Dylan in concert and a non-Jungian synchronicity that makes me smile

Last night was the first night of Bob Dylan’s tour of the Far East and Australasia.

On Friday, here and elsewhere, I published an article which argued that more care and consideration should be shown in our critiques of Dylan’s art when we considered his albums and his live performances and argued that at a very minimum we should use his written lyrics as a lexicon to try analyse who he is and what he is speaking about:

If you haven’t read it already you can see it here:

https://twilightdawning.com/2018/07/26/bob-dylan-sloppy-analysis-and-hearing-what-we-want-to-hear/

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Bob Dylan – “Saved” reassessed.

I was in my mid-teens when “Saved” was released. I’d just begun to discover Bob Dylan’s music around then but, to be honest, I was far more interested in albums like “The Times They Are A-Changin'” than “Saved” or “Slow Train Coming”. I’d caught on to the singles from “Street Legal” via Annie Nightingale’s radio show but really nothing else of his contemporary work was even on my radar. From “…Changin'”, I made the predictable moves to “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde” and for me Dylan was an interesting master songwriter from the 1960s.

I could be seen around college with a copy of “Writings and Drawings” under my arm but even in that my interest faded after the “John Wesley Harding” album.

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Christmas in the Heart – Third Time Around

My friends just don’t get it – not even my Dylan-fan friends – but I remain fascinated by the 2009 release “Christmas in the Heart“.

It seems to me to be one of the consummate Christmas albums for several reasons which I will list below. I’ve written about this album on two occasions before –  most recently here:

https://twilightdawning.com/2012/12/03/dylan-in-advent-a-second-look-at-christmas-in-the-heart

But here’s my reasons that this is a classic of the seasonal kind:

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Stay with Me, Otto Preminger, Bob Dylan and The Cardinal, oh and Batman.

When I was a young child I remember seeing Otto Preminger play Mr Freeze in the ‘Batman’ TV series, a role he shared with George Sanders (who I would later enjoy seeing in earlier films as Simon Templar, the Saint) and Eli Wallach. I didn’t realise then that I would later come to appreciate his work as a director greatly. Films like Fallen Angel, The Man with the Golden Arm, Anatomy of a Murder, Laura and Angel Face are amongst my favourites of his. He challenged many taboos in the cinema and directed in a way that used lighting and musical soundtrack to wonderful effect.

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A Byrd in Flight – Eight Miles High

Who: Roger McGuinn (An Evening with Roger McGuinn – solo , mostly acoustic)

Where: Cadogan Hall, London (Just off Sloane Square)

When: 26th September 2014

I last saw Roger McGuinn in concert in 1987. He was third on the bill behind Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and headliner Bob Dylan on “The Temples in Flames” tour as it stopped off in Birmingham at the NEC. Dylan was having an off night and McGuinn’s set was, for me, the highlight of a concert I wouldn’t choose to revisit.

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Bob Dylan – The Curse of Celebrity and the Cross of Christ

(This was the original title. When it was published elsewhere, my editor chose to retitle the piece “Bob Dylan: The Spiritual Journey of a 20th Century Icon” which was not what I wanted AND rather seemed to miss my point)

When Leon Patillo was converted in the late seventies, the Christian music industry and its press was full of the news of the conversion of “Santana’s lead singer”. Those who are familiar with the music of Santana will know that the band revolves around and is named for its guitarist and has used a mammoth amount of vocalists over the last 30 years. But the facts don’t always get in the way of Christian reporting and a good story when it sees one.

Patillo may now only merit a footnote in the history of Contemporary Christian music but his launch into the Christian marketplace and its subculture was indicative of something that was going to happen time and time again in the late 70s and early 80s. The church had come to believe that celebrity converts in some ways added to the validity of the gospel. Perhaps if it waved the flag hard enough and high enough and showed that someone famous believed then those who didn’t would be persuaded by celebrity testimony.

Perhaps it was symptomatic of the times. It was the opening of an era in church life which was heavily influenced by the Vineyard fellowship, John Wimber and his teachings. The argument went something like this – if people see marvellous works of God then they would be persuaded of the validity of the gospel and accept Christ. Leaving aside troubling comments of Christ that suggested it was an adulterous generation that looked for a sign and that people would not be persuaded even if someone was raised from the dead, whatever the weaknesses of the theology and the theory of the church, the Vineyard movement would make a lasting impression on the church for the next two decades, until the passing of Wimber, its most persuasive advocate.

Which brings us to Bob Dylan. Not only was Dylan the height of the cult of the celebrity convert, his conversion occurred whilst he was under the auspices of the Vineyard movement. After his conversion, Dylan immediately began to record exclusively gospel songs and began to perform in concert in a way that was out of keeping with the first twenty years of his career. Someone who previously had needed to be encouraged to say “Thank You” between songs and who evaded questions presented by the press, now began to preach sermons about Armageddon and give interviews about his new found faith. Sometimes he was booed and heckled whilst on stage whilst others talked about it all being “a phase”. In 1982, he reverted to type refusing to talk about much of anything once more. He left Vineyard, began to study Scripture, occasionally with the Jewish Lubavitch sect, and declined to host a gospel music awards show. The church that had a use for Dylan’s celebrity now had no use for him. His 1983 album “Infidels” was searched by the Christian press for the expected disowning of the Christian faith and when none came the religious press paid less and less attention to each subsequent Dylan album. The Dylan Christian era was over, it seemed.

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