Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2017 Nov-Dec Contents 10 Rhythms
My friend’s other argument is Dylan is maintaining his
‘mystique’ by not speaking, thus contributing to his ongoing
legend. To which my reply is, how is it then that years ago
he would make jokes on stage, introduce the band and at
least give the appearance of being appreciative, even if
he wasn’t prepared to prostrate himself in front of us and
shower us with thanks.
After receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature, Bob didn’t
even bother to turn up to accept the award, but he did at
least deliver a lecture (not in public). I have never forgiven
him for not saying anything during the first post-Katrina
Jazz Fest in 2006, though a few people have pointed out
that the songs in the set list contained his message. Really?
Compare that to Springsteen at the same festival who not
only had everyone in tears with his sentiments and songs,
but also put on a special early morning show for the workers
Dylan’s old running buddy Bob Neuwirth once told me that
he was sceptical about musicians calling themselves ‘artists’
as it tended to put them on a level that separated them from
Last time I saw John Hammond Jr he put on a fabulous
show, packed with stories of his early days hanging out with
blues legends... and a guy called Bob Dylan.
I can only dream about a show in which Dylan himself, in
as eloquent terms as his Chronicles, would let us into the
stories of his life. My friend would say that the book and his
songs already do that but I can still dream.
photo credit: Getty Images
TALK IS NOT CHEAP!
i recently attended concerts by Dan Penn and roger
mcGuinn while i was in austin, texas. i have seen both
musicians before – and we all know their songs – but
what i particularly enjoyed were the stories that they
told introducing those songs.
Many of those stories were also familiar, but they helped
place the music into context for listeners who may not have
known how many famous singers had recorded Penn’s
songs or what an influence McGuinn and The Byrds have
A week later I was also amused by Jeff Tweedy’s stage
repartee that veered from the surreal to the hilarious. He
responded to the audience with grace and humour.
I was musing on these shows because earlier in my journey
I had seen Van Morrison in Nashville and was thrilled that
he actually deigned to share a few short sentences with the
audience, as opposed to the usual two words, “Thank you.”
I also saw Eric Clapton recently and, while his playing was
terrific, I would have really enjoyed hearing some vignettes
about some of the classic blues songs (and originals) he
performed. A mention of JJ Cale and a story or two would
not have gone astray!
Morrison chuckled his way through an incredibly obscure
song, ‘Mechanical Bliss’, which he had dragged up from the
mid-’70s and was almost a chatterbox when he introduced a
version of ‘That Old Black Magic’, on which he duetted with
his daughter Shana. “I hope you understood that because
I didn’t,” he joked. I felt almost privileged to have paid
US$150 to be there!
Bruce Springsteen is doing a series of solo acoustic shows
on Broadway in New York and I suspect he will be as
generous there with his stories, as he is in his concerts
with the E Street Band. It is hard not to walk away from a
Springsteen show and not feel as if he has given you one
hundred and ten per cent. Mick Jagger also makes an effort
to engage the audience, occasionally setting the scene for
a classic song. (I will omit a list of musicians who talk too
much on stage and whose stories I would be happy not to
All of which brings me back to a recent discussion with a
friend, who also happens to be a Dylan fanatic, about Bob’s
reticence to say anything on stage apart from the obligatory
thank you at the end.
My friend believes that Bob, being an artist and a poet,
doesn’t have to say anything to the audience. We pay our
money to hear his songs and that is all we can expect of an
‘artist’. One of his arguments, if I understand it properly, is
that the musician does not owe us anything other than the
songs. Actually, they do owe us something: their livelihood.
Having paid into Dylan’s coffers over the decades – and I
do not regret this at all – I feel that occasionally it would be
nice if he let us know that he appreciated this fact.
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