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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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Thursday, January 22, 2009


A new Dylan studio album, which, it had been whispered, was tentatively planned for the autumn may now be in the works for earlier release, perhaps even in time to coincide with Bob's upcoming European tour. I can't say more. I would if I could.


Blogger Judas Priest said...

Do you trust your source Michael? Irrespective of whether it is May or the Autumn, do you actually believe the basic idea here that there is a new album on the way?

3:59 pm  
Blogger Stefan said...

That would be great!

4:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can't just leave that out there...More details please.....I hope you're right.

4:44 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go babycakes.

8:28 pm  
Blogger Country Gardener said...

Wow, that's great news!

10:31 pm  
Blogger DOWN BARNEGAT BAY said...

It's TRUE!!! (shhhh....)

10:31 pm  
Blogger J.D. said...

This would be awesome news!

11:46 pm  
Blogger Ross said...

I sometimes wonder if the state of his voice is taking him where he goes in songwriting now as much as his brilliant mind. It should be fascinating to see at this point. It will be hard to follow up on that stunning collection last year.

12:51 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hell with another album...when is "Chronicles II" coming out?

4:54 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope this is true! You "can't say more" because you lack information or because you cannot reveal your sources? What's your post based on? Any hint would be very welcome!!!!

10:35 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

.... it had been whispered ... tentatively planned ... may ... perhaps ... can't say more ...

That's not fair, Michael!! ;-)
But it sure will make Bobcats from all over the world read this entrance again and again and again and again ...

11:03 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

I trust my source. I cannot say more without it exposing that person. If a second person would give me the same bit-extra-that-I-cannot-say (which isn't more than a tadpole's worth anyway) then I could.

Yes, Volume Two of Chronicles would be good - though it will no longer be possible to take his prose as so marvellously him, now that we've come to learn how much of the vivid writing of Volume One came was scissors-and-pasted from all over the literary canon.

Never mind last year's album - what I hope for, if the new one can't be a collection of songs genuinely written by Dylan and performed with the quiet acoustic intensity of John Wesley Harding, is an album to match "Love And Theft" - which was, despite the smuggling in of so much material from other people, in essence an authentic Bob Dylan album, and one full of good humour and generosity of spirit.

10:46 am  
Anonymous Harald Lynum said...

"now that we've come to learn how much of the vivid writing of Volume One came was scissors-and-pasted from all over the literary canon." What are you referring to?

12:27 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely it is an exaggeration to say that Chronicles 1 was 'scissored and pasted'. The borrowings from other writers (as documented in the Bob Dylan Encyclopedia) are small in number. What comes through for me is a distinctive single voice and point of view, not a jumble of different styles.A new studio album would be great -but how to follow the last one? Modern Times gets better and better on repeated listenings, with Working Man's Blues in particular proving to be a very real reflection of our 'modern times'.

1:59 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

I don't think it's an exaggeration: I wish it were. The allusions referred to in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia are not what I had in mind.

Harald Lynam asks what I'm referring to. . . and I can't for the life of me remember where this comes from, but here is the very calm, reasonable dissection of the scissors-and-pasting that I read somewhere (I've just had it re-sent to me by a third party without knowing the source). None of what follows is my commentary - it is all from the assembler(s)/commentator(s) I now quote:

"Henry Timrod made some news a couple of weeks ago by getting some of his lines quoted, or re-used, by Bob Dylan in his new album Modern Times. Timrod was a Confederate poet whose works are now in the public domain. Apparently Bob consciously or unconsciously snipped a few florid Victorian phrases and dropped them into some of the old-timey songs on his record. I don't think there's anything really wrong with that; it's not like he took whole passages and used them wholesale.

And yet Dylan, in his memoir Chronicles, comes pretty close to doing exactly that with other authors. Look carefully at this short passage:

Walking back to the main house, I caught a glimpse of the sea through the leafy boughs of the pines. I wasn't near it, but could feel the power beneath its colors. (Chronicles, p. 162)

Compare that to this longer passage from Marcel Proust's Within a Budding Grove, especially the passages in italics:

But when, Mme. de Ville-parisis’s carriage having reached high ground, I caught a glimpse of the sea through the leafy boughs of trees, then no doubt at such a distance those temporal details which had set the sea, as it were, apart from nature and history disappeared ... But on the other hand I was no longer near enough to the sea which seemed to me not a living thing now, but fixed; I no longer felt any power beneath its colours, spread like those of a picture among the leaves, through which it appeared as inconsistent as the sky and only of an intenser blue.

I don't think there can be any doubt that Bob had to have consciously taken these sentences and, with some revision, passed them off as his own.

Another example is from a book that I imagine Dylan knows well, Huckleberry Finn:

Every night we passed towns, some of them away up on black hillsides, nothing but just a shiny bed of lights; not a house could you see. ... There warn't a sound there; everybody was asleep.

And now look at Chronicles, p. 165:

One night when everyone was asleep and I was sitting at the kitchen table, nothing on the hillside but a shiny bed of lights ...

My last exhibit (a less exact quote) comes from a book called Really the Blues (1946) by Mezz Mezzrow and Bernard Wolfe, in which a hipster introduces "his chick" to Mezzrow:

Baby this that powerful man with that good grass that'll make you tip through the highways and byways like a Maltese kitten. Mezz, this is my new dinner and she's a solid viper.

And now, part of Dylan's description of his friend Ray's girl, Chloe Kiel:

She was cool as pie, hip from head to toe, a Maltese kitten, a solid viper — always hit the nail on the head. I don't know how much weed she smoked, but a lot. (Chronicles, p. 102)

And later in Really the Blues, a black man was 'sitting there actually talking to a white woman cool as pie.'

Now what are we to think of these 'borrowings'? I know that borrowing and revising tunes and song lyrics is standard practice in folk and blues music, and Dylan has done plenty of that, quite openly, as have others. That doesn't bother me. But in a sustained piece of prose that is not meant to be sung or played, but taken as the author's own composition, it is not standard practice. In the instances given above, I think Bob comes pretty close to real plagiarism, and for all I know there are more instances in Chronicles yet to be identified. Frankly, as a Dylan fan from way back, I'm a little disappointed. Say it ain't so, Bob.

UPDATE: A couple more.

Jack London, Children of the Frost:

'Rum meeting place, though,' he added, casting an embracing glance over the primordial landscape ...

Chronicles, p. 167: I cast an embracing glance over the primordial landscape ...

Jack London, Tales of the Klondyke:

Another tremendous section of the glacier rumbled earthward. The wind whipped in at the open doorway ...

Chronicles, p. 217: Wind whipped in the open doorway and another kicking storm was rumbling earthward.

UPDATE II: Yet more:

Sax Rohmer, Dope (1919), A tiny spaniel lay beside the fire, his beady black eyes following the nervous movements of the master of the house.

Chronicles, p. 167: A tiny spaniel lay at the guy's feet, the dog's beady black eyes following the nervous movements of his master.

London, Children of the Frost: And then they are amazingly simple. No complexity about them, no thousand and one subtle ramifications to every single emotion they experience. They love, fear, hate, are angered, or made happy, in common, ordinary, and unmistakable terms.

Chronicles, p. 169: Yet to me, it's amazingly simple, no complications, everything pans out. As long as the things you see don't go by in a blur of light and shade, you're okay. Love, fear, hate, happiness all in unmistakable terms, a thousand and one subtle ramifications.

UPDATE III (Oct. 2): Jack London, Tales of the Klondyke: Through this the afternoon sun broke feebly, throwing a vague radiance to earth, and unreal shadows.

Chronicles, p. 112: The afternoon sun was breaking, throwing a vague radiance to the earth.

Jack London, White Fang: He carried himself with pride, as though, forsooth, he had achieved a deed praiseworthy and meritorious.

Chronicles, p. 63: He didn't need to say much—you knew he had been through a lot, achieved some great deed, praiseworthy and meritorious, yet unspoken about it.

R. L. Stevenson, Providence and the Guitar: As Leon looked at her, in her low-bodied maroon dress, with her arms bare to the shoulder, and a red flower set provocatively in her corset, he repeated to himself for the many hundredth time that she was one of the loveliest creatures in the world of women.

Chronicles, p. 127: I bought a red flower for my wife, one of the loveliest creatures in the world of women."

6:07 pm  
Blogger J.D. said...

On the other hand, doesn't this play into myth that "Dylan" doesn't really exist, that "Dylan" is just a medium through which all of this stuff passes to us in interesting juxtapositions?

Not saying I buy it, but I also haven't thought it out yet.

I mean, think about a piece of art that belongs to Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters, but no more than it does to Virgil and Ovid. That's Modern Times, and that's "Dylan's" thing. Why would he do it any differently on the page?

9:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, With a mind like Dylan's it's difficult to think he needs to consciously cut and paste together a book. It is more likely, I think, that he is extraordinarily well read and that his astonishing memory as a lot of things lodged in it that stick there. It is the unique turn of phrase found in older times which appeals to Dylan and his taking it and keeping it alive inserting it into a modern narritive indicates his love of words. He sees something he likes so much that he steals it. Has there ever been a man on Earth who knows half as many songs? Face it the man is a freak of nature, as you know better than any of us having done the remarkable research for the encyclopedia illuminating Dylan's sources going back to his very first recordings. If anything the way Dylan writes is the best way to write in the tradition of ancient oral storytelling where things are taken and passed on each telling gaining and losing something along the way. Pat Ford

7:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, A couple of follow up quotes I stole: “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery — celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.’”

- Jim Jarmusch
"Never draw anything you can copy, never copy anything you can trace, never trace anything you can cut out and paste

- Wally Wood

8:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it possible that the new studio album they are refering to Is the Hank Williams stuff?

2:19 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Dear last-post-by-anonymous,
No. It's definitely a new Dylan album. I know of one person in the UK who has heard it.

11:52 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thankyou for that reply Michael, excellent. Is there any other information you can divulge about the new album.

1:26 pm  
Blogger Judas Priest said...

And surely Michael this person told you what impression the new album made on him? What direction does it take musically? Does it mine the same territory as L&T/MT or is it a departure to somewhere else? And can we at least discount the post that just went up at Exp Rain claiming it's a covers album of his older classics?

8:08 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Sorry, but I only said I know OF one person who has heard the new album. I don't know that person. I know nothing else. I'm not trying to be mysterious.

10:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What gets me is if there is a new album, which I hope so, then why doasnt Columbia or whoever ? just tell us, if it's true, why not tell us, we are all going to buy it anyway, so forget the sacred marketing thing, and let us know, why the secrecy?

3:52 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The key, surely, is when Michael says that Dylan is "passing this work off as his own." My issue with these quotes from Chronicles, as with some of the songs on Modern Times, is that as each original source is identified, Dylan damages his reputation as a creative artist. And at the very least, he should acknowledge his sources.

11:31 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had an argument to defend Chronicles I, then continued reading and discovered that Anonymous eloquently laid it out already: "...With a mind like Dylan's it's difficult to think he needs to consciously cut and paste together a book. It is more likely, I think, that he is extraordinarily well read and that his astonishing memory has a lot of things lodged in it that stick there. It is the unique turn of phrase found in older times which appeals to Dylan and his taking it and keeping it alive inserting it into a modern narritive indicates his love of words...etc."

I'm grateful that his love of words brings beauty that I might have missed.

3:17 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's not writing an academic paper for his PhD. It's not like he writes down a detailed bibliography of every book or other piece of material he's ever heard or read. When he reads or hears a word or phrase that speaks to him on a certain level, whether in conversation, a book, newspaper, a song or a travel guide, he writes it down on a scrap of paper and shoves it in a box. When he sits down to write a song or anything else, he might shuffle through the box and find inspirational pieces that fit into the tone and mood of the song. He's not writing a law journal article and if you would require him to provide a footnote for every turn of phrase he probably wouldn't even bother trying to research all his sources and you would be left without an album to listen to or a book to read.

4:33 pm  
Anonymous stevie blooz said...

re the stealing/borrowing debate...but he also knows by now that us crazy people will track down these sources and that they will be exposed. And whatever anybody else says I reckon Dylan views it as an artistic creative process.
Remember when the use of film quotes on 'empire burlesque' was raised at the 'hearts of fire' press conference, he showed an interest to talk about it.
And the title 'love and theft', itself being borrowed/stolen, does little to hide what he is doing and in fact descibes it.

I am not sure what is 'right' or 'wrong' and who is defining those words but I don't think he is writing anything and thinking he can get away with it.

On a slighly different tack I once wrote a song with the line 'rainman comes with his magic wand' in it and sang it for years without realising where that line had come from.

4:45 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe instead of openly citing his many "sources" Bob cleverly embeds them as part of the ruse. For example, one possible anagram for "Modern Times" is "Timrod Semen".

8:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The rumours about the new album is true. The almum was recorded in october, have ten tracks that is mixed in january and will be presented to 4 different SONY-offices in Europe by Mr. Jeff Rosen the coming week. I do not know if it has been presented in US, but I guess it has happened and someone there is Mr. Gray's source. Trust me!

11:23 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

Michael this plagiarism is truly sensational, I always thought that like Mozart, Dylan's muse was directly with God, or is it Mamon ?

1:18 am  
Blogger John Pilecki said...

Well then, Dylan is the greatest ANTHOLOGIST of all time, then - he would probably prefer that to THE POET OF A GENERATION(S) anyway, and no poet could spin the wax as he does on "Theme Time", so there!

1:46 am  
Blogger ashley said...

it's true. there is a new album, and some outtakes to be used for movies (surprise)

2:54 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's interesting is that these are lines no one would probably give a second thought to in reading the original text. Yet Dylan pulls them from memory and fits them into his life experience. I was thumbing through To Kill A Mockingbird and saw the line "She broke down and cried real tears..." Recall the line from Brownsville Girl? This is a great mind at work... or he must have one helluva note card system.

4:06 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Movie Sound track recorded with 2 guest guitarist. Out in the Summer 0f 2009

7:59 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am from Spain. Sorry if my english it's not good. It's ridiculous the way you write about Chronicles I. Can you imagine a person writing a book of memories going from book to book saying now I take a paragraph from here and put it there, now I take this other and do the same? And even if you are right, have you seen what authors are you quoting? Proust, Stevenson, London, Twain... That's a selection of a genius.

11:19 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you miss the point. the fact that dylan quotes and alludes in his work is central and excellent. next you'll be suggesting that some lines in ts eliot and ezra pound can be found in dante or elizabethan english literature. or joyce might owe something to homer. or folk/blues artists might have adapted traditional hymns and ballads. or classic dylan tracks like hard rain might be similar to a well-known ballad. dylan's modernism is a key part of his approach. as is his oral tradition style reshaping of what already exists. imagine if it were found that shakespeare borrowed his plots from other plays! the sad truth is, in spite of the tremendous will amongst dylanists to decry everything he does, he has been in a fertile patch (considering his age) over the last decade. long may it continue.

1:12 pm  
Blogger Ed said...

Mike, I appreciate the mention of my post, but you forgot to provide the link:

Lord knows I need the visitors!

4:10 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well aware of his quoting for his albums but didn't know he fit it in Chronicle! It makes it even MORE fascinating. A new album? Does it get better than Red River Shore or Working man Blues? That voice rivals Bing Crosby in emotion alone! New studio album for 2009is enough to make me forget the upcoming Grat Depression with all those give a ways!

1:23 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, it's theft

but, at the same time, he must know he's going to get caught

so what's the intention behind it?

that's the more interesting question, perhaps

11:02 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lautréamont copied the Dr Chimu encyclopedia and even some ads

1:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New album: Supposedly called MY OWN LOVE SONG, after 'la vie en rose'-director Olivier Dahan's new movie, for which Dylan provided the songs. In the movie, the songs will be sung by Renee Zellweger and others, but not so on the album, which supposedly will be solely Dylan's.

5:07 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just give EVERYONE the FULL details NOW. For GODS sake!

11:48 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

I don't KNOW any more details! The only other rumour I've heard is that there is at least one non-band member guitarist on the album. NB. as far as I'm concerned that's just a rumour. I haven't heard any others and I don't KNOW anything else at all!

12:01 pm  
Anonymous judi said...

New album confirmed by Mojo...
read it here
sounds good to me..

6:30 am  

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