Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Oh Dylan...

I have almost finished reading Robert Adamson's autobiography Inside Out. Adamson started writing poetry in prison and he recounts how he first starting writing; what he was reading, the people inside who gave him reading lists, lent him books and broadened his understanding of contemporary poetry. It is quite a journey, but one of the things that stuck with me was his delight when they got speakers at the prison and he started to hear music in his cell for the first time, even if the "screws" chose the stations.

He writes about a "young man" called John Laws who was mocking Bob Dylan's inability to sing, and to support his argument Laws played a small part of Dylan's "Only a Pawn in their Game" (see the above clip).

For Adamson, those first few lines "seared themselves across my brain like fire:
A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Ever's blood.
A finger pulled the trigger to his name. 
... I'd never heard anything like it before... It spoke to something deep inside of me. I felt like I'd been waiting to hear it all my life."

One of the first things Adamson did when he got out of prison was buy a Dylan record, and then save for a record player and then a typewriter. I always thought that "Only a Pawn in their Game" was a powerful song, but reading Adamson's autobiography makes me think about how it profoundly changed and inspired people; as well as the countless other Dylan tracks that continue to inform, influence and inspire. And I love the clip, 1963 Newport, he is so young.

PS. If you are in Brisbane on the 30th of his month you might want to help celebrate Kerouac's birthday with some poetry at the Confit Bistro. See Graham's blog for details!


  1. Argument lost, in my opinion. But I love Bob Dylan.

    I hope you don't mind, but I've nominated you for a blog award on my blog. :)

  2. This is a fabulous post, Fiona. I hadn't heard this Dylan song before and the video clip is a total blast (so young!). Did you watch Jennifer Byrne's Tuesday Book Club last night about cult fiction and how it grabs at some elemental heart of you and changes you forever? Thinking the same thing here. Really enjoyed reading about Adamson came to write in this way. Kx

  3. Bob and I share a birthday, and my dad used to sing us Dylan songs as bedtime stories. I just picked up a copy of a live radio performance from March 11, 1962, which predates the release of his debut album. It is so good! And thanks for the plug about the Confit gig. Look forward to seeing you there, G


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