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Former Longboat mayor dives deep into Dylan's iconic album

Terry Gans will be appearing at a local author book fair on Oct. 22.

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When term limits prompted former Longboat Key Commissioner and Mayor Terry Gans to find another way to spend his time in 2018, he told the Longboat Observer he wasn’t sure what he’d do next, but he knew what he wasn’t going to do.

“Things, they come organically. It’ll be fine. I’m not going to haunt commission meetings. I’m not going to go on the Planning and Zoning Board,” he said.

By January 2019, Gans, 76, had already found a new haunt far from Longboat Key: The Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He called it a confluence that his term in public office was up at nearly the same time the center opened.

The public can view a Bob Dylan exhibit at the center, but only qualified researchers are permitted to visit the archives to look at draft lyrics and listen to recordings. Gans, one of those qualified researchers, receieved approval and began traveling back and forth to Tulsa to research the iconic musician’s album, “Infidels.”

His research led to a book called “Surviving in a Ruthless World: Bob Dylan’s Voyage to Infidels.” He and his book are being featured at a book fair sponsored by Bookstore1 in Sarasota on Saturday. 

“The research started when the album came out without any intent of writing a book,” Gans said. “It was a departure from what had come before, both lyrically, musically and theme-wise.” 

When the album was released in 1983, a series of leaked outtakes further piqued Gans interest in “Infidels.”

“I thought this would be a good subject because I’ve always been interested about what choices were made and how it evolved,” he said. “I didn’t have any intent of writing a book, but as I got more and more information, I felt there was more and more of a story to tell.” 

While the book details each track on the album, it also delves into the inspiration of the whole. Gans didn’t speak to the man himself while writing, but he did track down and interview the man who built the Water Pearl, Dylan’s legendary schooner.  

“I think the development of that album was partially inspired by the time he spent floating on the boat in the Caribbean, “Gans said, “Not totally, but there was some influence there.”

Which led Gans to subtitle the book “Bob Dylan’s Voyage to Infidels.” “Surviving in a Ruthless World” was rumored to be the working title of the album. 

During his research, Gans found a piece of paper from the St. Regis Hotel in New York to back up that tidbit. Dylan had sketched out what the back cover of the album should look like and hand wrote, “Surviving in a Ruthless World.”  

A couple other tidbits Gans research dug up—the first song on the album, “Jokerman,” has 14 iterations, and Dylan has terrible handwriting. Deciphering it was one of Gans’ most difficult tasks.

“That was always a wonderful moment when you figured out exactly what it said,” Gans said. “But I’d say the big thing I got out of the time in the archives is the ceaseless dedication to craft this guy has.”

Gans book is available locally at Bookstore1 or online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Walmart.




Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is the community reporter for Longboat Key and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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