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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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Sunday, January 08, 2012


Brenda Lee reaches for Elvis; details unknown

Hi there pop-pickers (as Alan Fluff Freeman used to say). Happy New Year to all.

I'm back from an unusually long Christmas break  -  first one in England since moving to France almost four years ago  -  and have very little Dylanalia to report. With an extravagant number of people helping decorate the tree this year, at a secret location on the south coast, we were forced to foreshorten the traditional music-while-we-work playing of our trusty Xmas records: those by Phil Spector's acts and Elvis Presley, and those on an extraordinary home-made selection compiled and given to us some years ago by Scarborough's Dr. Rock (Charles White, author of Little Richard's remarkable biography) mainly by people like Otis Redding (he actually sings 'White Christmas', and without a hint of irony or guile) but which quite rightly starts with the pubescent Brenda Lee's 'Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree'.

For the last couple of years, naturally, our playlist has been augmented by Bob's Christmas in the Heart, but this time it fell victim, in its entirety, to the foreshortening process, and so we first found ourselves playing it in the car while driving around England on about the eighth day of Christmas. I must say the car speakers do it no favours, but it was removed prematurely when another family member, who was in the back seat and shall remain nameless, declared of 'Hark The Herald Angels Sing': "This is dreadful! It sounds like an old drunk in a pub."


Blogger Pope Leo said...

Happy New Year, Michael.

I am delighted to hear that you have a family member who recognises Christmas in the Heart for what it is - a bizarrely cacophonous assault on a collection of treacly Christmas ditties. The view of the nameless member of your family adds ballast to the airily flattering review of the album you offered a couple of years ago! (Perhaps you were a victim of seasonal good will!)

7:19 pm  
Blogger Pope Leo said...

PS re 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing': less like a bird on a wire ("singin' just for you..."), more like a drunk in a midnight choir!

5:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hark the Herald is dreadful of course but I must confess the album as a whole has grown on me since its release- to the point where I quite like some of it and have to admit it gets pulled out and played every year for more than just Christmas reasons.

Here's hoping it's not his last studio album mind...would love a new release in 2012.

Until then, looking forward to Mr. Cohen's latest due at the end of this month....have a feeling it will be a cracker!

Happy new year all,

Judas Priest

5:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on, Michael, as a Dylan commentator of long standing you must know the folly of playing Dylan, especially latter-day Dylan, to family members. I wouldn't play Blonde on Blonde to most of my family, let alone Christmas in the Heart. You must bear this burden alone.

11:36 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

I recognise the gist of that, but it's never been my plight. Sarah's credentials Dylan-wise are impeccable (and she likes Christmas in the Heart) and my daughter much appreciates both the Bob of 'Corrina, Corrina' and of "Love and Theft". She's 23.

9:37 am  

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