The article below, by Jochen Markhorst, is an extract from Jochen’s new book (in English this time), Blood On The Tracks which is now on sale via Amazon both on Kindle and as a paperback. Details of how to order both editions are given at the end of the article.
In 1979, the Guinness Book Of World Records officially recognized the Shortest Interview in the World, an interview conducted during a Dylan concert by Creem journalist Jeffrey Morgan, who is in the front row at the time of the “interview”.
Dylan: This next number is a song I once did with the Band. You remember the Band, don’t you? It was on an album called Planet Waves. It sold twelve copies.
Dylan: Get this guy outta here.
It’s October 1978, and Dylan makes that sour joke almost every night. With increasing sales figures, by the way; the first time there are only four sold (October 5, in Maryland), two days later already six, October 9 reports Dylan: “About ten of them have been sold. Ha, it sells better every day,” and the sales record is then set in Toronto on October 12, when there are no fewer than twelve copies sold.
He always says it halfway through the evening, with the announcement of “Going, Going, Gone”, one of the two songs from Planet Waves he performs that evening (the other is “Forever Young”).
The acidity is not entirely justified, but it is understandable. In the pre-sale the album broke Dylan’s record; more than half a million orders, enough for gold and the first place on the Billboard 200. After the release, however, sales stagnate, despite the – generally – positive reviews and the sold-out tour with The Band.
A year later, on top of that half a million, “only” a hundred thousand extra were sold. That initial success is mainly due to the excitement that the first real Dylan album in four years has been generating, not so much to the earth-shaking quality of the album – there won’t be too many fans among whom Planet Waves is in the Top 10 of best Dylan albums.
Even super fan Patti Smith withdraws. She will never belittle anything from her hero, but in her review (Creem, April ’74) she does take some sort of distance. “I’ve been following him like a good dog for too long now,” Smith writes, judging that the album is unbalanced, that The Band makes her nervous and that she is not very touched by the album, except for two songs: “I don’t care for the rest of the album.”
The two songs that fully justify the purchase of Planet Waves are the opposite of each other, Smith argues poetically. “Dirge” and “Wedding Song”.
“One black one white. One that swan dives and one that transcends. The death of friendship the birth of love. It’s a thin line between love and hate.”
The black one, Smith explains just to be sure, is “Dirge.” And she loves the musical accompaniment, the lyrics and especially the contrast with the white one, with “Wedding Song”. But “Dirge” she plays over and over. And well alright, “Going, Going, Gone” has beautiful lyrics and should be covered by Mick Jagger or Chuck Jackson.
The discomfort of Smith and many other reviewers mainly concerns the homeliness, the valentines and roses, the cosiness of most lyrics. The fans and the reviewers, in varying degrees of aversion, have been bothered by that since the final two songs on John Wesley Harding from 1967 (“Down Along The Cove” and “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”), it gets worse by the hundred percent score of unpretentious songs on successor Nashville Skyline (’69), with a crooning Dylan, to add insult to the injury, sung without any overtones of sarcasm or cynicism, and the embarrassment reaches the top of the end on New Morning (1970), with sweets like “If Not For You ”, skyrocketing confessions such as this dude thinks you’re grand (from “Winterlude”) and rural warblings as in “Sign On The Window” (Marry me a wife, catch a rainbow trout / Have a bunch of kids who call me “Pa” / That must be what it’s all about).
Now, completely evaporated it has not. The fans and critics still miss Dylan’s razor sharpness, his venom and his uppercuts, in “On A Night Like This”, “Hazel”, “Something There Is About You” and “You Angel You”. But some light on the horizon bring the instant classic “Forever Young”, the intense “Never Say Goodbye” and the irresistible “Tough Mama”. But most plus points are given to the two songs that are the harbinger of Blood On The Tracks, the songs demonstrating the deep truth of Dylan’s own adage from “She’s Your Lover Now” (1965): pain sure brings out the best in people.
Those two songs are the same songs Patti Smith picks out: “Going, Going, Gone” and “Dirge”.
Jochen’s book, as noted at the top of the page, is available in two editions. Here are the links…
For the Kindle edition please visit https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B082GGNJCP/
For the paperback it is https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/940213123X/
What else is on the site
You’ll find some notes about our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page. You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.
The index to all the 590 Dylan compositions and co-compositions that we have found on the A to Z page.
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