Ed#464: It ain't you, babe

1 August 2014 Alan Attwood

Ed#464: It ain't you, babe

Dear Bob Dylan,

This is awkward. Embarrassing. I have to explain why you’re not on our cover. That was the original plan. You’re touring Australia this month. This edition’s on sale as things get going (starting in Perth). And, well, I’m a fan... That’s part of the problem, as it turns out. Some on the editorial team still remember you as cover-boy almost exactly seven years ago (Ed#284). We had this striking illustration by Justin Garnsworthy and the imaginative headline Bob’s Back. I’d started to wonder if we could get away with Bob’s Back... Again! But then a couple of things happened. First, I detected a lack of overwhelming enthusiasm for More Bob. (This may have something to do with me being the only one with their name listed below who was around when your first album came out in 1962.)

Second, I did detect excitement about the forthcoming new series of Doctor Who, starring a brand new Doctor – played by Peter Capaldi, who is both a Scot and a fine actor. Do you know this? It wouldn’t surprise me. Every so often you slip a contemporary reference into a song – as you did in ‘Thunder on the Mountain’ (2006) (I was thinkin’ about Alicia Keys...). And the long title track on Tempest (2012) was about the Titanic. But, unless I’ve missed something, you’ve never mentioned a Tardis.

Anyway, Capaldi will be making a whistlestop visit to Australia this month as part of a global publicity tour for the new Doctor Who series. This has sparked considerable interest. So much so it occurred to me you had some serious competition. I know, Capaldi hasn’t released a single studio album, while you’ve chalked up 35 – plus innumerable live recordings, compilations and bootlegs. Nor (to my knowledge) can he play the harmonica. And I’m right there in your corner if anyone claims you can’t, either. But a decision had to be made: you or Capaldi? Don’t say “Who?” That will just strengthen his case. The fact you’d already been on our cover didn’t count against you. Not at all. It actually helped, as we’ve had Doctor-related covers twice already in the past 16 months – Eds#431 and #448. The latter, our New Year-edition, prompted a letter from someone signing themselves ‘An Angry Whovian’, complaining there wasn’t more about the TV series in that magazine. I mention this only because I’m sure you’ve received truckloads of, um, interesting mail in your time, too. That correspondent will be happy now, for there’s a splendid story inside (see p14) and Capaldi, the new Doctor, is on our cover. While you’re not. It came down to a vote, you see, after I tossed the vexed question back at Team Editorial. What would it be – Dylan or the Doctor? Let’s just say there was a clear winner. And it wasn’t the guy behind ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’ (one of my favourites).

I should make two things clear. First, I have no problem at all with Capaldi on the cover. I like him, too. His big-screen film debut was in Local Hero (1983), which also stars Burt Lancaster and the Aurora Borealis. I reckon you’d like it, if ever you have time to kill backstage. Second, we’re not ignoring you. Oh no. We’ve prepared a special spread: six writers; six little bits about Bob (see p28). Something interesting arose there – the first obvious candidates were all blokes. I’m delighted we got two women into the mix. Sorry, neither of them are Alicia Keys. So there you go: no cover, but a double-page. Roll on, Bob. I’ll be there in the back stalls at one of your Australian shows. Oh. Thinking back to the lovely track after ‘Lily...’ on Blood on the Tracks (1975): if ever you do see her (whoever she is), say hello from me.

>> Alan Atwood is Editor of The Big Issue

This article appears in issue #464 of The Big Issue magazine

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