23 September 2005


Like other British Bob Dylan fans, I am really looking forward to the long-awaited Scorsese two part film about the man - "No Direction Home". It is to be screened on the BBC next Monday and Tuesday concurrent with its first American screening. One of the joyous things about Dylan's book "Chronicles" was its revelation of a very humane, civilised and self-critical narrator - not a superhuman after all and not an artistic snob. I first encountered Dylan's music in the sixties in a council house on Trinity Close in my home village - it was "Freewheelin" - an album that belonged to Michael Keenan's older sister and we listened to it in secret - amazed by what we were discovering. I still think that that is one of the best album covers ever - Dylan and Suze walking down a snowbound New York street in the early morning - happy and free and young.
That lovely notion, "soundtrack to our lives" is one which for me would include several songs by Dylan. It's as if he has always been there - like a faraway brother, an alter ego, somebody who'd known pain and joy like mine, a troubadour who was speaking directly to me - weaving words and music together like an intricate craftsman of the heart.
"Oh but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now..."
And even though my four Dylan concerts have each left much to be desired - his silence between the songs, the mashing of the familiar, the ugly perfection of his rock and roll bandsmen, the absent spotlight circle where the troubadour is supposed to stand alone with his guitar, even though that's how it's been, he's still the closest thing to a hero I have ever had.
In 1975, in Hibbing, Minnesota, I walked the streets of his youth and stood before his childhood home. Consequently, I have often wondered why there are so few songs that make any reference whatsoever to those formative years. Other artists would have painted pictures of the iron hills and the lakes, first love and the harsh winters and the pettiness of the neighbours and what it was he felt he was leaving behind when he hitch-hiked to New York City for the first time. Dylan - the enigma. Surely, when that man dies he will become a legend and some of his songs will live on to the far horizons of time. "If you're travelling in the north country fair... where the wind sits heavy on the borderline..."
I guess I must have something of the stalker in me because last Easter I spied his house at Malibu - Dylan's castle, an eyrie high above the Pacific, a viewpoint for a songmaker who has taught us to see things differently - "There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke..."


  1. But you and I, we've been through that, and this is not our fate,
    So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.

    ;) Have a great day!

  2. Were you at one of those 60s shows in England where the audience heckled him and his band when they plugged in and played an electric set? (as documented on the imfamous "Royal Albert Hall" bootleg) I always thought that was so funny. On that bootleg his band sounds positively raw and garage-y, not "ugly perfection" by any means. Confrontational and punk before there was such a thing, really. If you haven't ever heard the Royal Albert Hall concert I highly suggest it. The first set is solo acoustic, and then the second set is with the band.

    Dylan played at an outdoor ampitheatre here in Salt Lake a couple of years ago and I actually parked in an adjacent parking lot and listened and watched for a few minutes, until a security guard told me I either had to buy a ticket or vacate immediately. I didn't buy a ticket. So I understand what you mean about his live presence. But on that old bootleg he is good.

    I've been meaning to read Chronicles but haven't got around to it. Thanks for your post because it reminded me.

  3. That "Royal Albert Hall" Bootleg was actually recorded at Manchester's Free Trade Hall. I understand the documentary opens with a film clip of it.

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  5. I never saw Dylan, I like him, respect him, but I don't think when I was younger I would have paid to see him. For some reason if I pay to go to a concert it is more.... either traditional R and R or Heavy Metal.
    I saw Eric Burdon and the Animals as a kid. Great seats, but they were so drunk or high that the concert wasn't very good. Oh! I would definitly pay to see Dylan today.


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