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Tuesday, February 03, 2015

More thoughts on Bob Dylan from last night's Word In Your Ear

We gathered at the Islington last night for a Word In Your Ear evening to mark the release of Bob Dylan's new album "Shadows In The Night.

Our guests were Sid Griffin and Barb Jungr. Sid writes books as well as plays music. His new one's Million Dollar Bash: Bob Dylan, the Band, and the Basement Tapes. Barb has made a specialty of interpreting Dylan's songs. Her new one's Hard Rain - The Songs of Bob Dylan & Leonard Cohen.

It was fifty years since "Subterranean Homesick Blues", forty since "Blood On The Tracks", thirty since he put his vocal on USA For Africa's "We Are The World", twenty since "MTV Unplugged" and ten since the release of "No Direction Home".

Woke up this morning with a few new thoughts about Bob Dylan to add to the pile I've accumulated over the last fifty plus years. Such as? Such as the fact that Dylan is above all an American musician gives him something in common with Frank Sinatra that we tend to underestimate. He wears the same jacket on the covers of "Blonde On Blonde", "John Wesley Harding" and "Nashville Skyline". Because he only gives as much of himself as he wants to give, even people who have worked with him for years don't really know him. He has adapted his singing and playing style over the years like a pitcher who can no longer throw the ball the same way he did when he was younger. In the summer that everyone else in popular music was producing extravagant records like "Sgt Pepper", "Disraeli Gears", "Axis: Bold As Love" and "The Who Sell Out", albums that prided themselves on throwing in entire consignments of kitchen sinks, he went to Nashville and in three sessions recorded "John Wesley Harding", probably the most austere album of the decade.

Anyway, we enjoyed it and the audience seemed to. We finished with a strictly light-hearted picture quiz featuring real-life characters who are referenced in Bob Dylan's songs. The last one was Paul Revere's horse. It was all over by nine fifteen. I'm thinking of getting that translated into Latin and made into a motto.

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