Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Tangled Up in Bob

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Tangled Up in Bob

Article excerpt

In 1986, Bob Dylan sat in his trailer, his face worn and his nose running. It was early evening, just bright enough to inspire the singer to pick up a pen and start a scratchy portrait of his latest media adversary, standing opposite him--a BBC interviewer called Christopher Sykes. "I'm not going to say anything you're gonna get any revelations about," he warned, his attention divided between doodle and interlocutor. Sykes, undeterred, asked Dylan about his fans' conviction that he had all the answers--that he was "some kind of shaman". A withering glance. "Shaman? I don't know," Dylan replied. "I don't like that scene."

By the mid-1980s, Dylan had long been playing down the notion that he

was the "voice of a generation"; as early as 1965 he was exhausted by the "fancy labels" the media would place on him. "They got all these preconceived ideas about me," he moaned. His often desperate attempts to shed that burden ranged from expressing identification with Lee Harvey Oswald while accepting a civil liberties award, weeks after JFK's assassination, to releasing a deliberately patchy album "to get people off my back". "The reason [1970's Self Portrait] was put out [was] so people would ... stop buying my records," he later confessed.

Such strategies failed in the long run. "Don't follow leaders," he snarled in one lyric. "Trust yourself," he exhorted in another. But as David Kinney confirms in his new book, The Dylanologists, the singer's biggest fans are only too willing to be led. …

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