by Richard Lewis

I wonder if Dylan ever uses the Internet? Somehow I doubt it so I don’t suppose he ever sees his own official website, But perhaps someone told him about the page, that I wrote about last month, on his debut album. Or maybe it was when he was at the Grammys and heard Dan Tyminsky singing. At any rate something must have triggered the idea in his mind as when he opened his current European tour in Stockholm earlier this month he had a surprise for us. The fifth song of his set turned out to be “Man of Constant Sorrow” which I don’t think he has sung for at least 10 years. What a treat for the Swedes. Perhaps he will do it for me next month? I hope so.

I just rejoined one of those book clubs that have great introductory offers. As part of my initial package I got “The Oxford Book of English Verse” Edited by Christopher Ricks and a new edition of “The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations”. The entries on Dylan in the latter volume are quite interesting.

Dylan is described as “American singer and songwriter”. He has 16 entries of which 13 are from song lyrics, 2 are the titles of songs and one is from an interview. The two song titles are Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right and The Times They Are A-Changin’. The interview quote is from the Mail on Sunday on 18 January 1998 and is Dylan’s response to be described as an ‘icon’: I think that’s just another word for a washed-up has-been.

Interesting that in “Summer Days” Dylan refers to the singer being told by the girls “You’re a worn out star”. Of the 13 lyric quotes 11 are from that fertile period between 1962 (“Blowin’ In The Wind”) and 1966 (“Just Like A Woman”). I am sure you could work them out for yourself but as well as the two songs I’ve mentioned there are quotes from “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall”, “With God On Our Side”, “Mr Tambourine Man”, “Love Minus Zero”, “My Back Pages”, “It’s Alright Ma”, “Desolation Row” and “Like A Rolling Stone”.

The remaining two lyric quotes are from 1978 and 1979. Any guesses? Well the first is the couplet:

Senor, Senor, do you know where we’re headin’?
Lincoln County Road or Armageddon?

And the other is this line from “Slow Train”:

All that foreign oil controlling American soil.

My edition was first published in 1999 and reprinted with corrections in 2001. It is no surprise that Dylan still regularly sings the songs from the 60s and he regularly sings “Senor” but I don’t think he has sung Slow Train recently. It would be nice to think that a quote or two from “Oh Mercy”, “Time Out Of Mind” or “Love and Theft” might appear in the next edition. What would you choose?