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20lbs of Headlines

by MARK CARTER

A bit of a mixed bag of press coverage this month, with one definite personal highlight. But before we get to that, eyes down and look in for this lot.

Firstly, the July 14th 2002 issue of L.A. Weekly carried an interview with Paul Williams by Alec Hanley Bemis. Much of the surrounding text concentrates on the history of Crawdaddy! But, when discussing his own approach to appreciating music, Williams states what should be pretty obvious to all of us but, unfortunately, sometimes isn’t; “…There is a very famous old line: ‘I don’t know anything about art, but I know what I like. ‘The greatness of art ultimately has to do with subjectivity. Anything else is, to a large extent, an illusion that there are right answers to the question.” 

The Autumn 2002 American tour – Dylan’s most adventurous since slightly just before the Big Bang – brought forth a glut of mainly positive reviews. Here’s a few of them; The Seattle Times’ Patrick MacDonald trooped off to the opening show at the Key Arena, where he discovered that Dylan’s voice – sometimes “just short of a falsetto” – “made you hear the songs anew and listen closely to his poetic, mysterious, wise and humorous lyrics.” 

Gene Stout of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer was also impressed; “…Bob Dylan was introduced as “the poet laureate of rock ‘n’ roll”, but that’s far too tame a description for the wild haired guy who set Key Arena on fire. Backed by his phenomenal four – piece road band, he kicked off his fall tour in Seattle with two hours of high-spirited, crowd-inspiring music that spanned more than four decades of songwriting and recording.” 

Ryan Bomheimer and Aaron Shakra of the Oregon Daily Emerald both attended Eugene’s McArthur Court gig and witnessed “a comfortably subdued and surprise-free performance”, which makes you wonder just what Dylan has to do for some people that constitutes a “surprise”. Presumably playing half the show on keyboards and including covers by Warren Zevon and The Stones  in the set (as well as – praise be! – dropping Tangled Up In Blue ) was exactly what they were expecting. Anyway, according to these two bozos, “Ultimately, the show was not amazing, but let’s face it – it’s Dylan, and that’s enough.” 

At the Same venue, CounterPunch’s David Vest saw a totally different show; “…It feels strange to write of an artist who emerged in the Sixties that the strongest moments (in both performance and crowd response) of his current show are provided by songs released in the year of 2001…You wonder, almost if the day will come when people complain about Dylan singing so many of his old songs (they already do, David. They already do.) People around me were hoping he would play Things Have Changed”. The Orion’s Mike Witherow caught Dylan at Red Bluff’s Pauline Davis Pavillion; a dirt-floored venue usually home to livestock sales. He found Dylan’s take on Brown Sugar to be an early highlight and reports that one audience member was so overcome that he passed out on his  back twice before finally being carried out by his friends.  

The Sacramento Bee’s David Barton was at the Memorial Auditorium, where he appreciated a timely stab at Don Henley’s The End Of Innocence as well as Bob’s newest material; “…The intensity of Summer Days even made the encore of Dylan’s three biggest signature songs – Rolling Stone, Heaven’s Door and Watchtower – pale by comparison.  They’re great songs, but Dylan’s creative energy is elsewhere, because he is still creating exciting music that can really grab an audience. That’s something that neither McCartney, nor the Who, nor even the mighty Stones, can claim.” 

Old favourite Robert Hilburn, reviewing for the L.A. Times’ Calender magazine, witnessed Dylan open the refurbished Wiltern Theatre with a show “blessed with both thrilling music and a generous spirit”. “Dylan will always be known primarily as a man of words”, he concludes, “But he put such passion  and joy into the playing that the show took on an added, cleansing edge. By the end, the audience’s mood was jubilant – not just in awe of an artist’s legacy, but of his ability on this night to touch us so gloriously anew.”

Away from the rigours of the road, the Duluth News Tribune’s Jane Brissett reported of Hibbing Library’s somewhat belated yet quietly growing Dylan archive. Librarians Roberta Maki and Nacy Riesgraf are spear-heading the operation which began in 1993 with a few posters. Nowadays, it boasts almost 2,000 magazine articles, most of the official vinyl albums and singles, books, publicity photos, sheet music and scripts and even a 1959 Hibbing High School Yearbook that’s kept locked in a vault. The plan is to have a full-blown Dylan Museum in the library by Dylan’s 65th birthday. They’d like him to attend to cut the cake but he’ll probably  be playing a concert somewhere or other at the time. And – just think – by then the Neverending Tour will be 18 years old.  

Rolling Stone’s David Fricke reported on the release of Mickey Jones’ 1966 home movie, which will also feature some 1964 footage of the Beatles. “But I did this project because I know Bob Dylan fans are starved, “Jones admits, “We should share this” Meanwhile, several  newspapers revealed that Dylan, Billy Joel and James Taylor have filed a joint lawsuit against website MP3.com for making their music available to download without their permission. Firstly though, they’d better have a word with the head honcho at their record company, since Sony has apparently given the website all the permission it needs.

November’s Uncut magazine became the first magazine that I felt compelled to buy two copies of in a very long time. Firstly, Stephen Dalton’s piece on British T.V. comedy The Office (easily the funniest thing on the box by miles with the noteable exception of I’m Alan Partridge) reveals that the show’s creator and star Ricky Gervais cites Bob Dylan as his musical hero; “The coolest man who ever lived from beginning to end”.

Further along is a five star review of The Last Waltz – finally released in the UK on DVD – which reckons that it’s indispensable, other than the Neil Diamond footage, and includes a nice colour photo of Dylan at the event’; a presence so great that he simply eclipsed everybody else who trod the boards that night. 

An interview with Harry Dean Stanton by Damien Love includes his thoughts on several of his most memorable movies, and these include Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid. He wasn’t happy with his role and reckons that “Pekinpah was sort of a madman. Just a raving maniac”. He did meet Dylan for the first time, though; “…I’ve always been a singer, and I sang a Mexican song. He was very impressed. We hit it off real good. Later, I did his film Renaldo And Clara, just one big, grand, improvised, uh, happening. He’s an unusual guy.” 

The real reason for treasuring this particular issue of this particular magazine, however, are the six extracts from Larry Sloman’s republished On The Road With Bob Dylan (easily the best Bob Dylan Book In The World – Ever!). The text is good enough, but of course you need to read (even if it’s for the umpteenth time) the whole book, not just these tasty morsels, though the real iceing on the cake are the array of Ken Regan photos throughout the 20-page article. Having expected the same familiar ’75 RTR photos to be used as decoration, imagine my surprise and delight when – as best as I can tell – I discovered a full dozen shots that were new to me. These include both pics at the rehearsals and onstage and offstage shots. As someone who still firmly believes that 1975 was Dylan’s finest year and that October to December were the finest months of that finest of years, this is undoubtedly the greatest item that will adorn my 2002 cutting folder. However good  Dylan might periodically be nowadays, he’ll never hold a candle to 1975. There’s no point disagreeing with me, because it’s true. Live with it.  

A lengthy article in America’s The Common Review takes a well written look at some of the many books that have been written about Dylan of late, whilst also acknowledging Dylan’s recent ability to do no wrong by the critics as he gets older. It’s a subject that we’ve all read before – especially in the fanzines – and it’s certainly not a subject that will give us any food for thought, but this accomplishes what it sets out to do admirably. 

Finally, the November issue of Mojo featured Sinead O’Connor extolling the virtues of Slow Train Coming; an album that she reckons she’s worked through 15 copies of; “...What I find tragic is that he didn’t stand by the record; that he couldn’t see how brilliant it was. Obviously it’s a brave thing to start writing songs about Jesus, but  I think he allowed other people to dictate what he should feel about the record later on. But I’m quite in love with God and I’m sure old Bob is, too.” This is a nice piece to end on and, for once, the old ex-chrome dome makes some sense.

And that’s it for another month. I’ll be back with more of the same next time, and that’s  the only warning you’re going to get. 

 

THANKS TO:  GRAHAM A..   BRYAN G,  MUM & DAD

 
 
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