Digital Dylan: High Popular Culture and the Digital Modern Times of Bob Dylan

Tara Brabazon, Steve Redhead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Beatles. Bob Dylan. The Rolling Stones. The Band. The Eagles. Fleetwood Mac. Steely Dan. The catalogue of credible, corporate rock music could continue to be listed page after page after page. But what makes this old popular culture interesting in our present is how this snake of popular memory slithers into our present through commodification and consumerism. Old pop is post-pop. It is unpopular culture that continues to return and burn with familiarity, predictability, comfort, banality, boredom, and conformity. Yet this old pop provides models and strategies to understand fandom, digitization, and the peculiar patterns and pathways for the past to both live in the present as well as strangle the new and the innovative. But further, the past that survives, which markets itself as completist, is highly selective. This is not the database of popular music that has been digitized and marketed to the present consumer. Instead, particular white male musicians, with the ever-attendant Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie, continue to survive in the saturated, claustropolitan pop present. Out-takes, rare live performances, and fetishized, multiplied releases of the same song perpetuate a particular version of un/popular culture. James Blunt's out-takes are of small commercial value. Digital Dylan continues to dominate.
This article captures the old and the new, the unpopular in the popular, and watches it twist and turn through terms such as value, relevance, and importance. Appropriately, this exploration of claustropolitan consumerism – shopping at the end of the world – uses Bob Dylan's reissues as a font, example, and model. Dylan remains unpredictable in his predictability, and unfashionable in his fashion. Significantly, his capacity to sell (out) and buy (in), and sell out once more, while committing to new musical interfaces to sell the old, remains significant in a time when fan studies remains wedded to representation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmericana: The Journal of American Popular Culture
Volume19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Popular music
  • Bob Dylan
  • High popular culture
  • Consumerism
  • Commodification

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