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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, 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1981 - 1982 in the US) they did a deal with Jim Marshall, under which he supplied us with a whole tranche of previously unpublished photographs of Dylan from these various earlier periods.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:


Blogger pete read said...

Mr Gray,

hope you will excuse this as not directly related to current post
I am trying to find info on Bob Dylan's visit to Greece in May/June 1964

There are only two references I can find to this. One describes the location as:-
"Vernilya,a small village just outside Athens"
the other as:_
"the town of Vernilya, outside Athens"

I have searched "the internet", but apart from references as above can find no mention of this place
Obviously the spelling/characters would be different in Greek, but I wondered if you would have any idea where this place could be - not much to go on I know.

Any ideas or more info?

1:26 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't know where else to mention this.
This got me:

Pat Ford

7:21 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Dear Peter
Good question - and one I've not come across before: but then I've not read all the Dylan biographies. Does Clinton Heylin pin this down somewhere?

10:53 am  
Anonymous Michael Gray said...

Pat - agreed. The same person's posted 'Not Dark Yet' is far better than I'd expected too. In both cases there are significant passages of actual singing!, and with some tender sweetness too.

6:52 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice quick transitions between voice and harp on those two.
Here is a lovely relaxed groove on Love Minus.
I especially like the way he sings "the night blows cold and rainy."
Nice harmonica with single notes emerging from and sliding back into the harp-chord.

Pat Ford

2:30 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Er, where, Pat?

10:04 am  
Anonymous Billy James said...

I'm so out of touch I learn of Jim's death here today, for which thanks. I just got off the phone with Lee Houskeeper, who told me of stuff that's run in the SF Chronicle; that there may be some sort of memorial @ the Great Amer. Music Hall, SF...

We met maybe Newport '63 - he took a nice shot of my firstborn on his sting ray in Beverly Hills, later shot me and J[ackson] Browne, covered the lovely Dylan press conference in LA -- put me up on his couch my first time in SF -- bummer...

1:59 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

The message from Billy James in response to my Jim Marshall posting was sent to the Rock’s Back Pages website, which has a blog section that compiles selected posts from a number of writers’ blogs, and reprinted the Marshall post yesterday.

Billy James was Dylan’s publicist at Columbia Records when he was first signed to the label. There’s a not especially charitable or trustworthy description of their first meeting in Chronicles Volume One, pages 7-8. Though the prompt for his message is a sad one, it’s good to hear from him and to know that he’s still around. According to Wikipedia, he’s semi-retired and living in California.

3:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Michael the live Tokyo version of "Love Minus Zero No Limit" has vanished from u-tube.
Pat Ford

5:43 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Weird - but thanks, Pat.

12:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is strange LMZNL has just vanished, and it certainly was there, I listened to it four times in a row.
Anyhow lots of interesting things in the Japan tour.
Who could think Jolene could come off so well.
Here is a very interesting thing, and the best version of a great song I've heard.

7:03 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

The best live version of this song you've heard? When did you start listening? It sounds a travesty to me, I'm sorry to say.

I hate the random way he uses his voice, which here almost never communicates the meaning of the word or phrase, or suggests any regard for the immaculate original integrity of the lyric - it's a scattershot of deep bits, gargled and rasped bits and quiet bits, none of it either sung or attentively recited. The only moment where he seems to me to keep faith with the vastly greater sense he had in his youth for how to deliver this song is at "with a six-month sentence", which he sings here with similar discreet quietude (so much more effective here than loud vocal drama could be).

I also hate the pursuit of childishly inane melody lines, which seem the characteristic feature of this tour leg. This is at its worst towards the end of 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall', where he alights on a horribly moronic descending and then ascending scale in place of a tune. This is so badly judged it's excruciating, and renders a great song utterly vacuous. As F.R. Leavis said of the patronising tone assumed in a lecture by C.P. Snow, "while only genius could justify it, one cannot readily imagine genius adopting it."

10:03 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry if this is old news...but Michael's positive mention of Not Dark Yet led to me to the 1999 Crossroads version ..a lovely vocal performance with Dylan playing lead guitar and Clapton strumming the chords!...of course Clapton has gone on to include the song in his own live performances.

The Japan performances have led to me to think I should go to the Carcassonne gig...the venue sounds very inviting ( Michael have you visited the theatre ? ) I like the stop start arrangement of Shelter from the Storm.


2:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just listened to said performance of 'Hattie Carroll'. Whilst it is good to hear a clearer vocal, I cant feel an engagement or real presence in his singing*; this contrasts with how his performance of 'Times they are a Changin'' at The White House was very moving for me.
(*I also found the nursery melody lines horrible)

Why is he performing excessively, to the detriment of his art &, apparently, his voice ?


8:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, I've got all the official recordings, and have listened to many a clip.
I marvel at the very early songs, and wonder how a kid could write a love song like "Boots of Spanish Leather."
From my perspective Dylan's earliest voice is my least favorite. There's too much of the actor in a role.
The things you see in the recent performances (pursuit of childishly inane melody lines) I see as well minus the "childishly inane."
For me the fact that Dylan now makes no effort to strive towards anything which isn't resonating with him in the moment is part of his charm. I'd really much rather hear him honest, than working hard to call up something he just doesn't feel from night to night, song to song, or even verse to verse.
I'm comfortable that, as with the small bit you found to enjoy in Lonesome Death, when I hear something which strikes me, it isn't manufactured realism.
Or maybe I just like the childishly inane, like the weird guitar shuffle Dylan plays on the live Tokyo "Under the Red Sky" or the odd call and response between Dylan's organ and Sexton's guitar on Highway 61.
Pat Ford

9:52 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, Not to waste your time, or belabor the point...but as long as you have been listening (and pretty closely); what do you make of the new one from Korea?
It combines the sing-song cadence of a kid singing on a swing-set with the
"actual singing" Dylan has reintroduced at his whim.
Certainly the very last line is worth the ten minute wait, and there is tasty stuff through-out...or no?
Pat Ford

10:57 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Paul, no, I've not been to the Carcassonne venue. Been to the airport, though. It's awful. Looks like an unrefurbished 1950s British secondary school. We were shocked the first time we went there, because Pau and Toulouse, which we used far more often, are pretty good - Toulouse very painless for a medium-sized and Pau an absolute delight for a small. That doesn't help you, though...

Pat - now there's a gulf between us. I find the early voice utterly magnificent, and have written about it at some length before, but while I find your "defence" slightly charming, I cannot agree that it's a virtue for him to sing songs that don't interest him, and therefore sing them shoddily, night after night. Er, that's it.

10:10 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of key qualities which drew me to his work, and has deeply moved and inspired me was the depth of personal & spiritual presence he conveyed through his voice.

Given his now very limited vocal range, when he is absent from real engagement with a song, I feel it is painful & pointless to listen.


4:48 pm  

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