I'm pleased to say that the first of the two Bob Dylan Discussion Weekends on offer this autumn is now fully booked - just a few days after being announced - so now places are available for the October 3-5 weekend only. Details here.


SATURDAY APRIL 5: I'm pleased to announce two new Bob Dylan Discussion Weekends here in South-West France this coming autumn/fall - the first in 18 months.

Great food, great music, great location.

As previously, places are limited to a maximum of six people per weekend and will be offered on a first-come-first-served basis. The dates are:

September: Friday 12 to Sunday 14

October: Friday 3 to Sunday 5



I was lucky enough to meet and interview Georgia blues musician Frank Edwards not long before he died. I was researching the life of Blind Willie McTell, and they had been friends - or certainly acquaintances - in the 1930s. Aptly enough, I suppose, by the time I caught up with him in 2001, he was a regular in the Atlanta city bar called Blind Willie's. I wrote up our brief encounter in Hand Me My Travelin' Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell  but today (20 March 2014) being the 105th anniversary of Frank Edwards' birth, I reproduce the notebook pages written at the time - a small tribute to a likeable artist and man:

And here's that recording of Three Women Blues:

Carey Bell was actually 64 at the time of his appearance that night. Frank Edwards died in March 2002, Carey Bell in May 2007.


I'm greatly saddened by news of Tony Benn's death: a great man and that very rare thing, a principled politician. I never met him, but in correspondence with his son Josh a few years ago, I learnt that we had a family connection - and that Tony, as a boy, knew my great-grandfather - a man notorious in their part of Essex. This is the story:

My great-grandfather was Robert Alexander Gray, a man who rose from cabin boy to Master Mariner, owned two significant houses and a London flat, bought a motor yacht as early as 1918, and seems to have had a nasty temperament. Here he is with my much put-upon great-grandmother on a camel somewhere around Karachi (which was still part of India at the time):
He is supposed to have been the first person in Cleadon (near Sunderland) to have owned a motor-car. I believe this was a Sunbeam, and that as a boy my grandfather had to polish it perfectly or else. This story was, for me, the foundation for Captain Gray's reputation as a bully.
          That last fragment was more or less all I knew of him until I started researching my family tree. Then I found that in 1918, at an auction in Newcastle, he'd bought a substantial early Victorian house in Alnwick, Northumberland, called ‘Freelands’, which, puzzlingly, he sold in 1922, after less than four years of living in it. I never knew why, or where he went after that - and since Cleadon was once described to me as "the debtors' retreat", I assumed that he must have overshot himself and sold the Alnwick property to restore his solvency.
          However, one of the photos floating about has always been of my grandparents and my father standing at the front porch of another house, labelled 'Stansgate' on the back of the snapshot. My father is a toddler here, so this must have been around 1921. I never knew where this mysterious place was until - out of the blue on the evening of March 5, 2006 - I had an e-mail from Josh Benn, son of Tony, asking if I were related to Captain Robert Alexander Gray. His e-mail explained his interest but also provided a huge leap forward in my knowledge about this apparently atrocious great grandfather of mine.
          He explained that his reason for asking if I were related to this Captain Gray was because the Benn family bought a house in Essex on the Blackwater Estuary (Stansgate Abbey House) from Capt. Gray’s widow in 1933. Josh's great grandfather had had the house built in the first place, in 1899, but it had passed out of the family until 1933 when Tony Benn's father, William Wedgwood Benn (the postwar Labour cabinet minister who was given the Viscouncy by Churchill in 1941 that Tony was to struggle to renounce), having spent four happy summers there at the turn of the century, bought the property back. (A property they still have to this day.)
          This surprising e-mail explained the ‘Stansgate’ photo. And once I’d confirmed that I was both related and interested, Josh Benn e-mailed again to say that he was astonished "that we should re-discover this link after so many years. For my family – the Benn family – Capt. Gray was something of a legend and I grew up on the many stories of his time at Stansgate told to me by my grandmother."
          Josh and I subsequently had a long phone call in which he told me that Tony had been delighted to hear he’d made contact with me, since Capt. Gray had indeed been a larger than life figure in his childhood and he had always remembered seeing that when the Grays’ furniture had been taken from the house when he was seven or eight - he was born in April 1925 - a number of pieces were of the sort that screwed to the floor (i.e. they were maritime furniture); but Josh also told me that the house had been built from a kit in 1899 by his great grandfather (rather a grand kit, given that the house was a three storey, double-fronted mock-tudor villa with thatched roof) and that his grandfather had spent a small number of happy summers there in his childhood.
          He said too that Captain Gray figured in their family lore because he was such an unreasonable and intimidating person: that on his arrival in the area he had placed an advert in the local paper to say that he would not be held responsible for the debts of his wife and children. He also told me that the farmhouse was adjacent to an abbey that had originally been a 12th Century priory, and that my great grandfather had become so annoyed by visitors calling to ask to look at it that he had had it demolished!
          The Benns would only ever visit when the Captain was away on business in London. Margaret, Tony's mother, writes about first encountering the Captain Gray household at Stansgate in 1926, in My Exit Visa: An Autobiography [Margaret Stansgate, London: Hutchinson, 1992]:
          ‘When parliament broke up for the summer recess [1926], William temporarily put his political anxieties behind him and we went to see Stansgate, the Benn family’s old seaside house. The visit had been planned while we were travelling through Syria. The wide open spaces of the desert had made William nostalgic for the flat terrain of the Essex coast, and so we had decided to visit the place where he had enjoyed many happy holidays as a boy.
          ‘We had been warned that the owner of Stansgate, Captain Gray, was an unsociable man, but that did not put us off. When Mrs Gray opened the door, William said: “I hope you don’t mind my calling. My father built this house in 1899 and I want to show it to my wife.” Mrs Gray was charmed and William went on to say: “I very much want to bring my mother down next weekend. We’ll stay in a hotel and call next Sunday.” There was a farmhouse in the grounds, and Lady Benn, not the type of woman to be intimidated by Captain Gray, even if his wife and children seemed to be in awe of him, said: “Now Captain Gray, I am going to ask you to let me have that house to rent for the summer for the use of the family.” We used the farmhouse as our holiday home until Captain Gray died, whereupon his widow, wanting smaller accommodation and no longer able to bear the expense of keeping the sea wall in good repair, moved into the farmhouse and sold Stansgate to us. It became our weekend home and played a great part in our lives. William loved going there and enjoyed teaching the boys to sail. We went down as soon as Parliament rose at the end of the week, sometimes on a Thursday evening. When William was a minister he would take his papers with him in the ministerial “red boxes” and work on them over the weekend.’
          From 1927 until 1933 the Benns, therefore, were spending summers in the farmhouse on the land while Capt. Gray and family were in the main house. (In 1940 the house was requisitioned for use in the war effort. Towards the end of her life, Margaret had a self-contained flat within the house, where, Tony Benn wrote, ‘a veritable queue of descendants…came to see her.’ [‘An Appreciation’, p.235])
          According to Josh, his grandmother and my great-grandmother got on very well; when my great-aunt Vera married, it was William Benn who gave her away; and Margaret continued to correspond with Vera for some time.
          When I last heard from him, Josh was looking into his grandmother’s letters and intended to report further. He also had an account - I still haven't seen this - of another local woman’s remembrances of Captain Gray, from a 1977 interview.
          My great-grandfather died at Stansgate, on January 19, 1930. He was only 58 years old - nearly ten years younger than I am now - and there's a touch of poetic justice, I suppose, in the cause of death stated on the certificate: he died of cerebral haemorrhage... and apoplexy.


In honour of the indefatigable Ronnie Spector's current Beyond the Beehive  tour, here's some great footage from over 50 years ago, when even I was young, of the Ronettes performing a favourite of hers (and of so many people):


On the occasion of the footage being re-issued, this time in HD DVD & Blu-ray and with various extras - and almost 22 years after the retrospective event itself, here's the review I wrote for the British Daily Telegraph straight after the gig. I could wish the comments still applied about Bob's unwillingness to promote his own latest album in concert or see himself as part of the entertainment industry - but things have changed (and not only those things):

Columbia Records Celebrates the Music of Bob Dylan at Madison Square Garden on Friday night  -  with a huge roster of stars  -  must have puzzled Dylan more than the rest of those present.
For four and a half years now his Never-Ending Tour has criss-crossed the back roads of America  -  with the odd diversion into Europe, South America and Hawaii  -  with Dylan cycling to work, playing small halls with his anonymous band, refusing to admit press photographers and avoiding any notion of promoting his latest releases. Most of the time, his record company doesn't even know where he is.
             In bizarre contrast, it was suddenly decreed from on corporate high that there was to be a Live Aid-Lennon Memorial type megabash tocelebrate" his 30th anniversary on the Columbia label. That he has not always been on Columbia, that they first signed him thirty-one  years ago, and that the celebration has come seven months too late to mark the anniversary of his first release  -  none of this mattered either to the media machine selling the event to TV around the world or to the fans at the 4-hour-plus show.
             Many stars rumoured to be coming did not materialise  -  Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison  -  and there were conspicuous absentees  -  Joan Baez, Robbie Robertson  -  but there were plenty left, one act following another in impressively quick succession, serviced by roadies working like a pit-stop team and a house-band led by ex-Dylan guitarist G.E.Smith.
             John Mellencamp, loudly unexciting, Johnny Winter, louder and worse, Kris Kristofferson crunching through I'll Be Your Baby Tonight' and the record-company president giving a speech  -  these were the lowlights.
             There were others whose sheer presence contributed authority and excitement: Johnny Cash, the man in the short black coat, and surprise guest Stevie Wonder.
             The younger acts were a very mixed bunch. Sophie B. Hawkins proved a pale pretender to Laura Nyro territory. Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam gave a fine folkclub performance of Masters of War' successfully transposed to the 20,000-seater venue, but the song sounded dated and pious. Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin and Roseanne Cash were merely competent on You Ain't Goin' Nowhere', while Tracy Chapman managed an odd mix of the powerful and cosy on an anthem with no obvious current applicability, The Times They Are A-Changin''.
             Where were the real  young interpreters? Where were Jason & The Scorchers and The Poster Children? The one comparative newcomer whose presence did create real electricity was Sinead O'Connor  -  and it was solely her presence that did it. Large parts of the crowd booed, laughably unmindful of the events of 1966 and with real hatred seething through the hall. It was a repulsive indictment of the mob mentality of stadium-rock events.
             Neil Young took over with a customarily robust performance. Georges Harrison and Thorogood, Chrissie Hynde, The Band, The O'Jays, Tom Petty, Ron Wood and Roger McGuinn all acquitted themselves well enough, but the heavyweight honours went to Lou Reed, choosing, to his credit, an obscure early-80s song, Foot Of Pride', which was fierce and committed; the Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem with a gloriously unrockist, moving When The Ship Comes In', Clapton with a real reoccupation of Don't Think Twice, It's Alright' as a churning blues; and Charles Dickens lookalike Willie Nelson, who was one of the oldest present and chose the newest song, 1989's great, and savagely apt, What Was It You Wanted?'
             Then, at the end, after the ballyhoo, on came Bob Dylan  -  and with the feeling and deft intelligence that created this great sweep of musics and poetry, he chose Song To Woody', stressing that he  sees himself in a line of figures like Guthrie and Leadbelly: people who took their own roads and didn't serve the entertainment industry.
             A couple more songs  -  a solo It's Alright, Ma' and a genuinely celebratory My Back Pages' shared with an inner circle of compadres, an inevitably rabble-rousing finale with everyone Knockin' On Heaven's Door' and in the final end a solo Girl of the North Country': a poignant choice and a subdued performance no more attuned to the demands of the big media event than Dylan ever is.
             And next month he releases a new album. It doesn't have one Bob Dylan song on it, it's his first solo acoustic product" in 28 years, and it's a mixture of folk ballads and pre-war country blues, with a Stephen Foster song and a nursery rhyme thrown in. Almost no-one who was at Madison Square Garden last Friday night will buy it, and Bob will be back in the small halls.


© Michael Gray, 1992.


Morrissey's album Your Arsenal has been re-released over twenty years after its first appearance. Here's what I wrote about it not long after that initial release (for a talking-head piece on the BBC World Service):

The spokesperson for the young, fey dispossessed was already 33 years old, and had been a solo artist longer than The Smiths survived, by the time he made Your Arsenal, his fourth solo album, released in 1992. This was made with the late British guitar ace Mick Ronson as producer: a curious, possibly beguiling choice. Ronson was a Mormon and a generation older than Morrissey, a 1960s rocker in appearance yet with a CV dominated by his time with the very 1970s David Bowie of The Man Who Sold The World. He had also co-produced Lou Reed’s Transformer album, been lead guitarist on Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revues and prominent on Dylan’s Hard Rain album.

The upshot, on Your Arsenal, is a Morrissey with a heavier sound and an almost perverse denial of emphasis on the lyrics.

From ‘You’re Gonna Need Someone On Your Side’ you might think punk has won out, after all, over the shy postmodernist who had spent the 1980s espousing celibacy, telling us “Meat Is Murder” and generally voicing the luxuriant romanticism of the lonelier and purer than thou.

He hasn’t really changed. “I wanted,” he said, “to make as physical a record as I possibly could, instead of constantly being curled up in a little ball at the foot of the bed” - but asked if the cover shot of him, shirt open to the waist, is meant to be sexy, it’s typical that he should reply “Really, what would be the point?” Most of the album captures the Morrissey of that retort.

It also captures his lovely voice, the one that seems to come from having his head in the clouds, up in a forlorn and plaintive ether. Morrissey sings like the thinking person’s P.J.Proby, while evoking a T.S.Eliot England of foggy streets and unrequited love endured in grimy rooms with mugs of tea.

Rarely has angst been so sumptuous. Even on a track as vaudeville-jolly as ‘Certain People I Know’, Morrissey still expresses his gloomy absolutes: singing, for instance, that “They’d sacrifice all, all their principles for anything that’s cashable”, to which, typically, he adds the deliberately feeble line “I do believe it’s terrible”  -  a wry self-mockery parading his feeling of helplessness in the face of these people he’s up against.

A reviewer in Q magazine claimed that this album “easily stands comparison with the best of The Smiths”, adding that at least he's no longer “whingeing about having to go to the launderette.” Nonsense. We value the side of Morrissey that whinges about going to the launderette: it’s the slice of life rock music forgets. And this album does not compare with the best of The Smiths.

There is nothing to match the intensely personal rendering of time and place and struggle found in the 1985 song ‘Pretty Girls Make Graves’: “End of the pier, end of the bay / You tug my arm and say ‘Give in to lust, / Give up to lust, oh heaven knows we’ll soon be dust”. Nor is there any equal to individual lines like “I’ve called to wish you an unhappy birthday” or “Well I was looking for a job and I’ve found a job and heaven knows I’m miserable now”. Nothing matches the first solo album’s ‘Late Night, Maudlin Street’, nor the second’s ‘Interesting Drug’.

But the Morrissey of Your Arsenal still comes drooping into your room like some elegant young wastrel who should make you tell him to pull his socks up. You don't  -  because he remains the first to confess his own hopelessness, and because underneath, there just might still shine his stubborn, intelligent ardour for a better world.


Mick Ronson died of liver cancer the year after Your Arsenal. Morrissey kept on keeping on.


After a walk yesterday with our dog Mavis, a friend of ours and her 6-year-old granddaughter, we came back to the house. The small girl noticed the 1995 Hutchinson's Encyclopedia on our bookshelves and pointed out that the spine was peeling off. This led to my telling her that books like these were what people looked things up in before the internet. I asked her to suggest something we might look up in this vast book.
     Well," she said, how do rubbers rub things out?"
     Good question. Too good. The encyclopedia had no answer.
     I suggested we might try, instead, to find out all about crocodiles, and showed her how we search for things in alphabetical order. We arrived at crocodiles and found a colour illustration of a large one lying down - a classic pose with belly spread out to the sides:

     That crocodile is very fat," the little girl declared. He's eaten too many pies."
     I said I was fairly sure crocodiles didn't eat pies - that they mostly ate raw fish, animals and birds.
    Yes," she said, but sometimes maybe a person walks past and gives him a quiche."


This is Courtney Barnett. She's caustic, contemporary, and - inevitably - knowing. There's a wily quote from ‘All Shook Up' in here. It's pretty close to rap, and I hate rap. It's usually aggressive multi-millionaires posturing in horrible clothes while singing boastful, sulky diatribes about ghetto life and ladies. This isn't. I like this:


Extraordinary that he's been dead more than twice as long as he was ever alive, and how important he remains. He more or less created the rock group. And with such snazzy lead guitar, such songwriting, so intimate a voice.
I remember not hearing the news of his death but just knowing about it soon afterwards, and thinking about it a great deal, sitting alone in the front seat on the top deck of a green Crosville bus in Heswall bus station on the Wirral, waiting for it to start, and then it pulling out past the other buses and bus-stops, while I was hearing It Doesn't Matter Anymore' in my head. I wasn't thinking Oh that's ironic"; I was just subsumed by the sadness of his being dead and its perfection as a record: those shivering stings, the panache of its sprightly pace and that rich and vulnerable voice.

I was 13. That year, 1959, turned out to have that rarity in Britain, a long hot summer. (There wouldn't be another like it until 1976.)

My friend Peter, who loved Buddy Holly above all others, had all the singles he could get hold of, and we'd play them over and over, mostly at his house rather than mine, on more or less every Saturday of our early teenage lives, interspersed with mysterious 45s he'd somehow acquired like You Talk Too Much' by Joe Jones & His Orchestra (we'd laugh at its forlorn monotony) and Slim Harpo's Rainin' In My Heart' - not the same song as on the B-side of It Doesn't Matter Anymore'.

We had no problem with Buddy deserting the Crickets and singing with an orchestra on tracks like these and True Love Ways'. Nor with the posthumous overdubs on records that started being released soon after his death, though enormous debate centred around which versions were best, the undubbed or the dubbed - hampered, as we were, by their being drip-fed to us by the record company. (Undubbed wasn't always best.)

We liked everything: the raw and tinny brashness of early work like Midnight Shift' and Rock Around With Ollie Vee'; the big hitters like Rave On', Oh Boy' and That'll Be The Day'; those beautiful quiet tracks like What To Do' and That's What They Say', in which he invoked a tender nostalgia at the time, let alone in retrospect; and the weird ones - all weird in different ways, too:  Fool's Paradise', Reminiscin''; Wait Till The Sun Shines, Nellie' (so bizarrely old-fashioned a girl's name in the early 1960s). So many.

Yet unlike with Elvis, or Van Morrison or Bob, with Buddy Holly I can say what my absolutely favourite track is. He didn't write it, and it was a B-side (to Words Of Love'). It's this:


This map is online c/o the Berlin State Library and is part of the Europeana, 1914-18 project, which marks the 100th anniverary of the outbreak of WW1 with a pan-European collation of material:

(It was brought to my attention by a tweet from the website Public Domain Review.)


David Foster Wallace, author of the huge and hugely successful novel Infinite Jest and much else besides, seems to arouse as much vitriol as he does admiration. As a talking head, though, he appeared not at all eager to court controversy. Here he was suitably quiet on the loss of quietness in our culture:

He suffered from depression for many years, managing it with antidepressants until they seemed to stop working. He hanged himself in September 2008, leaving an unfinished novel,The Pale King, which was published in 2011.


It doesn't get much better than this. Superb, immaculate singing and absolutely focused co-operation:

SO SAD . . .

The death of Phil Everly (at his home in Burbank CA yesterday, a couple of weeks short of his 75th birthday) is a large marker along rock'n'roll's lost highway. The Everly Brothers loomed as large in my generation's consciousness as Elvis or Buddy Holly. I suppose, all these decades later, we should be surprised that several of the other giants - Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis - are still alive; but Phil Everly's death intensifies my sense of mortality's closeness this morning. I first wrote about the Everly Brothers in Melody Maker  over 40 years ago.

Here's my entry on them in The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. Of course its purpose here is to look at how stongly they influenced Dylan's own work, but it desribes their more general importance as well as I can:

Everly Brothers, the
The Everly Brothers defined the rock’n’roll duet and the sound of adolescent angst. Their unmistakeable harmonies drew on 700 years of Scottish Borders’ misery, transplanted via the Appalachians, to sing out late 1950s teenage confusion. Like Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers blueprinted how things would be, and in later years were bitter at receiving less credit for this than rock’n’roll’s solo giants. It typified their knack of snatching sourness from the jaws of sweetness.
            Don, born in Brownie, Kentucky in 1937, and Phil, born in Chicago in 1939, were duetting long before rock’n’roll, on parents Ike and Margaret’s radio show on WKMA in Shenandoah, Ohio. They were seasoned professionals by the time they poured out their magic vocals onto a run of hits that married hillbilly harmonies and Nashville nouse, their full-chorded acoustic guitars embracing Bo Diddley’s exotic rhythms to create the rock’n’roll end of country music’s rich, commercial sounds.
They could not complain at their initial success. After one session for RCA, yielding the rare 1956 single ‘Keep A Lovin’ Me’, they signed with New York label Cadence, later switching to the newly-formed Warner Brothers Records. From 1957 to 1965 they had twenty-eight hits in the British Top 30, and comparable American success, first topping the US charts in 1957 (with ‘Wake Up Little Susie’), and from then till some time in the earlyish ’60s they were constantly having hits, it seemed. ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’ was another US no.1, also topping the UK charts. ‘Bye Bye Love’, ‘Bird Dog’ and ‘Problems’ were US no. 2s, and ‘(’Til) I Kissed You’ a UK no. 2. Other hits included ‘Let It Be Me’, ‘Take A Message To Mary’, ‘Like Strangers’, ‘Crying In The Rain’ and the UK no.1 ‘Walk Right Back’. One of the great pop death-records, ‘Ebony Eyes’, was theirs too.
            Many of their hits were written by another duo, Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, but the Bryants’ claim that they schooled Don and Phil in their vocal parts was nonsense, and the brothers wrote plenty themselves. Both penned the phenomenally successful début single on Warner Brothers, ‘Cathy’s Clown’, which was another US no.1 and achieved an almost unprecedented nine weeks at no.1 in Britain in 1960. Phil wrote ‘When Will I Be Loved’; Don wrote ‘Since You Broke My Heart’, ‘(’Til) I Kissed You’ and ‘So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)’.
They were very commercial and they were very good. At a time when most people found a sound by accident, they developed one deliberately and intelligently, bridging what gap there was between pop and modern country music. And at a time when pop’s understanding of music was near-retarded, the Everlys were consistently alert and curious. They handled their own arrangements and they had taste.
They had the gravitas to cover other artists’ crucial songs, including black ones, without apology, from Little Richard’s ‘Lucille’, given a keening slow-motion vocal fall, to blues classics like the immortal ‘Trouble In Mind’ and the cheerily inconsequential ‘Step It Up And Go’ (which Dylan recorded for Good As I Been To You, 1992) and Mickey & Sylvia’s ‘Love Is Strange’. Don, taken down Chicago’s Maxwell Street as a young boy by his father, was ever after aware of gospel and blues. And in an era of pretty pop, the Everlys sought a tougher sound on records like ‘The Price Of Love’ and their extraordinary revival of the standard ‘Temptation’, which pre-figured Phil Spector’s ‘wall of sound’. But like Spector’s ‘River Deep, Mountain High’, the Everlys’ ‘Temptation’ was (by their standards) a flop in the USA, and ‘The Price Of Love’ a bigger one. Don never forgave the American public.
            Then there were the Beatles, whose ‘new’ harmonies made the Everlys old-fashioned overnight. Made redundant before they were thirty, Don and Phil felt (wrongly) that the Beatles had stolen from them without acknowledgment. Sidelined further by Progressive Rock, Don & Phil tried first to sound like Simon & Garfunkel (indeed like anyone but themselves), then responded with more dignity with their influential 1968 album Roots, which, with the Byrds’ Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, catalysed the creation of ‘country rock’ in 1969, the year they’re said to have turned down Dylan’s ‘Lay, Lady, Lay’.
          Everyone had loved Don & Phil except Phil & Don. Under pressure, they couldn’t stand themselves or each other. The Everly Brothers split up in public acrimony, their last performance together on July 14th, 1973.
It emerged eventually that even at the very height of Dylan’s artistic genius and hipness, the tour of 1966, he could still (off-stage) bear in mind work of Everly Brothers from that most sneered-at period of pop, 1960-62: the semi-documentary film of his tour, Eat The Document  -  not screened until 1971 (and then but briefly)  -  catches him in May 1966 performing the Everlys’ 1960 hit ‘When Will I Be Loved?’ in his Glasgow hotel-room. He ‘went public’ on his affection for the Everlys by recording their ‘Let It Be Me’ and ‘Take A Message To Mary’ on his 1970 album Self Portrait (something very badly received by a hip public). The inclusion of Everly Brothers songs was more striking at the time than it is now, since in recent years, through rock 'n’ roll revivals galore, they have been acknowledged as crucial figures in the pre-Dylan era; but when Self Portrait came out, you weren’t supposed to still like or even remember that old stuff: you were supposed to be Progressive and despise the 3-minute single. But Dylan’s ‘Let It Be Me’ is a perfectionist’s re-drafting of the Everlys’ version, in effect; Dylan stays very faithful to their wistful and solid pop world. With ‘Take A Message To Mary’, Dylan does something more, somehow returning the song (in Bill Damon’s phrase) ‘back to the Code of the West’.
By then, Dylan had also written the Everlys a song, ‘The Fugitive’, which the Everlys never recorded. (It turns up in Dylan’s catalogue as ‘Wanted Man’, and has been recorded by Johnny Cash, who brings to it all the animation of a totem pole.) Later, after the Everlys had reluctantly re-formed, they did record the lovely Dylan song ‘Abandoned Love’, a Desire sessions outtake song  -  and they could have done this song justice, expansively and warmly; unfortunately, and uncharacteristically, a rigid rhythm and uncommitted vocals throw it away.
Harking back not to the Everly Brothers’ version but to the well-known later black cover by Jerry Butler and Betty Everett, Dylan re-recorded ‘Let It Be Me’, with Clydie King as vocal duettist, in 1981, and sang it in three 1981 concerts, this time implying that the ‘you’ the song addresses is Christ rather than woman. He has not revisited ‘Take A Message To Mary’. Yet, by coincidence or not, he does re-meet the Everlys on the long instrumental intro to his great ‘Not Dark Yet’ on 1997’s album Time Out Of Mind. Nineteen seconds in, presaged by a sketch of itself a few seconds earlier, a falling guitar-line arrives, laid across the top of the rest, that is straight out of the distinctive musical introduction to the revisit-version of that great early Everlys song ‘I Wonder If I Care As Much’  -  the version we find on their influential Roots album of 1968.
For the Everlys themselves, meanwhile, it had been a further trauma to discover that separately, no-one cared about either of them. On September 23rd, 1983, with Don grown fat but retaining in spades the charisma he must have been born with, they staged an historic and moving Reunion Concert at the Royal Albert Hall. This they seem doomed to repeat forever. In the 1990s, at the age of 60, spurred to a fat-free diet, Don lost a lot of weight, just as Phil was belatedly gaining it: a coincidence typical of their sibling disharmony.
They still sing exquisitely, and a small segment of their shows offer songs learnt from father Ike, whom they worshipped, and mine-worker Mose Rager: authentic old-time country material. Don plays loving, intense guitar, though sparingly in latterday performances. Singing lead, he lives in the spontaneity of the moment, his phrasing inspired, warm and free. He is an artist. But they hardly dare stray now from their teenage hits, first offered to us [over] half a century ago.

[The Everly Brothers: ‘Keep A Lovin’ Me’, Nashville, Nov 1955, Columbia 1956; ‘Wake Up Little Susie’, Nashville, 1957, Cadence 1337, NYC (London American HLA 8498, London), 1957; ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’, Nashville, 6 Mar 1958, Cadence 1348, NYC (London American HLA 8618, London), 1958; ‘Bye Bye Love’, Nashville, Apr 1957, Cadence 1315 (London American HLA 8440), 1957; ‘When Will I Be Loved?’, Nashville, 18 Feb 1960, Cadence 1380 (London American HLA 9157), 1960. ‘Let It Be Me’, Nashville, 15 Dec 1959, Cadence 1376 (London American HLA 9039), 1960; ‘Take A Message To Mary’, Nashville, 2 Mar 1959, Cadence 1364 (London American HLA 8863), 1959; both LP-issued The Fabulous Style Of The Everly Brothers, Cadence CLP 3040, NYC, 1960. ‘Cathy’s Clown’, 18 Mar 1960, Warner Brothers 5151, NYC (Warner Brothers WB 1, London), 1960. ‘Temptation’, Nashville 1 Nov 1960, c/w ‘Stick With Me Baby’, Nashville, 27 Jul 1960, Warner Bros. 5220 (WB 42), 1961. ‘Step It Up & Go’, Nashville, Fall 1961, Instant Party, Warner Bros. W (WS) 1430, 1962. ‘Abandoned Love’, London, 1984/5, Born Yesterday, Mercury CD 826 142-2 (LP MERH 80), Holland & London, 1985; ‘I Wonder If I Care As Much’, Summer 1968, Roots, Warner Bros. W1752, 1968. The Everly Brothers: Reunion Concert London, 23 Sep, 1983, Impression IMDP1, 1984.
            Bob Dylan: ‘When Will I Be Loved’, Glasgow, 18-19 May 1966, fragment in Eat The Document, 1971; ‘Let It Be Me’ (with Clydie King), LA, 1 May 1981 (issued in Europe only, as B-side of ‘Heart Of Mine’, CBS A-1406, 1981). Jerry Butler & Betty Everett: ‘Let It Be Me’, Chicago, 1964, Vee-Jay 613, Chicago, 1964. Bill Damon, ‘Herewith, A Second Look At Self Portrait’ in Rolling Stone, Sep 3, 1970.]