Tom Wilmeth Explores Bob Dylan’s Impact on ‘Sound Bites: A Lifetime of Listening’

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In the following interview, Something Else! contributing writer Tom Wilmeth frames the sweeping influence of Bob Dylan on his fascinating new book, Sound Bites: A Lifetime of Listening.

Just out on Muleshoe Press, this collection takes a wide-angle look at Wilmeth’s work – something he felt compelled to do. “Before allowing my own memories to evaporate into the nether world of Proust’s lost time,” Wilmeth writes in the book’s introduction, “I wanted to commit some recollections to print while I still clearly remember them.”

Along the way, Dylan’s complex legacy is revealed as something of a touchstone in Sound Bites: A Lifetime of Listening, which is available for purchase now via Amazon

QUESTION: Your new book has a lot of Bob Dylan in it. How are these essays different from what’s already out there?
TOM WILMETH: I try to look at a few unexplored topics. I have a piece that examines the edits made to Dylan’s introductory remarks just before his “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie” recitation on The Bootleg Series.

QUESTION: That sounds pretty obscure. You mean you compare the released Bootleg Series version of the work to the unedited, unreleased recording?
TOM WILMETH: Right. Some interesting things were cut from that introduction. I also have an article that discusses Dylan’s use of different keys when playing songs in concert. That’s one where I learned a lot about Bob’s ability as a musician.

TOM WILMETH: It gets pretty involved, but I’ll summarize by saying that Bob’s guitar skills are underrated.

QUESTION: What else do you cover in Sound Bites: A Lifetime of Listening that relates to Bob Dylan?
TOM WILMETH: I include my 1978 interview with Eric Weissberg, where I ask him about his involvement with Blood on the Tracks. Both Weisberg and his band, Deliverance, had some interesting things to say about that session.

QUESTION: I assume you have the normal stuff like concert and CD reviews?
TOM WILMETH: Right. Dylan concerts since 1974, and various album releases. I also review some books that have fallen off most Dylan radars.

QUESTION: Such as?
TOM WILMETH: One by Dave Engel from 1997 jumps to mind, called Just Like Bob Zimmerman’s Blues. It goes deep in to Bob’s Hibbing days. I spoke with the author, and he had really done his Hibbing homework. Useful book.

QUESTION: And is your Sound Bites a useful book?
TOM WILMETH: I believe that it is. I think lovers of music will really enjoy it. In addition to my pieces on Dylan, I have a detailed discussion of the history of Hank Williams’ releases, and a piece that praises 8-track tapes. I include my interviews with jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, and concert reviews from Stevie Wonder to Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland to Dwight Yoakam to Yes. It is a varied collection.

QUESTION: Back to Bob, as we wrap up. Anything else distinctive about your book regarding Dylan?
TOM WILMETH: I guess I would say that Dylan’s presence permeates my writing about music. There are pieces on specific topics, such as one that discusses jazz recordings of his songs. But Bob Dylan has been so important to my musical life, he can’t help but appear throughout all the sections of my book. And he does.

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