Bob Dylan has achieved a great many things over a very long career, including winning an Oscar. This is the song that did it: a tune written for Curtis Hanson's adaptation of Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys.
Even while Roxy Music was still a young band, Bryan Ferry had already established himself as an interpreter of other people's songs. That sideline/solo thing has evolved over the years; in 2007, he released Dylanesque, consisting entirely of Ferryized versions of Bob Dylan songs. (The lyrics? All now understandable!) If Not For You is one of my favourites from the record.
A list of Bob Dylan covers would be a long, long one; here's one, by Anthony and the Johnsons, that's striking in a number of different ways. With Knocking on Heaven's Door, a few singers (Axl Rose comes to mind) bring out the macho in their versions of Dylan's western-inspired song about a dying gunslinger. Antony Hegarty goes in quite the opposite direction, pushing right to the edge where life and afterlife meet.
Suze Rotolo, a girlfriend to Bob Dylan and a muse, as well (according to this obituary), has died. I found out through an interesting way: the traffic on my blog has spiked considerably, with about 11,000 people hitting Dot Dot Dot in the last few hours. (For comparison's sake, I had 3,400 page views yesterday.) A glance at the dashboard showed me almost all traffic is pointing to this very slight blog item, which consisted of five random facts, one of them being that Rotolo pronounced her first name like "Suzy." What the people are coming for, though, is the image, which ranks at or near the top if you just Google "Suze Rotolo." (At least today. The image is the familiar shot of Rotolo snuggling up to Dylan for the cover of the Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. I believe the shot was taken in winter, near their apartment in Greenwich Village.
Look, bully for all that they can make money on the road. But one of my colleagues, after Neil Young's two shows in St. John's this week, had a valid point: the big concerts in St. John's recently were Young, Bob Dylan, Elton John and Leonard Cohen. A concert of any of them in their prime would have been impossible. At least the market has changed to accommodate this kind of tour. But as my younger friend put it, "Can we get something non-geriatric?" (To be fair, the Tragically Hip - who are merely middle aged - announced a date a few days later.)
[Surf's Up, as publishedin the St. John's Telegram on Thursday, May 22, 2008. Click here to read more columns.]
Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, as fate should have it, will each be in St. John's this weekend. Dylan will be celebrating his 67th birthday with a concert at Mile One on Saturday night; the next evening, Cohen opens a three-night run up the hill at the Holy Heart auditorium.
We have tickets to see both, and I’m mightily looking forward to each show. This week, we start with some of the websites that follow two musical legends.
Bob Dylan As official sites of musicians go, Bob Dylan sets the gold standard – which ain’t bad, considering Dylan has been setting boundaries, and then breaking them, for more than 45 years running. Fans should consider checking in regularly (this is how I got tickets, in advance, to this weekend’s show) for inside tips and such, although the great value of the site is its complete database of Dylan lyrics. There’s plenty else to sample, including external links to an array of official videos.
Expecting Rain The news section on the Dylan site is actually pretty sparse; it, wisely, directs fans to Expecting Rain, a Norway-based fan site that is, simply, voluminous in its listings. If something is being said about Bob Dylan, somewhere, a link will likely show up here. Amazing.
Theme Time Radio Hour In 2006, Dylan started a new career as a DJ, as host of Theme Time Radio Hour, on the XM satellite service. You can listen here (through an online subscription), and also learn more about the show.
Leonard Cohen Not that many years ago, I wouldn't have expected Leonard Cohen to even have a website; he had withdrawn from society into the world of a Buddhist monk, and his recording career seemed to have wound down. However, at 73, Cohen is in full flight: a new inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as weird as that still sounds), and he has just launched his first tour in 15 years. His site has been freshened up with new content, offering the basics, pushing the new product (newly remastered editions of three albums) and some videos featuring music and interviews. The forum section may draw in some fans.
Leonard Cohen Files The look and feel of this fan site is dated, although the content is up to date. There is, indeed, a lot here to keep you occupied for quite a while.
Elsewhere this week
DRM, RIP: Napster reborn Well, fancy that: people will be going to Napster to download music they can play any time they want, as often as they like. The difference now is that they'll have to pay for it. Napster relaunched itself on Tuesday, as the now-legal gateway for music downloading. Like Amazon, but notably unlike iTunes, Napster is ditching DRM, or digital rights management, the coding that is meant to prevent illegal copying but has basically just become a nuisance to consumers. Napster's decision to drop DRM should be a signal to the labels: the strategy ain’t working. Moreover, customers are willing now to drop a little cash ($1.19 per download) to get a decent, clean copy. Readjust your business plan, folks.
We Tell Stories Fiction meets the internet, in a much more vital way than mere text might suggest, in We Tell Stories. The Penguin-sponsored site launched in March, and invited six authors (well, seven, to be precise: Nicci French is the pseudonym of a couple that lives and writes together) to compose a story using web tools, like a mashup with Google Earth. In other words, as the narrative moves, so too does the user. One of the hooks for Penguin is that the stories are all based on literary classics.
Dot Dot Dot is Morse code for the letter 'S,' the full message Guglielmo Marconi claimed to have received atop Signal Hill in St. John's in 1901. It ushered in the age of telecommunications. My maternal grandfather worked as a telegraph operator for Canadian Marconi on Signal Hill for many years.
As well, I have a habit of overusing the ellipsis when I write ... as frequent readers might notice.