Intervista a Sid Griffin

Pubblichiamo un'intervista a Sid Griffin, giornalista, Dylanologo di prim'ordine e  leader della band di bluegrass Coal Porters, realizzata in occasione della pubblicazione del suo libro dedicato alla Rolling Thunder Revue, “Shelter From The Storm” (Jawbone) 

how was that in the seventies Bob Dylan had 3 live album at short distance ?

I don't know. Certainly Hard Rain was a natural live album, he needed to document the Rolling Thunder Review and they recorded both Fort Worth and Fort Collins (this latter show is where the TV special Hard Rain is from) so with those tapes sitting there he had a live album ready to go. As you can read in my new book Shelter From The Storm engineer Don Meehan and producer Don DeVito assembled a new album, Hard Rain, and it came out and was a Top Twenty hit in the USA.

The next live album was Live At Budokan and that was, like the tour itself, because Dylan needed to get some income, get some cash flow going, as his film Renaldo & Clara had cost him a lot of money. It was an expensive film for one man to pay for, for Hollywood it would have been no big loss, but for one man it was a lot of money. He had to do that big band tour which started in Japan because he needed money to pay the bills. This is something documented by other Dylan writers too, it is nothing I am just guessing about, Ernesto.

is it natural to your knowledge?

Yes, absolutely. You know I have done so much research on Dylan I feel that I know him as a person a little bit but we have never met! I have met his manager, his friends like T-Bone Burnett and Roger McGuinn and Bob Neuwirth but I have never met Dylan and never expect to.

Budokan was something which went totally unexpected?

Budokan was planned. And in typical Dylan fashion there were much, much better shows on the tour they could have recorded but no, they recorded Budokan and it was not so great. But this period is the beginning of Dylan losing his muse again, of Dylan losing his spirit and his drive.

You described me RTR as "a circus". Few years before RTR good ol' Ronnie Lane traveled UK in a proprer circus tent. Any direct or indirect reference to that?

No, I don't think there is any direct reference to Ronnie Lane and I doubt Dylan would have known about the Ronnie Lane Passing Show anyway. But it is funny, Ronnie Lane was a friend of mine and I knew him pretty well. And as I just said I have never met Bob Dylan!

Which is the biggest legacy that RTR left in Bob Dylan himself if any?

I think the first Rolling Thunder Revue tour did two things for Dylan.
One, it was a dream he had for years. He had wanted to do that kind of tour for years and had talked about it to Robbie Robertson and Rick Danko many times on the 1974 World Tour with The Band.
Two, because he lost money due to the filming of Renaldo & Clara during the first Rolling Thunder tour it pushed him to the bigger arenas of the second Rolling Thunder tour. From 1976 for years and years he didn't do small shows anymore, he played arenas and basketball palaces and venues like that.

I think Rolling Thunder Revue is the last pure glimpse of 1960s rock stars doing 1960s idealism onstage. After that it was disco and punk and the music changed and names like McGuinn and Baez were not such big, legendary stars anymore. But the last gasp of the 1960s ideals were seen and heard with Rolling Thunder and then the realities of the music business caused them to be lost forever.

Considerin' he's an artist / he don't look back and condiering carefully your words on his ability on quantifying strategies, in you opinion, how difficult is for BD making new plans now?

In my opinion Dylan has been on a huge, successful run since Time Out Of Mine. I think people will look back and say Dylan's period from 1997 onwards was one of his best periods. He has done four great studio albums in a row, five if you count the Christmas album which I cannot count as I have never heard it. But certainly four great studio albums of original material in a row and he is to be admired so much for that. Like Nick Lowe, it is very late in the career for such a renaissance, but a renaissance it nonetheless is.

Which is in your opinion his net big move, if any?

I think he is like an old bluesman now. He does about 100 shows a year and seems to not want to slow down. I admire that a lot, I haven't seen him play in a few years and I really should go to a show again. If he would only do a bluegrass album I could die a happy man!

Ernesto De Pascale

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