Tag Archive: bob dylan


9e1294e6fcdbbaf68ecdf171bd269f81651a92e2“Kill yr idols” advocated Sonic Youth back in the day, an extreme strategy that is not actually an invitation to murder but a warning against putting faith in heroes. Bob Dylan meant something similar when he sang (in Subterranean Homesick Blues) “Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters”.

Be your own person is the implicit message. While it’s ok to admire and respect others, it’s always worth remembering that people have a nasty habit of letting you down. Keeping a healthy sense of detachment avoids being disillusioned. Far safer to set your own goals, maintain your own standards and generally search for the hero inside yourself.

Devendra Banhart is a case in point. I was a huge fan of his when he burst upon the scene under the wing of head Swan Michael Gira. 2004’s Rejoicing In The Hands remains one of my all time favorite albums and I had the good fortune to see him play songs from this and its immediate follow ups – Nino Rojo and Cripple Crow. For a while he could do no wrong in my eyes. His charm, wit and good looks added to his appeal. In short , though not quite an idol , he used to be a hero. Continue reading

AWOPBOPALLOBOP ALOPBAMBOOM’ by Nik Cohn (Vintage Books, first published 1969)

25324112This book was written when Jim Morrison, Mama Cass, Jimi Hendrix and Brian Jones were still alive and The Beatles were still together.

The main thing it has going for it is timing. In 1968, pop was still treated as a fad that would fade away so the smart papers didn’t give any serious coverage to its cultural import.

As a cocky, outspoken journalist Nik Cohn was in the right place at the right time and at just 22 had the added advantage of being the right age.

This is an insider’s guide, a fan’s view from the front row written in just seven weeks. Its strength is that Cohn captures the spontaneity of the age but it is seriously flawed by the lack of accuracy and astonishing lapses of judgement. Continue reading

FRANCESCO DE GREGORI –  live at Nuova Teatro Carisport, Cesena, Italy 8th April 2016

degregoriThis concert is part of the ‘Amore e Furto’ (Love and Theft) tour – a reference to the subtitle of the  ‘De Gregori Canta Bob Dylan’ album released in 2015.

Needless to say, a fair proportion of the show is devoted to songs from this record which does such a valuable public service to Italians, particularly those who know Dylan only on the basis of a few of his ‘greatest hits’. The translations were obviously a labour of love and do an exemplary job of conveying the quirky poetry and socio-political thrust of Dylan’s language.

tickets.jpgThe varied choice of covers are drawn from the full range of Dylan’s career, evidence of the 65-year-old Italian singer-songwriter’s long-standing adoration of ‘His Bobness’. (Evidenced by the fact that he has also shared the bill with Dylan on a number of occasions).

De Gregori wisely steers clear of the more obvious selections so, for instance, there’s no ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ or ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’. Inspired versions of Desolation Row (Via Della Povertà) and Not Dark Yet (Non è Buoi Ancora) reflect the inspirations of  beat language and the contemplations of mortality just as effectively. Continue reading

LIKE A ROLLING STONE – BOB DYLAN AT THE CROSSROADS by Greil Marcus (Faber & Faber, 2006)

Greil Marcus is a man of many words. His verbosity is not to everyone’s taste. Many readers have, with just cause, accused him of being deliberately obtuse and willfully pretentious.

At the same time, his scholarly writings on music and cultural history are well worth the effort since they are frequently illuminating and consistently insightful.

Bob Dylan, the man and his music, is a subject he comes back to time and time again; taking fresh aims at a moving target he knows will never be fully defined.

It is the very elusiveness of Dylan that makes him so intriguing.

In this book, Marcus tells the story of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, charting the song’s origins and impact. He rightly identifies this as being more than just another rock song but, rather, a unique work of art more akin to an event. It may not have changed the world but it certainly set a new benchmark for what could be achieved in popular music. Continue reading

Today I spoke at a study group on the topic of A Ballad of a Thin Man by Bob Dylan. Here’s some of what I said:

bob-dylan-ballad-of-a-thin-manThe album Highway 61 Revisited was the first album of Bob Dylan’s that really made me sit up and take notice. The songs here were protest songs but were not overtly about unjust war, human rights or inequality.

This was a singer giving expression to his feelings in a manner I had not heard before. Even though his words are often obtuse, caustic and surreal there is, nevertheless, an unmistakable tone of someone who is not merely adopting a fashionably oppositional standpoint but stating something real, exemplifying an affinity for the power of language; what David Bowie (in Song For Bob Dylan) called “words of truthful vengeance”.

Like all great writers and artists, he urges you to see beyond the narrow confines of your own world. This form of direct communication through art is hard to explain to others. A poem, a painting or a novel can move us in ways that can often only be articulated in a formal, academic manner. Reducing emotional feelings to factual statements is satisfying on an intellectual level but somehow fails to capture the emotional impact.

This can help explain why after all the books and articles that have been written about Bob Dylan, he still remains an enigma. This is all the more remarkable in the age of the Internet where we are overwhelmed by information and analysis.

There is still no simple answer to the question:  ‘Who Is Bob Dylan?’ Continue reading

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