Bob Dylan was the 1960’s symbol for counterculture. Or by default he was the face used by mainstream media to describe counterculture. Especially with his “electrified” period of the late 60’s and his lyrics veering more towards the abstract, quicksilver images, in songs like Visions of Johanna or Subterranean Homesick Blues (and practically all his other songs of that era).
It takes a great children’s show not to underestimate the intelligence and the power of understanding of the children. One such show was the odd and brilliant The magic roundabout. A French-British production featuring the pop-art psychedelia of the 60’s, with stop motion animation and clever characters.
The main character was a dog named Dougal who is addicted to sugar (because being primarily a French production, there was the assumption that the British had quite the sweet tooth). One of the other characters is a rabbit named Dylan. He often looks spaced-out, his talk is slurred and shows the basic traits associated with hippies at the time. He is usually sleeping or shown playing his guitar. A Buddha-like character with appreciation for taking life at a slowed down pace.
Dylan the rabbit is of course a playful twist on the public image of Bob Dylan. The use of which happened most likely because of Dylan’s fame as much as anything. Indeed Bob Dylan is usually shown in pictures from 60’s version of beatnik clothes including dark sunglasses, black attire and speaking/singing in his trade mark slurred way. There could be quite a debate of whether this has much to do with the hippie culture. By most accounts Bob Dylan himself did not particularly get along with hippies. Also, Dylan’s image would dramatically change after the fabled “motorcycle accident” and his move towards a more pastoral scenery.
Speaking of which, there is a sort of covers project that has Dylan (well actually someone imitating Bob Dylan) singing Dr. Seuss lyrics. It’s brilliant and most surprisingly not far out of place on say “Blonde on blonde” era Dylan in terms of sound and vocal delivery.
Of course, the other icons of 1960’s counterculture, the Beatles had quite the affection for Dylan. They included him on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s and upon coming to American expressed a great desire to meet him. Folklore has it that Bob Dylan introduced the Beatles to weed. John Lennon had a friendly rivalry with Bob Dylan, as two of the best best songwriters of their generation. In the clip below Lennon also does his best at imitating Dylan’s style of singing.
The children’s show proved to have a larger cultural impact than had been perhaps originally anticipated. In the years following it, many have expressed the love for the children’s show and it developed a sort of cult-like status. The colorful imagery and the theme music especially became a classic symbol for the 1960s.
While an oddity of the time of its initial release, many modern cartoons seem to owe a degree of debt to thr Magic Roundabout. The wacky characters, the plotlines, or the color schemes would not be out of place in today’s, post-Spongebob Squarepants, cartoon world.
The growth in popularity ensured that the show was brought back in the 2000s under a more modern production. As for Bob Dylan, there is no word yet on what (if any) feelings he had about The Magic Roundabout.