Dylan cartoon Chronicles

by Chris Cooper


Hi Again

Last month I started to launch into Bob’s book, I never really intended too, but sometimes these things sorta happen. I am assuming by now that we have all, more or less read it at least once. Personally I can truthfully say that it is the first book in 25 years that I have read twice in a row, Just finished and started again. It’s a fascinating read , and no less so second time around.  But after two reads there are a few questions I think I might risk asking. 

First, I find the format very intriguing, the book is almost cyclical, starting with Dylan signing his contract and concluding with him arriving in New York. In between we are treated to what at first seemed to me haphazard chapters. This book felt like it had had the Renaldo & Clara treatment. That is, that all the other volumes are already written, and probably chronologically. But Dylan has then stirred them up and given us this literal stew instead. Well, that may be true. If the volumes came out chronologically then  I can well believe that the later volume(s) might not sell as well, like it or not, the general crowd want the early years more than the Nineties and beyond. This way we get things merged so we are pulled along to get each volume. 

So is this a correct observation or not? 

I see clues that suggest this isn’t so, after all, lets look at what else we get. 1966, 1989-90 and a stab at the present. Could it be that these years are included to allow us to view the main influences that have bent Bob into his present shape? Doing it this way we get to talk about the arrival of the Grateful Dead, and Dylan embarking on a voyage of discovery of his material via the good ship improvisation? That’s how it feels to me, Bob spends some time telling us about his musical structure, and the value he places on the sound as well as the lyric. This really vindicates live performances for me. He asks us to look at the whole of his work, and not just those “polished” albums. Then of course we get Oh Mercy and beyond, Bob demonstrating that as far as he can see the old banner “No one Sings Dylan Like Dylan” is not only true but could now be interpreted as “No One Can Produce Dylan Like Dylan”  This is hairy stuff. I’ll go a third time and get back to you on that one. It sure makes me look again at Paul Williams “Performing Artist” books though. 

What you think? 

Then there is the detail. I always assumed Bob has trouble knowing what city he is in, but here he  is telling us about the wallpaper in officers 40 years ago! Memory or fancy? Whilst it is delightful to read I fear it may be at least in part fiction. Now that is a very worrying thought. If it’s fiction then how much is true? If I cannot accept that kind of detail then maybe the rest is also fiction, a sort of Ribacove for the present? 

I do hope not. 

Finally (for now) I have spent many years believing he was a miserable old groaner, but in this book he sings the praises of virtually everyone he met! I find that the biggest surprise of all. Sure, in the last few years his songs, and his stage chat have demonstrated his somewhat dated sense of humour, but this isn’t Bob being funny.

This is Bob being understanding, and possibly even sincere! Now there’s a scary prospect.

Answers on a postcard to FW. 

Say guys, is this  a case for a postbag on the website? So people can voice there own opinions. 

But in case we do that, and just to be clear on my own view, I think that the arrival of “Chronicles Vol 1” is easily the most significant event in the Dylan catalog in many many years. I really cannot wait to get the audio book version as I imagine it will be on constant play in the car.

Till  Next Time.