Well, what we should have foreseen as the inevitable has happened: last night, while unwinding after a busy day of driving, baby-watching and preparing for our separate holiday departures, the wife and I were watching a little TV and we got roped in to Bravo’s culinary reality show Top Chef. After the emotional trauma that is Project Runway, we’d been doubters about Top Chef. Fashion can be judged simply by appearance, food isn’t quite like that. You gots to taste it. Still, there are enough operatic personalities, brooding geniuses and annoying assholes on the show to keep you interested.
At any rate, it might be a source of shame, regret and concern to now be potentially hooked to another empty TV show, but it wasn’t a total wash. During the show I was looking at the January issue of Mojo, which has, you won’t be surprised to learn, yet another Bob Dylan cover. Mojo rates the entire Dylan catalog, which is pretty funny. It won’t be too much of a spoiler to reveal that Dylan and the Dead comes in last place (even after Down in the Groove!). I remember seeing in interview with Bob Weir where someone was asking him about that tour with Dylan and the interviewer said "I think that may have been the worst record that either the Dead or Dylan had ever done." Weir was a pretty good sport about it, laughing and laughing.
Aside from all that, the Mojo has a couple nice small artist essays about their favorite Dylan discs: Ray Lamontagne made me want to go listen to New Morning again right away. And Cat Power wins even more respect by waxing at length about the genius of Desire.
But what really got me cracking up was the little write-up about the making of Blonde on Blonde, which charts the ups and downs, frustrations and near breakdowns leading to its recording. There’s a snippet of an Nat Hentoff interview with Dylan that appeared in Playboy. I’m sure it’s not new to Dylanologists, but Dylan’s explanation of the endless question, why he switched from folkie to leather-clad rocker, is worth quoting at length:
"I lost my one true love. I started drinking. The first thing I know, I’m in a card game. Then I’m in a crap game. I wake up in a pool hall. Then this big Mexican lady drags me off the table, take me to Philadelphia. She leaves me alone in her house, and it burns down ..."
The article continues, with Dylan explaining how he got a job as a Chinaman, survived a house fire, witnessed a stabbing and shacked up with a teacher who invented a refrigerator that could turn newspaper into lettuce.(!)
This was enough to make me want to go and finish listening to the MP3 of Bob Fass’s radio show Radio Unnamable, on which Dylan appeared in 1966. The New Yorker ran a great story about Fass and his show. And they had an audio file of the show available on the New Yorker web site. I don’t think that either the article or the audio file is still up though. The radio show is an hour long, I seem to be having some difficulty posting it, perhaps because of the length/size. I’ll keep trying.
Editor's Note: They're on the New Yorker website. Click HERE.