It’s true – the older you get, the quicker these annual Top Tens seem to come around. Here we go, then …

1. Jamie. A traditional number 1 by now, but if this is to be an honest Top Ten of the year then there really is nothing else that has made me happier.

2. Live 1975. A criminally belated official release for Dylan’s finest tour from the finest chapter of his life that began somewhere in 1974 and ended – “Are You Ready?” excepted – at the end of 1980. However good the best bootlegs are, they’re not a patch on this. The booklet was the icing on the cake – a nice essay from Ratso himself and more previously unseen photos than even I could have hoped for. All that plus my favourite Ken Regan pic on the slipcase and a DVD for an extra quid. By the way, anyone wondering what happened to “This Land Is Your Land” and “Never Let Me Go” might care to notice that the only non-original included is the traditional “The Water Is Wide”. Guess who gets all the royalties?

3. Birmingham NEC. My only show of the year was back at my familiar stomping ground where I had previously witnessed wonderful Dylan shows in 1989 and 2000. Alas, this year couldn’t hold a candle to those shows, despite delivering a dream set list. He was tired and, rather than push it as he did in 1997, decided to lay back and coast for much of the show (and tour?). “The Wicked Messenger” will always define the show for me, just as “I And I” did back in 1993. I’m glad I went and I’ll go again next time but, sadly, during “Rainy Day Women” I was, for the first time ever, actually bored during a Bob Dylan concert.

4. The 2002 Autumn tour. What is it about the American Autumn tour that always brings out the best and most adventurous in Dylan? These were definitely the best of the year, possibly even eclipsing last year’s epic run. The keyboards have shaken up the sound, the cover versions have shaken up the set lists and Dylan sounds as near to great as he’s every going to get these days. If he should return to our shores next year, then a few shows of this calibre will do very nicely, thank you. Not that I’m holding my breath.

5. Other music. With the pre-October shows being so unexciting, I’ve found plenty of time to check out all sorts of different music this year. A partial list of new CDs I have bought and particularly enjoyed this year would have to include:

“Love Junk Store” – The Alice Band
“Beautysleep” – Tanya Donelly
“The Last D.J.” – Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
“Ten Sorrowful Tales” – Monica Queen
“Out of Season” – Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man
“Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots” – The Flaming Lips
“The Burt Bacharach Collection”
“The Rising” – Bruce Springsteen
“The Musician” – Jennifer Terran
“Vespertine” – Bjork

6. Freewheelin’. We have survived a few downs as well as enjoyed a few ups this year. Ignoring the public version in whatever incarnation for a moment, the private issue continues to be my favourite Bob Dylan read. If the only certainties in life are death and taxes, then perhaps we should add to that the brown A4 envelope that plops through our letterboxes every month without a hiccup. Thanks to you all for keeping me entertained throughout 2002 and thanks to JRS for holding it all together (and for quite literally putting it all together and posting it).

7. Movies. It’s been a pretty good year for movies. The first blockbusting instalment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy “The Fellowship Of The Ring” was everything it promised to be and more (though “The Two Towers” looks set to be even better) and the Cohen Brothers’ “From Hell” added a stylish slant to the Jack The Ripper legend and coaxed good performances out of Johnny Depp and the reliable Robbie Coltrane, even if their conclusion was hardly original or, it must be said, any more likely to be true than any of the other dozens of nominations over the past 114 years. But what I have probably enjoyed more than anything this year would have to be the computer-generated gems “Monsters Inc”, “Ice Age” and “Toy Story 2”. Sheer bliss and sheer genius.

8. “On The Road With Bob Dylan”. A timely reprint for Larry Sloman’s masterpiece and one that meant I could finally throw away my tatty old photocopy of the original and read it all over again. Still easily the best book on Bob Dylan and likely to remain so. Within a few short pages Sloman had effortlessly transported me back to those halcyon Fall 1975 days. The days before Jesus, before Live Aid, before Knocked Out Loaded and Under The Red Sky, before 1991. And the last year – with the brief exception of Blackbushe in 1978 – that Dylan looked great in a hat.

Special mention for the Uncut issue that reproduced a few chunks of the book alongside a stunning collection of unseen photos. Rolling Thunder books, albums and magazines – as you can imagine, it’s been a pretty good three months in the Carter household.

9. CD-Rs. Collecting everything on disc nowadays gave me the impetus to totally blitz my overstocked tape cupboard, allowed me to stop buying “proper” bootlegs and made it easy to skip “Tangled Up in Blue”, “Mobile” and “Rainy Day Women” on the 2002 shows. For those reasons alone, they deserve to be in this list.

10. The return of old favourites. Recent second series of The Office and I’m Alan Partridge briefly made it essential to watch t.v. again and, in both cases, the second series was almost as good as the first. The characters of David Brent and Alan Partridge are truly and pathetically awful but the most frightening thing is that, somewhere out there, they exist for real.


1. The pre-October shows. Let’s face it; with one or two exceptions, they simply weren’t all that good, were they?

2. The loss of public Freewheelin’ as a magazine. I thought it looked wonderful and was a credit to us all. I can’t help it – I still miss adding new editions to my shelf.

3. Sad Dylan Fans. They’re out there and it only takes a negative Michael Gray article in a national newspaper to bring ‘em out in a foam-mouthed horde. They are also presumably the same ones proclaiming Dylan’s 2002 shows to be the best he’s ever done. Be afraid, be very afraid.

And that’s it. A happy and peaceful New Year to you all. As JRS said last month; we are all artists and long may we continue to paint our collective Freewheelin’ masterpiece