Is Bob Dylan losing credibility? A resounding no!

Over on Dylan Daily, regular contributor Martin Cowan mused whether Dylan’s credibility is in decline.

Not so, insist several readers:

* Thanks to Chris Floyd:

My response to Martin Cowan’s — what to call it? bill of potential indictment, maybe? — is this:

He is neither on the ball nor off his rocker. He is simply exercising his right to be somewhat trivial and presumptuous — a right that all humans have, and should freely exercise whenever they wish.

It also seems a bit silly to me. He says that how Dylan is to be “judged” following his next shows and next album is “crucial.” Crucial to whom? Perhaps to someone who invests a bit too much of their own self-image in the image of a singer or some other celebrity; I can’t see how it would be “crucial” to anyone else.

If Dylan’s next shows are found to be, by some measure or other, lesser than “Cohen’s glorious performances,” then — what, exactly? Does that lower Dylan’s “credibility”? And again — credibility to whom, and for what?

Has Dylan got something to prove? Even after all these years, even after all he’s done? Even if he does give a sub-par show, puts out an album someone doesn’t like, or, god forbid, associates his music with commercials, like Hank Williams used to do — what does this matter?

It can only matter to someone who requires perfect heroes to fulfil their own emotional needs. I understand that need; we all have it to some degree, I’m sure. But it is, in the end, a rather juvenile impulse. And its seems somewhat odd to apply it to Dylan, of all people — an artist who has been very much concerned with the fullness of our human reality, which of course includes failure, decline, disappointment, etc. etc., and not the production of fantasy figures we can mindlessly adore — or attack and reject when they, inevitably, “let us down.”

Dylan is a 67-year-old man who likes to make music, and makes it as best he can. Should he stop doing all that, just because it might make someone feel all wiggly for one reason or another? Should he stop playing great records on the radio because someone doesn’t like it?

Finally, one last question: is someone holding a gun to anyone’s head and forcing them to go to Bob Dylan shows and buy Bob Dylan records and listen to Bob Dylan’s radio show?

If you don’t like them, fine. Don’t go, don’t buy, don’t listen. Go find someone else whose “credibility” serves whatever needs you have.

As I say, it all seems a bit childish and pointless to me.

* Thanks to Liam Mogan:

Martin Cowan’s ‘shock-jock’ musings on Bob’s credibility seem like a calculated attempt to jolt Dylan nuts out of their collective smugness.

I find it quite funny really and not totally serious. (Credibility? I think he’s been reading too many copies of his son/daughter’s NME. Either that or he has recently bought The Guardian for the first time in his life.)

Rather than rant on about how great our hero is I’d rather point to Mr Cowan’s strangely formal way of addressing that other elder statesman, ‘Brooooce’.

I seem to remember that those oh-so-worthy behemoths of late ‘70s rock-journalism, The Village Voice, Rolling Stone etc employed a number of writers who suffered from similar, almost ceremonial, courteousness. Maybe that’s why he’s so obsessed with ‘cred’, man.

Seriously, good on you Martin for daring to shake the tree. To answer your 3 key questions

1. No, Modern Times wasn’t that good (at a push you could say 2 songs were worthy additions to the canon)

2. Adverts – Er, for the Money?

3. Theme Time – I got bored midway through Series 2. Don’t listen religiously anymore, but still beats on most other Radio Shows with a big stick whenever I catch it.

I do remain excited by the new album though – you gotta have some hope and faith in your life. The o2 shows? Nah, you just know they’re going to be spoiled by the usual fairweather fans, moaning loudly about the fact that the songs ‘don’t sound the same as on the record’, whilst chewing on a big fat hot-dog.

Just a quick question though Martin. As a regular contributor to the Dylan Daily, how’s your ‘street-cred’ these days?

* Thanks to Joe King:

I would not presume to have the measure of “Dylan Daily” readers’ views but, once ISIS had posted news of the new album on its website, the story was quickly picked up by other websites, including UNCUT and ROLLING STONE. This may not amount to “excitement” but it does show that Dylan news provokes great interest.

I will not be attending the O2 Arena show either but simply because that venue is so very large. Should the extra show in London be in a smaller venue, then I will most likely try to attend.

Was MT really that good? No. It was good in parts but not nearly as good as the critics wrote.

Why is he doing these ads? We don’t know what’s in Dylan’s mind but I would suggest these possibilities: (1) for the money, (2) to reach a different audience now that Martin Cowan is, as it were, falling by the wayside, (3) there is nothing wrong about doing ads. I don’t recall a single adverse comment about the use of Woody Guthrie’s “Car, Car” in those Audi adverts. Do I sense a double standard here?

Have we all had enough of Theme Time Radio? No, no, no, no, no. May it continue for a lot longer.

Comparisons with Cohen and Springsteen? If either had achieved as much as Dylan, I might take the question seriously. That is not to put them down, merely to state the self-evident. Whether they receive more acclaim than Dylan in 2009 is neither here nor there in the scheme of things.

And thanks to Fred Bals, writer of the very fine Dreamtime blog:

”In a word, “No.”

“In more than one word:
* If the activity on the various Dylan forums and at Dreamtime are any indication, fans are eagerly looking forward to a new album… and it hasn’t even been officially announced yet.

* I can’t speak to the second question, since I’m in the U.S., but I do know if he releases a new album, I’ll be first in line for tickets when the N.E.T. comes back to the U.S.

* was MT really that good? Personal opinion of course, but I think there’s lots to like about MT, especially When the Deal Goes Down and Beyond the Horizon. Of course, I’m a big Bing Crosby fan. 🙂

* why is he doing these ads? Why shouldn’t he? Mr. D’s commercial affiliations doesn’t impact my appreciation for his talent one whit. Should he be going, “Oh, no, my music is too pure to sell biscuits.”?

* have we all had enough of Theme Time Radio? Jesus, the man is mad. Along with Chronicles, TTRH is one of the best non-music achievements Bob Dylan has ever produced. I hope he does it for a dozen more years.

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Dylan’s declining credibility?

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

Is there any excitement among Dylan Daily readers for either:

* a new Dylan album or

* “in show and in person” at the O2 or any of the other venues on the UK tour?

Personally, I remain to be convinced that a new album will reveal anything startlingly original and I won’t be going to any of the shows.

In fact, it occurs to me that Dylan’s credibility is on the wane at the moment:

* was MT really that good?

* why is he doing these ads?

* have we all had enough of Theme Time Radio?

How he is judged following these shows and any new release will be crucial. The shows are likely to be compared to Cohen’s glorious performances, and Mr Springsteen’s new platter seems to be going down a storm.

Interesting times.
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Is Martin on the ball? Or is he off his rocker? Please let The Dylan Daily know what YOU think. Gerry Smith, Editor

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2 Responses to “Is Bob Dylan losing credibility? A resounding no!”

  1. Kenneth Lockerbie Says:

    YES! Modern Times WAS that good. God, how good a record does he have to produce for people to see the genius and talent????? I thought the author’s musing rather pathetic too. So what is it he’s ever done again?

  2. Dennis Flaherty Says:

    I listened to” Modern Times” start to finish again the other night and thoroughly enjoy every song and every minute of play time.
    i thought the sequencing of songs was superb, the back-up band fresh and crisp and on the money in each arrangement and Dylan, though his vocal pipes be worn a bit weary, was singing on each song and striving to turn phrases in unique and singular manner.
    40-plus years later and many albums in the can, i think that’s saying something credible.

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