Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Cinch Review

Writer made up Bob Dylan quotes; resigns from New Yorker

Why make up quotes from Bob Dylan? There are few figures in popular culture of the past 50 years who have given as many lengthy and fascinating and amusing interviews as Dylan has. I guess the obvious answer is that you make them up if you want to have Dylan expressing a thought he never actually expressed. When Dylan is quoted as saying something, it somehow matters to people (even people who aren’t fans), much more so than something said by your common-or-garden celebrity.

Michael Moynihan of The Tablet read Jonah Lehrer’s book Imagine: How Creativity Works, and, being a big Dylan fan himself, he found some of the quotes attributed to Dylan didn’t ring true or familiar. He followed up with Lehrer and was lied to and then eventually the house of cards came tumbling down, as Moynihan describes in his article here.

I didn’t read Lehrer’s book; it wasn’t on my radar. But I know very well how a false Dylan quote can stand out and trouble a dedicated fan.

I don’t mind saying that one of my high points as RWB was when I got the Christian Science Monitor to issue a correction for quoting Dylan as calling himself an atheist.

(You’re welcome, Bob. I guess Michael Moynihan is owed a thank-you note too.)

Addendum: For some, of-course, making up or distorting a few quotes is not ambitious enough at all. We can’t forget that the high minded journalists at India’s The Hindu apparently concocted an entire interview.

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World anticipates a Tempest (and also a new Bob Dylan album)

It’s a kind of marketing with which we’re becoming familiar from the Bob Dylan “camp”: rumors of a new album being recorded, followed weeks or months later by an official announcement, and then the granting of a “listening session” to certain select music journalists, with the proviso, mind you, that no notes be taken.

It’s been a highly effective way of creating a buzz (and Dylan has had two albums which entered various charts around the world at number one in the past decade). However, lest we dismiss it too cynically as a hyping mechanism, we should at least bear in mind that were one of these people at a listening session to come away saying how incredibly dull the record was (“I almost fell asleep! I just wanted to escape!”) then that would not do much for the sales prospects. You can avoid that to some degree by picking people whom you expect will enjoy the music, but there’s no guarantees.

As far as I know, only one writer who’s heard the forthcoming album has said anything about it to date, and that’s Allan Jones of the UK’s Uncut magazine. He did not fall asleep, it seems. After four or five tracks, he says, he was only thinking “how much better is this thing going to get?” Now that’s the kind of buzz you really like to have.

In terms of concrete characterizations, Jones really only says that the album has less of the “roadhouse blues” or “jazzy riverboat shuffles” that has populated the last three Dylan albums, but he alludes instead to songs like “Red River Shore” or “’Cross the Green Mountain” in terms of what the new record feels like. Those are great songs; in fact they are unforgettable classics of Dylan’s latter-day career. Again, high marks for buzz, although I do presume that Allan Jones is merely giving his honest impression rather than trying to hype anything.
Continue reading World anticipates a Tempest (and also a new Bob Dylan album)

The Cinch Review

Tempest by Bob Dylan on vinyl

Tempest by Bob Dylan on vinyl LP

As expounded upon before, I’m not an advocate of vinyl purely for its tactile pleasures (although I love holding a real record as much as the next guy), but for quite a few years now there’s been a trend whereby new music released on vinyl has received a kinder and more faithful mastering than that which is released on CD (or mp3), where the abuse of the process of dynamic range compression has resulted in blaring and ultimately-wearying recordings being foisted upon a largely unsuspecting public. (Also known as the Loudness War[s].) The Dylan CD releases of the past several years seem to have progressively improved in that respect. Together Through Life on CD didn’t sound quite as bad as Modern Times had, and Christmas in the Heart seemed (to me at least) better still. (By the way, with the mercury frequently hitting triple digits in many parts this summer, I am glad to suggest that putting on Christmas in the Heart makes for some pretty effective aural air-conditioning. There’s nothing like listening to Bob Dylan sing “Winter Wonderland” when it’s 104 degrees in July. Just try not to get so enchanted that you light up some logs in the fireplace.)

I don’t know how the mastering will go on the forthcoming release, but Sony/Columbia is continuing the recent pattern of offering a vinyl package that also includes the album on CD. This is a smart way of selling it, I guess, albeit that one might wish for a lower price-tag. is offering Tempest for pre-order as two vinyl LPs with one CDfor (at the time of writing) $25.99. Through the site, on the other hand, you can pre-order the same thing for four dollars more.

That deliciously brings to mind Bob’s couplet from his song “Po’ Boy”:

I say, “How much you want for that?” I go into the store
The man says, “Three dollars.” “All right,” I say, “Will you take four?”

Of-course, may the Good Lord hasten the way when all honest consumers will be able to obtain the recording as it was meant to be heard regardless of the medium in which they purchase it. Does that seem so much to ask?

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In other news … Lulu Campbell

In April of this year, Lulu Campbell dropped off her fifteen-year-old grandson at his home and was in her vehicle looking for her cell phone when two armed men approached (as reported in the Telegraph of Macon, Georgia). They demanded she open her door and hand over her money to them. She responded, “Baby, you’re going to kill me anyway, so I don’t have to open it!”

She was reaching for her .38 caliber revolver as one of the two men (allegedly one Brenton Lance Spencer) began firing on her. She had the incredible quickness and presence of mind to push back her seat in order to avoid his shot, and she felt his bullet whiz by her chest. She then fired back, hitting Spencer in his chest. (He survived and was later placed under arrest.)

The second gunman (allegedly one Dantre Horatio Shivers) was in front of her truck, and began firing at her. She ducked down and fired wildly back, persuading him to flee.

Lulu Campbell sustained no bullet wounds in this encounter, although her Toyota Tundra is riddled with them.

Campbell owns thirteen convenience stores in Georgia. She says she always carries a gun on her hip and one in her car. She is four feet and eleven inches tall. Continue reading In other news … Lulu Campbell

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Massacre in Aurora

This morning the United States awoke to news of at least 12 people dead and dozens more wounded after a gunman invaded a Colorado movie theatre which was filled with people at midnight going to see the new “Batman” film. The cruelty and carnage is impossible to come to terms with. The bereaved and those suffering horrible injuries badly need prayers along with all the practical help that is being provided.

The media mill is already churning out analyses, speculations and even political prognostications, while the bodies are still warm, and here even I’m writing about it. Advocates of gun control in America, from media talking heads to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have already jumped on the story to support their point of view on that issue. At this minute we don’t even know whether the apparent perpetrator, identified as James Holmes, legally owned his weapons or broke the law to obtain them, and we also do not know anything about his motivation.

The gun control debate will rev up for a while and it will pass. Maybe some localities will pass stricter regulations. Maybe there will be a push for more federal regulations. But whether you oppose guns or (like yours truly) vigorously support the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms, one practical fact ought to be faced: Guns will never be removed from America. Even the most draconian federal gun ban (one which is politically inconceivable) would only take guns away from people who obey the law, leaving and even promoting an illegal trade in firearms. Britain has long had strict gun control, and in 1997 passed a total handgun ban. Yet gun crime has only increased since then. The United States has many more millions of guns already in circulation than Britain could ever dream of having had. America will never be even close to being a gun-free society. Continue reading Massacre in Aurora

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Tempest: New Bob Dylan album due on September 11th, 2012

Tempest: new album by Bob DylanThe official word on the forthcoming Bob Dylan album, titled Tempest, has come via a press release at

There’s not a lot of info there, other than the release date, the cover image, and the fact that it will contain ten songs. Long-time Dylan-related publication ISIS has the names of the songs:

1. Duquesne Whistle
2. Soon After Midnight
3. Narrow Way
4. Long and Wasted Years
5. Pay In Blood
6. Scarlet Town
7. Early Roman Kings
8. Tin Angel
9. Tempest
10. Roll On John

It is rumored that one song deals with the Titanic, and another invokes John Lennon (no prize for guessing which one the latter may be). ISIS also reports that those who’ve heard the album rate it very highly indeed. Continue reading Tempest: New Bob Dylan album due on September 11th, 2012

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On “Abide with Me,” Sung by Harry Secombe

Harry Secombe Abide with MeDuring the part of my childhood and adolescence which I spent living in Ireland, I recall encountering the “holy hour” that British television featured on a Sunday evening. There were shows like “Stars on Sunday” and “Songs of Praise” (the latter of which I believe still runs) where hymns would be sung, sometimes with grand cathedral choirs and celebrity guest vocalists.

Harry Secombe always seemed to be popping up in this context. Secombe (Sir Harry as of 1981) had achieved fame as a comedian, on the Goon Show from BBC Radio in the 1950s, with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. Even at this stage (the 1970s and early 80s) the Goon Show was something of which I couldn’t help but be aware. You would hear references to it: clips, re-runs, and latter day imitations. And of-course the alumni of the Goon Show had moved on to individual fame. So Harry Secombe was in my perception a Goon, and a significant part of his role as a Goon was in singing their daft little songs.

It seemed he must have lost his way somehow.

It was a little odd, then, to be flicking through the channels of a Sunday evening and suddenly see him standing there and performing—with what appeared to be total devotion and sincerity, in his large Welsh tenor—a big old hymn like “How Great Thou Art” or some such. I couldn’t make the connection between my one image of Harry Secombe and this other incarnation. It seemed he must have lost his way somehow.

I didn’t linger with the issue. Those kinds of TV programs were not for me, nor even for my more religiously-devout parents, truth be told. We were, after all, Roman Catholics, and Irish ones. These shows, it was well-enough understood, consisted of a bunch of English Protestants singing their Protestant songs. However sweetly they might sing them, it was just not something that belonged to us. These weren’t the same songs that were sung by the choir at Sunday Mass (not that anyone in the pews dared to sing along with the choir, of-course). There was a huge cultural chasm there, and the thing was basically incomprehensible to my youthful mind. Protestants on TV. British comedians singing hymns. Change the channel.

Times change. The passage of time often seems the great tragedy of life, but flip it over and it might also be the great blessing of our existence. For yours truly, having fallen away in my youth (with some significant enthusiasm) from observant Catholicism, I found my way back to church-going Christianity later in life in New York City through a Protestant church; specifically, through a traditionally-minded Lutheran congregation. One of the elements that both drew me in and continues to enrich my experience in that church is being able to hear and to sing songs from the great tradition of Christian hymnody. Some great hymns are shared by the various traditions, of-course, but I don’t think there can be any debate over the fact that the best damned songs of Christian devotion are ones written by Protestants; at the very least it must be conceded even by the pope that the Protestants have composed the greatest number of great hymns.

So, not terribly long ago, I was wasting time on YouTube as many of us are wont to do, and something I cannot name put Harry Secombe into my head, and I recalled the strange incomprehensible experience of seeing him sing hymns on a Sunday evening on British television. I thought I would like to see that odd thing again. I did not succeed in finding clips of him on those actual old TV programs, but there were many songs and slide-shows uploaded to YouTube by fans of Sir Harry, including of him singing various hymns just like those he would sing on those shows. One that popped out at me right away was Secombe singing “Abide with Me.” Simply put, Christian hymns do not come better than that one. I clicked on it, and hearing his voice sing that song even through my tinny computer speakers transfixed me in an other-worldly manner, one which I could not have imagined when I was twelve-years-old, flicking through the TV stations back in Ireland. More bluntly, it made me break down in uncontrollable tears.

There was not any longer any cultural chasm. Harry Secombe’s willingness to throw his comic persona to the wind and sing in this devotional manner no longer required any explanation, and the song was one that seemed to belong to me as surely as it belongs to anyone.

I was simply grateful that I had lived long enough to hear it like this.

“Abide with Me” (the lyric) was written in 1847 by Henry Lyte, a Scotsman and an Anglican. Three weeks after he finished it he died of tuberculosis.

The melody “Eventide,” credited to William Henry Monk in 1861, is the one most associated with the song.

Inexplicably, this song is commonly sung by crowds at sporting events in England. I guess you can’t outlaw it. (In truth, we should be very grateful for it. Perhaps, after all, there will always be an England … )

Henry Lyte, as mentioned, died in 1847. Sir Harry Secombe passed on in 2001.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

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Bringing down the pyramids

As reported by Raymond Ibrahim, calls have already begun amongst Muslim clerics for the destruction of Egyptian antiquities, now that Islamists appear possibly on the cusp of grabbing control from the military in that country. That includes real calls for the destruction of the great pyramids.

Of-course, it’s not going to happen overnight. Egypt has long depended on income from tourists, and such acts of brazen national self-destruction will not occur soon nor without serious opposition. Nevertheless, there is an inescapable logic at work. Symbols of paganism—and indeed of any other religion—do not enjoy tolerance by genuine Islamic regimes. History and a quick look around the world can assure you of that much. Continue reading Bringing down the pyramids

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Bob Dylan makes like Liberace on new tour

The big news from the first few dates of Bob Dylan’s current concert tour in Europe is that his main instrument of choice is now a grand piano. No candelabra like the great Liberace, but he is keeping the Oscar he won for “Things Have Changed”—or a facsimile—perched atop, draped with beads of some kind. (There are currently a variety of fan video clips on YouTube, like the one embedded at right with a great version of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” from his show in Bonn, Germany). Continue reading Bob Dylan makes like Liberace on new tour