All About Dylanesque
The janitor’s idea!
by Michael Crimmins
I have been writing for Freewheelin now for just over a couple of years and until now I have avoided using my articles to promote the band that I play in, which is of course the Bob Dylan tribute band Dylanesque. I have subtitled this article ‘The janitor’s idea’ because it was at John Stokes’ suggestion that I decided, finally, to write here, about Dylanesque. 2006 has been, so far, the bands most successful year and so I feel the time is right.
I am proud that the name Dylanesque has become associated with the Cambridge Bob Dylan society and the annual UK Bob Dylan Convention, John Green Day. Apart from the obvious attraction of occasionally playing to the attendees of such gatherings this association lead me into a totally unplanned direction when Freewheelin asked me if I would like to contribute to their magazine, the consequence of which meant that I would become a Freewheeler where, as such, I would have the pleasure of getting a few of my thoughts on Bob out in the open, for this I am most grateful.
Tribute bands are not everyone’s cup of tea, I am well aware of that. Thoughts of tacky programmes such as ‘Stars In Their Eyes’, obviously spring to mind and Bob Dylan is such an original and unusual talent that his followers, of which I am obviously one, can be forgiven for possibly dismissing the merits and entertainment value of such an act. So how did Dylanesque come to be? I hear you ask!
As the tribute industry really got into it’s stride in the mid nineties I was not impressed! I viewed it all as, John Cleese might have put it, “Non creative garbage”. Gradually though, out of curiosity I went along to see a couple of tribute acts that musician friends had become involved with. The call of the ‘Filthy lucre’ I presumed! Soon though, I was gonna change my way of thinking and definitely make myself a different set of rules! Even though the acts that I witnessed impressed me and changed my opinion, especially on the entertainment value aspect, I was still very much on the outside of this type of entertainment.
I have been a part of live music from an early age, so when ,aged 14, I first crossed paths with Bob Dylan via ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ it was only natural that I would want to sing a few of his songs. The first album that I got hold of from Payne’s music store in Coventry City’s shopping centre was ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’. I had loved ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ the very first time I heard it and I played the B side ‘Gates of Eden’ non stop too. Even though the ‘Freewheelin Bob Dylan’ was not what I had expected in comparison to ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, it was not too long before I had ‘Talking World War 111 blues’ in my meagre repertoire. I didn’t realise that it was a talking blues and I hadn’t an inkling about Woody Guthrie or Rambling Jack Elliott but I was sure getting a lot of pleasure from Bob Dylan. Also I had pledged an unconscious allegiance to the appreciation of Dylan’s art with previous additions to my singles collection, those being “Mr Tambourine Man” and “All I Really Want To Do” by the Byrds.
Initially, Dylan got to me! Not by awakening my social consciousness, not because I fancied the way he looked (the cover of Freewheelin’ was all that I had to go on in that department). He did it with his songs and his sound, he entertained me enormously and of course he still does. Of course there is a lot more to Bob Dylan than the few songs I have mentioned here and I wouldn’t have been tempted to write about him at all if there were not, but I must make my point some way or another, and my point is that word - entertainment!
Despite the vantage point of ‘the stage’ where people can look up to the entertainer, even subconsciously, and what can and has been achieved with such a powerful medium, not least in Dylan’s protest or conversion to Christianity periods, it is important to remember what motivation brings any artist to us in the first place! Dylan, whilst delivering the most thought provoking lyrics ever written has never obscured his original intent from us, nor indeed from himself. When Bob said in a 1965 “I think of myself as a song and dance man” I think he meant it! The true artist does make a song and dance about things!
So there you have it! My reason for singing songs composed by Bob Dylan. Not to try to BE Mr Dylan! But to sing the songs that I love so much and also to entertain.
Dylanesque was formed in the year 2000; this is how it came about. As the nineties drew to a close gradually the idea of performing solely Dylan material began to appeal much more to me. One lovely June evening in 1999 on one of our more local gigs, The Mulberry Tree in Stockton on Tees to be precise, I was approached by a man who asked if we would be playing any further Dylan material in the second half of our show. We had already played the only two Bob songs that were part of our sets on a regular basis “Knocking On Heavens Door” and “Outlaw Blues” but I told him we would sort something out for later on. He then went on to inform me that he, quite by chance, had seen us perform on a number of occasions in the North East as it was his custom to frequent any venues supporting live music. He added that when asked by his wife on occasions whom he had seen, referring to us and not knowing or remembering the name of the band, he had replied “that Dylanesque lot”
The name of the band as it was that night was ‘Highway 61’.
Things began to get a little complicated after we had actually decided to take the plunge and become a Bob Dylan tribute band. My original intention was to perform a theatrical stage show with clubs and theatres in mind. The name of the show would be ‘Dylanesque’ and the band name would remain Highway 61. I am not a 100% certain but I’m fairly sure that the American tribute band ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ was being formed at around the same time as was ours. Gradually, initially through a promotional misunderstanding over our bands name, where the band was actually billed as Dylanesque and also bearing in mind Joel Gilbert’s stateside tribute, we became simply Dylanesque!
Ha! Well he certainly worked his way up nicely to that little plug you may be thinking - and why not!
THE CAMBRIDGE BOB DYLAN SOCIETY 2000
Dylanesque has played at some marvellous events, up and down the country, over the last six years. The biggest gig the band has played is without doubt ‘Beatle week’ The Mathew Street Festival 2003 in Liverpool. Topping the bill to an amazing crowd of 6,000 at the festival climax was an incredible buzz! The day before I had been involved in a tribute recreation of the concert for Bangla Desh where the original line up of the show was covered from beginning to end in an absolutely brilliant production. Despite grand occasions such as these though, I value one particular night from the year 2000 above all others! Appearing before a small audience of perhaps 30 people we played a mainly acoustic duo set at The Golden Hind for the Cambridge Bob Dylan Society. The memory of the intimacy and appreciation of this evening means the world to me. I am sure that in saying that I speak for Alan too.
AFTER THE CRASH. BOB DYLAN: 1966-1978
2005 brought forth the invitation from the Chrome Dreams people to add the soundtrack to a planned commercially available DVD follow up to BOB DYLAN. TALES FROM A GOLDEN AGE.
The incentive to accept their offer was in fact their actual stipulated requirements. No 1: A solely instrumental soundtrack. No 2: The music should be ‘original’ that is to say that it should be suggestive of older music, and in particular Dylan’s mid seventies output. With instrumental music I would, thank fully, not have to try to impersonate Dylan’s voice! My own stipulation was that our sounds would not be a backdrop to moving pictures of Dylan performing.
Getting to grips with, well let’s be honest, rearranging Dylan’s material soon impressed the need for the involvement of another musician, and one who in particular could handle the violin and mandolin parts. Without trying too hard I found Len Wilson, a man whom it is a pleasure to work with. I had thoughts of cruising the streets looking for young women carrying violin cases, but I soon realised that my ‘Desire’ to do so could be misunderstood!
While recording the music an unexpected development added a depth of emotion/feel to the proceedings, when news came to me that my one week old baby granddaughter Grace Michaela Brackenbury was desperately ill after coming into to the world an amazing ten weeks early. She had been diagnosed as a Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome child. Obvious heartache can often touch the hearts of others reviving in them their own personal sorrows. This happened to be the case with Alan and Len, the musicians I was working with, and the finished product has, for me at least, an undeniable vault like presence.
A documentary such as ‘After The Crash’ needs to chop music/use a bit here and a little there, so it was decided among the band to continue with the project beyond the needs of Chrome Dreams and produce a CD with all of the music intact.
Unfortunately my granddaughter passed away just eleven and a half weeks old on September 28th 2005 the CD is a little ironic in it’s title ‘After The Crash’ and it is tenderly dedicated to her memory. It was the desired wish of my daughter Melanie and her husband Marc that some of the tracks be played at Grace’s funeral.
Middlesbrough music live 2006
Among some of the great gigs that have come our way this year is one that could evolve into one of the country’s top festivals: Middlesbrough music live, 18, June, 2006. An amazing 100 bands were featured and topping the bill non other than the later day mod men Ocean Colour Scene. Dylanesque are pictured below. Len Wilson is featured here on mandolin for was his debut appearance with the band.
Dylanesque. Pictured on the radio Cleveland stage at Middlesbrough music live 2006 festival. Left to right, Michael Crimmins (Guitars/Harmonica/vocals), Paul Taylor (Drums), Len Wilson (Violin /Mandolin) and Alan Marwood (Double bass / Five string Banjo). Set list: ‘It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry’, ‘Sara’, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, ‘One More Cup of Coffee’, ‘The cuckoo is a pretty bird’, and ‘Lay lady lay’.
EAST LILLING FESTIVAL, 2006
This year was our third at the fantastic East Lilling Festival near York. The date 1st July 2006. We took to the stage to play some Bob shortly after England had completed, and lost, a penalty shoot out with Portugal. Dennis the organiser had placed his house, and his beer too, at our disposal so we could enjoy the game beforehand. I must admit I was deflated, my national pride had taken a battering! But as they say –the show must go on. I am proud of the England performance and my man of the match, and possibly the competition too, is Peter Crouch. I needed something special beside beer to get my engine going again and it came in the form of the superb five piece band- BOX OF GOATS- I am afraid that I have not an inkling of the titles of the songs they played as all of the material was totally original! I can tell you though that they were totally exhilarating. I had met the members of the band previously at a gig in Flaxton, or thereabouts, called the ‘Blacksmiths Arms’ and before I could possibly know what any band that they might form would be like I did discover how brilliantly they could improvise when we all got involved together in an after hours jam session. Happy memories! Watch out for Zander Blair this kid is 14 and is going to make the guitar famous! ‘Box of Goats’ are a family based band who incorporate the leadership of a great songwriter Alistair McIntosh! Please stay together you have a lot going for you.
Box Of Goats: Alistair McIntosh (Guitar/vocals/songs), Zander Blair (Lead guitar), Ben Blacksmith (Piano), Lynne Blair (vocals) and Nick Blair (Bass).
Signs on the windows
Visit the Dylanesque website at www.dylanesque.yolasite.com.
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