Saturday, November 19, 2005

Chronicles (Volume 1) -- Bob Dylan

I was a little skeptical about this book, even after reading some favorable reviews. Why? Because years ago (more than 30, in fact), I read another of Dylan's books. Or I should say I tried to read it. The title is Tarantula. I didn't get very far.

So I was surprised at how much I liked Chronicles. Bob Dylan can write. Well, we all knew he could write songs, but after Tarantula, I wasn't so sure he could write a book. He can, though, no doubt about it.

One of the things I found interesting was Dylan's commentary on other singers. I hadn't known that he and Bobby Vee were friends before either of them hit the big time, for example, and what Dylan has to say about Vee's pop career, about Ricky Nelson, and about Roy Oribison seem to me right on the money. Here's part of what he says about the Big O: "He was now singing his compositions in three or four octaves that made you want to drive your car over a cliff. He sang like a professional criminal . . . His voice would jar a corpse, always leave you muttering to yourself something like, 'Man, I don't believe it.'"

And who knew that Dylan was a fan of old-time radio? Not me. His memory of "the creaking door" is wrong, since he attributes it to Suspense, while mentioning Inner Sanctum in the very next sentence. But that doesn't matter. It's the way he felt about the shows that matters. "Radio shows," he says, "had been a big part of my consciousness back in the Midwest, back when it seemed like I was living in perpetual youth." Here's a little more: "There was no place too far. I could see it all. All I needed to know about San Francisco was that Paladin lived in a hotel there and his gun was for hire."

In fact, I could keep on quoting great stuff from this book for a long time, but I'll stop. If you have any interest in Dylan, in the Village back in the day, in popular culture, in folk music, or in any number of other things, you should just get a copy and read it. I'm glad it's Volume 1, which means I can look forward to Volume 2.


Jeff Meyerson said...

See Bill, I told you it was good. I was also surprised about the Bobby Vee connection, though I knew they were both from Minnesota.

Andy J said...

I was initially put off by this book because it was set in that bold type that drives you nuts after a few pages. I can see I'll have to go back and revisit it if only for the radio show references. Who knew? Now if only the OTR community could get Dylan to help them promote the hobby!