Thursday, April 30, 2009

Please click over to the master web site

This blogging site will not be updated for the next few days. Sorry for the inconvenience.

You can still see all the daily updates by clicking over to the master web site:

This site will be operating normally again from 11 May. See you soon.

Gerry Smith

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bob Dylan: 5 Songs – fine complement to the Drawn Blank catalogue

Dylan the painter was revealed to an unsuspecting world by Chemnitz’s Kunstsammlungen in 2007/2008. Aficionados the world over are indebted to curator Ingrid Mossinger who, seeing the potential in a largely ignored series of pencil sketches published years earlier, encouraged Dylan to develop them into a massive series of colourful, Expressionist watercolours and gouaches.

Bob Dylan: The Drawn Blank Series, the resultant large format hardback catalogue (published in 2007 in two editions – identical content, different covers - by the museum and commercial publisher Prestel), has 170 evocative paintings developed from 85 of the original pencil sketches. Plus four short essays. It’s a must-have on any decent Dylan bookshelf.

Bob Dylan: 5 Songs, the follow-up, is fine complement, another must-have Drawn Blank collectable. It’s in the same hardback large format, but it focuses on Dylan’s words rather than his images.

The book collects the transcripts of five lectures delivered by German writers and academics at the museum during the exhibition. They each cover a Dylan song from a different decade: Visions Of Johanna, Tangled Up In Blue, Blind Willie McTell, Cold Irons Bound and Beyond The Horizon. The book’s 33 images, though delightful, are secondary.

All Dylan books, mostly by American or English writers, have a deep cultural bias: we can’t help being influenced by where we live. So it’s instructive to read writers from Germany: as anyone who has seen Dylan in concert in Germany will confirm, there’s a refreshingly different mindset to Bob following in Europe’s largest country.

All five pieces in Bob Dylan: 5 Songs are stimulating. I quickly became a fan of writer/academic Heinrich Detering. His lecture on Visions Of Johanna is perceptive; it comes as no surprise to learn that his academic work centres on German literary greats like Goethe and Mann. Detering’s an original thinker – for example, he rejects the usual suspects as the subject of his song and proposes, instead, that “Johanna” is, in fact, based on Brecht’s St Joan!

Rainer Vesely’s analysis of Tangled Up In Blue, a coherent, sustained rumination on the theme of betrayal, is also striking. I’m less convinced by Thomas Steinfeld’s hymn of praise to Cold Irons Bound – “the most successful song on the album”. I’ve always heard it as throwaway, lightweight. Steinfeld’s espousal did force me to listen again, very carefully, though my reaction remained the same. Even where you disagree, Steinfeld, like the others, challenges you to think about the songs afresh.

The highlight of the collection is the bonus track – a luminous, lengthy analysis of Theme Time Radio Hour by the aforementioned Heinrich Detering. It’s one of those lovely pieces which has you alternately nodding in agreement, as you find your own reactions duplicated, and then stopping in surprise at another original thought – “why didn’t I think of that?” Detering’s is the most literate dissection of the artfulness and significance of Dylan’s radio series that I’ve seen.

Publishing Bob Dylan: 5 Songs as a bi-lingual edition gives the book global appeal, but it has a downside, of course: half the pages are unnecessary, whether you’re an English or a German speaker.

Ingrid Mossinger’s vision in staging the Drawn Blank exhibition helped to reposition Dylan as a serious multi-faceted artist, not merely the pre-eminent musician of the age. The resulting pair of books she’s edited furnish irrefutable evidence.

Bob Dylan: 5 Songs is the second fine Drawn Blank collectable: if you’re seriously into Dylan, you need both.

Bob Dylan 5 Songs: Lectures accompanying the exhibition Bob Dylan. The Drawn Blank Series at the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz. Edited by Ingrid Mossinger and Wolfram Ette with watercolours by Bob Dylan.
Published by Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz/Keber Art, 2009. Large format hardback, 288pp, euro 22.

(Current special deal on museum website: 5 Songs PLUS Drawn Blank catalogue – euro 40; check that you get English ed of catalogue, if that’s what you require; check carriage costs; and, if ordering from outside the eurozone, ensure you’re familiar with currency conversion costs.)

Gerry Smith

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bluesfest on BBC4 this weekend

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“More delicious viewing for Dylan Daily readers:

Friday 1 May BBC4

9.00pm: Blues Britannia - Can Blue Men Play The Whites? Documentary charting the British love of the blues.

10.30pm - Blues at the BBC. Archive footage of blues performances from the last 50 years.

Saturday 2 May BBC4

8.00pm - a repeat of the previous evening's Blues at the BBC.

9.00pm - Bobby Bland - Two steps from the blues. Profile of the blues singer.

10.00pm - Blues on .....Later. A selection of blues performances from the Jools Holland show.

11.55pm - Long John Baldry. Profile of the late British singer.


With this embarrassment of riches, it makes me wonder how we managed before the advent of BBC4!”

And don’t forget: you can probably see the programmes online - some BBC programmes are accessible online via iPlayer for a short period after transmission (though copyright restricts the territories in which they’re available:

Gerry Smith

Monday, April 27, 2009

Together Through Life: first impressions

An evening with Together Through Life was a pleasant experience: better than expected, not as strong as secretly hoped.

First impressions:

* musically engaging – urban blues and Tex-Mex styles more suited to Dylan than the easy crooning and plodding rockabilly of the previous two albums.

* lyrically - worth careful scrutiny, though words seem a trifle lightweight on a superficial hearing.

* the De Luxe package is intriguing: extra content a mixed blessing - already have TTRH show on tape, doubtful will ever listen to CD; DVD a hoot, presumably intentionally; bits of paper not destined for the bedroom wall or the car windscreen. Another beautifully designed artefact – for the third studio album in a row.

Dylan’s USP, to me, is poet, philosopher and musician, in that order. This CD’s songs, though more immediately attractive than those on the two previous albums, are probably destined to be cherry-picked for a revised “recent songs” compilation, few if any of whose constituents would make my Top 100 Bobsongs.

That said, I usually revise my opinions upwards after getting to know a new Dylan album.

What do YOU think of Together Through Life?

Gerry Smith

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dylan in London last night: energized, committed, triumphant

Last night’s show in the London O2 Arena was an unexpected triumph.

Dylan was in overdrive from the very first bar of Maggie’s Farm to the closing note of Blowin’ In The Wind. His performance was as energized and committed as any of the shows I’ve seen since 1978 (and my mother has seen since 1965!)

The set opened like a freight train and rarely lost momentum. The setlist (below) was well chosen, with only half the songs repeats of the previous night’s gig.

Highlights – there were many – included Hollis Brown and Workingman’s Blues. The few longueurs, notably Spirit On The Water, were lounge-rhythm songs from the last two albums – they sound better on the hi-fi than on stage.

I’ve rarely heard Dylan sing so well – confident, expressive, assertive, his voice seems to have re-found the strength of 20 years ago.

The sound was first class from my seat, in the gods one too many mornings away from the stage. Dylan was commendably up in the mix. It was a relief to hear the music so clearly, as the jokey intro “… Colombian recording artist…” had sounded muddy, boomy.

I’d gone to the gig with trepidation, not only because of the embarrassing lack of public transport (some jobsworth wag had decided to close the Jubilee Line, the only serious transport link to distant central London, for the day), but also from a fear that Bobby might be getting past it.

The fears were groundless – Bob’s voice, his playing of keyboard and harmonica and his general energy levels were a revelation.

There’s years of the Might Zim left yet. Bob’s still the Man! Why did anyone ever doubt it?

1. Maggie's Farm
2. The Times They Are A-Changin'
3. Things Have Changed
4. Chimes Of Freedom
5. Rollin' And Tumblin'
6. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
7. 'Til I Fell In Love With You
8. Workingman's Blues #2
9. Highway 61 Revisited
10. Ballad Of Hollis Brown
11. Po' Boy
12. Honest With Me
13. When The Deal Goes Down
14. Thunder On The Mountain
15. Like A Rolling Stone
16. All Along The Watchtower
17. Spirit On The Water
18. Blowin' In The Wind

Gerry Smith

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tell Tale Signs for £3; audio samples of new CD tracks online

Thanks to Peter Wright:

"Fopp in Manchester has Tell Tale Signs CD single edition for only £3."

(Fopp is a small chain owned by HMV; presumably the other half dozen stores in the Fopp chain are also discounting the CD - worth checking if you pass one! Gerry Smith)

And thanks to Martin Cowan:

"Curious Dylan Daily readers can hear 30-second snippets of every track on the new Dylan album on Amazon."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Reviews ignoring co-authorship of new album

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“I've seen four or five reviews of the new LP, all of which follow pretty much the same template, and I do wonder about these reviews because not one of them has mentioned that almost all the songs are co-writes.

“There is much mention of Dylan's lyrics, yet as we know the lyrics on the new LP are not solely Dylan's, but also co-writer Robert Hunter's.”

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dylan in Florence on Saturday

Thanks to Gerald Bamford for phoning his report of Saturday’s Florence gig:


1. Maggie's Farm
2. Mr. Tambourine Man
3. Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)
4. Man In The Long Black Coat
5. Rollin' And Tumblin'
6. The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
7. 'Til I Fell In Love With You
8. Workingman's Blues #2
9. Highway 61 Revisited
10. Ballad Of Hollis Brown
11. Po' Boy
12. Summer Days
13. Return To Me
14. Thunder On The Mountain
15. Like A Rolling Stone
16. All Along The Watchtower
17. Spirit On The Water
18. Blowin' In The Wind


* Ballad Of Hollis Brown, featuring acoustic guitar and banjo, was knock-out.

* Other highlights: The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll and Workingman's Blues #2.

* Return To Me, an old Dean Martin song, was delivered partly in Italian, drawing the night’s strongest applause.

* I was seated to the side in a 6,000 crowd, in a cavernous venue, not really in the thick of it. The sound was muddy, clumpy, bassy to start with, but improved.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Very Best Of Bob Dylan ‘60s/‘70s: why?

Have you seen Sony Legacy’s new Playlist series, covering about 50 artists?

It’s a puzzling product range.

The Very Best Of Bob Dylan ‘60s, released just before last Xmas, was followed last month by The Very Best Of Bob Dylan ‘70s.

They’re decent compilations – let’s face it, it would be hard to foul up a 14-track selection from the greatest living songwriter. But, given the availability of so many other official Sony Dylan compilations, you have to question the logic.

At least they’re better intros to the artist than the Playlist devoted to Dylan’s contemporary, Van Morrison. Sony only have access to the interminably reissued Bang sessions – ie the pop material recorded before Morrison found his true voice with his masterpiece, Astral Weeks.

Sony Legacy’s Playlist series: why?

Gerry Smith

Thursday, April 16, 2009

New album/Michael Gray/O2 gig transport problems

* Thanks to Martin Cowan:

"Just picked this up off the Isis website:

“As it says here, strange that the fact that the new material is co-written has so far been absent from any of the pre-publicity.

“Interesting to also note a credit for Willie Dixon!

“Not too sure how well the co-written lyric story is going down:


* After some North American dates earlier this month, Michael’s live event, Bob Dylan & the Poetry of the Blues - “wit, erudition, loud records and rare footage” - comes back to the UK, starting tomorrow, Friday April 17, at Buxton Opera House, Derbyshire. Box Office: 0845 1272 190 /, tickets £8.

Next comes Herne Bay Little Theatre, Kent, on Thursday April 23 (Box Office: 01227 366004, tickets £12, £10 concessions).

Two days after that he’s back in the States, at One Longfellow Square in Portland Maine (Box Office: 207-239-1855 /, tickets $18 in advance, $20 at the door).

If you haven't yet seen this gig, I can heartily recommend it.

Gerry Smith


* Thanks to Andy Kelly:

“The helpline number for Transport for London is 0207 222 1234. They are generally helpful and informed.

“I've heard tales of nightmarish troubles and iniquitous charges for those using their own vehicles, so anyone considering that (probably teaching grannies to suck eggs here) - check the web.”

(Andy’s praise for TfL’s tel info service is deserved. Pity they can’t apply the same standards to providing a transport service. London’s Tubes are a world-class embarrassment. Gerry Smith – Ed.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bob Dylan in London, 25 April: no Jubilee Line Tube to the O2 Arena

A few days ago I asked: “how EXACTLY do you plan to get to the O2 Arena – several (6?/10?)miles outside central London - and back into town after the show?”

Thanks to Cornelia Grolsch and Gordon Macniven for responding – “by Tube” (aka Underground/Subway/U-Bahn). Well, that would normally be the obvious route.

But there is no Jubilee Line Tube running to the O2 on Saturday 25 April, the day of the Dylan gig. Just take a look at this official announcement (thanks to Paul Ryles for the link):

Gerry Smith

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dylan’s lyrics decoded

Thanks to Andy Maultby for notice of two promising BBC radio programmes, set to coincide with Dylan’s eight British gigs, starting 24 April in Sheffield:

* The Lyrics Of Bob Dylan
Saturday 25 April, 10.00-11.00pm BBC RADIO 2

Laura Barton attempts to decode the lyrics by exploring and analysing 10 songs from the perspective of poets, critics, musicians and contemporaries.

Voices: Poet Laureate Andrew Motion; authors Professor Christopher Ricks and Nigel Williamson; Dylanologist Michael Gray; Greenwich Village contemporary Tom Paxton; singer Gwyneth Herbert; cultural commentator David Quantick; Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks; and Mark Rudd of revolutionary political agitators The Weathermen.

Songs examined include Subterranean Homesick Blues, Like A Rolling Stone, Lay Lady Lay, Visions Of Johanna and It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding).

* Archive on 4, a history of bootleg recordings, is on Saturday 17 April at 8pm on BBC Radio 4.

You can probably hear the programmes online - some BBC programmes are accessible online via iPlayer for a short period after transmission (though copyright restricts the territories in which they’re available):

Gerry Smith

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dylan’s Back Pages: 12 April 1963

Thanks to Gerald Bamford:

“On 12 April 1963 Dylan played his first major concert in New York City - at NY Town Hall. The set list was as follows:

1. Ramblin' Down Thru The World
2. Bob Dylan's Dream
3. Talkin' New York.
4. Ballad Of Hollis Brown
5. Walls Of Red Wing
6. All Over You
7. Talking John Birch Paranoid Blues
8. Boots Of Spanish Leather
9. Hero Blues
10. Blowin' In The Wind
11. John Brown
12. Tomorrow Is A Long Time
13. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

14. Dusty Old Fairgrounds
15. Who Killed Davey Moore?
16. Seven Curses
17. Highway 51
18. Pretty Peggy-O
19. Bob Dylan's New Orleans Rag
20. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
21. Hiding Too Long (AKA Hypocrite)
22. With God On Our Side
23. Masters Of War
24. Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dylan in London: how will you get to the gig?

The Dylan show at the O2 is fast approaching – two weeks tomorrow.

Given that the venue is about 12 miles east of the city centre, how EXACTLY do you plan to get there (and back into town after the show)?

Serious question!

Gerry Smith

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Saarbrucken - the Euro tour’s premier set list

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“Further to your recent post about set highlights, I nominate the show at Saarbrucken on 5 April 2009 for most consistently fascinating set list to date (list courtesy of Bill Pagel's wonderful Bob Links):

1. Gotta Serve Somebody (Bob on keyboard)
2. Lay, Lady, Lay (Bob on guitar)
3. The Levee's Gonna Break (Bob on keyboard and harp)
4. Every Grain Of Sand (Bob on keyboard)
5. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum (Bob on keyboard)
6. Beyond The Horizon (Bob on keyboard)
7. Honest With Me (Bob on keyboard)
8. Sugar Baby (Bob on keyboard)
9. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again
(Bob on keyboard)
10. Po' Boy (Bob on keyboard)
11. Summer Days (Bob on keyboard)
12. I Believe In You (Bob on keyboard)
13. Highway 61 Revisited (Bob on keyboard)
14. Like A Rolling Stone (Bob on keyboard)


15. All Along The Watchtower (Bob on keyboard)
16. Spirit On The Water (Bob on keyboard)
17. Blowin' In The Wind (Bob on keyboard)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Euro tour 2009: highlights so far

A couple of weeks in, the 2009 Euro tour has had some spellbinding set list inclusions, once again illustrating the depth of the Dylan songbook.

The performances I’d love to have heard include:

* Senor, Billy 4, Chimes Of Freedom - Stockholm

* The Man in Me, Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll - Malmo

* Gotta Serve Somebody, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Desolation Row - Copenhagen

* Shooting Star, Dignity - Hannover

* The Wicked Messenger, My Back Pages - Berlin

* Man In A Long Black Coat - Erfurt

* One More Cup Of Coffee - Munchen

Magnificently eclectic! Roll on London!

Gerry Smith

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Dylan on Obama: zzzzzzzzzzzz…

Thanks to Jon Ford:

“The new bit of Bill Flanagan’s Dylan interview, now on, though mainly trite, has fuelled another media scrum on what Bob thinks about Obama.

“After supposedly endorsing Obama last summer, Dylan has now supposedly withdrawn his support.

“But Dylan uses words carefully: I don’t think he either endorsed or has withdrawn support for the new US President.

“The really telling comment was his dismissal of ALL politicians as entertainers in an earlier part of the interview.

“zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… who cares anyway?

“Dylan’s art will still be celebrated long after Obama (and Bush… Clinton… Blair… Thatcher… Chirac… Kohl et al) has become a footnote in history. He shouldn’t give them unwarranted credibility by even discussing them”

Monday, April 06, 2009

Dylan posters: my favourite – Milton Glaser’s psychedelia

Thanks to Gerald Bamford:

“Adding to the poster debate, I have a fondness for the Milton Glaser psychedelic artefact which was on the front cover of one of the books about Bob in the ‘70s (you tell me which one) and given away with the US version of More BD's Greatest Hits.

“A friend gave me his copy as a birthday present and I often used it as a backdrop to Back Pages gigs (a Bob Dylan Covers band in which I play rooted in Norfolk - contact me for bookings) until I left it on the wall in the bar at the Norwich Arts Centre by mistake and it had disappeared by the next day and is now on somebody else's wall.

“If that somebody else is reading this and he/she feels guilty I can be contacted through dylandaily. I think it can be purchased through Amazon even now.

“I also had a wonderful (I thought so anyway) copy of the Isle of Wight poster which my then girlfriend took down from an advertising wall in Portsmouth and which had been put on at least 20 or so other previous posters and so was pretty rigid.

“I left that on a wall in a house in West London after we'd been kicked out for reasons beyond my control and when I realised and went back to retrieve it, was told that it was being burned out the back with the rest of the rubbish we'd left!


“I'm very pleased to share that with you.”

Dylan posters: my favourite – Isle Of Wight 1969

Thanks to John Adams:

“My favourite Dylan poster is the handbill for the 1969 Isle Of Wight festival.

“It uses the Nashville Skyline cover portrait, but cleverly juxtaposes it with a repeated image of The Band from one of their albums.

“There was another poster for the gig – a portrait of Dylan in shades – but it wasn’t half as attractive or evocative.”


Hanging a copy of the lovely Drawn Blank poster, courtesy of Woking’s Lightbox gallery, reminded me of the pleasures of having a fine Dylan poster or two on the wall. And encouraged me to acquire a few more.

But which posters? And where from?

Your advice on favourite Dylan poster(s) and preferred suppliers would be very welcome.

Gerry Smith

Thursday, April 02, 2009

New issue of DYLAN DAILY Newsletter circulated today

The latest issue of the re-launched DYLAN DAILY Newsletter was circulated today.

The fortnightly free service carries listings of the last 6 weeks content on the DYLAN DAILY website, alerting subscribers to articles they may have missed.

To ensure you receive future issues, free of charge, please sign up in the subscriptions area in the left margin of the master website:

Gerry Smith

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Beyond Here Lies Nothin’ and Red River Shore

Thanks to Liam Mogan:

“Undoubtedly like all readers of your marvellous website, I downloaded the first track off of the new album as soon as I knew about it.

“I can only heartily agree with Gerald Bamford on the similarities to Otis Rush and the seminal 'Beano' Bluesbreakers album. (Didn't Dylan attempt to record with Clapton & Co. around this time?)

“It’s definitely whetted my appetite for the new release, despite the awful cover which has an alarming similarity to a Levi's Jean advert! Beyond Here Lies Nothin' has a grimy, bluesy feel which is a definite improvement on the flatness and, after repeated listens, the dullness of most of 'Modern Times'

“As making often dubious connections and analytical leaps of faith is the lifeblood of many Dylan commentators, I would like to put forward my own hastily cobbled together 'theory' of the motivation behind the return of 'Colombia Recording Artist', Bob Dylan.

“Integral to this theory is the accordion, which, if reports are to believed, dominates 'Together Through Life'. Did Dylan, after the release of 'Tell Tale Signs', realise that the awe-inspiring, accordion-driven, seven minutes of wonderment that is 'Red River Shore' represent a lost opportunity in his continual search for artistic fulfilment?

“I listened to 'Beyond Here Lies Nothin'' and 'Red River Shore' back-to-back just before midnight last night and was struck by how on completely different tracks the accordion plays the same role.

“Clearly it improves the sound of the tracks, but also emotionally it adds a richness that would otherwise be missing.

“On 'Red River Shore' (the disc 1 version, the version on the 'exploitative' disc 3 is but a pale shadow) the accordion conveys the mood of the singer, heightening the emotional pull of the words which on the right day and with the right amount of whisky could bring a man to tears.

“The small accordion refrain after each line on 'Beyond Here Lies Nothin' ' (and the accordion which mimics the long solo in the second half of the song) adds to the playfulness, joy and, may I suggest, a certain biblical wickedness the singer is attempting to convey. The enjoyable on-the-edge of town/on the border feel of the track is created by that accordion.

“A quick flick through Dylan's official releases and the subsequent bootleg series releases is a clear indication that self-assessment is not always this artist’s particular forte.

“Take 'Blind Willie McTell', which, despite being cut from 'Infidels', has now (thank God) been positively re-assessed by Bob to the extent that it regularly crops up in concert and even appeared on the latest best-of compilation, 'DYLAN'.

“My hypothesis is that 'Red River Shore' is cut from the same cloth. A masterpiece, unfathomably overlooked when recorded, whose eventual release has inspired its writer to attempt capture that magic once again. With an accordion!”