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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Bob Coltman Why didn't MacColl like Dylan? (538* d) RE: Why didn't MacColl like Dylan? 24 Jan 12

As to specifically why MacColl didn't like Dylan, put yourself in his shoes. He revered above all the great world of British balladry and song lore. He preferred singing unaccompanied much of the time.

The following is just an interpretation based on best guess. I did not know MacColl but I heard most of his traditional song recordings, solo and with A.L. Lloyd and others. This is how I think he must have been stricken, as many traditionalists were, by the Brave New World of folk rock represented by Dylan's rise.

The pure note of the old way of singing closed his mind to many kinds of innovation. Certainly he was far from ready to enjoy folk-rock as it thrashed through its growing pains. The style was too foreign, the instrument playing crude to his ears, he who at most favored the kinds of sensitive accompaniment—song always coming first, sound second—that Peggy Seeger could provide.

He seems to have been somewhat more liberal when dealing with song compositions, and he had an appreciation for what that sort of folk-based accompaniment can do. It has always surprised me that he wrote "The First Time Ever," which was so unlike his style. But even that departure, and others like "Dirty Old Town," were quiet and reflective. At most he could be strident in a good cause. But an innovation in sound was likely to turn him off.

I think people today who were born into a rock world, with all its assumptions about the variety of sound possible, and who haven't passed through that change, can have no idea what a catastrophic overturn it was. It is an imaginative feat to put yourself in a world without rock—without Dylan in fact, he was that revolutionary—that had no conception of what was coming.

It was like war, folks. And, as usual after a war, things settle down in the new orientation, and people coming later wonder what all the fuss was about.

I wish I could express it better, but there it is. Between the worlds of Ewan MacColl and Bob Dylan was a spread of light-years in comprehension. When the rest of us crossed that gulf, McColl's profoundly and admirably retro musical tastes, along with those of many others (just think of all the pop bandleaders!) were simply left behind.

In fairness, MacColl could and did change. I heard MacColl, Peggy Seeger and their son in concert late in his life, and with his son's driving guitar accompaniment MacColl, on some songs, appeared to be making an accommodation with the big new sound. Whether he was comfortable with it, or merely felt it necessary if he was to engage a contemporary audience, I don't know. In his own way he was an innovator; but no two people differ so clashingly as a couple of innovators in disparate styles.

Perhaps Peggy would have some useful insight on this.


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