April 20, 2006

"Theme Time Radio Hour With Your Host Bob Dylan."

I'm glad Bob Dylan's XM Radio show is finally going to debut (on May 3rd), but what's with the title? Well, he is going to have themes. The first one is "weather" -- which seems like some vague nod to "you don't need a weatherman" and "blowin' in the wind." Then on to such startling topics as "dance," "police," "cars" and "whiskey."
Bootlegged whiskey in his hand...

The whiskey's in the jar and the money's in the bank...

Don't need a shot of whiskey, help me be president....

I'm gonna buy me a barrel of whiskey - I'll die before I turn senile...

Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk,
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread,
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed...

You're going to have to play something.

UPDATE: I have a lot more to say about the show -- which I love! -- here.


Mark Daniels said...

I'm sure that the show is going to be iconoclastically and defiantly weird. That's as it should be, coming from Dylan.

Dylan being Dylan, my guess is that he won't confine the musical explorations of the themes to his own songs. Can't you just imagine him, during his weather-themed installment, for example, playing 'Stormy Weather" by Lena Horne or "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles. (The latter composed by his buddy, George Harrison, of course.)

If he's true to form, Dylan won't talk politics when he gets to his police-themed show. But I can imagine him playing 'Tweeter and the Monkey Man' from the first 'Traveling Wilburys' LP. Or, 'Hurricane,' which appeared on 'Desire' and he co-wrote with Jacques Levy. (And picking up on the theme-theme, he might also run a succession of theme songs from police shows: Dragnet; Car 54, Where Are You?; Law and Order (all fifty-seven variations thereof); and so on.

And cars? Songs by the Cars, the Beach Boys talking about their little deuce coupe, and the song, 'Cars' and 'Radar Love' have to be included, don't they? (All because Dylan's type is to go against type.)

I expect Dylan to do some strange things on this show.

For total weirdness, I can imagine him doing an interview and a duet with Michael Bolton, with whom he has co-written some stuff.

And, given that he's an admirer of Sinatra's, the show could really be spiced up by his doing a Nat and Natalie-style duet with Ol' Blue Eyes. "That's why the lady is a tramp..."

Too bad that I can't get XM radio.

Mark Daniels

Beth said...

I already do this with iTunes; it's fun to make a Smart Playlist using a word that comes to mind, and see what turns up in the shuffle.

bill said...

Elizabeth, from September, I offer you Songs for Arsonists

Hamsun56 said...

There's a slightly cheesy promo for the radio program at:
You need to click "Play" on the radio.
Dylan, himself, even does a couple lines of hype.

Troy said...

Dylan may be a Thin Lizzy fan, in which case "Whiskey in the Jar" and "Jail Break" will work just fine for him.

Mark Daniels said...

Once again, Ann, I note a disparity in commenting I wouldn't have anticipated. This makes six for Dylan's radio show, while the 100 unsexiest men in the world has so far elicited 34.

Is this more a measure of indifference to Dylan or the joy people feel in disdaining people's sexual appeal or both?


Beth said...

Bill, what a great list. Nine are in my iTunes library, and I'll be tracking down the rest.

J. Peden said...

Copper Kettle, on Self Portrait, traditional:

My Daddy, he made whiskey
My Grand Daddy, he did too
We ain't paid no whiskey tax since 1792

Beth said...

Mark, after his creepy Victoria's Secret ads, Dylan should be on that list of unsexy men--I didn't look, but now I will. Would such a convergence spark more interest?

Hamsun56 said...

There's a link and password to hear the first Dylan Radio show at: www.expectingrain.com

Just listened to it and enjoyed it. Dylan seemed a bit stiff to start with but he loosened up after a few song intros. The playlist is quirky and eclectic - Hendrix followed by Judy Garland and Stevie Wonder singing in Italian.

Dylan was at his best giving anecdotes about the songs & singers and quoting the lyrics he liked.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks a lot, Andrew. I listened and enjoyed the mix of songs. I was, however, disappointed to hear that Dylan was merely reading a script. I doubt if he wrote it. It's full of biographical facts about the artists. Dylan isn't really DJ-ing. He just sat down at a mike and read some pages, in a stiff voice that makes it clear he's only reading.

Hamsun56 said...

Ann, I agree that it sounds like he is reading a script at times. According to the Guardian he is not really DJ-ing, just sending in some narration that XM fits around the music. This must hinder the rhythm and spontaneity that comes with real time DJ-ing.

"He has been provided with a digital recording kit so that he can present the hour-long programme from home, studio or tour bus. He sends a playlist to XM Satellite Radio's researchers, who then assemble the music around his narration.

RWB said...

While Dylan's remarks are clearly prepared (though I wouldn't say "stiff"), there is absolutely zero chance that somebody else wrote them for him. (It's funny: people speculated that "Chronicles" was ghostwritten too.) He loves this music, and the stories he's telling, including biographical trivia, are things he's picked up along the way, and they mean something to him. It's not like he doesn't read music biographies and histories. He's been in the music biz for over 40 years, and he's been a fan for 20 more years than that. Read interviews he's done and it's clear what a knowledgeably afficionado he is, of a really broad range of stuff. He's doing this radio gig to share that lifelong love of music and lifelong love of music trivia, if you want to call it that.

Otherwise there would be no point. If it were just money he wanted, he could sell a few more songs to Victoria's Secret, or whoever, and not have to make all this effort.

Ann Althouse said...

RWB: I disagree. Did you listen to the show? The facts have a canned bio feel. He may write some of it, but he has assistance. Why would he do it? To put his name out there, to reach people. Why does he tour constantly? He's a weird guy. I thought he would talk off the top of his head, but it's clearly pre-written. I'm disappointed. Why did he need to do that? I'd rather hear his idle chatter, even if it's stupid. I want to hear him talk so I can be close to his mind. That requires natural speech. I think he wants attention, but he's also a little afraid. He wants to be with us, but not really.

Frank Incensed said...

This is gonna sound like a weird ego trip, but Ive done a show like this for 6 years on the net & on lpfm stations in Ohio, Chicago & Ashville N. Carolina. My show is called Gawkers & Pedestrians with Frank Incensed. Check out my stream at www.pirateradio.com I will put my show up against Dylans any day. Here is the discription of my show from myspace.com/frankincensed

Join Frank Incensed, The Jah of Genre and sample my eclectic ear candy for the discriminating listener. If you want to hear a totally unique mix of music, listen to Gawkers & Pedestrians on Radio Free Canton, Fridays @ 9pm, Saturdays @ 4pm, Tuesdays @ 7pm, & Thursdays @ 2pm. My mixes include everything including the kitchen sink. Punk, Skronk, Jazz, Blues, Spoken, Poetry, Opera, Electronica, Avant Gardisms, you never know what you might hear. Usually the shows riff on a general theme, and build mixes of music around that theme, any subject is fair game for one of my mega mixes. If you have a suggestion for a theme, email me & I will create it. You can view my weekly set list at www.radiofreecanton.net. I have been on Radio Free Canton, creating radio works of art since Sept. 2000. You can also hear Gawkers & Pedestrians in Chicago on Redline Radio 99.1 Saturday night at midnight. You can hear archived shows anytime by going to www.pirateradio.com. Click music, alternative, Gawkers & Pedestrians, or simply access the link via www.radiofreecanton.net

RWB said...

Ann: Yes, I listened to the show. Dylan is having fun playing the role of a DJ, and it obviously amuses him to put on the voice and recite what in some instances sounds like "canned bio" trivia. Just like the retro jingles that pop up during the hour, it's a throwback vibe. But I'm certain that these things are not being written for him. They echo in some cases things he wrote in "Chronicles" and observations he's made in interviews. As to your preference for him "talking off the top of his head," -- that would make sense if it were a genuine live show. But if you're recording something, and it has a theme and a concept, and you know what you want to put across, then it's only natural to prepare remarks to some extent. It's only a one hour show. Would it be better to fumble through it, or prepare and say what you really want to say?

He's talking to an imaginary person; maybe a little boy huddled under his covers with a radio, out in some cold bleak northern state, who has never heard this music before, and whose imagination is fired by the sounds and stories of these great musicians.

RWB said...

Ann: As to that part about wanting to hear him talk naturally and "be close to his mind;" you can want it -- lots of people want it -- but if Dylan's career to date tells us anything, it's that it ain't going to happen. He's a performer and a writer and he is deliberate about what he puts out there for the public. He's not going to cry on the Barbara Walters show, for instance. His personal self is for family and friends. And yet, he's written some of the most penetrating and heart wrenching songs anyone could ever hear. He's naked in those songs, even if he's not giving you his autobiography in them. I think he feels he gives enough that way, and, indeed, doesn't he?

Ann Althouse said...

RWB: Well put.

It may be that he's extra prepared for the first show that is offered up to the critics and that he'll loosen up later.

I don't quite buy the theory that he's imitating old radio guys, because he's not doing a "radio voice" (which, I might add, is the bane of many a podcast!).

And let me just say again that the mix of recordings selected is really, really good. I'll definitely keep listening.

Hamsun56 said...

Hi Ann,
I know this thread is dead, but since a post here comes to your attention, I'll pass on this link to a NYT article that indicates to me that Dylan is writing most of the narrative for the radio show. Perhaps he is being sent some background stuff, but many of the comments are too idiosyncratic for a researcher to impose on Dylan.

I suspect that Dylan even wrote one of the "emails" to him - this reads like something Dylan would say:

"Today's e-mail comes from John Rudolph. ... He writes, "Dear Bob: I've got a hammerhead of a mother-in-law, an ugly, evil-lookin' old woman, so pitiful. She's careworn, drawn and pinched — gaunt and lank. I bought her a new chair, but she won't let me plug it in. She belittles me, depreciates me, disparages me. She downgrades me, berates me, censures me and condemns me, libels me and raps me, dismisses me and rejects me. Could you please play a song for her?" Well, thanks for the letter, John. Your wish is our command."

Notice how "hammerhead" ties into a lyric he quoted in the program: "Mama get the hammer, there's a fly on baby's head." I doubt that's a coincidence.


zookie said...

Great blog. I have been listening to Theme Time for about 6 months and Dylan seems to have lightened up as time has gone on (you can tell by the tone of voice when he is enjoying himself!) Most of the time he is having a right laugh with the emails and messages!

It is a classic show... although some of the chosen songs (especially country) are a little dodgy! Some of the classic blues stuff he plays is mint though...

Please feel free to check out my Dylan blog if you are interested!