoned. Dylan can’t carry a tune in a bucket; he lucked up and managed to write a “few” good tunes. His career was buoyed by technology, and he had connections.”
Here’s the problem with these squawks: They’re wrong.
The Beatles did epic music together ... “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “Yesterday,” “Hey Jude” and “Help” pop in my mind immediately. But when The Beatles split up and each was able to develop his own sound, magic was made that was equal to (or arguably better than) the music they made together.
For example: George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy,” “Imagine” and “Instant Karma.” Even Ringo had “It Don’t Come Easy.”
Music fans can be a fickle lot, and artists are often torn between continuing on a path that they’ve outgrown or challenging their older, more sophisticated selves to write and play music that reflects their current vision. George, Paul, John and Ringo would not have been true musical artists if they had not left the 1960s sound of their youth behind and written the amazing songs fueled by life experience and maturity.
Now, as for Dylan — granted, Bob Dylan has been given a lot of criticism for his voice, but if you listen to early Dylan, his vocal talent is undeniable. And even if you don’t like the sound of his voice, to minimize his contribution to the music world as “a few good songs” is pure ignorance of music.
There’s a reason why hundreds of musicians from every genre have covered and recorded Bob Dylan’s music including Jimi Hendrix, The Ramones, Rage Against the Machine, The White Stripes, Patti Labelle, Johnny Cash, The Band, Tracy Chapman, Sam Cooke, Pearl Jam, Van Morrison, Nina Simone, Joan Baez, Lou Reed and Neil Young.
Bob Dylan has written 359 songs (that we know of) ... “It Ain’t Me Babe,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” “Just Like a Woman,” “Tangled Up in Blue,” “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” “Blowin’ in The Wind,” “Like A Rolling Stone” ... A few songs my a$$. What have you contributed to the world, squawker?
Two more words for you: Nobel Prize. They’re not handing out Nobel Prizes in Literature to songwriters who “wrote a few good tunes.”
To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson: Your opinion is a confession of your character. And to quote some other really smart person: “Opinions are like ... ummm ... elbows. Everybody’s got one.”