Two Riders Approaching

The Last Time I Listened To Bob!

by The Two Riders

John writes... 

When to write an article like this is probably the biggest problem. Listening to Bob as frequently as I do made it hard to know when to 'draw the line' and still have time to type up the article to meet the deadline. However, fate intervened, as often is the case. 

Most Friday evenings I spend my time in a local hostelry with 'like-minded' people who enjoy quality real ale and good music. For our benefit the landlord keeps a fine selection of real ales from the Big Lamp Brewery and we control the music. We are allowed free reign in the 'backroom' and Dave kindly brings his mini disc and speaker together with a selection of music lovingly compiled for our enjoyment. As fate would have it on Friday 29th April 2005 Dave's mini disc featured Bob!!! There were songs performed by him, his songs performed by others and songs related in some way to Bob! 

The selection was a fine blend of songs covering a significant part of his career. We started in a perfect way with a song which clearly Bob holds as dear as the Oscar he won for it, Things Have Changed. This was followed by the Hard Rain version of Isis, which seems to have been performed by another person. The lately lamented and sadly missed John Peel introduced this the first time he played it as "Dylan's punk song"! Another rocker which showed that Dylan could still 'do it' in the 80s followed, Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar. How this was considered not good enough to fit onto the original Shot Of Love still amazes me and it remains the only song to be subsequently added to an album!! When this came out I had to order a copy, as in the beak and distant North exotic product like this are not regularly stocked. I placed my order in Virgin Records, Newcastle and the guy waxed so lyrically about the song that it made the wait so much harder but what a joy when I first played it, two weeks later! 

The first cover version of the evening is the excellent of Just Like A Woman by Van Morrison, I don't usually like cover versions but this is one or the best. However, I have always been puzzled by the slight lyric change where Van sings, "queer in here"! We stayed with Bob's earlier period and To Ramona was next, which reminded me of the Don't Look Back outtake where have a glimpse of his time as an acoustic artist. The next song was from someone who was a close 'friend' in the mid-60s, Joan Baez with Song To Bobby. An interesting but not great song which lacks the passion of probably her best song Diamond And Rust. 

We then moved back to the 1980s with In The Summer Time, which reminded me of when the tape emerged with what we thought were various versions of this only to be very disappointed when it was played to discover they were covers of the Mungo Jerry song of the same title! Another cover version followed which was a different interpretation of A Hard Rain' A-Gonna Fall by Bryan Ferry. 

Much more up to date with the next track which brings back memories tinged with sadness. The song is Series Of Dreams which reminds me of the loss of John Bauldie. When he was involved with the Bootleg Series Volumes 1 - 3 he was asked for suggestions of songs which could be included and this was one that he mentioned. Columbia had not even heard of its existence and had to search it out. John had discovered the title when he interviewed Daniel Lanois for The Telegraph. So it was thanks to John that song was included. Without which many wonderful debates about "umbrellas folded" would never have taken place in these pages, a great strength of the magazine. Another Bob related song gave a change of pace and style with Telegram Sam by T Rex, with the immortal line "Bobby's alright, Bobby's alright, He's a natural born poet and he's just outta sight"! 

Okay so they can't all be gems! Moving on to a song which Bob has recently rediscovered and introduced it into some concerts, Tough Mama. A wonderful song from a wonderful and often under rated album which I return to frequently. Next up we 'barked' our way through the alternative version of Every Grain Of Sand which was followed by another example of a song which should have been included on the album, Blind Willie McTell. I more often listen to the Infidels outtakes rather than the official release what productive sessions they were and how lucky we are to have some many tapes. 

The penultimate song for the 'Bob' part of the evening was right up to date from "Love And Theft", Sugar Baby. This album includes some many wonderful songs including my favourite Mississippi which sits comfortably alongside any of Dylan's body of work. The final song reminded me of the wonderful Chronicles Volume 1 (and I hope it isn't the last!) Most Of The Time where Bob wrote so revealingly about this period in his life and the Oh Mercy songs. Thankfully he came through those doubts to produce a wonderful album and to keep is enviable record of producing a classic album in each decade which continued with "Love And Theft". 

My thanks go to David for producing this selection of tracks which helped to make Friday evening more enjoyable and giving me direction for this article. Thanks also to those who have made Freewheelin' possible each month, thanks for the wonderful articles and debates, I have been proud to be associated with it since issue 75. It is with sadness that I finish this but with hope that an annual can allow us to catch up once a year. 


Mike writes.... 

Dealing with this subject is so difficult. And it's easy. It's easy because I listen to Dylan every day. It's hard because I rarely listen to official "product" because there is so much of everything else to hear. I listen to every concert as it comes through and track-list them. Given the variable performance quality this is sometimes a joy and sometimes a duty. But it is always fascinating. Outside of this-well it's tricky. The last non-Dylan show tune I heard came quite unexpectedly. I recently bought the new CD by And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. I eagerly inserted it onto the CD tray and lo and behold half an hour later as the band ploughed through a live track, the singer began to recite some lines from Mr. Tambourine Man. 

But what of the official stuff? Well some of you may know by now that I really like the dark stuff, the songs of fragility, despair, lost hope or resignation.   The songs where bleak is the colour of choice. Yes, of course it is great to hear the uplift coming from a song like New Morning as the intro takes you to a shiny, happy place but there is a whole other world in the murky waters of Shooting Star, Born In Time, Abandoned Love and so on. These are songs I return to often where often is measured in cosmic time. But I do know the very last song I listened to and I did it quite deliberately, one track picked off a whole CD, following a night spent listening to Nick Cave, Elliott Smith Eels and the inescapable Miles. And of course it blew all of that away. And what was this song? Most Of The Time. This was the subject of an entire Freewheelin' of course, many moons ago. The inner depths and the dark corners of Dylan's psyche are exposed as he fools himself into fooling himself. The very slow, stately progress of this song, going forward imperceptibly sucks the listener in like the gravitational field of a black hole from which even light cannot escape. It is a great big black hole of a song which, on the one hand, re-inforces the certainty of Dylan's view whilst simultaneously raising enormous doubts. Play it in a dark room, late at night, on headphones, real loud. It's claustrophobic. 

And that is that. I'm off to listen to the Futureheads, Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine. And I'm thrilled to have just seen Ornette Coleman in concert. Wow! But I will always return to Dylan - every time. As Dylan sings in my song of choice "I can survive, I can endure". And that is true of us Freewheelers but it will be a different sort of survival because the best was always yet to come but it's over now. 

It was a great ride for we Two Riders and for everyone past and present who ever held a pen, or a mouse or tapped a keyboard, in anger, joy, frustration or sadness and shaped this Freewheelin' thing. And one no longer with us. Take care every one of you. The future is unwritten. Go and write it. 

Restless Farewell