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Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?

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Little Hawk 05 Jan 12 - 12:07 PM
Acorn4 05 Jan 12 - 12:19 PM
Amos 05 Jan 12 - 12:55 PM
Pete Jennings 05 Jan 12 - 01:19 PM
GUEST,999 05 Jan 12 - 01:23 PM
Little Hawk 05 Jan 12 - 01:40 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 05 Jan 12 - 01:45 PM
Jim Carroll 05 Jan 12 - 02:53 PM
Dave Sutherland 05 Jan 12 - 03:17 PM
Little Hawk 05 Jan 12 - 03:22 PM
Lonesome EJ 05 Jan 12 - 03:34 PM
Richard Bridge 05 Jan 12 - 03:36 PM
GUEST,SirCoughsalot 05 Jan 12 - 03:51 PM
Jim McLean 05 Jan 12 - 03:51 PM
Big Al Whittle 05 Jan 12 - 04:10 PM
Little Hawk 05 Jan 12 - 04:50 PM
melodeonboy 05 Jan 12 - 05:35 PM
Little Hawk 05 Jan 12 - 06:07 PM
Richard Bridge 05 Jan 12 - 06:22 PM
Acorn4 05 Jan 12 - 06:28 PM
Stringsinger 05 Jan 12 - 07:04 PM
Acorn4 05 Jan 12 - 07:16 PM
Big Al Whittle 05 Jan 12 - 07:27 PM
Greg B 05 Jan 12 - 10:14 PM
2581 05 Jan 12 - 10:22 PM
Ron Davies 05 Jan 12 - 10:31 PM
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GUEST,999 05 Jan 12 - 10:54 PM
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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 12:07 PM

Arguments always balloon out of all proportion on Mudcat, Big Al. ;-D

Regarding the fat, bearded, ruddy-faced lot and their contempt for singer-songwriters...

Yes! Some of them were singer-songwriters themselves, EM included. In that case there was an exemption from the usual serving of contempt. In other words, if you were a member of the incestuous little in-group to which those fellows belonged then you could be a singer-songwriter and still be respected for it.

If you weren't, then watch out!

In the mid-60s the young Bob Dylan remarked to some reporter who had asked him if he was a folksinger: "When I hear the word 'folksinger' I think of a bunch of fat, old people sitting around in a circle playing guitars".

At the time he said it Dylan was a thin, intense young man with a very sharp tongue and no hesitation to use it. He was well accustomed to being an inconoclast and rattling people's cages. He was arrogant, sharp as a tack, and pretty damn hard on certain people who were around him.

Anyway...I know what he had in mind when he made that statement. Now all of us who were young then are old....most of us are fat...and we're sitting around in a circle playing guitar! ;-D Funny, ain't it?


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Acorn4
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 12:19 PM

These days the fat old men tend to go for Martins, the intense young men for Takamines!!


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Amos
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 12:55 PM

It is interesting, the sort of snobbism that greets Dylan. It strikes me that my earlier point about the disconnect between the British idiom and the American idiom, born out of very different histories and inevitably different icons resulting therefrom, is very much to the point. Dylan's adopted metier, following Guthrie, is very much a blend of the American threads and styles, the road-walker, day-worker, blues-infected cowboy-dreamer, Kerouacian wanderer, singing the song of Self writ large in big country. If you were not suckled on Carl Sandburg and SHorty Badger and Bessie Smith, you would be hard put to understand the flavors that made Dylan rich. And rich he was, I assert, regardless of the fact (which I think EM was also objecting to) that his was an elective identity, cultivated and pursued as a career, rather than an organic identity born in a wild heather patch or shepherd's watch somewhere.

The British traditional threads that culminated in EM's brilliance respect different virtues--musically different, lyrically rich but in different dimensions of meaning, and informed by a very different set of attitudes, grown in a different country with a different scale to it. What McColl was probably reacting to in his snippy way was this collision of worlds, and I suspect it made him feel uneasy, if not threatened.

A


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Pete Jennings
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 01:19 PM

I think most of Dylan's work is great and I think most of MacColl's work is great. And I'm nearly 60, clean-shaven, not fat and I've got two Martins AND a Takamine.

I'm going for a lie down. Or a large scotch. Or both.

LOL.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 01:23 PM

"and we're sitting around in a circle playing guitar!"

That way one is assured a round of applause. (Drum roll, please.)


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 01:40 PM

That was an excellent and insightful post, Amos.

Pete - Aha! You're an exception. So am I. I'm 63, clean-shaven, not fat, and I have both Martin and Taylor guitars at present...mostly play the Martin HD-28.

I grew up on the North American folk tradition as presented by: The Weavers, Burl Ives, Peter Paul & Mary, Kingston Trio, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Gordon Lightfoot, Ian & Sylvia, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, and numerous others. Also listened to Donovan quite a bit. And Al Stewart. They were from the UK. Had one Ewan MacColl record I really liked. But most of the people who influenced me strongly were from either Canada or the USA.

Amos has described perfectly the rural American foundation that Bob Dylan's early period of work was based upon....wanderers, labourers, mountain people, cowboys, and intinerant Black blues musicians...all that rich tapestry of the old frontier and prewar America.

It was a very different zeitgeist from the one MacColl grew up with, and it embodied very different styles of manner and delivery. It's not that surprising that MacColl thought Dylan's rough-hewn Guthrie-inspired mannerisms were a load of rubbish...but the young Bob Dylan was absolutely in love with what Guthrie had done. He evoked that style in every way he could because he loved it and identified with it, and there's nothing wrong with that, is there?

As far as I can see, Dylan always played the type of music he most wanted to play because that fulfilled him at the time. It was a totally personal journey, not an attempt to be a leader of some sort. You cannot do better than play the music you love the most at the time, and that's what he did. That music kept changing because he kept changing. He was not content to remain in one single place for his entire life, but kept moving on to new things. That upset people. Well, I think he made the right decision. He was true to himself.

As for those who wish to remain exactly the same forever and ever...there's a place waiting for them in Madam Tussaud's Wax Museum. ;-D


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 01:45 PM

I'm not sure how anyone could criticise Peggy Seeger's banjo playing! I love that frailed banjo sound and it was Peggy's playing that first drew me to it. As far as I'm concerned she's still the greatest.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 02:53 PM

"In that case there was an exemption from the usual serving of contempt."
Do you have any actual examples of MacColl's "contempt" for singer/songwriters? I can offer 20 odd editions of 'The New City Songester' that Peggy amassed newly composed songs for, from Britain, Ireland, The States, Australia, Canada..., from friends and from strangers, (some of whom have posted on Mudcat) - songs which otherwise would never have seen the light of day.
I have to say I owe you my thanks - it's small-minded bile like yours that makes me realise just how lucky I was to have met MacColl and Seeger and been a beneficiary of their open handedness - while it is wee jobbies like your good self who would have driven me away from the music long ago.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:17 PM

"MacColl has been dead now for 22 years - he was cremated and his ashes scattered over the location of one of his favourite hill-walks
Perhaps you might catch his spirit, put it in a bottle and then subject it to what you have in mind during one of these corpse-kicking exercises"
Jim, please don't include me in this.
Although my posts, in response to the original question, are mainly made up of reports of the disregard in which Ewan held Bob Dylan I can only go back to my original offering and repeat that during MacColl's constant denigration of Dylan's work I was in an awkward position as I would then, and to this day, stand up to my neck in pig shit to listen to either of them (no disrespect to some of the folk clubs in which I have seen Ewan ;-) ).
His ashes, so I read, were scattered on Bleaklow, unfortunately not on Thorpe Cloud that he mentions in "Journeyman", since I was up there on Royal Wedding day last year. Mind I was listening to Bob Dylan on the i-pod at the time.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:22 PM

I have no idea if Ewan MacColl himself showed a general contempt toward singer-songwriters outside his immediate style of music, Jim. I wasn't speaking of him. I never met him. I was theorizing that he might have held such an attitude, but I can't say for sure, not having known the man.

I was speaking of a few little groups of UK-origin folkies who ran a handful of clubs in Toronto, Canada when I was a youngster, and describing the shitty attitude they had toward anyone who wasn't in their tight little in-group. They were approximately one generation older than me, so I'd say they were in MacColl's age group. Whether he shared their general snottiness, I can't say.

I like the traditional music of the British Isles and Ireland. I like it very much. I happily accompany people who play it. What I didn't like was the holier-than-thou attitude of people in those Toronto clubs I alluded to above who didn't seem to respect anything except the traditional music of the British Isles and Ireland. They were intolerant of any style or tradition but their own. They assumed a superiority over other styles and traditions. That strikes me as a mean and immature attitude based on either arrogance or deep insecurity or a sense of entitlement. One often sees such musical prejudice in adolescents, but people should be able to get over that sort of narrow insularity by the time they reached adulthood, I'd hope.

And why would anything "drive you away from the music?" I can't imagine anything that would dive me away from it.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:34 PM

Both Amos and Little Hawk seem to be on target for the crux of the artistic disagreement that gave rise to this thread. No need to denigrate MacColl or Dylan for any issues they had 45 years ago. Their work shares a place in the archives for those of us who love folk music, and the highest tribute we can pay the both of them is to play Dirty Old Town and Blowin in the Wind in the same session.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:36 PM

I don't see anything much in the Dylan I have from time to time been forced to listen to that recalls Guthrie's inspired political song. I do hear quite a bit of "oh it's not fair your mum and dad they fuck you up and the world will be better when I rule it".

Neither of course are folk song.

The sense of entitlement that LH abhors may well have been born out of the fact that English language folk song was born in the UK - and was part of the patrimony of those he found boring.

That's not to say that there can't be good contemporary songs. There are many. But I'd have thought it appropriate at least if going to a folk club to sing a folk song or two to establish one's bona fides, before doing something else - no matter how brilliant.

Going and raiding folk songs (EG Nottamun Town) to write an "original song" "Masters of War" using its tune surely deserved disapprobation.

Did not the Beatles go to Liverpool folk clubs and say "Here's a Leadbelly Song" before launching into an acoustic "Twist and Shout" (or whatever). If not maybe it's a myth they propagated themselves.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: GUEST,SirCoughsalot
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:51 PM

Just think of how many genuine folk songs use the same melodies. It's just part of the folk process. As a friend of mine once said, "Folk music is all about recycling."


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Jim McLean
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 03:51 PM

I knew both MacColl and Dylan personally. When I let Dylan into the King and Queen club that night way back in 1962 he sang three songs which he didn't write in a pseudo Woody Guthrie style, complete with mouth organ and guitar. Nobody paid much attention except Martin Carthy who recognised Dylan from a a picture in Sing magazine. During the interval, at Dylan's request, we had a chat about folk music. He asked me if MacColl lived in a slum (I'm paraphrasing) and was surprised when I said he had a nice house in Beckinham .. I suspect Dylan was flying kites but he was obviously making a sly dig at MacColl.
So it would appear that Dylan had a preconceived perspective of MacColl before he sang in front of him and judging by what Bob sang that first night, MacColl would have been wrong in describing Dylan as McGonnalesque as there was nothing original about his first performance.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 04:10 PM

"English language folk song was born in the UK"

wot every form of it....? a difficult one to prove. Look at all the jewish, African, Asian input - everywhere that was red on the map - there were people speaking English and applying their own rhythms and nuances and some of them would have been songwriters and poets - not working from a base of English culture, other than the language.

Well okay Richard, as long as its you're last territorial claim. we'll appease you on this occasion. You're a nice person. But i don't think you could take that one to court.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 04:50 PM

Richard - ""oh it's not fair your mum and dad they fuck you up and the world will be better when I rule it".

What????? I have no idea how you get that from Dylan's songs, Richard. I see nothing anywhere in his work that suggests he had the slightest notion of ruling the word. He seems to have always seen himself as an independent individual seeking his own path...not a leader of others. He did protest various common forms of hypocrisy and conformity that we see all around us in society. Did you ever read the lyrics in the song "It's Allright, Ma...I'm Only Bleeding"? That song protests just about everything, and it's a brilliant piece of work. In fact, I'd say it stands alone. Nothing else really comes close to that one.

"part of the patrimony of those he found boring" It wasn't exactly that I found those guys in the Toronto UK-folk clubs boring so much as just plain arrogant, superior, and snide toward anyone not already in their clique. But that's a problem in a great many cliques, isn't it? It's a problem on this forum, for instance...at times.

Dylan was also inclined to be quite arrogant at times...and I gather that MacColl could be that way too. No wonder they rubbed each other the wrong way. ;-D

In any case, they both had a great deal to offer to the listener, in my opinion.

******

The process of "raiding folk songs" for a tune, a structure or a theme is as old as the music itself. It's been going on for hundreds, even thousands of years. Woody Guthrie was constantly stealing tunes from other songs. No one seems to mind. The American national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, for instance, was written by Francis Scott Keys to the tune of a popular British pub song of the time! Another major American anthem was written to the tune of "God Save the King". When you look through the history of folksongs, you find the same tunes recycled again and again with similar or totally different lyrics. So what? What was Dylan doing that thousands of others had not done before him...except this one thing: he succeeded professionally in a very big way while doing it.

That's why people object to him having done it...because he succeeded. If he'd remained relatively unknown and not made a lot of money, they wouldn't give a hoot about it. He'd just be another minor player in a very old tradition of reworking traditional songs.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: melodeonboy
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 05:35 PM

Reworking traditional songs is, as has been stated, part of the folk tradition. I think most people accept that. But was there not an issue regarding Dylan's claiming authorship for stuff that he took from others?

A question to ponder: Was part of the apparent animosity between the two due to MacColl seeing his music as a vocation (or even mission) whereas Dylan saw his as a career?


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 06:07 PM

Well, it is a career, isn't it? And it's also a vocation. Whether it's a "mission" or not is something each player must decide for himself.

I think there were times in Dylan's career where he did feel he was on a mission. I think that was true for a period of time in his early "protest" period...2 to 3 years. He was strongly influenced by his girlfriend of the time, Suze Rotolo, who was a committed social activist and leftist. She encouraged him to write activist songs, and he responded to that. Later he divorced himself from it. He'd probably simply had enough of it at that point...and he was clearly growing uneasy with being made musical poster boy for the New Left.

Still later, in his Christian phase from about 1979 through 1982 he was most definitely on a mission to spread his new religious message. He later distanced himself from that too, having discovered that more than a few of the people in the church he had joined were not exactly living up to the shining ideals they espoused. Again...he'd had enough of it.

If Bob's earlier stuff bothered MacColl, I bet the religious stuff would have driven him screaming from the room... ;-D


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 06:22 PM

Al, why were those countries speaking English? They learned it from the English. Many English folk songs were preserved in the Appalachians - but they were English folk songs.

LH - "The Times they are a-changin'". To start with.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Acorn4
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 06:28 PM

I suppose EM's view of religion is an aspect that hasn't cropped up yet.
Early British socialism was very bound up with the nonconformist churches, Keir Hardie as just one example being profoundly religious. Marxism/Stalinism, with it's stress on atheism had little to do with English tradition and was, to all intents and purposes a foreign import.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 07:04 PM

"Dylan played harmonica exactly like Woody Guthrie."

Sorry, that's not right. Woody could really play the harmonica. I know, because I was a student of Woody's. He taught me to play cross harp. Dylan really doesn't play harmonica,
he just blows into it.

Most of the people who claim to know Woody really don't. He had a lot of imitators but unfortunately they imitated how he was when he was afflicted with Huntingtons.
I was fortunate to be one of his pickin' buddies before he succumbed. He could sing and play well. Topanga Canyon, 1952 or so. Before he took off with Aneke.

The deal with Dylan is that he never knew Woody early enough to hear how good he was.

Dylan became commercial quite early. Some of his songs are great, and others mediocre.
Of all of his songs, I like his love songs best. "Tomorrow is a Long Time" is lovely.
Never really thought much of "Blowin' in the Wind" because it seemed stereotypical and as if it were fashioned for the "protest" market. "Masters of War" seemed overblown to me. He got the tune from Jean Ritchie's "Nottingham Town" though there is nothing wrong with that.

Ewan would have objected to the over-popularity and cultish figure of Dylan which eclipsed a lot of the local traditional British music in his neck of the woods. Dylan, in his early days,
took on the dress of Woody with the cap and harmonica rack. Woody was a socialist.
Dylan seems very apolitical to me. The same with Jack Elliott, too.

I never believed that Dylan really was sincere in his early songs. "Like A Rolling Stone" was a very powerful pop song, however, that seemed more like who he was.

Steve Earle seems closest to Woody in terms of his writing, social and political outlook and his manner of performing, much more than Dylan.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Acorn4
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 07:16 PM

Dylan: Great Song, Pointless Harmonica


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 07:27 PM

yes they spoke English. But they didn't speak with an English rhythm or syntax. They wrote their own original songs in English - which are not from some English blueprint of folk music.

Okay the folk isolated in the Appalacian communities may have preserved our folksongs.

What about Yellow Bird in Jamaica, what about Keys to Highway in America, a belfast song like the Doffin Mistress?

Are these not folksongs with their own country of origin - written in English?


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Greg B
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 10:14 PM

"Shoals of Herring?" Credited to MacColl? Hell, no. It was from Sam Larner, a real North-sea fisherman, not a poseur.

Who the hell cares whether Ewan, or Pete "approved" of Bobby Dylan?

Who the hell cares whether society approved of Ewan or Pete?

Why should someone who's been black-listed get to black-list someone else?


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: 2581
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 10:22 PM

I find it amusing that anyone could belittle Dylan as a songwriter. You don't like his voice - fine. He ain't the greatest guitarist on the planet - fine. But he is without doubt the greatest songwriter of the past 50 years. His songs have been covered literally thousands of times. No one else is even close. I like Ewan MacColl's work, but he can't be mentioned in the same breath with Dylan as a songwriter.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 10:31 PM

Interesting.   I usually think of Mr.Bridge as a remarkably reliable negative indicator.   But on this one, much as it pains me to say it, he's nailed it:   LH must have eaten an amazing amount of cheese.

It's of note that those who defend Dylan seem to virtually always cite early songs.   I'd certainly agree that his earlier stuff was by far the best--just a guitar and sly bluesy remarks, on NYC, for instance. His very first album--obviously an attempt to claim Woody's mantle, is in fact delightful. And per Wiki, he himself does not like it. Turns out he only wrote 2 of the songs on it--but for my money they are the best ones. A sense of humor never hurts.   But he soon (about the time he went electric, or even before) slipped into the turgid, tortured, pretentious, amorphously protesting, often mean-spirited twaddle (hope I'm not too subtle)--- that many of us in the 60's loved.   I had a quote on my door for while to the effect that the 60's (protest) generation is probably the most overprivileged generation ever to mistake itself for revolutionaries. And Dylan was the poet laureate of this generation.

Have to admit I really loved Desolation Row--maybe because it was fun to memorize and sing just walking along. But neither it nor the rest of Dylan's output holds up.    "Thin Man"? "Rolling Stone". ? Just read the lyrics.   Dylan's voice was wonderfully appropriate for his songs.   But the songs themselves are amazingly feeble--which is apparent if anybody else sings them.

After Dylan moved on from his first role, his output did not improve.   I find the overwhelming majority of his "product" to be painfully naive and embarassingly dated.

Blowing in the Wind.   Fine, that was put to good use. But "how many times must the cannonballs fly?".   Bob will be pleased to know we've moved on from cannonballs to suicide bombers. So, you say, it's a figurative protest of war.   That does not help its realism quotient.

I can't think of one Dylan song which can hold a candle to the best of MacColl (e.g. Shoals of Herring or Freeborn Man.   Both have wonderfully soaring melodies and wonderfully evocative lyrics--both, interestingly, evoking a disappearing way of life.

We'll never know of course. But it would be interesting to see, in about 100 years, how many Dylan songs are sung by what we now call "folkies"--or anybody.   While it's clear that at least the above 2 MacColl songs will be firmly established as "folk" songs--for many they already are.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Ron Davies
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 10:35 PM

OK. If MacColl didn't write Shoals of Herring that's a serious problem for my pro-MacColl stance.   Should it perhaps be more along the lines of "plague on both your houses?"   It sure doesn't rescue Dylan from my characterizations of his work.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 10:54 PM

Hard to call this song weak, Ron.

Every Grain of Sand (words and music by Bob Dylan)

In the time of my confession,
in the hour of my deepest need
When the pool of tears beneath my feet
flood every newborn seed
There's a dyin' voice within me
reaching out somewhere,
Toiling in the danger and in
the morals of despair.

Don't have the inclination to
look back on any mistake,
Like Cain,
I now behold this chain of events
that I must break.
In the fury of the moment
I can see the Master's hand
In every leaf that trembles,
in every grain of sand.

Oh, the flowers of indulgence
and the weeds of yesteryear,
Like criminals,
they have choked the breath
of conscience and good cheer.
The sun beat down upon the steps
of time to light the way
To ease the pain of idleness
and the memory of decay.

I gaze into the doorway of
temptation's angry flame
And every time I pass that way
I always hear my name.
Then onward in my journey
I come to understand
That every hair is numbered
like every grain of sand.

I have gone from rags to riches
in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer's dream,
in the chill of a wintry light,
In the bitter dance of loneliness
fading into space,
In the broken mirror of innocence
on each forgotten face.

I hear the ancient footsteps like
the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there's someone there,
other times it's only me.
I am hanging in the balance
of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling,
like every grain of sand.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 11:32 PM

Of course MacColl wrote Shoals Of Herring, based on info passed to him by Sam Larner about his early life in the herring fishing. Larner was indeed a fine carrier and singer of traditional songs: but Shoals Of Herring is not one of these. Larner's narrative, interpolated with MacColl's song growing out of it, originally formed part of the Radio Ballad, Singing The Fishing, first heard on BBC Home Service, precursor of Radio 4, on 16 August 1960, and subsequently published on Argo Records.

~Michael~


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 11:39 PM

Re best of Dylan songs ~~ let's hear it again for The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll ~~ incomparable IMO. I recall similar enthusiasm expressed over lunch at Christ's College Cambridge by Professor Sir Christopher Ricks of Oxford, Cambridge and Boston Universities, author of an academic study of Dylan's lyrics ~~ see my post above regarding him, 4 jan 1.32 am.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: ollaimh
Date: 05 Jan 12 - 11:49 PM

amos discussed the "elected"identity of dylan that was so despised by mccoll.

well the long and the short of it was mccoll's identity did not grow from the heather. he aqdopted a highland scotts gael name. a name from a culture he had less part in than dylan had in the hobo railriding culture. dylan did actuallt ride the rails with rambling jack elliot for quite a while, even if he was a lower middle class jew from northern minnesota.

mccoll was engaging in the last stage of british inperialism. its called cultural appropriation. for him to have pretense to legitimacy just shows what total and comptete hypocrites his crowd were. when i was young there were anglos ready to teach me "irish" or "highland scottish" culture evrywhere. there are afew still around but when i encounter one at a folk sessiun i just sing a gaelic song and they stop lecturing.

they can own our culture and get rid of us. its bigotry and racism.

now as show biz i have no problem with mccoll. ebery one needs to make a living. whatever the schtick is as long as it works.

they both wrote great songs,dylan wrote a lot more and wasn't instrumentally challenged like mccoll.

the bottom line though was mccoll was appropriating a culture he knew nothing of and which he was no part of. in canada i used to go to folk circle that were his followers, even knew him well, same shit new locale. i got shown the door at the vancouver folk back in the seventies as i offered to sing a few nova scotia and newfoundland songs. their fearless leader and mccoll follower told me no country music here, we do folk music. when i peeked in the door a few hours later all the bourgeoise white folks were singing day oh day oh--the banana boat song by belefonte. but no east coast folk. when i went to the singers club i was lectured that we should sing the songs from our own culture when i sang the verses to chi me na mhorbheanna(dark island) in gaelic. the guy singing it in english had a pure oxbridge accent.

these early folk "purists" were engaged in the last stage of imperialism and were completely unconscious to theie real palce in the world. they had that entitlement attitude the anglos bring when they come to lead you.the folk movement came from the poltical left that mirrored the right wing early appropriation of folk.none of them were in any way traditional. and they marginalized the actual traditional musicicians, who were usually ethnically unacceptable.

dylan had no such pretensions. he was an artist looking for an audience--wherever it led him. and he was a skilled instrumentaslist as well as a good song writer. he wasn't my favourite songwriter but i sing two or three dylan songs, and only one mccoll--shoals of herring.dylan saw the hypocracy of the traditional pretensious folk people, that's why he went his own way. hewas nothing if not honest. there is nothing honest in most of the folk collecting tradition. i sugest people read douglas harkness' book "fake song" or mackay's book on helen creighten:"the quest of the folk".

frankly i will try folk get togethers but if i get any door slamming i just bug out now. there is a whole world of celtic and early music to play in. pretensoius traditional folkies usuaslly also make a virtue out of necessity by slagging anyone who can play an instrument with skill. they aqre instrumentally challenged and try to pretend thast thast's the real folk.   well i'm here to tell you the traditional musicians i have played with, celtic, portuguese and greek mostly(in big cities i have gone to greek and portuguese clubs as they invite me to play occasionally) in those worlds the musicianship is stupendious--absolutely the highest skilled miusicians you will ever meet. those old farts at the singers club could barely croak a tune. a gagle of basil fawlty's lecturing others because they can't perform well enough to hold an audience.

so get it straight. mccoll and his folk philosphy was cultural appropriation. the last stage of empire. he wass from the entitled people kindly ready to lead us poor ignorant savages in folk. even though they had lost their military political and economic tyrany, they can still lead others in tradition and show us the moral high ground--provided of course we follow obidiently and tug out forelocks


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 12:54 AM

---mccoll was appropriating a culture he knew nothing of and which he was no part of---
,.,.,.,.
Nonsense, ollaimh. It was the culture he was brought up to by both his traditional-singing parents, his father from Stirling, his mother from Auchterader. EwanMacColl/JimmyMiller had his faults; but lack of entitlement to regard himself culturally as having a thoroughly traditional Scots inheritance on both sides was no way one of them.

And I do wish people would stop using "purist" as a term of abuse. It says far more to the detriment of the users of the term, than about whose of us endeavouring to maintain reasonable standards of useful categorisation, whom they endeavour thus to disparage.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 01:05 AM

Right on, ollaimh. You have expressed it perfectly.

I find it laughable that people would characterize Dylan's songwriting as mediocre...but it just goes to show that tastes differ widely. If someone doesn't like a specific style that a singer employs, it's not likely you'll ever get them to change their mind about it...because they'll never be motivated to investigate it closely enough to bother changing their mind.

Also...for the umpteenth time...it IS possible to admire both Dylan's AND MacColl's work in music!!! I do. Seems like a far better use of one's time to appreciate both of them, than trying to prove that one of them is wonderful and the other one's an overrated asshole.


Richard Bridge - "The Times They Are A-Changin'" is a fine example of what Dylan so often does...he writes songs in what I call universal symbols. To say "how many times must the cannonballs fly" is a universal symbol for warfare throughout the ages. Who the hell cares if we use cruise missile and jets now instead of cannonballs? Songwriting is far more effective when using universal symbols than it is when it's dead literal, in my opinion. Poetry, likewise, is far more effective when using metaphor and universal symbolology than when being dead literal. Any idiot can write literally about something...but poets write in symbol and metaphor, and it's all the more powerful in that form.

He is in no way suggesting that HE should be the leader of anything in that song, he's simply describing a time of massive social change all around him when millions of young people were impelled to question the Vietnam War (and war in general), when they were impelled to question their governmental instutions and the conventional views their elders had passed on to them regarding just about everything.

That song touched perfectly on the tensions that were rising in young people at the time...that's why it had such a huge impact, specially when covered by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Good God, man, there was a revolution in social thought taking place! It transformed North America, it helped to end the Vietnam War, it helped to end segregation, it helped to bring social equality to women, Blacks, and Native Americans. Dylan's gift was that he articulated it so powerfully for others just as it was taking off.

I don't believe for a moment that he wrote that stuff just to ride on a trend or to make money. I think he wrote it because he couldn't help but write it. In fact, the songs really wrote themselves...he was the scribe.

He was also a person who would go way deep into something until he'd expressed it with full intensity and fully satisfied the need in him to express it...then he'd leave it and move on to the next thing. That bothered people. They wanted him to just stay in one particular mode forever, but that's not going to happen with someone like Bob Dylan.


The last verse in "Times They Are A-Changin'" is a masterpiece:

The line it is drawn,
The curse it is cast,
The slow one now will later be fast,
As the present now will later be past,
The order is rapidly fading,
And the first one now will later be last,
For the times they are a-changing!


Right fucking on! That is very good lyric writing, and as with so much of Dylan's material, it connects to various biblical references that go way back in our western culture. In that sense again, it's a song with universal symbology rather than narrow didactic literalism. (the latter was the main thing that constricted so much of Phil Ochs' songwriting and caused it not to age well with the passage of time...it was too literal, too specific, therefore had a much shorter shelf life than songs written in poetic metaphor)


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: meself
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 01:27 AM

"Great song, pointless harmonica" - Not sure what this is supposed to prove. There are perhaps three brief moments of harmonica in the song. They probably don't add a great deal, nor do they take away a great deal. So - what?


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 01:46 AM

Well said, LH.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 02:03 AM

"Many English folk songs were preserved in the Appalachians - but they were English folk songs." Folksongs in a variety of English language may not necessarily be English folk songs. They could be for example Scottish?


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: The Sandman
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 02:48 AM

little Hawk, as far as I am concerne dylan wrote only a handful of good songs, the times are a changing, blowing in the wind,masters of war, mr tambourine man, in my opinion Tom Paxton is a better SONG WRITER.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 04:24 AM

Dylan really doesn't play harmonica, he just blows into it.

Yes and no. What people tend to think of now when they hear the words 'Dylan' and 'harmonica' is the random-suck-and-blow technique featured on Like A Rolling Stone, which I don't think anyone had ever done before (or rather, I don't think anyone had ever thought they could get away with it before). But there's some quite precise melody playing on the earlier albums and some of the later ones - he can clearly play the thing properly when he wants to.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 04:32 AM

ollaimh, have you ever stopped to consider that it might be racist to constantly accuse "anglos" of being racist?

I've been associated with the British folk movement for over 40 years now and I can't think of a single example of anyone expressing anti-"gael"ic sentiments. I used to know a bloke once who seemed to desperately want to be Irish - because he very much admired certain Irish singers and musicians - but I don't think that he had any "anglo" "imperialistic" urges!


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Jim McLean
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 04:34 AM

Ollaimh, You have confused two entirely different songs in your statement "when i sang the verses to chi me na mhorbheanna(dark island) in gaelic."


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: GUEST
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 05:31 AM

LH said Also...for the umpteenth time...it IS possible to admire both Dylan's AND MacColl's work in music!!!

Which I'd echo. I suspect if I met either of them they wouldn't be my cup of tea - but that's neither here nor there. Both of them - as with anyone with a copious number of songs under thir belt - have written some stinkers, but just listen to McColl's 'The Father's Song' or Dylan's 'Stuck outside of Mobile' to hear two fantastic songwriters at work.

I also think comparing them is pointless - they are chalk and cheese.

And finally I totally disagree with this folky myth that Dylan's best work was on his early acoustic albums. For me, one of his golden periods was with albums like Desire and Blood on the Tracks. And, personally, I'm a huge fan of the Basement Tapes too, for that matter...


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Marje
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 05:31 AM

There's nothing wrong with using a traditional melody and putting new words to it. It's a time-honoured practice, and MacColl did it too, e.g. the tune for "Sweet Thames" is a dressed-up version of "The Recruited Collier".

Marje


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 05:33 AM

Anonymous guest above was me cookieless...


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 05:35 AM

... so long as it is admitted that the air has been 'recycled'. Took a long time to get Dominic to admit that The Patriot Game was to the tune of The Bold Grenadier/The Nightingales Sing: but he did eventually, in an exchange of letters I had with him in The Guardian, and probably elsewhere also.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: GUEST,Doc John
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 05:50 AM

To me it always sounds like Dylan got his singing and playing style from Jack Elliot who got his from Woody Guthrie when the latter was no longer at his best.
To me there's too much whinging doggeral in Dylan's material and none of the bitter humour you find in Woody Guthrie or Phil Ochs, a far better writer imho.
Witness: cannonballs banned...sleep in the sand...etc etc
A good example of WG's harmonic is his recording of Raincrow Bill with the master Sonny Terry


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Phil Edwards
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 06:31 AM

For me, one of his golden periods was with albums like Desire and Blood on the Tracks.

I've got a lot of time for Street Legal, although it does teeter on the brink of "fat Elvis" and goes right over at least once.

And, personally, I'm a huge fan of the Basement Tapes too, for that matter...

Steady on. There's some wonderful stuff on there, but I'm not convinced it's possible to be a fan of the Basement Tapes as an album unless you're unhinged or Greil Marcus (but I repeat myself).


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 06:43 AM

Of course there is some dross on the Basement Tapes, but the gems amongst them are some of Bobby's best...

Street Legal was the first Dylan album I bought back when I was one of them pesky teenagers. Absolutely loved it. You're right about the ocassional forays into FatElvis Land though. Speaking as fan of some of Fat Elvis's output...


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 06:45 AM

"Shoals of Herring?" Credited to MacColl? Hell, no. It was from Sam Larner, a real North-sea fisherman, not a poseur."
Utter bloody nonsense and proved to be so over and over again.
MacColl made "Shoals" from spoken actuality recorded from Sam Larner and another East Anglian fisherman, Ronnie Balls - the recordings of which are probably housed at The British Library and/or with the whole of the MacColl collection at Ruskin College - I have a copy of it.
There is no recording of Sam or anybody singing it, nor any written evidence of it ever having been sung before it appeared in Singing the Fishing
To me it has always sounded more like one of MacColl's typical 'Universal Man' compositions, than it does a traditional song - as do The Big Hewer, Kilroy, Shellback, Seven days of the Week.... et al.
There is a song entitled Shoals of Herring in John Howson's collection Songs Sung in Suffolk - no resemblence whatever - Howson writes "Not the well-known Ewan MacColl song which goes under this name, but an older, local song...."
Would be interested to know if there in any backing to this old chestnut - but have been waiting an awfully long time.
ollaimh
AGREE with what MtheGM said totally.
MacColl was singing songs he heard at home - which is far more than most singers on the scene can claim.
His mother sang - there'e an album of her doing so with Ewan (A Garland For Betsy), and I know from talking to some of Ewan''s contemporaries in Manchester that "his father William had a lot of strange Scots songs and ballads" (Eddie Frow - working-class historian in Salford).
This is an account of MacColl being 'discovered' by a BBC producer in the early thirties.
From 'Prospero and Ariel' D G Bridson (Gollantz 1971)
"MacColl had been out busking for pennies by the Manchester theatres and cinemas. The songs he sang were unusual, Scots songs, Gaelic songs he had learnt from his mother, border ballads and folk-songs. One night while queueing up for the three-and-sixpennies, Kenneth Adam had heard him singing outside the Manchester Paramount. He was suitably impressed. Not only did he give MacColl a handout; he also advised him to go and audi¬tion for Archie Harding at the BBC studios in Manchester's Piccadilly. This MacColl duly did. 'May Day in England' was being cast at the time, and though it had no part for a singer, it certainly had for a good, tough, angry Voice of the People. Ewan MacColl became the Voice, a role which he has continued to fill on stage, on the air, and on a couple of hundred L.P. discs ever since."
MacColl never pretended to be anything other than what he was - a Salfordian from a Scots family living in a Scots Enclave in Northern England.
Whether his accent was authentic is a matter of opinion - he neutralised it in order to, among other things, make the 137 Child ballads he breathed life into in order to make them as accessible as possible - always worked for me.
I always found his singing far more believable than that of the 'Walthamstow cowboys' who use strange mid-Atlantic accent and end up being neither fish nor fowl.
Little Hawk:
"I have no idea if Ewan MacColl himself showed a general contempt toward singer-songwriters outside his immediate style of music,"
Apologies if I have misunderstood your point - you came across as claiming that MacColl and The Critics spent their time attacking those who weren't singing to the mythical rule-book.
Not the case; the Critics spent no time whatever discussing what was happening on the singer/songwriter circuit - critically or otherwise. Sadly, the reverse is the case; Ewan, Peggy and the Critics Group were far more sinned againt than sinning in this respect (even twenty odd years after MacColl's demise).
Sorry for the knee-jerk reaction.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Baz Bowdidge
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 07:37 AM

Back to likes or dislikes.
Apologies if this pdf has been tagged before:
Click Here
Some paraphrased quotes:
'Dylan held McColl in high esteem (Melody Maker 23/5/6i4). He cited
McColl as one of the writers he most admired. In 1985 McColl's
daughter Kirsty wrote home to her father from Los Angeles 'I was
at a party with Bob Dylan. He's still one of your greatest fans
in spite of the fact you don't think muich of him'.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Jeri
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 10:17 AM

999, I hear the third-from-last line in "Every Grain of Sand" as "Of a perfect, finished plan". Picky, I know.

What small-minded shriveled-heart cretin is it who can not say "I love the music I love" but has to say "the music you love is HORRIBLE!"

Sorry, but this sort of rant usually is barked out by insane, stupid people. It also is the major reason why I haven't felt inspired by music. It's not the music's fault, but it's hard to be around people who will be offended if I sing (or even praise) something they don't like. This is my problem, and believe me, it's a problem because I like both songwriters.

Fundamentally:
You may prefer one of them.
You may dislike one of them.
Both are/were masters of their craft.
Disagree if you like, but be aware that your attitude may actually turn people away--NOT because you don't like what they like but because you seem to believe their preferences are less valid than yours. If you treat music as a fundamentalist religion, this may work for you.
...whoever "you" may be.


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