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Music

Revisit the moment Bob Dylan discussed the style of The Beatles

In terms of 1960s icons, you don’t get more culturally significant than The Beatles and Bob Dylan. The stories of both are well-known, and since they burst onto the scene in the early ’60s, they’ve been so revered that they’re regarded as Gods amongst men, possessing a musical skill and sharp lyrical prowess that surely are not of this human realm.

The Beatles are, without a doubt, the most vital band of all time. The Fab Four’s career is best described as an odyssey – both in the sonic and personal. When they broke onto the scene in 1962 with the timeless sugary pop of the single, ‘Love Me Do’, I don’t think anybody would have thought that they would go on to be the world beaters and artistic pioneers that we love today. They helped to bring us into the future with their music and attitudes and wrote the first edition of the handbook for what was shaping up to become modern popular music.

As for Bob Dylan, well, he is perhaps the finest lyricist of all time. His prose are of an ancient quality, equating him to the wordsmiths of old such as Homer or Sappho. Although his career has been much more oscillating than The Beatles, particularly when we note the end of the ’70s and his surreal foray into Christian music, for the most part, his works have always been inconceivably brilliant.

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Dylan is also one of the best protest songwriters of all time, taking the mantle from his hero, Woody Guthrie. Because of this, his work inspired a generation, including The Beatles, and his influence can be heard permeating the weed-drenched sounds of their 1965 record, Rubber Soul.  

It is well-known that, eventually, The Beatles and Bob Dylan would meet, and become good friends in the process. Notably, Beatles guitarist George Harrison and Dylan were such great chums and were members of the same supergroup, The Travelling Wilburys, which featured the likes of Tom Petty and Roy Orbison.

Even though they were later close friends, in a 1966 interview with Klas Burling, Dylan, who’s never been one to mince his words, discussed The Beatles’ style in a slightly opaque way, inferring that The Beatles were better than than the genre in question. At the time, he shocked everyone by claiming that the Fab Four didn’t play rock music: “Oh, the Beatles are great, but they don’t play rock ‘n’ roll”, he said.

Asked why he thought they didn’t play rock and roll, Dylan clarified: “No, they don’t play rock ‘n’ roll. They’re more like… rock ‘n’ roll is just for… is an extension of 12-bar blues. And it’s ahh, rock ‘n’ roll is white, you know, white 17-year-old kid music. And it’s kid music, that’s all it is. That’s what rock ‘n’ roll is. Rock ‘n’ roll is a fake, uh, fake kind of attempt at sex, you know.”

The interviewer then turned his attention to Dylan’s own style, asking him what he would “call” his own style. He responded with: “I don’t know, I’ve never heard anybody that plays or sings like me, so I don’t know.”

Pressed again, the Minnesota troubadour, who had been up all night and “taken some pills”, posited that his style was perhaps: “Mathematical music.”

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