BOB DYLAN ENCYCLOPEDIA: A BLOG 2006-2012

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

PEOPLE IN PORTLAND

I'd like to say how very much I enjoyed Portland Maine - my couple of hours in the city in general and my evening event in particular. The people who came were very warm, generous and chatty with me - and, almost uniquely, the tech person was completely ready for the soundcheck - on time and with all the equipment working perfectly. So thank you James, and Tom too.

But especially I'd like to thank the Hardings... and to ask if they would please either e-mail me privately or else contact me by posting a comment in response to this (which I can read in private without publishing), letting me have their e-mail address.

(Not only did they give me a present at the end of the event, but they even gave me one to give to Freddie James Hodgson! This is a first. His mother was delighted. "Ooh, so he has fans already," she said.)

I have no thoughts on the new album yet. Lots of new comments have come in (to this blog) since I last had access to a computer, and I've just published them somewhere below, and one Dylan devotee of many many years has sent me a ferocious but private dismissal of it (and of Dylan live), but I'm waiting a while yet to comment.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

THE DYLAN INTERVIEW BY BILL FLANAGAN

All credit to Bill Flanagan for earning enough of Dylan's respect to be given the job, and for doing it so well. The final part, officially published yesterday, again elicits a bounty of interesting stuff from Dylan:

Conversation With Bill Flanagan –Part Six

LIFE IS HARD comes from a tradition that got pretty much wiped out by the popularity of swing and blues and rock n roll. I remember Leon Redbone said once that the big break in 20th century music was not in the 50’s when rock came in; it was when swing and jazz knocked off parlor piano ballads in the late 20’s and early 30’s. Do you ever wish that old style had stuck around a little longer?

Today, the mad rush of the world would trample over delicate music like that. Even if it had survived swing and jazz it would never make it past Dr. Dre. Things changed economically and socially. Two world wars, the stock market crash, the depression, the sexual revolution, huge sound systems, techno-pop. How could anything survive that? You can’t imagine parlor ballads drifting out of hi rise multi-towered buildings. That kind of music existed in a more timeless state of life. I love those old piano ballads. In my hometown walking down dark streets on quiet summer nights you would sometimes hear parlor tunes coming out of doorways and open windows. Somebody’s mother or sister playing A BIRD IN A GUILDED CAGE off of sheet music. I actually tried to conjure up that feeling once in a song I did called IN THE SUMMERTIME.

No one was expecting a new album from you right now. I heard even the record company was surprised. How do you know it’s time to go in and make a new one?

You never do know. You just think sometimes if not now I’ll never do it. This particular album was supposed to come out next Fall sometime; September, October; when the movie’s released. We made it last year and it was supposed to be put away for a year. But then the guys from the record company heard it, and decided that they would like to put it out in early spring and not wait for the movie.

You don’t use elevated language on these songs – it’s mostly every-day speech and imagery. Did you decide to keep a lid on the poetry this time out - was it what the musical style demanded?

I’m not sure I agree. It’s not easy to define poetry. Hank Williams used simple language too.

IT’S ALL GOOD is a terrific song. You use that common catch phrase as a hook and describe a world that gets darker and more miserable with every verse – it’s kind of funny and kind of scary. How did that song get started?

Probably from hearing the phrase one too many times.

Every girl named Roxanne feels a connection to Sting. Every Alison thinks Elvis Costello was singing about her. You expecting to meet a lot of Jolenes?

Oh gosh, I hope not.

Any chance your Jolene is the same woman who got Dolly Parton so worked up? You mean that woman with the flaming locks of auburn hair?

Yeah! Who’s smile is like a breath of Spring. Oh yeah, I remember her.

Is it the same one?

It’s a different lady.

At the end of JOLENE I noticed that those riffs start happening. I’ve seen you do that live, but I’ve never heard that on any of your records. I assume that’s Donnie playing with you.

Yeah, it is. The organ sound and steel guitar combined make those riffs.

Tony, your bass player has been with you now for … what?

Gee, I don’t know, probably for a while. Fifteen, twenty years.*

How about your drummer, George?

Not as long as Tony but longer than my last drummer.

Where does George come from to play like that?

George is from Louisiana. He’s from New Orleans.

There’s no characters on this record like the ones in DESOLATION ROW, except maybe Judge Simpson in SHAKE, SHAKE MAMA. Would he be one of these archetypal figures like Cinderella or Shakespeare in the alley?

Oh, most definitely. He’s a possum huntin’ judge.

Certain singers show up in IT’S ALL GOOD. Neil Young and Alicia Keys have popped up on your recent albums. Do you think all your musician friends are going to be looking for shout-outs now? Once you start down that road how do you get out of it?

Well these people are archetypes, too. They might not think of themselves like that, but they are. They represent an idea

Could you write a song about anybody?

Well I bet you could, yeah.

How would you get Stevie Wonder into a song?

When Stevie Wonder recorded BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND/ I was playin’ cards/ I was drinkin’ gin/

Could you write a song like Stevie wonder?

I could write one like SUPERSTITION but I couldn’t write one like SIR DUKE.

Could you write a song about George Bush?

Well sure. George’s name would be easy to rhyme.

In the song I FEEL A CHANGE COMING ON the character says….

Wait a minute Bill. I’m not a playwright. The people in my songs are all me. I thought we talked about that?

What exactly makes it you?

It’s in the way you say things. It’s not necessarily the things you say that make you who you are.

Okay, I think the line is, “I see my baby coming, she’s walking with the village priest/I feel a change coming on.”

Yeah, but you’re leaving a lot out.

Okay, but that’s the part I remember. I assume the guy, or you, are talking about being hooked up with somebody and feeling pretty good about it. Given what a hard time women have given the men, or you, in the other songs on the album, we can read this as a happy ending or a sign of trouble ahead. What are the chances that the guy in FEEL A CHANGE is likely to live happily ever after?

You might be reading too much into it. It’s not a fairy tale type song. There are degrees of happiness. You go from one to the other and then back again. It’s hard to be completely happy when those around us are suffering and groaning from hunger. But I know what you mean. You are talking about riding off into the sunset hoping that whatever you’ve done will outlive you.

Isn’t that the Hindu point of view?

Maybe it is.

A lot of performers give God credit for their music. How do you suppose God feels about that?

I’m not the one to ask. It sounds like people just giving credit where credit is due.

How do you think this new record will be received?

I know my fans will like it. Other than that, I have no idea.

_____
* Tony Garnier first played with Dylan on June 3, 1989 (in Dublin), and became his regular bass player (and more) as of June 10th that year.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

BAD NEWS, BAD NEWS CAME TO ME WHILE I WORKED

It’s very bad news that almost all the new album’s songs are co-written with Robert Hunter. Last time they co-wrote we got ‘Silvio’ and, worse still, ‘The Ugliest Girl In The World’…

And not only is that bad news in itself, but it's also been done a bit sneakily.

As ISIS, which broke the news, notes : "It is somewhat strange that, with the steady flow of pre-publicity over recent weeks, there has been no mention of this Dylan-Hunter collaboration." Indeed.

And the strong odour of sneakiness has been summed up so well by one of my readers that I reprint most of his or her comments here. (They're to be found in full in the Comments at the end of the "BOB'S NEW ALBUM" entry a few entries ago - along with other new comment.)

... How does this news strike you? I can't help but feel this is a letdown from an artist who's always been such a singular, idiosyncratic voice. Maybe it will be just a fun, throwaway bunch of songs, but I can feel my anticipation of the album ebbing away. If the publicity had played on this as a feature, perhaps it would have been easier to warm to the idea. Instead, they seem to have avoided it, possibly knowing what a dampener it would be on the enthusiasm of the "target market".

IMMINENT DATES - NOT BOB'S BUT MINE

Imminent:

After the North American dates earlier this month, my event Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues resumes in the UK, starting tomorrow night, Friday April 17, at Buxton Opera House, Derbyshire. Box Office: 0845 1272 190 / www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk , tickets £8.

Next comes Herne Bay Little Theatre, Kent, on Thursday April 23 (Box Office: 01227 366004, tickets £12, £10 concessions).

Two days after that I'm back in the States, at a club called One Longfellow Square in Portland Maine (Box Office: 207-239-1855 / www.onelongfellowsquare.com, tickets $18 in advance, $20 on the night).

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

CHARMING INTERNATIONALISM . . .

. . . and, what's more, competent technology:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

PHIL SPECTOR FOUND GUILTY...

Phil Spector's famous Wall of Hair
(photographer unknown)

Phil Spector was found guilty of 2nd degree murder in Los Angeles yesterday. The jury spent 30 hours deliberating but reached their verdict unanimously yesterday. This was a re-trial and concerned the murder of Lana Clarkson, an out of work actress, fatally shot in the mouth in Spector's home in 2003. He'll be sentenced on May 29th. His lawyer is threatening to appeal. It's a hell of a long time for the case to have dragged on, especially for the relatives of Ms Clarkson. (Spector, of course, has been in no hurry.)
What is 2nd degree murder? According to Wikipedia, in California it's "the default category" for a murder that may be pre-meditated or committed while perpetrating a felony but is not committed "in special circumstances" (as with killing a police officer etc) or killing a civilian in an unusually nasty way. I suppose fatally shooting someone in the mouth isn't unusually nasty. But according to the FindLaw website, 2nd degree murder is "ordinarily defined as 1) an intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned, nor committed in a reasonable 'heat of passion' or 2) a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender's obvious lack of concern for human life. Second-degree murder may best be viewed as the middle ground between first-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter."
Either way, if his appeal fails, Spector will serve about 15 years in prison but will be eligible for parole. He's 69 now.
Here's the entry on him from The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia (the end of which clearly now needs updating with the retrial news):
Spector, Phil [1940 - ]
Phil Spector, the world’s oldest boy genius, was born Harvey Phillip Spector in the Bronx on Boxing Day, 1940. He and his mother Bertha moved to Los Angeles when he was 12, three years after his father Ben’s suicide: an event that, more than any other, ‘explains’ Spector’s lifetime of disturbed behaviour. Mad, inspired record-producer; seven-stone weakling; gun-toting paranoic; teen tantrum king; abusive husband and father: this is Phil Spector on a good day.
He achieved immortality in the world of pre-BEATLES pop, making what he dubbed as ‘little symphonies for the kids’ - a lava flow of hit singles by the Crystals, the Ronettes, Darlene Love, the Righteous Brothers, Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans and more besides - and spent the next forty years or so in dark and stormy decline.
He learnt piano, french horn, drums and guitar at school, and began writing songs with schoolfriend Marshall Lieb. With the splendidly-named Annette Bard (really Kleinbard), another schoolfriend, they formed vocal trio The Teddy Bears, and in 1958 recorded Spector’s composition ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’, its title taken from his father’s tombstone. It hit the US Top 10 and sold a million. Spector was 17 years old. Unforgettably catchy, it is an artfully naïve record, very sweet and very ‘white’. Even the upbeat B-side has a timid sensitivity, summed up in the comically solicitous couplet ‘Don’t you worry my little pet, don’t you worry and don’t you fret’.
All this was totally out of character for its creator. Spector’s own musical taste ran to jazz and rhythm’n’blues; as his later records would soon prove, he preferred thunderous bedlam to tender timidity and he was about as solicitous as a crocodile.
Four Teddy Bears follow-ups were flops, and so were records by the so-called Spectors Three. This was the first of many career reverses, and the ambitious singer and songwriter didn’t take it well. A murky period in Spector’s history followed. It’s said that he took advantage of a job-offer as interpreter in French at UN headquarters in New York to get his airfare paid but never showed up for work, instead meeting his backroom-boy heroes, Leiber & Stoller, who had written hits for ELVIS and for many black acts like the Coasters. More likely, he stayed in LA, worked as a typist while studying at UCLA and then at 18 re-entered the record-business, working under guitarist Duane Eddy’s producers, Lester Sill and Lee Hazelwood in Phoenix, Arizona, learning studio production before persuading Sill to send him to New York in 1960.
There he not only met Leiber & Stoller but co-wrote, with Leiber, Ben E. King’s classic ‘Spanish Harlem’. He also met Ray Peterson, star of the death record ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’, and produced his follow-up, ‘Corrina Corrina‘, Spector’s first hit as a producer. He was soon back in the charts with the Paris Sisters’ ‘I Love How You Love Me’, Gene Pitney’s ‘Every Breath I Take’ and Curtis Lee’s ‘Pretty Little Angel Eyes’, and doing freelance A&R for Atlantic Records. These conventional slices of pop gave no hint of the distinctive vision Spector was about to unleash.
The famous Wall Of Sound arrived in 1962, by which time Spector had bought out his partner and at 21 was sole owner of the record-label Philles. He brought together a team of session players, many of whom, like pianist LEON RUSSELL and guitarist Glen Campbell, would later be famous themselves. Spector bullied and hectored these people into a phenomenon - a hit-making machine that, under his dictatorial direction, turned out around 15 timeless classics, including ‘He’s A Rebel’, ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’ and ‘Then He Kissed Me’ by the Crystals, ‘Be My Baby’ and ‘Baby I Love You’ by the Ronettes, ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah’ by Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans and ‘(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry’ and ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ by Darlene Love. Spector was a millionaire before he was 22. Tom Wolfe called him ‘the first tycoon of teen’.
These records changed the rules. Instead of the music being mere ‘backing’ behind the vocals, it became exponentially multiplied, so that the mix of teenage angst and howling sexuality offered by the singers had to make itself heard above a torrid cacophony in which no distinction was possible between percussion and other instrumentation. Instead of the producer being an anonymous figure whose job was to transmit without interference the individual singer and song, Spector invented, at a stroke, the hauteur director of sound, dreaming up and hurling out three-minute Wagnerian operas in which the youthful and raunchy vocalists were almost as interchangeable as back-row violinists. So thoroughly were all these other talents mere tools in the fiery workshop of the maestro that to this day everyone knows the 1963 LP A Christmas Gift For You as Phil Spector’s Christmas Album. As Darlene Love recalls, ‘He wanted to build an empire for himself and be bigger than his artists. And it worked.’ More generous than Spector ever was, she adds: ‘You don’t know how some of those singers sounded without him. Phil made everyone sound good.’
He also revitalised the early-60s pop record, replacing the thin, exhausted platitudes of a hundred Bobbies and Johnnies with the tumult of musical armageddon and the erotic exotica of nubile girl groups with very short skirts and towering, sticky beehive hair-dos. For many fans, their first glimpse of the sultry Ronettes and first hearing of that up-front demand ‘Be my baby NOW!’ was a sexual awakening.
Yet at the same time, just as black Americans were beginning to march and stand up for their civil rights, Spector had the nerve to make records that were often racially androgynous. You couldn’t tell if the Righteous Brothers were black or white; you couldn’t tell the male-female mix of Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans.
Spector’s unique mastery of the sound-desk meant that his songwriting skill went unnoticed. Yet if he hadn’t been a producer, he’d still have been a rich, significant figure in pop as a writer or co-writer of classics, from his very first attempt, on across his Wall of Sound smashes (he co-wrote most of them), through ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’’ to Ike & Tina Turner’s ‘River Deep Mountain High’. In later years he co-wrote with Harry Nilsson, GEORGE HARRISON and LEONARD COHEN.
Spector was one of four pop figures customarily called a genius, and influenced at least one of the others, Beach Boy BRIAN WILSON. While Spector himself ‘retired’ at 25, furious that ‘River Deep Mountain High’ was a flop in America (it was a smash in Britain), the Beach Boys’ complex mid-60s recordings like Pet Sounds and ‘Good Vibrations’ owed much to Wilson’s admiration for Spector.
His influence was everywhere. THE ROLLING STONES’ early manager / producer, Andrew Loog Oldham, was a Spector wannabe. And if the Beatles and Stones made Spector seem old-fashioned, and the hits girl-group hits dried up, he bounced back when notorious music mogul Allen Klein put Spector and the Beatles together. By this point a legend and still only 30 years old, Spector was hired by Klein to remix Let it Be. McCARTNEY hated Klein issuing the re-mixed ‘Long and Winding Road’ as a single. Beatle publicist Derek Taylor says when Paul heard what Spector had done, he thought it was ‘the shittiest thing anyone had ever done to him, and that was saying something.’
After the Beatles split, LENNON used Spector on his first solo LP and then Phil produced the ex-Beatle solo album that wiped the floor with everyone else’s, George Harrison’s triple-LP All Things Must Pass. Spector-produced hits from these albums included ‘Instant Karma’ and ‘My Sweet Lord’, and in 1971 he produced the Concert For Bangla Desh organised by Harrison that brought together everyone from Ravi Shankar to Clapton and Dylan. (Dylan and Harrison, getting together in the studio the previous May, had tipped their hats to Spector with a fond but daft, Dylanised version of ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’, on which 90% of the lyric remained out of his grasp.)
This was the first of only two real encounters between the two, though between the two has come the famous hoax of a rumoured 1965 Bob Dylan Christmas album, supposedly part-produced by Spector and titled Snow Over Interstate 80: a hoax perpetrated by UK music paper New Musical Express in 1975. (One of the tracks they claimed as included, ‘Silent Night’, was later recorded by Dylan: at an Infidels session in New York on April 22, 1983; this has never circulated, but, unlike Snow Over Insterstate 80, did exist.)
The other actual Dylan-Spector encounter was in 1977 when, on Leonard Cohen’s Spector-produced album Death Of A Ladies’ Man, Bob Dylan and ALLEN GINSBERG were back-up vocalists on one song, ‘Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On’. This album was not a success, and nor were Spector-produced mid-1970s records by Dion and Cher.
People never gave up on Spector, though. In 1980 New York punk group the Ramones got him to produce their album End of the Century, and as late as 1996 he was warring with Celine Dion’s team over an abortive collaboration, declaring: ‘You don’t tell Shakespeare what plays to write, or how to write them, and you certainly don’t tell Phil Spector.’
Rather, he gave up on himself. He stayed locked inside the most wired, guard-dog infested mansion in all of Hollywood, and wore, as well as the obligatory dark glasses, a huge cross around his neck and a gun on his hip. Drug stories and arrests, bodyguard beatings and dangerous tantrums became commonplace around him, culminating in his indictment on a murder charge in 2004, after 40-year-old actor Lana Clarkson was found dead in early 2003, shot through the mouth at his home. Spector was freed on $1m bail. At the time of writing (January 2006), he has withdrawn a $1m suit against his own first trial attorney, lost his bid to rule out police testimony that he first claimed he’d shot Ms Clarkson by accident before claiming she’d killed herself, and announced that if acquitted he will, at age 65, marry 25-year-old fiancée Rachelle Short.
As writer Mary Harron put it, ‘He had one perfect moment in the early 60s, and never recovered.’

[The Teddy Bears: ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’, LA, 1958, Doré 503, US & Canada (London-American HL 8733, UK), 1958. Various Artists: A Christmas Gift For You, nia, Philles PHLP-4005, US, 1963. Bob Dylan & George Harrison: ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’, NY, May 1-2, 1970, unreleased. The NME hoax article, dated only as 1975, is reproduced online (seen Jan 6 2006) at www.searchingforagem.com/snowover.htm.]

Monday, April 13, 2009

DYLAN'S NEW ALBUM

If you want to, you can hear short excerpts from every track on Together Through Life at http://www.dylancollector.com/ttl.mp3.

I have done... and I wish I'd been strong enough not to. Not so much because they all sound mediocre or worse as because it's preposterous to even begin to judge an album like this.

I have now listened to the whole of ‘Beyond Here Lies Nothing’ - which isn’t quite as bad as I’d feared, though to hear him singing new words to ‘Black Magic Woman’ is a bit depressing - and ‘I Feel A Change Coming On’ - which I quite like. There are pleasant vocal moments (moments where he bothers to do other than just rasp with disgruntlement), and there is something about the smooth echo in the studio, and the structure of the melody, that on a first hearing reminded me somehow of Arthur Alexander. And that's high praise.

But I’m not re-listening. I’m going to wait for the album now. And though I welcome the comments posted on the subject already from three or four people (see a post or two further down) it’s absurdly premature to be writing a critique.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

FORGOT TO SAY ROB STONER SAID...

... (as the Steven Hart review mentioned), Rob Stoner says that about a month ago he was film-interviewed by Jeff Rosen for a follow-up film to Scorsese's No Direction Home, this time, as he understands it, documenting Dylan's 1970s. And maybe beyond? Either way, good news.

Monday, April 06, 2009

THOSE NEW BOB DYLAN SONGS

My thanks to a couple more comment suppliers. I'm drawn to Lee Morgan's comments - they offer an obviously sincere, articulate argument, given grace by the pain behind them... but why am I drawn to them when I've heard none of the album?! I don't know. Perhaps the answer to that is Modern Times.

Meanwhile, an e-mail from Andrew Muir, subject-headed "Coincidence":

"I see John Sinclair, born in 1941 and big in the 60s, has a book coming out this month called It’s All Good. I see Bob Dylan, born in 1941 and big in the 60s, has an album coming out this month ending with a track called 'It’s All Good'.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

NYACK GONE, TORONTO COMING

It was a huge pleasure to meet the writer and literary blogger Steven Hart at my Nyack NY gig, and he did indeed seem to enjoy the performance - but I hadn't expected anything so flattering as the review he has already put online here (underneath one of the more severe photo-faces I've managed to pull in recent years: pre-gig nerves rather than ill will on my part). It was also a pleasure to meet another fellow-writer, Nick DiGiovanni, both at the event and afterwards.

It was also great for me - slightly alarming but great - that Rob Stoner did indeed come to hear me speak. He was quick to enthuse, and, as I'd remembered from our first meeting (at the John Green Convention in Northampton a couple of years ago) an exceptionally warm, alert and approachable man. The day after the gig, I drove out to the terrific home in the woods he shares with partner Margery and spaniel Cricket, 45 minutes from Manhattan. Rob's music room throbs with guitars, records, books, sheet music and an unstoppable enthusiasm. He's proud to show souvenirs of his Rolling Thunder years - and his days with Link Wray, Robert Gordon and more besides - but he's not living in the past.

He just respects it. One of the books he showed me was his heavy old hardback of John and Alan Lomax's collection of American folk songs - a copy autographed by John Lomax. The house itself was built in the 1840s, and there's a big red barn to go with it.

Rob squeezed me in between guitar lessons - and when he showed me his schedule for the month of April I realised he really had squeezed me in. He had no regrets about having decided to stop schlepping about on the road.

And I can quite see that. I'm missing my own home and family even on my relatively short tour. I'm sitting in the Days Inn coffee shop on Carlton Street, Toronto, after a post-Nyack night in Manhattan, a bus ride to the airport at Newark and the flight up here at lunchtime. My next talk/show is tomorrow night, at Hugh's Room, Dundas Street West, at 8.30pm. Then back home, via Newark and JFK, for a few days in Southwest France before a mid-April event at Buxton Opera House.

Everyone at Daemen College the other day was asking if I'd heard the free-download track from Bob's new album. I hadn't, because I'd been travelling that day. I've been sent one very negative comment about it (which is published somewhere below) but those who were asking me were enthusiastic. As was, to take us back almost to the beginning of this post, Nick DiGivanni. He encouraged me by saying it sounded nothing like Modern Times: more like an old Stax record. I hope.

Friday, April 03, 2009

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

I'm sitting in the lobby of the Best Western Nyack on the Hudson (it says here), using one of two guest computers - having, myself, neither laptop nor blackberry to use wi-fi-ily in my own room. The snag with the lobby is that you must listen to an incessant musak of overwrought romantic rock ballads, with soupy machine-made music behind vocalists who only know hand-wringing, posturing, self-sentimentalising and gulps. The same stuff has been on almost every radio station available in my rented car these last few days. How did public taste get this bad?

The only alternatives were the usual menacing baptist ministers, and, least awful, NPR. Curious how even they manage to recruit djs/anchorpersons who sound deeply stupid, stumble over the simplest words and introduce bits of Classical Music in tones of voice they imagine are upscale and civilised. Bah humbug.

Torrential rain, such that I could barely see through the windscreen for a couple of Interstate hours, and heavy rain for an hour and more before the monsoon. I left Chestertown Maryland this morning. A really interesting town, with many a cross-street of lovely 18th Century houses, and set on the banks of a half-mile-wide river - the scene of struggles against His Majesty's tea-tax-collecting boats 200+ years ago. Washington College, which hosted my event at their excellent Rose O'Neill Literary House, was founded in 1782. That's Olde American.

This was my second US gig, after Daemen College, Buffalo NY - right up near Niagara Falls - on the last day of March. Quite a contrast between the two audiences: at Daemen it was mostly not students, but older college people (who could afford to buy my books); at Washington College it was mostly students (who couldn't). A very knowledgeable bunch they were too. And they broke into applause at the end of Big Joe Williams' and Bob's 1962 recording of 'Sittin On Top Of The World' - which was a first.

Tonight, the Nyack Village Theater, with, I'm told, Rob Stoner coming along - and, I hope, Steven Hart too: the author of the very best literary blog I've ever encountered (it's always in the Links List on the left). Then two days off before Hugh's Room Toronto on April 6.

Oh lawdy, now they're playing a whole slew of Elton John records. I have to leave now.