ON THE ROAD WITH BOB DYLAN
Release date: 08/01/2002
When Dylan personally invited the fledgling author Sloman (Reefer Madness) to chronicle his Rolling Thunder Revue tour back in 1975, Sloman thought he had landed his dream gig, expecting all-night parties and intimate chats with the tour's supporting cast, which included Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Robbie Robertson and Allen Ginsberg. In fact, Sloman, who first published this memoir in 1978, found access to the stars very limited. After the first concert, Dylan's manager bounced him from the band's hotel. Yet he decided to do whatever it took to stay on tour, earning the nickname "Ratso," after the wily con man played by Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy. Sloman embraced the role: "I was Ratso, I realized, rolling with the punches, licking my wounds in auxiliary highway hotels, stuffing my frayed dreams into a tattered suitcase, limping along the highway in search of that warm sun that always follows the thunder." But by the end of the tour, Sloman is still stuck with inglorious duties like looking after Dylan's beagle puppy. A brisk and funny (if somewhat over-the-top) prose stylist, he records some interesting moments—a sunrise ceremony led by an Indian chief, coincidentally named Rolling Thunder; an emotional encounter with Jack Kerouac's bartending brother-in-law Nicky in Lowell, Mass.—but he never really gets close enough to Dylan to offer readers any insights. Ultimately, this book is about one fan's attempt to be accepted by his rock-and-roll heroes, and in Sloman's hands the project is as narcissistic as it sounds. Reading his memoir, one goes from rooting for the underdog to wishing he'd just go home. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)
Forecast:Although there's no shortage of new Dylan books—including David Hajdu's Positively 4th Street and Howard Sounes's Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan—this 1978 reprint should still sell well with new generations of fans.