So, I was down this past weekend for the Great Escape
) - a cool festival of new music in London-by-the-Sea, AKA Brighton.
The festival is about new bands and artists and features various stages and venues all over town. It really is a vibrant, fun place to spend a weekend with musicians, critics and punters literally all over the place. At one point I saw a young singer/guitar player named Katie Malco
) play a great version of Tomorrow Is A Long Time
at the Royal Pavilion Tavern in the center of town. Afterwards I spoke with her and commended her on her choice of cover. She said that she had never actually heard a recorded version of the tune and had started playing it from the sheet music. I proudly told her that it was the only Dylan tune that Elvis Presley had ever covered and that she might want to look that up. She then gave me a funny look (nerd alert!) and said that she had to pop out for a cigarette… Anyway she was quite good and I’ll try to catch her again some time soon.
Most of the stages are curated by music magazines (NME, etc.), media outlets like the Guardian or labels like Rough Trade. Over the past few years of going to the Great Escape I've found that the Pavilion Theatre nights hosted by UNCUT magazine (http://www.uncut.co.uk/
) are a great place to hear and see interesting bands in what's probably the best venue in town. Previously I've seen White Denim
), The Acorn
), Three Trapped Tigers
) and some other groups that went on to bigger and better things.
This year I saw Django Django
(highly recommended http://www.djangodjango.co.uk/
) and a new London band called TOY, who sound like a dronier version of The Horrors (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toy_(band
For the first time this year, I happened to also run into the editor of UNCUT Magazine, Mr Allan Jones
)) himself. For anyone who has met him or seen a picture of him, he's an unmistakable character to be sure with his long, curly hair and ample physique. I ended up speaking with him on two different occasions over the course of the weekend, after I initially approached him to thank him for the work that his magazine does and tell him that I appreciate the UNCUT nights during the Great Escape.
As I know that he's a huge Dylan aficionado, I pushed our conversation over to his Bobness. (He liked Together Through Life
a lot more than me but was less than impressed by the shows at the Hammersmith Apollo last October). He also told me that he’d had the privilege of being to able to listen to cuts from Tell Tale Signs
months prior to its release after being contacted by Bob’s record label back in mid-2008.
Which brings me to the juicy part of the story… That first night Mr Jones told me that he had just been contacted (that day I think, which was Thursday) by Sony/Columbia Records regarding the newly recorded Dylan album. It was ready, they had told him, and the label was planning a "test listen" to be held in London this Wednesday night for "sympathetic ears". He said that the listening was going to happen at a theater in Leicester Square but that he didn’t know much more than that. I tried not to look/sound too overeager (pant, pant, pant – can I come?) and thanked him for letting me know. He said that they hadn’t shared any information with him about how the record sounded or who played on it, etc. I said that I hoped to see him later on in the festival and bade him a good night.
On Saturday night, just before seeing Beth Jeans Houghton and The Hooves of Destiny
(can’t recommend them but certainly enjoy typing and saying their name - http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/x8pn
), I ran into Mr Jones again.
Thankfully he remembered me and after a little while I managed to ask him about the “test listen”. He told me that he’d since been contacted by the office of Jeff Rosen (Dylan’s manager as I’m sure you all know) and that they had told him that the listening party had been cancelled. He said that now, as it stood, he alone had been granted the opportunity to listen to the album next week and that they would be in touch with the details. He said that this was similar to what had happened prior to the release of Tell Tale Signs
– which was that it was going to be him, a Dylan-managerial type and the record (on vinyl? he sadly didn’t elaborate…) in an empty room somewhere in central London.
I then asked him if that meant that UNCUT would be the first magazine granted permission to review the album in print. He said he wasn’t sure about that but that he would certainly not be publishing anything in relation to the album until “they tell me that I can".
He also said that he probably wouldn’t review the album directly himself but would give it to someone else to review – and that he wasn’t sure if he would actually get a copy of the album to take with him. I thanked him again for his excellent work with UNCUT, we said our goodbyes and I went away with my wife to see Midwestern female neo-grunge sensation EMA
So what are the facts?
1. There is definitely a new Dylan album recorded - presumably mixed and mastered and ready to go – with a release date that can’t be too far away.
2. Dylan’s management and his label don’t always see eye-to-eye (but we already knew that, right?).
3. Allan Jones and UNCUT magazine have a “place of importance” at the table of the Dylan powers-that-be.
4. Trying to impress a young female singer/guitarist with your knowledge of rock history will usually leave you talking to thin air…One question that might provoke discussion is how the favourable treatment of rock publications (in this case UNCUT) by management groups and labels influences their reviews? Could Mr Jones, having been granted this “privilege” yet again by Sony/Rosen, possibly condone UNCUT granting a three-star (or worse) review of the next album?
The UNCUT review of Together Through Life
in 2009 was written by Alan Jones himself (http://www.uncut.co.uk/bob-dylan/bob-dylan-together-through-life-review
) and it seems to show (down there at the bottom) that he gave it 5 out of 10 stars.
Surely that was meant to be 5 out of 5? Hope Jeff Rosen doesn’t see that, otherwise he might have some more listening parties to cancel…