by Jim Gillan


Well, hereís a rum do. Brain the size of a planet, admittedly the somewhat appropriately named Uranus, a fine sense of the ridiculous (took years of self-study), a way with words (not far enough away some might say) and a lot of years listening to Dylan and many, many others, but Iím stuck for an idea. If in doubt, turn to the correspondence.

Ah! Ha! Success in every envelope. ĎSharoní writes Hi there. Iím sort of new to Bob. My Dad used to play his records a lot and was always trying to get me to listen, but of course I had LOADS of better things to do. However when my Dadís girlfriend gave him the elbow two days before the show in Brighton I ended up going along with him, just to keep him company. I thought it would be a real ordeal, but it was EXCELLENT! Also, Charlie Sexton is drop-dead gorgeous Ė his eyes smoulder in a way that makes a lass melt, if you know what I mean. And I had a great time dancing with some of the other girls who were there. Strangely, Dad didnít think it was all that good. He even said he wouldnít be going again, but I donít think he means it. Anyway, Bob now has a new fan and Dad has had all his CDís pinched!

Well, a bit of a nothing letter, at least on the surface. But it does illustrate that Bobís audience is anything but ageing, as well as confirming that itís what he does on stage that matters to people. I suppose some might mock the remarks about Charlie, but why? And itís certainly true that there were plenty of young women dancing and rocking along. And melting I suppose. All in all itís a more honest (in every sense of the word) perspective than the next one I opened.

ĎMí writes Watching Dylan grope his way through the dross that is all he is now capable of writing would be merely painful were it not for the plebeian adulation that he attracts from the masses. Shakespeare of course anticipated them rather neatly ďthe rabblement hooted and clappíd their chopt hands and threw up their sweaty night-capsÖĒ* Yeats too has the phrase to sum up the largely lumpen audience he now attracts to soulless arenas ďThe uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.Ē** I of course am above all that and would not comment were it not for the need to satisfy those that clamour for the definitive, the authoritative, view. So much to write, so little to write about.

Cor! Well, Itís unlikely to be Sharonís dad that penned that little lot. The initial might be a clue, and the hint of a footnote or two, but I am acutely aware of my own prejudices and donít want to point the finger at Mikey just for the sake of it. confess to getting a bit steamed up about the arrogance of the writer, but to be fair, he has a point, at least about some bits of the audience. At Manchester, the seats at the back of the lower tier, block 102 seemed to be mostly taken by a load of people who thought they were at a beer and fag festival, one where the show was incidental to the competition to get most pints on a tray. At Newcastle it was a convention of followers of the art of the inane conversation who seemed to have wandered in. Annoyingly for them, Bob kept singing, whilst strain as they might, they couldnít quite match the output of the PA. Not that they didnít try.  At London it was time for the barber shop quartets, karaoke exponents and glee club singers to give tongue, sadly never in sync.

Now this is more like it, though I think that a) itís been seriously delayed in the post and b) delivered here in error. ĎRegí writes Dear Marge, I know that itís usually girls who write to you at the Daily Mirror, but I donít know who else to turn to. Iím 17 and canít get a girlfriend. What I can get is lots of spots and very tongue-tied.  know that you always say that people will like you for what you are, rather than what you pretend to be, but itís not working for me. Anyway, there is this singer I heard who I think is called Bob Dillon. He sang this really good song about the answer is blowing in the wind. I only remembered a few of the words and was trying to sing them to myself at the bus stop when this girl asked me what it was. She said she really liked the words and when she said who was it by I said it was me. She got really interested in me then and so we are going out next week to the cinema.  Sheís a bit fat, but is alright. Iím really worried that she will find out that I didnít write the words, so can you tell me anything about Mr Dillon and if he has any LPís. Thank you.

Wow! To think that was written maybe 40 years ago! I wonder what happened! Maybe they got married and had five kids and even have grandchildren now. And still she nags him to finish the poem! I was only 12 when Freewheeling was released, so it wasnít until Highway 61 Revisited (OK, if Iím honest, Blond on Blond) was released that I could pinch lines and pretend to be cool. Didnít work as well as I hoped, but wasnít a total failure. Actually if itís seduction that you have in mind, a lot of Bobís stuff still works very well. And so to bed.

Morning!  Much refreshed and raring to go. Eggs, not egos, for breakfast. And all the post brings is a directive from His Holiness the Spoke.  JS writes to us Freewheelers ďI am writing about John Green Day 2 (31/8/2002, Moat House Hotel, Northampton)Ö.I need you all to name your favourite Basement Tape song and give a one or two line reasonÖ.Ē  Bummer! I have a real problem with the Basement Tapes, in that just after CBS deigned to release the album (June 1975), things went badly pear shaped on the first marriage front for me. Six years, two kids and not a lot of money.  Maybe not a lot to look forward to for any of us.  So definitely not a time to have a new load of Dylan songs to listen to. Even now with everything long since healed and we are friends (maybe because there is 13,000 miles between us) listening to BT shows that what should properly be extinct is only dormant. Itís not that there is anything as simple as desire or jealousy or self-pity to peg things on.  No, itís much more complex than that, so complex that I canít give it adequate expression. But Iím not looking for catharsis. Thankfully things worked out for all of us, really well in my case, however selfish that might appear.

But playing the CD after a gap of Lord knows how long was interesting. Often it was like hearing the songs for the first time, though ĎToo Much of Nothingí and ĎThis Wheelís on Fireí were still a bit tough. Fortunately Iím a lot less tender and a lot more sensitive. Hang on a moment, the ever-loving wife is laughing hysterically.  

Ha! Only a coincidence. At least thatís what she tells me. Well, duty done.  I guess that in the future I will give BT a spin more often. Itís just gonna have to wait for the moment though as TOOM, L&T, Street Legal, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and a whole heap of stuff from Biograph, the Bootleg Series and bootlegs proper are coming with me on my trip round France and Germany. So too is Emmylou Harris, the Be Good Tanyas, Mississippi John Hurt, Mary Gauthier, John B Spencer, Jesse Fuller, Taraf de Haidouks and Alison Krauss.  Not forgetting the O Brother soundtrack, Chris Smither, Altan, old Andy Kershaw shows and some more recent Mike Harding. Should make Dover OK, maybe even Arras, as thereís some other stuff that Iíve pulled out blindfold.  Surprises are the biz. And not just because Terry Pratchett (in the Thief of Time) observes ĎBlink your eyes and the world you see next did not exist when you closed them. ThereforeÖthe only appropriate state of the mind is surpriseÖof the heart, joy.í But as I canít improve on that, I wonít attempt to add to it. And that is a surprise in itself.

PS Iíve settled on ĎIím not Thereí.  Which I didnít hear until the 5 CD set arrived about half past nineteen ninety thingy.  So itís untainted by any dubious connections. Anyway, ITALY, SWALK, BURMA and even (though only for the missus) NORWICH.  Yes I know this last needs a bit of licence, but what doesnít? OK! OK! dogs donít, at least not anymore. Think yourself smart? Take this!

You may call me JG/You may call me Jim/You may think this verse is great/Or really rather grim. Ha! Would you ever Adam and Eve it! Creative juices dripping like fat off a goose (Iím really a veggie person but oil dripping off tofu doesnít conjure up much of anything) and Iíve run out of room!!!!!!!!!!

Dylan Woodstock 1968