Famously, Griel Marcus
opened his Rolling Stone
review of Bob Dylan
album 'Self Portrait
' with this line. At the time, Dylan seemed to be on one of the perverse tangents that dogs his work every now and again - such as the lurch into evangelical Christianity
late in the 1970s - as, after his notorious motorcycle crash in 1966
, he released a set of unusual, occasionally baffling records which lacked the clarity of his earlier recordings. At a time when the Beatles were producing 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
', and rock music seemed to actually say something
, Dylan had produced the obscure 'John Wesley Harding
' and 'Nashville Skyline
', a set of country and western songs. Each album was supposed to be the album that would set him back on track as the spokesperson of a generation.
Griel Marcus was a fan of Dylan, all rock critics at the time were, but his patience could only wear so thin, and Dylan's 1970 'Self Portrait' was the last straw. A double album of demos, out-takes, cover versions and live cuts, it had no redeeming features and is justly reviled today as a terrible waste of seventy minutes and two slices of vinyl. Both Dylan and Marcus went on to produce better works, although Marcus is unlikely to ever top the eloquence of these four words.