Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Bob Dylan: Performing Artist, 1974-1986 - The Middle Years

by Paul Williams

Dylan is challenging himself and his band, looking to create an entirely new show and new sound to reflect the new moment he finds himself in, emotionally and creatively. Among the other noises crowding him from within and without, Dylan had the recent (April 9) suicide of Phil Ochs to contend with: Ochs, a tortured and sometimes violently crazed man during his last sad months, had an obsessive, competitive love/hate relationship with Dylan (largely in his own mind, though Dylan was not above twisting the knife in public, responding to Ochs' goading with cool, vicious putdowns) going back to the Sixties and the Village folk scene. Ochs told friends that not being included in the Rolling Thunder Revue was the final blow for him, thus setting Dylan up as "responsible" for his death (though Ochs was in no condition to be included on anyone's tour). Dylan's long slow break-up with Sara had obviously reached the fire and brimstone stage, and, according to Spitz, he was juggling wife, family, and new girlfriend and going through at least a fifth of bourbon a day. "Right now I've got not much to lose," he sings in the Lakeland "If You See Her," and that seems a pretty good summation of the place Dylan was performing from each night of this 1976 tour.

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