Posts Tagged ‘bob dylan’


A few years back, I drew a comic version of Bob Dylan’s song Isis. I used to have it on my website but took it down when I stopped drawing The Family Monster and began Welcome to Falling Rock National Park.

Here, once again, is Isis. Words by Bob, pictures by Josh.

Tell Tale Signs

The term “genius” is often bandied about like a newborn kitten. Everybody looks. But to save the power and meaning of the word, you have to use it sparingly. When the person being described as a genius has just put out one good album, or written one good novel, the word may be a bit of an overstatement. However, when the person being described has put out dozens of classic albums, each one better than the last, over the course of 40-plus years and counting, then the term genius may just be what the doctor ordered.TellTaleSignsCover
Bob Dylan, the self-described “song and dance man,” recently released the eighth volume of his popular Bootlegs Series, Tell Tale Signs. The Bootleg Series is a nearly annual release of outtakes, live versions, and of course the kitchen sink. This edition picks up where Volume 1-3 left off – the underrated 1989 album Oh Mercy – and brings us to his most recent, Modern Times.

The song Mississippi is represented here twice. As The Onion’s AV Club pointed out, each “sound nothing like the “official” rendition—or one another.” It is a great song, and it’s nice to know that Bob continues to try new things, be it an arrangement on an album or in concert. My personal favorite is an early version of Most of the Time, a song I first heard in high school and found immediate application in my life. The acoustic version heard here is more upbeat than the one on the album; I find it amusing that a song so melancholy in content could be originally sung with such a chipper tone.

The live tracks showcase Bob’s crack touring band from the last few years. They’ve managed to make Bob’s songs all sound good together, as though he wrote them all in one sitting. People complain that they can’t tell which song he’s playing until he gets to the chorus. To them I say, listen to the CDs if you want history. With Bob, live means NOW. Whatever he feels like playing, however he feels like playing it. Honestly, the songs aren’t all that different from what they once were; it’s just that we’re so used to hearing musicians trying to replicate songs exactly as they were played on the album that it offends our delicate ears to hear an artist, I don’t know, try something different.

To be fair, I’ve heard plenty of other musicians change things up on stage. Bob isn’t the only one. I think it’s just that, he’s Bob Dylan. Everybody knows Blowin’ in the Wind. Bob is sick of Blowin’ in the Wind. Why not let him change it and make it more interesting for everybody?

Some people use the term “genius” dismissively, as in “Okay, okay, he’s a genius. So what?” They think they know what Bob’s all about from the four songs oldies radio plays endlessly. When I put on Blonde on Blonde for my college roommate, he asked me pointedly, “Are you trying to turn me into a Bob Dylan fan?” He liked it, he just never heard it before. Same goes for The Beatles – “Yeah, yeah, The Beatles are great. Blah blah blah.” These are people who haven’t listened to the White Album in its entirety.

That Bob continues to refine his craft makes Tell Tale Signs such an enjoyable listen. As long as he doesn’t give up the chase, I’ll be there.

P.S. It’s okay to be attracted to Bob, as long as he’s being played by Cate Blanchett.cate_blanchett_bob_dylan

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Bob Dylan: A Brief Biography

One of the finest feelings in the world comes from knowing there will be a new Bob Dylan album in the future. I do not need a specific date. Just knowing Bob will, at some indeterminate date in the future, waltz into some studio and lay down tracks for his next album, fills me with unbridled joy.

What with the clamor and the hustle and bustle and the bells and whistles and the haves and have-nots of this holiday season, who has time to read a 2,000 page biography of Bob Dylan? Not that one exists, but if one did, who’d have the time to read it with the aforementioned distractions?

Therefore, my year’s end gift to you, dear readers, is a brief biography of the man known to the world as Bob. I have checked and re-checked my sources, so if you have any problems take it up with the management.

THE 1950’s
A young Bob attends one of Buddy Holly’s final concerts. At the end of the performance, Buddy steps off the stage and hands his crown and scepter to Robert Zimmerman. In a blinding white flash, plain Robert Z. is transformed by the Gods of Rock into Bob Dylan. The crowd cheers.

THE 1960’s
Records the seminal album of the sixties, then goes on to record eight more just in case.

Invents the town of Woodstock, New York.

Loses acoustic guitar, replaces it with electric accordion.

Records best music video known to man.

Totally ripped off by The Monkees.

Has a three-way with John Lennon and Allen Ginsberg.

THE 1970’s
Cheats on his wife one too many times.

Plays a cowboy in a Western.

Records Josh’s favorite Bob Dylan song.

Consoles Richard Nixon after he resigns in shame. Nixon reportedly cries like a little baby.

Records the seminal album of the seventies, then records seven more just in case.

Has a three-way with David Bowie and Mick Jagger.

THE 1980’s
Shaken awake by the voice of God thundering down unto him. Goes on to write a song about it: “Wiggle Wiggle.”

Spends most of decade in a sort of animated hibernation.

Makes the worst music video known to man.

Has a three-way with Jack Daniels and Sam Adams.

THE 1990’s
Remembers what makes his music great, records that onto a disc.

Almost dies, writes an album all about death and loss, and seems happier than he has been in at least 15 years.

Secretly becomes a Jew again.

Begins wearing a cowboy hat, a trend that will continue to his last days.

Plays 84,236 concerts, at which he plays 1,263,540 songs. None are played the same way twice.

Has a three-way with Bono and Kurt Cobain.

THE 2000’s
Designs and builds solar-powered hover car.

Briefly retires from Rock to pursue a Classical Piano career.

Stars in his own sitcom, “Bob’s Blues.” Runs for 8 years on ABC, then for the rest of time in syndication.

Records albums that become popular enough that people claim he has “sold out.”

Has a three-way with Jack White and T-Pain.

2873: Bob Dylan dies when the power to his life-support machine is cut due to the sun exploding and eating the solar system due to World War 12. His 345th album, Fortune’s Dusty Liar, came out two weeks previously.

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elements that make a great movie

Like most people, I know better than Hollywood what makes a movie great. Unlike most people, I have clearly outlined the elements that, when combined, would explode on the screen like the hugest blockbuster ever seen.

Little known fact: although Titanic holds the record for highest grossing movie of all time, it is not the most-seen movie. That distinction goes to Die Hard 2: Die Harder. Due to heavy TV rotation and DVD watchings worldwide (including a screening in Tangiers which reportedly drew a crowd of 75,000), Die Hard 2: Die Harder is the movie most people have seen. Admittedly, no one has seen it all the way through in one sitting, but I’m counting partial viewings.

When The Dark Knight shamefully failed to claim the spot as highest-grossing movie of all time, by a paltry $70 million, it was more than I could take. If Batman can’t beat the big boat, then the proletariat will have to rise up together and do it ourselves.

What follows is a list of the elements that must be included in the highest-grossing movie of all time. Some items on this list are completely incompatible. Some can be combined in the same character. The details will be worked out at a later date, after I get some funding.

Without further ado, the list:

-a world-weary grizzled old man with a beard
-a young man with revenge on his mind
-a young man who can be described as a “loose cannon”
-a cat from outer space
-Charlie Kaufman script
-a soundtrack featuring Bob Dylan
-a moral dilemma
-a murder that is solved at the end of the film
-Denzel Washington
-special effects that serve the story
-special effects that just look cool
-a giant ape
-sound (see: “talkies“)
-a woman who doesn’t take no backtalk
-a woman reporter described as “spunky”
-a woman who can be described as “easy on the eyes”
-a space fight
-a fight in an old abandoned warehouse
-a good old-fashioned fist fight
-a character whose motives cannot be determined until the end of the film
-a character with shifty eyes
-a character who is purely evil
-4 hours of CSPAN coverage of Congress
-just kidding about that last one
-product placement
-also kidding
-characters who save an orphanage
-characters who say the things you wish you could put into words, if only you had the wit and charm
-one or more elephants
-a beautiful sunset
-a foggy morning
-a cave
-green rolling hills
-the Arctic Circle
-a soothsayer

One thing that will absolutely not be in this movie: a singing child.

the specter of racism

the times they are a changinIn 1963, William Zantzinger caused the death of Hattie Carroll. He spent six months in jail, perhaps not an overly harsh term for such a crime. However, Bob Dylan made sure the world knew of this foul, fat little man by writing the beautiful song “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.”

Zantzinger died on January 3, 2009. The reports of this death are not greatly exaggerated. This post is not a mourning of the man, nor is this a celebration of his death. However, it is somewhat comforting to note that a man who once remarked about segregation, “Hell, you wouldn’t want to go to school with Negroes any more than you would with French people,” was alive to see the first African American elected President of this country. It’s a shame Mr. Obama didn’t have any French relatives.

I suggest you to have a listen to Bob’s song, and if you know the song already, do like me and listen once more. I always come away a little bit sadder; Zantzinger’s tale is one of life’s many little atrocities. Bob was good enough to make us listen and to make us care for a woman who didn’t have enough care for her while she was alive.

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famous last words

the windWhen Warren Zevon began work on The Wind, he knew it would be his last album. Zevon was diagnosed with cancer early; unfortunately, nothing could be done. Fortunately, he used his remaining time on earth to give us a great album. Knowing it was his last chance to say something made each line more poignant.

Most of us don’t have advance notice of impending death. We know it will happen someday, but the day, month, even year are uncertain at best. Most of us don’t get the chance to craft our last words. Or do we?

The sad fact is, every artist will have a parting shot. As I have said before, I hope Bob Dylan outlives us all, but there will come a day when he’s booked his last recording session. What will come of that music? Will it be especially meaningful? Will it be a continuation of whatever aspect he was exploring up to that point? Or will it be a sharp departure?

Buddy Holly didn’t have a head’s up from the Reaper. 50 years ago the world was left with what he hadn’t yet finished. The Apartment Tapes stand as the only glimpse we’ll ever get into Holly’s future recording plans. They are excellent, but they are finite.

George Herriman, cartoonist extraordinaire, died with a week’s worth of Krazy Kat dailies sitting at his desk. Some are nearly complete, some merely pencil sketches. I wonder if he was having a good week up until he died. If given the choice, would he have wanted to finish off that batch? Or would he have preferred to let another week stand in as his last words to the public?

This is all very morbid. I’m sorry. Allow me one final thought.

According to one website, my death will occur in exactly 47 years, 10 months, 23 days. (I was surprised at how soon I’m expected to go. Maybe I should move away from this nuclear waste storage facility.) I know the exact number of days because it’s on my Google homepage (right above the weather and NASA’s Image of the Day).

When I get Falling Rock syndicated, I’m going to begin work on the final week’s worth right away. That way I can tinker with it for a long time. Crafting my final message will be difficult, epecially if I’m in my 20’s when I start. Hopefully by the time I’m 77 I’ll have it all worked out.

Of course I’ll have to make changes as technology evolves. I expect to incorporate a few hover cars and a Mars colony in my final comics. Stay tooned! Who knows what wacky hijinks those desert critters will get up to in the future.

how awesome is Denzel Washington?


For those of you living off-planet for the past twenty years, Denzel Washington is perhaps the greatest living actor. He can do drama, action, comedy. He can play characters or he can play himself. He can be the good guy or the bad guy. He can take a crap movie and make it watchable, and a decent movie great. Don’t even get me started on what he does in a truly awesome movie. (Hint: he makes it AWESOMER.) He totally got robbed by the Academy by not winning the Oscar for Hurricane (they made it up to him later).

He is so awesome I originally wanted my book, Dancing With Jack Ketch, to be a movie with him in the lead. Can you imagine Denzel as pirate captain? I sure can. Due to my lack of movie connections, the film fell apart in pre-pre-production, but you can still read my story. Whenever they say “Jackson,” think “Denzel.”

What follows is a list of Denzel’s best movies.

1. Malcolm X – The definitive Denzel. An epic movie that doesn’t feel 800 hours long, thanks to Spike Lee’s kinetic camerawork and a good editor.

2. He Got Game – Denzel as the self-serving, incarcerated dad of a college basketball recruit. The man uses his own son to get out of jail. Cold.

3. Inside Man – Denzel’s definitive Good Guy Cop. It really helps that this was a good Spike Lee movie; these two seem to bring the best out in each other.

4. The Mighty Quinn – Denzel’s first movie with a Bob Dylan connection. He plays Xavier Quinn, the Chief of Police in Jamaica. Includes a regge version of the song The Mighty Quinn. In Chronicles Vol. 1, Bob puts his seal of approval on Denzel’s performance. That’s all the reason I need to love this movie.

5. The Manchurian Candidate – There was no reason to remake the original; it had all the markings of a timeless classic political thriller. Somehow, this movie managed to become its own thing. It is modern and just as terrifying as the original.

6. The Siege – Especially prescient in the wake of September 11. Denzel plays an FBI agent hunting down terrorist cells in Brooklyn. Co-stars Bruce Willis as a flag-waving, power-mad general who uses the exact same logic as Dick Cheney. At least Bruce was just acting.

top 40 radio killed my life

There’s been a lot of talk about commercial radio going the way of the dinosaur, and I honestly couldn’t care less. Unlike newspapers, a media that is still vital and hosts some great comics, radio has been completely out of touch ever since I can remember. I don’t see how it could ever hope to reclaim any sort of relevance.

As a kid, I listened to Oldies. This was fine for a few years until I learned every song they played. You see, Oldies are no longer being made. They stopped being made in the early 1960’s. You’d think that, even given that limitation, there would be more than enough material to keep listeners surprised. Thousands of singles were produced from 1950-1965, maybe even millions. Yet all I heard was a shuffle of Pretty Woman, Twist and Shout, and Stop! In the Name of Love. There comes a time in a young man’s life when he cannot hear Pretty Woman any longer without projectile vomiting, and for me that time came around age 13.

Fortunately my friend Andy turned me on to the Beatles around that time. The Beatles, as you know, made lots of good songs that they never play on the radio. It took a while to work my way through all their albums, and by the time I was pretty familiar I had another friend who saved me by making a Bob Dylan mix tape. Bob Dylan has even more songs that are played even less than the Beatles, which is kind of strange because whenever you see a documentary about the 60’s you hear either a Beatles song or a Dylan song played in the background. Go figure.

Tucson had a couple fairly decent radio stations over the years, but they always ended in tragedy. In high school, when I wasn’t listening to tapes or my parents’ record collection, I tuned in to The Hog, a Classic Rock station. It wasn’t always great, and they did commit the cardinal sin of having a morning show with two annoying DJs, but it did play Stairway to Heaven at least once a week so I guess I can’t complain.

The Hog met its fate one afternoon my senior year. I drove to school in the morning with my dial set to Hog. In the afternoon, driving home, I had the strangest feeling that something was amiss. Alternative Rock (or Alt Rock, or Green Day, however you want to classify it) was blaring from the tiny speakers in my dashboard. Then the station identification came on. It was no longer The Hog. Apparently this is how radio stations switch formats: no warning, mid-day. I made a fruitless call in to the station manager. I even took time from my Government/Current Events class to implore my classmates to call in as well, to bring back a radio station I felt ambivalent about but at least didn’t actively hate.

The truth is, none of the music I listen to was discovered on commercial radio. In college, I listened to the student-run radio station. You’ve got to sit through a lot of garbage but occasionally you’ll hear something that really moves you. Also, there were a few really cute girls who had radio shows so I listened and tried to like the music they were playing. It didn’t take much convincing.

National Public Radio is, strangely, the best station to hear new music. They have a couple shows dedicated to playing stuff you’d never hear unless you are one of those people who are “cool” and just know about new bands as they are formed.

Having friends who play music also helps. They share their music with you, and you get to hear music you’d never hear on the radio. Twofer.

Even now I’m listening to my ipod while I write this post. I have a meticulously maintained itunes library which has more music than any commercial radio playlist. When I hear a song on the radio, I either like it but already have it on itunes, don’t like it and don’t have it on itunes, or haven’t heard it but don’t like it. This isn’t snobbery; I really wish it wasn’t this way. Would you rather listen to (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction for the billionth time or Exile on Main Street with no commercial interruptions?

I’d love to hear free, new music every time I get in my car. But radio stations (most of them owned by one evil company) will never work this way. Don’t ask me why. Ask capitalism.

Meanwhile, it turns out Roy Orbison sang hundreds of songs that aren’t Pretty Woman. Many of them are fantastic. They don’t get played on the radio.

the gift of cyrus

My brother generously got me a book of Hannah Montana stickers for my birthday. Obviously, I had to use them.
I like the sticker that says “Part Time Pop Star.” It means that half the time she’s just Billy Ray Cyrus’ kid.josh-coloring
This next piece is a bit psychedelic.josh-coloring-2
A lot of people have asked me how Miley Cyrus came up with her stage name, Hannah Montana. It isn’t hard to find out. In her book, Chronicles Vol. 1, Cyrus says, “one time [a friend] asked me why I was using a different name when I played, especially in the neighboring towns. Like, didn’t I want people to know who I was?”

She wanted a name that encapsulated her identity. “What kind of confused me later was seeing an article in a Downbeat magazine with a story about a West Coast saxophone player named David Allyn. I had suspected that the musician had changed the spelling of Allen to Allyn. I could see why,” Cyrus continues. “It looked more exotic, more inscrutable. I was going to do this, too.”

“The first time I was asked my name in the Twin Cities, I instinctively and automatically without thinking simply said, ‘Hannah Montana.'”

That’s how real musicians do it, dear readers.

dylan theory (how much longer?)

dead-weather-jack-white Listening to the new album by Dead Weather, I noticed they included a (pretty sweet) cover of Bob Dylan’s New Pony, from the Street Legal album.

Doing a little research (yeah, I Googled it), I discovered this little gem of a video that features Jack White accompanying Bob on the tune One More Cup of Coffee. I also found out Bob has a Hank Williams project (a la Mermaid Avenue) in the pipeline and Jack is one of the performers on that.

My theory? I bet Bob’s acoustic guitar is buried in the mix of New Pony. There is absolutely nothing in the liner notes or online that I could find to substantiate that. I just got this feeling, you know?242537