2 Shades of Grey

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Bob Dylan’s legacy preserved by billionaire

thA Dylan archive comprising 6,000 items including lyrics, photographs, correspondence, films and recordings has been acquired by the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Tulsa for an estimated price of $15-20 million.

It’s taken two years to catalogue and digitalise everything and it will now be available in the Helmerich Centre for American Research as a resource to academics and hopefully attract more tourists to Tulsa to view it alongside Woody Guthrie material and Native American Art.

Included in the material are unfinished songs and early drafts of others. There are 80 hours of outtakes from the 1967 film “Don’t Look Back” and an old wallet which contains Johnny Cash’s phone number, Otis Redding’s business card, and a letter from George Harrison congratulating Dylan on his album Nashville Skyline.

Mr Zimmerman is ensuring that he won’t be forgotten. And rightly so. He could easily have got the Nobel Prize instead of Leonard Cohen for his poetic lyrics.

Photograph from Daily Telegraph


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Bobby Vee bounces off into the sunset

Jerry Lee lewis famously commented that one good thing the Beatles and the Stones and the British pop invasion did was get rid of the “Bobbies“.

He was referring to the group of good-looking but not necessarily over-talented male vocalists who followed in Elvis’s footsteps when he went into the army. Usually clean-cut and white they often covered songs by black artists and had hits with them. Pat Boone was a good example.

scan0237Another was the late Bobby Vee, who has just died aged 73.

Bobby Vee’s clim to fame is slightly different.  He famously stood in for Buddy Holly on the night that he was killed. As a fifteen year old schoolboy and a big Buddy Holly fan, he had a ticket to see the show when a call went out on the radio for local talent to entertain the crowd.

He volunteered with his backing group of school friends and his older brother Bill on lead guitar. He was put on stage without an audition so desperate were the promoters to put on a show in the face of the tragedy.

As he was being introduced the MC asked him the name of his group and the story goes that he looked at the silhouettes in the spotlight and blurted out “The Shadows“. Despite his nerves he went down well and a recording contract followed shortly afterwards with his first record called Suzy Baby.

He had four top ten hits in both the US and the UK – Take good care of my baby, Rubber Ball, Run to him, and The Night has a Thousand Eyes.

scan0241scan0240I saw Bobby Vee in concert in Blackburn, Lancashire in February 1962.

The ticket cost me 7 shillings and sixpence (37.5 p) which doesn’t sound a lot but was quite a bit from my £5 a week wage.

This was the Bobby Vee Show which also featured Clarence Frogman Henry , the Springfields, Tony Orland, and the Checkmates.

The programme included a list of the songs  that Bobby might sing selected from a list! Seems bizarre now.scan0242

I also have a programme from November 1962 when he toured with the Crickets – Jerry Allison, Jerry Naylor, and Sonny Curtis – the tour promoting their album of the same name. I must have seen them in Manchester.scan0236

scan0238As an aside the Crickets deserve special mention in both the Buddy Holly story and Bobby Vee’s early career.

Jerry Allison’s wife Peggy Sue inspired the eponymous Holly song and Allison and Curtis wrote and recorded More than I can Say which was a hit for them, Bobby Vee and Leo Sayer. And a song we have performed many times.

scan0239In that show they shared the bill.

The Crickets closing the first half and Vee and the Crickets the second half.

After the British invasion his career stalled at the mere age of 20. He tried to emulate the British sound but failed, appeared in a couple of films, grew a beard to look more adult – but to no avail.

However he continued performing on the nostalgia circuit on the strength of those popular hits – songs which were crafted in the Brill Building in New York with songwriters like Gene Pitney (Rubber Ball), and Carole King & Gerry Goffin (Take good care of …) – for the rest of his career.

He even had a top 5 entry in the UK, where he had a strong following, 40 years after his first hit single, with a compilation CD.

The Times ran a good obit of him which including some little known – to me at least – facts; such as that Bob Dylan briefly played piano with his band under the name Elston Gunn and was the one who suggested that he shorten his name from Velline to Vee. This was before Mr Zimmerman upped sticks and went to Greenwich village to became Bob Dylan.

Dylan was, perhaps surprisingly, a big fan and wrote that Vee’s singing was “as musical as a silver bell” and that “they had a lot in common”. On one occasion when Vee attended a Dylan concert in 2013, Dylan said “I’ve played all over the world with everybody from Mick Jagger to Madonna but the most meaningful person I’ve ever been on the stage with was a man who used to sing a song called Suzy Baby” – which he then performed. Praise indeed from a Nobel prize winner!

Vee returned the compliment by recording a Dylan song on his farewell album The Adobe Sessions in 2014 after he had been diagnosed with Alzheimers and could no longer perform his hits.

RIP Robert Thomas Velline


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Bob Dylan song titles favourite for puns in scientific papers

It seems scientists do have a sense of humour and a fondness for Bob Dylan.

The first use of a Dylan song seems to have been in a 1970 article in The Journal of Practical Nursing titles “The times they are a-changing“.

A study just published in the British Medical Journal by scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that the practice only became commonplace after 1990.

They found 727 references to Bob Dylan songs including 135 variants of The times they are a-changing and 36 references to Blowing in the wind. Other references included:

  • Dietary nitrate – a slow train coming
  • Blood on the tracks: a simple twist of fate
  • Nitric oxide and inflammation: the answer is blowing in the wind
  • Knockin’ on pollen’s door: live cell imaging of early polarisation events in germinating Arabidopsis pollen
  • Bringing it all back home: how I became a relational analyst
  • Tangled up in blue: molecular cardiology on the post molecular era
  • Like a rolling stone:epigenetic regulation of neural stem cells and brain development by factors controlling histone acetylation and methylation

You can understand why scientist might want to jazz up their papers but now the secret is out will peer reviewers clamp down on it. Or will it spin off in other (1) directions?

Source: The Times


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Blowin’ in the Wind – song-writers inspired by the weather

thunderstorm_flatcolor_image_500_wht_16588We all know us Brits like talking abut the weather but it seems it’s also a key inspiration for song-writers.

Some songs were inspired by specific climatic events such as the Beatles‘ “Rain” after a downpour in Melbourne, Australia. And George Harrison apparently wrote “Here comes the sun” after he emerged into a sunny spring day after a difficult business meeting.

Researchers from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change at Southampton University, who published a report in the journal Weather, found 759 popular songs referring to the weather.

The most popular references are to the sun and rain with blizzards being the least common.

A song by Scott Walker, “Stormy” probably holds the record for mentioning six types of weather.

The most prolific song-writer to reference weather is Bob Dylan. He has used references to weather in 163 of 542 songs and that doesn’t include “Rainy Day Woman No 12 & 35” and “Idiot Wind“.

Next most prolific weather-referencers are Lennon and McCartney.

900 singers and song-writers have focussed on the weather and it features in 7% of the songs in Rolling Stones’ top 500 greatest songs

Dr Sally Brown said “We were all surprised how often weather is communicated in popular music, whether as a simple analogy or a major theme of a song such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” or the Hollies’ “Bus Stop” where a couple fall in love under an umbrella“. 

Bob Dylan aside it’s no surprise to me that British songwriters such as the Beatles and the Hollies reference weather; anyone who as experienced a wet Wednesday in Wigan or was brought up in damp Lancashire learns to respect it.

 


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Bob Dylan: Tom Thumb’s Blues

The Immortal Jukebox

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All’s Well That Begins And Ends Well

A record exists between two silences. The silence before the song starts is one of expectation and anticipation. Sometimes the silence after the song has finished is one of satisfaction, resolution and even joy. When that happens you have a record that enters your personal pantheon – one you will return to over and over again.

Good beginings set the emotional mood of a song and should intrigue the listener ; beckoning them to lean forward and open up their hearts and minds. Good endings deliver on the promise of their beginnings and close a song like a ship after a long journey safely docking in its home port – ready to sail again.

Dylan’s Tom Thumb’s Blues is the first from my own pantheon (more to come later!). It seem to me to begin and end exceptionally well…

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