by Richard Lewis


I didn’t manage to write this article for last month’s issue of Freewheelin’. In my last article written back in November I told you about not seeing Bob in Sheffield because my mum was poorly. At that time although she was still in hospital she was getting better but it turned out that it was only the secondary infections that could be cured. The real problem was her liver, which was diseased and could not be cured. We hoped we could bring her home for a few days at Christmas but she was too poorly. She died peacefully in her sleep on January 4th. The rest of this article is dedicated to her as she got real pleasure hearing about what I was reading, watching, doing and listening to.

Having only read a few bits about it I’m really looking forward to seeing “Masked and Anonymous” when it is released over here. I quite enjoyed the soundtrack but feel it will make more sense when I’ve seen the film. Not getting to see Dylan this year the undoubted highlight for me has been John Cohen’s wonderful photo book “Young Bob”. There are a bunch of black and white shots from 1962 including some where Dylan uses his cigarette as a prop and another lot from 1970 with some lovely colour shots out on the NYC streets. You owe it to yourself to get this book. There are only 72 pages but each one will bring a smile of delight to your face.

I wrote a little bit about my holiday in Ireland at the beginning of my article in Freewheelin’ #219. It was a magical time. Beautiful countryside, exciting wildlife, good food and drink and perfect company!

Sometimes I buy CDs or books and then put them away for a week or more before I play or look at it. I’ve bought several of the new Dylan reissues but have yet to play them. However I just love the look of them, especially the ones with extra photos or a little booklet. I think my favourite is appropriately “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” which is a miniature work of art even before you hear the music. Well done CBS!

River of Song
Browsing in a remaindered book shop I came across a hardback coffee table type book called “River of Song” and on the cover it said it was ‘a companion to The Mississippi: River of Song, a Smithsonian Institution series for PBS’. It is a musical journey down the Mississippi from Lake Itasca near the Canadian border down to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. The book is full of still photos from the TV series and lots of quotes from the musicians we meet along the way including Spider John Koerner, Fontella Bass, and Babes in Toyland, Rufus Thomas, John Hartford and Levon Helm. It is a book you can read right through or just dip into and as it was listed at 35 dollars and I got it for £5 it was a real bargain. A few weeks later I was looking at a CD market stall in Bingley when I spied “River of Song” the companion double CD to the book on sale for just £4. Another bargain. Together they make up my find of the year. Now I just hope that I get to see the TV series on one of our channels.

Live Performances
The very best one had to be by my schools drumming group called “The Hit Squad” who performed at The Lord Mayor’s Parade. The 17 strong group walked two miles through Bradford City centre playing the whole time. A great day. Other good shows were by Jackson Browne, Richard Thompson, Roy Harper, Elvis Costello, Tom Paxton, The Handsome Family, Mary Gauthier and Emmylou Harris.

John Green Day 3
A great day as I wrote back in Freewheelin’ #213. Friends old and new, good music, talks and conversation and plenty to look at. Roll on the next one

Time Will Tell
The year after my dad died in 1976 my mum moved from Muswell Hill to Highgate to share a house with her friend Yvonne Kapp. Yvonne was an author who was probably best known for her marvellous two-volume biography of Eleanor Marx. Eric Hobsbawm called it “one of the major biographies of our generation” and Michael Foot said “it is a work of scholarship but also a work of art”. Since Yvonne died in 1999 my mum had been trying to get Yvonne’s memoirs published. Early last year she was successful and Verso were not only going to publish the memoir “Time Will Tell” but also the Eleanor Marx biography as a single volume. In May to celebrate the book launch we had a little party at my mum’s house. It turned out that this would be the last occasion when so many of my mum’s friends and family would be gathered together. A good memory for all of us.

Spirited Away
This is a Japanese animated children’s film, which is simply magical. Look out for it and if you manage to see it you won’t be disappointed. It would lift anyone’s spirits.

All sorts this year. New ones by the Handsome Family, Eric Andersen, The Thrills, Lucinda Williams, Kings of Leon, Tom Russell, Neil Young. Special mentions to Richard Thompson’s “1000 Years of Popular Music” and Joan Baez’s “Dark Chords on a Big Guitar” and Show of Hands “Country Life” all of which I love. Some great reissues such as the first 3 Fairport albums, Gene Clark’s “No Other”, Byrds “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” and Neil Young’s “On The Beach”. And then some old ones that were new to me such as the Stones “Exile on Main Street”, Incredible String Band “5000 Spirits”, Shirley Collins & Davey Graham “Folk Roots, New Routes” and The Clash “London Calling”.

As well as the Dylan books there have been several other worthwhile musical ones such as Ian MacDonald’s “The People’s Music” which opens with a great article called “Wild Mercury: A Tale of Two Dylans”. Then there was the second volume of Richie Unterberger's history of folk-rock “Eight Miles High”. At the Virgin Mega store in London I saw an interesting photographic exhibition of folk singers called “A Gathering of Folk” and bought the accompanying book. It is by Mark Leightley and there are good photos of just about everyone from Bob Copper to Julie Felix and Richard Thompson to Tom Paxton. Worth a look. As is Barry Miles’ latest work, “In The Sixties” which is a great reminder for those of us who were there at the time and an eye opener if you weren’t.


Dylan and shades