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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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Sunday, March 29, 2009


I do realise, of course, very readily and strongly, that Bob's big gigs are incomparably more significant than my own, such that it may seem foolishly Canute-like for me to be touting my own tour while Dylan himself is around (and for example when, reputedly, there were over 100,000 attempts made to get at the 3000 Roundhouse tickets for his concert on April 26).

But I just want to say that not only am I under no deranged delusion about any of this, but also that attending the big tour doesn't actually physically preclude anyone from attending my events. It works out like this:

March 29: Dylan in Copenhagen; no Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues event
March 30: no Dylan event; no BD&PB event either
March 31: Dylan in Hannover; BD&PB in Amherst/Buffalo NY
April 1: Dylan in Berlin; no BD&PB event
April 2: Dylan in Erfurt; BD&PB in Chestertown MD
April 3: no Dylan concert; BD&PB in Nyack NY
April 4: Dylan in München; no BD&PB event
April 5: Dylan in Saarbrücken; no BD&PB event
April 6: no Dylan concert; BD&PB in Toronto
April 7,8,10-12,14, 15: Dylan in Paris, Amsterdam, Basle & Milan; no BD&PB events
Apriil 16: no Dylan event; me: no BD&PB either
April 17: Dylan in Rome; BD&PB in Buxton
April 18, 20-22: Dylan in Florence, Geneva, Strasbourg & Brussels; no BD&PB events
April 23: no Dylan concert; BD&PB in Herne Bay
April 24: Dylan in Sheffield; no BD&PB event
April 25: Dylan in London (O2 Arena); BD&PB in Portland Maine
April 26: Dylan in London (Roundhouse); no BD&PB event
April 27: no Dylan event; no BD&PB event either
April 28: Dylan in Cardiff; no BD&PB event
April 29: Dylan in Birmingham (UK); BD&PB in Farmingdale, Long Island
April 30: no Dylan event; no BD&PB event either
May 1: Dylan in Liverpool; no BD&PB event
May 2: Dylan in Glasgow, Scotland; BD&PB in Bridgwater, Somerset
May 3, 5 & 6: Dylan in Edinburgh & Dublin; no BD&PB events
May 7: Dylan's tour has ended; no BD&PB event
May 8: Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues in Doncaster
May 9: Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues in Ledbury
May 10: Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues in Sudbury
May 13: Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues in Uppingham, nr. Leicester
May 15: Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues in Stroud
May 16: Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues in Berwick-upon-Tweed
May 20: Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues in Madison WI
May 21: Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues in Hibbing MN
May 27: Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues in Dublin, Ireland
May 28: NEW DATE SQUEEZED IN: Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues in Galway, Ireland
May 29: Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues in Maidstone, Kent
May 30: Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues in Bridport, Dorset
June 4: Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues in Southport
June 6: Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire.

Er, that's it.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


I don't know why this poster has come out so tiny - I set it to be "large", but Blogger has a mind of its own in these matters. But if you click on it you should be able to read the text. Though I imagine the number of readers of this blog who live in or near to the venerable town of Chestertown Maryland must be on the small side. But online it looks and sounds as if it's a very atmospheric place. I'll found out on Thursday April 2nd.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Arthur Crudup, 1971
photo © Stan Livingston

Tomorrow (March 28) is the 35th anniversary of the death of Arthur Crudup in Nassawadox, Virginia. Here's his Bob Dylan Encyclopedia entry:

Crudup, Arthur ‘Big Boy’ [1905 - 1974]
Arthur William Crudup was born into rural poverty in Forest, in southern Mississippi, on August 24, 1905 and was singing in church by the age of 10. He worked as a labourer before taking up the guitar at the unusually late age of 32 but was soon playing at local parties. In the depths of the Depression he struggled to stay in music but in 1940 joined gospel group the Harmonizing Four, moved to Chicago with them in 1941 (living, to begin with, in a wooden crate under the ‘L’ station) and then quit the group and turned back to the blues. Discovered by a Victor talent scout, he was asked to perform that same evening in front of towering figures like TAMPA RED, BIG BILL BROONZY and LONNIE JOHNSON. His guitar playing was simple but he was a strong songwriter with a spare, field-holler voice, and after impressing this intimidating audience he was signed up. He recorded over 80 sides between 1941 and 1956, scoring 78rpm successes with a handful.

His fame in the wider world rests on the fact that ELVIS PRESLEY’s first record, the immortal ‘That’s All Right’, recorded in July 1954, was a revolutionary revival of an Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup song. (When Presley moved from Sun to RCA at the beginning of 1956, he swiftly recorded another old Crudup 1940s record, ‘So Glad You’re Mine’.)

Yet it’s an example of how timeless Elvis Presley’s exciting new transmissions could be that the line ‘That’s alright, mama, that’s alright for you’ figures in a much earlier blues classic than the Crudup song. It’s a stanza from BLIND LEMON JEFFERSON’s seminal ‘Black Snake Moan’ (cut in Chicago as ‘That Black Snake Moan’ in 1926 and re-cut in Atlanta as ‘Black Snake Moan’ in 1927). The lines ‘Mama that’s alright, sugar that’s alright for you / That’s alright mama, that’s alright for you / ... just the way you do’ then recurred the following year in one of the two takes of Ishman Bracey’s terrific ‘’Fore Day Blues’. Then, on the early Crudup side ‘If I Get Lucky’, in 1941, he not only tried out the lines ‘That’s alright mama, that’s alright for you / Treat me low-down and dirty, any old way you do’ for the first time but did it with a style of hollering that admits a debt to Bracey as much as to Jefferson.

The connection makes sense: Crudup hung out in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1940s, when Ishman Bracey was the city’s most popular and active musician. In turn, it was 150 miles up Highway 55, in Memphis, that Elvis saw Crudup perform. Somewhere there’s an interview with Elvis in which he’s asked, when he’s the ultimate star, if he had imagined that kind of fame and success for himself when he started out. Elvis replies: ‘No. When I started out I just wanted to be as good as Arthur Crudup was when I saw him live in ’49.’

One of the Crudup records Presley surprised Sam Phillips by knowing was ‘Rock Me Mama’, and this is the other Crudup song besides ‘That’s All Right’ that Dylan recorded. He tried ‘That’s All Right’ fairly early in his own career, at the session of October 26, 1962 that yielded both the Freewheelin’ and the slightly different single-release version of ‘Corrina Corrina’, and again at the session of November 1; these have circulated but remain unissued. A little over ten years later Dylan tried Crudup’s ‘Rock Me Mama’ at the sessions for Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid in 1973, to no especially significant avail. It’s a simple song, anonymous in character and Dylan does nothing much with it - or at least, you’d say so until you find that in 2004 the group Old Crow Medicine Show include the song under the title ‘Wagon Wheel’ and credit this title partly to Dylan and his music publishing company. (And don’t credit Crudup at all.) The two known Dylan takes have never been released but have circulated in rather poor quality.

Other Crudup records have Dylan connections. His ‘Death Valley Blues’ (see the entry on Dylan’s song ‘Dignity’) tells a story that takes place out on Highway 61; his ‘Mean Old Frisco Blues’ is one of the very few pre-war records to use the phrase ‘special rider’, which Dylan took as the name of his most important music-publishing company; Crudup made a record called ‘That’s Your Red Wagon’ in 1945; his 1941 revisit to CHARLEY PATTON territory on ‘Black Pony Blues’ includes the phrase ‘she fox-trot and pace’, which Dylan echoes in his own ‘New Pony’ blues on Street Legal in 1978; and Crudup recorded a ‘Dirt Road Blues’ in 1945.

Presley had always credited Crudup, both in interviews and on the record label; but royalties paid never reached the musician and he remained in poverty even while being labelled ‘the father of rock’n’roll’; in response he liked to refer to his most famous fan as ‘Elvin Preston’. He had returned to southern Mississippi by the end of the 1940s - like BLIND WILLIE McTELL, his sound had become passé in Chicago - and though he made the occasional foray into Memphis, he was back to playing rural juke joints by the early 1950s. It is a bellowing irony that the same year Elvis Presley shot to national prominence and that undreamt-of fame, 1956, Arthur Crudup gave up music and returned to farmwork.

However, he was still only 50 years old, and he survived long enough to receive an eventual $60,000 in back royalties when ‘rediscovered’ in 1965 by Dick Waterman, who pointed him towards the folk revival movement. He toured the US East Coast and Europe as a rightly valued survivor of the pre-war country blues world, recorded with British musicians on a UK trip in 1970 and back in the US even went out as the support act to Bonnie Raitt.

Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup suffered a fatal stroke and died while still a working musician, in Nassawadox, Virginia, on March 28, 1974.

[Arthur Crudup: ‘If I Get Lucky’, ‘Death Valley Blues’ & ‘Black Pony Blues’, Chicago, 11 Sep 1941, the 1st on King of the Blues Vol. 3 (EP), RCA RCX204, London, 1962; the others on Bluebird Blues, RCA LPV-518 (Vintage Series), NY, 1965; ‘Mean Old Frisco Blues’, Chicago, 15 Apr 1942, The Rural Blues, RBF FR-202, NY, 1964; ‘That’s Your Red Wagon’ (unreleased till 1983) & ‘Dirt Road Blues’, Chicago, 22 Oct 1945, the latter on Victor 20-2757, NY, 1947; ‘That’s All Right’, Chicago, 6 Sep 1946, known by Presley from the 78rpm Victor 20-2205 (c/w ‘Crudup’s After Hours’), NY, 1946.
Bob Dylan: ‘That’s All Right’, NY, 26 Oct 1962; ‘Rock Me Mama’, Burbank CA, Feb 1973; both unreleased. Elvis Presley: ‘That’s All Right’, Memphis, July 5-6, 1954, Sun 209, Memphis, 1954. Blind Lemon Jefferson: ‘That Black Snake Moan’, Chicago, c.Nov 1926, Black Snake Moan: Blind Lemon Jefferson, Milestone MLP-2013, NY, 1970. ‘Black Snake Moan’, Atlanta, 14 Mar 1927, Jazz Vol. 2: The Blues, Folkways FP55 & FJ-2802, NY, 1950. Ishman Bracey: ‘The ’Fore Day Blues’ (alternate take), Memphis, 31 Aug 1928, Jackson Blues 1928-1938, Yazoo L-1007, NY, c.1968, CD-reissued YAZCD1007, NY, c.1988. (The lyric fragment quoted is not on the better-known take, issued on The Famous 1928 Tommy Johnson-Ishman Bracey Session, Roots RL-330, Vienna, 1970; both takes are CD-reissued on Ishman Bracey & Charley Taylor, Document DOCD-5049, Vienna, c.1991.) Old Crow Medicine Show: ‘Wagon Wheel’, Old Crow Medicine Show, Nettwerk, US, 2004.
Main sources: Michael Gray, Song & Dance Man III: The Art of Bob Dylan; Rick Anderson, entry in The Blues Encyclopedia, New York: Routledge, 2005, pp. 240-243, and Tony Russell, The Blues From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray, London: Arum Press, 1997, p.105.]


Back home last night from a brief trip to Cork for a talk about being In Search of Blind Willie McTell at the small but sold-out Triskel Arts Centre: my third visit there but the first in five years. I took two cheap flights to get there and three to get back.

After the weekend I'm flying to New York via London - because from London I can fly return to JFK on Air France for literally half the price of flying from Paris to JFK on, er, Air France...

Then I'm hiring a car and driving about a thousand miles in the course of four days, returning the car, flying to Toronto for two days, flying back to New York, flying back to London and then back from Heathrow to Toulouse. And that's just the first of three transatlantic trips I'm making between now and Bob Dylan's birthday on May 24. My carbon footprint is not getting any lighter.

But my heart is not weary.... Came home to learn that it's all happening in Ledbury, Herefordshire, where I'm doing a gig on Saturday May 9 - an online news item tells me that a pub in the town was painted Barbie Pink in the night. No-one knows by whom. Except of course the action painter.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009



Here's the entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia on this grand old man of American letters:

Ferlinghetti, Lawrence [1919 - ]
Ferlinghetti, born in Yonkers, New York, on March 24, 1919, became one of the most influential figures of the Beat Generation. He was a publisher - and was arrested for publishing GINSBERG’s Howl in 1955 - as well as a poet: and not the usual self-taught poet - he studied at the University of North Carolina, Columbia University and the Sorbonne. He co-founded the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, where he moved in 1951 after working for Time in New York City. City Lights was an important rendezvous, talkshop and publishing house for experimental writers.

Unsurprisingly, then, he is the Beat poet whose work most noticeably includes constant allusions to others’ texts and titles - a feature we recognise as characteristic in Dylan’s 1960s poetry, in Tarantula and throughout his songs. Ferlinghetti’s poem ‘Autobiography’ includes allusions to ELIOT, Matthew Arnold, Thomas Wolfe, ALLEN GINSBERG, WOODY GUTHRIE, Wordsworth, Thoreau and Melville.

Specific passages also prefigure Dylan: ‘I got caught stealing pencils / from the Five and Ten Cent Store / the same month I made Eagle Scout.’ absolutely sets the tone for Dylan’s ‘My Life In A Stolen Moment’. ‘Junkman’s Obbligato’ [sic] chimes similarly, updating Eliot’s glamorously sordid city in very much a ‘Dylanesque’ way: ‘Stagger befuddled into East River sunsets / Sleep in phone booths... / staggering blind after alleycats / under Brooklyn Bridge / blown statues in baggy pants / our tincan cries and garbage voices / trailing.’ And you can’t read, in ‘The Long Street’, the unmemorable lines ‘where everything happens / sooner or later / if it happens at all’ without hearing Bob Dylan’s voice reciting a passage with that same rhythm and that same last line on the unreleased early version of ‘Brownsville Girl’, ‘New Danville Girl’ [Hollywood, December 1984]: ‘Nothing happens on purpose / It’s an accident / If it happens at all.’ Another poem, ‘Dog’, with the recurrent line ‘The dog trots freely in the street’, might be the prompt for ‘If Dogs Run Free’.

All these Ferlinghetti poems are from the group ‘Oral Conversations’ in A Coney Island Of The Mind, 1958, which Dylan namechecks in the sleevenotes to Biograph - but Dylan also alludes to Ferlinghetti’s collection Pictures From The Gone World in his interesting sleevenote prose poem for Planet Waves: ‘Yeah the ole days Are gone forever And the new ones Aint fAR behind, the Laughter is fAding away, echos [sic] of a staR, of Energy Vampires in the Gone World going Wild!’ (See also Planet Waves, disappearing sleevenotes, the.)

Dylan is known to have written Ferlinghetti a long, not overly successful prose-poem-style letter, postmarked April 28, 1964, after calling on him that February 20, finding him not at home, and leaving him a short note. Despite this apparent friendliness, the following year, when Ferlinghetti attended one of Dylan’s early electric concerts (Berkeley, November 3, 1965), his attitude was described like this by RALPH GLEASON:

‘I thought Larry was a tragic figure that weekend, a shaken and embittered man. You know, “What is that stringy kid doing up there with his electric guitar?” I mean, “I am a major poet and this kid has thirty-five hundred kids in this hall.” And Larry has been mumbling to himself ever since.’

He appeared to have reached an acceptance of the electric guitars by the time of The Last Waltz concert in 1976, at which, already looking ancient, he performed his ersatz version of the Lord’s Prayer.

His 40+ poetry books also include Endless Life: The Selected Poems, 1981. At the time of writing, Ferlinghetti is still alive... He has outlived all his major contemporaries among THE BEATS.

[Lawrence Ferlinghetti: Pictures of the Gone World, San Francisco: City Lights, 1955; A Coney Island of the Mind, New York: New Directions, 1958; Endless Life: Selected Poems, New Directions, 1981. Bob Dylan: note and letter to Ferlinghetti, 20 Feb & 28 Apr 1964, both in the City Lights archive deposited with the Bancroft Library at UCLA, Berkeley; first published in The Telegraph no.36, Romford UK, Summer 1990; letter seen online 02 Sep 2005 in the ‘Words Fill My Head’ section of (though here it is laid out like a poem and not as on Dylan’s typed sheet). Ralph Gleason quoted in Robert Shelton, No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan, 1986, Penguin edn. p.333.]

- photographer unknown -

Monday, March 23, 2009


Received today - the photo of Freddie James Hodgson, a Bobcat already, wearing the babygro. His favourites recording are 'This Old Man' and 'Froggie Went a-Courtin''; his least favourite is 'Baby, Stop Crying'.


Last night Bob Dylan opened his new European tour in Stockholm. Most of the setlist, plus the news that the band membership remains unchanged, and that Dylan was still hiding behind the keyboard for all but one number, makes it sound disappointingly like more of exactly the same, and altogether hugely less exciting than would have been conceivable for the first 40-odd years of his performing life.

But there was one surprise: the inclusion of 'Billy', taken from his wonderful Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid soundtrack album. Maybe he'd been reminded of it from listening to the terrific version by Los Lobos on the I'm Not There soundtrack.

The setlist was:

1. Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)
2. Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power)
3. I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
4. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
5. Tryin' To Get To Heaven
6. Things Have Changed (Bob on guitar centre stage)
7. Watching The River Flow
8. Blind Willie McTell
9. I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)
10. I Believe In You
11. Honest With Me
12. Billy
13. Summer Days
14. All Along The Watchtower
15. Cry A While
16. Like A Rolling Stone
17. Forever Young

You can download/hear 'Billy' either here or here. And while it's fascinating to hear something different, it's a shame that this is, apparently, as good as it gets in concert now. Meanwhile Part 2 of the interview Dylan gave to Bill Flanagan is now up on (though for some reason I can never get beyond the home page on this horribly-remodelled site: whatever I click after that just produces a little whirling circle somewhere bottom left, as if I'm trying to download a 5-hour film at 56kbps). I miss Dan Levy's version of the site.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


This little theatre is one of the more intimate venues on my tour, with no-one further back in the hall than Row H.

Herne Bay, the birthplace of British musician Kevin Ayers, is along the North Kent coast between Whitstable and Margate and only seven miles north of Canterbury. You can reach it from London Ramsgate line from Victoria Station.

I've been there once before, when I'd come in from the cold of freelance writing in the lateish 1970s and was working for United Artists Records in London. Some of us made the trip out to Herne Bay to see a new band the label had just signed, unappealingly named Quint (because the brainchild of a local youth named Graeme Quinton-Jones). They had a really excellent vocalist, but UA did nothing with them. By 1980 Graeme Q-J was producing a single by South Kent heavy metal group Denbigh at Herne Bay's Oakwood Studio, something else in 1982 and then.... I know no more.

Herne Bay's seafront has often been used as a sitcom location, not least by 'Little Britain'. I'm rather fearful that I might have to stay the night in a seafront guesthouse myself.

Two nights after Herne Bay, I'm in Portland Maine. Life on the road, eh?

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Thanks to Andrew Muir for keeping me up to speed on this. Here is the full track-list for the 3 disc version - there being multiple different releases of course, and (naturally, these days) an iTunes-only track….

Disc 1:
1. Beyond Here Lies Nothin'
2. Life Is Hard
3. My Wife's Home Town
4. If You Ever Go To Houston
5. Forgetful Heart
6. Jolene
7. This Dream Of You
8. Shake Shake Mama
9. I Feel A Change Comin' On
10. It's All Good

Disc 2 (all from Theme Time Radio Hour with your host Bob Dylan: 'Friends & Neighbors'):
1. Howdy Neighbor (J. Morris) - Porter Wagoner & The Wagonmasters
2. Don't Take Everybody To Be Your Friend (M.Gabler/R. Tharpe) - Sister Rosetta Tharpe
3. Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend (L. Robin/J. Styne) - T Bone Burnett
4. La Valse De Amitie (O. Guidry) - Doc Guidry
5. Make Friends (E. Mcgraw) - Moon Mulligan
6. My Next Door Neighbor (J. McCain) - Jerry McCain
7. Let's Invite Them Over (O. Wheeler) - George Jones & Melba Montgomery
8. My Friends (C. Burnett/S. Ling) - Howlin' Wolf
9. Last Night (W. Jones) - Little Walter
10. You've Got a Friend (C. King) - Carole King
11. Bad Neighborhood (Caronna/M. Rebennack) - Ronnie & The Delinquents
12. Neighbours (M. Jagger/K. Richards) - The Rolling Stones
13. Too Many Parties and Too Many Pals (B. Rose/M. Dixon/R. Henderson) - Hank Williams as Luke the Drifter
14. Why Can't We Be Friends (S. Allen/H. Brown/M. Dickerson/J. Goldstein/L. Jordan /C. Miller/H. Scott/L. Oskar) - War

Disc 3:
1. Roy Silver (DVD content)
2. The Lost Interview (DVD content).

Naturally Disc 1 is the crucial bit, though Disc 3 is as intriguing as it's no doubt intended to be. As for Disc 2, well for me the highlight is when he's referring to the Carole King track, and he mentions her teenage-years friend Neil Sedaka, slips in something about how Neil had wished for more than friendship and then as her record starts, Bob just says "Oh Carol"... [or, if you will, "Oh Carole"...]

Thursday, March 19, 2009


. . . In between the Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues events, I'm doing one called IN SEARCH OF BLIND WILLIE McTELL in CORK, IRELAND - at the Triskel Arts Centre in Tobin Street (off Grand Parade and South Main St) - next Wednesday, March 25th. Tickets are just €8, with €6 for concessions, the start time is 8pm, and a write-up is on the venue's website at Box Office there, from within the Republic of Ireland, is 021 4272022.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Just to clarify a couple of things. First, as this poster says, my BOB DYLAN & THE POETRY OF THE BLUES event at Daemen College, Amherst New York (March 31) is free admission and open to the public - and the same applies to the Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland date (April 2) and to the one at Farmingdale State in Long Island (April 29).

In the UK, the box office is now open for the event at the Market Theatre Ledbury (May 9).

So here again is the updated detailed info on these four:

Tues March 31, 7.30pm: Daemen College, Amherst NY, USA
Alumni Lounge, Wick Center,
4380 Main Street, Amherst NY 14226
Information: [001] 716-839-8253
free admission and open to the public

Thurs April 2, 4.30pm: Washington College, Chestertown MD, USA
The Rose O’Neill Literary House, 300 Washington Avenue,
Chestertown, Maryland 21620
[001] 410-810-5768 / 410-778-2800 /
free admission and open to the public

Wed April 29, 5.30pm: Farmingdale State College, State Univ. of New York, USA

English & Humanities Department, Farmingdale State College
2350 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale (Long Island) NY 11735-1021
[001] 631-420-2050
free admission and open to the public

Sat May 9, 8pm: The Market Theatre, Ledbury, UK
Market Street, Ledbury, Herefordshire HR8 2AQ
Box Office: c/o Tourist Information Office 01531 636147
tickets £10.


Interesting that the interview Bill Flanagan has conducted with Dylan, which is up on, has Bob sounding close to dismissive about Modern Times:

BF: The new record’s very different from Modern Times which was a number one hit. It seems like every time you have a big hit, the next time out you change things around. Why don’t you try to milk it a little bit?

BD: I think we milked it all we could on that last record and then some. We squeezed the cow dry.

Meanwhile John Baldwin's Desolation Row e-newsletter notes that the Bruce Davidson Brooklyn Gang collection was previously drawn on in Scorsese's No Direction Home for the Kerouac segment.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Released April 27 in the UK, April 28 in North America. Cover photo from a large number of shots of a Brooklyn street gang in 1959 by Bruce Davidson. Extra British tour date, likely to be in North London on April 26, expected to be announced imminently (and long rumoured to be going to feature some kind of preview of [some of] the new album's material).


I'm told the new Bob Dylan album has been announced on Amazon already, titled Together Through Life... and that Sony will issue a press release today telling us all about it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


This is the letter members of the Performing Rights Society has just sent out to members, in answer to the widely-publicised tantrum Google has staged over paying royalties on music on YouTube. I don't always think PRS is a saintly organisation, and I do always use Google as a search engine and more, but in this case it's pretty clear that PRS is in the right and Google in the wrong. You may not agree, but at least it's worth reading the less publicised side of the case:

Dear Member
You may have read the news stories this week about Google blocking access to 'premium' video content on YouTube in the UK as a result of their not agreeing a new licence with PRS for Music. Premium content appears to refer to music videos that are traditionally uploaded by record companies.

You may also have read that Google took this decision unilaterally, without any request from us to do so. Their licence with us had expired at the end of December 2008 and we were negotiating their new one. We do not usually ask anyone to remove content as long as good faith negotiations are taking place.

Immediately we heard news of Google's decision to pull content from YouTube, and that they were talking to the press about it, we issued our own press statement. We expressed our outrage, shock and disappointment on behalf of UK consumers and on behalf of you, our members that Google should take this action.

Google's decision must be seen as an attempt to influence commercial negotiation and the focus on 'premium' content as an attempt to cause disruption within the music industry again. This content may account for about 1% of YouTube music streams.At the heart of Google's precipitous action is the going rate for music. This is the rate set by the UK Copyright Tribunal in 2007. The Tribunal is the ultimate and independent arbiter of copyright dispute. Digital service providers pay a fraction of a penny per stream to the creator of the music.

Most of the major digital service providers are licensed by PRS for Music. And just recently we have signed deals with Amazon, Beatport, Nokia Comes With Music and Qtrax.YouTube has signed-up to licences in very few countries around the world - we were one of the few. They have never before taken down content unless they have been forced to do so by copyright holders. Meanwhile, in the UK, consumer streams of YouTube 'premium' content have risen by almost 300% in the last year alone (up from 75m streams a quarter to nearly 300m streams a quarter). In total, Google want to pay 50% less than they paid before for that usage. Google think they paid too much last time. But their music usage, charged at the going rate, suggests they were significantly underpaying.

A further delay to our negotiation has been that Google is, at present, not giving us the data we need to calculate correct royalty payments to you. We ask them to make returns on their music use in the same way that every other major licensee does in order that we can properly analyse it, charge the right fee and then pay the copyright owners we represent. If there's a stream of a track we don't control, Google won't pay us for that stream. Google would like to see our database in order to match it against theirs so they can calculate how much they owe us.

We look forward to continuing our negotiations with Google where we will be looking for them to pay an appropriate amount for the volume of music they use and the contribution that songwriters make to the success of their service.

In the meantime, please help us to help you. There are numerous Internet blogs hosting discussions on songwriter royalties. All too often, the voice of the composer and songwriter is lost in the midst of issues relating to the freedom of the Internet. Many blog posters misunderstand how royalties work and how you get paid. We should not forget that more than 90% of PRS for Music members receive less than £5,000 per year in royalties.

Wherever possible, please contribute fully to this online debate, putting the composer and songwriter point of view. Additionally, if you feel you could give your time, where needed, to talk or write to the media in support of PRS for Music and of the composer/songwriter community, please email us.

With best wishes
Steve Porter, Chief Executive, PRS for Music

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Since posting the first list of tour dates for Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues: An Evening With Writer Michael Gray, so many have been added and announced piecemeal that it seems like time to list the whole lot again (except, obviously, for the warm-up dates already done). So here goes. Starting in the US on the last day of March, the tour also visits England, Canada and Ireland.

Not all venue tickets are on sale yet - at Stroud they won't go on sale till mid-April; in Toronto I'm told the venue's website is adding my event to their list as from today - but here it is (including new information re the US dates at Nyack NY and at Farmingdale, Long Island NY):

Tuesday March 31, 7.30pm
Daemen College, Amherst NY, USA
Alumni Lounge, Wick Center, 4380 Main Street, Amherst NY 14226
information: [001] 716-839-8253
free admission and open to the public

Thursday April 2, 4.30pm
Washington College, Chestertown MD, USA
The Rose O’Neill Literary House, 300 Washington Avenue,
Chestertown, Maryland 21620
information: [001] 410-810-5768 / 410-778-2800 / Http://
free admission and open to the public

Friday April3, 7.30pm
Nyack Village Theatre, Nyack NY, USA
94 Main Street, Nyack NY 10960
Box Office: [001] 845-367-1423 or
tickets $20

Monday April 6, 8.30pm
Hugh’s Room, Toronto, Canada
2261 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Box Office: 416-531-6604 /
tickets CAD$20 in advance, CAD $22 on the door

Friday April 17, 8pm
Buxton Opera House, UK
Water Street, Buxton, Derbyshire SK17 6XN
Box Office: 0845 1272 190
tickets £8

Thursday April 23, 7.30pm
Herne Bay Little Theatre, UK
44 Bullers Avenue, Herne Bay, Kent CT6 8UH
Box Office: 01227 366004
tickets £12, £10 concessions

Saturday April 25, 8pm
One Longfellow Square, Portland ME, US
181 State St. Suite 201, Portland, Maine 04101, USA
Box Office: 207-239-1855 /
tickets $18 in advance, $20 at the door

Wednesday April 29, 5.30pm
Farmingdale State College, State Univ. of New York, USA
English & Humanities Department, Farmingdale State College
2350 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale (Long Island), NY 11735-1021, USA
information: [001] 631-420-2050
free admission and open to the public

Saturday May 2, 8pm
Bridgwater Arts Centre, UK
11-13 Castle Street, Bridgwater, Somerset TA6 3DD
Box Office: 01278 422700
tickets £12, £10 concessions

Friday May 8, 7.30pm
Doncaster Little Theatre, UK
1 East Laith Gate, Doncaster, DN1 1JD
Box Office: 01302 340422 / /
tickets £10, £8 concessions

Saturday May 9, 8pm
The Market Theatre, Ledbury, UK
Market Street, Ledbury, Herefordshire HR8 2AQ
Box Office: c/o Tourist Information Office 01531 636147
tickets £10

Sunday May 10, 7.30pm
The Quay Theatre, Sudbury, UK
Quay Lane, Sudbury, Suffolk CO10 2AN
Box Office: 01787 374745
tickets £12 (Quay Friends £11)

Wednesday May 13, 7.30pm
Uppingham Theatre, Leicestershire, UK
32 Stockerston Road, Uppingham, Leics. LE15 9UD
Box Office: 01572 820820 / / or in person at Uppingham Bookshop
or at Stamford [sic] Arts Centre
tickets £8.50

Friday May 15, 7.30pm
Cotswold Playhouse, Stroud, UK
Parliament Street, Stroud GL5 1LW
Box Office c/o Stroud Tourist Office: 01453 760960
tickets £12, £11 priority booking, £10 concessions

Saturday May 16, 7.30m
Festival of the Spoken Word, Berwick-on-Tweed, UK
The Main House, The Maltings Theatre & Arts Centre,
Eastern Lane, Berwick upon Tweed TD15 1AJ
Box Office: 01289 330999 /
tickets £10, £8 concessions

Wednesday May 20, 7pm
High Noon Saloon, Madison WI, USA
701A E. Washington Avenue (or Hwy 151), Madison Wisconsin 53703-2958
Box Office: 608-268-1122 / /
or locally thru B-Side Records, Mad City Music, Strictly Discs
tickets $15 in advance, $18 at the door

Thursday May 21, 6pm: a Dylan Days event
Hibbing Public Library, Hibbing MN, USA
2020 E. 5th Avenue, Hibbing, MN 55746
Tel: 212-362-5959
admission free but numbers limited

Wednesday May 27, 8.30pm
Whelan’s, Dublin, Ireland
25 Wexford Street, Dublin 2
Box Office: 01 4780766 / WaV Box Office Lo Call 1890 200 078 /
tickets €14

Friday May 29, 7.30pm
Exchange Studio, Hazlitt Arts Centre, Maidstone, UK
Earl Street, Maidstone, Kent ME14 1PL
Box Office: tel 01622 758611/
tickets £12.50, £10 concessions

Saturday May 30, 8pm
Bridport Arts Centre, Dorset, UK
South Street, Bridport, Dorset DT6 3NR
Box Office: 01308 424204 /
tickets £10

Thursday June 4, 7.30pm
Southport Arts Centre, UK
112 Lord Street, Southport, Merseyside PR8 1DB
Box Office: 01704 540011 /
tickets £10, £8 concessions

Saturday June 6, 8pm
Holmfirth Arts Festival, Holmfirth, UK
Holmfirth Church, Towngate, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire HD9 1HA
Box Office: 01484 682644 /
tickets £10


Tuesday, March 10, 2009


One more night has been added to my BOB DYLAN & THE POETRY OF THE BLUES tour: a couple of days before the final night (at Holmfirth Arts Festival), I've added

112 Lord Street, Southport, Merseyside PR8 1DB
Box Office: 01704 540011 /
tickets £10, £8 concessions

[PS from Grumpy Old Man Dept: Southport used to be in Lancashire but now it seems it's part of Merseyside. And when the latter was for hundreds of years just an informal name given to the area spanning both sides of the river, we all said we lived on Merseyside. But since it became the official name of a vast local government authority, people are supposed to call it living in Merseyside. And while I was there the other day I saw a van claiming to offer us all a Hygiene Assurance Service...]

Monday, March 09, 2009


. . . after a quick visit to new grandchild Freddie James Hodgson, and to old haunts Birkenhead and Liverpool. Best-looking was Freddie, followed by Liverpool.

Poor old Birkenhead looked dire: the old main shopping street, Grange Road, has long since been turned into a pedestrianised grey-paved warren of tacky cheap-modern stunted shopfronted buildings, which already look older than their years and ready to fall down from a mix of intrinsic thinness, neglect and well-deserved local indifference. This was once the largest grain port in Europe, lying on one bank of the great River Mersey, served by the great pre-war engineering achievement of the Mersey Tunnel, and with the opulent green and pleasant boroughs of the Wirral Peninsula right behind it. Instead of serving as the natural recipient of these benefits and the central town for these places, it has shrunk, through long-term council mismanagement, neglect and stupidity, into a bleak, decaying eyesore where only a marooned and hapless underclass consents to walk its streets.

Back home, flying from Liverpool to Carcassonne on Sunday morning, a friend had seen and had to buy this spot-on babygro for Freddie:

It came from

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


I may not be able to blog again till next week. Tomorrow Sarah has a six-hour drive to take me to Carcassonne airport and herself back home again. I fly over to Liverpool (the John Lennon Airport, motto "Above us only sky" - honestly, it is), and then get a bus and a train to Malton, North Yorkshire, to go and see our new grandson Freddie (Freddie James Hodgson, a son to Jessamyn Beattie and Chris Hodgson) and to eat a No.63 from the local Thai restaurant (Tui's, in Yorkersgate); on Thursday it's back to Liverpool for an interview live on the Billy Butler Show on BBC Radio Merseyside and to stay overnight on the Wirral. Friday I'm back in Liverpool and back on the radio, pre-recording things for two more Radio Merseyside programmes and one on Radio 2, then back 'cross the Mersey to Birkenhead for my BOB DYLAN & THE POETRY OF THE BLUES event at their Pacific Road Arts Centre at 7.30pm. Saturday is free, and then on Sunday I fly home again, early in the morning. Anyway that's my excuse for not blogging again this week. Unless I do, of course.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


For details, please see my other blog (TRAVELIN' SHOES in the Links list).