Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hark! the Heralded Dylan Sings

Andrew Ferguson takes down Bob Dylan a notch or two. Okay, a lot of notches:
If you needed more evidence, the release this month of Bob Dylan's Christmas album, Christmas in the Heart, should close the case. Dylan fans are like Baby Huey dolls, those inflatable figures with the big red nose and the rounded bottom, weighted so that when you punch them--punch hard, punch with all your might--they bounce right back, grinning the same frozen, unchangeable grin.

We can only make a guess how Bob Dylan truly feels about his fans. But it can be a good, strong guess. He's been punching those Baby Hueys for a long time, hard.

It's not too unusual for a performer to lack respect for his most worshipful admirers; he hears himself as they do not, knowing how far short of his hopes his performance invariably falls, despite their wild applause. Sometimes an artist will even hold his audience in contempt, though he's careful, for business reasons, to keep the contempt at least thinly concealed; Abstract Expressionist painters come to mind. But not since Don Rickles at the height of his powers--the second greatest artist of the past 50 years, some believe--has a performer taken delight in actively abusing the people who pay money to enjoy his act. And when Rickles did it, the people were supposed to laugh, and did. When Dylan does it, the fans pull their chins and think hard. Then they pop right back, Baby Huey-like, and start explaining.

Ferguson is only getting warmed up so read the whole thing.

This kind of things is hard for a fan like me to take but, well, the truth hurts, doesn't it? Dylan's best work is far behind him and when something contemporary of his comes up on the shuffle play mode of my iPod, I find myself gritting my teeth to get through it. He's become a chore to listen to and no artist should get to that point.

No, I won't be buying his Christmas album. Sure, I think the man's an American original and much of what he does amuses me but I have no explanation for this. Sorry, Bob.


  1. Great posting, Peter!

    Listening to a Bob Dylan Christmas album makes about as much sense as a Pat Boone singing heavy metal.

    It just ain't right.

  2. Thanks, Michael! Hard to tell which is worse - Pat Boone or Bob. Though at least Boone doesn't seem to have recorded his album because of contempt for his audience. Seems more of a misguided attempt to reach out to the "kids."