Bob dylan

On the road with Danny Lyon

A Google search for ‘Danny Lyon’ produces more than eight million results in 0.30 seconds, yet the celebrated American photojournalist and filmmaker is little known in the UK. This superb, quixotic, bare-all memoir ought to change that. Starting in 1962, Lyon not only photographed the heroes of the US civil rights movement as staff photographer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced ‘snick’), but in a way was one of the heroes himself, risking jail, beatings and abuse. He’s had prizes galore and two solo shows at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2016 he had a major retrospective in San Francisco and at the Whitney; and also a

Albums should be forced by law to reveal where each song was written

Bob Dylan is heading into the new year with a reduced property portfolio, having sold his Scottish bolthole, Aultmore House in Speyside, for a shade over four million quid. Though the spec looks grand – 16 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, a folly (to complement his Christmas album, presumably) – only one aspect interests me: did Dylan ever write anything notable there? Is some piece of the Cairngorms National Park forever preserved in a line – perhaps the one he cribbed from Robbie Burns about his heart being in the Highlands – that came to him while gazing out enigmatically over the croquet lawn? Where musicians wrote their songs remains a crucially

Religion provides the rhythm

Music is an art of time: songs play to a rhythm, giving shape to the seconds as they pass, charging the present with a pulse we can feel. But as music takes us forward through time it also takes us back – to the moment of its composition or recording; to a particularly resonant time in our own past; and yet further, summoning the echoes of older music contained within a song. In new books by David Remnick and Michel Faber we get two different approaches to writing about something ephemeral yet emotionally adhesive. One of them made time fly, and one of them made time slow until the only

Bare and spectral: Bob Dylan’s Fragments – Time Out Of Mind Sessions reviewed

To understand Bob Dylan’s Fragments – Time Out Of Mind Sessions (1996-1997) – due to be released on Friday – you have to go back half a century to the release of the Beatles’s Let It Be. As millions of fans around the world bought the band’s final album, Paul McCartney was horrified. This was not the disc he had conceived: some of the most cherished songs in his oeuvre had been hijacked by superstar producer Phil Spector, who stamped his trademark ‘Wall of Sound’ during the album’s post-production process, filling it with lavish embellishments. Fast-forward to the mid-1990s and another legendary songwriter was at loggerheads with a different superstar

Tenderness and menace: Bob Dylan, at the London Palladium, reviewed

Bob Dylan has always toyed with audiences. He plays what he wants, how he wants, letting his mood dictate tempo and often key (sometimes switching songs to the minor). On Dylan’s return to London for the first time in five years, he summed it up early. ‘I ain’t no false prophet/ I just know what I know,’ he gruffly sang. Dylan spent the night at the Palladium doing what he knows best, singing songs of love, loss and immortality. Covid temporarily ended his ‘Never-Ending Tour’, which had seen Dylan play more than 3,000 shows since 1988. Now it’s billed as ‘The Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour’, with the strapline: ‘Things

What do Beethoven, D.H. Lawrence and George Best have in common?

This is not a book about tennis. Roger Federer appears early on, trailed by the obligatory question ‘When will he retire?’ He figures more prominently in the final 80 pages – still looking, despite the imminence of hanging up his racquet, as if he moves ‘within a different, more accommodating dimension of time’. There are cameos from some of the game’s other stars at various points on the way to the exit: the young Bjorn Borg (‘heir to some non-specific Scandinavian malaise’), the often crocked Andy Murray (‘a mumble-core Hamlet’) and the middle-aged, disgraced Boris Becker (afflicted by a ‘hitherto unseen condition called testicular elbow’). But the title is a

How I fell in love with the blues

I was never into the blues that much. I listened to a bit of Roy Buchanan and Rory Gallagher but only as accidental overspill from rock. I knew the Rolling Stones’s sound came out of their love of the blues but what they added was more important (to me) than what they took. And then there was Eric Clapton. In common with a discerning portion of the British population, I loathed Clapton after his drunken endorsement of Enoch Powell’s rivers-of-blood speech. Even if I’d somehow let that slide, I could never forgive him for ‘Tears in Heaven’ which was like having a bucket of oversweetened bilge water poured over one’s

What happens to rockers who don’t die young?

What do the following individuals have in common: a political activist from Suffolk; a chartered psychologist from Oxfordshire, who enjoys playing golf at weekends; a funeral celebrant from Liverpool; the Birmingham-based chairperson of the Ladder Association Training Committee (‘When it’s right to use a ladder, use the ladder, and get trained to use it safely’); a pop star from LA? The answer is that all of them were pop stars, with the obvious exception of the pop star from LA who still is one. But even Robbie Williams used to be bigger. In Exit Stage Left Nick Duerden sketches the afterlives of two dozen former or current musicians – ‘afterlife’

‘I came, I saw, I scribbled’: Shane MacGowan on Bob Dylan, angels and his lifelong love of art

We join Shane MacGowan, much like a character from one of his songs, in a world where prosaic, often harsh realities vie with feverish flights of fancy. The former Pogue conducts this interview remotely, ‘sitting on a vastly uncomfortable lime green leather chair, within reach of a grey bucket, in a small but surprisingly unspeakable room. In a corner, Jimi Hendrix is repairing some broken guitar strings, while in the kitchen behind me, Bono is loading the dishwasher and a leprechaun with a gold earring is rolling what he says is a cigarette. On the walls are a selection of my wife’s multidimensional angel paintings and one or two of

Lumpily scripted and poorly plotted: Cry Macho reviewed

Clint Eastwood is 91; Cry Macho may well be his last film. Or maybe not. He has, after all, been directing himself as majestically craggy old guys for decades. Craggiest and most majestic of all, he was, in 1992, Will Munny in Unforgiven and, in 2008, Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino. In both those films, and now in Cry Macho, he is not just craggy, he is also broken. Munny is an old, widowed gunfighter barely surviving on his pig farm in Kansas. Kowalski, also widowed, is angry with America and missing, bitterly, the great days of the Detroit car makers. And now, in Cry Macho, he is Mike Milo,

Bob Dylan’s most iconic performances

On 24 May Bob Dylan turns 80 and that gives fans like me the perfect excuse to celebrate our love of the great man (not that we ever really need one, of course). As well as regularly listening to the records, I spend far more time than is probably healthy trawling YouTube for videos of Dylan in action. So, if you fancy joining me down a freewheelin’ wormhole, here is a small sample of my favourite live performances from across his career. Boots of Spanish Leather, 1963 This is a YouTube video to listen to rather than watch. It’s an absolute wonder, not only because it is a lovely version of

‘There were no rules then’: Dana Gillespie’s 1960s childhood

Although I can understand why Dana Gillespie might choose to call her memoir after her most famous album, for the first 170 pages I remained convinced she should have taken a leaf from John Cleland and called it Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. For hers has been an extraordinary life (or perhaps half life, as the trail of hi-jinks runs its course by the end of the 1970s). And so, despite reading at times like a cross between Terry Southern’s Candy and Confessions of a Window Cleaner’s screenplay — but with A-listers the ones shaking their sticks — as an evocation of the 1960s SW7-style, Weren’t Born a Man

Contains the loveliest new song I’ve heard in decades: Bob Dylan’s new album reviewed

Grade: A ‘Rough’ in terms of the mostly spoken vocals, but only ‘rowdy’ if you’re approaching your 80th birthday, which of course Dylan is. This is a sometimes playful and often self-deprecating Nobel Laureate at work, the lyrics (like the vocals) carrying a whiff of late Leonard Cohen, the arrangements of some of the slower, if not funereal, songs a nod to Tom Waits. In ‘I Contain Multitudes’, the grizzled old boomer has given us his best song since ‘Idiot Wind’; like many on here, the delicate melody is implied by the chord changes rather than explicitly stated. But what a pleasure to hear wit and articulacy in a pop

I was born to be on this Bob Dylan podcast, says Geoff Dyer

Podcasts will soon be like porn. Every interest, desire or idle flicker of curiosity will have been anticipated and catered for. Whatever you’re into there’ll be a podcast devoted to it, waiting to make itself heard. That’s easy for me to say because I’ve already found my perfect match: Is It Rolling, Bob? in which ‘Actors Kerry Shale and Lucas Hare talk to interesting people about Dylan’. Since nothing is more interesting than Dylan it follows that there is nothing more interesting than this podcast. I was alerted to it by my friend the writer Rob Doyle who had heard about it from his dad. (My friends, increasingly, are the

‘Bob Dylan? He’s like Confucius’: Cerys Matthews interviewed

‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ was a Christmas classic for more than half a century until people suddenly began to worry that it was about yuletide date rape. ‘It was because of the video Tom Jones and I made,’ says Cerys Matthews, in her smoky Welsh lilt. She recorded a cover with Jones in 1999. The video showed the craggy old Welsh crooner slip something in her drink that turns Cerys into a high camp vamp. ‘The song is really innocent and beautiful and fun — it’s got a huge heap of humour and wit and I love it. That song is not our enemy. That woman is a strong woman.

Go, West

My plan to cut the BBC out of my life entirely is working well. Apart from the occasional forgivable lapse — that excellent Margaret Thatcher documentary; Pointless and Only Connect because they’re the only programmes we can all watch together as a family — I find that not watching or listening to anything the BBC does is making me calmer, happier and better informed. I’m also learning stuff about myself that I never imagined possible. Like the fact that I have a massive man crush on the rap star Kanye West. Though I’ve long been a fan of his albums, I went right off him as a person a few

2017 and all that

This has not been an appalling year for pop music — it was better than 1984, for example, and 1961. Simply put, it was a year in search of a direction, one foot planted in 1980s cheese or bombast, the other still dipping its toe into the now mind-sapping boredom of EDM, with the occasional nod to a middle-class version of hip hop, a once garish and interesting subculture now utterly subsumed by the mainstream. And so everything rather swathed in both blandness and uncertainty — a year, then, without edge. Odd, really, considering the political climate. The biggest-selling albums of the year so far have come from the ubiquitous

Peter Perrett: How The West Was Won

Much though I loved it at the time, not a great deal of lasting worth came out of that fervid punk upheaval between 1976 and 1978. In terms of bands you would voluntarily listen to again, there was just The Clash and The Only Ones, in my book. The latter enjoyed no commercial success, despite leaving behind two of the best British albums of the decade and a single — ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ — which has been called the finest three minutes of rock music ever, ever. Problem was they were too musicianly and literate for a time which exulted in bellowing, grunting, spitting and staccato stabs of noise.

Bob Dylan: Triplicate

Having seen Bob Dylan play live a few years ago, I’m pretty sure he is not the first person I would choose to cover three albums’ worth of American jazz-age standards. The sound which came out of his mouth on that occasion resembled that of a demented, elderly dog. ‘Just Like A Woman’ had a chorus which went: ‘Grassum, grassum — rassum rassum rassum’, a neat twist on the original lyrics. It was joltingly inhuman. However, he has been on the Benylin, I think, because his voice here is not quite so gratingly hilarious. Now he sounds like a pissed-up and very persistent old gadgie at a karaoke machine in

The Band’s Barnacle Man

The recent spate of rock memoirs has proved one of the less rewarding sub- genres in the post-digital Gutenberg galaxy. Obeying few rules of a good read, they usually suggest a variant on Frank Zappa’s biting assessment of rock journalists: ‘People who can’t write, ghosting for people who can’t talk, targeting people who can’t read.’ So it’s refreshing to find that Bruce Springsteen and Robbie Robertson, the two notable rock memoirists this festive season, have both dispensed with the ghostly intermediary, dusted off their PCs, loaded a thesaurus programme and writ large. Doorstop large. In Robbie Robertson’s case, we are assured that every word of Testimony is his own, even