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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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Saturday, July 28, 2007


Yesterday's Times reported:

Dylan has agreed to let Mark Ronson, the dance world’s hottest producer, weave his magic on 'Most Likely You'll Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)' [sic], the bittersweet break-up song from his 1966 album Blonde on Blonde.

After years of rejecting all offers to remix his catalogue, Dylan, 66, has decided that a dancefloor makeover is the best way to introduce his generation-defining work to a new teenage audience.
The London-born Ronson is the DJ hitmaker behind Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen. He recently turned a song by The Smiths into a pop hit.

Ronson’s update of Dylan’s bluesy track is expected to fill dancefloors and top the singles chart. The Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe will give the song its first airing next week [on Monday, apparently].

When Elvis Presley’s estate sanctioned a remix of his 'A Little Less Conversation' in 2002 it became a global No 1 and revitalised interest in “The King”. Dylan’s record company is hoping to prompt a similar revival in his popularity before issuing a retrospective of his work in the autumn.

Mike Smith, managing director of Columbia Records, told The Times: “It is the first time Bob has agreed to anything like this. We want to bring his music to an audience unfamiliar with Dylan in a similar fashion to the Elvis campaign.”

Ronson and Smith were invited to trawl through the entire Dylan catalogue for a suitable track to reinvent. Smith said: “We hit on 'You’ll Go Your Way' because it already has a great rhythmic breakbeat. It’s also got a timeless, universal lyric.

“It’s not such a familiar song that people will cry, ‘Sacrilege’. It will also confound people’s expectations of Bob, which he has done throughout his career.”

...Smith said: “We hope the fans will see this as an addition to the canon, not a desecration. It’s a new interpretation of Bob’s world and adds to the mystery. We all approached the remix with respect and awe.”

Ronson said: “It’s the first time Bob Dylan has given anyone the original multi-tracks of his songs to do remixes. I’m a huge Dylan fan, so it’s a great honour, along with the fact that he heard it and approved it, because, as you imagine, he’d be quite picky.”

Bob Dylan has always been interested in rap-type stuff, so hip-hop seems pretty unsurprising, and certainly more interesting than advertising Victoria's Secret or doing tie-ins with Starbucks. Clearly, though, this is motivated by shrewd commercial opportunism - on Jeff Rosen's part, or Bob's, or Sony's, I wonder - and this "new teenage audience" remix will apparently be included on that autumn restrospective set, to be titled DYLAN. (See here for the official details.)

The comparison with Elvis' 'A Little Less Conversation', though spot-on in marketing terms (they hope), is not especially apt artistically. Bob's track - correct name 'Most Likely You [sic] Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)' - is a terrific piece of work from one of his very greatest albums, whereas Elvis' recording of 'A Little Less Conversation' was, pre-remix, one of the least interesting songs and least animated performances he'd ever come up with. This too was unsurprising: it was recorded for one of his last, most clapped-out cheapo movies, Live A Little, Love A Little (and God knows, there was little of either in the film), at the MGM Sound Studios, Culver City, on March 7, 1968, and released that September. A great year for those of us who were in any way attuned to the 1960s, but not for Elvis Presley. And to judge by Chronicles Volume One, Bob Dylan didn't feel attuned to that period either.

So I look forward to hearing Bob hip-hop hopping along, though not, I must admit, to having to run the aural gauntlet of Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe's show.

UPDATE: Actually you can here an extract from it here at a site called Zimming Point now... A first hearing of this snippet suggests that Bob and the remix make uneasy partners, but it gets better... Anyone else want to offer hasty comments?


Anonymous McHenry Boatride said...

Interestingly, this is not the first time that Dylan has sanctioned this sort of use of his early catalogue. Listen to Come Una Pietra Scalciata on the superb soundtrack from the highly underrated Masked and Anonymous. One has to assume that, as the track was used in the film, it was indeed sanctioned by Dylan.

Not just his early catalogue, not just what most people consider his greatest song, but what has been voted the greatest rock song ever. It was a brave move to mess with that, but the CD is worth getting for that track alone (plus, of course, Dixie). Or maybe you hip kids can get just the one track on iTunes (but then you'd miss Non Dirle Che Non E 'Cosi', My Back Pages in Japanese, a brilliant reinterpretation of Most of the Time, ... - just get the CD!).

8:36 pm  
Anonymous McHenry Boatride said...

Having listened to the clip I'm afraid that I can't see the point of it. It doesn't add anything to the song, doesn't re-interpret it or throw any new light on it, doesn't really do anything. It's all just a little bit boring and turgid compared to the original.

10:13 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Hi McHenry
Thanks, as always, for your alert comments. Yes, I'd forgotten that fine use of 'Like A Rolling Stone' from M&A (can't agree with you about the film, but never mind) - and you may be right about the new remix, but I'm going to wait till I've heard the whole of it a few times before I rush to judgment. Sometimes things grow on you, or sound perfect in the car but boring at home, or sound brilliant played very loud in a cinema, or whatever...

1:57 pm  
Blogger Paolo Vites said...

they killed Ken Buttrey terrific drums part and that is enough I believe. Will the cool trendy people now dance to the groove of the modern Dylan for the modern generation? Modern times indeed

3:10 pm  

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