Wednesday 21 August 2019

Boom! Bob Dylan gets ready to rumble...

Bob Dylan seems incapable of sitting still for very long if at all
Bob Dylan seems incapable of sitting still for very long if at all
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

"He not busy being born is busy dying", goes the famous lyric from It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) in 1965. Born on May 24, 1941, Robert Allen Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan, has been busy being something all his life. He seems incapable of sitting still for very long if at all - 38 studio albums and counting (and, as he sang on the 2015 album Tempest: "I ain't dead yet. My bell still rings.")

With Neil Young also on the illustrious bill, Bob's never-ending tour of sorts hits Nowlan Park in Kilkenny on July 14 (when Bob played Bilbao in Spain last week he opened with Things Have Changed; It Ain't Me, Babe; Highway 61 Revisited, and encored with Blowin' In The Wind and It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry. A few nights previously in Vienna there was the same set of songs as an encore plus an instrumental of Just Like Tom Thumb Blues.)

Some of us are still digesting the six-CD Bootleg Series Vol. 14: More Blood, More Tracks from late last year (12 different takes of You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, nine versions of Idiot Wind). Next month Dylan serves up The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings, a 14-disc box set of 148 songs (count 'em - 148!) from one of his most celebrated tours. This will coincide with Martin Scorsese's Netflix doc about The Rolling Thunder Revue that is scheduled for June 12. Starring the master in American Indian pan stick white make-up and cowboy hat with feathers and sometimes a mask straight off The Wicker Man, The Rolling Thunder Revue was a circus-y/carnival-like variety tour whose raison d'etre was, as Dylan put it, "to play for the people, not the people in the $100 seats". It also featured Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, David T-Bone Burnett and Mick Ronson; plus poet Allen Ginsberg and a filmmaking crew with actor Sam Shepard (who wrote a book about it) and assorted others.

"I was just sitting outside my house one day thinking about a name for this tour, when all of a sudden, I looked into the sky and I heard a boom," Dylan recalled. "Then, boom, boom, boom, boom, rolling from west to east. So I figured that should be the name." The communal vibe of a show would often see a finale of This Land Is Your Land with everyone on stage, including, sometimes Ginsberg and even on another night in December at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Bob's mother Beatty.

Later in the tour - 57 shows between October 1975 and May 1976 - Joni Mitchell performed for the last three nights. They were playing material from Desire plus Dylan's back catalogue as well as anything that came into their heads along the way. "For a lad from Yorkshire like meself," said Mick Ronson, who joined Dylan's rag-tag troupe on guitar after being ditched by David Bowie from his band, "it were truly out of this world. There'll be nowt like it again. Fookin' nowt."

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