Uncut Editor's Diary
The Never-Ending saga Of the Never-Ending Tour
THE NEVER-ENDING SAGA OF THE NEVER-ENDING TOUR
Just some thoughts on the comments about Bob Dylan’s 1987 Wembley show, posted below by Steve, who was at that show, didn’t recognise a single song Bob played and is baffled when people describe Dylan as a genius for trashing his back catalogue ‘for his own amusement’. Steve, as he says, just doesn’t get it.
Well, neither did a lot of people that night.
Hence the bristling outrage in the seats behind me, where a furious John Peel could barely stifle in his anger at what Dylan was doing – Peel in fact is so livid, he writes a long and stinging article in one of the weekend’s Sunday papers, giving Bob unmerciful grief for vandalising his classic songs.
What Steve and Peel ‘didn’t get’ is that this is something Dylan needed to do – as he explains in one of the most revealing sections of Chronicles.
By the late-80s, Bob was in a rut of pointless touring, playing songs from his past that no longer meant anything to him. Chronic writer’s block and dwindling self-confidence meant there were no new songs for him to sing. He was at the end of his tether, lost, on the point of giving it all up.
To re-connect with himself, he had to take apart the myth he had created and allowed to grow around him, which meant to an extent the dismantling of everything he had written, to find new ways into the songs that had made him famous and which meant so much to so many people
This has sometimes meant taking a cosh to them, taking them apart to put them together again.
To which extent, Dylan at that Wembley show wasn’t merely ‘trashing’ his back catalogue - and certainly not for his or anyone else’s simple amusement – he was trying to find himself again, and the drama of that enterprise has been a fascinating process of rediscovery and renewal that made the Never Ending Tour that followed the most compelling drama in rock.
Of course, even now that things have settled down and Dylan seems at peace with himself if not the world, people still bellow and carp, apparently vexed somehow by Dylan’s endless touring.
For me, Bob appearing so regularly is a bit like calling up a local decorator to come around and spruce up your living room and a couple of hours later answering the door to find Picasso standing there with a step-ladder, a brush, a couple of tins of paint and some far-out plans for your front-room ceiling – genius on tap, as it were, and no job too small.
Meanwhile, if you’re in the mood for more Dylan, here’s a link to a curious bit of footage of Bob playing ‘Mr Tambourine Man’.
It’s fantastic – but can anyone tell me where it’s from, where it was shot – and why?