Category Archives: essay

Essential Books: Robert Christgau on the Past, Carola Dibbell on the Future

only ones

Dean Of Rock Criticism Robert Christgau Looks Back While Novelist Carola Dibbell Imagines The Future

By Michael Goldberg.

While it was likely coincidental that New York-based editor/rock critic Robert Christgau, who has been working on his memoir since 2007, and Carola Dibbell, a journalist who has been writing mostly unpublished fiction for decades and who is married to Christgau, had their books – his memoir, Going Into The City (Dey St./William Morrow); her debut novel, The Only Ones (Two Dollar Radio) – published almost simultaneously early last year, it was an interesting concurrence and I had to read both to see what this couple who have been part of New York’s counterculture since the ’60s had to say.

I have been reading Robert Christgau’s music writing since I was in high school. First I came across his Consumer Guide – capsule reviews of a dozen or so albums, each of which would get a letter grade, you know, like a school paper – in Creem. I devoured his collection of music articles, “Any Old Way You Choose It,” when it was published in 1973. A few years later, in the mid-‘70s, I subscribed to the Village Voice specifically to read the music section – Riffs – which Christgau edited.

Rock criticism began in the mid-‘60s, and while Ralph J. Gleason, the jazz critic for the San Francisco Chronicle who began writing criticism about Bob Dylan and The Beatles and others, was there first, Christgau was one of the early rock critics, and once he became music editor at the Voice in 1974, he had a profound influence, not only on the dozens of music writers he discovered, but also on writers like myself who learned how to write about music mostly from what we read in Creem, the Voice and Rolling Stone.

At one point when I was editing a San Francisco magazine called Boulevards, I wrote a monthly roundup of albums I called “Goldberg’s Consumer Guide” in tribute to Christgau’s column.

RC

Although Greil Marcus has likely influenced my approach to writing music criticism more profoundly than anyone else, I learned plenty from Christgau and his crew of Village Voice writers, as well as the gang at Creem. One of the many things I learned from the many writers in the pages of those publications, were ways of digging beneath the surface and finding the depth of emotion and ideas that were in so much of the music I loved. I felt it, and I heard it, but when I was younger I couldn’t articulate what I was hearing. Those rock critics brought an intellectual approach to music criticism. Albums as weighty as Exile On Main Street and Blonde On Blonde were windows into the mysteries of life, as much so as the novels, films and paintings that meant (and mean) so much to me…

Read the rest of this column at Addicted To Noise!

– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post –

Goldberg On Dylan: 18 CD ‘The Cutting Edge’ Set Reviewed

Down the Rabbit Hole with Bob Dylan in the Mid-Sixties

By Michael Goldberg

The mysteries of the ’65/’66 recordings revealed (maybe)

How deep can you go into a song? As Greil Marcus’ two recent books, “The History of Rock ‘N’ Roll in Ten Songs” and “Three Songs, Three Singers, Three Nations,” reveal, there’s no limit. Alice falling down the rabbit hole to discover a subterranean landscape dotted with surreal characters such as the “mad” Hatter, the White Rabbit and a hookah smoking caterpillar, has nothing on Marcus, who takes a song as deceptively simple as Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s 1928 recording “I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground” and finds lost continents in its strange lyrics.

It’s no coincidence that Marcus is obsessed with Bob Dylan, the master of bottomless songs; Marcus has written entire books delving into what he hears in Dylan’s recordings. He’s been digging Dylan even longer than I have, and I’ve been in the Dylan Zone for 50 years.

I read “Three Songs…” just prior to the arrival of the Collector’s Edition of The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12, a pricey ($599) 18 CD set that contains “every note recorded during the 1965-1966 sessions,” according to a Sony press release, as well as a CD of recordings made in hotel rooms while Dylan was touring during those years that include some wonderful, apparently never completed Dylan originals. Now if only they’d released all the live recordings, but perhaps that’s in the works, hint, hint…

Just so you understand, 18 CDs translates to over 18 hours of music. Close to a full day and night’s worth of Bob Dylan recording the albums that set a new standard for what rock ‘n’ roll records could be, and to this day influence musicians the world over. Many of the songs on those albums are deep. They are songs with trap doors and secret passages, songs that confound, defy, deny, and mystify.

Here was an opportunity to explore not only the depth of the songs recorded during the sessions that produced Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde, but a rare look at the creative process of an artist at the top of his game: Bob Dylan attempting many takes of some songs, radically changing his approach from take to take in some cases while making minor changes in others. Dylan cracking jokes and cracking up.

BD1_Bootleg 12ed_ (c) Don Hunstein copy

“Like a Rolling Stone” Turned My World Upside Down

I’d just turned 12 the first time I heard Bob Dylan. His voice from the car radio singing his Top Ten hit as my mom drove me somewhere in the summer of ’65. I had been listening to rock music – including songs by The Beatles and the Stones and the Beach Boys and the Lovin’ Spoonful and The Byrds – for a year or so. This was different. This was “Like a Rolling Stone.” This was the ecstatic transmuted into a six minute, thirteen second recording.

That song changed me. There was rebellious fury in Dylan’s voice, in how he sang his Beat lyrics about class privilege and the fall from grace, in how he sang a song that managed to say what it took F. Scott Fitzgerald a whole novel, “The Beautiful and the Damned,” to say. But though I related to the lyrics, what slayed me was the music. And more. Dylan’s voice and the sound of that record made me know one didn’t have to go along with the rules society imposed, that there was another way to live. That it was possible to be fully alive, and not sleepwalk through life.

Or as Dylan sang, “It’s life, and life only.”

So for me, perhaps the pièce de résistance here are the complete studio recordings of “Like a Rolling Stone,” all 20 of them. As it turns out you can also get them on the much less expensive 6 CD Deluxe Edition; for many that will be the way to go. And let me be clear here: the 18 CD set is only for the total obsessives, the immoderates, of which I am one.

Listening chronologically to all the takes of “Like a Rolling Stone” provides a kind of fly on the wall view of how Dylan and a crew of extremely talented musicians – on the first day the song is attempted: Michael Bloomfield on guitar, Al Gorgoni on guitar, Paul Griffin on organ, Frank Owens on piano, Joseph Macho Jr. on bass and Bobby Gregg on drums; and on the second day: Bloomfield, Griffin on piano, Macho Jr., Gregg and the addition of Al Kooper on organ and Bruce Langhorne on tambourine – succeed against all odds in recording one of the great rock ‘n’ roll records.

In the epitaph to his 2005 book, “Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads,” Greil Marcus describes in detail what happened during the “Like a Rolling Stone” sessions based on listening carefully to the session tapes. When I read his book in 2011, I wanted so bad to hear what Marcus had described. His writing made me feel as close to being there in the studio as I imagined one could ever get.

I was wrong. Miracle of miracles! Now we can actually listen for ourselves, we can get even closer, we can listen in on a historic moment in rock history, when everything fell apart, then came together for those six minutes, 13 seconds – musicians, producer, singer, words, melody – and fell apart all over again.

As Marcus has written, and as is clear when you listen, nothing was going right. When they start in on the song at Columbia Studio A in New York, near the end of a long session on June 15, 1965 that has already found these musicians cutting ten takes of “Phantom Engineer” (the song that was retitled “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”), and seven takes of “Sitting On a Barbed Wire Fence,” Dylan admits, “My voice is gone.”

Soon they pack it in, only to pick up where they left off the next day, which is to say, during the first few takes the song remains out of reach. It doesn’t have a hook to pull you in from the first notes, Michael Bloomfield hasn’t found the guitar riffs the song needs, Al Kooper is searching for what to play on organ, and Dylan hasn’t found the right tempo or pacing, nor settled on how he should sing his bitter words.

As I listened, first to the January 15 recordings, then the first few takes cut the next day, lost in the moments of those takes, despite knowing that Dylan and the band had eventually pulled it off, I started to have my doubts. It was as if they’d taken a wrong turn and were miles from the song. And then, amazingly, with the fourth take they hit pay dirt. Only they weren’t sure, and recorded ten more takes, once again losing their way.

Read the rest of this essay at Addicted To Noise.

– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post –

A Journey Towards Cultural Freedom (And Bob Dylan) ‘On Highway 61’

The musicians and writers whose art presaged and influenced and influenced The Sixties.

By Michael Goldberg.

On Highway 61 – Music, Race and the Evolution of Cultural Freedom, Dennis McNally, Counterpoint Press (471 pages)

Let me start at the end and tell you that the final section of On Highway 61, some 120 pages, provides the best portrait of Bob Dylan and his creativity, what nurtured it, and how it evolved, that I’ve read to date.

Additionally, author Dennis McNally focuses on how Dylan’s worldview – and the songs he wrote and/or sung – can be characterized as part of the ongoing search for freedom in all it’s manifestations, physical, spiritual and cultural. And more. Dylan was at least as influenced by the music made by African Americans, as he was by white country and folk musicians. And this is important, as it is simply one of many examples in this terrific book that make the case that African Americans are primarily responsible for what is truly great in American music.

But there are other reasons it’s appropriate to start with Dylan. Like some of that artist’s surrealist (or perhaps hyper-real) songs of 1965 – “Desolation Row,” “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” — McNally has populated his book with an incredible array of iconic figures — including Henry David Thoreau, Miles Davis, Mark Twain, Bessie Smith and Jack Kerouac – who, like Dylan, have allowed those who have paid attention to their art to experience, as McNally puts it, “a widening of vision, a softening of the heart, and an increase in tolerance.”

No Anita Ekberg (“to make the country grow”)) and no Shakespeare (“with his pointed shoes and his bells”), but what the hell. As artfully as Dylan in his songs, McNally has made his superhuman crew fit seamlessly into this treatise on cultural freedom. In fact, those artists and their work is the story of cultural freedom.

And what is cultural freedom?

Taking from the past and making something new.

Leave it to Mr. Dylan, who McNally quotes from a 1987 US magazine interview, to give us a clue.

“When I first heard Elvis’s voice I just knew that I wasn’t going to work for anybody and nobody was gonna be my boss,” Dylan said. “Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail.”

Art that makes you feel like busting out of jail. That would be one definition.

Or, as Dylan sang it, “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.”

Yeah, cultural freedom.

But there’s more to it…

Read the rest of this review at Addicted To Noise AU.

-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-

[I published my novel, True Love Scars, in August of 2014.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book. Read it here. And Doom & Gloom From The Tomb ran this review which I dig. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]

Dylan Expert Greil Marcus’ Column Has Moved Online Again – Read It Now!

Greil Marcus

Noted Dylan expert Greil Marcus has been writing his “Real Life Top 10” column since the ’70s, when it ran monthly in New West magazine.

The column has appeared in a variety of publications since then including Artforum, Salon, and most recently, The Believer.

Although I was able to reprint older columns at Addicted To Noise during the late ’90s and early 2000s, it wasn’t until Salon picked the column up in the mid-2000s that new columns appeared online each month.

And once Greil located it at The Believer, it was only available in print.

Well now that’s changed, and the column is currently available for all to read online each month at the Barnes & Noble Review.

A new column just went online here.

Marcus is the author many books including The Old, Weird America: Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes, Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads and Bob Dylan by Greil Marcus: Writings 1968–2010. His most recent book is The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs.

[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book in a recent issue. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]

My Review of Bob Dylan’s 3rd Oakland Show Featured at bobdylan.com

Bob Dylan and band at the Paramount Theater, Oakland, CA.

I’m jazzed that the folks over at bobdylan.com have included a link to my review of Bob Dylan’s recent killer show on October 30, 2014 at the Paramount Theater in Oakland, CA in the “Hype” area of Dylan’s website.

“Hype” is where they link to articles about Dylan that they like.

You can get directly to the review with this link.

And if you haven’t yet read my new column about The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11, here.

[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book in a recent issue. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]

Why Bob Dylan’s ‘Troubled And I Don’t Know Why’ Is Such a Masterpiece

The other day I did a post featuring the live Bob Dylan/ Joan Baez duet on Bob Dylan’s “Troubled And I Don’t Know Why,” a song that never appeared on an official Dylan album or single, but did make it onto a Joan Baez album.

My post prompted Dylan fan Ron Chester to post the following essay in the Facebook Dylan group, EDLIS Cafe.

I thought Chester wrote a wonderful essay and asked if I could repost here and he said that was cool.

So check it out, and give the song a listen.

“Troubled And I Don’t Know Why”:

“Troubled And I Don’t Know Why”
Bob Dylan with Joan Baez
Forest Hills, 17 August 1963

By Ron Chester

This three minute recording shows, better than most, I think, why the folkies loved Dylan so much from the very beginning.

A song title that points to a condition we have all experienced.

A simple tune that I’m still singin’ to myself an hour after I heard it.

Literate, expressive, succinct lyrics that go right to the heart of big subjects in our everyday experience, yet performed like he just thought of them, as he was rolling out of bed that morning. (And he may have!)

When was the last time you heard the word “squall” used in a sentence; as a VERB, not a noun?! Quickly followed by a brilliant visual image: “it roared and it boomed and it bounced around the room,” then concluding with his biting six word commentary: “it never said nothing at all.”

The recording captures the laughter of the audience, just like with the recording of his first performance of Desolation Row. And by the second line of the last verse, Dylan is cracking himself up too!

History captured in 3:10 with this invaluable recording. Apparently the only known performance of the song?

The Dylan website lists the song, but without the lyrics. Did it fail to get properly copyrighted? As it does not appear in either the 1973 or 1985 lyrics books. My guess is that Christopher Ricks won’t miss it. And in fact the 1986 knaff production, “Some Other Kinds of Songs . . . ” didn’t miss it. [An amazing gift presented to me on 22 Apr 1997 by an old friend from rec.music.dylan, Ben Taylor. Some of you may remember him. He he]

It bears repeating:

History captured in 3:10 with this invaluable recording, plus 20 seconds of thunderous applause at the end.

Do we have any history captured in this way from the life work of Mozart or Bach? Of course not. Pause and give silent thanks to the dedicated work of all our tapers over more than fifty years. Did they know they were doing Important Work? Yes, I think mostly, they did. It is too bad that aggressive enforcement at some venues, such as the Santa Barbara Bowl, caused some brilliant performances to not be so available. Well perhaps even those are properly preserved in Jeff Rosen’s vaults.

And thanks to the Michael Goldberg blog for reminding us of this gem.

[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book in the new issue. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]

— A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blog post —

Is ‘True Love Scars’ the Great Rock Novel? Simon Warner Considers the Pros & Cons

“True Love Scars” rises to #18 on the Amazon Bestselling Literary Satire chart.

Fantastic review by Simon Warner, author of “Text and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll: The Beats and Rock Culture.”

TRUE LOVE SCARS
Michael Goldberg (Neumu Press)

Review by Simon Warner

The great rock novel? The pursuit of that ultimate piece of fiction that distils the primal energy, the ecstatic power, the neurotic craziness, of popular music has been something of a holy grail in recent decades and, in True Love Scars – a deeply ironic nod to Buddy Holly’s ‘True Love Ways’ – one-time Rolling Stone journalist Michael Goldberg is the latest contender for this Lonsdale Belt of rock‘n’roll writing.

His protagonist Michael Stein is a Californian teenager in the later 1960s, tangled to distraction in the sound and image of his hero Bob Dylan, a paradoxical blend of cocksure kid and deluded hipster, bruising his fragile ego in the choppy shallows of high school romance, then sabotaging his increasingly complicated love tangles in a haze of drug indulgence and casual disloyalty, and all to a backbeat of Highway 61 Revisited, the Stones and the Doors.

It’s the story of a disaffected geek and self-imagined king of cool who turns out to be much more naïve nerd, as his promising upward trajectory hurtles into reverse. But True Love Scars, the first part of Goldberg’s ‘Freak Scene Dream Trilogy’, is as much about style – the way he tells the tale – as it is about content. Penned in a staccato amphetamine grammar, its narrative is fractured and deranged, often unsettling but frequently compelling, an unsparing portrait of the teen condition: assured then despairing, would-be sex god then impotent has-been, from erection to dejection, an only child battling the wills of his domineering father and interfering mom in the anonymous, suburban fringes of Marin County.

Goldberg’s work recalls a number of those post-war stylists who have tried to capture the uncertainties of adolescence into adulthood, the lure of escape and the quest for forbidden fruit. It has elements of Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, a flavour of Richard Fariña and his smart college satire Been Down So Long It Seems Like Up to Me, and more than a dash of that frenetic gonzo gabble that Hunter S. Thompson utilised to frame the madness of the modern world as the American dream unravelled, around the very time that Stein is doing his incompetent best to grow up. The great rock novel? Perhaps we still await it but, for sure, this writer has made a creditworthy tilt at this literary crown, and produced a very good one.

Simon Warner is the author of Text and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll: The Beats and Rock Culture. He’s a lecturer, Popular Music Studies, School of Music, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom

[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.” Rolling Stone has a great review of my book in the new issue. Read it here. There’s info about True Love Scars here.]

— A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blog post —

Blurt’s Fred Mills Offers Moving Review of ‘True Love Scars’

And Perfect Sound Forever has an excerpt in the latest issue.

I’ve gotten many wonderful reviews so far of my rock ‘n’ roll novel, True Love Scars.

This one by Fred Mills at Blurt blew me away.

Fred Mills writes:

Veteran rock journalist Michael Goldberg, of Addicted To Noise and Sonic Net fame, is clearly working through some personal demons in his debut novel, a kind of poetic-license memoir rendered in a vivid 1st person voice containing echoes of Holden Caulfield, Sal Paradise and Danny Sugerman (who of course was not a fictional person, being a member of the Doors inner circle, but certainly wrote with a definite ego swagger in his own memoir). And in a very real sense, True Love Scars contains echoes of my own voice, because in reading the book I felt some of my demons from that time being stirred up, including initial musical alliances with key albums/concerts, mixed feelings toward my relationship with my parents and friends and memories of my first few crushes (not to mention losing my virginity).

Indeed, Michael Stein’s recollections chart an emotional arc as striking as I’ve seen a novel’s lead character experience, from naïve and tender to streetwise and hip to cynical and wounded, with Dylan lyrics seeming, to him, laden with meaning and Rolling Stones tunes, likewise, churning with prophecy. When he meets, for example, the girl he calls Sweet Sarah and they embark upon a doomed courtship, Dylan’s there as their guide and their muse. Later, though, following a breakup and a dark descent into teenage debauchery, Stein’s haunted by mental echoes of the ominous slide guitar riff powering the Stones’ “Sister Morphine.” Similar musical reference points from the time abound, as befits novelist Goldberg, who cut his teeth as a rock writer and came of age in that same era; it’s tempting to play the is-it-or-ain’t-it-autobiographical game with the book, since Goldberg has a temporal, geographical and personal backstory that mirrors, to a degree, Stein’s. (Stein’s nickname in the book is “Writerman,” which should tell you something.)

Later in the review Mills writes:

Goldberg advises us that True Love Scars is the initial installment of his “Freak Scene Dream Trilogy,” full of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll plus the inevitable heartbreak and roadkill that comes with the whole package. “How the dream died and what there is left after,” he concludes. It’s worth noting that despite the timeframe outlined above, Stein/Writerman is actually narrating in retrospect from some as-yet-unspecified point in the near-present. So we know that despite the gradual sense of dread building up over the course of the book and present at its abrupt ending, he will manage to survive in some form and fashion despite whatever adventures—good, bad, ugly, tragic—will go down over the course of the next two volumes of the trilogy. I can’t wait to read ‘em.

Read the whole review here.

— A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blot post —

Books: Patti Smith Reviews (Loves) New Haruki Murakami Novel

This is a first for Patti Smith.

After rave reviews of her memoir, Just Kids, she’s now on the front page of the New York Times Sunday Book Review with an essay about the new Haruki Murakami novel, “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.”

Smith is an excellent writer, she knows Murakami inside and out, and her review is a joy to read.

Here’s the first few graphs”

A devotional anticipation is generated by the announcement of a new Haruki Murakami book. Readers wait for his work the way past generations lined up at record stores for new albums by the Beatles or Bob Dylan. There is a happily frenzied collective expectancy — the effect of cultural voice, the Murakami effect. Within seven days of its midnight release, “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” sold over one million copies in Japan. I envision readers queuing up at midnight outside Tokyo bookstores: the alienated, the athletic, the disenchanted and the buoyant. I can’t help wondering what effect the book had on them, and what they were hoping for: the surreal, intra-dimensional side of Murakami or his more minimalist, realist side?

I had a vague premonition this book would be rooted in common human experience, less up my alley than the alien textures woven throughout “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.” Yet I also sensed strange notes forming, coiling within a small wound that would not heal. Whichever aspect of himself Murakami drew from in order to create “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage,” it lies somewhere among the stones of his mystical labors.

He sits at his desk and makes this story: a young man’s traumatic entrance into adulthood and the shadowy passages he must subsequently negotiate. His protagonist’s name, Tsukuru, means “to make,” a metaphor for the writer’s process. He is 36 years old and builds and refurbishes train stations, continuously observing how to improve them. He has the touching habit of sitting in them for hours, watching trains arrive and depart and the symphonic flow of people. His love of railway stations connects him with each stage of his life — from toys, to study, to action. It is the one bright spot in an existence he imagines is pallid.

In a sense, Tsukuru is colorless by default. As a young man he belonged to a rare and harmonious group of friends wherein all but he had a family name corresponding to a color: Miss White, Miss Black, Mr. Red, Mr. Blue. He privately mourned this, sometimes feeling like a fifth leaf in a four-leaf clover. Yet they were as necessary to one another as the five fingers of a hand. As a sophomore in college, without explanation, he is suddenly and irrevocably banished from the group, cut off and left to drop into a murky abyss. Belonging nowhere, he becomes nothing.

Read the entire review here.

[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll/ coming-of-age novel, “True Love Scars,” which features a narrator who is obsessed with Bob Dylan. To read the first chapter, head here.

Or watch an arty video with audio of me reading from the novel here.

Of just buy the damn thing:

–- A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-

Hey Bill Wyman, Bob Dylan’s Not Weird At All!

One of our best music critics is Bill Wyman, who wrote an incredible piece about Michael Jackson for the New Yorker in 2012.

I’ve been reading Bill since at least the mid-’90s, and he always has a unique take on the artists and music he writes about.

His latest writing, an essay about Bob Dylan, is in the latest issue of New York magazine and has also been published online at Vulture.

The essay is thoughtful and informed, but I have one big problem with it: the headline.

“How Did Bob Dylan Get So Weird?”

I have two problems with that headline. First, the question asked assumes that Bob Dylan is weird.

And then it implies that Bill’s essay will explain how Bob Dylan went from normal to weird, you know, the way one might explain how a moth becomes a butterfly.

Only as far as I can tell — and this is based on reading everything I’ve been able to get my eyes on that’s been written about Bob Dylan starting in the early ’60s, as well as my one brief meeting with Bob Dylan — he’s not weird.

In fact, I would argue that for someone who has had to deal with international success for over 50 years, who has been accused of everything from being Judas and betraying folk music to inciting racial hatred, Bob Dylan is about as normal as any of us.

I mean how do you define normal?

One could argue — certainly the late Guy Debord would — that nothing about how we live, and nothing about the capitalist system that defines the West has anything to do with normal.

But anyway

One of the big themes regarding Bob Dylan’s so-called weirdness is that he tours all the time. That he practically lives the road.

But why is that a problem. Why does that make him weird?

Bob Dylan is the one who coined the phrase, ‘don’t look back,’ which he used in his song, “She Belongs To Me.”

Remember? “She’s an artist, she don’t look back.”

Dylan took lessons from such fellow travelers as Woody Guthrie and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Jack Kerouac.

Kerouac’s “On The Road,” a book about two guys who criss-cross the country many times, has been loved and appreciated by millions.

Weird? To want to wake up to something new every few days? Rather than live in the same rut for decade upon decade. I don’t think so.

From what I’ve read. Bob Dylan had some very dark moments during his life. One came at the end of the ’70s, after his marriage to Sara ended in divorce.

That was when he turned to religion in a way that many of us still find hard to understand. But there’s nothing weird about turning to religion at a time of spiritual crisis.

Millions have done the same.

Bob Dylan also lost his way musically for a while during the ’80s. As Wyman points out, Dylan still managed to write and record great songs during that period, it’s just that most weren’t released on official albums and it’s only been during the ’90s and 2000’s that we’ve gotten to hear such gems as “Blind Willie McTell.”

Wyman argues that the ’80s and ’90s “were tough for him artistically.”

I agree that the ’80s was a bad decade for Dylan, but in the ’90s he made Good as I Been to You and World Gone Wrong and
Time Out of Mind, albums that have gotten rave reviews from most critics including Greil Marcus.

The ’90s turned out to be a great decade for Dylan musically, his comeback decade.

And even the ’80s have turned out to be not a total wipeout. While Dylan’s shows with the Grateful Dead were not so hot, the recordings of his rehearsals with the Dead at Club Front in Marin County in 1987 show him to be in great form. He recorded Oh Mercy in 1989, which got great reviews and is an excellent album.

But what has any of that got to do with weird?

When you headline an article — and Bill Wyman may very well have had nothing to do with the headline — “How Did Bob Dylan Get So Weird?” and then the first graph is some musings about Dylan covering a song made famous by Frank Sinatra, as if that in itself is weird, well is this just a way to sell magazines?

What’s weird is the disconnect between the headline and the article itself.

But then that could just be those pesky editors.

Frankly, that headline doesn’t sound like Bill Wyman to me.

Early on Wyman tells us that Dylan behaves differently than others who are in the “pantheon of great rock stars.”

Duh!

That’s what makes Bob Dylan Bob Dylan. He doesn’t follow the rules. He does what he wants, when he wants and he does it how he wants.

He answers to no one other than himself, far as I can tell.

That’s one of the things that is so great about him.

That’s what I learned from him when I was in my teens.

Here’s a quote from my novel, “True Love Scars,” in which I address that very thing. I’m talking about “Like A Rolling Stone” here:

Somehow that song summed up exactly and for certain how I felt that day, summer of ’65, every loner feeling, every put down I ever suffered, every bit of existential angst, I hear it all in that song and then, top of all that, that Dylan voice which broke every rule which I didn’t actually know back then, but still I knew, in my body I knew, and what I knew was that every damn thing I’d been told was wrong ’cause if a voice like that, all sneer and sarcasm and ragged and strange, could be on Top 40 radio, anything was possible. And all the rules they taught me didn’t mean shit.

I knew.

“How Did Bob Dylan Get Weird”?

Bob Dylan isn’t weird. He’s just living life to the max, on his own terms.

[In August of this year I’ll be publishing my rock ‘n’ roll/ coming-of-age novel, “True Love Scars,” which features a narrator who is obsessed with Bob Dylan. To read the first chapter, head here.

Or watch an arty video with audio of me reading from the novel here.

–- A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-