Sunday, October 05, 2008

Bob Dylan

Go to the NPR website and listen to the new "bootleg series" CD. I'm listening to it right now as I am typing in Swedish originals for the Aase Berg book.

It's stuff from the past 20 years. So it's pretty good stuff. Particularly a very striking live version of the Charlie Patton song in which Dylan sounds possessed the way he sounded possessed in some of those bootlegs from the Rolling Thunder Revue (especially while snarling "Idiot Wind" to his wife Sara). Same guitar mayhem. Also a version of Robert Johnson's "32-20" (but of course doesn't quite measure up to the Johnson version). And as usual, his alternative takes tend to be better than what he actually ended up putting on the CDs (this has been true since his very first album).

I very much like the work he's done over the past 20 years. When I was in high school I went to about 7 or 8 shows in the Never Ending Tour, which ended in the mid-90s. Those were good shows. And as someone who loves old blues and hillbilly music (not to mention odd 1950s rockabilly and carnival crooning), I appreciate the turn his work took in this time.

But as much as I like the past couple of albums, it is sadly true that nothing measures up to the mid-60s stuff. Having said that, isn't it about time that they issued "The Wild Thin Mercury Sound" as an official CD? That's the outtakes from Blonde on Blonde. My favorite is of course the fast-paced version of "Visions of Johanna." Not to mention the Hollywood Bowl concert in 1965.

The later Dylan has revised himself (and even worse, allowed/encouraged others) as a true old-fashioned all-American singer. The 60s stuff is so full of contradictions and various influences - Carter Family plays Rimbaud, a tranvestite Elmer James, Richard Huelsenbeck with a Fred McDowell's slide guitar etc: a Jewish boy in northern Minnesota picks up strange signals on the radio and goes to the carnival to watch George Washington in blackface operate the ferris wheel - that make them so fantastic.


Blogger Max said...

I never really got into Dylan, though I like a good bit of his material. There is some really horrid 80s stuff, though.

I guess maybe when everybody in high school was getting into the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Dylan, Hendrix, etc. I was too busy getting into Pavement, Guided by Voices, and other indie rock stuff. I kind of rejected the classic rock/folk/other old stuff for a long time.

One thing I find kind of annoying is when English professors pull the highly original (yeah right) act of teaching a "Dylan as poet" class, or like "Dylan Meets Shakespeare" or some crap. I can't think of a more boring , trite way of exercising one's fandom. It kind of makes me hate Dylan a little bit when I see stuff like that, though I know it's not Dylan's fault, and that he probably finds it absurd as well.

Have you ever listened to Felt, Johannes? You should. He's a British guy named Lawrence who's been making albums since 1980 or so. He has quite a few records that basically consist of Dylan-esque songs. Here are a couple from 1988:

"How Spook Got Her Man"
"Apple Boutique"

I guess the reason I bring up Felt is because, during the 80s when Dylan was largely dropping turds, he was dropping gems.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Johannes said...

What is GBV if not a 60s cover band?


5:23 PM  
Blogger Max said...

Yeah, GBV certainly are directly influenced by the Beatles and The Who in particular. Probably a tad bit more genius than either, though.

8:03 PM  
Blogger thehauntedtooth said...

I don't have XM radio, but he is going to do a Carnival theme on this year's Theme Time Radio Hour, which I wish I could hear...

I do love that Wild Mercury era stuff the best. Most people are lucky to put out one album of that caliber, let alone three in a row. I think of that stuff as a genre all to itself.
I know there are countless bands dipping into the old 'country/hillbilly' music well these days with so few of them taking it to new places, and I'm sure most of the suggestions I would make you already own but one that I've recently discovered that I like a great deal is Horse Feathers. Check them out.
Will have to check out Felt.
Looking forward to your next book of Highway 61 revisits, J.

7:52 AM  
Blogger THOMAS GRASTY said...

Good notes on the album. Since you are a fan, I thought I'd introduce you to my new novel, BLOOD ON THE TRACKS, which I think you'd enjoy.

It's a murder-mystery. But not just any rock superstar is knocking on heaven's door. The murdered rock legend is none other than Bob Dorian, an enigmatic, obtuse, inscrutable, well, you get the picture...

Suspects? Tons of them. The only problem is they're all characters in Bob's songs.

You can get a copy on or go "behind the tracks" at to learn more about the book.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

I'm debating putting a Dylan-Ashbery comparison in something I'm working on - love 'em both, don't want to imagine our culture without 'em, wish there were some way to know only the better half of their work.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

how many of his million billions has Bob Dylan donated to The Poetry Foundation? ——

and Joni Mitchell, has she endowed any amount to the Poetry Society of America?

all these songwriters, these tunesmiths who have been hailed as "poets"——

how much of their wealth have they shared with real poets?

what fiscal contributions have they made to further the art of poetry?

Hey Rebecca Wolff, you deserve great admiration for your efforts at Fence to promote and publish poetry——

but when you seek funding for the mag and the books,

do any of these rich songwriters (you know: the ones their publicists and the critics call poets),

have any of them ever given you any money?

And what about you, Ugly Duckling Presse, you're pretty successful at suckup, you've been able to milk some mulct from wealthy individuals and institutions,

have you glommed any cash from these songcows?

one thing's for sure: poetry is the LEAST-funded of all the major arts.

hey, you're a billionaire songwriter, but people call you a POET——

people (many people) call you a POET——

academics write books about your POETRY——

even poets (many poets) call you a POET——

you're a billionaire POET,

but you don't financially support the Academy of American Poets

or other poetry organizations——



okay, all you poets (print poets) who like to call Bod McDylan a POET——

consider this:

imagine there were a poet, call her X, a print poet like you, who had

as much money as he does——

wouldn't you expect her, Ms. X, to financially support the PSA or the Poetry Foundation et al
and or provide funding for small magazines and presses?——

in fact, wouldn't you demand that of her?——wouldn't you feel she was spiritually and professionally

obliged to do it?

but you don't demand it of BD, do you——

if you want to posit him as a POET, alright, okay: but in that case i demand that you demand from him the same benefice you would expect from X——

You say you want him to be a POET, fine, i won't argue the point——

if you say he's a POET, then okay, he's a POET——

but you can't have it both ways, hypocrites——

You can't have him be a POET, and then exempt him from the obligations you would ask of any print poet in his income bracket——


9:54 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Johannes, your praise of him is a one way street——

is he going to donate any of his gazillions to support the magazines and presses that publish you

and the poets you admire?

he never has, and he never will . . .

poets should have solidarity with poets . .. in the class system of the arts poets are the proles the slaves:

don't be a class traitor, Johannes!

don't praise those who suppress you——

10:10 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...


This comment is crazy.I wouldn't want anyone to donate money to the Poetry Foundation and if I would only read poetry by people who gave me money... I wouldn't do much reading.


Thanks for the tips.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Johannes, that's bullshit—— fuck the poetry foundation——forget the poetry foundation, you're evading my real question:

why shouldn't Dylan be funding YOUR mags and presses?

If ashbery or some other print poet had as much cash as McDylan,

are you going to tell me that you WOULDN'T expect him to financially support and donate to small presses and mags? if you say "no" to that, I don't believe, you're being disingenuous . . .

stop praising those who oppress you——— Dylan stole everything he has from poets, from you, I wish you would wake up and see the slave situation you and every poet are in——

12:32 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

you can servilely praise those in the other wealthier classes of the arts,

but they will never reciprocate——

they will do as they have done throughout history,

they will steal and plagiarize from poets,

and poets?——as you are doing, will slavishly accept getting robbed and raped,

will kiss the hand that kills them——

as you are doing to dylan

12:41 PM  
Blogger Flarf Collective said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:53 PM  
Blogger thehauntedtooth said...

After we get our endowment, i want to ask Why it's "Yonder stands your orphan with his gun" when it sounds so very much like "He understands your orphan with his gun"?
Aside from Max's comment,which was sandwiched with the words "crap" and "yeah right" I'm pretty sure no one called Dylan a "poet."
I steal from dylan all the time, so why should I be mad if he steals from me (or "mine"), which he hasn't? Yet.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Max said...

Umm ... I was never accusing anybody here of calling Dylan a poet. I was merely bringing up one annoying practice that's attached to Dylan by university professors, and which makes me kind of hate Dylan sometimes, even though I know it's not his fault.

4:53 PM  
Blogger thehauntedtooth said...

oh no, not what I meant Max. Not at all. Was just trying to highlight your comment where you were referring to those cliched classes, etc--and I fumbled my words. Apologies.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Adam Clay said...

Did you see that Dylan's playing in KZOO?

November 8th.

6:02 AM  
Blogger Johannes said...

Oh no! Are there any tickets left?

9:22 AM  

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