I have undoubtedly read more books by Robert Rankin than by any other author. In the early 1990s, I stumbled across Rankin’s books in a rather circuitous manner… As a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, I read the (excellent) novel Good Omens that Gaiman had co-written with Terry Pratchett. This in turn prompted me to read a number of novels in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and at the back of several of these was a page advertising the Robert Rankin novel The Antipope, always accompanied by the quote from Terry Pratchett “One of the rare guys who can always make me laugh”. Both the title of the book and the quote from Pratchett was enough to get my attention and I subsequently tracked down the book, read it, loved it.
Bringing It All Back Home is Bob Dylan’s first masterpiece, notably it’s also his first album to make it into the Billboard Top 10 Albums chart. The first notes from the electric guitar in the introduction to “Subterranean Homesick Blues” are an immediate declaration of intent, separating Bringing It All Back Home from the folk music that had comprised Dylan’s career up to that point. Structurally, the album is divided into two halves with side one featuring Bob Dylan backed by a rock band and an acoustic side two. Lyrically, the album continues on from Another Side Of Bob Dylan in eschewing the protest and socially conscious songs of his early albums and moving towards the more personal and sometimes surreal.
Fiona Apple’s second album When The Pawn… sits quite comfortably amongst my favourite dozen albums of all time and is an album that I genuinely return to on pretty much a weekly basis. Although When The Pawn… went platinum in the US, it didn’t attain the same commercial success of her triple platinum debut album Tidal. Part of this may have been due to the over the top backlash against Apple at the time, which seemingly grew out of negative reactions to the Mark Romanek directed video for her song “Criminal” in 1997 and continued on with attacks on her for being too thin, saying too much, saying too little and being too pretentious.
It seems appropriate at this point to take a brief diversion from Bob Dylan: The Complete Album Collection Vol. One to close out Dylan’s “folk” years by looking at the remainder of his studio recordings from this era. The Bootleg Series Volume 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964 collects together demos recorded by Dylan for the publishing companies Leeds Music and M. Witmark & Sons. Although over two-thirds of the tracks on this release were subsequently re-recorded and released by Dylan in the 1960s, there are fifteen tracks that until the release of this album in 2010 had only been available as bootlegs.
Anyone with more than a passing interest in The Criterion Collection would be aware of the general commotion that occurs every couple of years when Criterion release their special edition of the Wes Anderson film before last. The whole process is always quite fascinating to follow on social media. The Criterion Collection is justifiably the most esteemed home video company in the world, renowned for not only the exceptional scope and quality of their releases, but also the time and effort that they put into packaging and supplements. As a result of the excellence of their work, the company has quite rightly built up their own rather zealous group of followers.
Another Side Of Bob Dylan is Bob Dylan’s fourth studio album and is one that is too readily dismissed. Recorded just five months after The Times They Are A-Changin’, the album comes at an interesting point in Dylan’s career and is unique amongst his discography. The album is often referred to as Dylan’s last “folk” album and musically this is correct, the album was recorded solo by Dylan on vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica in a single session on June 9 1964. However, lyrically Another Side Of Bob Dylan breaks away from the earnest protest songs and tales of injustice so prevalent on the previous albums.
Along with Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd, Jacques Tati is one of the great silent film comedians. The only difference of course being that Tati never actually made a silent film. Between 1953 and 1971, Tati directed four classic films revolving around the character Monsieur Hulot (also played by Tati). Supposedly named after “Charlot”, the name used in France for Chaplin’s character The Tramp, like Tati, Monsieur Hulot is a man out of time. Instantly recognisable by his hat, pipe, overcoat and stooping gait, Monsieur Hulot is constantly at odds with authority and technology.
Bob Dylan’s third album The Times They Are A-Changin’ was released just eight months after the extraordinary The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. While it’s his first album comprised entirely of original songs, The Times They Are A-Changin’ lacks the variety and humour of its predecessor. A series of earnest ballads focussed on social justice and racism, the album is a bit heavy going at times, but the presence of three extraordinary songs elevates its status.