Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Some Thoughts On Dylan At 70

Given that this blog got its very name from a Bob Dylan lyric there hasn't been much of him here over the years. This is partly because I figure that like a strong single malt whisky (probably an Islay one) you either love him, in which case you will have a cupboard full of his stuff already - and maybe even a few bootleg distillations besides - or you can't abide him, in which case all the proselytising in the world isn't going to change your mind; it's also partly because Dylan is signed to Sony (once Columbia) and they seem to stamp on any 'unauthorised' use of his music (even things on YouTube) pretty sharply, in what I would argue is a thoroughly unenlighted Old Testament sort of a way, but hey, that's up to them.

The first Bob LP I bought was the old Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, when I was 17 (and he was 42); it was the 'protest' stuff and obvious hits that drew me in. Then I heard Highway 61 Revisited and 'Desolation Row', a whole strange, brilliant Beats world of surrealism opening up, Bringing It All Back Home and a new album Shot Of Love (6th Form), Blood On The Tracks and an even better new one Infidels (University), The Freewheelin', At Budokan, Desire, Street Legal and then the vast back catalogue of unreleased stuff courtesy my small Welsh friend Stevie, who really is a Dylan obsessive.

Now, with me in my mid-late 40s and His Bobness at 70, his 21st century material sounds as good to me, better even, than anything he's done. A grizzled old ex-gunfighter with a burdensome past, 'living on rice and beans', Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven (Western analogies always work with Bob, and for him) looking wrly out (and in) on human fallibility, his recent songs are shot through with heart and warmth and gallows humour and as packed as ever with quotable lines from the best screenplay that never existed, as well as a few that did.

He's the best writer rock's ever produced; he's just 'a song and dance man'.

Bless him.

Happy Birthday Mr Zimmerman.

[No music, for the reasons given. I'm happy to make recommendations if you think you can handle yer liquor x]


  1. You pour your heart out. And no one has posted. Anything. Are you listening to the ongoing Radio 4 tribute?

  2. I haven't George, is it good? I'll catch up on iPlayer if so.

  3. mmmm....islay single malts...
    nice post by the way ;o)

  4. Nice post but I'm afraid that to date I have generally been in the "can't abide him" category. That word "generally" possibly shows a chink in my armour though. I have a Bob loving neighbour and I have promised that one day I will sit down in his living room and let him play me some Bob and see if he can change my mind. I was given "Street Legal" recently too but haven't played it yet.

    Love his radio show though.

    Jura Jura!

  5. I think having someone who knows their way around The Bob to play you some is the best way in Darce. To paraphrase wot I wrote at Drew's this morning, Dylan's definitely a songs, not albums, kinda guy: some of his 'worst' LPs contain some of his best songs; some of his 'best' absolute stinkers; and some of the finest things he ever did got left off everything.

    'Street Legal'? Cluttered production, some great songs: 'Changing Of The Guards' and (especially) 'Señor' are two of my all-time faves. Quite a 'soulful' album too, in a way.

    And oh yes, Theme Time Radio Hour is shurely one of his greatest pieces of work.

    Duncan - thank you!

  6. I abhor Dylan's musical style but I think highly of many of his lyrics. You probably could have guessed that.

    I think it's just ducky that Sony lost the equivalent of £2 billion in the first quarter of this year. They blame their setback on the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the play station fiasco worldwide, but I'm sure the real reason is--as you noted--they waste vast resources and effort trying to police the web and remain generally unenlighted. Perhaps they would be more enlighted if they sipped an Islay now and then. A good Scotch always lights me up..

  7. Yeah, like, Turn On Mr Maaaan

  8. The Radio 4 tribute shows are very interesting. Greil Marcus, for example, discusses John Wesley Harding at great length, as you'd expect. Catch up with it.

  9. You know, you're really not selling it to me with that whole "Greil Marcus discusses John Wesley Harding at great length" thing George...x

  10. Without a doubt Happy Birthday Mr Zimmerman, one of the most important musicians and songwriters of all time (in my humble opinion anyway!)

  11. It's late, I've just got back from Finland, my luggage is still in helsinki, I haven't read everything here in detail, but I posted as well. happy birthday Bob.

  12. Oops. Bummer about the luggage : (

  13. Yes. Am bummed about the luggage.


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