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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, January 03, 2011


I was interviewed on December 8 for a BBC Radio 4 programme that goes out tomorrow in the series Word of Mouth, fronted by Michael Rosen (no relation to Jeff, as far as I know). More interesting than my not especially tremendous answers to the scripted questions will be the contribution of KT Tunstall. There's a morsel more information here, and the 30-minute programme starts at 4pm UK time (Tuesday January 4).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi michael,
well its' taken nearly forty years but finally cuaght up with you. You taught me English at Barnstaple (that place where every 17 year old would kill to get out of, sorry mustn't end a sentence with a preposition).
SO I didn't take up English or music as I thought I would but am now a University Prof .
You made English great for me. I have never stopped reading since you stopped teaching me. Thanks for all the fish.

1:06 am  
Blogger Jim said...

I enjoyed the programme, and your comments were very perceptive and balanced.
I read English at Wadham (Michael Rosen was in the year after me). He was always a little intolerant of Donovan, but some of his songs and lyrics were poetic without being pretentious.
I would have liked to have heard more of Dylan's songs on the programme, especially from the latest release of early demos.
It was good to be reminded of the qualities of Jokerman.

12:38 pm  
Blogger joe butler said...

hi michael
thanks for the link, and what a voice you have
shades of "whispering bob" ---harris not dylan.
Jokerman? where was your tongue when you made that choice?

12:33 pm  
Blogger Pope Leo said...

I enjoyed the programme and your comments, Michael, (though it was sad and ironic to hear Gerry Rafferty’s Stuck in the Middle being brought in by another speaker as evidence of Dylan’s dire influence on imitating songsters). I do hope, however, that Joe Butler is wrong to imply that your tongue was planted firmly in your cheek when you praised Jokerman. It is a beautiful song with a striking texture. Its rhythms, internal rhymes and alliteration create a sound pattern that add a powerful further dimension to its musicality. It is also a song with layers of meaning, at once exploring both the double-edged nature of ‘saviours’ and leaders, while at the same time offering some sort of comment on the ambiguous construct that is ‘Bob Dylan’.

It is often said that Dylan’s creativity suffered a catastrophic decline in the 80s. I would contest that. It is a decade which gave us, in addition to Jokerman, Every Grain of Sand, In the Summertime, Caribbean Wind, Angelina, Blind Willie McTell, Brownsville Girl, Most of the Time, Shooting Star, Series of Dreams and Dignity. While Dylan’s judgement in the 80s is questionable – six of these songs did not appear on official albums – his song-writing ability remained intact, if not at its prolific intensity of earlier years.

1:23 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Frank, you're right of course: I certainly wasn't joking re Jokerman. I think you sum up its strengths very economically - and anyone in doubt about these, and my view of them, need only read the long section on this song in Song & Dance Man III or the edited-down, amended version offered as the entry on the song in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia.

I like your list of major 80s songs too - and yes, how striking that six of them were excluded from the albums they were considered for.

1:51 pm  

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