Bob, Bourbon, and Books: Simple Twist of Fate

Bob Dylan live in Providence, R.I.

Bob Dylan live in Providence, R.I.

This semi-regular series alternates between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen songs that perfectly complement a good bourbon and a quality book. You can make your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments section or by tweeting @WritersBone.

Bob

Daniel: There are three things in my life that I take more seriously than all the others: love, brothers, and Bob Dylan. I’ve somehow convinced the love of my life to hang out with me on a daily basis, my brothers are my heroes, and I’ve been lucky enough to attend more than 10 Dylan concerts throughout the years. I knew introducing live Dylan to Dave was going to be fun, but I did my best to temper his expectations. When I first started going to Dylan concerts around 2002, he played for several hours and busted out covers like The Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar,” Neil Young’s “Old Man,” and The Band’s “Tears of Rage.” His voice, not great to begin with, can no longer handle that kind of musical workload, so he’s stuck to tunes off his four bluesy albums from the past decade (“Love and Theft,” “Modern Times,” “Together Through Life,” and “Tempest”). Like a rookie, Dave was under the impression that Dylan would mix up the set list he’d been playing for the past several months just for him. I shook my head and told him to be happy with “Simple Twist of Fate,” a song about tortured heartache the two of us had been listening to non-stop in Writer’s Bone HQ for the last couple of weeks. Well, fuck if Dylan didn’t throw in “Love Sick” and “Tangled Up in Blue” just to make me look like an asshole. His hatred of the Ford brothers (would it kill you to sing “Desolation Row” live one time before you die, Bob?!) continues unabated. Regardless, this concert instantly slotted itself in my top five because Dylan’s voice sounded the best it had in years, his band is better than 90% of the blues and rock bands out there, and I got to run into my younger brother whose wife surprised him with tickets at the last minute.

Dave: If I heard one more person tell me that I wouldn’t understand a word Dylan said, I was going to implode in anger. Seeing live acts like Dylan or Bruce Springsteen are just something any music lover has to shell out the cash for, regardless of how much their shows have degraded over the years. Dylan did anything but suck. His rasp worked perfectly with his blues set list, and he played the harmonica with soul like a true New York City street performer. I had been telling Daniel for weeks that I fall ass first into great set lists when I see a band live. Daniel, in his fan boy douchery, ridiculed me endlessly for the last few months. But what do you know, “Simple Twist of Fate,” “Tangled Up in Blue” (two of my top five favorite songs), and “Blowin’ in the Wind.”  And yes Daniel, it might actually kill him to sing all 11 minutes of “Desolation Row!”

Needless to say, Dylan earned even more of my respect, and really rocked the elegant and classy Providence Performing Arts Center the way only the master of Americana rock can. The night had only one regret: not flipping off and belittling the asshole woman who shushed us when I asked Daniel the appalling question of the title of one of the songs. For shame on you arrogant woman! There is a level of hell reserved for people who shush at rock concert.

Bourbon

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Daniel: A Ford hasn’t been out drinking in Providence since the early 1970s. I was determined to make the college-era version of my father proud. Dave and I were already a couple drinks in when we arrived at the Red Fez on Peck Street. Our bartender was personable, tattooed, and bearded. Dave ordered two fingers of Knob Creek and somehow convinced me it was wise to order the bar’s mac and cheese (which was extraordinary with an added drop of hot sauce). I wish I could say that the drinking and suspect food choices stopped there. A responsible editor-in-chief wouldn’t have smoked a Black and Mild before the show, drank several more beers during the show and a couple of regular Budweisers at the bar following the concert, and then ate half the dollar menu at McDonald’s at the end of the night. I can’t even tell you how good or bad Knob Creek is because it blended in so well with the mac and cheese and my Miller High Life chaser. All I know is that I was infinitely more responsible than the women who shushed Dave and I at the concert. May she go directly to the section of hell occupied by the people who thought 8-track tapes were a good idea.

Dave: I have no recollection of drinking this bourbon…

Book

This is the best way to start a Bob Dylan concert weekend.

This is the best way to start a Bob Dylan concert weekend.

Daniel: Any project involving Dylan tends to warp into something weird. Just check out his prose/poetry collection, Tarantula, the movie he starred in, “Masked and Anonymous,” and the film based on his life, “He’s Not There” to truly understand what I’m talking about. I finally started reading Dylan's Chronicles: Volume One and expected a tapestry of incoherent, mystical, and unintelligible thoughts (much like Neil Young's Waging Heavy Peace) that just happened to be set in New York City in the 1960s. I figured that the only person who could make sense of it would be the gray-haired hippy sha-woman hawking her book of Bob Dylan love poetry and lyric analysis (which my younger brother bought). However, I was surprised to discover Dylan's prose is crystal clear and his knack for turning a phrase is still better than most published writers. This is the section that convinced me the book was an excellent bourbon partner:

“LPs were like a force of gravity. They had covers, back and front, that you could stare at for hours. Next to them, 45s were flimsy and uncrystallized. They just got stacked up in piles and didn’t seem important. I had no song in my repertoire for commercial radio anyway. Songs about debauched bootleggers, mothers that drowned their own children, Cadillacs that only got five miles to the gallon, floods, union hall fires, darkness and cadavers at the bottom of rivers weren’t for radiophiles. There was nothing easygoing about the folk songs I sang. They weren’t friendly or ripe with mellowness.”

Fuck him and his talent. May he live to 100 and tour the whole time.

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