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I accept that whatever my literary musings on Dylan, I will inevitably antagonise “the obsessives” so let me stress here and now that my approach to Bob’s work is clear and precise; to my mind he is not a consistent melodicist and there are innumerable instances where his work should be consigned to the field of poetry rather than music. If we examine the dichotomy of Lennon and McCartney’s differing melodic compositional techniques, (1) the monotone approach, essentially the same limited phrases over successive chordal shifts (“Help”, “I am the Walrus”) constrasted with (2) angularity and contour (“Here there and everywhere”, “I’m looking through you”) we equally cannot ignore their ability to mine each other’s relative strengths (“If I fell” – Lennon, “For no one” – McCartney). If Dylan, carrying the weight of sole authorship, remained less consistent throughout the 60’s and 70’s than his merseyside rivals, then in situations where the dual elements of melodic content and incisive lyricism happily coalesced, he achieved artistically – at least for my money – an irrefutable position amongst rock’s stellar immortals. His cumulative worldwide record sales belie this point however, hence the never ending touring schedule.
Bringing It All Back Home (1965)
The word ‘purist’ in musical terms, is a noun I would personally apply in the pejorative sense; Dylan clearly felt the same way and saw precious little need to accomodate the sensibilities of his folk audience in the pursuit of a new career direction. An inability to foresee the consequences of one’s actions is a common trait in the young, and following the release of this album in late March, Dylan made a spontaneous decision several weeks later, to antagonise the Newport Festival organisers by performing with a fully amplified band. Apparently he had been irritated by what he considered condescending remarks which festival organiser Alan Lomax had made about the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, when Lomax introduced them for an earlier set at a festival workshop. Dylan’s attitude, was reportedly “Well, fuck them if they think they can keep electricity out of here, I’ll do it. On a whim he said he wanted to play electric.” “It’s very complicated to play with electricity,” Bob Dylan said in the summer of 1965. “You’re dealing with other people… Most people who don’t like rock & roll can’t relate to other people.” But on Side One of this pioneering album, Dylan amplifies his cryptic, confrontational songwriting with guitar lightning and galloping drums. “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Maggie’s Farm” are loud, caustic and funny as hell.
Dylan returns to solo acoustic guitar on the four superb songs on Side Two, including the scabrous “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” and the closing ballad,_ “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,”_ arguably his finest, most affectionate song of dismissal. If the purists hadn’t figured “the times were a changin” then they weren’t listening carefully enough.
Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
“Highway 61 begins about where I came from,” Dylan writes in ‘Chronicles’ and that’s one of the few concise facts I was able to extract from the meandering narrative of part one of his autobiograsphy. “Duluth, to be exact.” The road runs through the heart of America — and so does the song. It’s Dylan at his wildest, both musically and lyrically, topping the band’s roadhouse stomp with his surreal cosmic jokes. The police-siren whistle was courtesy of session man Al Kooper.
As for the album itself, taking the first, electric side of ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ to its logical conclusion, Dylan hires a full rock & roll band, featuring guitarist Michael Bloomfield and opens with the epic “Like a Rolling Stone.” ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ careens through nine songs that range from reflective folk-rock (“Desolation Row”) and blues (“It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”) to flat-out garage rock (“Tombstone Blues,” “From a Buick 6,” “Highway 61 Revisited”). Dylan had not only changed his sound, but his persona, trading the folk troubadour for a streetwise, cynical hipster. Throughout the album, he embraces druggy, surreal imagery, which can either have a sense of menace or beauty, and the music reflects that, jumping between soothing melodies to hard, bluesy rock. Ultimately the most revolutionary aspects to the album proved beyond doubt, that rock & roll needn’t be collegiate, nay almost self serving to academia, nor emasculated, in order to be literate, poetic, and complex.
If The Animals “House of the Rising Sun” had broken through the 45 rpm barrier of acceptable broadcast length, Dylan treated the conventionality of radio station etiquette with sheer contempt. Clocking in at over six minutes “Like a Rolling Stone” was epic in every sense of the word and station sponsorship time duly suffered.
John Wesley Harding (1968)
Following on from a period of self revelation and an awareness that all his third person songs to date had in fact been all about himself, Dylan recorded his follow up to ‘Blonde on Blonde’ in just three sessions totalling nine hours. Spontaneity was the order of the day as fluffs were preserved on tape in order to preserve the downhome feel of the album. If it had been any other artist, he would have been dismissed as completely out of touch with the summer of love. Hearing a playback of “Sgt Pepper,” Bob was moved to tell Paul McCartney “Oh I get it, you don’t want to be cute anymore!” As with ‘Pepper,’ Dylan’s album contained no obvious single pulls but there comparisons end for sales of the latter suffered accordingly with reportedly only 600,000 units being purchased over the counter.
The instrumentation is sparse, drawing on the normal rhythmic sound of acoustic guitar, intermittent piano, bass and drums in addition to Dylan’s idiosyncratic harmonica wailing. “All along the Watchtower” was of course, later immortalised by Hendrix, Joe Cocker beefed up “Dear Landlord” whilst “I’ll be your baby tonight” is an example of His Royal Bobness simply penning an irresistably catchy melody. As for the rest of the material, you either get it or you don’t for no one before or since Dylan has so polarised the listening public.
Nashville Skyline (1969)
My favourite Dylan album if only for the revelation of hearing his “romantic voice.” Aided and abbeted by nicotine abstenance, Dylans cocks a snook at those who maintained he couldn’t sing, that his inescapable nasal whine would forever bedevil the possibilities of greater worldwide appeal. Naturally, he antagonised the purists with a collection of inconsequential, nay almost overpoweringly banal songs so in tune with the “moon and June” world of Tin Pan Alley that he appeared to have stopped caring. Perhaps his friend George Harrison understood the sentiment behind the album more than most. Conscious of over proselytizing at times, the former Beatle would openly chuckle and whilst pulling back from the solemnity of his heartfelt views in best Monty Python tradition, inform any journalist that “all I really wanted was to be a lumberjack.” If Dylan was truly “taking the piss” who could deny that after seven years, he’d earned that right? If you’re looking for clues, perhaps the man’s been laughing all the way to the bank for years at our expense, in which case, this album was at least, his most honest public statement.
New Morning (1970)
Arriving just four months after ‘Self Portrait’, an uneven hotpotch of covers, tradtional folk songs and live takes, ‘New Morning’ was an arresting collection of simple, back to roots, uncluttered production songs freshly minted at the hands of Dylan’s muse. It enjoys none of the mythic status of ‘Blonde On Blonde’ or ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ but remains a minor Dylan classic nonetheless.
There are a couple of duds, “One Man Weekend” and “The Man In Me” both difficient in compositional structure but ‘If not for you’ (later a huge 45 hit for Olivia Newton John and also covered by George Harrison on “All Things Must Pass”), “Day Of The Locusts” and ‘Time Passes Slowly’ (an overlooked classic in the vast Dylan cannon), more than compensate.
Continuing his rejection of the protest movement and counter culture in favour of his preferred ‘song and danceman’ persona, ‘New Morning’ would nonetheless continue Dylan’s commercial success, reaching the top ten in America and becoming his fourth consecutive number one album in England.
Time Out Of Mind (1997)
One of those moments when I decided to live dangerously. Enduring that interminable wait whilst my wife considered the available options for new curtain material, I slipped away from Debenhams to Selectadisc and reacquainted myself with one of my favourite teenage haunts. The incessantly piped heavy metal music was overpowering and I was clearly out of place amongst the saturday student crowd but undaunted I made my way to the discount section and spied a collection of Dylan albums available for the knockdown price of £3.99 each. Unsure of any of the song titles I picked up the albums, inspected the covers, put them back in the racks, walked out, hung around, considered my solvency level, laughed out loud, promptly stormed back in and minutes later emerged with four of Bob’s albums. “Why did you do that?” asked my wife a little later, half smilingly across our restaurent table. Sensing for me, an impulsive purchase commensurate in stress with many people being relieved of a four figure sum at the roulette table, she just laughed. “I haven’t heard any of these numbers and I might not enjoy them” I replied earnestly. She just laughed even more loudly for no other woman has ever understood my personality like her; “Well, as long as we’ll be alright for food next week!”
This album was amongst the four and the seamless interactive wash of barely discernable instrumentation gave a new hitherto, previously unheard ethereal quality to a collection of songs redolent with reflections on solitude and mortality. If we’re uncomfortable with growing old, then Dylan puts it all into perspective on “Not dark yet”.
Shadows are falling and I’ve been here all day
It’s too hot to sleep time is running away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I’ve still got the scars that the sun didn’t heal
There’s not even room enough to be anywhere
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there
Well my sense of humanity has gone down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain
She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writing what was in her mind
I just don’t see why I should even care
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there
Well, I’ve been to London and I’ve been to ‘gay Paris’
I’ve followed the river and I got to the sea
I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies
I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes
Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there
I was born here and I’ll die here against my will
I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still
Every nerve in my body is so vacant and numb
I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don’t even hear a murmur of a prayer
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.
Copyright © 1997 by Special Rider Music
Love and theft (2001)
Ok , let’s be honest – I creased myself when I heard this album. Growling like a bear cat which hasn’t eaten in years, this album officially confirms the demise of Dylan’s 70’s voice seemingly never to return. Once you’ve come to terms with the loss then there’s much to be found on this eclectic collection as Dylan veers into country, ragtime, vaudeville, deep blues, cocktail-lounge corn, the minstrel show and the kind of rockabilly he cut his initial musical teeth on. Ever since 1969’s ‘Nashville Skyline’, he’s been scandalizing the faithful with fantasies of shedding all his poetic skins to be reborn as a song-and-dance man. Whilst I can aggravate the faithful by repeating how much I admired his romantic voice he appears to have vocally gone to a point of no return.
Continuing the vein struck by “Congratulations”, Dylan’s sardonic contribution to “The Travelling Wilburys Vol 1 album we find him thirteen years later still consumed with the ills of the world, notably women, which is something of a hoot in view of his own track record in that area. At sixty, Dylan’s subject matter is much the same but the tone has altered since his emotional heart nows appears suspect. Regretably though, after sufficient listening, his vocals appear more in tune with music hall jokes than gut wrenching lamentations.
‘Love and Theft’ climaxes a remarkable decade of work from Dylan, a ten year period in which he hit the road for his ‘Never-Ending Tour’ and finally ditched the halfhearted attempts at slickness that blighted many of his Eighties studio records. Sometime in the Nineties, one cigarette too many finally blew out his voice necessitating a radically new songwriting style for the reeds he was left with, the sinister rusted-muffler growl first introduced on ‘Time Out of Mind’ four years earlier. Dylan’s 1997 opus shocked the world because it didn’t even echo past glories — it was something totally new, yet another other side of Bob Dylan.
The opening track, ‘Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum’, might put any casual listener off the collection but matters improve and Dylan even makes an affectionate nod to pre rock crooning with some romantic ballads which lighten the overall desolate tone of the album. The breezily romantic “Bye and Bye,” the torch song “Moonlight” and the epic reflective closer, “Sugar Baby” all hint at a man endlessly reinventing himself, thrilling his devotees whilst equally bemusing all the non-believers. There’ll be no converts to the Dylan camp with this album but the diehards were happy.
Well, the future for me is already a thing of the past
You were my first love and you will be my last
Papa gone mad, Mama she’s feelin’ sad
Well, I’m gonna baptize you in fire so you can sin no more
I wanna establish my rule through civil war
Gonna make you see just how loyal and true a man can be
© Dylan – “Bye & bye” (Sony Music entertainment 2001)
Arise ‘Your Royal Bobness’ – may you continue to confound the masses for many years to come.
No Direction Home – Bob Dylan (Martin Scorsese 2005)
Renowned director Martin Scorsese’s documentary “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” chronicles the career of the singer and songwriter during the tumultuous years between 1961 and 1966. Dylan allowed Scorsese to have access to hours of footage that had never before been made public, including a number of live performances, and footage of Dylan in the recording studio creating some of his landmark albums from the period. Dylan sits for an extensive interview, as does a variety of people who worked with him during this time period, including Joan Baez and fellow songwriter Pete Seeger.
I awaited this much hyped televisual feast with some anticipation yet the experience tested my endurance levels throughout the first half of the consecutive nightly screenings of this two part documentary on the BBC in September 2005. In much the same way that episode one of “The Beatles Anthology” was hampered by a dirth of available footage from the band’s formative pre-fame days, part one of the Dylan documentary suffers in equal measure as each interview highlight with the man himself is balanced with monochrome footage of folk artists dear to his heart but of lesser interest to non folk purists. “Tell me it’s going to improve tomorrow”, groaned my wife after the underwhelming experience. Matters improved greatly twenty four hours later as we revelled in Dylan’s ’65 Newport appearance and witnessed his on stage presence throughout the May ’66 UK tour. My portrait of him dates from this tour and his “Blonde on Blonde” persona.
Bob Dylan – Don’t Look Back (1965 Tour Deluxe Edition) (2007)
This DELUXE EDITION is the ultimate look at Bob Dylan’s concert tour of England in the spring of 1965,one of the most intimate profiles of an artist ever put to film. This definitive set includes the remastered classic film by D.A. Pennebaker, a brand-new, hour-long look at Dylan, and the original 168-page companion book to the film.
I’ve always greatly admired the cinéma vérité quality to this film; a pity therefore that the film contains eavesdropping moments with lesser mortals like Alan Price rather than Lennon-Mccartney or Jagger-Richards. Minor quibbles aside, it’s a final reminder of Dylan the troubadour on the cusp of his electric conversion and a reminder of more innocent times; one of the press representatives doesn’t even recognise Joan Baez.
Down the Highway – The life of Bob Dylan (Howard souness) 2001
The Sunday times bestseller.
No Direction Home – the life & music of Bob Dylan (Robert Shelton 1986 Revised & Updated 2011)
The only volume written with the active co-operation of Dylan himself.
The Rough Guide to Bob Dylan (Nigel Williamson 2004 Revised edition 2006)
The Penquin Group decided to reformat its ‘Rough Guides’ series in 2006 as several key titles were revised and expanded. Personally I found this a shame as the original pocket size made it ideal for reading abroad on holiday and without occupying excessive space in my recording studio. In any event, whichever version you locate, this volume contains a comprehensive biography, a look at the top 50 Dylan songs and the stories behind them, essays on Dylan’s movie career, exhaustive information all Dylan’s albums, curiosities and covers, the bootleg world of Dylan, various words of wisdom from Sir Bob, an examination of essential Dylan books, fanzines and Web sites and much much more.
The Bob Dylan Starting Point
With the plethora of Dylan sites out there in cyberspace why not start where I did? In the final analysis, the man’s vocalising is like the equivalent of marmite to our tastebuds; you either love it or hate it but when it comes to his poetry then that is another matter entirely. Dip in to initiate a wider understanding of music’s literary ‘jokerman’.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the poet laureate of rock ‘n’ roll, the voice of the promise of the 60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock, who donned makeup in the 70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse; who emerged to find Jesus, was written off as a has-been by the end of the ’80s and suddenly shifted gears releasing some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late ’90s. Ladies and gentlemen — Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan!”
Since August 15, 2002, Dylan, whose real name is Robert Zimmerman, has been introduced at the beginning of every concert with this announcement made by a member of his stage crew, the stage manager, Al Santos. With projected dates booked through until November this year the “Never ending tour” seemingly rolls on with no end in sight. For an artist who shows little interest in connecting with his audience this mercurial man nevertheless continues to delight and perplex his followers in equal measure. An obsessively private individual, his relentless performing schedule might be more aptly titled “Dylan’s great escape,” so convoluted being the tentacles of his rootless life that standing still seemingly holds little attraction. One lover, Susan Ross, who was with him for a dozen years from the mid-Eighties, asked him why they could not live together. ‘Because I can barely live with myself,’ he replied.
I have read a number of Dylan books since 1974 and what emerges is a picture of a man who lives by the creed he once espoused in an interview when he said – “People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent”.
His labrynthine life with women has provided much of his artistic muse but has also heavily ‘taxed’ his financial fortune. He has professed on more than one occasion to being happy only on stage but his near relentless nomadic existence ‘on the road’ has the added advantage of placing distance between himself and relationship obligations.
Despite his phenomenal success, fame has never sat well with Dylan. Bored with his own celebrity, “It was never my intention to become a big star,” he had a reputation for being evasive and often fabricated stories about himself, despite the truth being far more intriguing than anything he could have invented. A contradictory man, he spent 12 years as a married father of five (he had four children and legally adopted his stepdaughter, Maria), yet was known to be a serial womaniser. When his first marriage broke down, he had numerous affairs, took a second wife who he kept secret for years, and is reputed to have fathered at least two more children.
In attempting to determine why his personality should be the way it is, any research into his childhood appears inconclusive. He apparently flourished in a stable home amidst a loving mother and a quiet, authoritarian father. His background was essentially comfortable middle class. He received grounding in the bible , was respectful of the law and authority and remained loyal to childhood friends. There may have been an element of jealousy towards his younger brother David who was studious and obedient; close friend John Bucklen observing little interaction between the siblings during visits to the Zimmerman household, but there was harmony at home. The young Bob counteracted his somewhat pudgy teenage features with “the prettiest blue eyes” and enraptured girls with outrageous tales told with a degree of conviction and sincerity that made them utterly believable. Therein lies at least one clue as to his success with women, albeit on a superficial level.
In her 1987 autobiography Joan Baez recounts her days with Dylan and acquainting herself years later with the woman who usurped her to become the first Mrs Zimmerman. On page 93, she writes “Twelve years later, when I finally met and became friends with Sara, we talked for hours about those days when the Original Vagabond was two-timing us. I told Sara that I’d never found Bob to be much at giving gifts, but that he had once bought me a green corduroy coat, and had told me to keep a lovely blue nightgown from the Woodstock home. “Oh!” said Sara, “that’s where it went!” *
Joan Baez – A memoir and a voice to sing with. (Simon & Schuster 1987 Reprinted 2009)
I feel sympathy for Baez. Like millions of people she has felt the need to re-establish contact with a former lover, to somehow answer the all important question as to whether she actually ever meant anything to that person. Sadly, like virtually everyone, the pursuit of this answer is a form of self denial as the truth becomes all too apparent. I am only grateful that my personality and cynicism have ensured no such compunction on my part. I have known people I never wish to see again. What would be the point? I know precisely what they are capable of and their behaviour is hardly rooted in spontaneity, but rather an acute awareness, based on prior experience, of the inevitable consequences of such actions. In essence, the ultimate motivation for repeating such calculated behaviour is therefore fueled by “malice of forethought.” I hate people like that, although “not with a passion.” There is no emotion involved, merely detached objectivity. Joan was unable to apply such reasoning where Dylan was concerned, perhaps because she was still only in her thirties; I suspect she is a much wiser woman now.
When she toured again with Bob, after a gap of many years in 1984, she anticipated equal billing and an opportunity to duet with him on stage. None of her hopes materialised as she found herself performing way down the bill to half empty stadiums. He was the same old Dylan, recaltrant, taciturn, dour and withdrawn, finding only sufficient energy to say goodbye to her whilst running his hands up her legs. Asking in an admiring tone “where’d you get them muscles?” she rebuffed his flirtatious ways by simply kissing him on the cheek before promptly leaving the tour. As Dylan’s biographer Howard Souness so succintly puts it “Looking at their relationship over the past twent or so years, Bob had behaved so badly that one wonders whether he ever cared for Baez at all.”
Ten years earlier, he was celebrating his return to the concert stage with The Band after an absence of eight years. His first marriage to Sara was in trouble and as one reconciliation after another led to further estrangement, Dyan consoled himself, according to David Oppenheim, a graphic artist who had worked on one of his recent albums, with a bacchanalian wave of one night stands. Suitably contrite after his French adventure he composed one of his most enduring love songs “Sara.” I wonder what Dylan discovered during his stay in France? – That some woman are, anatomically speaking, differently designed? No, not scientifically possible; – that in fact his success with women was in no small part due to his charismatic personality and nothing to do with his fame? Possibly because there is no limit to what men will convince themselves about where the opposite sex is concerned.
Having by then slept with umpteen woman, what in fact was Dylan’s criteria for determining a female relationship of considerable substance and what physical act in fact would be symbolic of this rewarding union? Certainly not lovemaking so perhaps good conversation across a restaurant table? A shared appreciation of poetry with reciprocal readings to one another? I’m being obviously facetious but the point is clear. At the age of 73, the man has singularly failed to sustain a relationship through life’s highs and lows with anyone. He never will now.
Known for his heavy drinking and drug use, the Jewish rock star shocked fans, friends and family in the ’70s when he converted to Christianity. As he once joked, “I’m inconsistent, even to myself.” Others saw this quality in him; no less an authority on rock music “excess” than Keith Richards being moved to dub Mr Zimmerman the “Prophet of profit”.
Bob’s conversion to christianity similarly failed to escape the notice of one John Lennon Esq who was suitably moved to compose his riposte to Dylan’s “Gotta serve someone” in the summer of 1980. Railing furiously in all directions but sometimes accurately the former Beatle tore into his old friend and rival with some cutting liverpudlian humour;
You say you found Jesus. Christ! He’s the only one
You say you’ve found Buddha Sittin’ in the sun
You say you found Mohammed Facin’ to the East
You say you found Krishna Dancin’ in the street
Well there’s somethin’ missing in this God Almighty stew
And it’s your mother (your mother, don’t forget your mother, la)
You got to serve yourself, nobody gonna do for you
You gotta serve yourself, nobody gonna do for you
Well you may believe in devils and you may believe in laws
But if you don’t go out and serve yourself, la, ain’t no room service here
It’s still the same old story, A bloody Holy War
I fight for love and glory, Ain’t gonna study war no more
I fight for God and country, We’re gonna set you free
or put you back in the Stone Age, If you won’t be like me – y’get it?
You got to serve yourself, Ain’t nobody gonna do for you
You got to serve yourself, Ain’t nobody gonna do for you
Yeah you may believe in devils and you may believe in laws
‘But Christ, you’re gonna have to serve yourself and that’s all there is to it. So get right back here it’s in the bloody fridge. God, when I was a kid.
Didn’t have stuff like this, TV-fuckin’ dinners and all that crap. You fuckin’ kids (are) all the fuckin’ same! Want a fuckin’ car now…
Lucky to have a pair of shoes!’
You tell me you found Jesus. Christ! Well that’s great and he’s the only one. You say you just found Buddha?
and he’s sittin’ on his arse in the sun?
You say you found Mohammed? Kneeling on a bloody carpet facin’ the East? You say you found Krishna
With a bald head dancin’ in the street? (‘Well Christ, la, you’re goin out your bleedin’ girth’)
You got to serve yourself Ain’t nobody gonna do for you (‘that’s right, la, you better get that straight
in your fuckin’ head’)
You gotta serve yourself (‘you know that, who else is gonna do it for you, it ain’t me, kid, I tell you that’)
Well, you may believe in Jesus, and you may believe in Marx
And you may believe in Marks and Spencer’s and you maybe believe in bloody Woolworths
But there’s something missing in this whole bloody stew
And it’s your mother, your poor bloody mother (‘she what bore you in the back bedroom, full of piss and shit and fuckin’ midwives. God, you can’t forget that all too quick, you know. You should have been in the bloody war, la, and you’da known all about it.
Well, I’ll tell you something.’
It’s still the same old story A Holy bloody War, you know, with the Pope and all that stuff
I fight for love and glory Ain’t gonna study no war, more war
I fight for God and country, the Queen and all that
We’re gonna set you free. yeah? all them “nig-nogs”? sure…
Bomb you back into the fuckin’ Stone Age If you won’t be like me, you know, get down on your knees and pray
Well there’s somethin’ missing in this God Almighty stew
And it’s your goddamn mother you dirty little git, now
get in there and wash yer ears!
Serve Yourself © J.Lennon 1980
George Harrison maintained for years that Dylan was essentially a humorous man; envisaging the pair watching old George Formby movies together is an apparently true but surreal vision nonetheless. Perhaps Dylan’s rehabilation would be assisted to some degree if he was able to convey this side to his personality in his public life. As it transpires, he appears to mostly smirk at press conferences as if somewhat bored by the intellectual level of his journalistic peers.
Therefore an enigma he remains and essentially an extremely selfish one; one person after another, be it a lover, wife, mother to one of his children, employee, fellow musician – it appears as if everyone is dispensable and in the most cowardly way possible. When his ten year relationship with Carole Childs ended, he was in her words, gone – “just poof! Like smoke.” In 1993 Ian Wallace found himself sacked as one of Dylan’s drummers for the second time in fifteen years yet reportedly bears him no grudges, merely a degree of disappointment at the manner of his dismissal. Needless to say, Bob didn’t tell him directly. Perhaps it’s just my personality, but I don’t care how famous or important anybody is; if they are deserving of a few home truths then they’ll get them from me and I expect the same treatment in return. These people who believe they can just terminate any form of relationship without performing their own dirty work drive me nuts. It all comes down to ensuring “the bottom line” is understood. For example I admire shopkeepers who sidestep the normal legal warnings and plump instead for a more personalised message such as “Don’t even think about it – we ALWAYS prosecute!”. Every reader, either on the right or wrong side of the law understands their relative position. In Dylan’s case, a grievance would have to be aired as expediently as possible because cowards of his ilk will cry “harrassment” at the earliest opportunity or contact the authorities in an attempt to besmirch the other party’s character. Let’s be honest here, a man of his stature hasn’t needed long term relationships to sustain his sex life so why continually batter women emotionally from pillar to post? In any event, at one point, it looked as if 1997 was going to be the year the ‘day of reckoning’ arrived for Dylan when he was diagnosed with histoplasma capsulatum which in turn developed into pericarditus, an inflammation of the sac around the heart preventing the organ from expanding and filling correctly. Tellingly, whilst he was recuperating in hospital he only received one solitary ‘get well’ message from persons within the music industry, a point he later relayed to Winston Watson personally, the drummer who had actually written to him. If Dylan had been cavalier in his emotional and professional relationships he was now clearly being excoriated by his peers.