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To mark our 50th episode, writer and podcaster Tom Jackson gives us his clear-eyed take on Dylan’s “Born Again” albums: Slow Train Coming, Saved, Shot Of Love and Trouble No More. “Slow Train Coming is not a smooth record, not a pleasant record, but I enjoy the tension.” And the accompanying live performances? “They were church services, really. Bu…
 
Novelist, former A & R man and screenwriter John Niven begins by summing up Bob’s generally unloved Neighbourhood Bully: “I have a soft spot for Heritage Rock acts trying to do Punk in the late 70’s and early 80’s” before summing up the Dont Look Back days: “When you’re in your 20’s, you’re all about the cruelty”. His response to attending a New Yo…
 
Edward Docx (novelist/screenwriter/journalist) is a hyper-articulate defence witness for some of Bob’s least understood albums: Street-Legal, Infidels, Empire Burlesque and Together Through Life. “There is no uninteresting Dylan album. He opens his veins and says "This is what it’s like for me now."” How passionate is Ed Docx about Bob Dylan? After…
 
Academic and author Pamela Thurschwell gives us her conflicted feminist take on Dylan, including his queer lyrical metaphors and what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a Dylan mansplaining session. Her namechecks range from Amy Rigby, Emma Swift and Joan Baez to Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Hall and Jane Eyre. Pam describes Dylan as “the dangerou…
 
Screenwriter Daragh Carville (ITV’s The Bay) praises Dylan’s “extraordinary ear for spoken language” while reminding us that he “draws on cinema, is fascinated by storytelling but his own films don’t work at all”. All the great story-songs are explored, including Highlands (“I phoned people up, I was so excited!”), Dignity (“it never resolves but a…
 
Sitting on the porch of his Long Island lockdown hideaway, serenaded by a local bird, Loudon Wainwright III reminds us that he was proclaimed “the first of the new Bob Dylans”. It helped me get a record deal but then it got to be a pain in the ass”. He still has a “reservoir of respect, admiration and awe” for the man and his work. “I dream about D…
 
Singer/songwriter/podcaster/painter Dan Bern admits: “It was not lost on me, being an isolated Jewish kid in Iowa, that Bob had come from just up the road in Minnesota.” When he first heard Dylan at age 15 (“everything he was saying had a bit of a sneer to it. It was a portal for me”), he traded in his cello for a guitar and started writing songs. …
 
Actor Rufus Jones (writer and co-star of Channel 4’s Home) has hardly answered the BobPhone before he confesses that, despite his Cambridge English degree, “Dylan still scares the hell out of me”. But he’s relieved that “Bob’s entering a 'jolly grandpa' phase. He seems less concerned with preserving the myth”. Rufus references Beyoncé, the Eagles (…
 
Rolling Thunder Revue bass player and bandleader Rob Stoner on Jacques Levy, Emmylou Harris, Sam Shepard and how he “made out with Joan Baez on a motel room balcony” for Renaldo & Clara. Rob also sets the record straight on the Scorsese Netflix film: “I got a beef with that Van Dorp character!” and alerts us to his uncredited harmony vocal on Aband…
 
Actor/musician Danny Horn, 31, played The Kinks’ frontman Ray Davies in the West End; but it was listening to Dylan at age 14 that changed his life. Do Dylan and Davies have anything in common? Danny tells us that - in 1967/68 - “they both made love letters to versions of their own countries that never existed. And they share a mercurial way of thi…
 
Actress Nathalie Armin (speaking at a digital distance) has been a Dylan fan since the age of six, when an unknown voice “showed her the colours in her mind” as she lay in the back seat of her father’s car. She graduated to playing Bob games on stage at the Royal Shakespeare Company (“we’d whisper Dylan song titles to each other. I always won”) and…
 
Bestselling Shakespeare authority James Shapiro joined us on the Bob Phone from New York, just before the world locked down and the Shakespeare-laden Murder Most Foul unexpectedly dropped. “In a time like this,” he told us, “I find great comfort in the complete works of William Shakespeare and Bob Dylan”. He goes on to link them more closely: “we t…
 
Comedian Nish Kumar says: “Bob Dylan is the most enduring and important creative relationship of my life. If you can’t think of one Dylan song you like, then a part of your humanity may be missing”. When Bob and his band played the Hendrix arrangement of All Along The Watchtower at his first (and only) Dylan concert, it was “one of the greatest mom…
 
Scottish playwright David Greig was first “cracked open” to Dylan when he heard Desire in a remote part of South Africa “under the influence of the most extraordinarily strong dope”. “That’s it”, he thought, “I’M GOING IN!” He has yet to come out. David wrote his version of Euripides’ The Bacchae by playing the Hard Rain album over and over while d…
 
Writer Neil Gaiman fell in love with A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall via Bryan Ferry’s cover version. It ended up influencing the imagery of his novel American Gods (as well as the Amazon TV series). The song also provided a few gloomy pronouncements (“we’re in an apocalyptic state of mind: the doomsday clock is ticking”) in our otherwise jolly discussi…
 
Rock journalist Barney Hoskyns comes on board for a special episode that focuses on The Band, with Dylan as their “weird” sideman. Tears Of Rage is compared to Philip Roth’s novel American Pastoral. Barney suspects it might just be “an anti-hippie song”. His “deeply emotional” attachment to the town of Woodstock is explored in depth: “overwhelmed b…
 
On the BobPhone from the USA: it’s award-winning writer Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn, with a supremely quotable episode. On his “Big Kahuna” interview of Bob for Rolling Stone: “he was direct and generous; we had a good time”. An advocate for Dylan’s latter-day stuff, he believes that “humour is underrated as a feature of the oper…
 
Broadcaster, journalist and “swivel-eyed Dylanologist” Andy Kershaw, “a radio station within a radio station” during his time on Radio 1, gives us his unvarnished thoughts. From arguments with his dad about Bob’s greatness to his first sighting of “the human American bald eagle” at Earl’s Court in 1978, to his unravelling of the identity of the “Ju…
 
As an early Thanksgiving treat, Luke and Kerry welcome American singer Piney Gir. Piney (real name Angela), hails from “a very strict part of the Bible Belt”, where she grew up listening to cassettes of wholesome Christian music and a few of the “less psychedelic” Beach Boys tracks. One day, Dylan’s Slow Train Coming caused chaos in her parents’ ca…
 
Is Bob Dylan a poet? We ask Ian McMillan, one of the UK’s best. Ian compares Bob to Dylan Thomas, both of them “great poets who can rub vowels against consonants and make a kind of smoke come out of them… a kind of music.” “Meaning doesn’t matter”, he says. “The basis of poetry is being able to mint a phrase like “Lay, lady, lay”. I was so excited …
 
Music journalist Andrew Male begins by examining “the humour that turns sour… the madness” of Bob’s 1965 “speedy, hipster world”, the “fascinating cruelty” of Dont Look Back and Eat The Document (“he couldn’t stand that close to the flame anymore”). He goes on: “if you’re interested in Dylan, you have to see it as a grand narrative, even the points…
 
When writer Geoff Dyer approaches us as a fan of the podcast, we jump at the chance. He leaps right in with a detailed analysis of Idiot Wind, praises previous guest Michael Gray, quotes Simon Armitage and Clinton Heylin, applauds Desire and Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue and hails Dylan’s voice: “you always believe what he’s saying, even though …
 
Singer Robyn Hitchcock finds “the comfort of doom” in Dylan’s “personal mineshaft of bleakness” as well as in Bob’s latterday performance style (“he’s like a mute lamppost”). Robyn first saw our man at the Isle of Wight Festival at the age of 16 (“with his white suit and his new voice, it was like watching your beloved get off the train but – it’s …
 
Actor Michael Feast has a deep personal history with Dylan. He won a role in the landmark 1968 London production of Hair by singing Outlaw Blues and Highway 61 Revisited. His drama school years were dramatised by Camden Town flatmate Bruce Robinson in the cult film Withnail & I. “It looked pretty much like it did in the movie. Biba bags hanging ove…
 
Writer/performer Christopher Green illuminates the links between Dylan and female singers such as Indigo Girls, Marlene Dietrich, Marianne Faithfull, Kacey Musgraves and Emmylou Harris. A shape-shifting performer himself, Christopher temporarily gave up on Dylan when he heard Tracey Thorn berate him in her song Me and Bobby D, thinking: “he’s the v…
 
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