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You say you’re sorry/For tellin’ stories/That you know I believe are true.

Jordan | Cram it in Your Ear | Thursday, February 24th, 2005

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My reaction to Bob Dylan’s “Chronicles Vol I,” which I read at a lightning pace, is, oddly, similar to that of Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ.” It is a story for insiders. If you don’t know your way around the Folk Revival scene or Dylan’s discography, you will be lost. While some of the yarns he spins are fun (some are hilarious) and his turns of phrase are, well, Dylanesque, I could understand if someone threw this book across the room and shouted, “Who cares?!?” (I know one woman who did.) A large chunk of the small book gives exacting details on the recording process of his relatively obscure late 80s album “Oh Mercy.” Now, as it happens, “Oh Mercy” is one of my favorite Dylan albums — and, since it was released at an imprssionable time for me, it is one of the most important albums in the soundtrack of my life. But the average person who is fond of “Like A Rolling Stone” and “Tangled Up In Blue” will not have heard of any of these songs. . . so despite how jauntily Dylan writes, it may be flat out uninteresting to anyone who isn’t already a Dylan enthusiast. But who cares? I liked the book and await parts 2 and 3. Interesting to know Dylan considers whimsical conceptual artist Red Grooms an influence on his songwriting. And that he liked Barry Goldwater. I was particularly delighted by all the nice things he said about Dave Van Ronk. I was lucky enough to chew the fat with Dave on more than one occassion (back when *I* positively lived on 4th St.) and he was a hell of a guy.

2 Comments »

  1. It was a fun read — but I think he was baked when he wrote about a third of it. Some of it just made no sense — the bit about learning a new way to play guitar? I’ve talked to two different guitarists about this who’ve also read it, and they don’t know what in the hell he’s talking about. (Plus, his music didn’t get any better once he learned this new style of playing.)

    Parts were cogent and dead on, other parts were written in mystical Dylan-babble that he ought to shit-can in favor of honesty. I’d like to hear EXACTLY in his words what he was going through between breaking his neck in a motorcycle accident and recording John Wesley Harding … or his divorce. It’s putatively a free-floating autobiography — let’s hear this stuff!

    I’ll surely pick up the next few volumes … and anticipate feeling like my head is floating on a balloon string as I read vast chunks of them.

    Comment by Bill R. — February 25, 2005 @ 11:28 am

  2. My favorite bits had to do with Dylan’s recollections of the Village in the early 1960s, what was cooking, the crap people had in their apartment, the big overcoats they treasured. Also interesting was learning how deeply linked were the jazz and folk scenes in clubs on Bleecker Street. I guess all that festival genre-parsing nonsense was the work of atonal bureaucrats.

    Comment by Maz — February 25, 2005 @ 6:22 pm

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