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Dylan In The Name Of
Having had a best-seller with My Boy, music journalist Jackie Hayden has switched his focus to the first rock and roll poet, Dylan Thomas. He talks about discovering Thomas’ effervescent verse via Bob Dylan, holds forth on his mysterious death and explains why he isn’t as revered in his native Wales as he ought to be.
Colm O Hare, 21 Jun 2012
After the success of Phil Lynott memoir My Boy, Hot Press’ Jackie Hayden turns his attention to Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. A frequent visitor to the principality, Hayden’s A Map Of Love: Around Wales With Dylan Thomas explores the places and people associated with Thomas and assesses his key works. It combines book and a CD of spoken-word performances by Jim Parc Nest, the Archdruid of Wales. These were recorded in the very room in the house in Swansea where the scribe was born.
Some see him as the first rock ‘n’ roll poet. Bob Dylan even borrowed his name. His image appears on the cover of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album. He has inspired countless song lyrics and album titles, from Donovan (who adapted the Thomas poem ‘Do Not Go Gentle’) to King Crimson (whose Starless And Bible Black is named for a quote from Under Milk Wood). Nick Cave also name-checks the poet in his song, ‘There She Goes, My Beautiful World’.
Thomas died at just 39 in New York on a reading tour. He lived a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle to the end says Hayden. “The writer George Tremlett claims that Dylan Thomas was the first rock star,” he says. “He published the books, did the radio interviews and then went on tour. He was ahead of his time. I’m not conscious of many other writers of that period doing anything like it on that scale. The TS Eliots and the WH Audens of the time didn’t seem to be as active in promoting their work in the way Thomas was.”
Hayden’s passion for Thomas was sparked by the Dylan connection. “I went out and got a copy of a Dylan Thomas miscellany and I imagined a link between the two, in the way they used words and seemed to revel in the sound of those words. Through my music business connections I got hold of copies of Dylan Thomas records from the US and that convinced me even more. There’s a George Martin-produced double album of Under Milk Wood with people like Mary Hopkins and Tom Jones on it, which I have. And I actually have a copy of Under Milk Wood in which Dylan Thomas himself takes some of the roles. I see him as similar to Bob Dylan in the way both appeared to make words seem bigger. I was impressed with the fact that Thomas’ voice stood on its own. I’m not sure if too many rock artists could read any of their lyrics and do that. Dylan Thomas was a performer.” As far back as the ’70s, Hayden decided to go to Wales to explore the places and meet some of the people associated with Dylan Thomas.