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..."