Worthless Foam From The Mouth



Just thought I’d make a few comments on a couple of the pieces in last month’s issue. Firstly Paula asks who we feel our AUDIENCE IS NOWADAYS WHEN WE WRITE FOR Freewheelin’. Well I haven’t seen Freewheelin’ On-Line so I no longer get the feeling I’m writing for a larger audience as I did when Freewheelin’ Quarterly was published as a “proper” magazine. There was something about seeing your work in print in a magazine that you could hold that really emphasized that it was getting read by several hundred people that I didn’t know and who didn’t know me. The sight of people carrying the magazine around at the Cambridge Dylan evenings or at one of the Conventions made me realise that people were actually going to take my ramblings seriously and sit them on their bookshelf., forever preserved in ink and paper, to perhaps be read again in years or decades to come, long after they should have been forgotten.

Nowadays, anything I write, even this, will float around in an electronic ether, there to be studied by a potential audience of thousands. Yet I do not get the same sense of audience. Perhaps it’s because I will no longer see anyone carrying my words around with them, but I find that I’ve gone back to the old days of writing for me, and an audience of twelve. Perhaps, once I get computerised myself, I will feel differently. We shall see.

 Similarly, I did not get the feeling that Dylan was “revelling in the warmth and appreciation of his current audiences.” At Birmingham and I was close enough to see his face. I felt that he was less engaged with us than at the same venue in 2000. Though much of that may have been due to his obvious tiredness. I’m not really sure what he thinks of his audiences any more, those in the first few rows at least. Obviously he needs us to keep him on the road but I do wonder if he’d  prefer us all to sit at the back and pretend we can’t recognize the songs. And certainly not want to relive the show via a CD a few days later.

Speaking of which, Robert, you should certainly not consider yourself to be odd because you have  no urge to collect hundreds of Bob Dylan shows that you will listen to once – if that – and then stick on a shelf forever more. Since 1999, I’ve probably collected more shows than since the heady days of 1984, primarily due to the ease  of getting them on disc, and I do make a point of playing each one once. However, how many have I felt the need to listen to again? At a rough guess 2 or 3 at most. They’re taking up a lot of valuable shelf space yet I cannot bear to part with them, even though I do not want to hear them again. Now, that is odd.

Robert is also correct that Michael Gray’s Daily Telegraph piece annoyed a lot of fans but, as he said, Gray – and all of us – has to call it as he sees it. Gray is no mere hack with a mere smattering of Dylan knowledge and if he witnesses a gig that disappoints or depresses him then, whether we agree or not, it’s his right to express it, whether it be for a daily national or a Dylan fanzine. As a cartoonist who is not always (for that, read “never”) kind to Bob, I know just how much of the “if you’re a fan, you must never be unkind to Dylan” mentality still exists and Gray was on a hiding to nothing if he though his article was going to get a fair hearing. There are still those who think that what Dylan flushes down his toilet bowl is steeped in genius  but – by God – I do my best to avoid ‘em nowadays I I met one at a Cambridge evening a year or so  ago and he scared me shitless); they are the oddest of the odd.

We each get out of Dylan exactly what we want, I guess, and, as I have been told on several occasions, “it’s better than mugging old ladies”. Which is true, even if it’s less lucrative.