Larry "Ratso" Sloman: On the Road with Bob Dylan
Larry "Ratso" Sloman
In the autumn of 1975 singer songwriter Bob Dylan assembled a group of musicians for a variety show tour and this caravan named Rolling Thunder Revue enlisted people like poet Allen Ginsberg, singers Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, Arlo Guhrie, guitarists Mick Ronson, Robbie Robertson and Ramblin' Jack Elliot, and many more. In October 1975, soon after completing Desire, (Columbia, 1976) Dylan held rehearsals for a supporting tour that had been envisioned by Dylan as a travelling gypsy circus. Rolling Thunder is the moment when Dylan rediscovered his muse and put everything he had into a hyper-ambitious, doomed-to- failure roving festival that showcased everything he loved about music and the creative process. Dylan's entourage eventually became known as "Guam" and had its first concert in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and then played a string of intimate venues to small audiences enthralled by this gypsy road show.
With a foreword by musician Kinky Friedman written especially for the reissue in 2002, this book is 460 pages of author Larry "Ratso" Sloman's narrative collage of personal memories, notes, poems, accounts of numerous encounters and a vivid presentation of life on the road. In a plethora of interviews, unique behind-the- scenes accounts, and deconstructions of tour documents, Sloman provides different and often difficult insight into Dylan's most legendary tour and offers analysis of the musical torrents that came pouring forth as the Thunder Rolled. In this unique and highly personal log he writes of events of several months on the road with the assuredness of the quintessential insider and yet with a smart and folksy angle that brings a sharp focus on the madness of the pop music world. The book showcases the ills of a journalist trying to do his best in all kinds of circumstances and is sandwiched between the inhospitality of Dylan's touring management and the demands by the editors whose interests of what is interesting for the readership in the ongoing tour are diametrically opposed to Sloman's. The book also criss- crosses paths with boxer Rubin Hurricane Carter, the boxer that Dylan wrote a protest song for, singer Leonard Cohen and playwright Sam Shephard, who had been invited to write a script for a film of the tour, which evidently had been wildly improvised and eventually released as Renaldo and Clara.
On one side this book is a great account of one of the greatest moments in the history of popular music, but on the flip side it seems that Sloman has put all kinds of ingredients just to be able to write this book. After 200 pages, he litters the next 200 with uninteresting and unnecessary encounters, adventures, misfortunes, occurrences, interviews and empty writing. With a hundred pages less and with better editing this could have been a great book.