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by Michael Crimmins


What do Paul McCartney and Robert Johnson, besides being absolute gods of music, have in common? They have both had their respective ********** airbrushed from history!  Just as old Bob decided, or had decided for him, that it was a good idea to tamper with “My Back Pages” from ‘Bobfest’ we have another example of what author Christopher Buckley quite rightly, in my opinion, refers to as, the tampering with cultural DNA. I know all of this is hardly news now, but it does make me wonder where it will all end. 

Will Sir Winston Churchill end up cigarless? Will the clouds of smoke that pervade most of the pictures taken of Bob Dylan, particularly in the sixties, mysteriously vanish? Will the people of the future when the word cigarette means little to them, wonder why John Lennon cursed Sir Walter Raleigh so, in his  Beatles  song “I’m so tired”? Will the heroes of our era only be remembered for using harder drugs?? 

We do not need, or want, to encourage our loved ones into the habit of smoking, I think I can safely say that we are all agreed on that one. Yet it does seem rather silly to take the ciggy out of Mr Johnson’s fingers, let alone tamper with one of the only two known photographs of the great bluesman that are in existence. After all, if we are to worry about the influence famous musicians can have, is not the enduring legend/myth of Johnson selling his soul to the devil much more harmful? And to conclude my little rant, out of all the guitars manufactured worldwide since the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Peter Townsend appeared on the scene, I would hazard a guess that only a very very small percentage have been deliberately smashed up. 

In last months edition of Freewheelin’ I admitted that I found ‘Chronicles’ most enjoyable. I did and I must say that I can hardly wait for Vol. 2.  Contradicting myself somewhat, I suppose, as I normally do! I did state that I felt that there was no real need for it. 

I received an email from a guy in Glasgow (James Conoughton) questioning my reasons for saying so. By the way I would like to take the opportunity to say that I am always very grateful to receive any correspondence connected with Freewheelin’ I don’t get much of it, so it is nice to know that somebody out there is taking note of my humble efforts. I’m sure that James will not mind if I impart to you mostly the same reasoning that I used in my mail to him. 

Bob Dylan has surrounded himself in myth. That is, I’m sure you will agree, a common enough assumption regarding him. But is not that a myth in itself? 

He is different I will grant you that, but really when has he avoided interviews? Maybe up until 1971 and with Scaduto, details surrounding him were a little sketchy. His career though since has been well documented. Beside Dylan’s early fairy stories regarding himself and his past, most of the responsibility in the mythology stakes must go to the journalistic effort put into understanding their man, and most of the time in their failing miserably. If Dylan can be accused of putting the proverbial ‘spanner in the works’ and of course he can, it also has to be acknowledged, that right from the word go he has had two trains runnin’ in as much as he was laying condensed forerunners of Chronicles on us, exactly the sort of thing that he now gives with his final acquiescence to our desire for convention. 

‘My life in a stolen moment’ is an early document and a perfect example of my point. Dylan truth attacks came from within his work, his poetry and his songs!  Dylan’s duelling with the media press and the often abstract documentation that came out of this, was in my opinion another aspect of him as an entertainer, born out of, either his lack of respect for Mr Jones or his a need to show another side of Bob Dylan.

My Life In A Stolen Moment

Duluth is an iron ore shipping town in Minnesota
It’s built up on a rocky cliff that runs into Lake Superior
I was born there-
My mothers from the Iron Range County up north
The iron range is a long line of mining towns
That begins at Grand Rapids and end at Eveleth
We moved up there to live with my mothers folks when I was young
Hibbing’s got the biggest open pit ore mine in the world
Hibbing’s got schools, churches, grocery stores an’ a jail
It’s got high school football games an’ a movie house
Hibbing’s got souped-up cars runnin’ full blast on a Friday night
Hibbing’s got corner bars with Polka bands
You can stand at one end of Hibbing on the main drag
An’ see clear past the city limits on the other end
Hibbing’s a good ol’ town 

I ran away from it when I was 10, 12, 13, 15, 15 and a half, 17 an’ 18
I been caught an’ brought back all but once
I wrote my first song to my mother an’ titled it’ ‘To Mother’
I wrote that in fifth grade an’ the teacher gave me a B+
I Started smoking at 11 years old an’ only stopped once to catch my breath
I don’t remember my parents singing too much
At least I don’t remember swapping any songs with them
Later I sat in college at the University of Minnesota
On a phony scholarship that I never had
I sat in science class an’ flunked out for refusin’ to watch a rabbit die... 

There is a lot more of it - you could write a book on it, I might have, can’t remember! Anyway most of you reading here will be familiar with ‘My Life In A Stolen Moment’ but I wonder if you will agree that there is a familiarity of the style that Dylan gives us especially in the opening chapter of ‘Chronicles’. 

Bob says that he was 11 years old when he started smoking - hmmm - I wonder!  No I don’t think that those two pictures, although taken.

Don't Look BackDon't Look Back


For information on Michael's band "Dylanesque", including a gigs guide, go to his website.