Monday, January 17, 2022

A Few Comments on Bob Dylan's Malibu by Martin Newman

Anyone half paying attention will have noticed a lot of new Dylan books have been appearing in recent years. What's interesting is how each one has its own angle. The history of the Never Ending Tour, the stories behind specific albums, or even specific songs... One of my favorites--as far as an unusual angle for a Dylan volume--was the Mary Lee Kortes book Dreaming of Dylan in which she shares 115 dreams people have had in which Dylan showed up. 

Then there are the contributions from people close to Bob at various sections of his life. I just recently started Suze Rotolo's A Freelwheelin' Time, for example. Peter McKenzie's account of Bob's first months in New York--Bob Dylan: On a Couch and Fifty Cents a Day--similarly adds insights that you won't find in other books because Bob crashed on his family's couch for several months after first arriving at the Big Apple and was like the older brother that he never had. In Dylan & Me (by Herzl Camp friend Louis Kemp during Bob's teen years) I finally learned who Bob was with the night he went to see Buddy Holly and his Winter Dance Party Tour.

All of those books were personal, because they were written by people with a personal relationship to Dylan for a period of time. Which brings us to Bob Dylan's Malibu by Martin Newman. For the record I am not related to Martin Newman. (Neither am I related to Paul Newman, Randy Newman or, to my knowledge, any of the other Newmans associated with Hollywood. 

I acquired Newman's book in the spring of 2021 and read it in a single sitting shortly after our 2021 Duluth Dylan Fest was a wrap. My copy is a large format paperback on what appears to be a Mountie Matte paper, ideal for printing photographs, which is what this book essentially is, a picture book accompanied by anecdotes and related stories. The accompanying subtitle reads, "My time with him in the 1970's."

The author is an obviously multi-faceted man who through a "simple twist of fate" ended up becoming intertwined with Bob Dylan as the famous songwriter/performer took up residence in Malibu. The occasion for this book was Bob's 80th birthday. In it he shares stories and photos of a variety of interesting project he worked with Bob on, including clothing (the jacket Dylan is wearing on the cover of the Basement Tapes album), gifts they shared with one another, and numerous acquisitions for Bob's new digs like fun house mirrors, a 1947 Wurlitzer, special gifts for Sara, etc.

This is the kind of book that would be of interest to fans looking to get a few more rare, intimate glimpses of a more private side of Bob Dylan. You learn a lot more about a person by visiting their home than by having them as a guest at yours. 

The structure seems a bit like that of an old man reflecting on his youth while going through a photo album. The author points to a photo and says a little about the story behind it, then turns to another page of photos, singles out another and tells another story. 

It seems evident that Marty became part of Dylan's life because he could be trusted. He respected Bob's privacy and thereby became an asset in helping make a magnificent piece of property into an even more splendid residence. 

I remember from other reading that the house took three years to prepare for moving in, and seem to recall there was a lot of conflict generated by the delays, possibly contributing to Sara's departure. Because of that memory I look at these photos with a bittersweet sensation. The book, published by EDLIS Cafe Press, does offer fresh insights into a part of Dylan's life history that are only hinted at in other books. 

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi Bob it's the Mighty Quinn. How you been? Love

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