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Old Music News

Early one mornin’ the sun was shinin’,
I was layin’ in bed
Wond’rin’ if she’d changed at all
If her hair was still red.
Her folks they said our lives together
Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like Mama’s homemade dress
Papa’s bankbook wasn’t big enough.
And I was standin’ on the side of the road
Rain fallin’ on my shoes
Heading out for the East Coast
Lord knows I’ve paid some dues gettin’ through,
Tangled up in blue.

Aficionados of Bob Dylan’s work will immediately recognise the above. It’s from the opening song on his 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks. Tangled Up in Blue, according to some schools of thought, was written by Dylan after an intense few days listening to the Joni Mitchell album ‘Blue’.

Indeed if you go here, one writer claims that Dylan himself imparted the following, “People get that way about Joni Mitchell songs. Bob Dylan once told me that he’d written “Tangled up in Blue,” the opening song of the much-celebrated Blood on the Tracks, after spending a weekend immersed in JM’s Blue (although I think he may have been talking about the whole album, not just the song).”

large5

His Bobness and Joni in happier times.

I was reading an unrelated article in the Independent this morning and on the ‘other stories that may interest you’ tab I noticed a headline in which Joni Mitchell denounced Dylan as a ‘plagiarist’ and a ‘fake’. Scanning the article at first I thought it was a few days out of date but actually it was from April 2010. Old news that I had missed.

The Indy article led me in turn to this one

There’s complimentary stuff:

“I was what was known as a ‘late Dylan fan.’ At one time I was almost anti-Dylan, and I made a lot of enemies… I thought he was putting me on, I couldn’t accept him. The thing was, I shared no experience with Dylan at the time, I thought a lot of his stuff was ambiguous, and not written honestly. It’s like I always thought Shakespeare was real wordy and weird, right until I went to Stratford and saw a man who recited Shakespeare like it was really 20th century. It lost all of that super-drama stuff that really turned me off, and it flowed, and I understood it. So it’s the same thing with Dylan; now every time I listen to him, the things I thought were just words for words’ sake make sense to me.” – Mitchell in Brian Hinton’s Both Sides Now

However, after they performed together at the 1994 UNESCO Project in Japan, Mitchell had this to say about the experience:

“On the third night they stuck Bob at the mic with me and that’s the one that went out on tape. And if you look closely at it, you can see the little brat, he’s up in my face — and he never brushes his teeth, so his breath was like… right in my face — and he’s mouthing the words at me like a prompter, and he’s pushing me off the mic. lt’s like he’s basically dipping my pigtail in ink.” – Barney Hoskyn’s 1994 interview with Mitchell

“Now for the plagiarism accusation — from what we can tell, Dylan has been accused of borrowing liberally from Civil War poet Henry Timrod on his 2006 album Modern Times. When the Independent compared lyrics from Modern Times with the work of Timrod, and found several instances where the words or the sentiment are similar. A few years earlier, Dylan faced similar allegations when he “borrowed” several lines from a Japanese writer, without accreditation, on the rather ironically-titled Love and Theft.”

“Since we’ve compiled some evidence, we can’t help but be on Team Bob. It sounds to us like Mitchell is bitter and jealous of his esteem which is weird since many consider Mitchell to be the female Dylan. In addition to her jabs at Dylan, she’s also made incendiary comments about Joan Baez, and in the same article that called out Dylan yesterday, describes Janis Joplin and Grace Slick as drunken whores. Then she compared Madonna to Nero. We just can’t defend her after reading that. Plus, for someone with such an axe to grind, she sure loves covering Bobby.”

Plagiarised from flavorwire and The Independent

Adam! Come and get your rib!

I heard this as I had another of my many nights of insomnia last night. I have a vast collection of Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio shows and this track came on in one themed on the bible. It’s Wynonie Harris lamenting woman trouble. I loved the lyrics.

Giggin’

About ten years ago I made a decision about Van Morrison. Having seen him about ten times in concert, roughly defined as twice brilliant, twice passable and six times rank rotten I vowed to suffer no more.

No more would I hear ‘Moondance’ crucified as a lazy shuffle, country and western hoe-down or Irish jig or ‘Have I told you lately’ transformed from beautiful ballad to an inappropriate twelve bar boogie. No more would I suffer the contempt of a performer who couldn’t even be arsed to thank his audience or make any effort to make them feel they were being entertained as he supped from a regularly re-filled glass of hooch.

It is a decision I have only regretted when I have heard bootlegs of those rare occasions when Morrison does actually decide to bother to turn up as a performer. Hoochie Coochie Van and The Astral Weeks Revisited discs are two such cases in point.

I said in my review of the Knopfler/Dylan gig that I wouldn’t have gone had I not been persuaded to, because it was pretty much as I imagined it would be. I felt that Knopfler’s best days were behind him and being aware of Bob’s reputation for variable live output, and being someone who likes Dylan’s work rather than being a disciple or acolyte of the man, I would have decided that there were better things to spend over a hundred and thirty quid on for two tickets.

Having gone though, and being an opinionated old bugger, I’ve been ruminating over the experience over the last few days. As someone who goes out on the road with a band to play pubs, we’d have been (rightly) criticised for the sound mix which Dylan had the other night. The cardinal sin is when the vocals don’t cut through, and if the singers voice is weak, you turn him up and the rest of the band down.

It’s a basic.

I wonder what it is about Morrison and Dylan that makes them apparently disrespect their own work?

Bob in action at the Braehead Arena

Listening to the live version of the song Blind Willie McTell for example was akin to watching Leonardo painting the Mona Lisa in the style of Rolf Harris.

I’m not saying that performers shouldn’t do different versions of their work. I have heard pared back versions of Blue Nile songs performed live which have been sublime. When I saw Tom Waits live he hardly performed one song even approximate to the original. Each one however had been re-arranged with care. Vocal departures, subtleties and nuances. Little instrumental changes here and there to tease and delight the audience. They had clearly been rehearsed.

And Tom engaged with his audience. He entertained, he was theatrical.

Not so with Bob and whilst that may be an unfair comparison, having heard and thoroughly enjoyed Dylan’s superb radio shows over the years, it is certainly in his gift to be interesting, engaging and funny.

I’ve made the same decision about Bob after one gig that I made about Van after ten and to be fair I’m not sure how many opportunities there will be to see him again so the decision may be an empty one.

Great songwriter and poet, recording artist and broadcaster – twentieth century icon.

I just don’t think he matches that as an instrumentalist or performer, no matter how many critics write reviews in the style of love letters.

But then, I’m not a disciple.

Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour

One of the delights of my MP3 player is listening to my downloaded podcasts of the Bob Dylan Theme Time Radio Hour. I’ll take the dog out for a walk and get lost in a world of blues, R&B, country, gospel and jazz punctuated by Dylan’s oblique sardonic comments.

The top of the show is one of my favourite parts, brief vignettes announced by a woman presenter with a husky, smoky voice e.g.

“It’s night time in the big city. Three homeless men share a bottle around a trash can inferno. A rock goes through a window on 12th St. It’s time for Theme Time Radio Hour with your host Bob Dylan”

Dylan’s intros are brilliant too

“For the next hour we are going to examine the involuntary, unconscious activity known as laughter. We can consciously inhibit it, but we can’t consciously produce it. It’s impossible to laugh on command. You can fake an orgasm, but you can’t fake laughter.”

dylan

If you’re quick you can listen to The Cops and Robbers show but if you look carefully there are plenty places they can be downloaded.

Sometimes tracks will come on which I feel are personally directed at me! For example how about this from The Bailes Brothers?

17 – Whiskey Is The Devil (In Liquid Form) Bailes Brothers Click to Play

Or for Haloween how about “The Charmer” alias Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in a previous incarnation singing Zombie Jamboree? This time including Dylan’s voiceover.

The Charmer Zombie Jamboree – Click Here to Play

Happy Listening!

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