Trouble In Mind | Introduction by Clinton Heylin

INTRODUCTION TO TROUBLE IN MIND BY CLINTON HEYLIN

BEFORE THE FLOOD

I never felt like I was searching for anything. I always felt that I’ve stumbled into things or drifted into them. But I’ve never felt like I was out on some kind of prospector hunt, looking for the answers or the truth … I never went to the holy mountain to find the lost soul that is supposed to be a part of me … I don’t feel like a person has to search for anything. I feel like it’s all right in front.
—BOB DYLAN TO DENISE WORRELL, 1985

Caveat emptor: I am an evangelist. That is to say, when it comes to the evangelical part of the Dylan canon – what in mediaspeak has been defined, rather misleadingly, as the gospel years (i.e. 1979-81) – I’m a believer. Not a trace of doubt in my mind.

From the moment I heard a live performance of ‘Covenant Woman’ from the November ’79 Warfield shows at a one-day Dylan convention in Manchester the following month, I knew the man had (re)connected to the wellspring of his art when that ol’ sign on the cross began to worry him.

As I have long argued, in person and in print, the consummate songwriter composed a body of work in the period 1979-81 which more than matches any commensurate era in his long and distinguished career – or, indeed, that of any other twentieth century popular artist.

But unlike that other seminal starburst of inspiration, the one between 1965 and 1967, the afterglow of this cerebral explosion is barely reflected within the grooves of the trilogy of albums CBS released in real time: Slow Train Coming (1979), Saved (1980) and Shot Of Love (1981).

Perhaps it’s because Dylan’s heart really wasn’t in the process of making records at the time. He did, after all, suggest in an interview designed specifically to promote the third album in said trilogy, that his primary interest was playing ‘songs which [a]re gonna relate to the faces that I’m singing to. And I can’t do that if I[‘m] spending a year in the studio, working on a track. It’s not that important to me. No record is that important.’ Said interview appeared on a CBS promo album.

The epicentre of Dylan’s artistry at the cusp of the decades – as it had been in the mid-seventies – was the stage; surely one reason why, starting in November 1979, he took an acetylene torch to the 1978 set list and began afresh. As he said at the time on his one radio interview, quoting 2 Corinthians, ‘All things become new, old things are passed away.’

To howls of protest that couldn’t help but remind one of the folk-rock furore thirteen years earlier, he delivered the same unrelenting Good News/Bad News message night after night, while each night becoming born again as a performing artist in front of the aghast eyes and ears of Dylan apostates.

Just as from September 1965 to May 1966, the shows which ran from November 1979 to the following May saw the gospel gauntlet thrown down nightly. Dylan delivered an unceasing barrage of biblical glossaries set to the soundtrack of a heavenly choir and a band of unbelievers riding the musical tide all the way to New Jerusalem. But this time there was no near-death experience to deflect Dylan from his chosen path. He would continue beating his ecumenical drum most of the time for the next eighteen months.

For much of this period, his was very much a voice in the wilderness. Much of the media, and a large percentage of his hardcore fan base, simply switched off. The North American gospel shows – All Saints’ Day ’79 at the San Francisco Warfield excepted – tended to receive only local reviews, and rarely drew ones interested in reporting the facts.

As for the shows themselves, journalists delighted in reporting that this ‘voice of a generation’ couldn’t even sell out intimate theatres. Even the eight English shows in July 1981 struggled (and failed) to sell out, barely three years after people were camping out for 72 hours just to get a single ticket for six Earls Court shows.

(Those arch-arbiters of fan demand, the bootleggers, were also switching off just as Dylan’s muse was switching on again, deeming demand to be insufficient from a demographic of wavering disciples.)

So, although Dylan played some ninety-eight shows between November 1979 and December 1980, all but a handful of which were still being taped by hardcore collectors, not a single vinyl bootleg was released in real time; and this, from the most bootlegged rock artist of all time. As for official album sales, the cliff Dylan fell off in 1980 with the catastrophic Saved was one it would take him seventeen years to scale again.

So, on the face of it, hardly the sort of period where a thorough revisit would send ripples of excitement through the Dylan world in 2017. And yet, when at the start of the year Dylan’s long-time manager hinted to a Rolling Stone reporter that the next Bootleg Series (lucky thirteen!) would re-examine the gospel years afresh, the fan sites were abuzz with anticipation.

Because, as a Nobel poet once put it, ‘Everything passes, everything changes.’ And three decades on, an official release (or two) of a judicious sample of one or two legendary residencies in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto, Montreal or London ranks high on most Bobcats’ bucket lists.

Ranking higher still for those whose focus is the studio oeuvre is a set that also affords a thorough re-examination of the two dozen songs Dylan wrote in the six months leading up to the Shot Of Love sessions. With 20/20 hindsight, the album bearing that name – even though it has real moments – stands as perhaps the most underwhelming Dylan studio collection of original songs to date, with maybe three performances on the official Shot Of Love worthy of inclusion on the double-album it should have been: the title track itself, a ‘Property Of Jesus’ that aside from a remix could hardly be bettered, and ‘Every Grain Of Sand’.

The good news – praise the Lord of Happenstance – is that the period 1979 to 1981 turns out to be among the best documented eras in Dylan’s six-decade-long career as a recording/ performance artist.

The explanation for this resides in two events dating back to January 1978: the purchase of a brand-new, state-of-the-art, eight-track tape machine made by Otari, the MX-5050, shortly after Dylan had signed a five-year lease on a rehearsal studio in downtown Santa Monica.

These serendipitous twists of fate meant Dylan could begin to record most rehearsals at his newly leased studio; demo songs he wished to copyright; as well as run tapes of all the shows he was to perform during a 115-date world tour. The rehearsal studio, known privately as Rundown, throughout this period would even serve as a sometime-recording studio for the two albums which bookend the Rundown era, Street-Legal and Shot Of Love.

Indeed, Dylan soon grew so comfortable with his Santa Monica ‘home studio’ set-up that he rekindled a work ethic last seen in the happy days spent in the Big Pink basement in West Saugerties, New York, with the last standing band he kept on retainer, the mostly-Canadian Hawks, back in 1967.

Having put together the second standing band of his career in September 1979, it should come as no great surprise that the dividing line between tour rehearsals, album sessions and copyright demos for the next two years would be as fuzzy as one of Fred Tackett’s effect-pedals; or that the aesthetic of the basement tape should be so readily revived by its instigator twelve years on, with a set of musicians no less accomplished than The Band and perhaps even more sympathetic to Dylan’s way of working on the hoof.

In those two years, the body of work Dylan and his band captured at Rundown Studios, between tours (and albums), is in many ways more impressive than the one he and The Band managed from their 1967 country retreat. The breadth of material tackled, if presented in its entirety, would certainly challenge that now available on the official ‘basement tapes’ Bootleg Series.

At least Trouble No More – the next Bootleg Series – more than hints at a Rundown facsimile of the ‘lost’ album Dylan could have recorded in the fall of 1980 – but didn’t! Frustratingly, when Dylan did finally enter the very same rehearsal studio where he demoed an album’s worth of new songs six months earlier, to begin the new album in March 1981, he had already discarded half a dozen strong compositions and begun to bastardize the lyrics to two defining post-conversion masterpieces, ‘Caribbean Wind’ and ‘The Groom’s Still Waiting At The Altar’.

By the time Dylan relocated to Chuck Plotkin’s Clover studio in late April 1981 to begin work on Saved’s successor in earnest, he was well on his way to making an album that was one-third filler (‘Heart Of Mine’, ‘Lenny Bruce’, ‘Trouble’) but just one-third killer. Yet Dylan himself would compare Shot Of Love with 1965’s Bringing It All Back Home, which to his mind once provided a similar ‘breakthrough point’.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the two ensuing tours – a summer tour of Europe and a fall tour of the States – would signal a rerouting of the holy slow train. By second tour’s end, few vestiges of that preternatural commitment to his newly-wrought gospel material remained.

When the second anniversary of his landmark November 1979 West Coast residencies came around, Dylan was still on the road, heading for the Florida swamplands. Yet all that he had embraced when baptised by Vineyard pastor Bill Dwyer was not washed away.

He would soon fuse the sensibilities he was reaching for on Shot Of Love on the no less apocalyptic Infidels (1983). But that is another story, from another time and place. This trenchant tract confines itself to straddling the great divide which separates the smooth-as-silk Slow Train Coming from the bear’s-arse monitor mix that is Shot Of Love, covering all bases between.

It connects the dots by drawing on a wealth of new information, much of which has not been in the public domain before. Hopefully, it will achieve its primary goal: to serve as a testament to the inspiration faith can bring when aligned to genius, making a case for a wholesale re-evaluation of the music Dylan made during his so-called religious period.

With the release of an 8-CD Deluxe Bootleg Series, the three studio albums will no longer be the be-all and end-all of the gospel years, and we are a whole lot closer to knowing what really happened, artistically. As always with Dylan, it turns out that the more we understand, the more we can enjoy…

Clinton Heylin Signing Trouble In Mind

Clinton Heylin signing copies of Trouble In Mind. Want one? Click here.

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New Title | Trouble In Mind

Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years – What Really Happened
by Clinton Heylin

‘When I get involved in something, I get totally involved. I don’t just play around on the fringes.’ – Bob Dylan

In 1979 there was… trouble in mind, and trouble in store for the ever-iconoclastic Dylan. But unlike in 1965-66, the artifactal afterglow – three albums in three years, Slow Train Coming, Saved and Shot of Love – barely reflected the explosion of faith and inspiration. One has to look elsewhere, and in Trouble In Mind, Clinton Heylin has; connecting the dots on the man’s gospel years by drawing on a wealth of new information, newly-found recordings and new interviews. His primary goal? To make the case for a wholesale re-evaluation of the music Bob Dylan produced in these inspiring times.

‘The only Dylanologist worth reading.’ – New York Times

Trouble In Mind is the perfect accompaniment to the forthcoming gospel years bootleg series. Get yourself ready. The book is published 30 October 2017. Pre-orders will be shipped in advance of publication date. Be among the first to read it. Click here to pre-order an advance signed copy.

| See page for JUDAS! by Clinton Heylin |

 

JUDAS Launch Video

Clinton Heylin talks with Ian Clayton at the book launch for JUDAS!.

The launch was held in conjunction with Classic Album Thursdays. After the Q&A, Clinton introduces the original ‘Royal Albert Hall’ bootleg recording of the Bob Dylan and the Hawks gig at Free Trade Hall, Manchester in May 1966 and tells the story of how came to own the original tapes.

The event took place at Tap & Barrel, Pontefract, on the day that Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Ian Clayton is the author of ‘Bringing It All Back Home’
www.ianclaytoninfo.wordpress.com

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Bob Dylan 1965 Los Angeles Press Conference

Bob Dylan’s 1965 Los Angeles press conference in full, with moving pictures. Recorded on 16 December 1965. Dylan was facing the now predictably uninformed press corps, but you can hear plenty of girls giggling which does seem to spur him on. These are most likely reporters from printed ‘pop’ media KRLA Beat and TeenSet, both of whom subsequently gave Bob a positive, generation-splitting report. KRLA Beat reported on the conference:

It became somehow like a giant Alice-in-Wonderland zoo, grotesque, with all of the animals peering out from behind their fiberglass bars at all the odd-looking people on the outside. Reporters and journalists and TV cameras all had come to see a freak in a sideshow, all had come to be entertained. … Instead, they found a man—Dylan. Some people were nosey, and asked questions which were out of place: How much money do you make, Bob? … Some round-looking people tried to squeeze their questions into little square pegholes and hoped that Dylan would follow after. … Sometimes people threw their verbal harpoons at him, only to find him throwing them right back—with deadly aim! ‘I bet you couldn’t name one thing I participate in—go ahead, I dare you!’ And there was no one there to accept the challenge. People asking foolish and irrelevant questions found that they received their answers in direct accordance. Why did you come to California, Bob? ‘I came to find some donkeys for a film I’m making!’ Are you gonna play yourself in the film? ‘No, I’m gonna play my mother, and we’re gonna call it “Mother Revisited”!’ … It was like an operating room with a hundred amateur physicians all trying to dissect one human form. But they couldn’t make the crucial incision, and the anaesthetic worked on them, instead. And then the man named Dylan rose and slowly left the room. The TV cameras turned off their blinding klieg lights, and the radio men turned off their prying microphones. Slowly all the reporters and the journalists disappeared through the one-way door, returning to their one-way lives. And then the room was quiet—there was no one left inside.

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Read all about it in JUDAS!

 

Badlands Bob Dylan Day

 

It was Bob Dylan Day at Badlands record store on 11 November 2016 to mark the release of the 1966 Live Recordings box set. Clinton Heylin was invited to stand behind the counter and answer questions throughout the day. Here is a 37 minute clip, with Clinton answering questions on all things 1966 and more besides. Originally streamed live on Facebook by Phil Jump of Badlands.

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JUDAS

JUDAS!
From Forest Hills to The Free Trade Hall
A Historical View of The Big Boo
By Clinton Heylin

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News of Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize received a mixed reception in the literary community. But Bob Dylan has always had his detractors, even at his blistering best. Which is exactly what this book covers, charting Dylan’s self-conscious descent into Rimbaud’s ‘unknowable region’; from the day after the Newport Folk Festival in July 1965, where he stunned the folk world by turning up with an electric guitar, to the final punch-drunk performance at the Royal Albert Hall in May 1966, his level of creative output was unmatched at the time and since. All the while he was facing a hostile press and even more hostile crowds. In Manchester, some wag even shouted ‘JUDAS!’

Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you’ve been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar?
Bob Dylan

In 1966 There Was… the sell-out tour to end all tours. Bob Dylan and The Hawks found themselves at the epicentre of a storm of controversy. Their response? To unleash a cavalcade of ferocity from Melbourne to Manchester, from Forest Hills to the Free Trade Hall. For the first time, the full story can now be told from eye-witnesses galore; from timely reports, both mile wide and spot on; and from the participants themselves. And what better tour guide than Clinton Heylin, the esteemed Dylan biographer and one of the world’s leading rock historians. The price of admission? Thirty pieces of silver. The password? Play f***ing loud.

The definitive written account of Dylan’s historic and pivotal 1965-66 world tours.
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British writer-historian Heylin is perhaps the world’s authority on all things Dylan.
Rolling Stone

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Text and Drugs and Rock n Roll

We’ve been waiting for this book for a long time. We first got sight of it when publishing an extract in the Route newspaper a dozen years ago. And then in 2005 our work with Simon Warner on Howl for Now was all part of the same continuum. But here, finally, in 2013, ladies and gentleman, the opus is complete…

A NEW volume by journalist and lecturer Simon Warner exploring the interaction between two of the most powerful socio-cultural movements in the post-war years – the literary forces of the Beat Generation and the musical energies of rock music – has been published by Bloomsbury.

In Text and Drugs and Rock’n’Roll: The Beats and Rock Culture, Warner examines the interweaving strands, seeded by the novelists Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and others, in the 1940s and 1950s, and cultivated by most of the major rock figures who emerged after 1960 – Bob Dylan and the Beatles, David Bowie, the Clash and Kurt Cobain, to name just a few.

Warner, who teaches Popular Music Studies at the University of Leeds, has conducted a series of major new interviews with participants and commentators. These exchanges support a sequence of longer articles outlining the links between these two artistic worlds – from Dylan’s long friendship with Ginsberg to Patti Smith’s Beat credentials, from Tom Waits’ homages to Kerouac to the wider place of women musicians within this broader history and reflections on the soundtrack to the recent On the Road movie.

Comments the author: ‘It seems unlikely that the thinking musical stars who arose from the mid-1960s would have possessed the confidence or authority to express themselves so directly and ambitiously without the Beats’ ground-breaking work in the previous decade. Dylan took much from their poetry, Lennon absorbed their political activism and Bowie and Patti Smith adopted their artistic techniques.’

Early responses to the collection have been positive. Jonah Raskin, a significant US historian of the Beat Generation, has described Warner’s book as ‘electrifying’. Leading UK rock writer and Waits biographer Barney Hoskyns says that the new edition is ‘exhaustive and illuminating’.

Beat poet and cultural historian David Meltzer believes the volume is ‘a major contribution’.

Click here for an interview with Simon Warner.

Click here to order the book. (Hardback and Kindle)

Text and Drugs and Rock n Roll