Joe Satriani is among a slew of artists to be named and – in a roundabout fashion – shamed in Bob Dylan’s rambling new book of music criticism, Philosophy Of The Modern Song.
The legendary songwriter drops Satriani’s name in a discussion regarding the simple genius of Hank Williams’ tune Your Cheatin’ Heart.
“Each phrase goes hand in hand with the voice,” says Dylan. “[But] if Hank was to sing this song and you had somebody like Joe Satriani playing the answer licks to the vocal, like they do in a lot of blues bands, it just wouldn’t work and would be a waste of a great song.”
Rolling Stone (opens in new tab) reached out to Satriani for comment and, appropriately, given the title of the book, the guitar god seems quite philosophical about it all.
“Bob Dylan knows my name?” asks Satriani, when he’s informed of the passage. Still he disagrees with Dylan’s assertion. “I think the great Hank Williams and I could have sorted things out and made some great music together.”
Satriani is certainly not alone in coming under fire from Dylan’s pepper-spray critiques, though others have taken it less lightly.
Dylan writes that Elvis Costello’s early work “exhausted people” (though he applauds later song Pump It Up) and has since incurred the wrath of Talking Heads’ drummer Chris Frantz, due to a comment that “Elvis Costello and the Attractions were a better band than any of their contemporaries. Light years better.”
“When I read that, I just thought, ‘Jesus, Bob,’” Frantz tells Rolling Stone. “’I understand you dig Elvis Costello, but did you have to put it that way?’”
In a post on Facebook (opens in new tab), Frantz also previously recommended the songwriting legend “suck a dick” – a comment he alleges Dylan made to a friend in the ’80s, after he approached the rock icon in public.
It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s tackled previous Dylan prose that the book is an unpredictable, eclectic ride through the songwriter’s listening habits. Reading it is an experience that has been compared to listening to Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour, a series he opened with a whole playlist of songs about coffee.
Elsewhere, he examines numerous other six-string and rock icons, discussing Gregg Allman’s Midnight Rider, Peter Green’s Black Magic Woman and even name-checking Ronnie James Dio.
However, reviewers have pointed out that despite the title, The Philosophy Of Modern Song is remarkably light on material from the 21st century. So, we can't help wondering... what would Dylan make of Polyphia?