"My Back Pages..."

"My Back Pages..."
Reviewer: SteveJ
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Together Through Life:
A Personal Journey with the Music of Bob Dylan
170 pages
May 24, 2016
ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:

Veteran journalist and critic looks back at his intense half-century-long relationship with the music of Bob Dylan.

Here’s the bad news, Dylan fans; it’s too late. Chris Morris beat you to the book each of you thought about writing. You know, the one where you trace your years through the Dylan catalog. Dylan is the perfect (only?) artist to do this with; there’s been no one more mercurial, ahead of the curve, brilliant, lazy and frustrating to tie yourself to.

Morris  — a longtime music journalist and critic — first conceived the project as way to clear a psychological block while working on his excellen Los Lobos’ bio, Dream In Blue. The project was originally featured as “A Dylan a Day” on his Tumblr site and then gained a life of its own on the author's Facebook page, where friends would post their own comments and thoughts. A friend convinced him it would make a great book and, although Dylan has a sizable catalogue, the book is a short read if you simply sit down and read it all the way through. Perhaps his once a day posts were a more ideal format, making the reader wait and “tune in” to each installment, some depressing, others hilarious.

There’s a bit of an age difference between the author and I, and as I got deeper into the book I realized how important that was. Morris, older than I, was introduced to Dylan real time; I would be playing catch up to his catalogue up until the Eighties. I was a punk rock kid who discovered Dylan, Morris a longtime Dylan fan who became disengaged and found punk rock filled his increasingly frustrating Dylan-less void. It’s a crucial distinction; I was at a much, much different place than the author in the discovery — personally and musically —process.

There’s some dark personal shit here — breakups, divorce, breakups — as well as the pure joy inherent in finding great music. Ever the critic, I laughed out loud at several of Morris’ album/chapter opening lines, mostly Dylan’s later titles. On Shot Of Love, Morris writes “It was a mess, possibly as messy as the inside of Dylan’s head when it was written and recorded.” (I love it, especialy the cover art.) And "Down In The Groove had no real reason to exist.” (Except for "Ninety Miles an Hour Down A Dead End Street" and "Rank Strangers To Me".) "Things can’t bode well for Bob Dylan at Budokan when “I bought this fucking thing as an import at Tower Records” are your first memories of that record (it does suck hard, by the way).

But then consider “What an elegant and accomplished thing this record is” when describing Time Out Of Mind or calling Oh Mercy “one of the handful of albums I am truly grateful for.” There’s always a backstory. However, we’re going to have to agree to disagree that “conceptually, Christmas in the Heart will endure as one of the perfect works of the 21st century.”

Fans of Dylan will undoubtedly get a kick out of this book. Fans of Chris Morris doubly so…


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