April 22nd, 2006


The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia

I am not a Bob Dylan fan, not really. I don't mind some of his music, and I've an album, but that hardly makes me a Bob Dylan fan. It makes me, instead, some guy who doesn't mind some Dylan. It's probably even fair to say that I kind of prefer most of Dylan's songs in the covers I've heard; the Rage Against the Machine seven minute guitars and drums and screams protest version of 'Maggie's Farm' leaves Dylan's two and a half minute country folk version dead. I'm going off memory for the Dylan track there, so I hope I haven't fucked the details too much (I'm listening to the Rage Against the Machine version now, however--it appeared on the cover album, Renegades, which was the last studio album from the band, a solid thing that, considering their breakup, suggests that the band had stopped working as anything original).

Still, despite this, I find myself fully intending to buy the eight hundred page Bob Dylan Encyclopedia by Michael Gray. It's a form of madness, I imagine, since the book is "a world of ideas, facts, and opinions. It's a world in which Baudelaire flows on from the Basement Tapes and A.S. Byatt looks out at the Byrds; in which Far from the Madding Crowd follows Ezekiel and Bob Geldof introduces Jean Genet; and in which Hank and William Carlos Williams stand side by side while J.R.R. Tolkien trails the Titanic. Most of all, of course, it's a world in which everyone and everything interconnects, in endlessly fascinating ways, with one of our greatest living artists: Bob Dylan." It's kind of like Seven Degrees of Seperation, Bob Dylan style.

But what convinced me to buy it was this section on the publisher's blog:

Stewart, Dave [1952 - ]

David Allen Stewart was born in Sunderland, Tyne & Wear, in the northeast of England, on September 9, 1952. Diverted by injury from football to music and the guitar, his early band Longdancer signed to ELTON JOHN’s Rocket label but broke up in 1977 when Stewart met Annie Lennox, forming the Catch with her and a Peet Coombes. After the single ‘Borderline’ the Catch mutated into the Tourists (1978–80), a new waveish group that enjoyed two UK top 10 hits, ‘I Only Want to Be With You’ and ‘So Good to Be Back Home Again.’ In mid-tour in Bangkok the Tourists disbanded, to be superceded by Lennox and Stewart’s new group the Eurythmics. They rose slowly but inexorably, their first hit 1983’s plaintive and catchy ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’, to become the most successful male-female duo in pop history (it says here).

It was clear that Annie Lennox was a gifted singer, though with an irritating inability to vary her phrasing, as for instance on the title line of their hit ‘There Must Be an Angel’, which she sings identically over and over again as if she were a tape-loop or a singing parrot; but it was never clear what Dave Stewart’s talent was. The PR aura surrounding them attempted to portray him as a musical genius and inspired Svengali, though to most reasonable people he looked like a self-regarding and affected twit with a gift for wide-ranging mediocrity.

Just brilliant.

It then goes on to list the seemingly ridiculous ways that Stewart and Dylan are connected, including the story where Dylan, getting the directions to Stewart's house wrong, ends up at the house of a plumber called Dave, and whose wife, not knowing who Dylan was, let him in and served him a cup of tea while they waited for Dave to come home. Well, okay, so the cup of tea isn't mentioned, but it happened in London, so of course they were drinking tea.
  • Current Music
    Rage Against The Machine - Maggie's Farm