Robyn Hitchcock (photo: William Wayland)
Words by Elaine Blakely
Robyn Hitchcock, England’s legendary singer-songwriter of nearly four decades, performed a solo set to a partially-seated full house at the Chapel on December 27, 2018. It was his premiere performance celebrating the 51st anniversary of Bob Dylan’s 8th studio album, John Wesley Harding, originally released December 27, 1967.
On a stage set like a living room with worn-out end tables and lamps, Hitchcock performed all the songs off the Dylan LP on acoustic guitar, harmonica, and sometimes an upright piano. Between songs he told witty, surrealistic stories and spoke with the audience about the album’s impact on his teenage self, sitting in a metaphoric cave with his friends.
The 21-song, two-and-half-hour historic musical journey started off with “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Over the course of the evening, Hitchcock guided the audience through the significance of John Wesley Harding, an honest, stripped-down album with a lasting effect on some of the most influential musicians of the era. He showed how the album had a direct impact on the releases of other musicians including Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, and Hendrix.
Sharing comic anecdotes about John Lennon, Hitchcock demonstrated the significance and relevance of the track, “Dear Landlord,” by following it with The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence,” featured on 1968’s LP The Beatles, aka the White Album.
Throughout his performance, Hitchcock voiced the album’s influence “across the pond.” With animated stories of indulgent parties in London, he performed “All Along the Watchtower” and noted its re-release six months later by Jimi Hendrix, making it a Top 20 hit in 1968.
A musician’s musician, Hitchcock demonstrated his talent for lyric writing with his surreal, imaginative stories tying in the Dylan pieces to create an educational, deeply personal, and devoted journey through time.