As I write this, the man, Bob Dylan, is still alive. He’s still performing the ‘never-ending tour’ and all bets are on as to when and where he’ll play his last performance. But despite all the words written about him, the man is an enigma. I think all true fans love that about him and wouldn’t have it any other way. But let’s imagine a perfect world, one in which every Bob Dylan fan would get a chance to ask the man one question. Just one, it doesn’t need to be any more than that. And Bob has to answer the question truthfully. None of his usual dissembling, half-mumbled through sneering lips. Just give us some truth, Bob!
Here’s the question I would ask, and why…
“Oh sir, oh Mr Zimmerman, were the British pop band The Hollies in any way influential to your conceiving of and producing your Self Portrait album, and if so, how?”
To put this question in context, you should know that the Hollies put out an album in 1969 called Hollies Sing Dylan. An interesting album, with some great covers, but a strange album too. The arrangements often veer into Tin Pan Alley territory, especially their version of Blowin’ In the Wind, with its brass flourishes. And the arrangement of Mighty Quinn is pretty much trad jazz.
Then in 1970 Dylan brought out Self Portrait, an album of mostly covers, including ‘easy listening’ tunes by Rogers and Hart, and some Everly Brothers songs, all done Dylan style. Although I can’t cite any critics or articles to back it up (because there aren’t any), my theory is that Dylan, in doing Self Portrait, was in some ways responding to what the Hollies had done with their Hollies Sing Dylan album.
To begin with, although there’s nothing on Self Portrait by the Hollies, the existence of the Everly Brothers songs (Let It Be Me, and Take A Message To Mary) is I think revealing. The Hollies and the Everlys had always been inspired by each other, from their vocal sound to the songs they did. The Everlys’ 1966 album Two Yanks In England included many songs written by the Hollies, and some of the members played on the album. And Graeme Nash had left the Hollies in 1968 (over, it’s said, disagreements with the Hollies Sing Dylan album, among other things) to join David Crosby and Stephen Stills in the US, where they sometimes hobnobbed with Bob. So anyway, I think all of this influenced Bob in some way, although like I said, I can’t cite any critics or articles that point in that direction. This is just my own theory, and I’d love to have it confirmed or denied by The Man. So, c’mon Bob, tell me the truth!
What would your question be, and why?