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Ian Anderson
Photo: Judith Burrows

The Editor's Box

Ian Anderson's comment column

Watching heroes come and go – that was once a Tucker Zimmerman song title – is something you’ve done a lot when you’re as long in the teeth as fRoots.

One hero gets, belatedly, to answer the dozen questions on our monthly Rocket Launcher page this issue, coinciding with the release of a truly impressive retrospective of his first fifty years of recording. Sorry for re-banging an old drum, but it’s a scandal that Wizz Jones, who celebrated his 75th birthday last year as well as that recording half-century – and is still on top performing form – has continually been passed over for a Lifetime Achievement gong in the BBC Folk Awards. If that’s not a lifetime of achievement I don’t know what is!

Here’s a man who inspired Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Ralph McTell, Martin Carthy, Rod Stewart and many more; who not so long ago had one of his songs covered by Bruce Springsteen and was recently fêted on Radio 4’s peak-time Today programme. But as I’ve mentioned before, the head of the Folk Show’s production company told me to my face at the Awards bash a few years back that Wizz was unlikely ever to be so honoured as he’s not famous enough for Radio 2 listeners. Sorry, that’s just bollocks (and I can happily be so blunt in the sure knowledge that as we’re extremely unlikely ever to get an award of any kind ourselves, I don’t give a toss about upsetting anybody at the BBC)!

Bob Dylan, who has often tried to de-hero himself over the years, what with gospel and cheesy Christmas albums to mention but two, has done it again with a ghastly set of Frank Sinatra covers – inexplicably getting fawning reviews from mainstream press hacks for whom He Can Do No Wrong. Everybody has a right to a different opinion of course, and everybody’s opinion is shaded by different experiences. Mine were hearing every Dylan album up to and including Blonde On Blonde, in order, as they came out and with the gap in between to assimilate the astounding progress from one to the other. Mine were also of being a child in the 1950s and hating and loathing the likes of Sinatra with a vengeance: the Dylan we first saw and heard was a complete antidote to that over-produced, phonily sung crap by men in suits.

All in all, it’s probably easiest to occupy a parallel reality in which the original Bob Dylan actually did all but cop it in a motorcycle accident in 1966, after which his brain was replaced by that of an alien – though not so skilfully as to prevent the occasional flash of the old one from coming through to explain things like Blood On The Tracks or Tempest

It was a real honour and pleasure to be asked to put together the Bob Copper centenary concert. He actually did get a Folk Award in his lifetime, and it’s a mark of how highly he’s regarded that all those artists agreed to participate without hesitation, and it sold out months ahead. As modest and unassuming a hero as they get, but a genuine hero to many all the same. I really don’t want to know what his views on Frank Sinatra were…

Ian Anderson

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