Talking About Chronicles
Some interesting tidbits from the online chat with David Gates, who had interviewed Bob
Dylan for Newsweek and offered himself for readers'
questions on MSNBC.com.
The biggest piece of
"news" out of it was a direct explanation
of why Bob is playing keyboards these days -
according to Mr. Gates:
he told me a lot about that.
basically it has to do with his guitar not giving
him quite the fullness of sound he was wanting at
the bottom. (six strings on a guitar, ten fingers
on a piano.) he's thought of hiring a keyboard
player so he doesn't have to do it himself, but
hasn't been able to figure out whomost
keyboard players, he says, like to be soloists,
and he wants a very basic sound. he says he wants
to tweak the sound some, because he's not quite
satisfied with how the guitars and keyboard are
So much, apparently, for theories
about arthritis or carpal tunnel problems. As for the
new songs Bob said he was working on, this additional
he did say he's written a song
based on melody from a bing crosby song, 'where
the blue of the night meets the gold of the day.'
This was a real trademark song for
Bing, and one he actually has writing credit on too. Right
Wing Bob happens to be a major Bing
Crosby fan, so it is endlessly pleasurable to know
that Dylan is too. He has also alluded to it on other
occasions in the past.
And on a different note, there is
this little grenade, prompted by a question about
what Dylan would be writing about in forthcoming
he does have 'blood on the
tracks' stuff and material about
'freewheelin' and his walking off the
ed sullivan show, which, by the way,
he regrets having done. what
else he's written, or might plan to
write, don't know.
Now because Right Wing
Bob is nothing if not fair, I'm going
to grant that since this wasn't a published part of
their interview, it amounts to something only
slightly above hearsay. Nevertheless, how interesting
if Dylan regrets that moment - still held up to this
day by those who would champion his
countercultural/protest persona - when he refused to
play on the Ed Sullivan show because they didn't want
him to sing "Talkin' John Birch
I wouldn't say it indicates that he is now a member
of the John Birch society, but rather that he may
appreciate that this was a slight song - a topical
song of the kind he avoided putting on his actual
albums - and it was not something to make a
hullabaloo about. Even that Sullivan may have had
good reason not to have someone on his show seeming
to make fun of not just John Birchers, but
anti-communists in general. How nice for history if
there were footage of Bob Dylan on the Ed Sullivan
show performing, say, "Don't Think Twice
It's All Right."
Another little tidbit, prompted by
someone's comment that they are "shocked at Mr.
Dylan's dismissal of the pivotal historic events of
the '60s," though I don't think that's exactly
how Bob has put it. Anyway, Gates includes this in
he seems to follow the
newswe shared a little joke about
the apparently forged bush documents.
In case anyone was wondering, and
(bizarrely to me) some were, there's "definitely
no ghostwriter." Simon & Schuster edited and
cut, but "didn't add anything." Anyone who
thinks Bob Dylan would put out an autobio using
someone else's words has got to be in some other
solar system, if you ask me. People have pointed out
seeming clichés or music industry press release type
language in the Chronicles excerpt, like:
"All I'd ever done
was sing songs that were dead straight and
expressed powerful new realities."
People shouldn't forget that Bob
has a penchant for taking cliché and using it in an
off-kilter way to throw the reader/listener and make
them think. Christopher Ricks has written extensively
on this - a nice example is from "I Shall Be Free," - "I see better days and I do
better things," where Bob is playing on the
cliché, "seen better days." Take 10
minutes and you could find a dozen examples yourself.
By using a cliché in an odd way, it also makes the
reader/listener rethink what that phrase means. What
does Bob mean above when he says "powerful new
realities?" I don't know, but I could speculate
... I won't right now. Whether doing these things
with cliché will work in a good way in a book of
prose, and in a memoir, is open to debate. Only a few
people have read the whole book at this point, and
they don't seem to be commenting.
My grubby little hands can't wait.
Addendum: Another nice detail,
this time from the Sunday Telegraph interview, which
is now available in the Chicago Sun-Times, is that before running off to New York
city to become "the conscience of a
generation," the young Bob Dylan seriously
considered "enrolling in the Army and
going to West Point."
Just wait for people to start
saying that Dylan is engaging in revisionist history
and portraying himself incorrectly for some
unfathomable, inscrutable reasons of his own. I'm
just glad to be one of those fans for whom this
self-portrait makes simple, straightforward sense.
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