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29 January 2015


From John Nye


I’ve been asked to talk a bit about our trip to the BBC in London, to see Sinead O’Connor, whoSinead O'Connor at BBC Radio 4 Mastertapes, 2014 is a big fan of Dylan and spoke about him during the event.

Chris Rolph and I went on December 11 [2014] to the BBC Maida Vale studios in London, just down the road from the Abbey Road studios. It was a lovely day, and one I’d love to repeat. If the same type of event was organised involving Bob Dylan, I’d go to any length to get a ticket…

The session was being recorded for the Radio 4 Mastertapes series where presenter John Wilson talks to performers and songwriters about the album that made them or changed them. Sinead O’Connor was discussing her 2007 album Theology, which is a very personal album and the one, she says, she wants to take with her to the grave. She had been studying Judaic Theology in Dublin before she wrote the album, drawing mainly on psalms and scriptures of the prophets for inspiration.

I heard about the session from Sinead O’Connor on her Facebook page. One day she announced she was going to do the BBC Mastertapes show and suggested we should apply for tickets, which I did. I was amazed to be accepted by BBC, but was a little startled to receive a follow up email saying that, yes I have tickets, but no they couldn’t guarantee seats, it’s on a first come first served basis. I wrote back saying that we were travelling from Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, that it was a long way, expensive and would take a long time, and while being very keen to be in the audience I didn’t want us to make all the effort just to be turned away. They replied and said that if I were to ask a question to Sinead O’Connor, and if the question were accepted, I could have guaranteed seats, so I submitted a question, which was subsequently accepted and we got guaranteed seats very close to the stage.

My question: Was Bob Dylan’s religious period an influence or inspiration for Theology? And if so were there any particular songs, like Precious Angel, that meant more than others?

The whole session took nearly three hours to record. John Wilson records two shows back-to-back with each artist. The first show is called A-Side and the second show is called B-Side. Both shows have the artist singing and talking about songs, the second show also has questions from the audience. Of the dozen or so people who had their questions accepted, only 5, I think it was, were subsequently chosen for inclusion in the show. Mine was one of these. The first show for Sinead O’Connor took just over an hour to record; the second show was nearly an hour and three quarters. The editing was fierce, to squeeze these long sessions into two half-hour radio shows.

Sinead had flown over from Dublin especially for the show, and was flying back later the same day. Strangely, considering all the effort she must have put into the preparation for the show, she didn’t mention it at all on Facebook during the days leading up to it, not even on the day of the show. Instead, she was writing about the state of Ireland and her wish to join Sinn Fein. The first time she mentioned it was the following day when she wrote: “Brilliant fun day in London doing BBC4 Master Tapes all about the Theology album. Got to sing loads of it. Was fun. Got to have nice chats with the host and the audience about the Old Testament and also about Christology.. Host was lovely, slightly flummoxed I think, cus I said even though I'm ordained in the Catholic Church I prefer the Hindus and would rather have a Hindu by my dying bed than a catholic priest.. Hindus idea of what we're all 'in for' is so much more cheery... was my point.. He was good though, nice person to talk with, not often one gets to talk about the things one loves the most.”

[[Here’s an excerpt from the show.]]

There was a lot left on the cutting room floor in the editing. For example, she referred to Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert as Dylan’s 50th Birthday Bash. She also said she was shocked that neither Dylan, Kris Kristofferson nor Neil Young came to her defence after she was booed off the stage. She talked about standing next to Dylan afterwards, glaring at him in disbelief that he didn’t speak up for her. She also said that Kris Kristofferson - instead of defending her, as a written account somewhere has it - was in fact the loudest voice screaming for her to be pulled off the stage.

The Masterworks session was an amazing experience and an absolutely astonishing way to listen to music and learn about a performer. You get live songs, in-depth interviews, smiles, laughs, and it’s all so intimate. It all happened only 10-15 feet away from us. There were only a couple of hundred people there, if that. As I said at the beginning, if they do a similar show for Dylan, I’ll be first in the queue.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Bob Dylan and cat

Another Dylan link happened after Christmas [2014]. She’d been writing her autobiography and couldn’t blog about any of it so instead blogged about cats.

She’d recently acquired two strays, one of which ran off with one of her bras, and not brought it back. Anyway, she mentioned she was writing and talked about cats, and someone got confused and asked if she was writing a book about cats. She replied that no it was her autobiography and was about her, so I replied that Bob Dylan had written a book about spiders, so why couldn’t she write a book about cats. She then started playing Dylan songs and listed the titles on Facebook with links, and then posted a picture she had just found of Dylan holding a cat, about which she wrote: “Oh my God! My two favourite things!!!”


Information on the Sinead O'Connor Mastertapes 'A-Side' episode, including a link using the BBC iPlayer, can be found here: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04v328k

Information on the Sinead O'Connor Mastertapes 'B-Side' episode, including a link using the BBC iPlayer, can be found here: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04v382g


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