The Strange Brew Podcast with Iain Matthews and Ian Clayton

Iain Matthews and Ian Clayton join Jason Barnard to talk about Iain’s memoir Thro’ My Eyes for The Strange Brew Podcast, illustrated by 13 songs drawn from across Iain’s career. Running time 1hr 41 mins. Click play above to listen.

Jason at The Strange Brew has a fine collection of podcasts. You can find them on the website or subscribe to The Strange Brew Podcast on iTunes or your favourite podcast provider.

Click here for more in Iain Matthews memoir Thro’ My Eyes

EXTRACT | Recording Blood on the Tracks – First Takes

To mark the 45th anniversary since the first day of the recording sessions for Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, and the Kindle release of Clinton Heylin’s account of those sessions, No One Else Could Play That Tune, here’s a new extract from Clinton’s book. This is set on 16th September 1974, Dylan has booked himself into the old Columbia studio in New York, the same room where he made all of his early to mid-sixties recordings, and he feels himself into the session with a handful of solo-acoustic performances of the songs in his notebook. Bob’s then partner Ellen Bernstein starts the tale.

Ellen Bernstein: [Dylan] knew these songs. He knew his vision for these songs [which] was very pure and very unadorned, and you don’t need a producer if your vision is that personal on something. I think he had a lot of belief in the integrity of the material.

Perhaps Dylan was already aware of the rep Ramone had started to acquire. According to Blood On The Tracks musician Charlie Brown III, Phil was someone who liked to take ‘a lot of credit for stuff that I don’t think he did. Producing all these people and having his name on it as producer is bullshit, because he didn’t do anything, y’know.’

What Ramone certainly was, though, was a consummate engineer; as good at mastering the nuances of analogue sound as Halee, minus the attitude. And his brief was the same one Dylan shared with his original Columbia producer, John Hammond Snr., the very afternoon they both returned to A & R: ‘I want to lay down a whole bunch of tracks. I don’t want to overdub. I want it easy and natural.’

Ellen recalls how the veteran A&R man ‘had asked to come into the studio that first night since it was historic in so many ways for him and for Bob, [who] was very welcoming … It was a lovely moment.’ Yet Hammond was slightly baffled by Dylan’s choice of recording date, pointing out to his former protégé, ‘This is a strange day to start recording … It is Rosh Hashanah and it is hard to get musicians.’ Looking for his own new beginning, Dylan snapped back, ‘Why not today? It’s the new year, isn’t it?’

Although A & R had a state-of-the-art sixteen-track desk, Dylan made it clear he intended to begin by recording a few songs acoustically, and that four tracks – the number he had used on every Studio A recording in the first half of the sixties – would suffice. Ramone suggested two guitar mikes and a single Sennheiser 421, a popular stage mike at the time, for the vocals:

Phil Ramone: I used the technique at the time … of using two guitar mikes, for reasons of sound and to give him freedom of movement, because he’s not prone to stand in one place without moving around … We had pretty good isolation. You hear his voice in his guitar mike, as you would anyone’s, but leakage is important, and the leakage in the guitar mike was quite good … I didn’t use anything but a dynamic mike on his vocals. It helped with the isolation, too … How do you keep the vocal out of the guitar mike, or vice versa? … The Sennheiser 421 … had an interesting top end, a warmth, if you kept reasonably close to it.

Assistant engineer Glenn Berger recalled, in his studio memoir, scurrying around trying to get the set-up just right, before leading ‘Dylan out to the studio and plac[ing] him in front of the mics. We used old Neumann microphones [sic], the kind he would’ve used in the early sixties. I stood inches from him … [It was] the seventies. It wasn’t the antiseptic spaceship of 2001. It was dirty and falling apart. It was all tubes, no transistors. The board would get hot … We had no idea what he was going to do, so we had to be ready for anything … As I ran around the studio tweaking mic positions, he called off a tune. “Let’s do ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ in G.” He hit his guitar, but instead of a G chord, it was an A. He was playing in a different key from the one he had called off and the lyrics were [to] “If You See Her, Say Hello”.’

The clock read just past four. If Dylan for even a moment thought about starting with ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ – in many ways the album’s trigger – no evidence remains on the studio logs or tapes, even though they were running both a mono reference tape (at either 7½ or 15 ips), plus a regular 30 ips multitrack.

When song one rolls, both reels record Ramone calling out, ‘“If You See Her, Say Hello” take one.’ No mistake. A perfect starter – even though the song was one of the last Dylan wrote for the album. Entirely absent from the two working notebooks Dylan was using prior to his summer visit to the farm – both of which are now housed at the Dylan archive in Tulsa – the lyric appears only in the ‘fair copy’ notebook that remains at the Morgan Library, New York, the seventh (of fifteen) songs therein.

It turns out ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’ had mutated from another song Dylan had been working on, only to scrap: ‘There Ain’t Gonna Be Any Next Time’. As his mood changed from autumnal brown to blue, he began to slip in lines like, ‘So kiss her nice and say hello’, ‘Though the emptiness still lingers’, and ‘I respect her … for what she did’. If this soon-discarded paean was a carpe diem to his tardy self, its replacement would find him again ruing past mistakes and wracked with remorse.

On that very first take of ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’ – a marathon effort and stellar performance – he is already striving for the voice within and immediately captures the essence of Blood On The Tracks. Five and a half minutes long, it is punctuated by no fewer than four harmonica breaks.

With nary a pause, he goes in search of that voice again, this time reining himself in harmonica-lly, searching for a tonal breath control he can set to remote for the remainder of the sessions. He doesn’t quite find it, but that second take is still ‘pulled’ to one of three master reels at the end of the second session, from which Jeff Rosen evidently accessed this version when compiling 1991’s The Bootleg Series Vols. 1-3. Already, Dylan was in the forbidden zone – and Ramone sensed it:

Phil Ramone: This was a serious night … a very quiet, deliberate letting out of the inside of him. Emotionally, he was in a state of revealing his life. And most writers don’t want to tell you they’re writing their autobiography. But it’s there in the atmosphere, as you hear the songs unfolding.

Ramone knew the stakes were high and the learning curve steep. It started with lesson one: ‘Bob doesn’t rehearse. Bob just starts creating [and] these songs start pouring out of him!’

In rapid succession, Dylan proceeds to reel off versions of ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’ and ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’ that take him to the emotional core of a collection he has barely begun recording. This time both second takes have the edge on the first, even if a six-minute take one of ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’ – with three seesaw bursts of the harmonica around his neck – prompts an impressed Ramone to correctly observe, ‘Great song.’

‘This is a really excellent read. If you’re a Dylan fan it is a must have and, even if you’re not, this is one of the finest pieces of forensic analysis of a major album that you are ever likely to read – which makes it a must have.’ Americana UK.

Clinton Heylin’s No One Else Could Play That Tune takes you up and close and personal in the studio with Bob Dylan during the New York recording sessions for Blood on the Tracks. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the Sony box set release More Blood, More Tracks as you follow the recordings unfolding track by track. It’s available in a limited edition hardback, exclusively from Route, and now also on Kindle.

Click here for more details and to order the limited edition harback.

Kindle Editions: UK | US | CA | FR | DE | NL | ES | IT | AU | JP | MX | IN | BR |

Funky Si On Location | You Can Drum But You Can’t Hide

Funky Si Wolstencroft has been filming a series of vignettes at the sites featured in his memoir You Can Drum But You Can’t Hide. Taking in locations in London, New York, Leeds, Coventry, Wales, and of course Greater Manchester. Click play above to watch them in one continuous stream.

Click here for more on the book

youcandrumbutyoucanthide3dpair

Click here for the You Can Drum But Can’t Hide website

 

The Story Behind The Music | Sex Pistols First Recording Session

The Sex Pistols first studio recording took place at Majestic Studios in London on 15th May 1976 wth Chris Spedding at the helm. They recorded three tracks: ‘Problems’, ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘No Feelings’. You can hear the recordings on the video link above, and for context here’s an extract from Clinton Heylin’s Anarchy in the Year Zero, a full account of the birth of British punk.


Chris Spedding: I found it very weird, all that [in the press] about them not playing music. If they were notable for one thing it was that. They were always in time and in tune. I couldn’t understand why some … had chosen to attack them on the very thing that was their strength. Obviously, they’ve got cloth ears. [1976]

Getting someone as well-respected as Spedding on board at such an early stage was quite a coup for McLaren. It was almost as if he knew what he was doing, using his carefully cultivated contacts to make something happen – just as soon as the band began to justify his carefully-tailored hype. Well, by now they did. Marco Pirroni, who also came back to the 100 Club that May, recalls discussing precisely this point with McLaren:

Marco Pirroni: Malcolm used to spout [about] anarchy all the time. [But] he did care about the music … He said, ‘They’ve got to get tight, they’ve got to get good.’ … He went to proper people, [like] Chris Spedding … He didn’t just bung ’em into any ol’ studio. They weren’t trying to make them the worst they could be. And they were good.

Spedding was to some extent putting his reputation on the line. Which is why he was determined to capture their muscular musicianship, prepping them at their rehearsal space: ‘I went to a couple of rehearsals … and got them to go through their whole repertoire and I took notes, [then] I chose … the three best songs … they had at the time.’

The gang of studio novices duly assembled outside Majestic Studios, a state-of-the-art sixteen-track facility, the morning after they blew Krakatoa all the way down Oxford Street. McLaren, never one to miss a trick, invited Ray Stevenson down to capture the moment on his candid camera. The three tracks Spedding had chosen were ‘No Feelings’, ‘Problems’ and ‘Pretty Vacant’:

Chris Spedding: I didn’t want to go in and just have total anarchy. I knew enough about presenting something to record companies to know that they usually wanted three songs. I’d used [Majestic] when I did the Here Come The Warm Jets album with Eno. And we got the same engineer, Derek Chandler. I got them to go in there at ten o’clock in the morning [and when] I got there about quarter to eleven they were all set up. We started recording about eleven, about one o’clock we finished and I mixed them … There was two guitar overdubs, that was about it … They’d not been in the studio before … I had [brought] my amps and I stood over the drums while he tuned the drums to get out all the buzzes. Fortunately, his drums sounded pretty good anyway, so there was hardly anything for me to do [except to make] sure that they had a headphone balance and that the singer in his isolation booth could hear all the instruments properly. I asked them to do a rehearsal for me and I switched on the [tape] recorder. So they thought they were doing a rehearsal and they were actually doing their first take … I never really got them to hear themselves back and get all nervous about it … They were [all] more or less first takes, first time in the studio … Rotten sung live, but … in an isolation booth … You can actually hear the way the band played together. It’s not like [the] guitar-overdub soup [found on later recordings].

(Hearing the trio of tracks on a bootleg E.P., in the early eighties, post-Spunk, post-Bollocks, was quite a shock to the system. As Spedding says, there is no ‘guitar-overdub soup’, though there is at least one obvious guitar overdub on ‘No Feelings’. What the guitarist-producer captured does not sound like a demo tape – as Goodman’s July tracks do – but like the first three tracks of a potent debut album the original Pistols never completed before transitioning into a more musical orthodoxy.)

For the band it had been an eye-opening experience. Rotten, in particular, felt going ‘to a proper recording studio … opened our mind[s] to the possibilities’. Predictably, he gave all the credit to Spedding and none to McLaren. It was McLaren, though, who immediately put the demos to use. Two of the initial recipients were Jonh Ingham at Sounds – whose entire playlist the following week was these three songs18 – and Howard Trafford, who dubbed a cassette-copy and sent it to Tony Wilson at Granada Reports, a nightly local TV show with musical content, who promptly lost it, though not before making a note in his diary, ‘Sex Pistols – June 4.’


Read the full story of the birth of punk in Anarchy in the Year Zero by Clinton Heylin.

Featherstone’s Rich and Impressive History of Fighting Back

Green Lane Club, Featherstone

Featherstone Working Men’s Club, affectionately known as ‘t Green Lane’. It was built by its members in 1904 after they decided they no longer wished to support the Miners’ Welfare next door, which they saw as a Tory bosses club (the Welfare was owned and run by the pit owners).

Ian Clayton’s response to the Brexit Party media circus sweeping in to his home town of Featherstone, sowing seeds of division with a stage show of mass hypnotism.

As a seventh generation member of my family to make their home in Featherstone, I care deeply about where I am from. My partner Heather loves it here and my lad Edward is a son of this grand old town too. I hope my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will feel that same sense of belonging. I have an immense pride in the history of this town and judging by the sheer number of people who subscribe to the Featherstone Bygone Days page and share their own family history, photographs and ephemera, I’m not on my own in thinking that we have a town and a community to take justifiable joy and delight in. The history of this town is undoubtedly in its people, the stories they share, the clubs, societies and unions they belong to, the shops, pubs and clubs they use, the allotments and gardens they tend and the houses they take satisfaction from.

We are a town that has grown from hard work, but also let downs, setbacks and struggles. We always come back. The miners’ strike nearly ruined much of what we hold dear, but still we bounced back and though it’s hard at times, we still have much here to take pleasure in. The glue that binds us as a community holds strong. Better than that, it is a glue of are own making and that’s the best sort. I’ve always thought that Featherstone knows what it is doing, culturally, socially, and yes politically. We here believe in being good neighbours, helping those less fortunate and reaching out to include people who might feel left out.

Yesterday morning I watched a live stream of a Brexit Party rally from the Green Lane Club. It upset me. If someone had told me a year ago – no, just a week ago – that I would see with my own eyes people in a famous old Featherstone Working Men’s Club cheering Tories and right-wing extremists, and giving standing ovations to dodgy businessmen mouthing false camaraderie, I would have laughed them out of town. Yet it happened and it happened here, in the heart of a proper, working-class town. Surely this can’t be right and fair can it? I usually respond to this sort of thing with humour, but it’s got to the stage where it is not only too daft to laugh at, it is beyond satire, it has gone to a very dangerous and dark place. This is not a one horse, one party town, we must embrace the differing opinions of our neighbours, but dear me, this surely doesn’t mean we have to cheer those who wish to destroy community, sew the seeds of division and then drive off laughing having tricked, conned and humiliated us.

I wrote something on my Facebook page about what I saw. A good friend of mine from California wrote to me. Michael specialises in conflict resolution, he has worked in Northern Ireland and other parts of the world where communities have turned on one another. This is what he had to say.

‘The far right have consistently, if not intentionally, practiced what’s called reflective listening in the world of conflict resolution. They’ll knock on the door, listen to frustrations and then say something like, “We’re hearing that a lot. It’s irritating isn’t it?” Having acknowledged how someone feels and built some rapport, they then offer simple solutions to complex problems by scapegoating easy targets such as immigrants. It’s desperately depressing to witness such political entrepreneurs as Farage exploit so many people with lies and false comradeship.’

As I watched the circus yesterday, I tried to count how many lies the speakers were coming out with. I lost count. Yet people still cheered and held up the placards they had been given and were instructed to hold up at a given sign. I am thinking that this was a stage show example of mass hypnotism. Except the subjects were not embarrassing themselves by dancing to imaginary disco music and it wasn’t funny. It’s not funny anymore is it?

A reporter from The Guardian newspaper was there to witness this unedifying spectacle. His report in this morning’s paper makes for grim reading. I feel humiliated by it. I don’t want my town to be the place that contributed to the success of something as nasty as this.

When I wrote on my own Facebook yesterday, I asked, ‘What is the Green Lane Club thinking in allowing such a thing to happen on our own doorstep?’ To be fair to them, I have discovered since that they were duped and conned. When the original booking at the club was made, the organisers merely asked for a room to hold a seminar, they didn’t even mention the Brexit Party. The good people at the Club took the booking, because that’s what they do. They allow rooms to be rented for a small fee to help the club in hard financial times. It was only a few days ago that the real reason for the booking was revealed and by then the invoice had been paid and it was too late to do anything about. We Featherstonians must ask ourselves then, is this what we really want? A gang of tricksters and conmen making false bookings in order to get in by the back door and then continuing to try and fool us with their flashing lights, downright lies, false friendship, limp handshakes and grinning in our face. Featherstone does not deserve to be treated in this way.

I once asked my granddad if Mosley and his black shirts ever came to Featherstone. He laughed and said, ‘Aye, they once had a meeting at the back of the Central Club in a place called Teddy Edwards’ Market.’ I asked him what people did. He just laughed again and said, ‘Me and Lionel Anderson and our Harold and some others went up with a pick shaft apiece. We told them to get off home and I’m fairly sure they did.’ I am not like my grandad, I do not condone that approach, but I will fight with my words to ensure that my town continues a proud history of kindness to others and I refuse to be humiliated and shamed by here-today, gone-tomorrow clowns who know nothing of our rich and impressive history of fighting back.

Ian Clayton’s website

Bob Dylan 1966 London Press Conference

Already weary from a confrontational world tour, and beyond tired of the media circus, Bob Dylan held a press conference on 3rd May 1966 shortly after he arrived in London in advance of the British leg of his tour. It did nothing to calm the growing hostility towards the artist. This extract from Clinton Heylin’s book JUDAS! paints a picture of how it went.

Bob Dylan arrives in Britain for his second British tour on Monday (May 2)—and is bringing his American backing group with him. The group—just called The Group—will play all Dylan’s British dates with him. They will accompany the singer for half of each concert and he will do the other half alone.
—‘DYLAN BRINGS OWN GROUP’, MELODY MAKER, APRIL 30 1966

This brief news story, in the music paper most British Dylan fans liked to read, served as an all-important backdrop to his May 1966 UK tour, scheduled to run from the fifth to the twenty-seventh. To those of a folk-minded disposition, for whom two electric albums and five electric singles were not enough of a clue as to Dylan’s ‘current bag’, it confirmed their worst fears. It also suggested they should look to scalp any tickets already purchased—especially in London and Manchester, where shows were already sold out.

Whereas in 1965 articles announcing how ‘The Beatles Dig Dylan’ and whether an acoustic troubadour could be a poet had lit the way for Dylan’s arrival, by 1966 he was a bona fide pop star with a #1 album (Bringing It All Back Home), a #4 album (Highway 61 Revisited) and three Top 10 singles (‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ and ‘Positively 4th Street’) to his name, all in the twelve months since last he played the City Halls of Albion.

This time, he needed no advance hype to sell out a full tour of the British Isles. Nor did he need the press to follow him around firing questions. So, instead of multiple formal and informal press conferences, backstage interviews with student reporters, one-on-one interviews with all the important music weeklies and the odd impertinent questionnaire, he agreed to exactly one press conference at the Mayfair Hotel—having relocated from the Savoy (perhaps still unhappy about the previous year’s ‘who threw the fucking glass’ incident, captured in Dont Look Back). At the press conference scheduled for the day after he flew in, he would again use the film crew as personal foils in another grand charade.

Not surprisingly, members of the English music press were a little put out to find themselves sitting cheek to jowl with ‘the establishment press … [who] didn’t understand what was going on in the musical arena’. As to what they could expect, they might have seen one of the questionnaires he had filled in the previous May, for Jackie, which listed the ‘loves and hates of Bob Dylan’. In the former category he had included ‘originality in anybody—makes such a big difference when they’ve got their own ideas to give out’. Personal bugbears included, ‘Rules. Why should we have them? … the importance that money has in our society …[and] that strange feeling when you come into a room that something’s gone wrong.’

There was certainly a ‘strange feeling’ in the Mayfair Hotel suite on the May day Dylan deigned to lock horns with another querulous quorum. Even familiar faces were given short shrift, Dylan ‘blanking’ Max Jones before making him the butt of one of his best one-liners. When Jones suggested he had heard he didn’t write protest songs any more, Dylan fired back, ‘All my songs are protest songs. You name something, I’ll protest about it. All I do is protest.’

Jones had been the first person Dylan called on when he visited London in December 1962 (Jones having been recommended by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott), and had been someone Dylan opened up to on both previous May visits, in 1964 and 1965. So he was bemused to find Dylan being wholly uncooperative but relieved to find he was not singled out for the treatment, prompting the headline to his resultant feature, ‘Will The Real Bob Dylan Please Stand Up?’:

Chatting up Bob Dylan … used to be easier, but as he gets older he seems to grow more and more fed-up with questions. Very difficult it is getting him alone. When you’ve failed in that, the next hindrance is his reluctance to impart information. It’s not that he won’t answer. But his replies, sometimes oblique and often designed to send-up, carry vagueness to the borders of evasion. Asked if the label folk-rock, sometimes applied to his current music making, meant anything to him, he queried back at me: ‘Folk-rot?’

To raise the level of the conversation a bit, I injected the names of Bukka White, Son House and Big Joe Williams. Did Dylan listen to such blues singers?

‘I know Big Joe, of course. But I never listen to these men on records too much. Lately I’ve been listening to Bartok and Vivaldi and that sort of thing. So I wouldn’t know what’s happening.’

Before we parted, another journalist was questioned by Dylan. He mentioned his paper. Dylan looked blank. ‘It’s the leading musical paper in the country,’ said the reporter firmly.

‘The only paper I know is the Melody Maker,’ was Dylan’s reply. One way or another he makes it clear he’s not out to win friends and influence newspaper men.

The reporter from the ‘leading musical paper in the country’ was Keith Altham, NME’s hippest reporter. But even this well-known face made very little headway with the man behind the shades when trying to raise the tone:

For posterity’s sake, I framed a question which might have been construed as ‘being aware’ … why is it that the titles of his recent singles, like ‘Rainy Day Women #12 + 35’ apparently bore no connections with the lyric? ‘It has every significance,’ returned Dylan. ‘Have you ever been down in North Mexico?’ ‘Not recently …’

A nonplussed Altham turned his attention to ‘a large gentleman with a grey top hat and movie camera permanently affixed to his shoulder, lurch[ing] about the room like Quasimodo, alternately scratching his ear and his nose, with the occasional break to “whirr” the machine in the face of perplexed reporters’. It was Pennebaker, of course.

Altham also observed ‘a lady in grey denims wav[ing] what appeared to be huge grey frankfurters about … [which] proved to be microphones attached to tape recorders’. The lady was Jones Alk.

Mrs Alk—whose husband Howard was hovering somewhere in the background—found herself an unwitting bit-part actor in another of Dylan’s games for May on the one occasion the ‘establishment press’ managed to ruffle Dylan’s feathers. He found himself ducking a series of questions regarding his recently reported marriage, a touchy subject at the best of times, until the mirror behind the glasses almost cracked:

Q: Are you married?
A: I’d be a liar if I answered that, and I don’t lie.
Q: Well, tell the truth then.
A: I might be married. I might not. It’s hard to explain really.
Q: Is she your wife? [points to Jones Alk].
A: Her? Oh yeah, you can say she’s my wife.
Jones Alk: No, my husband wouldn’t like it.
Q: Are you married to Joan Baez?
A: Joan Baez was an accident … I brought my wife over last time and nobody took any notice of her.
Q: So you are married then?
A: It would be very misleading if I said yes, I was married; and I would be a fool if I said no.
Q: But you just said you had a wife.
A: That depends on what you mean by married.

The four music press reps in attendance—Jones and Altham, plus Record Mirror’s Richard Green and an unnamed correspondent from Disc & Music Echo—valiantly tried to stem the tide of inanity, but it was a losing battle. Time to just sit back and enjoy the ride:

Q: What do you own?
A: Oh, thirty Cadillacs, three yachts, an airport at San Diego, a railroad station in Miami. I was planning to bus all the Mormons.
Q: What are your medical problems?
A: Well, there’s glass in the back of my head. I’m a very sick person. I can’t see too well on Tuesdays. These dark glasses are prescribed. I’m not trying to be a beatnik. I have very mercury-esque eyes. And another thing—my toenails don’t fit.
Q: Tell us about the book you’ve just completed!
A: It’s about spiders, called Tarantula. It’s an insect book. Took about a week to write, off and on … my next book is a collection of epitaphs.
Q: Who’s the guy with the top hat?
A: I don’t know. I thought he was with you. I sometimes wear a top hat in the bathroom.

Eventually, as in Copenhagen, ‘Mr Dylan started to interview the journalists’, as things again turned sour. After he told the Daily Sketch’s Dermot Purgavie they were boring, ‘the stroppier ones among us indicated that they weren’t too enchanted by him, either’. At the end of proceedings, the Sun’s Christopher Reed spoke for his fellow Fleet Streeters when he observed how Dylan had ‘managed to answer questions for an hour without really answering any of them at all’.

As the press filed out, a CBS publicist suggested, ‘Cliff Richard was never like this.’ Mr Reed now had his headline. Purgavie was equally sniffy about the uncooperative artist in his Sketch headline, ‘At least in his songs Mr Dylan has something to say.’ On the other hand, England’s thriving mid-sixties music press, to a man, sided with the star. Appropriately, Disc & Music Echo, the weekly that had run his notorious ‘Mr Send-Up’ interview the previous May, seemed particularly amused:

Bob Dylan arrived preceded by an almost violent reputation for being rude and uncooperative. He is rude—to people whom he considers ask stupid questions. He is uncooperative—he doesn’t like giving up his precious free time for individual interviews. But Bob Dylan is also a very sympathetic man with a vast sense of humour. He explained why he was wearing dark glasses. ‘I have glasses at the back of my head too. Look. I’m not trying to come on like a beatnik. I have to wear them under prescription because my eyes are so bad.’ … He played with a huge ashtray and then, this man who has said more with his songs than many say in ten thousand words, was asked some of the most ridiculous questions in the world. Things like a barrage of question[s] about whether he was married as though it was the most important thing since the nuclear bomb. No wonder he lost his patience.

Record Mirror’s Richard Green took equal delight in quoting ill-advised questions from the straight press, juxtaposed with the non-sequiturs Dylan provided for answers. Like Altham, he had realised immediately that ‘the farce … was obviously being staged’ for the cameras’ benefit and played dumb:

Until then, I’d always thought that Juke Box Jury was the funniest thing ever. But Dylan’s handling of the press left that standing. Asked if he had any children, he said, ‘Every man with medical problems has children.’ Asked what his medical problems were, he said, ‘Well, there’s glass in the back of my head and my toenails don’t fit properly.’ Dylan’s bunch of assorted film cameramen and sound recordists were happily enjoying the farce which was obviously being staged for their benefit. They continually trained cameras on the reporters and pushed weird microphones at people who spoke. Then somebody mentioned folk singer Dana Gillespie and at once Dylan brightened up. He laughed out loud, smiled broadly and asked, ‘Yeah, where is Dana. Come on out, Dana. I’ve got some baskets for her. Put your clothes on.’

As the penultimate press conference of the world tour wound to its predictable conclusion, Keith Altham went looking for one last usable quote, not from Dylan but from one of his sidekicks: taking ‘one of Dylan’s undercover agents to one side (I knew he was a Dylan man as he had dark glasses on) I enquired why a man with Dylan’s obvious intelligence bothered to arrange this farce of a meeting’. It was Bobby Neuwirth, whom he recognised from the previous year. He wasn’t about to sugar-coat it; ‘Dylan just wanted us to come along and record a press reception so we could hear how ridiculous and infantile all reporters are.’

For the remainder of his time in the British Isles, Dylan kept the press at arm’s length—clearly a conscious decision. The one time he decided to rebut accusations fired his way by reviewers of the shows, it would be from the Royal Albert Hall stage to a captive audience.


Read about the whole tour in JUDAS! Click here for more details and signed copies!

Other Clinton Heylin Titles

No One Else Could Play That Tune: The Making and Unmaking of Bob Dylan’s 1974 Masterpiece
Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years – What Really Happened
What We Did Instead of Holidays: A History of Fairport Convention and Its Extended Folk-Rock Family
Anarchy In The Year Zero: The Sex Pistols, The Clash and the Class of ’76

 

The Story Behind The Music | Iain Matthews Busby Babes

Iain Matthews is a lifelong Manchester United supporter. Football was his life as a boy. He was 11 years old in 1958. The news his mother gave him when he came home from school one February afternoon had a profound effect on him. This from his memoir Thro’ My Eyes:

I came home from school one February afternoon in 1958 and Mom had just got in with her shopping. ‘Have you heard about the crash?’ she asked. I hadn’t. ‘Sit down,’ she said and then told me that there had been a plane crash in the ice and snow at Munich airport and Manchester United was involved. I turned on our tiny black and white television with the magnifier on the front. The news came screaming at me. The Busby Babes, my Babes; David Pegg, Roger Byrne, Mark Jones, Billy Whelan, Tommy Taylor and Frank Swift, the guru of all sports writers, were all dead. Duncan Edwards was clinging to life and Matt Busby was on a respirator. They’d been returning from a European Cup match against Red Star Belgrade and had stopped to refuel at Munich. The plane crashed into a bank at the end of the runway following a third attempt to take off with ice forming on the wings. My tiny fragile world came crashing down. I couldn’t believe it, didn’t want to believe it. I ran out of our house up to Martin Carnaby’s about a half mile away. Had he seen it? Was it true? He had and it was. We shed a tear.

For the rest of the term I couldn’t concentrate at school. I paid little attention to what the teachers were saying and became quarrelsome with friends. This got me in hot water with my teachers and some of them I’m sure were unable to forgive me for the rest of my time there. I became more withdrawn and moody at home. No one seemed to notice and that only served to make things worse. Didn’t they realise what it meant? The Babes were the single most important thing in my life. Why was I the only one feeling this way?

Thrirty-four years later, the impact of the tragedy still lingered in him and came out in song. This led to a spooky encounter whilst on a European tour with Al Stewart.

Thanks to Al, I played before some big crowds on that tour and his fans loved to see us come out together to sing ‘Meet on the Ledge’ as an encore. I was a good opener for Al and later that same year he took me on his German tour. One of the shows was in Munich. By then they had built a brand-spanking-new airport and the venue for the night was the old abandoned airport. After the soundcheck, one of the promoters walked up beside me.

‘I’ve been looking for you,’ he said and took me by the arm. ‘Come with me, I want to show you something.’

He walked me away from the terminal, out into the darkness, until we were away from all the commotion going on inside. Looking back, I could see large chunks of stonework missing from the walls of the old building.

‘Okay, stop here’, he said, ‘this is it. This is the spot. This is where it happened.’

As if I’d been hit in the back of the head with a brick it dawned on me what he was talking about. I was standing on the very spot I’d seen so vividly in those old black and white television images. This is where my heroes died. For a moment I was that distraught eleven-year-old kid again. I re-experienced the sheer hopelessness I’d felt all those years before, the absolute irreplaceable sense of loss. I turned and walked back towards the terminal, forcing myself into a workable reality. I had once thought I was over it, but now I don’t know if it will ever leave me.

On my album Pure and Crooked I wrote eight of the songs. One of them, ‘The Rains of ’62’, was about leaving home for the bright lights of London. Another was a tribute to my boyhood heroes and called ‘Busby’s Babes’. This was the song my German guide had heard.

 

Thro My Eyes Deluxe Iain Matthews

Click here to order a signed copy of Iain’s memoir.