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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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Wednesday, March 31, 2010


A rareish and evocative shot of Buddy Holly on an earlier winter tour:
arriving on his tour bus in Rochester, New York, to play at the Auditorium Theater,
Sunday January 19, 1958.
I think the photo is by Lewis Allen, published a while ago in The Guardian.

The great Son House was living in the slums of Rochester NY at the time, having moved there in 1943. It's where he gave up playing, sold his guitar and, later, would be amazed to be ‘rediscovered’.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Sorry to learn this morning of the death of Jim Marshall in New York last night. He was one of the best rock photographers, having begun his career with portraits of non-rock figures like Thelonius Monk and then in the 1960s and 1970s capturing everyone from the Who and Hendrix to Dylan, becoming the official photographer at Woodstock and, apparently, the only photographer allowed backstage at the last Beatles concert. As they said on BBC 6 Music (radio station), Marshall was one of those whose pictures made rock stars look like gods.

In Dylan's case, Jim Marshall documented him at Newport '63 and '64 (not just in performance, but backstage with, among others, Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, John Hammond Jnr. and Joan Baez); in the Village and other bits of NYC in 1963 (including a well-known picture of Bob rolling a tyre along the pavement in front of him, and pictures with Suzie Rotolo and Dave Van Ronk); in 1965 in San Francisco - onstage with Robbie Robertson, and in the street with Robbie, Michael McClure and Allen Ginsberg - and back in San Francisco at the Warfield in November 1980.

I never met him but I spoke to him on the phone 30 years ago, steering a perilous route through the vagaries of his paranoid mood but feeling a special gratitude to him from back then, because when Hamlyns was preparing the heavily illustrated second edition of my Dylan study (published in 1981 - 1982 in the US) they did a deal with Jim Marshall, under which he supplied us with a whole tranche of previously unpublished photographs of Dylan from these various earlier periods. Hence they all appear copyrighted 1981 in the book. This one, from 1965, is on page 146:

Monday, March 22, 2010


I'd like to draw your attention to a fine, thoughtful article by John Carvill that has just appeared online. 'You Had To Ask Me Where It Was At: Dylan & the Media' (Part 1) is here on Oomska.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


The man who played drums on Dylan's electric début performance at Newport in 1965 turns 75 today. He's been a key figure for other artists too - not least for the great Howlin Wolf - but here's his entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia:

Lay, Sam [1935 - ]
Samuel Lay was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 20, 1935 and took up drumming at age 14. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio and joined his first band in 1956, moved over to The Thunderbirds in 1957, moved to Chicago, played in Little Walter’s band in 1959 and the following year joined HOWLIN WOLF’s. At one point he was shot, sustaining a bullet wound that continued to give him problems. He remained with Wolf until 1963, when he and bassist JEROME ARNOLD were lured away by the promise of better pay to become founder members of the PAUL BUTTERFIELD Blues Band.

Fond of garish clothes and extraordinary shoes, he wore a towering pompadour above his handsome face, and in the words of Charles Sawyer in a potted online biography of the Butterfield Band, Lay ‘played drums with weight-lifter’s arms’. When ALBERT GROSSMAN had a physical fight with ALAN LOMAX after Lomax had given the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s own set at the 1965 NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL some patronising introduction that no-one can quite remember but was along the lines of ‘let’s see if these white boys can play the blues’, Sam Lay pitched in to separate them.

Like Jerome Arnold, he is a member of the group Dylan chose to back him at his début electric gig at the festival that July 25; unlike Arnold, he was also in the studios in New York on the August 2 session for the Highway 61 Revisited album. Many takes of the title track, ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’, ‘Queen Jane Approximately’, ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ and ‘Desolation Row’ were attempted that day, including the take of each issued on the album, but what Sam Lay played on is doubtful; he is uncredited on the album and the official Dylan website listing for the album, and BOBBY GREGG was also in the studio that day and is credited.

Sam Lay was in poor health by this point, despite his robust appearance and his youth (he only turned 30 that year), and had to leave the Paul Butterfield Blues Band before they recorded their second album.

He recovered, however, was the original drummer for the James Cotton Blues Band and in 1969 played on MUDDY WATERS’ Fathers and Sons album (along with Butterfield and Bloomfield). Later he formed the Sam Lay Blues Revival Band, and subsequently the Sam Lay Blues Band. He has released albums like Shuffle Master, Sam Lay Live, Stone Blues and Rush Hour Blues, and Live on Beale Street in 2000 and I Get Evil in 2003. That year he also appeared as himself in the movie The Howlin Wolf Story, in which his silent home movies were a highlight, showing Wolf and the great Hubert Sumlin on stage and Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter in the audience.

[Bob Dylan with Sam Lay et al: ‘Maggie’s Farm’, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ & ‘It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry’, Newport RI, 25 Jul 1965. Charles Sawyer quote from ‘Blues With A Feeling: A Biography of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’, 1994, online Jul 2 2005 at]


This is an Arthur Rackham illustration from 1906 for the fairy story Tom Thumb, forwarded to me by Wesley Stace (courtesy of Abbey Stace). As Wes comments, apparently it is depicting Bob Dylan and accomplice making off with Tom Thumb.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Two years ago today, we moved into our house in Southwest France. (There are pictures of it here.) The area sees an extraordinary country music festival each July in a market-town very close to here, and an even bigger so-called Jazz Festival every August in the otherwise tranquil Marciac. (Three years ago the main acts here were Taj Mahal and Joe Cocker: terrific, but not exactly jazz.)

This year's performers at the country festival will include Bob Dylan's old friend Hugues Aufray (not exactly "country"). He is 80 years old. Here is his entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia:

Aufray, Hugues [1929 - ]
Hugues Auffray [sic] was born in an agreeable suburb of Paris on August 18, 1929 but when his family fled the German occupation of the city in 1940 he was sent away to a Dominican monastery school in the Tarn, in south-west France. In 1945 his now-divorced father moved him to a school in Madrid. He returned to Paris in 1948, hoping to become a painter but busking for money either side of military conscription in 1949 (in the Alps).

On his return to Paris he married a dancer, had children and for almost 10 years worked only by singing in local bars and cabaret. In 1959, pushed into entering a radio competition, he won a record deal and found immediate popularity.

In 1962 he visited New York City, encountered the excitement of the Greenwich Village folk-revival movement and met Bob Dylan. The two formed a personal bond as well as Aufray being inspired by the young American’s songs. On Aufray’s return to France he introduced the acoustic folk style to French pop (which, God knows, would have been improved by almost anything), toured to great acclaim performing a number of Dylan’s songs.

In the spring of 1964, just before returning to the States to record Another Side Of Bob Dylan, Dylan visited France and stayed with Hugues Aufray in Paris. Aufray began working (with Pierre Delanoë and Jean-Pierre Sabar) on translating an album of Dylan songs into French. This famous album, Aufray chante Dylan, duly appeared in 1965 to widespread European and French-Canadian acclaim (and was also issued in the UK).

The songs, refreshed by their French-language titles, were: ‘La fille du nord’, ‘Ce que je veux surtout’ (‘All I Really Want To Do’), ‘Ce n’était pas moi’, ‘Oxford Town’, ‘Corrina Corrina’, ‘Cauchemar psychomoteur’, ‘Les temps changent’, ‘La ballade de Hollis Brown’, ‘La mort solitaire de Hattie Carroll’, ‘Dieu est a nos côtés’ and ‘Le jour où le bateau viendra’. When CD-reissued in the 1990s it came with the extra tracks ‘L’ homme orchestre’ (‘Mr. Tambourine Man’) and ‘N’ y pense plus tout est bien’ plus a live 1964 cut of the latter and four live 1966 tracks: ‘Les temps changent’, ‘La fille du nord’, ‘L’ homme orchestre’ and ‘Cauchemar pychomoteur’.

In another lifetime, 30 years later, Aufray released a 2-CD set, Aufray trans Dylan, the first disc comprising re-recordings of more or less the original album’s worth of Dylan songs, and the second new translations (all his own work) of newer material. This was still mostly drawn from the 1960s but did include a ‘Mais qu’est-ce que tu voulais?’ (‘What Was It You Wanted?’) and an ‘Au couer de mon pays’ (‘Heartland’, the Bob Dylan-WILLIE NELSON song).

A year later, on the live 2-CD set Au Casino de Paris, 17 of its 27 songs were by Dylan and included ‘Comme des pierres qui roulent’ (‘Like A Rolling Stone’) and the song Dylan himself had had an English-language hit with in France, ‘Man Gave Names To All The Animals’, or as Aufray had it, ‘L’ homme dota d’ un nom chaque animal’.

In the summer of 1984, Aufray made surprise appearances on stage with Dylan - at Bob’s Paris concert of July 1 and then two nights later in Grenoble - in each case playing guitar and sharing vocals with Dylan on ‘Les Temps Changent’.

Aufray has remained a law unto himself, often disappearing from public view to his farm or his ranch for long periods, sometimes not giving the French public what it thinks it wants, touring Africa and generally espousing rural and ecological causes like a decent human being.

[Hugues Aufray: Aufray chante Dylan, nia, Barclay 80.289S (mono) & BB106 SS (stereo), Paris, 1965; Fontana TL 5329, UK; Barclay CBLP 2076, B-8019 & 45503, Canada; CD-reissue Dial 900 2217, France 1992 & Barclay 519 9 308-2 (with only 2 ‘bonus tracks’), Paris, 1993 (the 1997 & 2000 reissues have no extra tracks); Aufray trans Dylan, nia, Arcade 3006762 2-LP version Arcade 3006766), Paris, 1995; Au Casino de Paris, Paris, Feb 1996, 2-CD set Arcade 3032272, Paris, 1997.]

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I'm sorry to learn that Charlie Gillett died this morning (March 17, after a long illness). He wrote the pioneering Sound of the City, founded Oval Records, campaigned early and long for World Music, and was DJ of a fine long-running show on BBC Radio London. He was only in his 60s.

There's an excellent obituary of Charlie by Richard Williams in The Guardian here.

For myself, I didn't know him well but we were both involved in the Rock Writers' Co-operative that produced Let It Rock magazine in the 1970s, so we would see each other at its monthly meetings. I last saw him in the 21st Century when I was a guest on his show. In June 2000, I was on his show playing what he called Radio Ping Pong with him, where the guest would play a track and then he'd play something in response.

It's not remotely important, but since I kept the list of what we played, it was:

MG: Jimi Hendrix, 'The Drifter's Escape'
CG: Matumbi, 'The Man In Me'
MG: Garfield Akers, 'Cottonfield Blues'
CG: The Hollywood Flames, 'Buzz Buzz Buzz'
MG: Tommy Steele, 'Come On, Let's Go'
CG: Big Bill Broonzy, 'Five Foot Seven'
MG: Memphis Minnie, 'Me And My Chauffeur Blues'
CG: Los De Abajo, 'Cabanas'
MG: Bob Dylan, 'Obviously 5 Believers'
CG: Bob Marley & The Wailers, 'Zimbabwe'
MG: Blind Willie Johnson, 'Mother's Children Have A Hard Time' [sic]
CG: Issa Bagayogo, 'Diarabi'
MG: Bob Dylan, 'Lord Protect My Child'

I think I saw him only once after that, when "Love and Theft" was Dylan's latest album. Never a great Dylan fan, he was surprised by, and enthusiastic about, 'Summer Days'.


Now that Bob's office has announced a series of dates in France and Spain as part of his forthcoming tour, and these are in June, I was thinking we'd have to move the dates of our Summer Days Weekends to another month. (I'm under no illusion that I can compete with Bob.)

But actually, for the weekend of Friday 25 to Sunday 27 of June, there's a way of combining two or three of Bob's French dates with a Summer Days. It would work like this:

Thursday 24th: Dylan concert in Barcelona.
Friday 25th: drive across the Pyrenees to our house in SouthWest France: the weekend starts here.
Saturday 26th: Summer Days Weekend continues.
Sunday 27th: leave here and drive the leisurely three hours to Carcassonne in plenty of time for:
Monday 28th: Dylan concert in Carcassonne
Tuesday 29th: Dylan concert in Bordeaux.

(It's also easy to travel by train from Barcelona to Tarbes (near us), and from there to Carcassonne and from there to Bordeaux.)

Dylan's full list of tour dates is this:

May 29th, Terra Vibe Park, Athens
May 31st, Harbiye Cemil Topuzlu Amphitheatre, Istanbul
June 2nd, Iolanda Balas Stadium, Bucharest, Romania
June 3rd, National Palace of Culture, Sophia, Bulgaria
June 4th, Skopje, Macedonia
June 6th, Belgrade, Serbia
June 7th, T-Mobile festival, Shalata open-air skating ground, Zagreb, Croatia
June 9th, Inchebo Expo Arena, Bratislava, Slovakia
June 11th, O2 Arena, Prague, Czech Republic
June 12th, Burg Clam (?), Linz, Austria
June 13th, Ljubljana, Slovenia
June 16th, Stadio dei Pini, Viareggio, Italy – Unconfirmed
June 18th, Messehalle, Dornbirn, Austria
June 20th, Halle Tony Garnier, Lyons, France
June 22nd, Zenith, Nice, France
June 23rd, Le Dome de Marseille, Marseille, France
June 24th, Poble Espanyol, Barcelona, Spain
June 26th, Azkena Rock Festival, Vitoria, Spain
June 28th, Antique Theatre, Carcassonne, France
June 29th, Patinoire, Bordeaux, France
July 1st, Nantes, France
July 3rd, Hop Farm Festival, Kent, UK
July 4th, Thomond Park Stadium, Limerick City, Eire.

Summer Days details here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


It is not too late to send in your views on the BBC's so-called Strategic Review. For myself, I've been appalled by the proposal to close down BBC 6 Music - especially in the name of keeping the BBC's special strengths and dropping activities that commercial radio can do as well or better.

There's plenty of dross on BBC 6 Music, of course - there's the awful George Lamb and his sidekick (a pair of Niceys who give the memory of Dave Lee Travis an unexpected golden glow) - but more typical of it are the music-centred, good-naturedly humane and often quite witty programmes fronted by Gideon Coe, Chris Hawkins, Cerys Matthews, Guy Garvey and especially Shaun W. Keaveny, all of which fulfil the station's essential and worthwhile brief.

That is to say, BBC 6 Music has NO commercial equivalent, and cannot have. This is a station that plays a wide variety of new music, intermingled with enough older music to encourage a sense of music history. It plays far more music from new and unknown musicians than any commercial station would risk; it provides a unique outlet for the great wealth of performances recorded specially for the BBC by musicians of every hue over four or five decades - and for the most part employs as presenters people who actually know about, and like, the music they play and communicate with a direct intelligence rarely found elsewhere on the airwaves.

No commercial station offers anything comparable, and by the nature of the beast none ever will. If the BBC Director General wants to operate by the principles he has outlined, and to optimise the BBC’s special strengths, BBC 6 Music is the last thing he should axe.

And if they're trying to save money, axeing 6 Music will save only £7million a year - hardly more than they were paying Jonathan Woss until recently. (And the Director-General's own salary, which is over £800,000 a year, might be thought capable of bearing a bit of cost-cutting, come to that.)

Why not axe Radio 1 instead? Here is a cheap, tacky, completely commercially-oriented station on which overpaid and often foul-mouthed disc jockeys offer a recurrent barrage of me-me-me commentary interspersed with the shallowest, dumbest kinds of popular music driven entirely by considerations of commerce and addressed to a lowest-common-denominator audience of the very young and impressionable. In other words, exactly what dozens and dozens of commercial radio stations do all the time. It is absurd to keep this and close down BBC 6 Music.

You can send your views to

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Photo by Teddy Jackson, 2009

The author revisiting Blind Willie McTell's grave at Jones Grove Baptist Church, Happy Valley, Thomson GA, last October, during his tour of talks following the previous month's publication of the American hardback of Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell.

(In fact, as the book establishes, McTell was not born on May 5 1901 but on an unknown date between April 1903 and March 1904, though very possibly May 5 1903. The gravestone shown here, commissioned by the Atlanta journalist and crime novelist David Fulmer in the early 1990s, replaced the original stone, which had given him his final pseudonym, naming him as Eddie McTier - and giving his birthdate as 1898...)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Sir Kenneth Dover, Chancellor of St. Andrews University, died on Sunday, aged 89. He was considered the finest Greek scholar of his generation. In 1978 he was elected President of the British Academy. In 2004 he presented Bob Dylan with an Honorary Doctorate.

Saturday, March 06, 2010


John Baldwin's Desolation Row Information Service has revealed this morning that Dylan will be doing no UK concerts this year, except for one festival... and that will be the Hop Farm Festival on July 3 (the first night of a three-day event). It's near Paddock Wood, Kent, only 45 minutes by train from London, and the address is: The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, Kent TN12 6PY. The website is Tickets are not on sale yet, but are likely to be restricted to 20,000, and to be of two types: day tickets and weekend-including-campsite tickets.

And if you can't fit Bob into your schedule, you can always come to Summer Days instead...

Monday, March 01, 2010


Song & Dance Man III was published in North America ten years ago today. UK publication had been on December 13, 1999. (This was discussed in more detail in the entry now stored in Archives for December 2009.)

As I've said many times - mostly at the end of talks when people have asked me when it's coming - there'll never be a Song & Dance Man IV.

But - I am assembling and editing a collection of my work on Dylan and a few others for a new book. The working title is Outtakes. This draws on material from right back in the 1960s through to now, and includes previously unpublished essays - some short, some not so short - and pieces only previously printed in long-since defunct magazines or unobtainable back issues of other papers, as well as rare and previously unpublished photos and other illustrations.

I'd be glad to hear from as many of you as possible whether you'd consider buying a hardback, for the sake of solidity and gravitas etc., or a paperback first edition of decent quality for the sake of portability and budget. As much feedback as possible would be appreciated - and if you'd rather not have your comment published, please just say so and I'll keep it to myself.