Untold writers

Untold Dylan seeks to explore the compositions of Bob Dylan, and the influences upon his creative work.   Details of how to contact us are given at the end.

Here’s some background on those who are involved in creating the site, including both writers and researchers. This file was last updated on 15 March 2021 with the addition of an article on Patrick Roefflaer

Tony Attwood gained his research degree at London University Institute of Education and has since spent his working life as a teacher, as a musician, as a university lecturer, in the theatre and as a writer of fiction and non-fiction books, and of advertisements.   He is also a Fellow of the Institute of Administrative Management (not that you would know it from the cock-ups that occasionally beset Untold Dylan).

Tony’s first engagement with the work of Bob Dylan (aside from being a fan) came when he negotiated the rights to arrange some Dylan songs for pupils and students to perform in school music lessons in the three-volume series “The Pop Songbooks” published by Oxford University Press.

Tony also runs a blog on his favourite football (soccer) club: Untold Arsenal, and runs the Arsenal History Society.   He launched Untold Dylan on 29 October 2008, with a review of Mississippi.  His hobby, beyond Dylan and Arsenal FC, his three daughters and nine grandchildren, is dancing modern jive and the blues in dance clubs around England, and occasionally in Europe.

Tony lives in Northamptonshire, a county in the middle of England.   And very curiously like Mike Johnson (see below) spent a year working in Algeria!  What are the chances of that?

In 2022, having lived his entire life believing himself to be an only child, Tony discovered he had a brother.

Larry Fyffe, a fan of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen from time out of mind, has an honours BA degree in Literature and Sociology from the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB, Canada.

He has researched the history of chess for the authors of a number of books thereon, and written published articles on the subject.

Larry’s mother was born in England and she moved to Canada as a war bride of a Canadian soldier. (May they both rest in peace.) Larry’s older brother was born in England; Larry and his identical twin were born in Cornhill, NB; he has a younger brother and three sisters. His bewitching better half is Carolyn, and Margaret, his beautiful daughter.

Jochen Markhorst.    

Jochen Markhorst grew up in Arnhem and Hanover, with Highway 61 Revisited and  Blonde On Blonde as soundtrack, bought Blood On The Tracks and Street Legal from his pocket money, studied German language at Utrecht University, translated Russian at the Military Intelligence Service, teaches language training courses at companies and lessons in schools, translates German literature, Dutch websites and English subtitles and always plays the music of Dylan in the background.

Markhorst, however, is not one of the hardliners who honour the motto Nobody Sings Dylan Like Dylan – Jimi Hendrix is certainly not the only one who can brush up a Dylan song. He defends this controversial opinion, among other things, in his fourteen books on Dylan songs.

Jochen has been living in Utrecht since 1983, is still married to the same great, attractive woman and has two sons who have left home by now, but fortunately still study and live in Utrecht.

Mike Johnson (Kiwipoet) is a novelist and poet, born and raised in shit-faced little towns in the South Island of New Zealand. He graduated with a degree in Political Science from the University of Canterbury, and a sore head from too much educated rap.

He spent ten years in Europe, mostly Germany, working as teacher of English and trying to write. He did the long trek from Europe to India then known as the ‘hippy trail’ when it was still possible to travel through Afghanistan. He spent a year teaching in Algeria. The writing happened when he returned to NZ and his first book of poetry, The Palanquin Ropes, was co-winner of a literary award, and his first novel, Lear – The Shakespeare Company Plays Lear at Babylon, was short listed for the New Zealand Book Awards in 1987. Twenty books later he likes to astound his friends and detractors by rising at 4.30 a.m. and pounding the keyboard for a couple of hours. Commercial success has eluded him, but hell, it’s only money!

In 2014, tired of the machinations of the publishing industry, he and his wife Leila Lees established their own publishing company, Lasavia Publishing Ltd, which boxes along on a shoestring but is thriving with a little stable of nine writers and illustrators and more coming along. Through Lasavia Publishing Mike is slowly republishing his out of print backlist as well as new work. You can check that out at Lasaviapublishing.com. His dream is to one day publish somebody’s book on Bob Dylan.

His interest in Bob Dylan began when he first heard ‘Visions of Johanna’ on Blonde on Blonde and had a conversion/transmission experience. He was never quite the same again. You can read about that in a comment made to Tony Atwood’s article on that song.

He has four children from three different lives, he means wives, is a senior lecturer in Creative Writing at AUT University in Auckland, and lives on Waiheke Island, once a peaceful rural kind of place to be.

Mike has contributed two major series to this site:

Other works includes

Filip Łobodziński never thought of Dylan knowledge being an area of research. Especially in his native Poland where Bob Dylan’s name is well-known, recognized… and almost totally ignored as a pillar of modern culture. Until he found Untold Dylan (and read some thick volumes on BD).

He got his master’s degree in Spanish culture & language at Warsaw University in 1987. Meanwhile, and when not reading or listening to music (to which his parents had got him addicted), he started an acoustic band whose repertoire consisted of Spanish, Catalan, Sephardic and French songs translated into Polish, arranged and interpreted by the guys themselves.

He worked as a music journalist working for several Polish influential rock magazines, then turned to journalism per se, working for years for the radio and for the television news programmes. But, as public expectations of journalism switched to superficiality, he quit the business and since 2013 he works for central institutions.

But… there’s always a ‘but’… he still carries on performing with his band and, in 2014, he formed a new band called dylan.pl, dedicated exclusively to arranging and performing his own translations of Bob Dylan’s songs. He’s been translating Spanish, French and English language books since mid-eighties and songs from different languages since 1979. With his Dylan translations’ folder containing over 130 lyrics he gathered them in a book and selected 29 of them as a repertoire for this dylan.pl

Since then he has compiled all of Dylan’s studio albums in cover versions with plenty of bonus tracks, and has done that same with the Beatles’ albums and singles.  And inevitably on October 10, 2016, he got about a hundred phone calls from different Polish media begging for a comment.

He’s published also a huge anthology of Patti Smith’s lyrics in Polish and is working on a major anthology of rock & pop important singer-songwriters’ lyrics, including over 40 artists from Hank Williams and Willie Dixon through Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits and David Thomas to Elvis Costello, Björk, P.J. Harvey and Joanna Newsom.

In 2019 he was nominated for the most important Polish prize for a book translation (among 5 nominees) for his translation of Tarantula.

Aaron Galbraith

Aaron Galbraith grew up in the west of Scotland and was educated at Glasgow University. Always a massive music fan, the first concerts he attended were Paul McCartney and Neil Young. He recently counted and has seen over 100 different acts live (several more than once), ranging from Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Van Morrison to BB King, The Strokes, Blur and Adam Ant.

He became acquainted with the work of Bob Dylan whilst at Uni due to one of those 3 CDs for a tenner deals popular at the big music superstores of that time. On a whim, he picked up Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde. He then proceeded to collect the entire back catalogue and has since seen Dylan over ten times in concert.

He now resides in Virginia in the Good Ol’ US of A with his wife and young daughter. His hobbies, beyond Dylan and other musical acts, include following the Scotland national football team and attending various tennis tournaments throughout the world, primarily to see Andy & Jamie Murray in action.

Patrick Roefflaer

Patrick Roefflaer lives in the Flemish speaking part of Belgium. As a young punk (as in punk-rock), he got interested in Bob Dylan after seeing the Hard Rain special in December 1976. It was the passion that Dylan displayed end his attitude that mesmerised him and made him a lifelong fan.

Around 2005 Patrick started a blog writing about music. The articles on Dylan were well  appreciated, especially since he regularly got new info by contacting people who had actually worked with the singer-songwriter.  It caught the attention of a publisher who suggested to bundle them as a book.  In Bob Dylan in de studio (Epo, 2011) Dylan’s astonishing ways to record in the studio is detailed chronologically. Much to his surprise and delight it got mostly great reviews.

Some years later, a local library asked Patrick to give a lecture on Bob Dylan as part of a month long festive around the singer-songwriter. One of the other things they organised was an exhibition of the artwork of Dylan’s  albums. To give a guided tour to this, Patrick dived into the history of the artwork and this led to the series of articles published on Untold Dylan.

There is an index to all of Patrick’s illustrated articles on the artwork of Dylan’s albums in the Album Artwork index.

Joost Nillissen grew up in Amsterdam and was educated by Jesuits who made him loose his faith. For almost 30 years he lived and worked in Israel where he discovered the history of the Bible. Tourism was his trade and ever since he bought his first album in 1971 Bob Dylan was the soundtrack of his life.

Painting and writing were his serious hobbies and in the late nineties his stories were published in literary magazines in The Netherlands and Belgium.

After his divorce in 2004 he returned to the Netherlands and decided to take writing seriously. Hundreds of advertorials on any subject imaginable flowed from his pen. He wrote and published three novels and a collection of short stories.

Joost is semi-retired, wears a brand new suit, has a brand new wife, a son in Israel and a daughter in Amsterdam, no grandchildren that he is aware of and loves working on the retelling of some of Dylan’s songs, to be published in a book.

If you want to write to Untold Dylan with a view to submitting an article or a series of articles, or indeed on any matter that you don’t want to appear as a comment, please email Tony@schools.co.uk and send a copy to TonyAttwoodofLondon@gmail.com (just in case I am on the road).

The site is owned and operated by Websites and Blogs Ltd., 9 Home Farm Close, Great Oakley, Northants NN18 8HQ, UK.


  1. I think that is one of the so much vital info for me. And i’m happy studying your article.
    However should statement on some common things, The web site style is ideal, the articles
    is actually excellent : D. Good job, cheers

  2. Can’t believe I’ve just discovered your site – really great, and some brilliant interpretations of songs. Duequese Whistle led me here.

  3. Just stumbled upon your site whilst listening to ‘Dark Eyes’, final track on Empire Burlesque.

    Have thouroughly enjoyed reading your interpretations of Dylan’s (and others) lyrics that the great man has performed/recorded over the years. I now find myself going back to those songs and rediscovering them from a wholly new and different perspective.

    Do you intend to cover his entire back catalogue? 😉 Keep up the good work.



  4. I’ve just discovered your site because I was looking for an article that discusses the structure of the song Spanish Harlem Incident in detail . I was listening to it and I was trying to learn to play it in the guitar by ear and I notice how unusual his guitar parts are in that song. I usually don’t go to ultimate guitar to learn to play songs because I can usually learn easily how to play songs by myself but this song in particular is complex or unusual I think. I think the guitar tab by maguri in ultimate guitar site is good and I think he got almost everything correct. There are parts there I think that just stays in one bass note while changing a couple of notes thus changing chords but stays in one bass note. I think in some parts of the song he’s playing a C major with a bass note of E so when he plays the usual G major to C major progression it sounds a little different than the usual. I think he really listened to it very closely. Even though I know something about chord progressions and some scales I really needed some guide on how to play this song hehe. Anyways, you have a very cool site Mr. Tony Attwood. I’m a really big fan of Dylan and I think fans of Dylan around the world can really enjoy and have a really good time reading your articles.

  5. Very much appreciate your research on Dylan. I’ve been haunted by “Too Much of Nothing” figuratively and literally. Understanding the connection to T.S. Eliot enriched my experience. I even found my anthology with Waste Land and read it again after 40 plus years! Keep up your posts. I’ll be looking for your book!

  6. How are you, Mr. Attwood?

    Thank you for your excellent work on the bard. It is always exciting and comforting to find still another admirer (and researcher) of what the great man did and said. Your site will be of much help when I listen to his songs and think and write about his lyrics. Look forward to your book!

  7. Thanks – just discovered this site. Your writing om Dylans lyrics set my mind going. A Dylan fan since 1970 but first and foremost his music – now at last descending into the “mysteries” of his texts. (By the way listening to his early monorecordings triggered my interest in the lyrics alone). Enjoy reading your comments on Dylan. First one was about As I Went Out One Morning. Really enjoyed that one.

  8. I also just “discovered” your wonderful site, while browsing around for comments on “Sign On The Window.” As I wrote there, thank you! I hope to read much more of you once the semester calms down, and this nightmarish USA election is over. . .

  9. Thank you, Tony. I just read your critical essay on “Long and Wasted Years.” It rings true through and through. One of the best pieces of Dylan criticism I have read.

    I will be teaching a course at the University of Texas at Austin this spring “Bob Dylan: History Imagination” I imagine now there will be quite a few students I send to your takes on Bob’s songs.

    If you have an email I’ll send you some of my writings of reviews and commentaries on feature pieces on Dylan in places like Times Higher Education.

    Tom Palaima

  10. I have learned so much from your thinking about this song, Tony. Thank you! I marched during the 60s singing, “Blowing in the Wind,” but “Hard Rain” hit me
    hardest and still haunts me most. In this Age of Trump, we must all stand on the ocean until we start sinkin’ and REALLY know our song — because “the answer, my friend,” is STILL blowing in the Wind. And Dylan can help us listen for it.

  11. Andy, it depends how you hear the song. You can write it out as either, and Bob would never have written it down himself in conventional notation. For me writing it in 3/4 makes it very fast and loses the feel that is inherent in Dylan’s own performance of the song. Better put, I think if someone who had never heard the song picked up the sheet music with the song in 3/4 they would produce a performance that didn’t have the feel of Dylan’s recording. If they saw it as 12/8 they are more likely to produce a rendition much closer to that on the record.

  12. I’ve just read your piece on Jokerman. I’ve long seen this song in a way which I find wholly satisfying.

    This is Bob’s life story being told in the verses, from a third person perspective. From the start of his journey as an artist, feeling immensely powerful as he surveys his options. The ‘idol with the iron head’ is surely a train, glowing in the night, an alternative to the ships that might carry him away across the great lake.

    The chorus is an appeal, an invocation, to that part of himself that could once write without thinking about it. Because he’s been in a dry spell, he’s not been feeling it for a while, he doesn’t know if he can get there again. He’s ready and waiting. The Jokerman is the character Shakespeare called the fool – the one person at the court of an all-powerful king given a licence to speak truth to power – and that’s what Dylan has been. He’s had to make an entertainment of it, of course, like any other jobbing jester. Provided he kept on delivering, he was in a unique and privileged position.

    The verses tell the story of how Bob Dylan managed that, seen in flashes. The years are necessarily compressed, but the order is strictly chronological. I could go into approximate dates and partial explanations for each verse, but maybe this isn’t the best place to do that.

    Anyway, what’s satisfying about the whole recording in that light is how the the feeling of the words and the music do work as one, bass and drums propelling the thing forward like ambition, the uplift of the choruses soaring like a bird. By the final verse, his story has reached the present, and he is full of self-confidence again. And he’s going to ride out and take up arms against the foe – Mystery, Babylon the Great, personification of wickedness in the fallen world.

    And in the meanwhile, his prayer got through, and it was answered. Because he made this recording of this song.

  13. The radical juxtaposition of opposites is a cornerstone of great literature, from Shakespeare to Dickens to Twain to Steinbeck to Hemingway to McMurtry. (I only include people I’ve read, but I presume it’s more widespread than being confined to them.) “Sweetheart Like You,” like many Dylan songs, portrays it in each stanza. The general idea is that ruthless tragedy is just around the corner, so make sure you know what you’re doing, which you currently do not. It’s a very pessimistic song, but a lot of what Dylan has written is pessimistic, and the original title of the album this song is on, Infidels, was Surviving a Ruthless World.

    Here are examples of juxtapositions from the song.

    “They say that vanity got the best of him” —condemnation of something internal
    “But he sure left here in style” —superficial worth begets approval

    “She used to call me sweet daddy when I was only a child”—a radical misperception; I don’t know what it means

    “In order to deal in this game, got to make the queen disappear
    It’s done with a flick of the wrist” — You can effortlessly exit a dominating force. Recent example is Luke Skywalker’s brushing off his shoulder after being targeted by withering bombardment. It’s a positive statement unaffirmed by the rest of the song.

    “What’s a sweetheart like you doin’ in a dump like this”—based on the rest of the song, I interpret “dump” to mean an unreasonable state of depression

    “Just how much abuse will you be able to take?
    Well there’s no way to tell by that first kiss” —don’t confuse easy solutions with an exit strategy, they could make things worse

    “You can be known as the most beautiful woman
    Who ever crawled across cut glass to make a deal”—having a glorious reputation can’t spare one from emotional terror

    “They say in your father’s house there’s many mansions
    Each one of them got a fireproof floor”— The presence of heavenly comfort must be strongly guarded against the proximity of hell (Dylan uses slang grammar intentionally; this is confirmed by looking at his face while he distinctly enunciates each syllable of this song.)

    “Snap out of it baby people are jealous of you
    They smile to your face but behind your back they hiss”—Don’t worry about what people think, they’re hypocrites and you’re more exalted than them

    “Got to be an important person to be in here, honey
    Got to have done some evil deed”—you’re paying for something you didn’t do, a good reason to stop

    “Got to have your own harem when you come in the door
    Got to play your harp until your lips bleed”—Playing a harp (harmonica) is fun, toot your horn too much will result in a really bad experience

    “Steal a little and they throw you in jail
    Steal a lot and they make you king”—A juxtaposition, not original

    “There’s only one step down from here, baby
    It’s called the land of permanent bliss”—there’s no avoiding pain (permanent bliss is impossible)

    Now if you agree with me, that’s okay. But please don’t shower any radical juxtapositions on me.

  14. Unless one considers death to be permanent bliss because there’s no more pain.

  15. Just came across Tony’s site via his May 2015 piece re Sign On The Window. Pretty much my view in the excellent write up! I was putting an eco-related music compilation together and looked at the “Build me a Cabin in Utah” verse which led me to here. I live near Hastings UK , not far from Brighton and looked for the “Brighton Girls” possible origin for many years. A good question for Bob should I come across him! I rather favour Coney Island which has a Board Walk and the girls!

    It’s all in the voice as well as the unlikely key change, which I don’t think is so abrupt but that often makes a song anyway. “Like the moon” and the [resigned] “My best friend said [kindly] “Now didn’t I warn you?” These are amazing phrases! I knew about Irving Berlin’s black notes preference and Dylan’s outer to inner keyboard style also favouring black keys. I think Berlin had a special piano built with a handle to change key while playing the black notes.

  16. May I thank everyone who has used this page to say thank you to myself and all my fellow writers on the site. On making a few minor changes to this page I have read your comments again, and I am quite overwhelmed. Thank you to everyone – you make it all so worthwhile.

  17. I am glad to find another listener who appreciates “Up to Me” my favourite Dylan track. It describes so many of life’s experience.

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