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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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Monday, August 30, 2010


Not content with re-selling all those albums, now the Sony / Bob Dylan people have devised another was of pulling in yet more of our money - by offering something previously unreleased as a bonus CD with the Witmark demos - if you buy the "special collectors' edition".

As reported more fully in ISIS here, someone has unearthed a partial recording from a 1963 gig never previously circulated. Here's most of the ISIS report:

An article earlier this year, in ISIS # 149, about Bob Dylan’s non-appearance on the 12 May 1963 Ed Sullivan show, included reference to Dylan’s performance, two days earlier, at the “1st Annual Folk Festival” at Brandeis University. Around the time ISIS went to press, there was a rumour that a recording of this performance had been found in the Ralph Gleason archive. Meanwhile, there has been contradictory information as to whether there would be a “collectors’ edition” of the forthcoming "Volume 9" in "The Bootleg Series". Now it seems that this will happen and the aforementioned Brandeis performance will make up the bonus disc. Here is the track listing as provided earlier this year:

1. Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance
2. Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues
3. Ballad of Hollis Brown
4. Masters of War
5. Talkin’ World War III Blues
6. Bob Dylan’s Dream
7. Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues

Apparently, the opening song is cut or in some way incomplete, so it will be interesting to hear if this how it appears on the bonus disc. 'Bear Mountain' is the one song that was mentioned in a contemporary review of the concert and it always seemed an odd choice for a 1963 performance. It is now understood that this was in response to a request from the audience and we must assume that this audience member recalled the song from one of Dylan’s previous visits to the Boston area. The whole recording lasts about 40-45 minutes and, before you ask, we have neither got nor heard this recording either.

The current position seems to be that this bonus disc will not be released as an individual item, nor will be available on a widespread basis. Instead, it will be sold as part of a “Bootleg Series Volume 9” package and through just one selected retailer in any one country. Details are not yet known.

Meanwhile I note that one of the albums we'll be buying all over again, the magnificent Highway 61 Revisited, was released 45 years ago today.


Albeit belatedly I report the death on August 12 of Richie Hayward, the Little Feat co-founder and drummer and once a member of Bob Dylan's Never-Ending Tour band. He died of complications arising from liver cancer while waiting for a liver transplant operation. He was 64.

Here's his brief entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia:

Hayward, Richie [1946 - ]
Richard Hayward was born on February 6, 1946 at Clear Lake, Iowa, where, four days before his Richie’s 13th birthday, BUDDY HOLLY, RITCHIE VALENS and the Big Bopper played their final gig, before getting into the plane that flew off towards Fargo, North Dakota, crashing and killing them in the snow en route. Undeterred, Hayward played his first gig as a drummer in a local hall soon afterwards.

In the mid-1960s, by now a ferociously accomplished drummer, Hayward co-founded a group with Lowell George, and after its disbandment and a brief gap, co-founded another with him, Little Feat. Hayward remained with it until it collapsed after the June 1979 death of Lowell George; but he was back with the group when it reformed in 1988. Meanwhile Hayward has also performed and recorded with everyone from Joan Armatrading to WARREN ZEVON.

In 2004 he became a shortlived member of Dylan’s Never-Ending Tour band, playing drums and percussion in a supporting rôle to GEORGE RECILE (who was having problems with one arm). Hayward played from the Tulsa Oklahoma concert of February 28 (not playing on the opening number or the encore songs this first night) through till the end of the April 4 concert in Washington D.C..

Saturday, August 28, 2010


There's a rumour that Brad Pitt may star in a Hollywood movie version of 'Brownsville Girl'. The link (thanks, Yvonne) is here, though this is really re-writing the rumour from here.

The former site's key paragraph is this: "The film would be based on Bob Dylan's 11-minute long song 'Brownsville Girl' - and a script is already out there with Winkler Films set to produce. The screenplay (written by Gangs of New York scribe Jay Cocks, at Dylan's request) is being described as a cross between The Shawshank Redemption and Bonnie and Clyde... The project is generating heat once again (it's been around for some time) because Crazy Heart's Scott Cooper is considering directing."

Er, shouldn't that be Bob Dylan and Sam Shepard's song 'Brownsville Girl'? And the last rumour I heard about that was Sam Shepard wrote most of the words. Either way, it's a joint composition - and since Sam Shepard has written many screenplays, does this mean that Jay Cocks has been asked to write one for this project because Shepard has turned it down?

Friday, August 27, 2010


Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue, Austin, Texas
Photo © Steve Hopson, 2006

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Stevie Ray Vaughan's untimely death. Here's the entry from The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia:

Vaughan, Stevie Ray [1954 - 1990]
Stevie Ray Vaughan was born in Dallas, Texas, on October 3, 1954, learnt guitar after growing to love his older brother JIMMIE’s blues-based record collection, dropped out of high school in 1972 and moved to Austin, where there was a vast student population and a burgeoning live music scene. He became a defining figure in 1980s Texas rock’n’roll (a kind of benign redneck R&B). A master of the Fender Stratocaster, with a unique tone and technique, he led the group Double Trouble. You might blame Stevie Ray Vaughan for the irritating riff on “Love and Theft”’s only weak track, ‘Honest With Me’.

Prior to Double Trouble, Vaughan had played with local Austin groups the Nightcrawlers and Paul Ray & The Cobras. In 1976, Vaughan formed his own band, the Triple Threat Revue, first re-named Triple Threat and then, when the vocalist quit in 1981, Double Trouble (though actually this remained a trio). In 1982 they played the Montreux Festival, Switzerland, where David Bowie asked Vaughan to play on what became his Let’s Dance album. This led to other stints as a sideman with the ROLLING STONES and Jackson Browne. Double Trouble’s 1983 début album Texas Flood was a critical success and sold half a million; they followed it with the far greater commerical successes of Couldn’t Stand the Weather (1984) and Soul to Soul (1985). These records were on Epic, but another album, Blues Explosion, on Atlantic, won a Grammy as Best Traditional Blues Record of the Year in 1984.

In 1986, after collapsing on stage in Germany, he checked into an Atlanta rehabilitation clinic. Two years later he seemed to be fully functioning again, performing an unplugged set on MTV and in 1989 touring with Jeff Beck and releasing the 5th Double Trouble album, In Step, which also gave him a no.1 radio hit, ‘Crossfire’.

In 1990 Vaughan recorded Family Style, an album made with brother Jimmie, co-headlined another tour, this time with Joe Cocker, and embarked on a headlining Double Trouble tour. That April 30 he laid down some guitar overdubs on tracks for Dylan’s Under The Red Sky album that Dylan had recorded that January 6th. He played on ‘Cat’s In The Well’ and ’10,000 Men’, and played lead guitar on ‘God Knows’.

Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash near East Troy, Wisconsin, on August 27, 1990 (having just performed as a guest at an ERIC CLAPTON concert in Alpine Valley). Bob Dylan first responded with appropriate restraint: ‘He was a sweet guy. Something else was coming through him besides his guitar playing and singing.’ Later, unfortunately, before a concert in Merrillville, Indiana, he added the vacuously inaccurate: ‘It’s almost like having to play the night that Kennedy died. He’ll probably be revered as much as and in the same way as Hank Williams’. More sweetly, he dedicated a performance of ‘Moon River’ to Vaughan that night.

Posthumous record releases are plentiful. One of the earliest was that recorded with brother Jimmie that same year; Family Style was released as by ‘the Vaughan Brothers’. There is now a ludicrous statue of Stevie Ray at Riverside Drive and South 1st Street in Austin.

[Double Trouble: Texas Flood, Epic FET/EK 38734, US, 1983; Blues Explosion, Atlantic 7 80149-1, US, 1984; Couldn’t Stand The Weather, Epic FET/EK 39304, US, 1984; Soul To Soul, Epic FET/EK 40036, US, 1985; Live Alive!, Epic, EGK/EGT 40511, US, 1986; In Step, Epic OET/EK 45024, US, 1989. The Vaughan Brothers: Family Style, Epic ZT/ZK 46225, US, 1990.]

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


A formal announcement from and Sony Columbia:

Bob Dylan's The Bootleg Series Volume 9 – The Witmark Demos will be released on Tuesday, October 19th, in conjunction with the re-release of the artist's first eight long-playing albums in a box set titled Bob Dylan – The Original Mono Recordings. Both sets have been long sought-after by collectors and fans worldwide, with The Witmark Demos seeing their first commercial release nearly five decades after they were first recorded, and The Original Mono Recordings returning to the marketplace for the first time ever on CD as well as on fully analogue 180-gram vinyl. Both are now available for pre-sale with an exclusive t-shirt and limited edition 18" x 24" Bob Dylan poster at You can also pre-order the CD or vinyl sets at Amazon.

The Witmark Demos features 47 Bob Dylan songs recorded by the artist accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, harmonica and occasionally piano on 2 CD or 4 LP 180-gram vinyl. All of these songs were written – and their subsequent demos recorded – before Bob Dylan turned 24 years old. Among the many gems are 15 Bob Dylan songs that were recorded by the artist only for these sessions, and which have never been officially released to the public until now. These include the plaintive "Ballad For A Friend," the civil rights era-inspired "Long Ago, Far Away" and "The Death Of Emmett Till," and the poignant "Guess I'm Doing Fine."

The Original Mono Recordings is comprised of Bob Dylan's first eight long-playing albums, painstakingly reproduced from their first generation monaural mixes as the artist intended them to be heard. These eight albums – spanning the artist's self-titled debut in March 1962, through John Wesley Harding released on December 27, 1967 – are universally regarded as some of the most important works in the history of recorded music.Together with The Witmark Demos, they provide the public with a wide-ranging view of Bob Dylan's work during the 1960s, and chronicle his amazing evolution from fledgling songwriter to one of the world's most inventive and singular recording artists.

WHEN I'M 64 . . .

I remember hearing 'When I'm 64' when it was new and I was 21 - hearing it too many times for my liking - and thinking with the callow scorn of youth that it was well nigh unimaginable ever to reach that aeons-distant point - or, therefore, to be asking that comically plaintive double-question "Will you still need me, will you still feed me...?" (comical almost on a par with Bob's "Georgia Sam he had a bloody nose / Welfare Department wouldn't give him no clothes").

But now, well... I find I've arrived. And the question no longer seems so funny. Lawdy. (Luckily, Sarah says her answer is "yes".)

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I'm pleased to confirm that I shall be giving a new version of my talk Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues as part of the arts and music festivals being held in Lerwick, Shetland Isles, Scotland, over the first weekend in September. This talk, with rare footage and loud recorded music, will be on Sunday September 5 at 5.15pm in Room 16 at Islesburgh Community Centre, Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0EQ. Tickets £5 and £3.50 are on sale now from Shetland Box Office, telephone from within the UK = 01595 745 555; from outside the UK it's +44 1595 745 555.

The previous day (Saturday September 4), at 4.45pm, I'll be giving my talk Searching for Blind Willie McTell: A biographer's Adventures in Georgia, which includes vintage and recent photographs plus audio recordings. Same venue, same details.

Lerwick is on virtually the same latitude as Bergen, and further north than Oslo. It is 125 miles northeast of the northernmost tip of mainland Scotland.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I'm reading Hilary Mantel's big novel Wolf Hall (her biggest by far since the wonderful Place of Greater Safety) and on page 93 came across this fine list (describing Thomas Cromwell's house in 1527):

...his house is full of people every day, people who want to be taken to the cardinal. There are artists looking for a subject. There are solemn Dutch scholars with books under their arms, and Lübeck merchants unwinding at length solemn Germanic jokes; there are musicians in transit tuning up strange instruments, and noisy conclaves of agents for the Italian banks; there are alchemists offering recipes and astrologers offering favourable fates, and lonely Polish fur traders who've wandered by to see if someone speaks their language; there are printers, engravers, translators and cipherers; and poets, garden designers, cabalists and geometricians. Where are they tonight?

It made me think about Dylan's capacity for list-making, in song and in the early poems, and so I wonder what people feel is his best list, or their own favourite? Are early ones like those in 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall' matched by any since? Surely not 'Everything Is Broken', but what else?

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I've been sent a new comment by Judas Priest, ever hopeful of convincing me that Bob's current standard of performance is tremendous, concerning the recent Kansas City performance of the "Love and Theft" song 'Cry A While' - but because Judas (aka Garret) sent it to a post long since buried in the archives of June, it's likely to be missed by many readers, so I reprint it here:

Michael, I strongly recommend you have a look and listen to this - Cry A While from the recent Kansas show. The sound quality isn't particularly strong and alas not all of the song is captured but it's safe to say this one is back with a bang. He is absolutely nailing it. Good to see Donnie so prominent in it too.

Having heard it now, my own sense is that yes, he's on top of what he's doing, but what he's doing vocally is still unconvincingly weak and his onstage stance still perfunctory and stiff: essentially ungenerous (no doubt as I am being in response). I drifted on to hearing the same night's 'Workingman's Blues #2', which made me want to hear the album version for the first time in many months, and drifted on from there, soon reaching Roy Orbison's third single for Sun Records in 1957, 'Sweet and Easy to Love'. This was new to me, was indeed sweet and easy, and made me feel, wistfully, that at present Bob and Roy are equally missing, if unequally missed.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


Dylan & Garcia, summer 1986; photographer unknown;

I know it's been a long silence on this blog - I've been rather swamped by holiday visitors lately - but I hope to resume normal service soon.

Meanwhile I note that tomorrow Jerry Garcia will have been dead for 15 years. Here's his entry in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia (though naturally there's a lot more info and comment in the entry on the Grateful Dead, which I don't reproduce here):

Garcia, Jerry [1942 - 1995]
Jerome John Garcia was born in the city he later came to embody, San Francisco, on the first day of 1942. Although his reputation essentially rests on his having been a founder member, and the leader, of THE GRATEFUL DEAD, as of the groups that preceded it and morphed into it, he nevertheless pursued a very large number of other projects, even forming a parallel band in the 1970s, The Jerry Garcia Band, which itself had an active life and recorded prolifically.

He was an extraordinary guitarist and a fine banjo player, and another performing project of his was the shortlived bluegrass band Old And In The Way, in which he played banjo, teamed with mandolinist DAVID GRISMAN, plus Peter Rowan and the great veteran fiddle-player Vassar Clements (who died in August 2005). In 1975 they produced what was until recently the biggest-selling bluegrass album in history, Old And In The Way. (Garcia and Grisman had first met in 1964 at a Bill Monroe concert in Pennsylvania.)

Jerry Garcia was also sufficiently interested in film to study it briefly in college in the early 1960s. In 1970 he worked on the soundtrack of Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, playing an improvised guitar piece known as ‘Love Scene’. Later he co-directed The Grateful Dead Movie, which mixed animation with concert footage. He also played banjo in the 1978 re-make of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In 1990 he and David Grisman got back together, formed an acoustic duo and (of course) recorded a number of albums.

Jerry Garcia died of a heart-attack in a drug-rehabilitation clinic in Forest Knolls, California on August 9, 1995, aged 53. Dylan paid him just about the most fulsome tribute he’s ever paid anyone (and he tends toward the fulsome on these occasions anyway, perhaps surprisingly):

‘There’s no way to measure his greatness or magnitude as a person or as a player. I don’t think any eulogizing will do him justice. He was that great, much more than a superb musician, with an uncanny ear and dexterity. He’s the very spirit personified of whatever is Muddy River country at its core and screams up into the spheres. He really had no equal. To me he wasn’t only a musician and friend, he was more like a big brother who taught and showed me more than he’ll ever know. There’s a lot of spaces and advances between THE CARTER FAMILY, BUDDY HOLLY and, say, Ornette Coleman, a lot of universes, but he filled them all without being a member of any school. His playing was moody, awesome, sophisticated, hypnotic and subtle. There’s no way to convey the loss. It just digs down really deep.’

Dylan was among the many who attended the funeral service for Garcia at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Belvedere, California on August 11, 1995.

[The 6-CD box set All Good Things: Jerry Garcia Studio Sessions, 2005, includes a ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’, a ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ and a ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’; if bought direct from a bonus 7th CD is included, which features a lengthy ‘Visions Of Johanna’ ( says 16 minutes long, the Garcia site says 17).]