Worthlress Foam From The Mouth



Is it just me or do these Top Tens seem to come around quicker and quicker the older you get?  Anyway, here's this yearís in what has been another pretty quiet year Dylan-wise for me. 

FAMILY VALUES. In this ever changing world in which we live in itís good to have a solid rock to cling onto. I sometimes think that Jamie is the only thing that keeps me sane, even though he sometimes drives me mad. If you see what I mean. 

BOB IN BIRMINGHAM. A slick show was given an edge of uncertainty through Bobís illness, so I watched with baited breath in case he collapsed or simply chucked in the towell. Luckily, neither happened and he delivered two remarkable highlights Ė Itís Alright Ma and Hattie Carroll. Thatís two more than I was expecting and - ill or not - at least he didn't repeat the snoozeathon that was Birmingham in 2002. History will probably record it as one of the poorer shows of the UK tour - if not the whole European tour - but I was happy enough. Then again, perhaps I'm easily pleased. 

MASKED AND ANONYMOUS.  With a critical drubbing that made Renaldo And Clara and Hearts Of Fire seem  warmly received by comparison, I was prepared for this to be a celluloid version of Tarantula only with worse songs. Imagine my. Surprise, then, when it turned out to be a pretty damn good movie with a plot (of sorts) that rolled along steadily, a cracking soundtrack, some excellent live footage from the Bobmeister and a few nice touches of the surreal which, for me, made it closer to a filmed version of Desolation Row(with a few apocalyptic bits from practically everything he,s written since 1989 thrown in for good measure) than the not-as-clever-as-it-thinks-it-is ramblings of Dylanís hopelessly dense book. 

THE DARKNESS. A band that hailed originally from Lowestoft (a hitherto unknown breeding ground of rock gods), The Darkness remind me of why I got into music in the first place back in the mid-70s. Part Queen,  part Rush, part 1973 Glam Rock, this is a band that knows how to enjoy themselves and send up the whole rock genre at the same time. They are no Spinal Tap, however; they clearly love what they do and are good at it and are poised to become massive if only they can hold it together. Their Christmas single Christmas Time (Donít Let The Bells End) is the best seasonal record since - what? - The Pretenderís 2000 Miles back in 1983 probably, and the video is hilarious. Listen to them, watch them and for a moment believe itís 1975 again. 

EARLY DYLAN. Like Christopher Prick's Visions Of Sin, this was a book I had no intention of buying until I noticed our local Virgin Megastore had a huge pile and was selling them off. Unlike Visions Of Sin, this was a book I didn't regret buying, despite itís brevity of pages. For sheer entertainment value, this book can't be beaten - sometimes all you want to do is relax and look at a few lovely old pictures of Bob that youíve never seen before, back in the days when he wasnít even shaving every day (not that he shaved every day anyway, at least not until that little slug crawled onto his upper lip). 

DVDs. By drastically cutting down my Dylan expenditure this year I was able to invest in a DVD player and replace most of my favourite movies with shiny discs, usually packed with many extras. Iím probably as much a movie buff as I am a music buff so Iím particularly pleased with the way my collection has grown this year. With such classics as Citizen Kane, Once Upon A Time In America and Halloween receiving 2003 releases, it has proven to be a good time to convert. Plus, both series of Phoenix Nights, The Office, three Alan Partridge sets, every Father Ted episode ever in one box set and the first two series of Teachers also coming out, my funny bone has been well and truly tickled. Not only that, but disposing of those bulky video cases means that I've actually made some shelf space this year! 

FANZINES.  Nowadays I only receive Isis and The Bridge (plus our own mag every month, of course) and they are enough for me. They satisfy my needs and provide some fine writing on Dylan from people who understand him. 

THE WHITE BEAR 1978 CD SET. This, along with the superb Eat The Document DVD, has been my only major Dylan purchase of any importance. Collecting together three 1978 shows from the beginning, middle and end of the year, plus a roundup of every song that Dylan played throughout the massive world tour, this restates what a classic year it was and reminds me of why I discovered - and was smitten - by Dylan in 1978. Anyone who continues to dismiss this tour and Street Legal as minor chapters in Dylanís history are simply wrong. 

OTHER MUSIC. This year I bought far too much music by other artists to list here (for the first time in a couple of decades or more I have acquired more legal CDs by other artists than illegal ones by Dylan), but special mention should be made here for Ron Sexsmith's Cobblestone Runway, Richard Thompsonís The Old Kit Bag and Emmylou Harrisí Stumble Into Grace, which I would wholeheartedly recommend to anybody. Also, Mojo issued a killer Mott The Hoople compilation for a measly seven quid, which confirms what a top band they were. I have rediscovered a love for music both new and old which my past obsessive compulsion to collect everything by Dylan stifled for far too long. 

SAD DYLAN FANS HALLOWEEN SPECIAL. My vision to kill them off in the epic style that they deserved was realised in spades. It actually came off even better than I had expected or hoped and is probably one of the best things Iíve done. I have been pleasantly surprised by the strength of feeling expressed at their demise, not least from our own JRS, with many people saying their adventures were the best thing Iíve ever done. Shame, really, since I guess that what ever I produce in the future will be considered substandard. Ironically, within the pages of Freewheeliní - where I have always considered their true home to be - their swansong was not commented upon, other than by the aforementioned JRS. This may be part of the continuing "we don't talk any more" malady affecting the magazine that I and Chris Cooper have commented upon in the past or perhaps they truly have had their day within these pages and nobody really gives a shit one way or the other.

Whatever, spending three months weaving them into one of the last truly scary horror movies ever made and paying tribute to John Carpenterís masterpiece and the two loveable morons at the same time was one of the most enjoyable things of 2003.


VISIONS OF SIN. The long-awaited word from on high from the usually reliable Christopher Ricks turned out to be the year's biggest disappointment, even with getting it eight pounds shy of the asking price. I gamely struggled on for a few chapters and then gave up. I think I've used the phrase "pretentious old wank" already, but thatís what it is and so Iíll say it again. Itís a pile of pretentious old wank. 

NOT FEELING THE URGE TO BUY THE SACD REISSUES. Deep down, I know I should get them and a scant few years ago IídĎve probably snapped up the box set without a momentís thought. Nowadays, though, although I know I should at least invest in the ones that the reviews suggest are a marked improvement, I keep looking at the £11.99 price stickers and worrying about what else I could be spending the money on. 

MISSING THE LAST THREE LONDON SHOWS. Of course I would have loved to have been there and, had they been announced at the same time as the aircraft hanger dates, would have passed over Birmingham in favour of any of them. However, for primarily financial reasons (though preserving my sanity does come into it, as does a continuing dwindling of interest), these days I tend to restrict myself to one show per tour, so, for me, the best Dylan shows I've ever seen still took place in February 1990. Itís kind of reassuring to know, however, that I came closer to altering that fact than at any time since February 1990. Maybe next time. 

And thatís it for another twelve months. I hope everyone reading this has a fantastic 2004 with plenty of whatever it is that you want most.