When a public personality who doesn’t have some physical impairment yet otherwise can’t get much of a job in the public eye finds him- or herself in this sitatuion and thinks that eating and paying the rent are good thing, that person tends to go to something like “Dancing With the Stars” or one of those lemming-like shows on VH1. It may be pathetic. But it pays the bills.
A newer venue for those whose star is fading is satellite radio. Seemingly, those Space Cadet Companies have an endless source of money to match their bandwidth. They’ve discovered that it is necessary to find any and all means to fill in the time that people are paying for who otherwise might just say “screw it” and turn on a terrestrial system, especially those who have discovered that they are sick and tired of hearing commercials for going to their PC and the like, commercials that have all of the intrinsic interest and quality of those shown on cable TV stations that few ever venture to.
Which brings me to Bob Dylan and the “Theme Time Radio Hour.” Yes, I know that his Modern Times disc is doing remarkably well sales-wise. Good for Bob. But his radio program is pathetic, as he rolls out patter that sounds like it was scripted by a writer of ’50s pulp detective fiction—regardless of the “theme.” Sure, Bob can pull out some rather arcane tunes. So can Dr. Demento. This is what the voice of several generations has come to?
All of which is to make Forever Young: Photographs of Bob Dylan with 75 shots by Douglas R. Gilbert and text by Dave Marsh (Da Capo Press; $18.95) all the more poignant. Here are pictures of Dylan from 1964, when he was bumping around in Woodstock and New York appearing at Newport, hanging with Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and John Sebastian and Joan Baez, when he had the cheap wine/cigarette/black-on-black ethos that took him from being a folk musician to something that is sui generis. As he himself wrote:
May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
Apparently those winds have blown him somewhere else. Here’s hoping he doesn’t start thinking about dancing.
To get a bit of a feel for the type of music Bob’s playing on his radio show (without the corny patter), one fan created the Un-themed Time Radio Hour on Pandora by entering the artists and songs on Bob’s playlists. Listen.