The Basement Tapes:
Bob Dylan’s Summer of 1967
By Jochen Markhorst
Independently Published – £11.11
An additional advantage for the Bard who is so fond of keeping things vague (according to Dylan scholar Joan Baez), is the ambiguity that is almost ingrained in this form; the conversation partner being invisible and unknown, allows by definition the circumstances to be open to multiple explanations. The You can also be an abstraction, for example, or a population group, or a social movement, or the mirror image of the narrator – open hunting season for enthusiastic Dylan exegetes with cryptanalytic ambitions, at any rate.
(‘Tears Of Rage’)
Dylan’s lyrics do not seem very elaborate and developed, but if we take it seriously, the approach is: psychological. An excess of nothing makes a person tense, insensitive, vicious, deceitful, turns him, in short, into a particularly unpleasant fellow. But, as mentioned, not very elaborated. Presumably this is also one of those lyrics that Dylan quickly rattles out of his old typewriter in the living room of the Big Pink, while the guys from The Band downstairs prepare the stuff for the next session.
(‘Too Much of Nothing’)
There is something inherently inspired within the Dylan drenched synthesis and analysis of Jochen Markhorst. Clearly a fan cum Dutch author, who not only knows his subject – inside out and upside down might I add – but writes with the sort of sparkling intellect that simply bestows his readership with a yearning urge to turn yet more pages.
Having already written seven books on the various works of The Bard (Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits having just been translated into English), The Basement Tapes: Bob Dylan’s Summer of 1967 is his sixth; and is a quintessential roller-coaster ride through yet more back pages of the legendary Big Pink sessions.
Indeed, all thirty-two of the most relative and completed Basement songs are herein brought to bear with a fresh and most imaginative perspective.
Within the context of ‘One For The Road’ for instance, Markhorst’s research enables the reader to get under the trajectorial skin of Frank Sinatra’s influence on Dylan. And he does so by deciphering both Sinatra’s classic song of almost the same name ‘One For My Baby (and One More for the Road)’ along with ‘Ebb Tide.’ Both songs of which appeared on the classic 1958 album, Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely. Both songs of which were invariably (and understandably) imprinted within Dylan’s musical psyche: ‘’At Ray’s, where there weren’t many folk records, I used to play the phenomenal ‘Ebb Tide’ by Frank Sinatra a lot and it had never failed to fill me with awe. The lyrics were so mystifying and stupendous. When Frank sang that song, I could hear everything in his voice – death, God and the universe, everything.
It is hard to argue with Dylan’s sentiment.
I would also contend that when Sinatra sings said songs, it always feels as if he is singing directly to me. Hence Dylan hearing ‘’everything in his voice.’’
So for anyone who wants to get deep inside the nigh mythological Basement Tapes, I’d highly recommend this altogether majestic read of a most readable book.