Bob Dylan: Writings, 1968-2010 by Greil Marcus

By Greil Marcus

The booklet starts in Berkeley in 1968, and ends with a section on Dylan’s convey on the college of Minnesota—his first actual visual appeal at his alma mater—on election evening 2008. In among are moments of euphoric discovery: From Marcus’s liner notes for the 1967 Basement Tapes (pop music’s most famed bootlegged information) to his exploration of Dylan’s reimagining of the yankee adventure within the 1997 day out of brain. And rejection; Marcus’s Rolling Stone piece on Dylan’s album Self Portrait—often referred to as the main recognized list assessment ever written—began with “What is that this shit?” and resulted in his departure from the journal for 5 years. Marcus follows not just recordings yet performances, books, video clips, and all demeanour of highways and byways within which Bob Dylan has made himself felt in our tradition.

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Out of that Dylan gained the freedom to step back and get away with anything he chose to do, commercially and artistically. The fact that more than a year now separates one album from another heightens their impact, regardless of how much less they have to offer than the older albums which established this matrix of power in the first place. In a real way, Dylan is trading on the treasure of myth, fame, and awe he gathered in ’65 and ’66. In mythical terms, he doesn’t have to do good, because he has done good.

Out front, the audience edged closer. The announcer moved in for the kill. ” The enormous box was carried onto the stage, the lid propped up, and out of the old timbers and rusty hinges came a tantalizingly brief harmonica solo in the best Dylan style. The lid plopped down and the great box was borne way into the night. Blind Steamer Trunk belonged to the ages. Bob Dylan, “Baby Let Me Follow You Down,” on Long Distance Operator (Wanted Man bootleg, recorded Berkeley Community Theatre, 4 December 1965).

These songs appear obvious, and while they are not, one is still quite free to hear them as if they were. New Morning is fun to listen to. Dylan has never sung with such flair. The record has its own sound, a rich, open rock ’n’ roll combination of Dylan’s piano, Al Kooper’s organ, girl singers, two or three snappy guitars, and some fine hotshot drumming. The musicians as a group are at their best on the title song, playing hard rock. The surprising toughness of the cut—which in other hands might have been (and probably will be) just another bland hymn to optimism—results not from dump-truck heaviness but from perfect timing, a jolt of pure excitement near the end of the number, and from Bob’s singing.

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