JOTTING DOWN NOTES
Down In The Groove
"Love And Theft"
Bob Dylan's first new album in four years, Love and Theft, will release on September 11by Columbia Records. This is Dylan's 43rd album and it features 12 brand-new Bob Dylan compositions recorded around May this year with the touring band, augmented with other musicians including legendary Texas keyboard player Auggie Myers. A full review of the album will appear in the next issue of The Bridge, in the mean time the full list of song titles is:
Tweedle Dee And Tweedle Dum/Summer Days/Sugar Baby/Floater/Honest With Me/Moonlight/Highwater (For Charlie Patton)/Cry Awhile/Lonesome Day Blues/Po' Boy/Mississippi
Bob Dylan commented about the new album exclusively to U.S.A. Today, "All the songs are variations on the 12-bar theme and blues-based melodies. The music here is an electronic grid, the lyrics being the sub-structure that holds it all together.
"The songs themselves don't have any genetic history. Is it like Time Out Of Mind, or Oh Mercy, or Blood On The Tracks, or whatever? Probably not. I think of it more as a greatest hits album, Volume 1 or Volume 2. Without the hits; not yet, anyway."
Bob Dylan Does 'Return' On Soundtrack
After saying in the last issue that Return To Me may not appear on the official releasefor the 'Sopranos 2' soundtrack. The double C D is entitled "Sopranos: Peppers & Eggs", has been released and includes Dylan's cover of Dean Martin's 1958 hit "Return to Me," which is exclusive to the set. It is a true rendition of the song with Dylan singing the last part in Italian!Last Waltz To Takes Another Bow
Robbie Robertson has been working on and remixing, in Surround Sound, the 1978 Martin Scorsese documentary of the Band's 1976 farewell concert, 'The Last Waltz' for DVD release. He is also cleaning up the audio for a re-released soundtrack, having never been pleased by the original.The remastered soundtrack will likely feature additional songs with Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters and Van Morrison.Thanks Hank
Stars line up for Hank Williams tribute album 'Folk', rock and country stars are to record a tribute to Hank Williams. Bob Dylan, Keb Mo, Emmylou Harris, Beck, Tom Petty and Lucinda Williams are among those ready to contribute to the album in honour of the country legend. Cold Cold Heart is scheduled for release on the Lost Highway label in the autumn. The great man's grandson Hank Williams III, who made a big impact at last year's Glastonbury Festival, will also be playing on the album. Others contributing include Mark Knopfler, Sheryl Crow and Keith Richards.The Great Urban Folk Boom (1950-1970)
This collection is named after the legendary Sunday hoots in the historic Greenwich Village park of the 1950s and 1960s. It relects on one of the most significant musical developments of the last century. The soundtrack fills three CDs with 72 tracks from legendary names and unsung heroes alike. These include Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, and Joan Baez, to Hoyt Axton, Tom Paxton, and Kathy & Carol, and there are rare photos included, track-by-track artist commentary, and essays by Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman and singer-songwriter Barry Alfonso. Bob Dylan's contribution is Boots Of Spanish Leather. There were several broadcasts in the UK around the time of Dylan's 60th birthday and here we have a summary .
Forms Of Psychic Explosion
A Letter to Bob - Andrew Motion (BBC Radio 3)
Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, has been a fan of Dylan since 1967 when he heard first "Greatest Hits". His birthday letter to Bob sums up his personal feelings. Motion claims that Dylan is a wizard, and the foundation of his wizardry is his genius for self re-invention. Through all his re-inventions and changes, however, he has stayed true to his first principles. In the ancient and time-honoured role of the troubadour, Dylan has found a way of putting words into our mouths. For a certain generation, which includes Motion, the story of our lives has been told against the background of Dylan's music. The initial impact of the "diesel and peaches" voice, which challenges the melody of his song-writing, together with the freshness of his words, which can be "surreal", "compelling" and "revitalising", remain an exciting combination. For Motion it has always been a case of Keats and Dylan.
Dylan among the Poets-Christopher Ricks (BBC Radio 3)
Christopher Ricks, Professor of Humanities, at Boston University, is one of Dylan's greatest fans and advocates. In this special birthday broadcast, Ricks raises the perennial question of whether Dylan is a poet or songwriter. He is a brilliant rhymester, but rhymes alone do not a great poet make. Songwriting is, anyway, a different medium with its peculiar demands of phrasing, cadences, voicing, rhythmical draping and timing - all of which change the "hiding places of its power". Indeed, Ricks asks, as what should we value Dylan's medium? There is an inherent snobbery about the claims of song-writing to be better than it is. One aspect of Dylan's work, which is typical of the best poets, is that while his songs are individual and particular to him, they value human commonality. When Ricks parallels Not Dark Yet with Keats' Ode To A Nightingale, it is not because he is pursuing a pop culture v. culture argument. (Indeed as Motion has said, such an argument suggests a blinkered view of culture.) Ricks places Dylan alongside Keats because of what Dylan's song owes Keats' poem. Like Keats, Dylan here is "half in love with easeful Death", a universal and poignant theme. It is somehow appropriate that an ode which is couched in song - we hear the nightingale's "music" throughout - should provide the stimulus. There are so many similarities in phrasing, figures of speech and rhyming which Ricks illustrates - at the same time suggesting that a writer can be original with the minimum of alterations. Dylan's transformations of his "borrowings" are certainly powerful and moving. What remains clear is that Dylan like any great poet has "abundance, variety and complete competence".
The Music Mix (BBC World Service Radio)
These were three half hour programmes about the life and music of Bob Dylan. They were introduced by Bob Harris and featured the usual mix of comment, tracks and interview clips. Nothing new was included.
Happy Birthday Bob (BBC Radio Wales)
This was a two hour broadcast live from The Coal Exchange in Cardiff Bay on the afternoon of 24th May. The programme, with a live audience, was introduced by Owen Money and featured contributions by David Lloyd, Mike Johnson, Jeff Thomas, Frank Hennessy, and Dan O'Neill who interviewed Bob in '66. Acoustic songs came from Welsh singer/songwriters Mal Pope, Heather Jones, and Martyn Joseph. Electric songs were delivered by Zimmerman, the Oxford based tribute band. Martyn Joseph's powerful version of Chimes Of Freedom was a particular highlight.
This was followed up in the evening by a concert in The Coal Exchange, featuring Steve Gibbons and his band, supported by Zimmerman, which was not broadcast.
Highway 60 Revisited (BBC Radio 4)
This programme on was broadcast on Saturday 19th May with David Stafford looking back on key moments in the career of a man revered by some and reviled by others. Featuring Martin Carthy and Billy Bragg."
Bob Dylan Story (BBC Radio 2)
Another series of half hour documentaries, this time ten in number and introduced by Kris Kristofferson, is currently being broadcast and is not yet complete.
Is It Rolling Bob?
As is well known, Dylan's first US television appearance was on the second of two Westinghouse Broadcasting Company hour-long programmes on the history of America through folk music written and conducted by John Henry Faulk. Taped around mid-March 1963, it was broadcast in May on the five Westinghouse stations, and then syndicated to other TV stations. Robert Shelton briefly discusses this show, titled "Folk Songs and More Folk Songs", in his No Direction Home (pages 166-167 of the Penguin pb edition), and mentions Dylan performed three songs: Blowin' In the Wind, Paths Of Victory and Ballad Of Hollis Brown. Clinton Heylin mentions the same songs in Stolen Moments, as does Dundas in Tangled Up in Takes, both probably following Shelton's account. No recording is in circulation, but Ian Woodward ascertained in a 1993 interview with Carolyn Hester (Isis 50), who also took part in the show, that Dylan owns a videotape of it. An audio recording of at least part of the show has now been traced in the hands of a private collector, who taped it from the TV broadcast at the time. His tape includes but two Dylan songs but it is about 32 plus minutes long only. According to his own recollection, he did not get all of the show, as he stopped and restarted recording several times to tape mostly the songs and part of the Faulk narration. What is interesting here is that according to this collector, the Dylan performances he taped are Man Of Constant Sorrow and Ballad Of Hollis Brown. What follows is the list of contents of the tape as supplied by the collector, in recording order and with his own comments:
1. Payday at Cole Creek (Carolyn Hester)
2. Man Of Constant Sorrow (Dylan) (3:03, "much better than the album version, great harmonica opening")
3. Bowling Green (Brothers Four)
4. Oh, The Praeties They Grow Small (C. Hester)
5. When You're Down and Out (Barbara Dane)
6. I Can't Go There No More (Staples Singers)
7. Come With the Dust and Gone With The Wind (Brothers Four)
8. Ballad Of Hollis Brown (Dylan) (5:02, "with great banjo accompaniment by one of the other performers on the show? and also much better and more passionate than the album version")
9. Great Day (Staples Singers)
10.The Strangest Dream (Carolyn Hester)
11. This Land Is Your Land (finale) (Brothers Four "drown out the other performers").
Dylan may have performed a third song not on this tape, and he likely took part in the finale, too. The tape may perhaps circulate soon. Until then, this information will have to do.
Dylan And The Dead Again
Two tapes from the rehearsals with the Grateful Dead at Club Front, San Raphael, CA, USA, March, 1987, have recently surfaced, having been in the hands of Dead collectors for a little while. The 27 minutes long tape was included in the last issue and now we look at the longer tape at 42 minutes. This is in addition to the three hours that already circulates and, are also in excellent quality. There is no work on the arrangements just straight run throughs of the songs. Of note are unique 'live' attempts at two songs from Knocked Out Loaded, never performed live, viz: Under Your Spell, with different lyrics and They Killed Him. Also of interest is, I'm Free, a Stones song from Out Of Our Heads, 1965. The dire vocals on Senor(Tales Of Yankee Power) and Oh Boy are not Bob, but presumably members of the Dead.
The complete track listing is : Under Your Spell/I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry [Williams]/Blues Stay Away From Me [Delmore, Delmore, Raney,Glover]/If Not For You/Frankie Lee And Judas Priest/Senor(Tales Of Yankee Power)/I'll Be Your Baby Tonight/I'm Free [Jagger, Richard]/They Killed Him [Kristofferson]/Pledging My Time/Oh Boy [West, Tigham, Petty]
More Traveling for the Wilburys
"Buried Treasure", claims to be the definitive, most complete, best quality version of the outtakes available from the Wilburys' sessions. Well this is not quite true but worth a brief mention. The outtakes from the first album are slightly inferior to the circulating tape, whereas those from the second album are slightly better. The studio playbacks were recorded with a mike, ie. not line recordings, and not great quality. The extras amount to only about 5 minutes in total. The "bonus" tracks supposedly new to collectors are :
Wilbury Commercial/Seven Deadly Sins [studio playbacks with singalongs]/Stormy Weather [studio playbacks with comments from Olivia Harrison]/Like A Ship [studio playbacks with overdubs]/Fish And Chips [comments from George]
Jonathan Cott Interview 1978
This tape has recently imerged of this complete interview which Dylan did for Rolling Stone magazine. The tape is ????minutes long and in good quality
Written In The Book
Dylan auf Deutsch
Recent publications in German By A.J. Iriarte
It is a fact that Dylan has always enjoyed, and does so to this day, a remarkable audience and critical following in Germany and in other European German language countries. As elsewhere, Dylan's sixtieth anniversary has been the occasion for a flurry of publications in German, a few of which turn out to be quite interesting. To start with the most lavishly produced, yet also considerably most disappointing book: Willi Winkler's Bob Dylan. Ein Leben is a brief biographical essay by a former Spiegel reporter. A handsome hardback, with over 100 finely reproduced and mostly familiar b/w photos, it offers a readable, if cursory account of Bob Dylan's career up to Blood On The Tracks before things go very wrong. Winkler's tortured German and ironical style, and his abuse of the supposed parallelism between Dylan's and Jesus of Nazareth's lives soon become tiresome and may not be to everybody's taste. If the first part of his book tries -and fails- to present an objective and more or less accurate summary of Dylan's early years, by the time the author reaches the mid-seventies his lengthy personal memories and ignorant assessments of Dylan's work suddenly take over, and quite frankly can only be of interest to him. Not to mention that the last 25 years of Dylan's career are rushed through at a frantic pace (50 pages out of 200), with Winkler's cheap irony in full control, and deprecating comments surging here and there whenever the author feels Dylan has somehow "sold out" - to religion, the industry or whatever. A not altogether unexpected 'humorous' approach is adopted when 'describing" Dylan's 'Born Again' phase, the 1992 Tribute concert or the Bologna appearance before the Pope. Winkler seems to resent particularly not only that so many prizes and honours have been bestowed on Dylan of late, but that he has accepted them at all. On the other hand, the Never Ending Tour and the evolution of Dylan's performing art in recent years barely warrant a mention! Which is hardly surprising, since Winkler candidly admits -blaming it on Dylan, of course - having 'dropped out' from 1987 to 1994: to judge by his book, it feels more like from 1978 to the present. The book's concluding sentence deserves quoting in full: "And this is the story of Saint Bob, more or less as it can be seen in a stained glass window in a church of my hometown" (p. 193). The volume is nice to look at, though, as it is really very handsomely produced, but retailing at 50 DM (about £16.00), it is far too expensive to bother about.
Far more modest, but also far more interesting and worth seeking out this time is the little paperback 'Back To The Sixties'. Bob Dylan Zum Sechzigsten which, in spite of its title, is not a nostalgic commemoration of that mythical decade nor a birthday tribute proper, but rather a collection of reviews, letters to the press and articles on Dylan originally published from 1978 to 2001 by Günter Amendt, a social scientist, journalist and publisher, and one of the most important and respected German experts in Dylan's oeuvre. Many of the pieces included here had been previously collected in two other books by Amendt, 'Reunion Sundown' (1984) and 'Never Ending Tour' (1991). As with most anthologies, a few of the featured texts are eminently forgettable, but the overall quality is high. Amendt comes from the German Left and Pacifist movements, and his approach to Dylan's work is overtly political, which can be irritating at times, particularly when, as in the older reviews, the music somehow gets lost along the way, buried under a naïve anti-American or anti-religious discourse. However, even at his most obtuse as far as the music is concerned, Amendt is always fascinating to read, and the older texts do offer a revealing insight into Dylan's reception in Germany in the late seventies and early eighties by the more radical fans. After all, those were years of turmoil, and even if of interest mainly to German readers, they are now also part of the Dylan history from their perspective. Amendt comes through in this book as an extraordinarily lucid, perceptive and thoughtful critic of Dylan's oeuvre (his review of Time Out Of Mind is impressive, for instance), who was only clearly out of his depth (but he admits as much himself) when it came to appraising Dylan's religious albums. How so many intelligent people never managed at the time to find the music beneath the preaching still baffles me, but this is bye the bye, and of course from Amendt's dogmatically leftist point of view it must have proved nigh on impossible. He does admit his mistake while still defending his strict anti-religious stance and now praises the music he first derided, but even so, it is hard to excuse texts like his supposedly 'humorous' review of Saved ("There Is No Hope With That Pope", on pp. 64-68), or maybe I'm missing the point. He certainly does not leave the reader indifferent and at his best, Amendt is really very good: I sincerely doubt there were many Dylan specialists aware, as far back as 1986, of the importance of Dylan as performing artist, and of the fact that his albums basically contain "projects of songs that are only to be fully developed on stage. If at all." (p. 108), an idea Dylan himself has touched upon recently in several interviews. Perhaps the most interesting text is the one which lends the book its title, the script for a three-hour 60th anniversary radio broadcast on German DLF radio, which includes Amendt's personal impressions of the 1978 German tour: on the promoter's invitation, he accompanied Dylan and the band through Germany, and has many memorable anecdotes to share. The book includes a few b/w photos, of album covers mostly, but there are a couple of interesting illustrations for trainspotters in the lot, such as the room allocation list of the Grand Hotel at Nuremberg (p. 24) or the invitation card to the ceremony at which Dylan was awarded the insignia of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the French Culture Minister (p. 121). A delightful little book.
Also highly recommendable is the May issue (No. 716) of the Swiss (German) magazine 'Du', a handsomely produced and beautifully illustrated monograph on Dylan under the title 'Bob Dylan. Der Fremde' (i.e. the stranger). Amendt is one of the featured authors in this magazine, and the average quality of the contributions is extraordinarily high. This is no Q Magazine! Most of the contributors are German or Swiss, therefore familiar perhaps only to those fluent in German. Let it be known, then, that many are respected authorities in the field of Dylan studies. To give an accurate idea of the high level of the contributions, suffice it to mention that Greil Marcus and Stephen Scobie are also featured here, and that Sam Shepard's fascinating playlet 'True Dylan' is included in a fine German translation (which was premiered, by the way, in Günter Amendt's previously mentioned radio broadcast). Lack of space prevents a detailed discussion of the different articles and essays, but leaving aside Scobie's perceptive essay on Dylan and Ginsberg ('Der grosse Bruder', pp. 59-65), Jean-Martin Büttner's piece ('Zu Wahr, Um Schön zu Sein', pp. 42-43), Theo Roos's considerations on Dylan as guitarist ('Harte Saiten', pp. 46-47 and 94) and Martin Schäfer's interesting reflection on Dylan as "protest" singer ('Der Rebell als Hofsänger', pp. 54-58) all deserve at least a mention. The magazine also includes a pretty good illustrated chronology of Dylan's career, by Manfred Papst, and there is a whole section dedicated to Elliott Landy's Woodstock photos. The rest of the illustrations, both in colour and b/w, are mostly familiar, but still nice to see in such quality.
Several of the authors featured in this lovely monograph were frequent contributors to the excellent Austrian dylanzine Parking Meter, which sadly ceases quarterly publication with its July issue (No. 16), just at hand. Edited with care and elegance by Burkhard Schleser and Rainer Vesely, Parking Meter was an ambitious attempt at renovating the critical discourse on Dylan's work by avoiding stale theories and trainspotter attitudes and furthering a real intellectual debate among its readers and collaborators. In no small measure, the editors' exalted ambitions have been fulfilled in the course of the journal's four-year run. Not only has Parking Meter published several brilliant articles (those by Christopher Rollason and Martin Schäfer come to mind), it has also hosted an original, funny, provocative and stimulating debate on the essence of 'Dylanism' -or what being a Dylan follower, believer, proselyte, sycophant you name it, really means, that deserved wider diffusion. It is a pity that, as with Amendt's excellent book, the language barrier prevents most "dylanists" from gaining access to this rich literature. Schleser and Vesely intend to continue Parking Meter on the internet, but this seems the right time and place to salute this notable periodical at the conclusion of its life in print.
Willi Winkler, Bob Dylan. Ein Leben, Alexander Fest Verlag, Berlin 2001 (hb, 208 pages, ISBN: 3-8286-0077-8).
Günter Amendt, Back To The Sixties. Bob Dylan zum Sechzigsten, Konkret Literatur Verlag, Hamburg, 2001 (pb, 160 pages, ISBN: 3-89458-199-9).
Du. Die Zeitschrift der Kultur, Heft No. 716, May 2001, 20 SFR. Contact address: Du, Postfach, CH-8021 Zurich or at: http://www.dumag.ch
Parking Meter was published quarterly in Vienna; most ot the back issues are now sold out but may be consulted on-line at: http://www.parkingmeter.at
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