HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOB - A 70th Birthday Gift To Bob Dylan
I STILL HAVE a sense of the vague incomprehension among friends of a certain age in 1991, when Bob Dylan turned 50. When we started buying records, Dylan's early albums would have been among the first precious discs in our collections, which meant they would always remind us of that time in our lives when growing up and getting old was what other people did, your parents for instance. But there was Dylan, at 50. How had that happened? It seemed inconceivable that one of our teenage heroes had reached such an advanced age, perhaps because we had at some point grown used to the idea of them being dead by the time they were 30 and better off in some addled opinion by not hanging around into what would surely prove to be an embarrassing dotage, their reputations intact, invulnerable to the diminishing of their talents by time's passing.
Dying young at one point seemed, fatuously you'd have to say in retrospect, the advisable career option. Past a certain age, would there be any point in going on? The answer to which question is yes, if you're Bob Dylan. The Never Ending Tour had just got into its early stride when Dylan hit his half century and although his first album of new material after turning 50 didn't come until 1997, the record he then released, Time Out Of Mind, heralded a brilliant late-career renaissance some of the less illustrious albums he made in the '80s, among them Empire Burlesque and Down In The Groove, did little to predict. As well as LPs of note like Love And Theft, Modern Times and Together Through Life, we have enjoyed his Theme Time Radio Hour, all 100 of them, and there have been many unforgettable shows on the Never Ending Tour, most recently in the UK at last year's Hop Farm Festival. At the time of writing, he's just played for the first time in China and Vietnam, on his way to what for many of us will be a summer highlight in Finsbury Park on June 18.
He'll be 70 by then, an occasion we celebrate in this special issue of Uncut, which for the collectors among you, comes in four different covers, with a Happy Birthday Bob CD, compiled in the manner of his Theme Time show, all manner of arcane Dylanalia, and for the first time the fullest published version of one of the most extraordinary interviews he's ever given, to his No Direction Home biographer, Robert Shelton, in 1966, high on amphetamines and his own intoxicating powers, on a flight through the American night from a concert in Nebraska to another in Colorado on a tour that nearly killed him, but thankfully didn't.