New collection of writings about Bob Dylan
Red Planet will be publishing a collection of the best writing about Bob Dylan by the late Peter Stone Brown on May 26, 2022. Peter was a freelance writer, singer-songwriter and renowned Dylanologist. His rootsy debut album Up Against It was recorded in the Austin studio of childhood friend Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel. Debuting on the Americana charts in 1996, it featured many legendary Austin session players including Cindy Cashdollar who would play on Bob Dylan’s Time out of Mind the following year.
Peter was a DJ at WXPN in the ‘70s where he interviewed many of the blues, folk and country greats, including Muddy Waters, Fats Domino, John Lee Hooker, Dr John, Carl Perkins, George Jones and James Brown. Later, through the ‘80s and ‘90s, he was a rock critic at The Welcomat, Philadelphia’s alternative newspaper and predecessor of the Philadelphia Weekly.
In David A. Kinney’s book The Dylanologists: Adventures in the land of Bob, Peter describes how after a few sessions with a psychiatrist as a teenager, he finally brought in a copy of Bringing It All Back Home, dropped the needle on It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) and said to the doctor, “this is how I feel”. The psychiatrist then discharged him. That feeling, passion and deep sense of how things are permeated his life, his writing, reading, music, and politics.
After a summer of discovering the music of Bob Dylan thanks to a performance by Pete Seeger, Peter saw his first Bob Dylan concert in Newark, New Jersey at the Mosque Theatre on November 30th 1963. This sparked a love for Bob Dylan that would find him attending nearly 200 concerts spanning 1963 to 2018. He witnessed Dylan in transition over almost all of his career, attending fabled shows like Philharmonic Hall in 1964, electric Dylan at Forest Hills in August 1965 through tour ‘74, the Rolling Thunder Revue, the Gospel shows and up through the Never Ending Tour. His last Bob Dylan concert would land in his hometown of Philadelphia for the grand opening of the Metropolitan Opera House, December 3rd 2018.
In recent years Peter continued playing his own concerts, writing on Bob Dylan, chronicling the Never Ending Tour. Over the years he has contributed to Bobdylan.com, American Songwriter, CounterPunch and No Depression.
In 2008 Jeff Rosen commissioned Peter to write liner notes for Bob Dylan’s Tell Tale Signs, he spent about a week listening to tracks sent by Dylan’s office, suggesting songs and writing as he listened. In the end his notes didn’t make the final release but were posted on Bobdylan.com.
For more than twenty years Peter spoke of writing a book about Bob Dylan called The Joker and the Thief. He’d drafted various outlines of how it would go, spoken to numerous friends over the years about it, but he kept getting pulled into other work.
Fortunately much of what has become his body of work on Dylan, from concert and album reviews to prose pieces, cover many of the ideas Peter had for the book and are contained herein.
In 2018 Peter was diagnosed with a form of pancreatic cancer. Right around that time rumours surfaced about the impending release of More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol. 14. This release was something Peter had waited a lifetime for. His brother Tony Brown is the bass player on the New York Sessions for Blood on the Tracks, and so the album was embedded mythologically and deeply in Peter’s emotional life.
Peter would make it into 2019 long enough to see Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story, and some glimpses of The Bootleg Series Vol. 15: Travelin' Thru, 1967–1969
but unfortunately would not write about either. Peter died on October 5th 2019. He missed the incredible US Fall 2019 Tour by a matter of weeks, he missed Murder Most Foul and he missed Rough and Rowdy Ways. We can only wonder what he would’ve thought.
The title The Joker and the Thief had been rolling around in Peter’s head for as long as I knew him and probably long before that too. Over the years he’d make efforts in the direction of a book proposal, he’d sketch out what he’d like to cover, looking for a place other writers perhaps hadn’t gone, his own illuminations, or at least writing from his lived experience of having seen Dylan at the beginning of his career and still being around towards the end of it.
Although this book works as a collection of Peter’s writings, what’s interesting however is that the book was there all along, in the concert and album reviews and prose pieces he was already writing while thinking about a book.
This collection aims to fulfil Peter’s life’s work on Bob Dylan, it’s a loving tribute to a friend and a completion of something he’d always strived to do.