More Bob Dylan Top Ten Pill Box Hats

by Neil Watson


Time again for our traditional top Bob of the year awards so soon? How soon is now? I wouldn’t be surprised if our old friend Jeff didn’t make a guest appearance for this one!

But to be serious for a moment, one of the high points of 2002 has to be the continuation of the “Freewheelin’” organisation and the magazine as we know it. Through all the adversity and ‘Judas’ earlier in the year it continues and goes from strength to strength.

“Freewheelin’” could have reverted back to just being a 13 issue ‘privately’ circulated magazine but instead moved on to become the first Internet Dylan magazine.

It’s been said before that there are plenty of new writers (on Dylan’s work) out there. This has proven to be the case with “Freewheelin’” over the past 12 months or so. There have been some great new writers join our group making many excellent contributions. People like Paula Radice, Robert Forryan and CP Lee. And more recently articles by Russell Blatcher, in particular the “Caribbean Wind” piece in issue 203 July, 2002.

Another big highlight of this year must be The Second Annual John Green Day back on the 31st August. A good date to hold this event, two great memories in one.

First I have to say how much I regret that I couldn’t make it to this second event having enjoyed the first year so much. This was the place to be without a doubt. A place full of like-minded people with all things Bob, and to pay tribute to John. I did get to hear Julie Felix perform a number of the Dylan covers she recorded for the “Starry Eyed And Laughing” album later in the year when she played a concert at the Assembly Rooms in our hometown of Tamworth. I talked to Julie briefly after the show about her day at the John Green Memorial and she said how much she’d enjoyed it all.

Talked also about the 1969 “Isle Of Wight” concert and couldn’t leave without a mention of Leonard Cohen. How come you didn’t sing any of his songs?!! I’ll leave this important day on the calendar with this quote from Chris Cooper's article written about the event.

After Dylan’s performance of “Restless Farewell” (from the Sinatra 80th birthday tribute) on video was shown linked to pictures of John Green you could not have helped to be moved.

“I went over to John’s mum Edna at the end of it, seeing the tears rolling down her cheeks. She smiled at me and holding my hand she said”,

“It’s ok, I’m not sad. I’m just so proud to think that you all thought so much of my John. I am so pleased you all still remember him”.

And that must be what it’s all about. That must be what it’s all about.

I managed to get to only one of the UK shows again this year. The NEC in Birmingham. A bit special this one too. The show turned out to be probably the set list of the tour. It was my first chance to hear some of the songs from “Love And Theft” live for the first time. Most of these worked well enough though “Cry Awhile” and “Honest With Me” were the highlights for me. The set list included gems like “It’s Alright Ma”, “The 4th Time Around”, “The Wicked Messenger” and “Tomorrow Is A Long Time”. Great show!!

They even had a programme this time around. The first one in loads of never ending tours!

It was also “Great to be back in Newport” for Bob this year when he returned to the ‘scene of the crime’ at the Newport Folk Festival on the 3rd August, 2002. Bob was wearing a disguise, but still had nothing to hide. Looked like a Woody Allen ‘Bananas’ out-take to me! Dylan is all humour.

Next up, the release of the remastered “The Last Waltz” 4CD box set. A magical collection of great artists performing great songs. Many unreleased goodies from the original vinyl release make this an essential buy. I initially played the couple of Clapton songs quite a lot. Brilliant performances. “Further On Up The Road” is a real upfront song with a great guitar riff. The unreleased “All Our Past Times” cowritten with Rick Danko who also shares the vocals is a real joy.

Also welcome were the 2 unreleased songs from Joni Mitchell. I thought she gave an outstanding performance at “The Last Waltz”. Joni’s vocals were beautiful. She was well in her prime back then – Just listen to “Coyote” and the backing vocal on “Helpless” with Neil Young.

There was of course one extra Dylan track included from his original set. A nice version of “Hazel”. Been a long wait for this one.

As Robbie Robertson commented in his notes in the booklet, “Hazel” was an odd choice for Dylan. The other songs in the set fitted in with Dylan and The Band’s past and future(!) repertoire so why?

At the back of the booklet there are two photographs side by side of the late Rick Danko and Richard Manuel.

“Dedicated to the art and memory of Rick Danko and Richard Manuel”

“A stage is a safe place for me,” Rick Danko once said. “I’d be lost without it.” The stage is now a lesser place without Rick Danko and Richard Manuel. When you play the music through on this box set you realise the loss.

A short and sweet highlight of the year was Dylan’s performance of “Cry Awhile” at the 44th Grammy Awards back in February. Good choice of song and Bob looked in pretty good shape. He didn’t pick up an award this time, but then we didn’t really want him waving anything else around on stage did we?

More recently we saw the release of “The Bootleg Series Volume 5 – Live 1975.” Another nice package and still trying to keep up with the “Genuine Bootleg Series”! The write-up, the booklet and the photographs are excellent. The music is all too familier to the hardcore fans of course but this is the quality we are always looking for.

Some unique versions of many classic Dylan songs of the 22 on this collection. Particularly “Hard Rain,” “Romance In Durango” and “It Takes A Lot To Laugh.” There are also the sublime versions of both “Isis” and “Tangled Up In Blue” which are on the collectors DVD.

A bit of good news printed in the back of the booklet:

Sony will soon be releasing more music from the vaults in the Bootleg Series. Look out for the complete 1964 Philharmonic Hall Concert in 2003.

I will, I will. A new “Bootleg Series” once a year now? Sounds good to me.

Prior to the release of “The Bootleg Series Vol.5” there was a “Rolling Thunder Revue” special in the November issue of the “Uncut” magazine.

The article ‘Eye Of The Hurricane’ was by the man who knows all about the ‘RTR’ Larry Sloman. Sloman’s great book “On The Road” was of course re-published earlier in the year. As usual as it is the ‘RTR’ there are loads of great photo’s from the lens of Ken Regan.

A shot of Bob making a phone call whilst trying to walk a dog! The shot of Dylan wearing his ‘The Only Innocent Hurricane’ T-shirt. And a great photo of Bob backstage with Springsteen and John Prine. Good stuff.

Finally a mention of ‘World Tour 1966-The Home Movies.’ This was the release of the Mickey Jones private 8mm film of the ’66 world tour on DVD recently. One of those things you must see but know you are going to be disappointed. Obviously it’s going to be a real downer with the footage being silent! It does move though, and it is 1966. I guess it is of historic importance and something you simply must have.

It just leaves you wanting more – Like the official release of “Eat The Document” on DVD, and 3 days of out-takes!!! Just a thought…

To Chris Hockenhull. Chris, I never thought I’d see the day. We could have swapped places! Welcome home, hope you are better at this than I ever was.

To Mark. Many thanks as ever for the annual Bob-card and more so for all the hard work that must have gone into that collaboration with Dickens for the F’in Christmas Carol.

Hope there is at least some joy for us all in 2003. Have a good one.