Bob Dylan

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I wasn’t early to the party. It was about 1975 when my sister introduced me to Bob Dylan’s astonishingly iconic performances on music-cassette. It was a Greatest Hits Album with Dylan shot in blue in profile on the inlay card and I am forever grateful.

My sister had a small Sony Music-cassette compact system featuring a cassette deck and radio with two detachable speakers – mid-seventies cool for sure. Remember this?

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She was training as a Nurse in the City of London at one of the UK finest teaching hospitals, paving the way for my arrival in the Smoke within eighteen months. She is two years older, had tried Gitanes before me and she had discovered Bob Dylan before me.

The Greatest Hits album – was in fact it was the Greatest Hits Volume 2 – from 1971 and was released in view of the dirth of new material from Dylan at the behest of Columbia Record’s label boss, Clive Davis. He became of some influence over my later career in music and some time later he left under a cloud. Initially reticent, Dylan had then agreed to compile it himself adding unreleased material from the Basment Tapes era but I am getting ahead here….

Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Volmne 2 – click the link below the image

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Vol. 2-Greatest Hits

I simply don’t believe anyone who says they don’t like Bob Dylan’s songs. I love almost all. That’s like saying I don’t really like Spring or Tulips. I get that his singing may sometimes be a challenge. His voice varies hugely from the sonous and walnut to a croak but his words, his rhymes and his use of language are simply sublime. Weaving morality tales and fables with the support of a simple folk riff, a country slide-guitar, a brassy pomp or a more complicated cajun orchestration.

Dylan – together with able foot-soldiers Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen – is the Voice of several generations. From the early 1960’s and the era of the Protest Song and the Civil Rights movement, to Woodstock and to the Summer of Love – see here our previous post – Peace Sign and The Summer of Love – to later “difficult albums” that explore love, loss and religion to more recent masterpieces that dwell on death and legacy.

In 2016, Dylan became the first songwriter ever  to win Nobel Prize For Literature.

Dylan has sold more than 100m copies of more than sixty albums. He has written, prolifically, broadcasted and podcasted for years and has nurtured a diverse and talented family.

I have seen Dylan perform live on several occasions including at Harvey Goldsmith’s promoted “The Picnic at Blackbushe Aerodrome” show in 1978. I still have the poster!

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Despite at times ill-health, his commitment to endless touring – since the late 1990’s – has become an enduring legacy allowing the faithful to flock to see his performances. In the earlier years shows performances were loyal to familiar songs, more recently Dylan’s treatment of his standards, deconstructing them to within an inch of their lives, has not always been well received. I guess the master artist needs stimulation and revising original orchestrations must be a way to keep things interesting. After all they are his songs!

I was in Los Angeles in 1980 and visiting the celebrated and iconic Polo Lounge at Beverley Hills Hotel. Arriving in a city taxi we pulled towards the entrance of the hotel and there, getting into a cherry red compact car, was the diminutive and slightly stooped stature of our hero. Something very domestic, almost deliberately improverished and above all not really giving a f**k about expectation, perception or pretense. The very anthesis of the image of Californian life.

Every filmed interview of Dylan – and there really aren’t many – from 1965 in San Francisco, to D A Pennebaker’s “Don’t Look Back” – 1967 traipse around Europe – to the media coverage of the his investigature as a Nobel Prizewinner is punctuated by his well intentioned and sincere confusion by all the fuss. The younger Dylan explaining to an overly fawning interviewer, who was clearly irritating, that he had nothing of interest to share and shouldn’t presume to be able to. His reluctant assumption of the role as “Spokesman of his Generation” is just ours for the invention. His “I just set up my stall, played a few tunes and the rest is down to you” appears to be his honest belief. No master manipulator, no synical plan.

Like many have before you – can you help understand a little more about Dylan’s work by reading his own writing from the autobiographical “Chronicles Part One”? – Click the link below the image 

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Chronicles: Volume One

Don’t tell me you haven’t tried! We’d all love to be able to master the riffs that make the songs sing – some will, some inevitably wont! I am one…..

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Bob Dylan Made Easy for the Guitar: 1

The Music – there are sixty albums to chose from but can I suggest a couple of starting places. I’d also suggest that you don’t stream – please enjoy the packaging as well as the songs – please click the link below the image 

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

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The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

Bringing It All Back Home

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Bringing It All Back Home (2010 Mono Version)

Blood on The Tracks – for me probably the Best…..

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Blood On The Tracks

Desire

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Desire

Time Out Of Mind

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Time Out Of Mind

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Images courtesy of Milton Glaser, Sony, CBS and Columbia Record.

Fender Stratocaster by Dominic Baker

Fender Strat

In the week that saw the death of the great Charles “Chuck” Berry,  the man who invented Rock & Roll and an enthusiastic endorsee of this classic guitar, Dominic Baker straps on his mojo to explore the Fender Stratocaster and its allure for players and fans alike.

I cant think of many modern iconic musical instruments that have been so enduring as this legendary piece. It’s beguiling curves would be the pin ups for generations to come and it also contained some pretty innovative tech, setting the benchmark for most electric guitars today.

This IS the go to guitar when anyone is asked to describe, or perhaps draw, an electric guitar. It is easily the most identifiable and emulated of all the ‘axes’ out there. The classic shape that was born in the 50s is still being produced and sold today in its thousands.

Co-creators Leo Fender, George Fullerton, Bill Carson and Freddie Tavares came up with the design in 1954. The body was made from a variety of solid woods including alder, ash, poplar and basswood but the neck was always made from maple wood. The fretboard was made primarily from maple, rosewood or ebony. The neck also had the classic black dot inlays.

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It’s trademark  – and it was the first guitar ever to feature – the 3 single coil pick ups with a tremolo system on the floating bridge. It was the first Fender to be contoured (the Telecaster – a notable predecessor -had a flat body) the double cut away design enabled easy access to the higher notes on the neck.

The Stratocaster is an incredibly versatile model and is used in many genres of music from country to rock, heavy metal, blues, jazz and soul.

The floating bridge that housed the tremolo and was controlled by the tremolo arm had springs that could be pulled down modulating the sound of the pitch and then snap the bridge back into place. If done quickly this produced a pleasing oscillating vibrato effect. This wasn’t suitable for all styles.

Certain artist adjusted it with blocks of wood so it didn’t move and alter the sound. Other prominent guitarists – notably Eric Clapton and Ronnie Wood – believed that the floating bridge would detune the guitar – as a result some ‘Strats’ called “hard tails” were made with no floating bridge.

The list of celebrities user and endorsees is dazzling; some who championed its versatile and recognisable sound including Hendrix , Dylan, Van Halen, Hank Marvin, Harrison, Lennon, Bowie, Zappa, The Edge, David Gilmour and Pete Townsend became household names as a direct result. Essays could be written on each one’s unique sound and how they inspired their own cult following. Above all, they each managed to make the instrument sound different. Their haunting melodies will undoubtedly carry you right back to a memorable time and place in your life.

When you think of an electric guitar my bet is that you visualise the Fender Stratocaster. When you hear an electric guitar I am certain that your mind’s eye you will “see” a Fender Stratocaster, it is that ingrained into popular psyche.

Case closed.

Fender strat 2

Volkswagen Kombi

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No, you are definitely not sitting in traffic on the ring road around your local city, in your head, if you are over 40, there’s a Beachboys track playing, surfboards are stacked on the roof – having received a fresh waxing from Dr Zog’s – you can see the shimmering ocean ahead and your straight toothed friends are lounging on the vinyl seats behind you. If you are under 40, you are listening to some cool hip hop-raggae crossover, your tanned shoulders are graced by you sun bleached locks that blend seamlessly with your companion in her El Niño bikini.

So hand’s up who’s daydreaming? I am for sure …. Where in the World could you be? Santa Cruz (California (USA)), Tarifa, (Cadiz (Spain) or Surfers Paradise (The Gold Coast, Queensland (Aus)) – any of these and several thousands more. See our earlier post here – Morey Boogie boards

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And what are you at the helm of? A iconic Volkswagen Kombi (or “Bus” (USA) or “Camper” or “Campervan” (UK)), of course!

Ben Pon, a Dutch importer of Volkswagens, visited the Wolfsburg factory in 1946 and was inspired by quality of the VW stock and, in 1947, produced a sketch – see below – of a van which he shared with Volkswagen. Early prototypes were produced but had very poor wind drag figures but splitting the screen improved this somewhat and validated the reason to commence production.

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Introduced in 1949, the Kombi was an air-cooled rear engined van then known as the “Volkswagen Type 2”, the Beetle having been Type 1 – another passion of ours – see our earlier post here. Volkswagen Beetle – an icon re-imagined.

The standard Type 2 Kombi was built between March 1950 to then end of 1967 but a number of variants, including increasingly larger engines – between 1.1 litres up to 1.6 litres, were introduced including single-cab pickups and ambulances. The early T2 (later called the T1) model production was continued in Brazil until 1975, long after production ceased in Hanover in 1967.

Originally classified by the number of windows the Kombi vehicle had such as 21, 23 plus a panoramic roof of eight windows. Subsequently, international numbering has been based on the version from T2, T3, T4, T5 and T6 – which was launched in 2015.

The first sixty years of VW T1 to T3 history are shown in the following image:

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The height of the Kombi’s popularity was its role in the Hippy subculture movement of the 1960’s when version were heavily painted often by hand in psychodelic spirals, flowers  etc. Check out our earlier post on the Summer of Love – click here – Peace Sign and The Summer of Love

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The Type 2S introduced in 1968 heavily modified the earlier vehicle. After production of the T2 ceased in Europe it was produced in Brazil – at the Anchieta plant at Sao Bernardo do Campo (Sao Paulo, Brazil) – until December 31, 2013, due to the introduction of more stringent safety regulations in the country.

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There was a final production run of 1200 vehicles called “the Last Edition” see below that celebrated 56 years of Kombi production in Brazil. I have seen these final vans available on legitimate websites – imported as is – into the UK for around £42,000.

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So, for those of you who want to relive an epic era in a new version of a classic and iconic vehicle – your dream is complete. In addition, there are several businesses around the world who maintain and rebuild original Kombis whether for sale or for hire. Indeed, I know of one intrepid soul who rented with friends a Kombi for Glastonbury. A perfect temporary home and respite from the Somerset mud!

For all you young and old hippies – the perfect desk-top dreamer is this fantastic scale model of a 1976 Hippie image clad T2 – get one here by clicking below the image:

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PremiumX 1:43 Scale “Hippie 1976 Volkswagen T2 Kombi” Model Car

Shout out about your poassion with these VW Camper retro style T shirts – click the link below the image

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Mens VW Campervan Camper Retro camp Van Volkswagen Top T-shirt NEW S-XXL (Medium, Black)

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Mens VW Campervan T25 Camper Retro camp Van Volkswagen Top T-shirt NEW S-XXL (X-Large, Indigo)

Saving for your next surf adventure – why not get this wonderful VW Campervan Money box? Click on the link below the image

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VW Collection by Brisa VW T1 Flowers Money Bank

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Images with grateful thanks – Volkswagen AG

Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt

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Launched: 1972

Designer: Ralph Lifshitz (aka Ralph Lauren) developed his version of the Polo Shirt design – which was first launched by Rene Lacoste in 1933 – see our post here – Lacoste Shirt.

History: After designing and retailing ties, Ralph developed his Polo brand first with ties and then shirts – gaining the rights from Brooks Brothers (for whom he worked briefly in late 1964) – see our post here – Brooks Brothers Shirts  – in the process who to this day use the “original polo button-down collar” shirt on their button down range.

Launched in 1972 in 24 colours this pique cotton shirt – often features the number 3 – said to represents the number that the captain of the Polo team typically wears.

My Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt: Perhaps re-imagined and derivative but in the 1990’s a Ralph Polo shirt with its little polo-player logo was very good short hand for who you were. It continues to come in a range of amazing colours and if anything I suspect they are now cut even a little fuller than they once were. They are hard wearing and a great accompaniment to summer time short. I am very fond of them even it is only a rare sight to see me on a horse – with or without a polo stick in my hand.

Your Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt: Share your love for these fabulous shirts here….

Photo from Ralph Lauren with grateful thanks

 

 

Levi‘s 501

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501’s were seen as work-wear for much of its first sixty years being rechristened ‘blue jeans’ in the 1950’s.

Jacob Davis, a tailor, was approached by a workman’s wife asking for a stronger pair of trousers. He sought a solution to pocket and fly tearing experienced by workers using his denim trousers by applying copper rivets to the stress points of the garment. He then went in search of a partner to help make these early examples.

Levi Strauss was a dry goods vender who had sold Jacob the denim he needed for his early samples. They joined forces and the production which following its the grant of Patent on 20th May 1873  for “waist overalls” heralded a massive success.

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In 1886 the Two Horse leather patch was first used and added to the overalls.  In 1890 the Patent passed into the Public Domian, meaning the company lost their exclusive over riveted denim. As a result the company introduced the “501” as the definitive version of their denim work “waist overalls”, with copper rivets and the Two Horse leather and later the “leather-like” patch.

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By 1936 the Red Tab appeared. These ingenious and other design elements have ensured that Levi Strauss have been able to seek protection for their design against cynical copying. The company spend million of dollars annually protecting their Intellectual Property Rights.

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Always at the heart of youth culture, the universal appeal stems from its integrity, a loyalty to the original design, the highest quality denim and sturdy manufacture.

I have loved Levi’s jeans since a teenager. Whilst the waist band may have expanded – and indeed contracted on various occasions due to mad cabbage soup diets etc – I have been through zip-fly, yellow label and 360 degrees back to red-label button-fly 501.

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They are simply my favourite jeans that have seen me through endless concerts and music festivals. Dylan at Blackbush in 1977 (that included sleeping on Waterloo Station concourse due to a missed last train), to Glastonbury mud-caked, U2 and the Rolling Stones at Wembley to Mumford and Sons at Benicassim they have simply been more than a wardrobe anchor.

Today they combine perfectly with classic shoes, an Argentinian woven belt and a great shirt and/or jacket – depending on the season – for London creative business meetings. Less Revolution and more Evolution my 501s – and I now have several favourite pairs – are still beautifully made, ooze classic iconic style and are, above all, hugely dependable.

Would you like a pair of Levis 501? Click this AMAZON link to buy your own iconic jeans click the Amazon link below the image: 

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Levi’s 501 Original Fit Men’s Jeans, Blue (Onewash), 34W x 30L

The essential Argentinian belt can also be added here by clicking the Amazon link below the image – make sure you get the right length!

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Carlos Diaz Mens Womens Unisex Argentinian Brown Leather Embroidered Polo Belt (85 cm/ 32-34 Inches)

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Photo by Levi Strauss