Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bob Dylan Chronicles

If Peter Guralnick's biography of Sam Cooke is the music book of 2006 then the Bob Dylan Chronicles is surely the music book of last year, not least because he name checks many of the great records and artists of the 50s and 60s. Bob Dylan divides rock and roll and soul fans down the middle - you either love him or hate him - but for me his first three LPs in particular stand out as some of the most moving and intense of all time. I was in the sixth form at school at the time and they bring back memories of A levels and lunchtime games of bridge at a friend's house near the school. Bob's lyrics brought home to me what the civil rights movement was all about and were a huge influence on me then and indeed now.One section of the book of particular interest to me was his recording sessions in New Orleans with Daniel Lanois. This was just about the time that Lanois produced the Neville Brothers' Yellow Moon album, which was never off my turntable at the time and was the musical backdrop for my first visit to the Big Easy in 1989.Dylan references some of New Orleans' greatest sounds and places, including Radio WWOZ and New Orleans R & B DJ Brown Sugar, whose sexy voice excited me when I first heard this fantastic radio station. (It was only much later that I saw her in the flesh - not quite the way I pictured her, but so what - the voice alone was enough to give me a hard on).In one passage Dylan recalls going to Irma Thomas's Lion's Den Club (now sadly derelict as a result of Harricane Katrina) but finding Irma not at home. He missed out on a magical experience, as I discovered many times on my visits to Jazzfest. One comment, though, perplexed me: Dylan claims that Irma's version of 'Fever' was to be heard on the jukeboxes all the time while he was there. But I don't recall Irma ever recording the song. Is he right or has his memory failed him for once?


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