A Weekend in the Smoke/That London

Our contributor recently visited London. During that time, he managed to visit a gallery and attend a couple of concerts. His thoughts on these are set out below..


Mondo Scripto – Lyrics & Drawings by Bob Dylan

Halcyon Gallery, New Bond Street

“This isn’t actually an exhibition, sir, we are a commercial art gallery”…

…Not a particularly auspicious start to our Halcyon Gallery visit. We’d only just entered the building, and I was simply determining that it was alright to take a few photographs for Thinking On Your Feet.

In addition to a number of paintings and “Iron Works”, the Gallery initially had 64 (down to 52 when we were there, as the others had been sold) of Bob Dylan’s song lyrics in pen on paper and drawings in graphite on paper. All of the works are original and signed. I had hoped to study yet again the lyrics to “Desolation Row”, but unfortunately that particular piece had been sold and the purchaser had already taken it away. More of that later.

The drawings are described as “visual interpretations” of his lyrics. Some are very simple, and literal – “Maggie’s Farm” is accompanied by a drawing of a farm, whilst I am sure you can guess what the drawing for “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” shows. On others, you will need some familiarity with the lyrics – a drawing of a big brass bed is there for “Lay Lady Lay”. Jack Nicholson, as The Joker from Batman, is pictured for “All Along The Watchtower” (see below).

(photos courtesy of The Boy and with kind permission of Halcyon Gallery)

Bob himself has acknowledged that making the illustrations literal was something he did consciously, taking drawings that had accompanied a translation of Dante’s “Inferno” as a guide.

I had read that Dylan had changed a few words from some songs, the odd line from others, but had completely rewritten a number. With the recent release of the fascinating “More Blood, More Tracks” album – featuring original versions recorded in New York of songs that would be recorded again in Minneapolis with different musicians and released as “Blood On The Tracks”, much of my attention was focussed on the songs from there.

I must confess to not being so familiar with Bob Dylan’s prose that I would spot the smaller changes mentioned above – e.g. removal of “Coca Cola” from “When I Paint My Masterpiece”. However, with the featured songs from BotT, the changes are a-plenty and very clear. In “Tangled Up In Blue”, the vast alterations give a different perspective to the protagonist’s viewpoint. “Simple Twist Of Fate” and “Shelter From The Storm” have similarly extensive re-writes.

Oh, and back to “Desolation Row”. Although the Gallery staff were both knowledgeable and helpful, I was not able to discover how much it had sold for, only that originals “started at £95,000” but signed prints could be purchased for £1,850. The catalogue was £45. It is excellent, and some of the drawings are different to those on display.

Overall impression? An essential must-see. Until 30 November, at least, when it ends.

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