Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Sheet-Metal Memories

Each time that Bob Dylan, 70 today, passes a milestone there’s a tidal wave of commentary and hagiography. The ten best tracks, the ten worst tracks, the five worst movies, the ten best concerts, the five worst interviews, the ten best cover versions, the five worst put-downs, send him a birthday present, buy him a book, send him a recipe, choose him a tie, boil him an egg, shine his shoes, tell him a joke, paint him a picture, peg out his clothes, wash his car, crawl out of his window. Despite all this I must confess that I’ve been a dedicated follower of the Bob Dylan route-map along the Great American Highway of Song for more than 40 years. The trip passes some familiar landmarks such as Woody Guthrie, the Harry Smith Anthology, the Delta Blues and the world of Gospel, Doo-wop, Bluegrass, Country and Vaudeville and some that are less familiar such as Western Swing, Honkers and Shouters, Brother Bands, Minstrel Shows and Hellfire Preachers. All these threads and more are woven together in his recordings before being taken apart and presented to us in the sublime Theme Time Radio Hour. Railroad trains run through the Dylan songbook on an intensive timetable – if you miss the “D” train the “Double E” or the Danville train won’t be far behind. Or you can take a ride on board the unique “D for Dylan” subway line from the cool clear air of Bear Mountain to the lost souls and insomniacs on Desolation Row.

No comments: