Christy Moore on Bob Dylan


‘I used to have Dylan on vinyl, cassette, CD’ Christy Moore talks about his love of Bob Dylan

With a highly successful recording and performing career that has lasted almost as long as Bob Dylan’s,Christy Moore is an ideal candidate to reflect on a variety of topics related to ‘The Zim’. Christy kindly agreed to muse on questions and ideas from Visions of Dylan.

(VOD) You have said that you first heard Woody Guthrie when you were in London in the 60s.Had you heard much of Dylan by then ?(Must have been a flashback in 2011 to be appearing on the same bill as Bob at The Feis/Fleadh…….back in Finsbury Park…. now with an audience of tens of thousands)Song for Woody was an early song I heard you play in Manchester folk clubs c 1971-and a lovely version on Prosperous.Woody and Bob coming together in your early repertoire and Andy Irvine playing on the record.Was Andy an influence on your selection or was it mutual interest in the power of Woody’s words and images?

(CM) Between 1962-1971 I was totally immersed in both Irish traditional music and Irish,English and Scottish folk music,I missed everything else…I did encounter Woody Guthrie’s work in 1969 but,at that time,Bob Dylan meant very little to me.I was actually living in Manchester in 1966.Chances are I may have been in a folk club somewhere in the vicinity of The Free Trade Hall that very night.
My first Dylan song was Tribute to Woody which I heard Tony Small sing c 1969.At the time it was Woody who had my attention more than Bob.I had just gotten Woody’s Sacco and Vanzetti album and was immersed in his words.
Returning to Ireland to form Planxty I was very taken to find a poster of Woody on Andy Irvine’s wall and to learn that he had communicated with Woody.

(VOD) Hattie Carroll is a superb example of Dylan as a powerful storyteller (as is I Pity the Poor Immigrant,which I know you were tempted to play at The Feis in 2011).Your cover versions of other artists’ work really get inside a song.Do you play much of Dylan for personal enjoyment or now and again for ideas/inspiration etc?

(CM) Truth is ,I seldom listen to anyone’s albums…I do love hearing Dylan when I encounter him in my daily life.I used to have Dylan on vinyl,cassette,CD…they are all around here somewhere.. Every year I try a couple of Dylan songs but find I cannot do them justice…I love to sing Pity and Hattie…the former occasionally,the latter frequently…they are wonderful songs to sing and bring feelings of sadness and anger betimes but always satisfaction.Scorsese’s film on Bob is class.

(VOD) You are locked in a room and will only be released for a cuppa on naming your favourite Dylan song……would you be there for a long time fighting thirst or out quickly to put on the kettle?

(CM) There are so many I would love to sing…Hard Rain…I spent a long time trying to phrase that into my ‘Kildare-speak’ but I could never fit into it…such a mystery song…
I think Pity the Poor Immigrant is in my top 10,may be even 5…Homesick Subterranean hard rains gonna fall when the ship comes black diamond bay the dirge and the hurricane hattie carroll hollis brown summerdays forever young st augustine maggies farm and like a rolling stone.

(VOD) As insults go,’Judas’ is hard hitting……and understandably galvanised Dylan et al into a blistering version of Like A Rolling Stone at The Free Trade Hall,Manchester in 1966.Only a few years later you appeared at the same venue with Planxty…….did the Dylan/FTH connection have any impact on you around this time or later years?eg Your views on Dylan ‘going electric’ and subsequent criticism……any links/similarities to reactions from your fans re Moving Hearts?

(CM) My attitude to such taunts has changed over 40 years…I remember being deeply wounded when a leading trad music player slagged the arse off Planxty…40 years on I view it differently…sure,there have been slags,taunts,insults over the years but I’m still here playing and singing and loving the world of song.There is room for all of us…
Those who criticise and slag off are more to be pitied than listened to…when I hear The Free Trade Hall recording I feel there is something beautiful in the ‘Judas’ taunt…then to see the film of the audience as they exited the gig…some of those folkies who grievously criticised Dylan that night reminded me of a guy I used to know very well…I still see him every day in the mirror.

(VOD) Thoughts on Tempest and Dylan’s decision not to feature songs from the new album on current gigs?

(CM) I have not heard anything from Tempest yet but I read his interview in Rolling Stone…its a great piece…prepare to laugh!
Dylan don’t tour to promote albums…with a back catalogue like his he’s gonna do his own thing whatever way he likes.He is entitled to do anything that comes into his head…Long Life to Bob and buck the fegrudgers…all along the watchtower…Declan and I have done gigs when we have done nothing from the last 3 albums…no one seems to notice!

(VOD) Thoughts/memories on seeing Dylan ‘live’ in any era?Do you have a favourite Dylan era?

(CM) Liked him in Vicar St,Dublin about 7 years ago…liked him in Kilkenny and (I think)Glastonbury…saw him at The RDS when he kept his hoodie up…I went for a bag of chips…usually I can’t make head nor tail of what’s going down but I bring the binoculars and enjoy the spectacle…Lay Lady Lay.

(VOD) Interesting to reflect on time passing…..Woody’s 100th……Dylan 70+ and still creative………almost 50 years on from a bank in Clonmel……..Christy and Bob ploughing own furrows on versions of Never Ending Tours (that intersected in London-June 2011)Thoughts on the need to be creative?Need to ‘keep on keepin’ on’ etc(Just realised that I’m sending this on a Bank Hol in Ireland………..many years after you started a permanent Bank Holiday and life as a songmeister!)

(CM) For me its a need to sing,to keep changing things ,move the chairs around,change the pictures…I am working on a parcel of songs at the moment- covers,co-writes and originals.
Years ago every song would be gigged and recorded.These days the process is more drawn out.I can spend aeons working on a cover.If it never gets performed I don’t consider it a waste of time…I love the process.
Every line of Hard Rain was tried time and time again- never to be performed … but the process took me away…age or time doesn’t matter in the tower of song.Its only when I step out that I realise my age again…I’m younger than that now.

(VOD) It is known that you enjoy art.Have you had chance to engage with Dylan’s recent projects-notably The Drawn Blank Series?……..which has received praise and criticism in more or less equal measure….predictably enough for anything created by Dylan…..your thoughts on Dylan’s ‘art’?

(CM) I have not engaged with his painted pictures…have seen a few photos but its hard to get the vibe from snaps…he has changed the way we think,see,talk,sing,play…and he seems to just get on with it,do his own thing,not give a fuck…I like that…

With many thanks to Christy Moore for the interview.
Interview: David Burrows
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