Thursday 22nd June
This was one of the new Dylan songs on maybe his strangest record “Self-Portrait”. The album itself was hated by the Music Press, and by many fans too. Bob had wound everything up to such a pitch with a string of brilliant albums culminating in 1966’s ‘Blonde on Blonde’. And we all expected it just to continue. Bob had gone electric and was playing live with the Band to raucous and riotous audiences, even being accused of ‘Judas’ in Manchester. He apparently had a motorcycle accident, and took some time out. Actually a lot of time out. It was 18 months before he released another record, the very different, almost biblical ‘John Wesley Harding’. He then gave us a country album ‘Nashville Skyline’. By now his fans were more than confused. What on earth was Bob doing? It seemed he was trying to lose his fans, or at least the mantle of ‘Poet of a Generation’, or ‘Protest Singer’, or any of the other labels that had been draped over his shoulders. But when he brought out ‘Self-Portrait’ it seemed the limit. Many felt truly insulted. Rolling Stone even asked “What is this shit?”.
The album itself was a mix of old standards, strange new songs (two versions of a couple) and a handful of rough live performances. Among the new songs was ‘All the tired horses in the sun’ with it’s one line lyric sung over a girl chorus “All the tired horses in the sun, how’m I gonna get any riding done’. At least that’s what it sounded like, but maybe Bob was really singing – how am I gonna get any writing done. Expressing maybe the lethargy that had resulted in his apparent lack of new and exciting songs. Actually I loved the record, for me it was revelatory, exploring new ideas, and taking us down different roads. Bob has suffered from some sort of writer’s block a few times. In the mid-Eighties he gave us a couple of albums full of old traditional songs, and just recently we have had five (2 single and one triple album) of old standards from the forties and fifties. Every time this happens we all wonder if the ‘Real Bob’ will ever return. But then the question ‘What is the Real Bob?’.
It has been extraordinarily hot the last few days – and I too have wondered just how I’m gonna any writing done too.