Bob Dylan talks in depth about Pete Townshend‘s 1965 breakthrough hit for the Who — “My Generation.” The legendary tune is but one of many analyzed in Dylan’s first new book in 18 years, titled, The Philosophy Of Modern Song. The book is comprised of 60 essays featuring Dylan’s musing on other popular musicians — including Stephen Foster, Elvis Costello, Hank Williams, and Nina Simone, among many others. Dylan has been working on the manuscript for the past decade.
The New York Times published an excerpt from the tome in which Dylan writes of “My Generation”:
This is a song that does no favors for anyone and casts doubt on everything.
In this song, people are trying to slap you around, slap you in the face, vilify you. They’re rude, and they slam you down, take cheap shots. They don’t like you because you pull out all the stops and go for broke. You put your heart and soul into everything and shoot the works because you got energy and strength, and purpose.
Because you’re so inspired, they put the whammy on, they’re allergic to you, and they have hard feelings. Just your very presence repels them. They give you frosty looks, and they’ve had enough of you, and there’s a million others just like you, multiplying every day.
Pete Townshend explained that it was Bob Dylan’s work during the first half of the 1960’s that changed all his preconceived notions of songwriting upon first listen: “I suddenly realized after listening to Bob Dylan, that the song that I had written, which was ‘I can’t explain,’ y’know, to the prettiest girl in the class — ‘I love you, but I can’t explain, ‘cause I’m too shy’ — that this song was actually about being inarticulate. It was a song about being unable to explain what you felt. And he was the guy that changed the way that we used the pop lyric. He was the guy that really said, ‘You can write a song about nuclear fallout — and it can still be fun. Y’know, it’s a bizarre notion. That’s basically what happened.”
The Who performs tonight (October 17th) at Denver’s Ball Arena.
Bob Dylan performs tonight (October 17th) in The Netherlands at Amsterdam’s AFAS Live.