Bob Dylan released and unreleased: Song and Dance Man

By Aaron Galbraith (in the USA) and Tony Attwood (in the UK).

Aaron: Bob once described himself as a song and dance man. I thought I’d take that literally this time!

So, first up the Songs!

Only A Pawn in their Game – Bob performed the song at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom before Martin Luther Kings famous “I have a dream speech”.

“I looked up from the podium and I thought to myself, ‘I’ve never seen such a large crowd.’ I was up close when King was giving that speech. To this day, it still affects me in a profound way.”

Tony: I love the way Bob, at this young age, can just get on up on this extraordinary occasion and go straight into the song, without any preparation, no comment, no sign of nerves, straight in.   This is really a most extraordinary film from every angle – the occasion, the importance of the event, the fact that it is the start of Dylan’s career.

Dylan in fact always has had the ability to appear without any nerves and deliver.  It is amazing from every angle, whichever way you look and listen.  I find it utterly moving.

Aaron:  Mr Tambourine Man – Bob performed the song in 1964 at the Newport Folk Festival. Luckily it was captured on film and included as part of the documentary The Other Side Of The Mirror.

Tony: A nice bit of fun with “Where is Bob” and the microphone man who didn’t realise Bob is only 5 feet 6 inches tall, so the mics have to be lowered a bit.

But more seriously, the comment above (and you’ll know if you’ve been following the series, Aaron delivers the clips and I just write up my odd notes as I listen and watch – I knew that training as a touch typist would come in useful one day) about Bob having no nerves in terms of performance is so apparent.

Indeed I suppose it is utterly obvious: no one who suffered from nerves would create the Never Ending Tour.  Performing is, I guess, what motivates and energises Bob Dylan – rather an obvious thing to say but it only just occurred to me.

I do enjoy these early performances with a respectful audience.  If you listen to the performances that Michael covers in the “Never Ending Tour” series you’ll realise how noisy the crowd can be at a Dylan show.  As others have commented before me many times, “Why do people go to a Dylan concert and talk all the way through it?” and apart from making very personal comments about their psychological problems, I have no idea.

So truly good to see an audience that knows how to listen.

Aaron: And now for the Dance!

I found this recently and thought it might be right up Tony’s street! I’m really looking forward to reading his thoughts on this!!

In 1978 Dylan had a sizable UK hit single on his hands with Baby Stop Crying (#13). This meant an appearance on “Top Of The Pops” was on offer. Unfortunately, Bob was not available to appear. Those of us about at this time know what that meant…that’s right…Legs & Co.!!

Over to you Tony!

Tony:  Before digitisation came along TV stations were licenced by the government in the UK.  Initially with the government funded BBC as the monopoly supplier and then with the one licensed commercial channel ITV.   Which meant that we got a very limited amount of pop and rock music on TV (and indeed radio) in the country – the one main pop TV programme being Top of the Pops where performers mimed their current hit to the record.

However not every artist was available, and so each week on song was danced to by the resident dance company.

Now I am going to go on a bit of a meander talking about dance, which I hope you’ll stay with (but I thought I would warn you about, since this doesn’t have anything to do with Dylan, but does explain why Aaron picked up on this(.

I should explain, (in case you haven’t caught up on the issue), that besides running this blog I work professionally as a writer, which means sitting at my desk through the day writing away at the computer.  And since this has been my life for many years, I long ago realised that if I was going to avoid complete atrophy of all muscles and a significant increase in my waist size, I would need to keep up with what had been my hobby in my youth: dancing  Not of the type we see here, but what is known in England (and maybe elsewhere) modern jive.   Which means that it has many more variations than 1950s jive, and a much more inventive part for the lead (usually but not always, the man) and is much more practical a dance for older people.  (And I mean older).

Fortunately, in England, we have a very large number of jive clubs and I tend to dance for two or three hours maybe four or five evenings a week.  I was in south Birmingham last night, and will in be the small East Midlands town of Melton Mowbray tonight, dancing at a modern jive club.  And where there is a modern dance show (which is of course quite different from modern jive) on somewhere, I do go and watch.  So that’s the explanation.

Anyway, one of my thoughts on what we have here, is that it is an arrangement that is written more to show off what the dancers can do, rather than anything that fits with the concept of the music.  And I don’t mean that the dancers should describe in movement what the lyrics are saying (although that does happen here when Dylan sings “go down to the river babe” and the ladies in blue come on doing swimming motions and I really find that a bit naff).

But since I am here writing, and it is just possible that you are still there reading, I would take an opportunity to say something about dance, because it has been an absolute lifesaver for me (literally), always knowing that if things were not working out in my personal affairs, or at work or whatever, I could always go out that evening and lose myself in dance.  And lose myself is what I mean: from the moment of the first dance I am taken into another world.  (And it is lot better for one’s health than going to a bar for a drink).

I should also add that in modern jive clubs in the UK the tradition is that people change partners throughout the evening – last night I guess I danced with about 20 different ladies; although tonight it will only be one, but that’s a different issue, which delicacy forbids me to cover here.

Of course, most of my friends are not dancers, and many of them know that I was a musician and then became a writer, and that now I dance for enjoyment.  So occasionally the situation has arisen in which with friends at a party we’ve chatted about such things.  If I talk about being a musician the common answer is “I always wish my mother had made me keep on practising the piano when I was young”.   With writing it is “I always thought I could write a book”.   But with dance it is “I can’t do that: two left feet”.

Yet dance is so much much easier to learn and enjoy in the company of others than other art forms.  I’ve made so many friends through dance, it keeps one fit, and which gives everyone who does it a real buzz. Better still modern jive dance is not that hard to learn; certainly, you can have more fun more quickly with dance than you can with being a writer (very solitary) or a musician (hours and hours and hours of practising, and if with a band, arguing.)

So just from my own perspective, if you ever feel a bit lonely, or in need of a way of keeping fit that is actually enjoyable and not tedious, you could try modern jive.

All of which has nothing to do with Dylan, and I’ll hope you’ll excuse that, but it’s not very often I meander quite so much off-topic.   Thanks for the opportunity Aaron.

Dylan released and unreleased: the series


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