This year’s X Factor competition? I'm wishing success on the young black woman with the Liverpool accent, who has a very good voice – but more importantly because a fortnight back, if I heard rightly, she sang a Dylan song. It’s possible she knew it by way of its more popular covers, but I’d rather believe she was displaying a spark of musical intelligence and feeling hitherto unseen among X Factor wannabes and their ludicrous panel of 'mentors'/'judges'.
Granted, it’s a ridiculous notion, Bob-does-The-X. If by some magic the young Greenwich Village Dylan were a candidate for the c. 2010 show he’d be ridiculed and kicked out at audition - partly for the voice, which Larkin (who liked it!) thought ‘cawing’ and ‘derisive’, but mainly for writing his own songs, being an artist, his own man, etc etc...
Still, I’ve begun to amuse myself by imagining an entire X-evening devoted to Bob’s songs… just as I understand there have been tributes to such heavyweights as Elton, Queen, Take That, George Michael… Most likely the biggest scrap among contestants would be had over ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’, with the winner probably deciding to knock off the Guns N’ Roses version – whereupon one can picture Simon Cowell doing 'that pause' and pulling 'that face' (by which he tries to pretend that he is thinking impossibly complicated thoughts, thoughts for which language, even by his high standards, is inadequate) before saying that the performance was quite unprecedented in its brilliance and the X Factor just so great because it’s so much more than karaoke, blah blah etc.
It could be done, though: a whole night of X-Goes-Bob. One of the older contestants would do ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ with a choir and get those arms a-waving in the crowd. One of the young lads could sing a new sort of number for the laydeez - maybe ‘Visions of Johanna’, or a quirkier choice, ‘Sweetheart Like You’ off Infidels? I’d expect one of the ‘girls’ who specialize in that vibrato thing they all do these days could bring a new stretched-out-ness to one of the ballads of the Christian phase – ‘I Believe in You’ perhaps. And there’d be a special prize for the claiming by any candidate who took on ‘Idiot Wind’ and strolled boldly right up to the judges’ table, spitting each syllable into their awful freeze-dried life-denying faces:
‘Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your mouth,
Blowing down the backroads headin' south.
Idiot wind, blowing every time you move your teeth,
You're an idiot, babe.
It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe…’