Welcome back again. As we write Dylan is on the eve of his new touring year and will be enjoying the comforts of concert halls across Europe in his twenty-four show tour. As if that were not enough he will return in the summer for yet more shows. This is only part of the continued, almost frenzied, level of Dylan-related activity in the coming year. There is a lot either already happening or in the pipeline - Japanese releases, the Martin Scorsese film about the Rolling Thunder Revue, the World of Bob Dylan Symposium in Tulsa, the Record Store Day release of the Blood On The Tracks test pressing and another Bootleg Series release. Not to mention probably the most productive area of activity of the Dylan world, literature. This year has already produced a significant number of new volumes in the seemingly endless stream of books about Dylan - his life, his career, his writing, his music, his legacy. The range is bewildering and there is no shortage of tomes purporting to provide insight and analysis of his songs - what they mean, what they are about, where they originate and their poetics. Of course, the gentle irony is that this very journal continues to increase that paper mountain! Given this printed onslaught, it is occasionally therapeutic to sit back and view such analytical output with a slightly irreverent, perhaps gently cynical, mindset. It was, therefore, quite humour-inducing to read Luke Haines writing the following in the March edition of Record Collector (No 490):
Comrades From The North
"As an eager teenager besotted with mid-60ís Dylan I plodded my way through Robert Sheltonís No Direction Home biography. Shelton was there through all the chaos of the amphetamine "wild mercury" Bob years. Shelton is also desperate to impose order on the chaos, destroying 1,000s of acres of rainforest in the process......I gave up on Dylan (and Shelton) after struggling with the latterís nonsense for far too long. It wasnít until years later when I picked up a second-hand copy of Street-Legal that it dawned on me.Dylan had no idea what he was writing and singing about."
To be fair, Haines does go on to develop his point that he does not believe any songwriter or artist has a clue what they are doing - "the artist just pulls a bunch of chaos out of the ether and drops it on the floor, shrugs and sometimes raises a surprised eyebrow." So read it with an inner smile. In fact, during Sheltonís 1966 airplane interview with Dylan he thought he had hit the motherlode when Dylan said: "Hey,I want you to have explanations of my songs in your book. Things which nobody else will ever have." Any euphoria was swiftly crushed after Shelton asked "For example, who is Mr. Jones?" and received Dylanís retort "Well, like Iím not gonna tell you that way. Like Iím gonna tell ya about stuff that I want to tell you about, Iím not gonna say who Mr. Jones is. Just because that wouldnít do any good." Nothing is revealed. As the year got going the world learned of three more deaths of members of the extended Dylan family. On 3rd January, Steve Ripley passed away two days after his 69th birthday after suffering from cancer. Ripley played on the Shot Of Love album and the subsequent tour. Four days later Clydie King departed at the age of 75.She also worked with Dylan through 1980 and 1981. Last, but not least on 4th February Izzy Young passed on at the ripe old age of 90. Young, who ran the Folklore Center in Greenwich Village, was a tremendous help to the young Dylan, introducing him to other musicians, furthering his musical education and promoting his first proper concert in Carnegie Chapter Hall.
May you climb on every rung ..........
Mike & John
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