To mark our 50th episode, writer and podcaster Tom Jackson gives us his clear-eyed take on Dylan’s “Born Again” albums: Slow Train Coming, Saved, Shot Of Love and Trouble No More.
Novelist, former A & R man and screenwriter John Niven begins by summing up Bob’s generally unloved Neighbourhood Bully: “I have a soft spot for Heritage Rock acts trying to do Punk in the late 70’s and early 80’s”.
Edward Docx (novelist/screenwriter/journalist) is a hyper-articulate defence witness for some of Bob’s least understood albums: Street-Legal, Infidels, Empire Burlesque and Together Through Life.
Academic and author Pamela Thurschwell gives us her conflicted feminist take on Dylan, including his queer lyrical metaphors and what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a Dylan mansplaining session.
Screenwriter Daragh Carville (ITV’s The Bay) praises Dylan’s “extraordinary ear for spoken language” while reminding us that he “draws on cinema, is fascinated by storytelling but his own films don’t work at all”.
Loudon Wainwright III
Sitting on the porch of his Long Island lockdown hideaway, serenaded by a local bird, Loudon Wainwright III reminds us that he was proclaimed “the first of the new Bob Dylans”.
Singer/songwriter/podcaster/painter Dan Bern admits: “It was not lost on me, being an isolated Jewish kid in Iowa, that Bob had come from just up the road in Minnesota.”
Actor Rufus Jones (writer and co-star of Channel 4’s Home) has hardly answered the BobPhone before he confesses that, despite his Cambridge English degree, “Dylan still scares the hell out of me”.
Rolling Thunder Revue bass player and bandleader Rob Stoner on Jacques Levy, Emmylou Harris, Sam Shepard and how he “made out with Joan Baez on a motel room balcony” for Renaldo & Clara.
Actor/musician Danny Horn, 31, played The Kinks’ frontman Ray Davies in the West End; but it was listening to Dylan at age 14 that changed his life.
Actress Nathalie Armin (speaking at a digital distance) has been a Dylan fan since the age of six, when an unknown voice “showed her the colours in her mind” as she lay in the back seat of her father’s car.
Bestselling Shakespeare authority James Shapiro joined us on the Bob Phone from New York, just before the world locked down and the Shakespeare-laden Murder Most Foul unexpectedly dropped.
Comedian Nish Kumar says: “Bob Dylan is the most enduring and important creative relationship of my life. If you can’t think of one Dylan song you like, then a part of your humanity may be missing”.
Scottish playwright David Greig was first “cracked open” to Dylan when he heard Desire in a remote part of South Africa “under the influence of the most extraordinarily strong dope”. “That’s it”, he thought, “I’M GOING IN!”
Writer Neil Gaiman fell in love with A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall via Bryan Ferry’s cover version. It ended up influencing the imagery of his novel American Gods (as well as the Amazon TV series).
Rock journalist Barney Hoskyns comes on board for a special episode that focuses on The Band, with Dylan as their “weird” sideman.
On the BobPhone from the USA: it’s award-winning writer Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn, with a supremely quotable episode. On his “Big Kahuna” interview of Bob for Rolling Stone: “he was direct and generous; we had a good time”.
Broadcaster, journalist and “swivel-eyed Dylanologist” Andy Kershaw, “a radio station within a radio station” during his time on Radio 1, gives us his unvarnished thoughts.
As an early Thanksgiving treat, Luke and Kerry welcome American singer Piney Gir. Piney (real name Angela), hails from “a very strict part of the Bible Belt”, where she grew up listening to cassettes of wholesome Christian music and a few of the “less psychedelic” Beach Boys tracks.
Is Bob Dylan a poet? We ask Ian McMillan, one of the UK’s best. Ian compares Bob to Dylan Thomas, both of them “great poets who can rub vowels against consonants and make a kind of smoke come out of them… a kind of music.”
Music journalist Andrew Male begins by examining “the humour that turns sour… the madness” of Bob’s 1965 “speedy, hipster world”, the “fascinating cruelty” of Dont Look Back and Eat The Document.
When writer Geoff Dyer approaches us as a fan of the podcast, we jump at the chance.
Singer Robyn Hitchcock finds “the comfort of doom” in Dylan’s “personal mineshaft of bleakness” as well as in Bob’s latterday performance style
Actor Michael Feast has a deep personal history with Dylan. He won a role in the landmark 1968 London production of Hair by singing Outlaw Blues and Highway 61 Revisited.
Writer/performer Christopher Green illuminates the links between Dylan and female singers such as Indigo Girls, Marlene Dietrich, Marianne Faithfull, Kacey Musgraves and Emmylou Harris.
Blinded By The Light screenwriter Sarfraz Manzoor joins us for an unexpected “Bob Meets Bruce” episode. A passionate Dylan man, Sarfraz first saw Bob in 1990, camping out with other hardcore fans for tickets at Hammersmith Odeon (he tips his hat to the legendary ‘Lambchop’).
Sheila Atim - actress, singer, writer - won an Olivier Award for her performance as Marianne in Girl From The North Country, which transferred to the West End from London’s Old Vic.
Theatre director Stephen Unwin joins Luke and Kerry for one of their widest-ranging discussions; from Unwin’s favourite album The Times They Are A-Changin’ to The Bootleg Series Vol 8: Tell Tale Signs and Tempest.
More Michael Gray
In our second Michael Gray episode, the noted Dylan authority exults in Bob’s legendary 1984 David Letterman appearance: “he breaks through the oleaginous smear that is American television and creates an authentic moment”.
We devote our next two episodes to Michael Gray, one of this podcast’s literary heroes. Seems we owe it all to Linda, the university girlfriend who introduced him to Bob’s work.
At age 14, journalist Dorian Lynskey had a “huge resentment” towards Bob Dylan and the “horrible old has-beens” in the Traveling Wilburys: “SCREW YOU! GET OUT OF THE WAY!”
Actor Jonjo O’Neill tells the true story of how Bob Dylan changed his life. Coming to Blowin' In The Wind through a dodgy guitar teacher in Catholic Belfast, moving on to full-blown Dylan conversion through Scorsese documentary No Direction Home,
Professor and playwright Dan Rebellato sets out his stall by praising Dylan’s simplicity, his humour and his relationship to the spiritual world.
Larry "Ratso" Sloman
From New York, it’s the legendary Larry “Ratso” Sloman, author of On The Road With Bob Dylan, the up-close-and-personal story of the 1975 Rolling Thunder tour. Ratso shoots the breeze with Luke and Kerry about Bob, Joan, Sara, Joni, Roger, Renaldo, Clara and the rest of the gang.
In a specially extended edition, beloved Barking bigmouth Billy Bragg tells Kerry and Luke how he first encountered the works of Dylan in the early 1970’s, “through the portal” of Simon & Garfunkel and Rod Stewart.
Jude Rogers, Guardian music critic and interviewer, shares her thoughts with Kerry while Luke is in rehearsals. She tells of growing up with The Smiths and REM, “terrified” of the “intimidating” man who “influenced all of pop music” until she discovers the “non-intimidating” Bob on Nashville Skyline and Self Portrait.
Direct from New York City, our first transatlantic podcast features singer, songwriter and journalist Jeff Slate, who went from life in a small town in suburban Connecticut to gigging with his own band to being invited into the Dylan Office “for coffee” to writing the liner notes for More Blood, More Tracks.
Film producer Robin Guise is our knowledgeable guide through Dylan’s major cinematic works. In our longest episode yet, we look back at Dont Look Back, Eat The Document, Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid, Renaldo & Clara, Hearts Of Fire and Masked And Anonymous.
Kathryn Williams, singer-songwriter, laughs like the flowers as she talks about Dylan as inspiration and Cat Stevens as her secret crush. Outsiders and identity are themes; she listened to Janis Joplin every morning to get through school.
David Baddiel, a Bowie man to his core, pronounces Dylan “incredibly subversive and instinctively funny” while comparing him to Larry David. Bob’s voice is “like a buzzing fly”; Mr Tambourine Man is “a pure piece of surrealistic poetry that signals the start of the 60’s - in 1964”.
Peter Fincham, television producer, tells a hilarious story concerning Dylan’s manager and a Bob tribute band. He moves on to Every Grain Of Sand and the Bootleg Series (“Angelina is impenetrable” but it’s “a magnificent vocal performance.
Tom Sutcliffe, journalist and broadcaster, gave his fourteen year-old son a birthday iPod with a quote from Forever Young engraved on it. He swears: “I don’t randomly quote Bob Dylan” and describes Bob’s Bringing It All Back Home as “a cold shower/warm shower of an album”.
Jon Canter, comedy writer, reminds us of Bob’s physical resemblance to The Marx Brothers and of his “predictably perverse” humour
Sid Griffin, musician and writer, compares Dylan to Miles Davis but concludes “he’s a surprisingly normal person in an incredibly abnormal situation.” Other subjects: Bob’s open attendance at Minnesota sporting events, Dylan’s penchant for taking buses into rural Ireland and the secret of his 1960s skinny black jeans.
Sylvie Simmons, author of the definitive Leonard Cohen biography “I’m Your Man”, confesses to discovering both Bob and Leonard on the same tacky compilation album.
Olivier Award-winning actor Kenneth Cranham wraps his RADA-trained vocal cords around Visions of Johanna and never stops. "You’ve got to go and see this guy Bob Dylan at the Royal Festival Hall,” he remembers being told in 1964.
In Episode 4, acclaimed writer Paul Morley - not widely known as a Bob Dylan man - proves his love.
In Episode 3, singer and writer Barb Jungr compares Dylan and Leonard Cohen (having extensively recorded both), and talks about the constant relevance of Dylan’s lyrics: his “understanding of humanity…that really relentless gaze”.
In Episode 2, actor David Morrissey and his son Gene discuss Dylan’s take on heartbreak and darkness, as well as the art of listening to albums all the way through; especially Blood On The Tracks.
In our first episode: noted journalist, broadcaster and author David Hepworth talks about Dylan's jokes, the Nobel Prize and the time he interviewed him.