Bob Dylan at the State Theatre of New South Wales


Tonight was my seventh time seeing Bob Dylan play live. I continued my lucky streak of never seeing Bob on a really bad night.

The man is a legend. He’s 73 years old, still writing great albums, and is reinventing old songs all the time.

Anyone hoping for greatest hits would be disappointed. He played for over 2 hours but until the encore produced only 3 songs written before 1997 (“She Belongs To Me”, “Tangled Up In Blue”, and “Simple Twist of Fate”). That’s OK, I’ve seen plenty of the classics before.

Songs like “Things Have Changed”, “Beyond Here Lies Nothin’”, and “Love Sick” pack a lot of punch with me. I was amazed that even recent songs like “Duquesne Whistle” have already been reworked into nearly unrecognizable versions.

The band is perfect. There are, as always, no frills. It’s an otherworldly combination of loose and laser-sharp, of legendary music and classics that are only a year old. It’s every bit of blues, jazz, rock, country, and folk Americana music on one stage.

Highlights? Bob playing at a grand piano instead of the little keyboard he’s used in the past, and “High Water (For Charley Patton)”. The full setlist is here.

Thanks Bob.

Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Vol. 9 – The Witmark Demos

Wow. Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series keeps on delivering.

I got The Witmark Demos earlier this week and have listened to it a few times. It is phenomenal.

These 47 songs are staggering in their raw power. They’re demos, recorded by Dylan and friends to show the record companies what he wanted to do. They’re so potent, so full of words and wit, it seems impossible that a man not yet 24 years old could have written them all.

A lot of these songs can be found in a more polished form on the first CD in the Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3. That set still reigns supreme for me because it covers so much of Dylan’s career.

But Vol. 9 is shocking because of its focus, because it’s the sound of a genius first trying to tell the world what he had to say.

New Dylan albums: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 and Mono Recordings

Bob Dylan’s excellent ongoing campaign of releasing live and rare recordings continues with the October 19 release of The Bootleg Series Volume 9 – The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964.

What are they?

The Witmark Demos features 47 Bob Dylan songs recorded by the artist accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, harmonica and occasionally piano on 2 CD or 4 LP 180-gram vinyl. All of these songs were written – and their subsequent demos recorded – before Bob Dylan turned 24 years old.

Among the many gems are 15 Bob Dylan songs that were recorded by the artist only for these sessions, and which have never been officially released to the public until now. These include the plaintive “Ballad For A Friend,” the civil rights era-inspired “Long Ago, Far Away” and “The Death Of Emmett Till,” and the poignant “Guess I’m Doing Fine.”

Right, I’ll have that, then.

There’s also a massive release set of the first eight Dylan albums, all released – on CD and vinyl – in their original monaural recordings. Okay, I’m a big fan, but that’s just for crazy completists.

The Maladies

I heard “This Wood & This Wire”, a song by Sydney act The Maladies, on FBi radio the other morning, and I was intrigued. It was rock, but with some country roots, stoner jam sounds, and frequent Bob Dylan references.

I liked it, and I sought out their MySpace. That song and a few others are there, and they’re all good. They’re not playing it safe. They’re gutsy and intelligent and soulful and rough. This review of their first album – With You Right By My Side Baby, The Deal Just Can’t Go Down – spells it out pretty well. I’m going to get it, right now.

I know that bands often name-drop cool influences, but their list is a pretty good one:

Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Don Walker, Hank Williams, Paul Kelly, The Triffids, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Johnny Cash, Dr Nina Simone, Patsy Cline, The Drones, Dan Kelly, Sam Cooke, The Soul Stirrers, The Louvin Brothers, Karen Dalton, The Black Eyed Susans, Elvis, Dirty Three, Leadbelly, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, X (Australia), Dean Martin, Louis Prima, The White Stripes, Bluebottle Kiss, Suicide, The Supremes, Django Reinhardt, Bo Diddley, Amy Winehouse, Patti Smith, Professor Ratbaggy, Gillian Welch, Edith Piaf, King Curly, Chuck Berry, Nirvana, The Stanley Brothers, Jonathan Richman, Louis Armstrong, Roy Orbisson, The Ronettes, The Birthday Party…

They’re playing next week at the Annandale Hotel, with some other bands, for only a tenner.

Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour Christmas Special

Excellent! It looks like ABC Radio – like BBC 6 – is carrying some of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour shows from XM.

On December 24 and 25 they’ll be playing his special Christmas show. Check out this playlist:

‘Swinging For Christmas (Boppin’ For Santa)’ – Tom Archia (1948)
‘Christmas Is A-Coming (Chicken Crowns At Midnight)’ – Leadbelly (194?)
‘A Party For Santa’ – Lord Nelson (1963)
‘Sock It To Me Santa’ – Bob Seger & The Last Heard (1966)
‘Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas’ – The Staple Singers (1970)
‘Please Come Home For Christmas’ – Charles Brown (1960)
‘Jingle Bells’ – Johnny Paycheck (1967)
‘It Must Be Christmas’ – Gerry Mulligan & Judy Holliday (1980)
‘Christmas Morning’ – Titus Turner (1952)
‘Poor Old Rudolph’ – The BellRays (2001)
‘Blue Xmas’ – Bob Dorough & Miles Davis (1962)
‘Far Away Christmas Blues’ – Little Esther with Johnny Otis Orchestra (1950)
‘Beatnik’s Wish’ – Patsy Raye & The Beatniks (1959)
‘Don’t Believe In Christmas’ – The Sonics (1965)
‘Christmas Tree’ – King Stitt (1969)
‘Silent Night’ – Huey ‘Piano’ Smith & the Clowns (1962)
‘Must Be Santa’ – Brave Combo (1991)
‘Mambo Santa Mambo’ – The Enchanters (1957)
‘Fiesta De Navidad’ – Celia Cruz Y La Sonora Matancera (1961)
‘Merry Christmas Darling’ – Hop Wilson & His Buddies (1960)
‘Merry Merry Christmas’ – Alton Ellis & The Lipsticks (1972)
‘The Merriest’ – June Christy (1961)
‘Truckin’ Trees For Christmas’ – Red Simpson (1973)
‘Christmas In Jail’ – The Youngsters (1956)
‘I Want A Casting Couch For Christmas’ – Kay Martin & Her Body Guards (1962)
‘Santa Claus’ – Sonny Boy Williamson II (1960)
‘Hello Mr New Year’ – Cool Breezers ( ?)
‘Happy Christmas, Happy New Year’ – Mabel Mafuya (1958)
‘Christmas To New Years’ – The Larks (1951)
‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve’ – Nancy Wilson (1965)
‘Auld Lang Syne’ – traditional

Bob Dylan’s Christmas album out now

Christmas in the Heart is, indeed, a Christmas album from Bob Dylan. None of the 15 songs on it are written by him. They’re well-known standards from the ’40s and ’50s, including “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “Here Comes Santa Claus”, “Winter Wonderland”, and proper hymns like “The First Noel”, “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing”, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.

It sounds bizarre. Aren’t Christmas albums typically made by the washed-upas desperate cash grabs?

In fact, he’s doing this for a good cause. All the royalties from record sales will go to various hunger charities worldwide. Here in the UK proceeds will support Crisis. In the US, the money will go to Feeding America.

During this holiday season, Bob Dylan’s immediate donations from the Christmas In The Heart proceeds will provide 500,000 meals to school children in the developing world through the World Food Programme, 15,000 meals to homeless people in the United Kingdom through Crisis and more than 4 million meals to 1.4 million families in America through Feeding America.

It’s a bit wacky, but it’s doing something good. And – as any listener of Bob’s radio show will know – he’s always been a fan of the niches of traditional popular music that the more cynical sometimes label cheesy.

Have a little preview.

EDIT: I’ve just noticed that the embedded YouTube of the song previews just above this may not show up properly in some versions Internet Explorer. If that’s the case: get a real browser.

Something for the weekend

A few science and music links I found on BoingBoing today:

Bob Dylan: The Best of His Rolling Stone Interviews

Click here for snippets of Dylan’s interviews in RS over the years. Like these gems.

Everything is computerized now, it’s all computers. I see that as the beginning of the end. You can see everything going global. There’s no nationality anymore, no I’m this or I’m that: ‘We’re all the ‘same, all workin’ for one peaceful world, blah, blah, blah.’ Somebody’s gonna have to come along and figure out what’s happening with the United States. Is this just an island that’s going to be blown out of the ocean, or does it really figure into things? I really don’t know. At this point right now, it seems that it figures into things. But later on, it will have to be a country that’s self-sufficient, that can make it by itself without that many imports. Right now, it seems like in the States, and most other countries, too, there’s a big push on to make a big global country — one big country — where you can get all the materials from one place and assemble them someplace else and sell ’em in another place, and the whole world is just all one, controlled by the same people, you know? And if it’s not there already, that’s the point it’s tryin’ to get to.

[From Issue 424 – June 21, 1984]

Everybody makes a big deal about the Sixties. The Sixties, it’s like the Civil War days. But, I mean, you’re talking to a person who owns the Sixties. Did I ever want to acquire the Sixties? No. But I own the Sixties — who’s going to argue with me? I’ll give ’em to you if you want ’em. You can have ’em. … My old songs, they’ve got something — I agree, they’ve got something! I think my songs have been covered — maybe not as much as ‘White Christmas’ or ‘Stardust,’ but there’s a list of over 5,000 recordings. That’s a lot of people covering your songs, they must have something. If I was me, I’d cover my songs too. A lot of these songs I wrote in 1961 and ’62 and ’64, and 1973, and 1985, I can still play a lot of those songs — well, how many other artists made songs during that time? How many do you hear today? I love Marvin Gaye, I love all that stuff. But how often are you gonna hear ‘What’s Going On’? I mean, who sings it? Who sings ‘Tracks of My Tears’? Where is that being sung tonight?

[From Issue 1008 – September 7, 2006]