A Simple Twist of Debate

Sometimes I think it’s time this web site gets back to what it was originally intended to provide: lots of book reviews. Along the way, it lost the course. This is probably because it became clear that most of the Little Cube News audience would read anything and was not very interested in quality of writing. So it only makes sense I review a book no one would find of much relevance anyway.

dylanA Simple Twist of Fate is about the making of one of my favorite albums of all time, Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. I could not pass up the opportunity to read an entire book about a much loved record, especially since I don’t foresee even a magazine article dedicated to the making of The Doggfather or Poison’s Look What the Cat Dragged In being written anytime soon. The first sign of trouble was the excerpt on the back of the book – a showy account of why Dylan decided to re-record a few songs for Blood after laying them down first in New York: “It was a gamble, but one he knew he had to take.” I’ll forgive the fact (for now) author Andy Gill makes it sound like Dylan was making a decision equivalent to Kennedy’s in not invading Cuba (although I think he actually makes that comparison in chapter 6). But the inference, arduously reinforced in the book, is that the resulting tunes were superior. Meanwhile, a legion of self-important Bob Snobs will tell you that the “New York sessions” were the actual masterpiece and should never have been tampered with. Gill is not interested in opinions, though, unless they are his own, which seems to make them facts in his mind. His fawning reaches a peak when he appoints Dylan’s return in the early 70’s as the only emancipating moment of the decade, a decade he describes as a “swelling sea of MOR pablum and prog/glam fantasy.” Even if I fully understood what that meant, I have to point out that “Kung-Fu Fighting” and “Come Sail Away” came out around the same time.

Despite the awful prose, the truth is I never knew I there were so many things I didn’t want to know about this album – the kinds of microphones used, the order of every cue sheet, and the life story of every studio musician present, for example. Skip this book – but if you want a bootleg copy of Blood on the Tracks – The New York Sessions, e-mail me. It’s a much better version, anyway.

On a scale of nasal decongestants, where Drixoral is a 1 and Flonase is a 10, A Simple Twist of Fate rates a straw with a plate of Cayenne Pepper, the painful and numerical equivalent of a 3.8.