I first started The Telegraph in 1981, when I was living near Manchester, in the North of England. There were a couple of Bob Dylan conventions up there, at which I met some similarly enthusiastic souls - prior to this, it was long-disatnce love letters and tape trading with contacts in the States and Europe. Anyway, by this time, you may recall, Dylan had embraced Christianity and turned 40. Uncoincidentally, perhaps, the music press began to ignore him. It became harder and harder to keep up with what he was up to. What he was up to, of course, was playing shows and making records.
Then a chap called Ian Woodward started a newsletter called The Wicked Messenger. The idea was basically to save him writing the same letter to his many correspondents. But it was an excellent thing - funny, informative, endlessly fascinating - and, I thought, it deserved to be more widely distributed. I asked him if I could be that distributor. He said OK. Then I thought that it would be neat if the Messengers were bundled with something when they were posted out every couple of months. So I got together with some of my new-found Dylan friends and we devised the idea of a fanzine, the main purpose of which would be to help disseminate news and answer readers' queries - the sort of questions that people are still coming up with in the Dylan news groups. We advertised subscriptions in NME and Melody Maker and - gasp! - people actually replied. And asked questions! Which we then had to answer! So, every few weeks we'd get together, sift through the mail and go off and research. To liven things up a little, and so that it wouldn't seem as if the readers were being spoken to by a committee, I manufactured a persona to answer the questions. I called him The Oracle. He was a total jerk - a loud-mouthed, opinionated, arrogant, loathsome know-all. He wasn't based on anyone in particular, but how could anyone have known, at that time, that one of our happy band was to spend the rest of his life trying to emulate him!
Well, we put out seven issues, got some publicity, reached a couple of hundred people and everything seemed set fair. That's when I met A.J.Weberman. I wrote about my meeting him in a book, All Across The Telegraph, which you really should have a copy of. He scared me. The Bob Dylan fan who'd become a monster. I don't know quite how the sea change happened, but I do know that A.J. was the catalyst. There was a lot of soul-searching and breast-beating - sometimes both at once, and for a few memorable issues the debate raged in the pages of The Telegraph. Were we all involved in a pursuit that was essentially unworthy? Was there ignominy in being a fan? It was fascinatingly painful, but ultimately genuinely fruitful sort of self-flagellation. I hope that we all emerged from it stronger in spirit, stouter of heart. And so it came to pass that gradually The Telegraph emerged from its baby days and was transformed into something more of a magazine, with interviews, articles, historical perspectives, everything that the discerning Dylan fan might need. And some stuff that the dDf couldn't possibly live without.
Still, you can't please all of the people all of the time. Readers have come, and they've gone. But a suprisingly numerous solid core of subscribers have stuck by the plucky little magazine, never fearful, ever faithful, measuring out their lives in Telegraphs. I've made many good friends, been to places, seen things, met people, that I would never have dreamed of. The Telegraph has got smarter, glossier, more colourful, has become something, even though I do say it myself, quite wonderful, quite unique. Sometimes wish I could read it instead of editing it - then it might be even more delightful. But, best of all, for all of us, it's still around. December 1994 saw the 50th issue. Its publication was a proud moment. And, OK, I'll say it - it sure has been one hell of a ride. One thing's for certain: if you're a Bob Dylan fan and you've never seen The Telegraph, you don't know what you've been missing.
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