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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Last Saturday, Oct 28: first visit to a Bob Dylan Convention in the UK since 1991. Back then, Sarah and I went to Leicester, and small daughter Magdalena got up and played harmonica at the end of Steve Gibbons' set. This time it was Northampton, and Magdalena, now 18, wasn't there. Had she been, she could have got up on stage with Scarlet Rivera, Winston Watson and Rob Stoner. The only person on the scene missing was the Jack of Hearts. Bizarre to hear these three fine musicians marooned in a Dylan Tribute Band but it's a temporary gig; they all know they need to return to proper bands, and I'm sure they will. The interplay between drummer Watson and bassist Stoner is especially good, and good-humoured. Sarah says they should get together with Steve Forbert and be his band, to the benefit of all.

Meanwhile it was a pleasure to meet them. Scarlet gave me some much-needed extra background info for a future update of her Bob Dylan Encyclopedia entry, and the others were generous in enthusing about their existing entries.

It was good too to meet up with the usual suspects, including Derek & Tracy Barker, Andy Muir, Joe McShane, Jim Heppell, David Bristow, Duncan Hume, Jeff Gitter and Patrice Hamilton. Our very old friend David Willis was around for most of the day too, having had the event recommended to him by his brother Bob (the cricketer who, back in 1987, contributed a piece about his own enthusiasm for Dylan to the book All Across The Telegraph: A Bob Dylan Handbook).

It was also a fine afternoon for selling not only the Encyclopedia but also copies of Song & Dance Man III, promo postcards and even our specially-commissioned limited-edition t-shirts, and equally for being able to meet, at the stall, a number of people who said they'd enjoyed my work over the years. It's always gratifying, after the solitary labour of sitting at the computer, to get out and meet the people who actually pick up your books and read them and take the trouble to say so. Feedback in the opposite sense from that thrown out by the sound system when Scarlet, Winston and Rob were on stage.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


... of the death of the young, gifted and blonde Duane Allman, in Macon Georgia. He was 24.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I only feel the need to try PG Wodehouse's work every ten years or so, but a recent foray, into Heavy Weather (1933), induced a new admiration for his ruthless comic phrasing. Examples:

"He was still standing... draped bonelessly over the rail";
"galloping down the stairs... in what for a man of his build was practically tantamount to a trice";
"Lord Tilbury's eyes, always prominent, bulged a trifle farther from their sockets"; and
"'Good evening, sir,' said the barmaid in her spacious way".

Monday, October 23, 2006

From Cleveland, Ohio to Antigua, Guatemala...

photo by Enrico Fantoni, 2006

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Backtracking a little, a photo souvenir:

Friday, October 20, 2006


A reprint of The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, printed in the UK, is now starting to percolate through to shops. It differs from the first UK printing by featuring a number of corrections plus updated entries on Bob's XM Satellite Radio series and on Paul Nelson.

These do not represent the full range of amendments I hope and believe will feature in future reprintings but they incorporate about 50 changes I was able to make by July the 14th (Bastille Day), including Paul Nelson's death. The reprint also includes an updated CD-Rom of the corrected text.

There is, disappointingly, nothing on the copyright page to indicate that this is a corrected reprint, so completists and potential new customers standing in bookshops wondering if they're looking at the reprint or not are recommended to check the Paul Nelson entry. If he's dead, it's a corrected reprint.

Completists might like to note that this means there are now three versions of the book, all with the same ISBN and thus all considered to be part of the 1st edition: i.e., copies printed in the US (on cream paper), first-printing copies printed in the UK (on white paper) and now the UK reprint (white paper again).

PS. I shall be giving a talk at this year's John Green Memorial Day event at the Park Inn, Northampton, on Saturday week, October 28th. I'll be speaking at some point during the afternoon, and my wife Sarah and I will also be running a stall at the event.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Apologies for the gap in postings. I was called away at short notice on a freelance travel assignment I couldn't refuse. A man named Brian called me up, full of apologies for the last-minute nature of the request, but could I possibly fly out to Nicaragua in four days' time to be one of the drivers of a couple of Ferrari 599 GTB Fioranos on the next stage of the 15-stage Ferrari PanAmerican Expedition, which had begun in Brazil on August 24th and is due to finish in New York City on November 17th.

I said yes, flew to Atlanta GA, stayed overnight and flew on to Managua, Nicaragua - a country I have always wanted to visit, thanks to the struggles of the Sandanista regime and the outrageous war waged against it by Ronald Reagan and the CIA. Next day I met up with the Ferrari team and the other temporary drivers. I shared a car with an editor from the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Vittorio Sabadin; the other car was shared by a young journalist from the Italian edition of Vanity Fair, Matteo, and freelance photographer Enrico Fantoni. Vittorio and I would drive the red car one day and the blue one the next. (The red's interior is black, the blue's cream). They are testing out special tires made by Pirelli on this 20,000-mile run.

We set out from Managua on Saturday the 7th, crossed into Honduras and headed north as far as San Miguel in El Salvador. Then Guatemala, and finally on to the great Mayan site of Palenque in southern Mexico. A great journey, and great cars. 0-60mph in 3.7 seconds; 620 horsepower; six forward gears; and when you drive sedately, as you sometimes must, given the roads and the other vehicles on them, these superbly-engineered and beautiful cars are also quiet and comfortable. I'd buy one if I could. They cost $300,000 each.

How was it?, asked Brian, when I got back. A thrill from start to finish.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


[Jotted down from P.N. Firbank's review of Denton Welch: Writer and Artist by James Methuen-Campbell in the London Review of Books, 17 October 2002; here Firbank is describing Welch's recuperation from the 1936 accident that fractured his spine, battered his face and made him an invalid]:

"Whole days would pass for deliberately organised daydreams, in which he would minutely explore an imaginary 18th Century house."

[Notes made about the journey home, on Ryanair to Stansted, after seeing a Dylan concert in Stockholm, Sweden in April 2002]:

"The woman alongside me spent much of the flight cleaning the window with a tissue, and the woman behind me spent all of it blowing her nose long and loudly into hers.

As we came in to land, England looked as sunny, sumptuous and sensuous as Tuscany. Then, as ever, you encounter the chilly, badly organised, contemptuous shambles that is the airport railway station - one lift, and that the world's slowest, with the label that ought to read 'Trains' rubbed away and the light around the button to summon it so faint that you cannot trust that it's working; then down to the dark, concrete punishment-block of the platforms. Those visible to left and right are, naturally, Platforms 1 and 3. Platform 2 is nowhere in sight, and the sign pointing you off into the distance to reach it is as small as it could possibly be. The screens telling you which train will be on which platform are either malfunctioning or else programmed so that the moment you look at them their information slides off to one side, leaving a sustained blankness, and is then restored all too briefly before disappearing again, and so on. This is intended, I suppose, to imply a constant updating, to impress upon travellers straining their necks to catch it that the data is of special veracity. In reality it could scarcely be less readable. Then, when you reach Platform 2, the train sitting there has as its stated destination 'Stansted Airport', reinducing every possible uncertainty. Inside, the digital print-out strip reads 'This train is for Stansted Airport'. Only two minutes before departure does it wake up and tell you what it's meant to. Meanwhile, of course, the carriage itself is full of empty lager cans and sticky table-tops and litter.

Why are we so bad at it all? They organise things so much better more or less anywhere, and certainly in Sweden."