1998 Grammy Awards

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As we transition from 1997 to 1998 on the LongAndWastedYear, the best segue is the 40th annual Grammy Awards, where the big winner was Bob Dylan. Dylan was nominated for three awards for Time Out of Mind:

Best Contemporary Folk Album
Best Male Contemporary Rock Vocal Performance (for “Cold Irons Bound”)
Album of the Year

He won all three of these awards.

The Grammys are a little bizarre in terms of the Album of the Year award, alternating (at this point in their history) between celebrated new comers and grizzled veterans with returns to form. Check it out:

1993 Eric Clapton Unplugged
1994 Whitney Houston The Bodyguard Soundtrack
1995 Tony Bennett Unplugged
1996 Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill
1997 Celine Dion Falling Into You
1998 Bob Dylan Time Out of Mind
1999 Lauryn Hill The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
2000 Santana Supernatural

So your best shot of winning this award for the better part of a decade was to be an old man or a young woman.

Of the other nominees, I think only one of these albums is particularly well remembered at this point:

Babyface  The Day
Paula Cole  This Fire
Paul McCartney  Flaming Pie
Radiohead  OK Computer

The Radiohead, obviously, is now seen as one of the defining albums of the 1990s (although I’ve never been much of a fan). The other three all seem forgettable to me. I do think that the Dylan win was a bit of a surprise. In the video below (which is a compilation of Dylan bits from across the entire show) Celine Dion seems genuinely shocked (at first I thought she must have just lost to him, but she wasn’t a nominee) while Patti Smith seems positively elated. Dylan even gave a speech that made some sense.

Of course, this Grammys was best remembered for the bit that opens that video: Soy Bomb. During a performance of “Love Sick”, and a good one, Dylan has an audience of black-clad hipsters behind him. One of them breaks from the crowd, and dances in spasms with “Soy Bomb” written on his chest. Dylan looks on and tries not to panic until Soy Bomb is ushered off stage.

Soy Bomb, we now know, is the multimedia artist Michael Portnoy, who does performance art and stand-up comedy. He was himself the object of parody on both SNL and Jay Leno’s Tonight Show, though I can’t find either of those clips. The Eels, however, wrote a song about him.

For some reason I recall watching the Soy Bomb performance. Why I would have been watching the Grammys in 1997 I have no idea, but I did see it. Definitely a memorable moment.

I should also note that Jakob Dylan was nominated for two Grammys at this show for his song with The Wallflowers, “One Headlight” (Best Rock Vocal and Best Rock Performance By a Duo or a Group with Vocal) and he won both of those. So a great night for the Dylan family, and a career-defining moment for Michael Portnoy.

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