In late July 1966 Bob Dylan got into a motorcycle accident, which ended up being an accident of mythic proportions in music lore. Though he never went to the hospital he supposedly broke several vertebrae, and while no one really knows the nature of the injuries, Dylan’s voice changed unmistakably after the accident.
The new “post-accident” Dylan sound was immediately obvious on his next two records, “John Wesley Harding” and “Nashville Skyline.” Initially the post-accident sound was softer and throaty—he sounds almost like Kermit on “Nashville Skyline”‘s “Lay Lady Lay.”
But the post-accident sound continued to evolve over the decades, and grew airy, almost whispery, like on “Most of the Time,” from 1989′s “Oh Mercy.”
Fast forward to today, and the post-accident sound has grown downright gravelly, sounding pretty close to where Tom Waits had evolved by 1985′s “Rain Dogs” and still hovers on his new one “Bad As Me,” released last fall.
Of course, Waits has been on an angry spree and last we heard from Dylan he was looking twee and merry with his 2009 holiday album “Christmas In The Heart.” But in the new video for “Duquesne Whistle,” lead single from “Tempest,” has Dylan turning that twee on its head, leading a pack of latino gangsters and a dude dressed like Gene Simmons past a failed Romeo whose efforts to win over the girl of his dreams land him beaten and left for dead on the street. Dylan steps right over Mr. Romeo—can’t even be bothered to look down at him.
The video is wry and weird and hilarious and excellent. And unexpected. A little like what we’ve come to expect from Tom Waits.
Of course Dylan and Waits are both musical treasures and way too Advanced to be copying each other. But it’s funny that the long arcs of their respective careers have led them to such a similar-sounding place. Check out the videos for “Duquesne Whistle” and Tom Waits’ recently released “Hell Broke Luce” below.