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.

A podcast will be out there in due course. If you want to make sure you don't miss it, sign up here.


  1. My wife told me last night that she'd heard someone on the radio earlier in the day talking about Dylan's new album: 'I didn't know he was a fan of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue's One Song to the Tune of Another.

  2. I was inspired to listen to Bob today, it happens about three times a year, and I did what I always do.

    I pondered his vast career, considered his huge influence, marvelled at his wide-ranging palette, and went exactly where Dylanologists never go - 'Nashville Skyline'.

    Somehow it's more peaceful there.

  3. "Barb has made a specialty of interpreting Dylan's songs."

    Hasn't everybody, he says cheekily.

  4. Just got around to listening to the podcast which was very enjoyable. I can shed some light on the matter you guys mentioned of the "Oscar" which Bob has had on stage for years now. When he won that Oscar in 2000 he was touring Australia - they did a live cross to him and the band doing Things Have Changed from the Channel 9 studios in Sydney. The next gig he was playing was in Cairns. Some friends of mine Darren and James (may be forgetting someone) from the Sydney Dylan Society (we still meet monthly were following the tour.

    To mark this momentous occasion they went to a gift shop or novelty shop and bought a plastic "Oscar" which had a sticker on it's base reading "World's Greatest Golfer" or something which they took off. I think they scratched Congratulations Bob or something onto the back with a car key. So during the encore in Cairns they throw this plastic Oscar on stage. Since this is Bob they totally expect that he will completely ignore it.

    Bob spots it. Smiles. Picks it up, displays it to the band with a big grin and bows, actually bows, to my friends. And since then there has been a plastic replica Oscar on stage. We heard through the grapevine that a few years ago the original Oscar got lost/stolen but obviously it amused Bob enough that he dispatched a minion to find another one. (I do like to imagine him, eyes down, hoodie up, buying his own at some suburban mall somewhere) On the most recent Australian tour in August last year it was still there, draped in Mardi Gras beads.

    It's been very funny through the years to read reviews from Helsinki and Sheffield and Akron with the reviewers amazing that he has THE Oscar on stage. No, he doesn't he has (or did have) a plastic replica from a gift shop in far north Queensland.

    And that is the absolutely true story of Dylan's genuine fake stage Oscar.