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Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?

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meself 08 Jan 12 - 11:19 AM
MGM·Lion 08 Jan 12 - 10:47 AM
GUEST,Allan Conn 08 Jan 12 - 04:41 AM
Jim Carroll 08 Jan 12 - 04:10 AM
meself 07 Jan 12 - 09:16 PM
The Sandman 07 Jan 12 - 07:51 PM
Little Hawk 07 Jan 12 - 06:41 PM
Acorn4 07 Jan 12 - 04:19 PM
Lonesome EJ 07 Jan 12 - 04:08 PM
Mark Ross 07 Jan 12 - 02:21 PM
Stringsinger 07 Jan 12 - 01:56 PM
Little Hawk 06 Jan 12 - 06:05 PM
melodeonboy 06 Jan 12 - 04:52 PM
Big Al Whittle 06 Jan 12 - 03:04 PM
Little Hawk 06 Jan 12 - 01:20 PM
GUEST,999 06 Jan 12 - 10:54 AM
meself 06 Jan 12 - 10:41 AM
Jeri 06 Jan 12 - 10:17 AM
Baz Bowdidge 06 Jan 12 - 07:37 AM
Jim Carroll 06 Jan 12 - 06:45 AM
GUEST,Spleen Cringe 06 Jan 12 - 06:43 AM
Phil Edwards 06 Jan 12 - 06:31 AM
GUEST,Doc John 06 Jan 12 - 05:50 AM
MGM·Lion 06 Jan 12 - 05:35 AM
GUEST,Spleen Cringe 06 Jan 12 - 05:33 AM
Marje 06 Jan 12 - 05:31 AM
GUEST 06 Jan 12 - 05:31 AM
Jim McLean 06 Jan 12 - 04:34 AM
GUEST,Shimrod 06 Jan 12 - 04:32 AM
Phil Edwards 06 Jan 12 - 04:24 AM
The Sandman 06 Jan 12 - 02:48 AM
GUEST,Allan Conn 06 Jan 12 - 02:03 AM
Lonesome EJ 06 Jan 12 - 01:46 AM
meself 06 Jan 12 - 01:27 AM
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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: meself
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 11:19 AM

But there is a certain similarity in their first, Christian, or given names.

--------------------

Jim: Perhaps GSS's post slipped past you - he wrote, "MacColl undoutebdly analysed dylans songs"; no suggestion that this was a public exercise.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: MGM·Lion
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 10:47 AM

Leaving aside the argument as to quality of BD, which we have all rehearsed at length ~~ must say I can't see much similarity between Tom Paxton and Tom Lehrer. I like them both; but would not regard them, even if both might be termed 'satirists' tout court, which IMO is arguable, as at all the same sort of satirist.

~M~


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: GUEST,Allan Conn
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 04:41 AM

"he will learn that there are certain highest common factors that occur in all well written songs"

Frameworks for what has gone before surely! Rules are there to be pushed and broken to the limit or perhaps just ignored. Otherwise nothing would progress and everything would sound similar. If a song is good then it is good no matter how it is contructed.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 08 Jan 12 - 04:10 AM

"And MacColl "analysed dylans songs"
Did he really? - missed that one.
MacColl wrote a sartirical piece on Dylan under the name 'Speedwell' around 1965, before Dylan became a somewhat middle-of-the-road pop-star
Never came across a mention of him by MacColl after that - can someone point me in the right direction?
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: meself
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 09:16 PM

So - Dylan's songs don't pass the "song writing workshop" test? Oh, dear.

And MacColl "analysed dylans songs" - and? I suppose he too found they didn't pass the "song writing workshop" test? Well, that settles it, then.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: The Sandman
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 07:51 PM

no, not entirely little hawk, for a song to be good is not just a question of taste.
if a potential song writer goes to a song writing workshop, he will learn that there are certain highest common factors that occur in all well written songs.
Ewan MacColl was a trained playwright this imo would have been a help to his song writing,Ewan also understood stage craft[ possibly/probably through his involvement with the theatre.
MacColl undoutebdly analysed dylans songs.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 06:41 PM

It's a matter of personal taste, that's all.

I love how Bob Dylan writes lyrics, I find it totally satisfying, and that's my personal taste.

I'll add to that that I think the finest lyricist around nowadays is....

Mary-Chapin Carpenter

And she doesn't write at all the way Bob Dylan does. And I love both of them.

It's a matter of personal taste.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Acorn4
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 04:19 PM

I seem to remember that "Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall" was written with every line as a possible song title, because it was at the time of the Cuba crisis when we all thought we might be heading for Armageddon, meaning BD wouldn't be able to write all those songs, so there wouldn't appear to be any long term agenda on that one.

Perhaps the fear we all felt at that time of nuclear confrontation may have accounted for the nature of the some of the writing at the time.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 04:08 PM

Frank, I really find your opinions on this topic informative and incisive. I certainly agree with your comment that Steve Earle is far closer to being cut from the same cloth as Woody than BD is. And frankly, I prefer Steve Earle's songwriting to Bob's.
Part of my devotion to Bob comes from an obsession with the Byrds as my gateway into Folk/Traditional, and a love for their soaring versions of Dylan's songs.
Steve Earle is certainly of the activist strain that includes Phil Ochs, Pete and others. My guess is Ewan Macoll would probably have an even greater objection to Mr Earle's rock stylings than to Bob's, though.
Maybe it's the drums? :>)


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 02:21 PM

As Utah Phillips used to say, "There is a big difference between 'How many roads must a man walk down, before he can sleep in the sand?', and 'Dump the bosses off your back!'.


Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 07 Jan 12 - 01:56 PM

The problem is that those who claim Dylan's very good songs are not really defining why they think that these are good. My contention is that a good songwriter in the folk tradition can write succinct and pithy ideas with few words. Dylan is far too wordy for my taste. I'll take Woody's writing any day. Ludlow Massacre,1913 Massacre and Pretty Boy Floyd are folk masterworks. I feel the same about Jean Ritchie who is not as well recognized for her "L and N Don't Stop Here Anymore" and "Black Waters".

Most of Dylan's work impresses me as being preachy and pseudo-profound. The songs cited above as his best work, well I don't agree that they stand up that well.

Dylan cut an image for his time as the rebellious youth taking his initial appearance from Woody Guthrie's stance as an active socialist. Dylan was not that and I think he was kind of an imitator. He took on Woody's "raggedy" image for a show business market and many young people of the time identified that as being "honest" and "real" which I don't think it was. Having known Woody prior to his disability, I can say that Woody was real and who he was and he played a damned good harmonica as well.

A lot of cultish enthusiasm for Dylan's work has more to do with his "attitude" and "image" than a realistic view of his work.

I don't sense a real sincerity in his earlier work as I do with Woody. Tom Paxton is
a brilliant satirist and cogent writer as is Tom Lehrer. I think the latter two fall into the tradition of Yip Harburg who was one of the greatest lyricists of all time in my opinion. "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime" is a classic well-written protest song.

I know that my point of view will be contentious in some people's opinion, but I sense a falseness and hollowness in Dylan's work. "Like A Rolling Stone" was an interesting song but not one I would enjoy singing. "Tomorrow is a Long Time" is more sensitive and in my opinion may be one of Dylan's best songs and one I have enjoyed singing in the past.

McColl was a scholar of folk music and understood its function in a social context as well as an artistic one. This might be dismissed as some as being "political" but in the early days, Dylan seemed like he cashed in on the "protest market" because it was in vogue. McColl approached folk music much differently and over a period of time developed an appreciation that I don't think Dylan has shown.

I don't care for the pretentiousness of many revival folk singers who trade on appearance and image rather than the quality of their performance. Woody was who he was, not trying to push an image for the show business market. Burl Ives was a trained singer who presented his songs very simply early on with a trained pleasant tenor and a rudimentary guitar accompaniment. His early output were tried and true folk songs that he grew up with (except for the songs of John Jacob Niles). Richard Dyer-Bennet never tried to be anything other than what he was, a classical singer who interpreted folk music with musical taste and expertise. Josh White was a unique guitarist and singer who fashioned his act for the night clubs but he was a tasteful musician who wouldn't be sloppy in his presentation and would be embarrassed to display a pretentious harmonica blowing and passing it off as good playing.

In summary, there is much about the "revival" folk which is pretentious and image driven. The contemporary singer-songwriter has much to learn from the old masters such as Harburg, Johnny Mercer, Ira Gershwin, Gus Kahn and others.
Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell (her earlier work) along with Kate Wolf show a craft and sincerity as well as sophistication in the technique of songwriting.

Pete Seeger's presentation has been of a consistent high musical quality (there are very few banjo players that can match his clean articulation and exciting sound) and his "Darling Corey" album for Folkways is a high standard for a revival folk album.
The same can be said for Peggy Seeger's "Songs of Courting and Complaint".

The commercial output of much rock and roll has made pretentiousness more
accessible.


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

That's an interesting bit of speculation there, Big Al. ;-D Maybe you should write a tell-all book about it and make big bucks!

Yup, I can just imagine Ewan MacColl seething with unsatisfied lust whilst watching lean young Bob plow his way bravely through "Gates of Eden" at the Royal Albert Hall or some such venue...

Contact Griel Marcus at once!


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: melodeonboy
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 04:52 PM

Ha, ha! Good one!


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 03:04 PM

Ewen MacColl just didn't like Dylan
One wanted sex, the other wasn't willin
It might have been Bob
Who whipped out his nob
Perhaps they did, and it wasn't fulfilin'


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: Little Hawk
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 01:20 PM

I think there's a lot of bitter humour in Dylan's songs, both in the love songs and the social comment songs.

Regarding his influences, yes, he was very much influenced by Woody Guthrie's recordings...and Ramblin' Jack's material. Ramblin' Jack was a hell of a good player in his prime.

Dylan hit a real high point in the mid-70s as far as I'm concerned. His singing and playing and lyrical outuput had never been more effective. "Blood on the Tracks" just might be the best album he ever did. If not, it's one of the best 3 or 4 he ever did. "Desire" is also very strong, and I absolutely loved "Street Legal". "Infidels" could have been another album at that same level if he'd included 2 or 3 of the best songs he had at that time (1983?), but he inexplicably left some of the best ones (such as "Blind Willie McTell") off that album.

Good Soldier Schweik - Regarding your comments about Tom Paxton...I don't really know how to compare Tom Paxton to Bob Dylan, because I haven't heard enough of Paxton's songs to say. The few I have heard...yeah, they're very good.

As for Phil Ochs...another poster had spoken of his material as better than Dylan's...well, Ochs wrote a handful of VERY good songs. Most of his songs, though, I find kind of painful to listen to. I just don't think they're that good, because they're too literal and strident, in a way. His sincerity is unquestionable, however, and I respect that. I don't consider him anywhere near Dylan in a lyrical sense. Ochs himself considered Dylan to be the finest songwriter of the time and defended him against his harshest critics in the folk scene, even when Ochs and Dylan were not speaking to each other. That speaks very well for Phil Ochs.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: GUEST,999
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 10:54 AM

Given the various posts to this tread--and they do seem to run the gamut from antagonistically stupid to well-informed--I opine that MacColl really did like and admire Dylan. He was simply too addicted to the portrayal of his 'image' to say so in plain language.


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Subject: RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan?
From: meself
Date: 06 Jan 12 - 10:41 AM

"none of the bitter humour"

Of all the criticisms of Dylan I've come across, this is the first time I've heard him accused of lacking "bitter humour".

"Always have respected her, for doin' what she did in gettin' free-ee-eee" Nope, no bitter humour there.


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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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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: 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: 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: 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,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: 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,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: 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
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: 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,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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 - 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: 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: 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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