He Ain’t No Gentleman Jim

Here’s one of my Christmas presents from my folks a couple of years ago, Bob Dylan Revisited: 13 Graphic Interpretations Of Bob Dylan’s Songs.  As the title obliquely hints at, this lovely hardback features 13 graphic interpretations of Bob Dylan’s songs*.  All are done by different artists from different countries, some I knew like Zep, most I didn’t; the biggest name being one of my graphic all-timers, Dave McKean.

Bob Dylan revisited 01

As a long-time Dylan hound, raised by Dylan hounds, this music is in my blood – I can hear it humming and gurgling the melody to ‘Shelter From The Storm’ when I lay my head on my pillow at night.  True story.  At his most vicious and vibrant no artist piles up the images like Dylan, I listened to ‘Desolation Row’ today which is a case in point; it’s an appraisal for another day but that song is so immense you could use it as Archimedes’ lever if your fancy ran that way.  Also, given such a voluminous back catalogue this must have been a dream brief for any artist worth their salt.

Bob Dylan revisited 02

As you’d expect the results are variable, both in style and quality in places.  ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, a song so _______ that I have to leave a space to insert the adjective worthy enough to praise it, once mankind has evolved sufficiently to do produce language adequate for the task, seems to have been done by a quartet of bozos who opt for an entirely non-literal interpretation of the lyrics, fine. But instead of the apocalyptic torrent of playful spite, we get a dollop of blandness, nothing incisive enough to draw the blood as the lyrics demand as their levy.

Christopher’s gentle cartoon style sets up the killer denouement of ‘Positively 4th Street’ by soothing you first.  The converse of this is Gradimir Smudja’s wonderful, detailed, forceful depiction of ‘Hurricane’, which is a song I must have once a week minimum; my favourite line being the one I pinched for the title of this post.  Dave McKean’s atomic vision of ‘Desolation Row’, using his drawings and collage work is worth the price of admission alone, the power of his singer facing the crowd at the end is wonderful, which I’ve undermined below with my paltry Lego, but there you go.Again.  I adore romantic Dylan, but I have to say it’s angry, spiteful Dylan I love, now I only know about Rubin Carter via ‘Hurricane’ but Dylan? He certainly ain’t no Gentleman Jim.

In short, a thoroughly interesting book for comic buffs and Dylan completists alike.  I’d recommend it.  In fact as another of my favourites, ‘Shelter From The Storm’ isn’t in the book, I might be inspired to illustrate it myself, using my own, umm, unique artistic talents.  Hmm, a project.

Blowing In The Wind
Blowing In The Wind
A Hard Rain ...
A Hard Rain …
Lay Lady... Laid
Lay Lady… Laid
Positively 4th Street
Positively 4th Street
Desolation Row
Desolation Row
Not Dark Yet - Love Zep's work
Not Dark Yet – Love Zep’s work

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* I can slow down a bit if you’re not keeping up here, just raise your hand.

8 thoughts on “He Ain’t No Gentleman Jim

  1. “Vicious and vibrant” is very good.
    And so is the “Positively” Lego fig.

    Do you have a table-tennis-table-sized coffee table for your coffee-table music-books? (I got a NY sale job lot on hyphens).

  2. I had this book out of the library here, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. I read it twice, while it was here in the house, and I was reluctant to give it back. In fact, this post inspires me to go sign it out again!

    Seconded on the McKean love from here. We have several books with his work in it, here in our own library.

    1. Brilliant – everyone should see/have this one. His songs just lend themselves to it so well, just like the old Alan Aldridge ‘Beatles Illustrated Lyrics’ that I’ve loved since I was a kid. McKean is just brilliant period.

  3. Oh. This is most interesting. I like the Zep one best. Really appeals to me. You should create a Dylan in Lego book. Dare say there’s a market for it!

  4. “Hurricane” is my favourite Bob Dylan song and that interpretation of it looks interesting. The thing with some of the other songs here like “Shelter From the Storm” is that I first heard it on the “Hard Rain” album where Dylan goes electric. I prefer those versions.

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