Poetic homage to the greatest LP of all- time now available in paperback

blog blood best cover

A POPULAR poetic homage to Nobel prize-winning songwriter Bob Dylan is now published worldwide in a slim-line paperback.

Blood in the Cracks by award winning writer Nic Outterside was first released as a Kindle e-book last September, to rave reviews.

The book tips its hat both lyrically and stylistically to Dylan’s critically acclaimed album Blood on the Tracks – originally released in 1975.

Nic describes his own work as a “lifetime labour of love”.

“It’s almost a journey’s end,” he says. “The works of Bob Dylan are the soundtrack to my life.

“I was a mere teenager when I first discovered his music, his words of truthful vengeance and his vignettes of love and theft.

“For me Blood on the Tracks, remains a lyrical and poetic touchstone. And my soul is forever wrapped within its entire 51 minutes and 42 seconds.

“Overtly autobiographical, the LP is full of tales of a lover relating a series of unrelated events, set in a mythical America. Like a series of impressionist paintings of life the tales are without geographical or chronological boundaries.

“Over 10 iconic songs, Dylan alludes to heartache, deception, anger, regret and loneliness. It’s a world-weary, nostalgic and ultimately a poetic Bob Dylan; and that is what makes Blood on the Tracks so timeless.

“The poetry is in each and every song,” adds Nic.

“So to create my own poetical homage to that album – in places borrowing the patterns of some of Dylan’s songs – is a true labour of love and a dream come true.”

Blood in the Cracks is now available worldwide in paperback at just £3.99.

United Kingdom: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1794666001/

Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/1794666001/

Germany: https://www.amazon.de/dp/1794666001/

France: https://www.amazon.fr/dp/1794666001/

Italy: https://www.amazon.it/dp/1794666001/

Rest of the world: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1794666001/

It is also still available on Amazon Kindle e-book at just £1.70

www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Cracks-Nic-Outterside-ebook/dp/B07H4S3DSM

Notes:

  1. Nic is an award-winning editor, journalist and writer. Among more than a dozen awards to his name are North of England Daily Journalist of the Year, Scottish Daily Journalist of the Year and Scottish Weekly Journalist of the Year. In 2016 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in written journalism.
  2. You can buy Nic’s first poetry book The Hill – Songs and Poems of Darkness and Light on Amazon Kindle, priced at just £1.43 at: www.amazon.co.uk/Hill-Songs-Poems-Darkness-Light-ebook/dp/B07CNZ75MZ
  3. You can still buy the First Edition paperback The Hill – Songs and Poems of Darkness and Light at £1.99 with £1.80 for UK post and packing via Ebay at: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/The-Hill-Songs-and-Poems-of-Darkness-and-Light-Nic-Outterside-Paperback/223163293082?hash=item33f5919d9a:g:3O0AAOSwdjha6DvY:rk:1:pf:1
  4. Nic’s second book: Another Hill – Songs and Poems of Love and Theft is priced at £2.20 on Amazon Kindle at: www.amazon.co.uk/Another-Hill-Songs-Poems-Theft-ebook/dp/B07CXYJTV4/
  5. The full story behind his first book of poetry can be listened to here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2N2X7t7awo

Poetic homage to the greatest LP of all time published by award-winning writer

BLOOD BLOG

AN award-winning writer and editor has published his life-long labour of love as a homage to his muse, American Nobel prize-winning songwriter Bob Dylan.

The book, Blood in the Cracks, tips its hat both lyrically and in style to Dylan’s critically acclaimed “greatest album” Blood on the Tracks – originally released in 1974.

Nic Outterside is a multi-award-winning journalist and creative author, who over 32 years has worked across all forms of media, including magazines, weekly and daily newspapers, radio broadcasting, books and online.

In 1994, 43 MPs signed an Early Day Motion in the British House of Commons praising Nic’s research and writing.

In 2016 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in written journalism.

Now, after publishing two widely acclaimed books of his own poetry, and editing other poets’ work, Nic is at last releasing what he describes as his “labour of loveBlood in the Cracks.

“The works of Bob Dylan are the soundtrack to my life,” says Nic.

“It is now 45 years since I first came to his music, his words of truthful vengeance and his vignettes of love and theft.

“One particular album, Blood on the Tracks, remains a lyrical and poetic touchstone.

“My soul is forever wrapped within the songs of its entire 51 minutes and 42 seconds.

“Overtly autobiographical, the LP is full of tales of a lover relating a series of unrelated events set in a mythical America. Like a series of impressionist paintings of life itself, the tales are both timeless and without geographical boundaries.

“Over 10 iconic songs, Dylan alludes to heartache, deception, anger, poignant regret and loneliness.

“It’s a world-weary, nostalgic and ultimately a poetic Bob Dylan; and that is what makes Blood on the Tracks so timeless.

“The poetry is in each and every song,” adds Nic.

“So to create my own poetical homage to that album – in places borrowing the patterns of some of Dylan’s songs – is a labour of love and a dream come true.”

 

Notes:

  1. Nic is an award-winning editor, journalist and writer. Among more than a dozen awards to his name are North of England Daily Journalist of the Year, Scottish Daily Journalist of the Year, Scottish Weekly Journalist of the Year and a special national award for investigative journalism. In 2016 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in written journalism.
  2. Blood in the Cracks is available world-wide on Amazon Kindle: www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Cracks-Nic-Outterside-ebook/dp/B07H4S3DSM
  3. A paperback version of the book will be published this autumn
  4. The full story behind his first book of poetry can be listened to here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2N2X7t7awo
  5. You can buy The Hill – Songs and Poems of Darkness and Light on Amazon Kindle, priced just £1.43 at: www.amazon.co.uk/Hill-Songs-Poems-Darkness-Light-ebook/dp/B07CNZ75MZ
  6. You can still buy the First Edition paperback (120 copies left of the print run of 1,000) The Hill – Songs and Poems of Darkness and Light in paperback, is priced at just £1.99 with £1.80 for UK post and packing Ebay: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/The-Hill-Songs-and-Poems-of-Darkness-and-Light-Nic-Outterside-Paperback/222959978770?hash=item33e9734912:g:3O0AAOSwdjha6DvY
  7. Nic’s second poetry book: Another Hill – Songs and Poems of Love and Theft is priced at £2.20 on Amazon Kindle at: www.amazon.co.uk/Another-Hill-Songs-Poems-Theft-ebook/dp/B07CXYJTV4/

 

Letting blood and poetry flow

BLOG Blood

My new book Blood in the Cracks is set for publication later this week. As a taster for readers, this is the introduction:

Blood in the Cracks – Liner Notes

Early one morning the sun was shining and I was lying in bed, pining the death of Different Voices, lost souls, abandoned dreams, broken guitar strings and love’s mortality.

In the end, the world has been betrayed by the old and corrupted by the young.

The cancer of capitalism has destroyed all that once was good… the Gates of Eden closed a long time ago and as the cars roar and hookers score in the Empire Burlesque, it is the money men, the media barons and launderers who grin as the corporate knife goes in.

A screenplay to the evil scourge of ordinary people by the most arrogant, privileged and fascist governments our world has ever witnessed.

For more than 700 years, their arrogance has conquered peaceful countries, imposed Western values and Christianity upon those countries, murdered millions and taken millions more into slavery.

They have sown war and hatred all over the world… because war creates money and wealth underpins the corruption of the powerful.

For the past four years, Saudi Arabia has pursued a vicious bombing campaign in Yemen that has left thousands of innocent civilians dead.

Government figures show that in one six month period alone, the UK sold Saudi Arabia £1,066,216,510 worth of weapons, including bombs and air-to-air missiles.

That is just part of £4.6 billion of UK arms sales to Saudi since the war in Yemen began.

The UN says more than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s war, including more than 5,000 civilians.

Many more have perished due to starvation, or a lack of access to healthcare and medical aid.

Meanwhile, back at home the young are corrupted for their souls…

They have been sleep-walking into a world of personal greed, arrogance and self-importance; with TV totems, tanning studios, face lightening cosmetics, designer clothes labels, supermodels and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Human kindness, gentleness, peace, society and social justice have been jettisoned for a ‘winner takes all’ mentality and a scapegoating of the homeless, those claiming benefits, Muslims, asylum seekers and the poor.

It is underpinned by a malicious mainstream media who smear and pillory anyone who dares question the status quo or suggest alternatives.

The press barons and their big business buddies are terrified of those alternatives, because they threaten the capitalist inertia where the five richest families in the UK now own more wealth than the poorest 25% of the population.

Meanwhile, thousands of families survive on the breadline, make weekly use of food banks or starve due to draconian benefits sanctions.

Yet this is the First World… the land of cherished democracy and freedom.

As Pete Hamill wrote in 1974: “In the end, the plague touched us all. It was not confined to the Oran of Camus. No. It turned up again in America, breeding in-a-compost of greed and uselessness and murder, in those places where statesmen and generals stash the bodies of the forever young.

“The plague ran in the blood of men in sharkskin suits, who ran for President promising life, and delivering death. The infected young men machine-gunned babies in Asian ditches; they marshalled metal death through the mighty clouds, up above God’s green earth, released it in silent streams, and moved on, while the hospitals exploded and green fields were churned to mud.

“And here at home, something died. The bacillus moved among us, slaying that old America where the immigrants lit a million dreams in the shadows of the bridges… and through the fog of the plague, most art withered into journalism. Painters lift the easel to scrawl their innocence on walls and manifestos.

“Poor America. Tossed on a pilgrim tide… Land where the poets died.

“Except for Bob Dylan.”

Ah… Dylan!

The works of Robert Allen Zimmerman have bestowed the soundtrack to my life.

It is now 45 years since I first came to his music, his words of truthful vengeance and his vignettes of love and theft.

A lifetime’s inspiration.

One particular album, Blood on the Tracks, remains a lyrical and poetic touchstone.

My soul is forever wrapped within the songs of its entire 51 minutes and 42 seconds.

Overtly autobiographical, the LP is full of tales of a lover relating a series of unrelated events set in a mythical America. Like a series of impressionist paintings of life itself, the tales are both timeless and without geographical boundaries.

Over 10 iconic songs, Dylan alludes to heartache, deception, anger, poignant regret and loneliness.

It’s a world-weary, nostalgic and ultimately a poetic Bob Dylan; and that is what makes Blood on the Tracks so timeless.

And it is also what makes it the template for my own album of poems… the album you open here.

Welcome to Blood in the Cracks… no plagiarism, just inspiration and words.

These 10 poems are my life and my blood…

Return to Desolation Row

They’re telling tall tales of my lifetime

They’re obscuring the truth with lies

The carpet-bagging whisperer

Has sent out all his spies

Here comes the blind note-taker

He’s writing in a trance

One hand is tied to the Imperial typewriter

The other is in his pants

And me, I’m getting restless

As the heat pipes they just cough

The bank account it empties

And I think I’ve had enough

 

The long dead scout master

Walks the dark sunrise

Still poisoning lost children

While doing up his flies

 

Outside the sky is grey and laden

The trees are turning brown

Hilary, the old bag lady

Is wearing her winter frown

All except for Jo and Lizbeth

And the neighbour without a name

Everybody is making love

Or else expecting rain

And my dreams they are undressing

As the heat pipes they just cough

The bank account it empties

And I think I’ve had enough

 

The long dead scout master

Walks the dark sunrise

Still poisoning lost children

While doing up his flies

 

Across the street they’ve nailed the shutters

You can hear the women scream

Diwali is now over

And the bright lights are all a dream

The Muslim taxi driver

Has booked his last fare home

He’s riding with false confidence

Since the hoodies stole his phone

And I’m left peeking from my window

As the heat pipes they just cough

The bank account it empties

And I think I’ve had enough

 

The long dead scout master

Walks the dark sunrise

Still poisoning lost children

While doing up his flies

 

Bob Dylan and the classics

You’ve been with the professors

And they’ve all liked your looks

With great lawyers you have

Discussed lepers and crooks

You’ve been through all of

F Scott Fitzgerald’s books

You’re very well read

It’s well known

(Ballad of a Thin Man, 1965)

 

In the four weeks since Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature there has been a worldwide debate about his merit as a literary figure deserving such a prestigious award.

While many agree that he is the most outstanding English speaking poet of the late 20th century, others argue that he is nothing more than a songwriter on a par with Leonard Cohen or Joni Mitchell.

But for a man who has written over 500 songs and three books, plus the screenplay and score for the amazing 232 minute long Renaldo and Clara, the search for Bob Dylan’s literary merit shouldn’t be too difficult.

Yet, Dylan was left speechless by the news that he was to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In a call with Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, Dylan said: “I appreciate the honour so much… the news about the Nobel prize left me speechless.”

“It’s hard to believe … amazing, incredible. Whoever dreams about something like that?” he added.

Making the award announcement on 13 October, Danius compared Dylan’s work to that of ancient Greek writers Homer and Sappho.

Asked later about the comparison, Dylan said: “I suppose so, in some way. Some of my own songs – Blind Willie, The Ballad of Hollis Brown, Joey, A Hard Rain, Hurricane and some others – definitely are Homeric in value.”

But he declined to remark on the meanings of those songs. “I’ll let other people decide what they are,” he said.

“The academics, they ought to know. I’m not really qualified. I don’t have any opinion.

“There’s a certain intensity in writing a song,” he added. “You have to keep in mind why you are writing it and for who and what for.

“Everything worth doing takes time. You have to write a hundred bad songs before you write one good one. And you have to sacrifice a lot of things that you might not be prepared for. Like it or not, you are in this alone and have to follow your own star.”

Dylan’s former partner Joan Baez went further when she said: “The Nobel Prize for Literature is yet another step towards immortality for Bob Dylan.

“His gift with words is unsurpassable. Out of my repertoire spanning 60 years, no songs have been more moving and worthy in their depth, darkness, fury, mystery, beauty and humour than Bob’s.

“None has been more of a pleasure to sing. None will come again.”

It is certainly the poetry in his songs that has earned Bob Dylan the literature world’s highest honour.

I stumbled to my feet

I rode past destruction in the ditches

With the stitches still mending ’neath a heart-shaped tattoo

Renegade priests and treacherous young witches

Were handing out the flowers that I’d given to you

The palace of mirrors

Where dog soldiers are reflected

The endless road and the wailing of chimes

The empty rooms where her memory is protected

Where the angels’ voices whisper to the souls of previous times

(Changing of the Guard, 1978)

Most observers recognise that his words and music often borrow heavily from the American dustbowl tradition of singers such as Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie and Blind Lemon Jefferson.

And like most other songwriters, Dylan leans heavily on contemporary life and vignettes of unrequited love – his 1983 album Infidels is a homage in itself to those sources.

But for a once self-professed “song and dance man”, Dylan is much more than that.

And what about those books he devoured as a hungry teenager and the professors who “all liked your looks… You’re very well read, It’s well known.”

Bob Dylan’s songs are steeped in deep literary references and maybe it is that which stands him apart from other well-respected songwriters of his generation.

Above all others, Dylan has long held a fascination for William Shakespeare.

Now the fifth daughter on the twelfth night

Told the first father that things weren’t right

(Highway 61 Revisited, 1965)

Now Ophelia, she’s ’neath the window

For her I feel so afraid

On her twenty-second birthday

She already is an old maid

To her, death is quite romantic

She wears an iron vest

Her profession’s her religion

Her sin is her lifelessness

(Desolation Row, 1965)

Well, Shakespeare, he’s in the alley

With his pointed shoes and his bells

Speaking to some French girl

Who says she knows me well

(Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, 1966)

Her chariot is an empty hazel-nut

Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,

Time out o’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers.

(Time Out of Mind, 1997)

And his fascination has led many observers to note that his last self-penned album in 2012 was titled Tempest – the name of Shakespeare’s last play, and it left many more to wonder whether this will be Dylan’s final album. At 75 years-old it would be a fine way to close his own book.

A book which includes renaissance lines such as: “In the smoke of the twilight, on a milk white steed; Michelangelo indeed, could have carved out your features” (Jokerman, 1983)

But what about the Homeric references… just how deep does Dylan go with the Greek and Latin classics and how “very well read” is he really?

In the poetical beauty of Temporary Like Achilles (1966), a 25-year-old Dylan leaves little doubt:

Standing on your window, honey

Yes, I’ve been here before

Feeling so harmless

I’m looking at your second door

How come you don’t send me no regards?

You know I want your lovin’

Honey, why are you so hard?

 

Kneeling ’neath your ceiling

Yes, I guess I’ll be here for a while

I’m tryin’ to read your portrait, but

I’m helpless, like a rich man’s child

How come you send someone out to have me barred?

You know I want your lovin’

Honey, why are you so hard?

 

Like a poor fool in his prime

Yes, I know you can hear me walk

But is your heart made out of stone, or is it lime

Or is it just solid rock?

 

Well, I rush into your hallway

Lean against your velvet door

I watch upon your scorpion

Who crawls across your circus floor

Just what do you think you have to guard?

You know I want your lovin’

Honey, but you’re so hard

 

Achilles is in your alleyway

He don’t want me here, he does brag

He’s pointing to the sky

And he’s hungry, like a man in drag

How come you get someone like him to be your guard?

You know I want your lovin’

Honey, but you’re so hard

 

During a televised interview in 2004, Ed Bradley asked Dylan how he came to write such mercurial lyrics.

Surprisingly, Dylan said he didn’t know, mentioning a “wellspring of creativity” before adding: “I don’t know how I got to write those songs,” quoting from It’s Alright Ma, with its surreal words he lingered on the ultimate rhyming syllables: “Darkness at the break of noon / Shadows even the silver spoon / The handmade blade, the child’s balloon / Eclipses both the sun and moon / To understand you know too soon / There is no sense in trying.”

But Dylan did admit to reading a lot and he’d always read eclectically as opposed to canonically. And one of the things he discovered was the evoking of other literature, including Ovid’s exile poetry or Timrod’s Confederate poetry.

Dylan has always been interested in the American Civil War (see his wonderful song Cross the Green Mountain in the 2003 movie Gods and Generals) which perhaps led to his interest in Rome.

And there are songs from the 2006 album Modern Times which are littered with lines from Peter Green’s translation of Ovid.

In the first song on that album, Thunder on the Mountain, Dylan sings “I’ve been sitting down studying the Art of Love / I think it will fit me like a glove.”

And on Ain’t Talkin’, the last line of the last song of what might be his last album the singer is walking up the road “In the last outback, at the world’s end”.

In case you think this is accidental, the same song has three or four other Ovidian lines or significant phases, including: “Every nook an cranny/cormer has its tears” … “loyal and much loved companions” … “make the most of one last extra hour”, all on one song from Tristia 1.3 [24, 65, 68], Ovid’s night of exile poem.

Ain’t Talkin’“Every nook and cranny has its tears”

Ovid – Tristia, Book 1, Section 3, Line 24 – “every nook and corner had its tears”

Ain’t Talkin’“all my loyal and my much-loved companions”

Ovid – Tristia, Book 1, Section 3, Line 65 – “loyal and much loved companions, bonded in brotherhood”

Ain’t Talkin’“I’ll make the most of one last extra hour”

Ovid – Tristia, Book 1, Section 3, Line 68 – “let me make the most of one last extra hour”

Ain’t Talkin’“I practice a faith that’s been long abandoned”

Ovid – Tristia, Book 5, Section 7, Lines 63-64 – “I practice terms long abandoned”

Ain’t Talkin’“They will tear your mind away from contemplation”

Ovid – Tristia, Book 5, Section 7, Line 66 – “tear my mind from the contemplation of my woes”

Then look at the splendid Workingman’s Blues #2.

At first release, reviewers believed Dylan was directly referencing the Grateful Dead’s 1970 marker Workingman’s Blues, but his song has references which are more than 2,000 years old:

Workingman’s Blues #2“My cruel weapons have been put on the shelf”

Ovid – Tristia, Book 2, Section 1, Line 179 – “Show mercy, I beg you, shelve your cruel weapons”

Working Man’s Blues #2“No one can ever claim/That I took up arms against you”

Ovid – Tristia, Book 2, Lines 51-53 – “no one can claim that I ever took up arms against you”

Workingman’s Blues #2 “To lead me off in a cheerful dance”

Tristia, Book 5, Section 12, Line 8 – “or Niobe, bereaved, lead off some cheerful dance”

Workingman’s Blues #2“Tell me now, am I wrong in thinking/That you have forgotten me?”

Tristia, Book 5, Section 13, Line 18 – “that I’m wrong in thinking you have forgotten me!”

Workingman’s Blues #2 – “You are dearer to me than myself/As you yourself can see”

Tristia, Book 5, Section 14, Line 2 – “wife, dearer to me than myself, you yourself can see”

And if you’re are still unconvinced, Dylan returns to the classics in The Levee’s Gonna Break “Some people got barely enough skin to cover their bones”

Ovid – Tristia, Book 4, Section 7, Line 51 – “there’s barely enough skin to cover my bones”

Finally let’s take a look at the song Early Roman Kings  from the outstanding 2012 album Tempest.

At a superficial glance, it sounds Roman, and there are a couple of lines that work with that: “All the early Roman kings in the early, early morn, / Coming down the mountain, distributing the corn.”

So classicists were excited when the title was first announced, coming off the Ovid of Modern Times.

But the Roman Kings actually turned out to be a 1960s Latino gang in New York, “In their sharkskin suits”, the second line of the song.

He’s playing with his audience, because the title is much more Latin than the other titles of songs that actually have Ovid in them.

The play continues when the voice of the singer, no longer in Rome or New York, becomes verbatim that of Fagle’s Odysseus taunting the Cyclops at the end of Odyssey 9: “I can strip you of life / Strip you of death / Ship you down / To the house of death.”

As with his Ovid lines, so with Homer, Dylan has an eye or ear for the poetry of translations which then fit his music, tunes and melody, in this case via a Muddy Waters style blues.

After the verbatim quotes, the singer continues “One day / You will ask for me / There’ll be no one else / That you’ll wanna see.”

“No one” is of course the Homeric speaker, and the Homeric addressee will not be seeing anyone.

So maybe Dylan’s ability to understand, digest, and draw inspiration from classical authors helped place him among the ranks of the Nobel Prize winners in Literature.

Or maybe he answered it himself in his riveting speech to last year’s MusiCares awards: “Critics have said that I’ve made a career out of confounding expectations. Really? Because that’s all I do? That’s how I think about it. Confounding expectations.

“Like I stay up late at night thinking about how to do it. “What do you do for a living, man?” “Oh, I confound expectations.” You’re going to get a job, the man says, “What do you do?” “Oh, confound expectations.

“And the man says, “Well, we already have that spot filled. Call us back. Or don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Confounding expectations. I don’t even know what that means or who has time for it.”

He later added: “These songs of mine, I think of as mystery plays, the kind that Shakespeare saw when he was growing up. I think you could trace what I do back that far.

“They were on the fringes then, and I think they’re on the fringes now. And they sound like they’ve been traveling on hard ground.”

 

Now hear this Robert Zimmerman I wrote some words for you

I stumbled to my feet

I rode past destruction in the ditches

With the stitches still mending ’neath a heart-shaped tattoo

Renegade priests and treacherous young witches

Were handing out the flowers that I’d given to you

The palace of mirrors

Where dog soldiers are reflected

The endless road and the wailing of chimes

The empty rooms where her memory is protected

Where the angels’ voices whisper to the souls of previous times

(Changing of the Guard, by Bob Dylan)

 

HOW can I do justice in words to a writer and performer I have admired beyond all others for more than 40 years and to whom my words are like dust?

And so began my simple narrative about my love affair with the greatest and most profound poet and musician of my generation.

That was three years ago, and so far my narrative Journey Though Dark Heat  is 8,000 words long, and I have only got to 1988!

Yesterday, Bob Dylan was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, becoming the first ever songwriter to win the prestigious award.

The 75-year-old legend received the prize “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.

The balladeer, artist and actor is the first American to win since novelist Toni Morrison in 1993.

President Obama said the honour was “well-deserved”.

“Congratulations to one of my favourite poets,” he wrote on Twitter.

Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said Dylan had been chosen because he was “a great poet in the English speaking tradition”.

“For 54 years now he’s been at it reinventing himself, constantly creating a new identity,” she told reporters in Stockholm.

I have adored every step of Dylan’s words and music since I was a starry-eyed teenager. He has been the backdrop and soundtrack to my entire life.

I have over 200 CD albums of his music, numerous first pressings of his LPs, almost 100 books about him and a gallery of photos, ticket stubs and ephemera. Oh, and I have seen him perform live some 32 times over the past 38 years and even followed him around Europe on his 1989 tour.

Yes, I am a Bob Dylan obsessive.

So his Nobel prize award delighted me as it did millions of others. I have tears of joy running down my face as I write this.

Quite simply Bob Dylan is a living legend.

This morning, singer and his former partner Joan Baez went further when she said: “The Nobel Prize for Literature is yet another step towards immortality for Bob Dylan.

“The rebellious, reclusive, unpredictable artist/composer is exactly where the Nobel Prize for Literature needs to be.

“His gift with words is unsurpassable. Out of my repertoire spanning 60 years, no songs have been more moving and worthy in their depth, darkness, fury, mystery, beauty and humour than Bob’s.

“None has been more of a pleasure to sing. None will come again.”

But it is the poetry in his music that has earned him the literature world’s highest honour.

Former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion is among those to have previously praised Dylan’s lyrics, saying his songs “work as poems”.

“They have often extremely skilful rhyming aspects to them,” he told the BBC. “They’re often the best words in the best order.”

What makes a man who has only ever written three books a suitable winner of the Nobel Prize for literature?

Bob Dylan arguably made the lyrics more important than the music, but for many like me, the music and lyrics are inseparable.

Writer Salman Rushdie praised Dylan’s win, saying: “From Orpheus to Faiz, song & poetry have been closely linked. Dylan is the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition. Great choice.”

Bruce Springsteen also congratulated Dylan by posting a passage from his autobiography on his website. In it, he described Dylan as “The father of my country”.

“Highway 61 Revisited and Bringing It All Back Home were not only great records, but they were the first time I can remember being exposed to a truthful vision of the place I lived,” he wrote.

Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler wrote on Facebook he was “delighted” for Dylan.

He explained: “Bob Dylan has been a great songwriter since he was a teenager and nothing has stopped him in continuing to write and bring his gifts to the world.”

From his beginnings in the 1960s, Bob Dylan was the voice of his generation – the original singer-songwriter who both led and chronicled the social revolution that changed the world.

He has never had the greatest voice by traditional standards; indeed, that was part of his appeal. But he did create a new template for the singer as a poet and artist.

Allen Ginsberg called him the greatest poet of the second half of the 20th Century and former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion said he listens to Dylan almost every day.

Yesterday (Thursday) Per Wastberg, chair of the Nobel literature committee, said he is “probably the greatest living poet”.

Certainly no other rock musician has had their lyrics more analysed, anthologised and eulogised.

And he delved into his inner self to summon songs that set the blueprint for the confessional singer.

In a speech accepting the Musicares Person of the Year award last year, Dylan explained: “These songs of mine, they’re like mystery stories, the kind that Shakespeare saw when he was growing up. I think you could trace what I do back that far.”

The young Dylan was heavily inspired by poets like Arthur Rimbaud and John Keats, and his poetic influence is even in his name.

When Robert Zimmerman began performing folk songs in coffee houses, he renamed himself after Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.

He was also influenced by dustbowl singers like Woody Guthrie and country star Hank Williams. Yet Dylan moved beyond their traditions.

When the Cold war was at its height and America was racked by internal turmoil as the burgeoning civil rights movement clashed with the conservative middle class… it was Dylan who would provide the musical backdrop to these troubled times.

Using simple chords and universal metaphors, Dylan managed to tap into the zeitgeist of the era like no other, bridging the gap between folk and mainstream pop with songs such as A Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall, Blowin’ in the Wind and The Times They are A-Changin’.

Tunes including Like a Rolling Stone, Just Like a Woman and Lay Lady Lay became iconic anthems which were covered by hundreds of artists.

When he “went electric” at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, he horrified the assembled audience in one of the seminal moments in music history.

The sweet folk troubadour had transformed himself into a hedonistic rock star, with trademark dark glasses hiding eyes glazed by drink and drugs.

After a motorcycle accident and a subsequent seclusion following his 1966 world tour he made an unexpected comeback at the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 and the albums John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline and New Morning.

The return of the troubadour culminated in 1975’s Blood on the Tracks album and hailed as a return to form, and for many, one of the greatest LPs ever recorded.

Three years later, after Dylan witnessed a vision of Christ in an Arizona hotel room, his lyrics became full of Biblical references and reflected themes of faith and morality.

 

You may be an ambassador to England or France

You may like to gamble, you might like to dance

You may be the heavyweight champion of the world

You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

His albums continued to be received with interest – if often mixed reviews – and in 1988 he began what came to be known as the Never-Ending Tour, constantly reinterpreting his own songs on stage.

Just as it seemed he was losing his relevance, his 1997 album Time Out of Mind, with its dark themes of mortality, proved another landmark release. It won three Grammys including best album.

In 2006, at 65, he became the oldest living artist to enter the Billboard chart at number one with Modern Times.

And his most recent albums Fallen Angels and Shadows in the Night has seen him slip seamlessly into an aged crooner of the great American Songbook.

His journey has come full circle.

Imbedded in legendary status, an avalanche of honours have now flowed – a Kennedy Center Honour, an Oscar, a Pulitzer Prize, a Golden Globe and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Now he can add a Nobel Prize to that list.

 

Song for Jeremy

Go ahead and smear him because he makes you doubt

Because he has denied himself the things you can’t live without

Laugh at him behind his back just like the others do

Remind him of what he could have been when he comes walking through

 

But he’s loved by all of us

Resent him to the bone

You got something better?

You’ve got a heart of stone

 

Stop your conversation when he passes on the stairs

Hope he falls upon himself, no-one really cares

Because he can’t be exploited by media moguls anymore

Because he can’t be bribed or bought by the things that you adore

 

But he’s loved by all of us

Resent him to the bone

You got something better?

You’ve got a heart of stone

 

When the whip that’s keeping you in line doesn’t make him jump

Say he’s hard-of-hearing, as ridiculous as Donald Trump

Say he’s out of step with reality as you try to test his nerve

Because he doesn’t pay tribute to the Queen that you serve

 

But he’s loved by all of us

Resent him to the bone

You got something better?

You’ve got a heart of stone

 

Say that he’s a loser because he uses common sense

Because he doesn’t increase his worth at someone else’s expense

Because he’s not afraid of trying, he embraces others with a smile

Because he doesn’t threaten foreigners, say he’s got no style

 

But he’s loved by all of us

Resent him to the bone

You got something better?

You’ve got a heart of stone

 

You can laugh at austerity, you can play your nuclear games

You think that when you rest at last you’ll go back from where you came

But you’ve pocketed your bonuses and you’ve changed since the womb

What happened to the real you, you’ve been captured but by whom?

 

But he’s loved by all of us

Resent him to the bone

You got something better?

You’ve got a heart of stone

 

(with thanks to Bob Dylan for the inspiration)

Death is Not the End – the conspiracy surrounding the deaths of John Bauldie and Matthew Harding

John Bauldie

I NEVER thought for one minute that a life-long obsession with music legend Bob Dylan would collide head on with my 30 year career as an investigative journalist.

But it has done… in the most unexpected way imaginable.

It is a story of a common love, friendship, a sudden and tragic death and an ongoing murder conspiracy.

A conspiracy which may touch the highest levels of British society.

My love and obsession with Bob Dylan has now spanned more than 40 years.

But it was back in 1987-88, while I was hospitalised in Cardiff with cancer, that a new world of Dylan was unexpectedly opened to me.

And with it an equally unexpected friendship.

To while away the hours and weeks of radiotherapy, my mother bought me a copy of Robert Shelton’s definitive Dylan biography No Direction Home.

I consumed the book in a couple of days. And while meandering through the appendices I noted mention of a quarterly Bob Dylan fan magazine, simply titled The Telegraph.

With an annual subscription of just £10, including delivery, I wrote off and subscribed to the magazine instantly.

And so began the expansion of my world of Bob Dylan and an enduring friendship with the magazine’s editor John Bauldie.

John was an ebullient personality, sometimes sounding dour with his native Lancashire drawl, but always enthused by anything to do with Bob Dylan and his hometown football team Bolton Wanderers.

And as a fellow journalist, we automatically had a lot in common.

John was one of the world’s foremost authorities on Dylan’s music. He wrote several key books on him as well as – since 1981 – editing and publishing the superb Telegraph.

Yet there was nobody less like the stereotyped “anorak” than John.

A former lecturer in English literature he was a dapper and cultured man, who brought a well-rounded intelligence to his quest.

His vocation was to amass the data and win for his hero the serious appraisal due to an outstanding 20th century performer.

He only met Dylan once, and that was by accident.

Following a US tour, he was passing the singer’s tour bus when Dylan sauntered out.

The two men held a brief and genial conversation, in the course of which John won a much prized endorsement for his magazine.

“The Telegraph?” Bob murmured. “I seen a few issues of that. It’s pretty interesting.”

That was all the recognition that John required.

Then in 1987 – coinciding with our first contact – he left his teaching days behind him and joined the small team at the newly-launched Q magazine, as a sub-editor.

Meanwhile, I quickly became a regular contributor to The Telegraph and would often engage in long telephone conversations with John at his home in Romford, swapping his immense knowledge of Dylan with my suggestions for magazine lay-out, typography and style.

He seemed like a god to me and was always the first person I turned to for tickets to Dylan gigs – usually after he broke the news of the great man’s next tour.

John loved to travel with his longstanding partner, Penny Garner, and would invariably plan his year around Dylan’s interminable tour itineraries.

And he always cut a memorable figure at those gigs. You’d spot him, immaculately turned-out in his camel-hair coat as he shared his insights and a few drinks with fellow fans.

And it was wholly due to John that I joined him on a flight to Brussels in the summer of 1989 to follow Bob Dylan around Europe, and witness Dylan’s greatest gig at the Statenhal in Den Haag.

When I moved to Scotland in late 1990 to begin a full-time job as a newspaper editor, our telephone conversations became less frequent, but we still had time to meet for a chat before Dylan’s gigs at Glasgow’s SECC in February 1991.

And my quarterly copy of The Telegraph still arrived promptly every three months.

So, it was in total shock and disbelief when I discovered that John, aged just 47, had been killed in seemingly freak helicopter crash in Cheshire.

It was the same crash which killed Chelsea multi-millionaire vice chairman Matthew Harding and three other people on 22 October 1996.

Harding had given John a lift in his private helicopter to watch his love Bolton Wanderers, defeat Chelsea in a Coca-Cola cup tie at Burnden Park.

Ironically it was their mutual love of Bob Dylan which first brought John and Matthew Harding together.

Some months later I wrote to John’s widow Penny, expressing my condolences and deep sadness at John’s death.

Penny replied almost immediately and I have treasured her hand written letter for the past 20 years.

And there my grief and memory of John Bauldie should have remained.

But, last month my investigative senses were stimulated by a chance conversation with another Dylan fanatic at record fair in my local town.

He told me that Penny had died homeless and destitute a few years after John’s tragic death, and both their deaths were not as they might seem.

On arriving home I quickly found online a copy of the official report into the helicopter crash which took John’s life.

The report, dated November 1997, said that the pilot of the twin-engined French Aerospatiale AS 355F1 Squirrel had neither the qualifications nor experience to control the aircraft after it got into difficulties.

Michael Goss, 38, had gone off route on the night of the crash and headed for an area of high ground which a weather forecaster had advised him to avoid.

The report said that after taking off from Bolton after the match, the flight had to operate below an overcast cloud layer which was below the minimum safe en-route altitude.

But, 20 years later there are now allegations that Matthew Harding and his fellow passengers died, not because of an incompetent helicopter pilot, but because of their knowledge of police and local council corruption in property development schemes within the London Borough of Havering.

And it was the friendship between Harding, John Bauldie and his partner Penny, which now may explain the conspiracy surrounding their deaths.

Penny Garner was a Biology lecturer at Havering College of Further and Higher Education – not far from her and John’s home in Romford.

She prepared her students for their A-levels and future careers in Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy and Industry.

During the mid 1990s Penny witnessed criminal issues at the college, created in a failed attempt to close the college for property development.

She struggled with these issues not least due to the wayward management of a faculty head who failed to deal with staff who had purchased a machine gun with live ammunition on college premises.

The machine gun was fired on college grounds with a resulting flood of calls to Havering police.

The college had a large number of students from Irish backgrounds and with the Northern Ireland troubles still flaring many feared there might be links to IRA terrorism.

But witnesses later swore that a Conservative councillor encouraged the sale of the machine gun at the college, via a third party intermediary resident in Lake Rise, Romford.

The gun was later resold, by a science technician in Penny’s faculty, who was encouraged by a well-known local Tory activist involved in the property development plans.

Allegations soon surfaced that the firearms sales, random assaults and thefts were part of a dirty tricks campaign by local Conservative activists and councillors in attempt to close the college.

There were further allegations that their friends in the local police had full knowledge of this campaign.

Penny made John aware of these events.

John and his editorship of The Telegraph was already being investigated without just cause in an attempt to find “dirt” against those opposing the closure of the college for property development.

The corruption involved was such that the attempt to close the college was stopped for fear of official enquiries into the conduct of the Romford, Hornchurch and Upminster Conservative Parties and associates in Havering Borough Police station.

Shortly before his death, John told Matthew Harding about the events at the college. Matthew Harding took a keen interest to find out more and promised to look into the matter.

Harding also had a political axe to grind as he disliked the Conservative Party and recently donated funds to Tony Blair and New Labour.

But the conspiracy gets deeper…

Just two years ago it came to light that murdered BBC Crimewatch host Jill Dando had been probing the death of Matthew Harding and his four friends.

Ms Dando was gunned down on her doorstep in Fulham, south-west London, in April 1999. The killer has yet to be caught, but much evidence points to police, MI5 and political corruption at the highest level.

“Jill told me she was investigating the death of her friend Matthew Harding and money laundering claims,” said a BBC colleague.

“She was killed after ignoring two warnings to back off.”

The source claims Harding first told a friend, Irish investigative journalist Veronica Guerin, about his fears about corruption and money laundering over property developments.

But Ms Guerin was then murdered in 1996 while working on a drugs inquiry in Dublin.

A panicked Harding then repeated his concerns to BBC journalist Ms Dando.

He died just four months later.

The source added: “Jill told me she had begun investigating Matthew’s death and the concerns he had shared with her.

“Somebody tried to warn her off but she persisted in her inquiries.”

The conspiracy remains unsolved, but as someone once said: “This can of worms only opens from the inside”.

Watch this space!

To Live Outside the Law, You Must be Honest

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MY one-way love affair with the greatest and most profound poet of my generation is without doubt obsessive.

And  it now borders on criminal.

So how did I come to live outside the law?

There lies a small story…

I’ll take you back to 1973… the hippy summers of love, acid overdoses and flower garlands were long past, and glam rock ruled.

Loon leg flares, penny collar shirts, Slade, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, T Rex and Top of the Pops were the now magnets for us Baby Boom kids.

And as a music mad teenager, I had already found Bowie and hid a guilty pleasure for also liking Marc Bolan.

But my real love was just about to be discovered.

A fellow student in my sixth form was a Bob Dylan fanatic – he even had hair like him and was forever being reprimanded by teachers for not wearing a tie and wearing baggy, non-regulation jumpers.

One day I asked him why he was so obsessed with Bob Dylan?

His blue eyes sparkled as my question registered and with unexpected enthusiasm he sat down and regaled me about the ‘greatness’ of Mr Dylan.

The next day he leant me Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits on vinyl LP and suggested I should get a copy of Blonde on Blonde to discover the real Dylan.

I was bemused, but eager to listen and so began my journey.

First, I bought a copy of More Bob Dylan Greatest Hits simply because the 21 tracks double album seemed like good value. Then I sought out a copy of Blonde on Blonde, which I had to order from my local record store as it had been released some seven years earlier, and was out of stock!

A week or two later, CBS suddenly released Dylan’s film soundtrack album Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid and the single Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door made the UK charts!

So armed with two double albums, plus the Heaven’s Door single I was beginning to discover Dylan… and it didn’t take long before I was hooked. His voice like sand and glue and words of truthful vengeance had me pinned to the floor, and like those before me I started to dissect his lyrics and find a new meaning to living.

More Greatest Hits was a delight. From Watching the River Flow to Crash on the Levee I was entering into his world of music and poetry.

I spent the rest of my sixth form and university years buying up Dylan’s back catalogue of albums on cassette tape and allowing his music and words to become the soundtrack to all I did.

Another Side of Bob Dylan and The Times They are a Changin’ led me to discover folk music and in turn Fairport Convention, while the awesome Planet Waves and Desire wrapped me up in stories, vignettes, lyrics and emotion I had never previously known.

Concerts came and concerts went, but the official CBS records and tapes were never enough to satiate my hunger.

Then during 1987-88, while I was hospitalised in Cardiff with cancer, a new world of Bob Dylan was unexpectedly opened to me.

To while away the hours and weeks of radiotherapy, my mum bought me a copy of Robert Shelton’s definitive Dylan biography No Direction Home.

I consumed the book in a couple of days. But it was while meandering through the appendices that I noted mention of a quarterly Bob Dylan fan / information magazine, simply titled The Telegraph.

With an annual subscription of just £10, including delivery, I wrote off and instantly subscribed to this gem.

And so began the expansion of my world of Bob Dylan and an enduring friendship with the magazine’s editor John Bauldie.

The first edition of my subscription (the autumn 1987 issue) to The Telegraph arrived at my hospital bedside within a fortnight.

Soon I was scouring and digesting its every page… and the reams of small ads in its supplement.

One advert shouted out to me.

A Dylan collector in Denmark was offering for sale cassette tapes of his many concerts at just £1.50 a time!

Enthused, and bored by hospital and this bloody thing called cancer, I sent off for a list of the tapes this guy named Andy, had for sale.

Within a few weeks a parcel of 12 Bob Dylan concert tapes arrived in a protectively wrapped brown paper parcel.

With a set of fresh batteries for my Sony Walkman, I began to listen to these previously unknown jewels that had arrived.

These included the famed 1978 Blackbushe Aerodrome gig, the 1984 Wembley concert, some outtakes from Infidels, and six audience recordings from his ongoing 1987 tour.

The sound quality between the tapes varied greatly from crackly and poor to just amazing and crystal clear.

But I was hooked, delighted and so began my passion for collecting Dylan recordings, which has now lasted all my life.

Now like many Dylan fanatics, I own all of his 37 studio albums, 11 Live albums, 12 albums comprising the official The Bootleg Series, and too many compilation and greatest hits collections to mention.

And my bootleg CD collection (which replaced the tapes sometime in the 1990s) has grown in tandem with glistening rarities that I once only dreamed of.

As I write this, I have just ordered from a fellow Bob Cat, a CD of previously unrecognised studio recordings from 1986.

It is due to arrive by the end of the week!

My passion is certainly an obsession… but a happy one.

But as a collector of bootleg recordings, am I breaking the law, and how legal is legal anyway?

And what exactly is a bootleg?

According to Wikipedia, the online fount of all knowledge: A bootleg recording is an audio or video recording of a performance that was not officially released by the artist or under other legal authority. The process of making and distributing such recordings is known as bootlegging.

Recordings may be copied and traded among fans of the artist without financial exchange, but some bootleggers have sold recordings for profit, sometimes by adding professional-quality sound engineering and packaging to the raw material.

Bootlegs usually consist of either unreleased studio recordings or live performances, with an unpredictable level of quality.

Changing technologies have impacted on the recording, distribution, and varying profitability of the underground industry. The copyrights for the song and the right to authorise recordings often reside with the artist, according to several international copyright treaties.

The recording, trading and sale of bootlegs continues to thrive, however, even as artists and record companies attempt to provide officially-released alternatives to satisfy the demand.

While, Wikipedia is, in essence correct, there is a lot more to the definition, the law and the practise of collecting bootleg CDs.

Bootleg is a term that is bandied about freely by many people to refer to a wide array of things.

Within the music industry, everything from the traditional bootleg, to pirates, to copies, to counterfeits have at one time or another been called a bootleg.

Most of the lay population use some or all of the terms above interchangeably.

But these terms are distinctive, and to live outside the law, you must be honest:

Copy

Once you become the legal user of copyrighted material (by purchasing a recording such as a CD), the material is yours to use and enjoy within the guidelines of the copyright.

The guidelines of the copyright, however, are extremely restrictive. It is generally accepted that the user should be allowed to make one copy or backup solely for her/his own use.

There is never permission to make more than one copy.  There is never permission to give, sell, or share this backup copy with another. This one (and only one) piece made for individual use is what the industry call a copy.

Pirate

If you choose to make more than one copy of copyrighted material, you have moved to this level. You have violated the copyright, and therefore, the law.

Whether you are making one or two copies to give to friends, or 50 copies to sell at a car boot sale, it is illegal.

These multiple illegal copies are what industry insiders refer to as pirates or pirate copies.

Counterfeit

While most of us would have to admit to at some point, knowingly or unknowingly, producing a pirated copy … no one has ever accidentally made a counterfeit.

As with counterfeit money, the term counterfeit refers to the exact duplication of an item. In terms of counterfeit CDs, this is exact down to the cover artwork.

These duplicates aren’t made by accident. They are made to deceive the public into thinking they are buying an original product when they are not.  Millions have been lost by musicians due to these practices. Everybody loses except for the individual thieves who pocket all of the profits.

Bootleg

Everything that you have read so far is what a bootleg is NOT.

Now, for what a bootleg is.

Copyrights work in many ways on many different levels. Once a song is completed it is automatically copyrighted. The fact that the writer put it down to paper or tape gives him/her an immediate copyright.

The copyright also gives the owner the right to profit from any commercial use of the song.

But a bootleg album or CD is one that has been created completely from material that is NOT commercially available, and therein lies the legal bypass of copyright.

The material might be from an interview, radio broadcast, recording from a live concert, studio outtake tapes etc.

The bootlegger will take this material and affix it to a record or CD album to be distributed in very small quantities. Sometimes as many as a thousand … sometimes as few as a hundred or less.

The releases are not going to be mass marketed … they’re only intended for a handful of collectors worldwide.

Collectors who are usually so dedicated to the artist they collect that they will surely own every commercially available piece offered by the artist.

As in the examples of Bob Dylan’s Royal Albert Hall concert, or the Basement Tapes, if a bootleg item is ever released officially, the bootleg collector will be the first person in line to pay money for the released version.

For the most part, we are talking about recordings that would never see the light of day any other way.

The major labels could never afford to release all of this material that would only interest a handful of fanatical fans worldwide.

Although in the case of Bob Dylan, his record label has in the past 25 years seen the light and began slowly to release the official Bootleg Series of albums. To date 12 such titles have been released, but often, as is the case of the most recent one The Cutting Edge, in highly priced packages of multiple CDs – the 18 CD option cost £640!

Generally, the only alternative to real bootlegs is for the performances to be forever lost.

Looking back to the roots of blues, jazz, country, and rock music; there are multiple thousands of lost performances and artists that we will never hear.

I any case, most bootleg collectors only ever trade their CDs with other collectors and rarely buy or sell.

This past week I have updated my collection of some 230 bootleg Bob Dylan albums with a rare double CD – a live recording from Seattle in January 1980, which until recently Dylan enthusiasts believed did not exist.

I have also added an amazing collection of 14 soundboard CDs from his 1965 concerts and a similar 14 CD boxed set of soundboards from 1978-81… the recording quality is astounding.

But while in the past 25 years I have spent well over £1,000 on official Bob Dylan CDs, the cost of my 230 bootlegs has been a small fraction of that… maybe £200 at most.

The simple reason is, I have traded copies from my collection with other fanatics like me.

So is it illegal to own bootlegs? 

No.  You do not have to worry about the record police coming to knock on your door!

Is it illegal to sell a bootleg? 

If you are a private citizen and have one or two bootlegs in your collection and are ready to put them on the collectors’ market … don’t worry.  If you are thinking of going into business selling bootlegs, you had better consult a good lawyer!

Is it illegal to manufacture a bootleg? 

In the UK, yes it is! There is a multitude of differing laws in some parts of Europe (notably Italy and the Netherlands) and the USA. Most industrialised, capitalist countries have some type of law on the books regarding the copyrights of recorded music. However, some are lax and some are completely ineffectual.

So with all that in place, I reiterate Bob Dylan’s own words: to live outside the law, you must be honest.

Journey Through Dark Heat – Part 3 (1983-1988)

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Standing on the waters casting your bread

While the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing

Distant ships sailing into the mist

You were born with a snake in both of your fists while a hurricane was blowing

Freedom just around the corner for you

But with the truth so far off, what good will it do?

 

I SIT here under a blue May sky ruminating about Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday, his longevity, his timeless brilliance and the many wonderful musicians we have lost this past year… and realise it is time once again to continue my own personal journey through dark heat.

Time is an ocean, so let’s travel on…

As the long hot summer of 1983 ventured into autumn, word was coming from across the Atlantic that Dylan was jettisoning much of his gospel baggage and venturing down a new road – once again.

Certainly his so-called Musical Retrospective Tour of 1981 – which concluded in Lakeland on 21 November gave early indications of this variation of his journey.

So after taking a two year rest from the road, and with Dire Straits guitarist and producer Mark Knopfler at his side, on 27 October 1983, Bob delivered his 22nd studio album and his most accessibly commercial release to date: Infidels.

Infidels is still regarded as the first secular record Bob Dylan had recorded since Street Legal, filled with songs that are evocative in their imagery and direct in their approach.

Indeed, upon its release the album was immediately heralded as a return from born-again proselytizing, and began Dylan’s journey back toward mainstream music making — it would have surely been a stand-out all-time classic, but for some last-minute tinkering.

Two key songs were left on the cutting room floor as Dylan continued editing and re-recording Infidels, long after Knopfler had left to pursue his own separate musical interests.

The out-take Blind Willie McTell later gained a talismanic import among fans before finally appearing on 1991’s The Bootleg Series Vol 1-3.

The sessions also included Foot of Pride, a perfectly executed Dylan put-down about those trapped in ego. And the bouncing Someone’s Got A Hold Of My Heart was subsequently re-drafted for 1985’s Empire Burlesque.

In their place went Union Sundown, a much lesser effort, Sweetheart Like You, a wayward song of misogynism , License to Kill, and the now-expected album-closing paean to a lover, Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight.

Weaker than what may have been possible if he had included the outtakes, but still mesmerising – Dylan’s own flawed genius. Each tracks had a sleek approach that updated his sound without dismantling its foundational wit.

Credit there goes to Knopfler, and an all-star cast that included Mick Taylor, Robbie Shakespeare and Sly Dunbar — the latter of whom gave Jokerman its groove.

In manner and tone, that track connected back to the promise of Dylan’s mid-1970s work, and gave us the first concrete hint at the third-act successes to come beginning with 1989’s Oh Mercy.

But looking back with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight it is baffling that any critic can call Infidels a return to “secular recording” for Bob Dylan.

After three straight Christian albums, the record was certainly more broad in its horizons, at least when compared to its predecessor, Shot of Love or the second Born-Again album Saved, but its attitude is still as straightforward and uncompromising as Slow Train Coming.

But his lyricism here is more deliciously complex than on the three predecessors; a glance at Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight may suggest that it’s a simple song about sex, but it’s not, it’s much deeper and much more creative than that.

Jokerman boasts a reggae influence and Dylan’s alluring attempt to try and reveal false prophets, as he does elsewhere when he clearly states that sometimes Satan disguises himself as a Man of Peace.

The driving Neighborhood Bully pays homage to the rocking Shot of Love, but with a much more complex political message, unlike the straightforward social statements of License To Kill and Union Sundown. The second track Sweetheart Like You may have a clichéd title, but the content within is bursting with originality and mystery, much like I and I.

The different spiritual elements that make up Infidels would put many other artists in a creative whirl, but here Bob Dylan handles them all with integrity and delivers one of his most effective stand-alone albums.

At home this new album was played to exhaustion during the winter of 1983, punctuated only by the news that Bob would be doing a Europe only tour during the summer of 1984.

It would be a stadium tour and my first chance to see him live since that halcyon gig at Earls Court six years earlier.

On 21 May, 1984 in the low key city of Brno in Czechoslovakia, Dylan set-out on a 27 date tour, playing some of the biggest and best known European music venues including Ullevi Stadion in Gothenburg, Sweden, St James Park in Newcastle, Wembley Stadium and Slane Castle in County Meath, Ireland.

And so on Saturday 7 July, on a beautiful summer’s day, armed with two tickets and iconic T shirts, I drove with my kid sister Fiona, from our home in rural Herefordshire to the bustle and excitement of north London and Wembley Stadium.

What a day and what a concert it was to be.

It was Dylan’s biggest concert in England since the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival, and appearing before 72,000 people at London’s open-air Wembley Stadium on the evening of July 7th, turned it into one of the highlights of his performing career.

And I was there… standing near the front with my 17 year-old sister perched on my shoulders for much of the gig.

The show was Dylan’s penultimate appearance of the tour, and as he seemed positively relaxed, cheerfully greeting such old friends and musical colleagues as Mick Jagger, Mark Knopfler, Chrissie Hynde, Steve Winwood, Van Morrison and Eric Clapton.

But when Dylan danced out onstage later that evening, wearing a black frock coat and sporting dark sun glasses and a shock of wild, curly hair, he looked like nothing less than a holy man possessed.

And from the moment he and his band (ex-Faces’ keyboard player Ian McLagan, ex-Stone the Crows drummer Colin Allen, bassist Greg Sutton and  former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor) broke into an electrifying Highway 61, it was clear that Dylan was once again rockin’.

Moreover, his voice – full of passionate declamations and dramatic vocal leaps, and displaying an emotional palette that ranged from proud anger to unabashed tenderness – immediately brought his audience back to the days of Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde.

During his two-and-a-half-hour performance, Dylan sang twenty-five songs.

The first part of the concert included sensational renditions of three tracks from his Infidels album: Jokerman, I and I and License to Kill.

But Dylan and the band were most impressive in the way they gave new life to his older songs, turning Just like a Woman into a rollicking waltz, Simple Twist of Fate into a sensual rock samba, Every Grain of Sand into a haunted Basement Tapes meditation and Maggie’s Farm – with the rhythmic riff of Obviously Five Believers – into a sardonic and fierce protest song – now obliquely directed at then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

He also performed three acoustic numbers: a gentle version of A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, a folk- and bluegrass-tinged rendition of Tangled Up in Blue and a searing reinterpretation of It’s Alright, Ma.

With only his guitar and harmonica, the 43 year-old Dylan somehow made the vast spaces of Wembley Stadium shrink into what seemed like an intimate circle around a campfire, as the crowd accompanied him in the refrains to each of these songs.

The audience continued to sing along when Dylan brought the band back to conclude the first part of the concert with an ecstatic version of Like a Rolling Stone.

For his encore, Dylan did three more acoustic numbers: Mr Tambourine Man, Girl From the North Country and It Ain’t Me Babe.

Then, thinking it was all over Fiona and I made our way to the exits, when suddenly from out of the wings, the band re-emerged, along with Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Chrissie Hynde, and the entire entourage proceeded to give a stunning performance of Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat.

As if that wasn’t enough, Van Morrison joined everyone onstage and sang a soulful, unsurpassable version of It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, with Chrissie Hynde and Dylan providing backup vocals.

After receiving a thunderous ovation, Morrison left the stage, and the remaining musicians launched into high-powered performances of Tombstone Blues, the irrepressible Senor, The Times They are A-Changin’ and, finally, Blowin’ in the Wind.

Thousands of people danced, and matches were lit. A half moon appeared, and the summer stars twinkled in the sky above.

Speaking strictly for me, I could have died then and there in a pure bliss I would never find again.

In the words of my other muse, David Bowie that day was captured thus:

The Children of the summer’s end

Gathered in the dampened grass

We played Our songs and felt the London sky

Resting on our hands

It was God’s land

It was ragged and naive

It was Heaven

 

But this was Bob, back to his very best… a best we would not see live again for many years.

 

We heard the Sermon on the Mount and I knew it was too complex

It didn’t amount to anything more than what the broken glass reflects

When you bite off more than you can chew you pay the penalty

Somebody’s got to tell the tale, I guess it must be up to me

 

So go on, boys, and play your hands, life is a pantomime

The ringleaders from the county seat say you don’t have all that much time

And the girl with me behind the shades, she ain’t my property

One of us has got to hit the road, I guess it must be up to me

 

And if we never meet again, baby, remember me

How my lone guitar played sweet for you that old-time melody

And the harmonica around my neck, I blew it for you, free

No one else could play that tune, you know it was up to me

A surprise live album Real Live was released in the winter of 1984 which documented Dylan’s European  summer.

Six songs from the album were recorded from that Wembley performance, two songs were recorded at St James Park on July 5 and another two from Slane Castle, Ireland.

Although I have since acquired a wonderful bootleg CD of the entire Wembley gig, Real Live was to remain for many years my only tangible record of that wonderful day in July 1984.

Back home, the next four years were to be punctuated by a new Dylan album almost every year: the commercially quirky Empire Burlesque (1985), the curate’s egg of Knocked Out Loaded (1986), the live video with Tom Petty Hard to Handle (1986), the movie soundtrack Hearts of Fire (1987) the forgettable Down in the Groove (1988) and the live Dylan and the Dead (1989).

But while Dylan was being profligate in his recording and commercial releases, one thing appeared clear during the late 1980s, the quality of his work was suffering, and creativity had exited stage left.

But it was during 1987-88, while I was hospitalised in Cardiff with cancer, that a new world of Bob Dylan was unexpectedly opened to me.

To while away the hours and weeks of radiotherapy, my mum bought me a copy of Robert Shelton’s definitive Dylan biography No Direction Home.

I consumed the magnificent book in a couple of days. But it was while meandering through the appendices that I noted mention of a quarterly Bob Dylan fan / information magazine, simply titled The Telegraph.

With an annual subscription of just £10, including delivery, I wrote off and subscribed to this gem instantly.

And so began the opening up of my world of Bob Dylan and an enduring friendship with the magazine’s editor John Bauldie.

The first edition of my subscription (the autumn 1987 issue) to The Telegraph arrived at my hospital bedside within a fortnight.

Soon I was scouring and digesting its every page… and the reams of small ads in its supplement.

One advert shouted out to me. A Dylan collector in Denmark was offering for sale cassette tapes of his many concerts at just £2 a time!

Enthused and bored by hospital and this bloody thing called cancer, I sent off for a list of the tapes this guy called Andy, had for sale.

Within a few weeks a parcel of 10 Bob Dylan concert tapes arrived in a protectively wrapped brown paper parcel.

With a set of fresh batteries for my Sony Walkman, I began to listen to these previously unknown recording jewels that had arrived.

These included the famed 1978 Blackbushe Aerodrome gig, the 1984 Wembley concert, some outtakes from Infidels, and six audience recordings from his ongoing 1987 tour.

The sound quality between the tapes varied between crackly and poor to just amazing and clear.

But I was hooked, delighted and so began my passion for collecting Dylan recordings, which has now lasted all my life.

 

Look out across the fields, see me returning

Smoke is in your eye, you draw a smile

From the fireplace where my letters to you are burning

You’ve had time to think about it for a while

 

Well, I’ve walked two hundred miles, now look me over

It’s the end of the chase and the moon is high

It won’t matter who loves who

You’ll love me or I’ll love you

When the night comes falling from the sky

 

I can see through your walls and I know you’re hurting

Sorrow covers you up like a cape

Only yesterday I know that you’ve been flirting

With disaster that you managed to escape

 

I can’t provide for you no easy answers

Who are you that I should have to lie?

You’ll know all about it, love

It’ll fit you like a glove

When the night comes falling from the sky

 

The late 1980s may have been a washout for Dylan’s creativity, but for me it was a New Morning and a herald of a new dawn.

The combined miracles of The Traveling Wilburys, Oh Mercy, following my hero around Europe, and meeting him face to face was just around the corner.

But that is a story for the next episode of this personal journey through dark heat.

To be continued…