I can’t say when it occurred to me to write my own songs. I couldn’t have come up with anything comparable or halfway close to the folk song lyrics I was singing to define the way I felt about the world. I guess it happens to you by degrees. You just don’t wake up one day and decide that you need to write songs, especially if you’re a singer who has plenty of them and you’re learning more every day. Opportunities may come along for you to convert something — something that exists into something that didn’t yet. That might be the beginning of it. Sometimes you just want to do things your way, want to see for yourself what lies behind the misty curtain. It’s not like you see songs approaching and invite them in.—Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume One
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I saw that rhyme register in Bob’s eyes like a glancing glove and I thought, Okay, I got one shot in, I’d better not push my luck.
It was just fun to be in the ring with the champ for a minute or two.
For some reason, our appearances at the festival were scheduled with Bob playing at eight p.m. and The Imposters and me at ten p.m.
I’d watched a lot of Dylan shows when I toured with him in 2008, and no two of them were the same, but I knew that Bob was never known for pandering to people with sets filled with just his most-famous songs.
So it had to be the night when we were to follow him that his choices were utterly ruthless, the solos were kept tight, and the songs piled up, one upon the other, in a sequence that was unbeatable.
I was standing side-stage with Pete Thomas. Around the time that the band went from “The Levee’s Gonna Break” into “Tangled Up in Blue,” I leaned into Pete and said, “We’re in trouble here. We’ve got to follow this. We’d better open with something they recognize or we’ll be playing to an empty tent.”
The great Dylan songs rolled out one after another: “High Water (for Charley Patton),” “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” “Simple Twist of Fate,” “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Ballad of a Thin Man” …
The tent was stifling in the late antipodean summer, and I stepped out onto the loading ramp as Bob and his band hit the encore of “Like a Rolling Stone” followed by “Forever Young.”
I could hear just fine from there and a faint breeze was welcome.
I was sitting on a flight case listening to the baying of the Byron Bay crown as the DJ put on some music to signal the changeover.
The silhouette of a gunslinger was heading in my direction with a skip and a shuffle under his big, wide-brimmed hat.
“There you go, I’ve softened ’em up for you,” he said as he passed on his way by.—Elvis Costello, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink
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I didn’t follow baseball that much but I did know that Roger Maris who was with the Yankees was in the process of breaking Babe Ruth’s home-run record and that meant something. Maris was from Hibbing, Minnesota, of all places. Of course, I never heard of him there, nobody did. I was hearing a lot about him now, though, and so was the rest of the land. On some level I guess I took pride in being from the same town. There were other Minnesotans, too, that I felt akin to. Charles Lindbergh, the first aviator to fly nonstop across the Atlantic in the ’20s. He was from Little Falls. F. Scott Fitzgerald, a descendant of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and who himself wrote The Great Gatsby, was from St. Paul. Fitzgerald was called “the prophet of the jazz age.” Sinclair Lewis had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first American to do so. Lewis had written Elmer Gantry and was the master of absolute realism, had invented it. He was from Sauk Center, Minnesota. And then there was Eddie Cochran, one of the early rock-and-roll geniuses who was from Albert Lee, Minnesota. Native sons—adventurers, prophets, writers, and musicians. They were all from the North Country. Each one followed their own vision, didn’t care what the pictures showed. Each one of them would have understood what my inarticulate dreams were about. I felt like I was one of them or all of them put together.—Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume One
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“Not Dark Yet,” from 1997:
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