Montag, 30. Mai 2011

70th Birthday "Dylanthology", Part 04 - German TV (and some radio)

All of these radio and TV programmes (and their descriptions) are © by the stations who produced and aired them. Links to streams and/or downloads and descriptions are provided solely for "nonprofit educational purposes" (one of the criteria of "fair use", Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107).
Presentation (hyperlinks, etc.) © by the author of this blog.

"Stationen", BR, May 2011 (exact broadcast date unknown)
German language
Contains excerpts from interviews with Prof. (?) Josef Cressotti 
Prof. Dr. Knut Wenzel (see related blog post), Karl Bruckmaier.

"Kaffee oder Tee", SWR, May 19, 2011
German language
with SWR's "resident expert" Günter Schneidewind.

"Stilbruch", RBB, May 19, 2011 (Stream)
German language 
Mostly about Bob Dylan's first and only GDR concert, Berlin, 1987.

Persons interviewed: Christoph Dieckmann, Jörg Stempel
(former head of GDR's state-run VEB Deutsche Schallplatten
Amiga record label).
AMIGA (Sony Music)

"Dylans kölsche Geister",, WDR, May 17, 2011
German language
Mostly about "Birthday Greetings from Cologne" Dylan Festival:
"Warum eigentlich Köln? Man weiß nicht, warum sich ausgerechnet hier so eingefleischte Fans von Bob Dylan finden. Sicher ist nur, dass sich rund um Rhein und Dom Kulturschaffende von Literatur bis Kunst zusammentun, um den Poeten der 68er mit einem Festival zu ehren. Rund um den Geburtstag des 70-Jährigen, mit Konzerten, Ausstellungen und Lesungen, von Meret Becker bis Erdmöbel."

Related radio program:
"Birthday Greetings", Scala, WDR, May 11, 2011
German language
Die Kölner Kunstszene feiert den 70. Geburtstag von Bob Dylan
Er ist eine lebende Legende, die nicht nur die Musikwelt nachhaltig beeinflusst hat: Am 24. Mai feiert Bob Dylan seinen 70. Geburtstag. Aus diesem Anlass veranstaltet die Kölner Kunstszene ein Festival mit Konzerten, Lesungen, Filmen, Gesprächen und Vorträgen. Nicht dabei sind die üblichen Verdächtigen wie BAP-Chef Wolfgang Niedecken. Stattdessen treten Künstler auf, die man nicht unbedingt mit Bob Dylan assoziiert.
Autor/in: Jürgen Salm
Redaktion: Nora Schattauer

Sonntag, 29. Mai 2011

70th Birthday "Dylanthology", Part 03

All of these radio and TV programmes (and their descriptions) are © by the stations who produced and aired them. Links to streams and/or downloads and descriptions are provided solely for "nonprofit educational purposes" (one of the criteria of "fair use", Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107).
Presentation (hyperlinks, etc.) © by the author of this blog.

More BBC...

"Nashville Cats" Broadcast BBC Radio 2, May 16th 2011
Bill Nighy presents the definitive story of what really went down on tape, and in the studio, during the recording of Bob Dylan's classic album Blonde on Blonde.

In February 1966, Bob rolled in to Nashville to work on his seventh studio album. Following only partially successful sessions in New York, the decision had been taken to relocate to the Columbia label's Music Row studios. Nashville Cats looks at the music that resulted from the unlikely alliance between seasoned country music veterans, accustomed to fixed time studio sessions, and the more erratic modus operandi favoured by the wiry hipster poet.

Generally regarded as the high watermark of Dylan's most creatively intense period, Blonde on Blonde was recalled by the songwriter himself as being "the closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind... it's that thin wild mercury sound". Bill Nighy narrates a tale of in-studio composition, musicians by turns bemused, exasperated and inspired, and an artist operating at the very zenith of his talent.

Nashville Cats features newly sourced interviews with the key participants on these historic studio recording dates including musicians Al Kooper, Charlie McCoy, Hargus "Pig" Robbins, Wayne Moss, Henry Strzelecki and Joe South. The documentary also features the perspective of Producer Bob Johnston, the man responsible for convincing Dylan to record in Nashville, and reveals the real story behind the supposed symbolism of its famous cover shot care of Jerry Schatzberg, the man behind the lens.

From "Down Under":
"Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan at 70
Broadcast ABC Australia, April 23rd, 2011
Bob Dylan, one of the most influential and famous musicians of his day, is turning seventy in May. Into the Music marks that milestone, and Dylan's current Australian tour, with a new documentary feature on his life and music. Produced by Robert de Young, the program includes interviews with Dylan scholar and biographer Clinton Heylin, critic Christopher Ricks and journalists Stuart Coupe and Craig McGregor, as well as some rare archival material.

From Minnesota: 
Jim Bickal, Minnesota Public Radio:
"Boy From The North Country: Bob Dylan in Minnesota"
Broadcast Minnesota Public Radio, May 21st, 2011
Dylan spent his formative years in Minnesota; he was born in Duluth and raised in Hibbing.
He became a folksinger in Minneapolis. A new documentary from Minnesota Public Radio News explores Dylan's Minnesota roots and how they influenced the evolution of his music.

In the documentary, you will hear from Leroy Hoikkala who played the drums in Dylan's high school band, the Golden Chords. Long-time friend Dick Cohn describes Dylan playing risqué rhythm and blues in St. Paul basements when he was a teenager.

Marilyn Matheny talks about Dylan finding his voice as a folksinger in the Minneapolis
community of Dinkytown. Plus you'll hear the story of St. Paul native Larry Kegan who was
one of Dylan's closest friends.

Samstag, 28. Mai 2011

70th Birthday "Dylanthology", Part 02

All of these radio and TV programmes (and their descriptions) are © by the stations who produced and aired them. Links to streams and/or downloads and descriptions are provided solely for "nonprofit educational purposes" (one of the criteria of "fair use", Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107).
Presentation (hyperlinks, etc.) © by the author of this blog.

More from the BBC: 

"The Culture Café" Broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland, 1:15PM Tue, 24 May 2011  

On Bob Dylans' 70th Birthday, Clare English revisits one of the the most controversial eras of his career: The Gospel Years. His evangelical Christian compositions were a critical disaster at the time of release, causing anger and confusion amongst critics, fans and peers, but did they get it wrong? 

With historical insights and reflections on Dylan's gospel period provided by Bob Dylan's musicians, biographers, critics and friends, we re-examine this baffling but beguiling episode in rock history.

From New Zealand:
"Dylan's early Mentor: Izzy Young" Broadcast on Radio New Zealand, 27/28 May 2011

Bob Dylan, America's most celebrated musician, turned 70 on 24 May 2011. It's now 50 years since the young Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman in Hibbing, Minnesota, hitch-hiked to New York with his guitar and a dream to make it as a singer. He landed in the Greenwich Village folk music scene and thanks largely to an astonishing ability to churn out songs that captured the feeling of the times - which as he told us were a-changin' - quickly became a star. His career has continued unabated - his most recent album two years ago topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, and in April 2011 he wound up an Asian tour with a concert in Auckland. One of the first to take the young Dylan under his wing was Izzy Young, who ran the Folklore Centre in Greenwich Village. Izzy Young, who now lives in Sweden, told Morning Report's Simon Mercep how Bob Dylan made the store his second home.

From U.S. National Public Radio ( 
"World Cafe: Suze Rotolo" Broadcast on NPR, 24 May 2011

Suze Rotolo has been described as the '60s muse of Bob Dylan, the girl behind some of his most moving love songs and rousing political statements. The two met in the early 1960s in New York, and fell in love. She was a "red diaper baby," born to Communist sympathizers in the McCarthy era. She was living a politically active life in bohemian Greenwich Village when she met Dylan at a concert. Dylan described it as love at first sight, and the two soon became romantically involved. Though the relationship didn't last, it inspired song after legendary song from the folk icon.
Rotolo died just this past February from lung cancer. In this interview with Rotolo, recorded in 2008, she and World Cafe host David Dye discuss her book, A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties. She describes what it was like to be that girl on the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan — the pressures, the mutual inspirations, the forces that pushed them apart, and her life afterwards as an author, artist and activist. Rotolo remained passionately involved in politics throughout her life, and there's little doubt that this passion deeply influenced Dylan in their time together. Her admirable passion lives on in songs known the world over.

Freitag, 27. Mai 2011

70th Birthday "Dylanthology", Part 01

Welcome to the first part of my "70th Birthday Dylanthology", featuring links to a variety of programs aired by radio and TV stations worldwide.

This is by no means complete or comprehensive -- feel free to add links that might have escaped my attention. Please also check Expecting Rain for additional coverage of Dylan's 70th birthday.

All of these radio and TV programmes (and their descriptions) are © by the stations who produced and aired them. Links to streams and/or downloads and descriptions are provided solely for "nonprofit educational purposes" (one of the criteria of "fair use", Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107).
Presentation (hyperlinks, etc.) © by the author of this blog.

BBC, UK, Radio Programs:

"Bob's Ballad Bases" Broadcast on BBC Radio 2, 10:00PM Tue, 24 May 2011 

From Pretty Peggy-O on his first album, to Highlands in the 90s and beyond, folk songs and folk music have informed the melodic, thematic and structural roots of much of his work. As Radio 2's Dylan Season continues, Julie Fowlis examines and celebrates this British and Irish influence.
We hear from people involved in folk song who knew Dylan. Liam Clancy and Jean Redpath met him in New York's Greenwich Village in the early 1960s and we hear Bob himself acknowledge a debt to Liam as he performs a Scottish folksong, Lang A-Growing, at his first major New York concert in 1961.
Bob's visit to London in 1962 is recalled by Martin Carthy, who introduced Bob to a number of variants of English songs. We now also have the publisher demos, recorded soon after his return to the USA, among which are the earliest recordings of landmark songs such as Girl from the North Country and Bob Dylan's Dream, which were informed by his UK visit.
Other contributors include singers Christy Moore and Linda Thompson; the author Clinton Heylin, who has written many books on Dylan and his songs; while Rab Noakes, a singer-songwriter and this documentary's producer, demonstrates how the famous The Times They Are A-Changin' was possibly informed by Hamish Henderson's 51st Farewell to Sicily.
We hear how Dylan's songs exist in a long line, as we go behind the immediate influence to reveal the layers of the traditional sources and oral transmission. This all goes to underline Dylan's description of himself as a "link in the chain".

"Dylan's Women" Broadcast on BBC Radio 2, 10:00PM Mon, 23 May 2011

As Radio 2's Bob Dylan season continues, Bob Harris takes a look at the women behind the songs and discovers how they influenced Dylan as an artist and songwriter.
Focusing largely on the music, tracks include Boots of Spanish Leather, which was written for Suze Rotolo; Like a Rolling Stone, which is said to be inspired by the model and socialite Edie Sedgwick; and Sara, Dylan's homage to his first wife Sara Lownds.
Folk singer Carolyn Hester remembers how Dylan was signed to Columbia after John Hammond saw him playing harmonica at one of her recording sessions. Bob was mesmerised by her singing: "You should have seen this little rough and scuffle little guy, with all this curly hair in the world, pulled his chair right up in front of me... he says, 'you wanna play that again?'"
Suze Rotolo met Dylan in the summer of 1961 and went on to inspire some of his most famous songs. Richard Williams, a journalist from the Guardian, explains how she also introduced him to theatre and artists he'd never heard of: "It wouldn't be exaggerating to say she opened up a new world to him." Richard also remembers the importance of the album cover for The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan which pictured Bob and Suze walking down a snowy Manhattan street.
Singer Joan Baez features, who describes how she opened him up to a wider audience: "I adored his music and I adored him... I would present him during my concert so certain credit is offered to me because of that." Billy Name, the archivist at Andy Warhol's Factory, explains the link between Dylan and Edie Sedgwick, who is said to have inspired the song Like a Rolling Stone. And photographer Elliott Landy remembers the time he spent with Bob and his first wife Sara Dylan at their home in Woodstock: "she had a calming effect and she bought him into a wonderful domestic family life".
Other contributors include film-maker DA Pennebaker; actress Sienna Miller; photographer and film director Jerry Schatzberg; Dylan's backing singer Ronee Blakley; and Dylan's first manager, Terri Thal, who remembers how hard it was to get Dylan booked for shows.
Who are the women behind some of Dylan's most revered songs? And how have they impacted on his music? We'll find out as we explore another side of Bob through the eyes of "Dylan's Women".

Broadcast on BBC Radio 4, 11:30AM Tue, 24 May 2011

To coincide with Dylan's birthday (24th May 2011) presenter Emma Freud explores the singers spiritual journey revealing a side to the performer often over looked.
The programme opens with how Dylan grew up a small-town Jew in Hibbing, Minnesota. We hear from Cantor Neil Schwartz he also grew up in the same town and his mother was Bob's Sunday school teacher.
Author of 'Prophet, Mystic, Poet' Seth Rogovoy reflects on Dylan's early years and his Barmitzvah. We explore early Dylan music and author Clinton Heylin believes Dylan not only drew on early negro spirituals but the Old testament for his more engaging material. Helping makes sense of some of the more complex theological messages is Nick Baines The Bishop of Bradford and a life long admirer of Bob Dylan.
It was in the late 1970s, Dylan became a born again Christian and 1979 album 'Slow Train Coming' championed Jesus. Author of 'Down The Highway' Howard Sounes finds Dylan's three Christian albums a "difficult listen". Whether they meant something significant to his audience is another matter, but Al Kasha who helped Dylan with his understanding of the scriptures is convinced you can't doubt the depth of Dylan's religious conversion.
Dylan's embrace of Christianity was unpopular with some of his fans and his album "Shot Of Love" recorded the spring 1981, featured Dylan's first secular compositions in more than two years, mixed with explicitly Christian songs. Essentially Dylan's venture into Christianity seemed to be coming to an end.
As we discover with all things Dylan, its tricky to work out what is going on inside the singer's mind but 'Blowing In The Wind - Dylan's Spiritual Journey" will go someway to exploring his thoughts and spiritual beliefs through his songs and these revealing interviews.

The Bob Dylan Story at 70, BBC Radio 2 
Kris Kristofferson begins the story of his hero, his inspiration and his friend Bob Dylan in the first of a six part series marking the 70th birthday of the legendary singer songwriter.
It's 1961 and Bob moves from Minnesota to New York, hoping to perform there and to visit his idol Woody Guthrie. Soon, he becomes the most talked about artist on the Greenwich Village folk scene and begins to write the songs that came to define the 1960s such as Blowin' In The Wind and The Times They Are A-Changin'.
The programme features interviews with Dylan's contemporaries Tom Paxton, Jim Kweskin and Dave Van Ronk, who remember his earliest songs and performances. Plus John Hammond, the man who signed Bob to Columbia Records, recalls the making of the 21 year old's debut record. Also, Paul Simon admits the time was right for a folk revival and Joan Baez gives a rare insight into her contribution to Dylan's success.
Bob himself talks about the music that influenced him as a young man, first hearing Woody Guthrie, meeting Peter, Paul & Mary and walking out of the influential Ed Sullivan TV Show in 1963.
Featured tracks include Song To Woody from Dylan's 1962 eponymous debut, Blowin' In The Wind from his landmark follow up The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and title track from his third album The Times They Are A-Changin'.

Kris Kristofferson continues the story of his hero, his inspiration and his friend Bob Dylan in the second of a six part series marking the 70th birthday of the iconic singer songwriter.
In the winter of 62/63 Bob makes his first trip to the UK - the British folk tradition would have a profound influence on his subsequent writing. In 1965 he releases the landmark album Bringing It All back Home, The Byrds have a worldwide hit with his song Mr Tambourine Man and Dylan is seen performing in an early music video to Subterranean Homesick Blues in D A Pennebaker's seminal film Don't Look Back. He is still only 24 years of age. His sixth studio album Highway 61 Revisited is released and Like A Rolling Stone, the opening track, is a top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic. His electric performance at the Newport Folk Festival gets a hostile response from the folk establishment.
The programme features an interview with Martin Carthy, who talks about the influence traditional British folk music had on Dylan's work, and Peter Asher and Tom Robinson describe the importance of Dylan's arrival in the British pop charts. Also John Lennon and Carly Simon realise Dylan's lyrics mean so much more than anyone else's, Bob Geldof remembers the first time he heard Like A Rolling Stone and Joe Boyd, stage manager at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival recalls Dylan's controversial performance.

Kris Kristofferson continues the story of his hero, his inspiration and his friend Bob Dylan in the third of a six part series marking the 70th birthday of the iconic singer songwriter.
It's February 1966, and Bob Dylan travels to Nashville to shake up the town and make the best use of musicians Robbie Robertson, Charlie McCoy, Wayne Moss and Al Kooper on one of the greatest rock and roll albums ever made Blonde On Blonde. Kris Kristofferson remembers the recording sessions that went on through the night - he was working as a janitor in studio where the album was recorded. Bob undertakes a world tour with The Band taking in a performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London, with The Beatles in attendance, and a legendary confrontation between Dylan and the audience at Manchester's Free Trade Hall.
The programme features interviews with producer Bob Johnston and musicians Charlie McCoy and Robbie Robertson. Plus, Bob Geldof and Paul McCartney describe the excitement of Dylan's new electric sound and C P Lee, an audience member at the Free Trade Hall recalls the historic Manchester concert.

Kris Kristofferson continues the story of his hero, his inspiration and his friend Bob Dylan in the fourth of a six part series marking the 70th birthday of the iconic singer songwriter.
During 1967, while The Beatles release Sgt Pepper and The Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd and The Doors are making their album debuts, Dylan rests at home in Woodstock as he recovers from his motorcycle crash of the previous summer. He records 150 songs at nearby Big Pink, a house rented by The Band, a handful of which would become the first bootleg recordings in rock history - The Basement Tapes. In 1968 he releases the country-tinged John Wesley Harding, his first studio album in almost 2 years, then he returns to Nashville to make an album with Johnny Cash. He performs alongside George Harrison and Ringo Starr at the Concert For Bangladesh. His 1973 album Planet Waves pleases the critics, but next Blood On The Tracks would send them into ecstasies and introduce Dylan to a whole new audience.
The programme features interviews with Tom McGuinness, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Robinson and Bob Geldof. Plus, narrator Kris Kristofferson remembers the time he spent with Dylan in Durango, Mexico making the film Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, for which Dylan wrote the classic Knocking On Heaven's Door.

Kris Kristofferson continues the story of his hero, his inspiration and his friend Bob Dylan in the fifth of a six part series marking the 70th birthday of the iconic singer songwriter.
It's 1976 and as the USA braces itself for the Bicentennial, Bob Dylan sets off in search of America - with a travelling band of musicians called The Rolling Thunder Revue. He and The Band call time on performing together and hold a star-studded farewell concert in San Francisco called The Last Waltz. In an unexpected twist he is reborn as an evangelical Christian later that year resulting in three albums of inspirational material he released between 1979 and 1981. Bob performs at Live Aid, joins George Harrison and Roy Orbison in The Traveling Wilburys and finishes the decade on a critical high note with his 25th album Oh Mercy. Things Have Changed - Bob's first song of the 21st Century - is used in the film Wonder Boys and wins him a well-deserved Oscar.
The programme features the thoughts of George Harrison and Jeff Lynne, Live Aid organiser Bob Geldof, Dylan biographer Patrick Humphries and folk musician Tom Paxton.

Kris Kristofferson concludes the story of his hero, his inspiration and his friend Bob Dylan in the final part of a series marking the 70th birthday of the iconic singer songwriter.
Bob Dylan enters the new millenium on a critical high with his 30th studio album Love & Theft. He wins universal acclaim with the first volume of his autobiography, Chronicles, and collaborates with Martin Scorsese on the film biography No Direction Home. In 2006 he makes his debut as a DJ with Theme Time Radio Hour, which runs to100 episodes, and delights listeners with his idiosyncratic observations linking records. Just when you think he has no more surprises up his sleeve, in 2009 he cements himself into the festive season with the release of Christmas In The Heart.
The programme features interviews with broadcaster Paul Gambaccini, musician and Dylan biographer Sid Griffin and journalist Alan Jackson, who recalls interviewing Bob for a 2008 exhibition of his artwork.
With music from the No Direction Home soundtrack, Bob's first No. 1 album in 30 years Modern Times, and the latest volume of his Bootleg Series The Witmark Demos.

Donnerstag, 26. Mai 2011

Mainz Dylan Symposium, May 26, 2011 (Part 3 of 3 attended and taped)

The third presentation,"Bob Dylan und die Bibel" (Bob Dylan and The Bible) by Prof. Dr. Manfred Siebald (American Studies), Johannes-Gutenberg-University, Mainz, Germany, was the most interesting of all.

Prof. Manfred Siebald, also a Christian singer-songwriter in Germany (comparable, for example, to Bruce Cockburn), rather convincingly attributed Dylan's use of Biblical images/themes NOT only to his Jewish background, but rather to the WASP (in particular, Puritan) tradition/concepts of  "Jeremiad" and "Typology".

This was the most convincing presentation (and the only one providing real "food for thought"), whereas the presentations scheduled for tomorrow to me hold no excitement whatsover  and do not promise any new insights.

© by Prof. Dr. Manfred Siebald, 2011
Presented for the purpose of study and research only (in accordance with "fair use" criteria). 

Mainz Dylan Symposium, May 26, 2011 (Part 2 of 3 attended and taped)

The second presentation was by Prof. Dr. Knut Wenzel (Frankfurt), entitled "Bob Dylan, die Stimme und die Zeit" (Bob Dylan - the Voice and the Time).

Actually, this was rather good. Prof. Dr. Kurt Wenzel (Catholic Theology/German Literature) of Frankfurt University tried to present Dylan (and his changing voice -- on released recordings) within a historical context, with Dylan's voice changing as the "times were a-changin'".

After the presentation, during a coffee break, I had an interesting conversation (I disagreed on a few points) with him, mainly emphasising that Dylan's released recordings are entirely inadequate for an analysis of that kind (for example, the controversy about the authenticity of the Karen Wallace Tape because of Dylan's voice on this early Pre-Columbian recording sounding rather similar to that of Nashville Skyline).

All in all, quite enjoyable and interesting (with a few minor inaccuracies due to the inadequacy of having to use Dylan's released "canon" only).

© by Prof. Dr. Knut Wenzel, 2011
Presented for the purpose of study and research only (in accordance with "fair use" criteria). 

Mainz Dylan Symposium, May 26, 2011 (Part 1 of 3 attended and taped)

Today, I attended the first three presentations of the Bob Dylan Symposium "Bob Dylan und die Revolution der populären Musik" (Bob Dylan & The Revolution in Popular Music) at Johannes-Gutenberg-University, Mainz, Germany (I left and will not attend tomorrow's presentations, because I "had enough").

Prof. Dr. Dieter Lamping (Mainz) opened the symposium with an introductory presentation "Zwischen moderner Lyrik und Pop - Bob Dylan" (Bob Dylan - Between Modern Poetry and Pop) which only served to show what results are achieved when academics in their ivory tower try to "tackle" the phenomenon of Bob Dylan.

On a positive note, Prof. Dr. Lamping NEVER even mentioned Clinton Heylin once, but stressed the importance of what he called "fan culture" for serious scholarship, and voiced a certain (rather academically-biased) astonishment at the quality of research to be found, for example, on internet "fan" sites.

Nevertheless, his remarks about Dylan's nomination for the Nobel Prize in Literature (which Lamping feels he will never get and does not really deserve) made it all too clear, that academia, especially in Germany, has problems "justifying" Dylan research -- too many of his "laudatory" remarks had an almost apologetic undertone.

© by Prof. Dr. Dieter Lamping, 2011
Presented for the purpose of study and research only (in accordance with "fair use" criteria).

Sonntag, 22. Mai 2011

"He's still an icon, always will be" -- a message from Eric Burdon

Back in 2006, Eric Burdon had this to say when I asked him for a message for Bob's birthday:

"I don't wanna go pissin' Bob off, over and over again [Chuckles]...    
I'm just... I'm just as happy that he's around, and that he's still gigging,
and that he's still... you know...  is... you know....
The only thing that I could say about Bob is... you know...
'Come on, let's have a song about Iraq'
you know...  
I mean, 'Let's get down... let's get down to it'
you know....
Aahh... you know... but... you know... no, 
he's done his work, and he did it well,
and he's still an icon, always will be... 
and...  he stands for a lot....
Over the years, I've loved his variable bands
and the way he's approached his material in a different way, without caring what people think,
you know...
You know... but it's pretty hard... it must be pretty difficult to be Bob Dylan, you know...!"

© Manfred Helfert 2006

Happy 70th Birthday, Bob! -- from German impressario Fritz Rau

Back in 2006, for Bob Dylan's 65th birthday, I did a series of interviews with both German and international artists/persons with a connection to Bob, among them German impressario Fritz Rau and Eric Burdon.

Both Eric and Fritz, when asked if they wanted to send birthday wishes to Bob, were more than eager to comply.

Fritz Rau had this to say (German language, translation by myself):
"This is great -- we've done some nice tours together, starting in 1978, and  
I wish Bob Dylan a nice and quiet birthday. 
I cherish him and am indebted to him for many great songs, many lyrics, poems, and music -- ALL THE BEST.
I can only say: Keep doing what you're doing -- we need you!"

© Manfred Helfert 2006

Donnerstag, 19. Mai 2011

Nuremberg 1978 -- My Own (and Alex Conti's) Personal Recollections

I'm still rather infuriated over Clinton Heylin's sensationalist perpetuation of anti-German prejudices and his distortion of the truth for the sake of a "better story" ("anything involving Nuremberg just HAS to have Nazis in it -- my British and American readers, who are used to Hogan's Heroes stereotypes expect this") that I dug up (and partially rewrote) my personal recollections of that day.

Once again -- there were no neo-Nazis throwing things on stage. 
There were threats by a neo-Nazi group (Wehrsportgruppe Hofmann) PRIOR to the concert which had to be taken rather seriously by both the city of Nuremberg and Dylan's tour management (excerpts from a 2006 interview I did with Fritz Rau can be found in this related blog post), resulting in highly increased (and at times rather intimidating) security measures.

The concert itself was absolutely peaceful -- the only objects thrown (briefly) were aimed at the people right in front of the stage by people farther back who could not see the stage with the folks upfront standing up and obstructing their view -- something which is corroborated by other concert attendants, like Andrea Orlandi from Italy.

Neither Fritz Rau nor Alex Conti (lead guitarist of Lake, one of the groups opening for Dylan), whom I interviewed in 2006, can recall any incident involving Neo Nazis throwing objects on stage, nor does anyone else I know who attended the concert.

Alex Conti remembers Dylan in Nuremberg, 1978 (mp3) 
(German language, from 2006 interview) 
© Manfred Helfert 2006

Alex Conti remembers Reichsparteitagsgelände (mp3)
(German language, from 2006 interview)
© Manfred Helfert 2006

Here are my own (highly personal) recollections of that concert:

The morning of July 1, 1978 -- a Saturday, if I recall correctly. The sky's overcast and it looks like a hard rain's a-gonna fall. After one more cup of coffee two student friends of mine and I board a beat-up
Buick 6 (Volkswagen Beetle, that is...) and we are on the road (again)....

It's eight in the morning --  we're late getting through the suburbs of Mainz, Germany onto Route 66 (A-66 that is...), heading east into the uncharted wilderness of the German Free State of Bavaria to
that place called "Zeppelinfeld" ("blimp [air]field"), the euphemistic, conveniently politically "incorrect" name by which the former "Reichsparteitagsgelaende" (the Nazi Party's rallying ground of
the 1930s) in Nuremberg is known these days -- sweep the past under the carpet; all the graves are by now covered by grass, and the pastoral countryside through which we're driving is peaceful and serene....

"Street Legal" (which I had just purchased a week ago, or so) blasting from the car stereo -- "Baby, Stop Crying", "Is Your Love In Vain", "Senor"... -- nice, relaxing music, perfectly suited for driving at maximum Beetle's speed on the autobahn....

We're past Frankfurt -- traffic is congesting. We hadn't realized that this is the first day of school holidays in several German states -- everybody and their family is heading in our direction, east to
southeast, in every type of jalopies (mostly spotlessly is expected of the typical German car-fetishist), on this highway leading to the gardens of eden of pre-civil-war Yugoslavia and

Past Wuerzburg -- stop and go -- we're stuck inside of the biggest traffic jam, bumper to bumper,  I have ever encountered. Two kilometers in one hour -- where's the next exit from the autobahn?
Otherwise, we won't make it in time for the 2 p.m. opening of the concert, admission to the festival grounds starting at noon....

Finally, an exit. We get off the congested highway and proceed (rather steadily and without any further obstructions) on narrow country roads towards our destination....

Nuremberg, at last -- we get lost in the city; finally, at 11:30, we see a direction marker for "Zeppelinfeld". All the parking spaces near the festival area are already taken; we find one about a mile away, grab our stuff, and head towards the arena.

My first impression: Huge grey concrete walls looming behind the merciful camouflage of trees... Gigantic. Rolled out barbed wire coils everywhere (to block unauthorized access to the festival grounds), viciously looking security guards in black leather garb with even more viciously looking German shepherd dogs (who can probably trace their ancestry back to "Blondie" or another dog owned by the "Fuehrer"...) with muzzles, behind the barbed wire -- bad vibes, "are we entering a
concentration camp?"

The main entrance -- myriads of people being herded through about five "cattle chutes", frisked for weapons and glass bottles, but the atmosphere changes -- the "bad vibes" are gone; people are joking, you make new acquaintances while waiting in the long lines in front of the entrance...

Finally, we're inside. The sight is amazing. In front of us are already about 30,000 to 50,000 people settled on their blankets, air mattresses, etc. on the level area in front of the stage which looks
tiny from the far end of what is only half of the huge area with its gigantomaniac architecture
(picture the chariot racing arena in the "Ben Hur" movie "times two" or even "three"... or watch Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will").

The other half of the area (behind the stage) is converted into an American type  sportsfield -- bleachers in the sun of the early July afternoon, standard baseball fields (used by the American troops stationed in
Nuremberg and therefore "Off-limits" for concert purposes).

Right behind us looms the most megalomaniac part of this place's architecture: The rostrum used by Hitler for his speeches, huge concrete "slabs"/"pillars" rising high behind it, a "tower" type building on either side -- all of it probably intended to "dwarf" the spectators, to imbue the feeling of "You are nothing, your people (and its glorious leader Adolf Hitler) are EVERYTHING." Threatening, intimidating....

We find some space to sit down at the foot of this concrete monster building, slightly higher than the level area in front of us so that our view towards the stage is not obstructed (we've got binoculars
hanging from our necks... but no jewels) -- not too far from the row of portable toilets (to our right), rather convenient in view of our supply of red wine in plastic bottles. The throng of people entering the area still seems endless....

The concert starts. We've made friends with the people near us, exchanged tobacco (and "wacky tobaccy") with them...

"Lake" -- a German/English group opens, followed by "Chicken Shack," a British blues-oriented group -- the stage is a rotating one, so while one act plays, the equipment for the next act is already being set up in the back -- then the rear part of the stage is then rotated to the front -- so the breaks between the
different acts are minimal -- very good planning, IMHO.

The first real "highlight" -- Eric Clapton with (most likely) Yvonne Elliman (Mary Magdalene of "Jesus Christ Superstar" movie fame) as background singer, who is featured as solo artist on a truly excellent "Can't Find My Way Back Home."

By now, I'm on one of the "towers" and have a unobstructed view over the whole area, as well as the area outside Zeppelinfeld -- there's an (obviously) man-made pond about 500 meters away and on the other side of this pond I see another gigantic (definitely Nazi-architecture) building....

The lines of people waiting to be admitted to the festival area are still long -- I've never seen that many people in my life. Clapton plays J.J. Cale's "Cocaine"....

Instead of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Champion Jack Dupree follows Clapton -- he is great, but as one critic later remarked (I'm quoting this from memory) it was somehow "like playing with marbles in a bull-fight arena." A great act, but somewhat out of place in front of this huge audience (70,000 or 80,000 by now) -- his intimate heart-felt blues more suited for a club atmosphere...

Finally, the moment I've anticipated for so long:
I'll be able to watch Bob Dylan perform in concert for the first time!

He opens with Tampa Red's "She's Love Crazy" -- a song I'm not familiar with at all. Then "Baby, Stop Crying" (by now, I know that one). "Mr. Tambourine Man" -- sounding rather strange in its 1978 arrangement --, "Shelter From The Storm" --- etc.

After "Going, Going, Gone" (song #12), Carolyn Dennis sings Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come", Helena Springs follows with "Love Minus Zero/No Limits", Steven Soles with "Laissez-Faire"....

In retrospect (almost 33 years ago), and re-listening to my CD-R copy of that concert last night, I
find Dylan's performance very spirited, very "exciting", as if the strange mood of this historical place had made him give his "utmost."

Instead of the "average" 26 to 27 songs on other 1978 European concerts, he performs 28 in his "main set" -- and he even makes a remark about the significance of this place when introducing "Masters of War".

Halfway through Dylan's set, I have finally made my way through the crowds to right in front of the stage, the barricades and "cattle chutes" at the entrance are removed -- everybody can come in for free now to watch the finale...

When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky: 
The two encores -- Eric Clapton joins Dylan onstage for "I'll Be your Baby Tonight" and "The
Times They Are A-Changin'" -- during the last song, "professional" fireworks go off behind the stage, the area in front of the stage is further illuminated by thousands of lights from flashlights, lighters, most likely U.S. Army issued "illumination grenades" in different colors (there are quite a few G.I.'s in the crowd...) etc. -- PURE MAGIC which lingers on for quite a while, even during the long trek back to our car!!!

Thank you, Bob, for the first of many unforgettable concert experiences! 

Bob Dylan's 1978 German tour -- Impressario Fritz Rau remembers

Excerpts from the long out-of-print book Fritz Rau: Buchhalter  der Traeume (Fritz Rau: Accountant of Dreams) by Kathrin Brigl and Siegfried Schmidt-Joos, Berlin: Quadriga, 1985),
translation and linking paragraphs by Manfred Helfert, 
audio files (interviews) © Manfred Helfert 2006:

Fritz Rau is negotiating the tour with Dylan's new manager, Jerry Weintraub, in Los Angeles. Weintraub invites him for dinner at his house where he meets Dylan for the first time:
"Now we're invited to Weintraubs', and suddenly Bob Dylan enters the room. 
Knowing his reputation of being rather taciturn, I wonder: What is he going to say? Probably he'll inquire about the tour deal again. 
Nothing in that vein: 'Fritz, I wanna talk to you about the American Folk Blues Festival of 1963.' 
During that year, by no means a super-star yet, he had hitchhiked through Europe and attended the
Blues Festival concert in Copenhagen. There, for the first time, he had been able to listen to blues artists live onstage whom he had hitherto only known as far away silhouettes.

He immediately starts a discussion whether it had been wise back then to start the concert with Sonny Boy Williamson's tiny blues harp. I was more concerned about the Dylan million-Dollar-tour and moved on to that as soon as possible. 

I told him that we had planned concerts for Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, Deutschlandhalle in Berlin and for Zeppelinfeld, Nuremberg , formerly known as 'Reichsparteitagsgelaende'.
Dylan shakes his head: 'I think, Nuremberg is the wrong place.' And then he talks of Leni Riefenstahl and her film 'Triumph of the Will', of Albert Speer and his gigantomaniac architecture. He knew all of  this and what 'Reichsparteitagsgelaende' stands for.
He ponders, and I realize that it is a tough decision for him. Suddenly, he smiles and nods. He instinctively understood why we wanted him to appear at that very location." (p. 209)

Following rather hostile pre-concert press coverage and booing of Dylan and his (black) background singers in Berlin, Dylan (according to Rau) is rather hurt:
"He raved about Berlin. He stated that Berlin had fascinated him and that he would like to live there for half a year. After the concert, he had  abandoned this intention. The city had hurt him too deeply. 
Traveling to Nuremberg, he was very silent and very reflective. This open air concert 1978 was the absolute highlight for all of our efforts. The year before, we had staged an open air concert with Santana, Chicago, Udo Lindenberg and others. We had built the stage onto the old Hitler rostrum, which still has not been blown up. But there were no good 'vibrations' in Professor Speer's aggressive architecture. That's why we had set up the stage exactly opposite this time..." (pp. 210-211)

Following Lake's, Chicken Shack's and Clapton's excellent sets, blues pianist Champion Jack Dupree is the last act before Dylan's is scheduled to appear:
"Bob Dylan is excited... sitting backstage while Champion Jack Dupree's piano is rolled offstage. 
'Fritz, I have to go on stage.' It is not a rebuke, rather a cry for help. He has to go out now. 
But  everything is ready for him. He dons his leather jacket, turns up the collar, and the very moment he enters the ramp, the overcast sky splits, with the setting sun illuminating this man..." (pp. 214-215) 

"Dylan is onstage, his tiny harmonica in front of his face, he sings three, four songs alone, and suddenly he gets the young black chorus singer upfront for a type of gospel song 
"Thank you, thank you very much! We got a young girl here tonight, in the group. I want you to listen to her sing. OK? She's gonna sing a song for you now, an old Sam Cooke song. You know who Sam Cooke is? This is Carolyn Dennis. Make her feel welcome, all right?"]...
Dylan still had not overcome Berlin. He wanted to show us: Look who I bring bring along, even the
background chorus.

Then Eric Clapton joined him... The sun went down and the dramatic atmosphere of the evening was enhanced by the night-fall and its lengthening of shadows. The stage was radiant with the brightness of the floodlights while the monstrous Hitler rostrum was swallowed by darkness.
We had prepared fireworks to go off during the second verse of  'Forever Young'... I was crying when Dylan went offstage. Like a world champion, he had fought for his audience, had given all of himself. But instead of walking away exhausted, he walks up to to me, grabs my arm and says: 'What's the matter, Fritz? Everything has been alright!'

Fritz Rau on the train ride in Goering's salon car (German language)

The following morning, we took a train to Paris. On the second evening, he phones me at my hotel room and asks 'Fritz, what happened in Nuremberg? I did not understand.' I told him: 'You should ask what happened in Nuremberg and in Berlin. Those belong together.' 
And I once more explained to him why we had set up his stage opposite the Hitler rostrum and that 80,000 Germans had turned their backs on Hitler and had turned to Bob Dylan and his music. 

He hesitated for a moment as if  reflecting on that. 
'Yes', he said before terminating the call, 'it could have been like that... possibly.' (pp. 216-217)

(mp3 - from 2006 Interview by Manfred Helfert - German language):

On Hostile Audience Reactions before Nuremberg
On Pre-Concert Neo Nazi Threats and Necessary Security at Nuremberg
-- maybe that's why Clinton Heylin feels the need to place Neo Nazis at the concert itself and to "spice up" his own writing with blatantly false info and sensationalist anti-German propaganda....
On the Nuremberg concert

No Neo Nazis Noted in Nuremberg -- is Clinton Heylin anti-German or just a sloppy researcher?

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of spending UKL 20.00 (plus shipping to Germany) on the "20th Anniversary Edition" of Clinton Heylin's Behind the Shades, only to be sorely disappointed (once again) by his rather sloppy research and his twisting of the truth to add sensationalist overtones to his (otherwise rather dull) writing.

In particular, I'm annoyed (and almost angered) by his perpetuated but outright false claim that at Dylan's July 01, 1978 concert at the Reichsparteitagsgelände (Nazi rallying arena) in Nuremberg (a concert I attended and have rather vivid and fond memories of)
"a couple of dozen neo-Nazis... threw things at him [Dylan] for his affrontery" (p. 483).

Heylin has consistently claimed this (without any substantiation other than his own perceived "expertise" he never gets tired of mentioning when- and wherever he can) as far back as Stolen Moments  -- but his claim has long been dismissed by several eyewitness accounts (not only by German attendants of this concert) in as far back as October 1997 -- why is he still perpetuating his false and totally unsubstantiated claim in his latest (allegedly updated) book fourteen years later?

Since he's the only "Dylan biographer" to claim this (as far as I know) and since all eyewitness accounts (of concert attendants like myself, but also of concert promoter Fritz Rau or Alex Conti of Lake whom I interviewed back in 2006) do NOT report any incident of that kind, Heylin's perpetuation of something long dismissed as blatantly untrue amounts to merely serving equally unfounded stereotypes and prejudices like "there's still a Nazi in every German", "Germans have not learned from history", etc. for the sake of sensationalism -- something I usually associate with sleazy tabloid journalism and not with "the most comprehensive and illuminating account... of one of the twentieth century's defining artists" (publisher's blurp).