Bob Dylan's worst song, according to at least one fan, is a plot-heavy pick from the mid-1970s that opens with harmonica, spins a tale starring two women and a man who resembles a face card, and ends more than 8 minutes later.

Cathy Podeszwa, who counts some of the Duluth-born artist's songs among her favorite - especially "Shelter from the Storm" - described "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" as "an endless, boring drone."

Like most things surrounding the mysterious folk figure, there was a counterpoint from another music-minded fan. For him, the same song sparked a memory of pre-teen fandom and pinching his mom's copy of "Blood on the Tracks," which includes the track.

"That may be my mother's favorite Dylan song," Joel Sipress said in a thread on Facebook, where Dylan's worst song was debated. Aaron Brown, who co-chaired Hibbing's Dylan Days festival before it disbanded in 2014, came in with a compromise: good story song, could use an edit.

"A hard edit," Podeszwa added.

In an informal poll soliciting opinions on the Nobel Prize winner's worst song from his 60-year career, divisiveness ruled. The tone of responses ranged from there-are-no-bad-Dylan-songs to they're-all-bad to what-kind-of-monster-would-even-ask-this-question.

And some song-savvy sorts, typically those who described themselves as a Dylan fan on some level, were willing to weigh in with a title and a reason.

Of course there is at least one bad song by Bob Dylan.

"For a guy who works in an ethereal way, like Dylan does, they can't all be winners," said Brown, who doesn't like "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35." "It's the nature of creativity."

 

 

 

Top picks for worst song

"Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" begins with mismatched blasts from a horn section, a list of all the places and ways an unspecified they will stone ya, and the repetition of the party-popular line "everybody must get stoned."

The single from "Blonde on Blonde" was released in the latter half of the 1960s and, more than two decades later, was on the "Forrest Gump" soundtrack.

It's a stupid song, according to Brown, and there are better songs to highlight on that album.

"'Rainy Day Women' captures this notion of the drug-fueled confusion of the '60s," he said. "It's just dumb. It's the kind of song that amplifies the drug culture, but doesn't give a sense of meaning behind it. You have to be stoned to appreciate or want to be stoned to appreciate it."

Another song that received multiple negative nods: "Wiggle Wiggle," the opening track to the 1990s pop, but not quite popular, Dylan album "Under the Red Sky."

The song lists how to wiggle (all dressed in green, or in your boots and shoes, or to the front and to the rear) and what to wiggle like (a swarm of bees, a bowl of soup, a rolling hoop).

"He says 'wiggle,' like, 50 times on that track," said Jason Beckman, self-described as a medium Dylan fan. "That track is whack."

Some fans dismiss Dylan's three-year, born-again Christian period, which started in the late 1970s and included the release of gospel music. But it's a Christian holiday song, released decades later, that is a beard-scratcher for some.

"Must Be Santa" is a track from Dylan's 2009 Christmas album. It's more than a song - it's a spectacle. In the video, Dylan dons the red suit and gets festive with friends.

Christine Dean of KUMD-FM didn't like it at first.

"It felt like a practical joke," she said. "Then I saw the video, and he's having so much fun with it, I don't mind it so much now."

Won't pick

There is no worst Bob Dylan song, according to Lori Melton - a fan who discovered his music around the fire at Camp Olson when she was a camp counselor. The more she learned his story, she said, and the more she saw him perform:

"I was enamored with his fearlessness," Melton said. "This is who I am, take it or leave it. This is me. It made me appreciate him more."

Melton's family dog, a pit bull mix, is even named Bob Dylan.

Of the more than 100 commenters on the News Tribune's unofficial Facebook poll (see below), at least 30 percent expressed some level of anger at the question of which is Dylan's worst song. Few answered.

Melton understands that response.

"I don't know what it is," she said. "I almost feel like a proprietary love of him, a protectiveness."

(When pressed, she admitted that she doesn't love his Frank Sinatra covers, but that's because she isn't a fan of that style of music.)

There is a Bob Dylan universe, according to Brown, and it's not a place to poke at the artist. "When you go into that magical ether of the Bob Dylan universe and point out that there are thousands of songs and millions of lyrics in this universe and that some of them are dumb, that becomes an insult ot the whole universe," he said.

Worst song, it's a thing

The News Tribune isn't the first publication to ask its readers to pick Dylan's worst song. Rolling Stone magazine did it with a readers' poll in 2013 and its top - or rather bottom - three were "Wiggle Wiggle," "Gotta Serve Somebody" and "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35."

When Time magazine did it in 2011, they prefaced it with "Oh, Bobby D. As great as you can be, you've sure had some stinkers." The list, which doesn't specify which is the worst-worst and which is the best-worst, includes - in addition to songs already listed here - "All the Tired Horses," "Sarah Jane," "Forever Young" and "We Are the World" - a group project among pop artists in the mid-1980s who were trying to raise money for African famine relief and not written by Dylan.

In 2015, when Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature, USA Today ranked Dylan's songs. Number 359 was "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35." ("Wiggle Wiggle" behind that, and "Like a Rolling Stone" before that.) And when the City Pages made the list in 2017, "Rainy Day Women" lost again, with "Joey" getting second-worst place.

On Reddit, fans started - but maybe didn't finish - a tournament of Dylan's worst songs.

Asked what Dylan would think of being asked about his worst song, Brown could only speculate from his own perspective as a writer - he has the Minnesota Brown blog, and is creator of the Great Northern Radio Show.

"As a creative, you know damn well which one's your worst song - which thing you shanked and wish you got back," he said. "Maybe that song belonged to that time, but it doesn't belong to this time."

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IF YOU GO

What: Duluth Dylan Fest

When: May 18-26

Schedule

May 18

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, free

Bob Dylan Exhibit: Collector William Pagel’s archives, runs through Aug. 1

May 19

Cedar Lounge, Superior

Dylan Fest kick-off party with Cowboy Blue Angel performing “Blood on the Tracks,” 5-8 p.m., free

 

Carmody Irish Pub

Dylan-themed pub trivia, 9 p.m., free

May 20

Zeitgeist Atrium

North Country Inspirations art show opening reception with music by Tom O’Keefe and friends, 5-7 p.m., free

 

Carmody Irish Pub

Dylan Fest acoustic jam session with host Leslie Black, BYO-instrument and/or voice, 7-9 p.m., free

May 21

Amazing Grace Bakery and Cafe

Armory Arts and Music open mic, 4-6 p.m., free

 

Sir Benedict’s Tavern

Live Dylan music by Greg Tiburzi, 6-8 p.m., free

May 22

Teatro Zuccone

“Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan,” 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., free

 

Cedar Lounge, Superior

Rich Mattson and the North Stars all Dylan show, 8-11 p.m., free

May 23

Sacred Heart Music Center

Joan Osborne sings the songs of Bob Dylan, Coyote opens, 7:30 p.m., $25 advance at eventbrite.com

May 24

519 N. Third Ave.

Bob Dylan birthday party at his childhood home, 3 p.m., free

 

Sacred Heart Music Center

Singer-songwriter contest, 6:30-9:30 p.m., free

 

Bent Paddle taproom

Basement Tapes band, 9-11 p.m.

May 25

Starts at Armory Arts and Music Center Annex

Tour of Bob Dylan sites, 9-11 a.m., free

 

Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum

John Bushey Memorial Lecture by David Gaines, author of “In Dylan Town,” 1-3 p.m., free

 

Sacred Heart Music Center

Bob Dylan Revue reunion concert, 7-10 p.m. $10 at eventbrite.com

May 26

Zeitgeist Arts Cafe

Farewell brunch with Jim Hall, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., free