I’ve never been one to pay too much attention to birthdays, anniversaries etc, so I only learned that Bob Dylan turned 80 yesterday when I read some on-line tributes.
Given that I’ve been trying, without success, to get my good mate Aldo to contribute to this blog, I’ve decided to, in effect, hijack him, by stealing the words he put up on Facebook. As such, it’s really a guest posting, although I chose the song at the end.
Over to Aldo……
“Happy Birthday to Robert Allen Zimmerman, born this day in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesotta.
I can’t necessarily recall when I would have first seen or heard Bob Dylan, my dad did have a couple of his albums in among his vinyl, Nashville Skyline and John Wesley Harding. Though they rarely, if ever, got played which probably added to my intrigue.
Like the majority of folk, particularly those coming to him latterly, the first Dylan song I would have had some familiarity with was Like A Rolling Stone. I suspect having heard it on one of those Bank Holiday radio programmes along the lines of the “100 Greatest Songs Ever” as voted by Radio 2 listeners.
Therefore my first purchase of one of his records was Highway 61 Revisited because it contained the aforementioned track. The whole album was a revelation, but the closing track, the 11-minute Desolation Row, absolutely captivated me, ending up on repeat until I could practically recite every line.
The purchase of Blonde On Blonde with its ‘Thin, wild mercury sound’, and Bringing It All Back Home followed as I fell deeper under his spell. And eventually those Nashville Skyline and John Wesley Harding LPs were pulled from the rack for a spin.
Going back to discover the early output was initially a bit of a shock to the system, having been used to the more fully produced, mainly band backed records. With The Times They Are A Changin’ and Another Side of Bob Dylan, the stark simplicity of only that sandpaper voice and acoustic guitar took some getting used to.
My growing infatuation coincided with the official release of the much bootlegged 1966 ‘Royal Albert Hall’ show in 1998. Surely the most important live recording in the evolution of rock music?
The next thing of course was for me to try and catch the godlike genius in a live setting. The first was a visit with a work colleague to the Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle, back in May 2002. Being sat at the back of the vast barn I didn’t come away with the best of impressions. I decided then that I would avoid the arena tours and keep and eye out for slightly more intimate shows. Therefore my next show was a solo trip to London to catch him at the legendary Hammersmith Odeon (by then named the Apollo), this time standing in the stalls, and in much closer proximity it was a far more enjoyable experience.
If Hammersmith was good, I still can scarcely believe the next time I’d catch him in person only a few months later. His tour was stopping at the SECC in June 2004, about a week before the show an announcement came out that he’d follow the arena show with a gig at the Barrowland the next day. I had to be there. Fortunately I managed to secure tickets and it was an evening that will live with me forever. It even elicited the only time I’ve seen him addressing the audience, remarking after a massed sing along by the Barras crowd to Like A Rolling Stone that “I must’ve played that song a few thousand times, and no one’s ever kept up like that”.
The following year I was back in London at another of that city’s great venues, Brixton Academy. I’ve only caught him twice since then, Edinburgh Playhouse in 2009, and most recently the Armadillo (Glasgow) in 2017, where I got to hear him play Desolation Row, the track that so enraptured me early on in my discovery of his catalogue.
Who knows if he’ll ever return to these shores on that never ending tour, but I’m grateful to have seen him the times I have.
We should feel fortunate to have lived in the same time period as Bob Dylan, there’ll never be another like him.”
mp3: Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues
10 thoughts on “AS EVER, I’M LATE TO THE PARTY”
Great tribute to a great man. Absolutely love Dylan and almost all of his incarnations. Ever since. a housemate at uni first played me a greatest hits cd. Hooked from the first song. Never seen him live though and given a lot of dodgy reviews I’m not sure I’d ever want to so it’s interesting to read Aldo rave about him in concert.
Excellent piece Aldo, your last sentence says it all. They’ll still be discussing Dylan’s music in 200 years time, but we’re the truly lucky ones because we get to experience his genius in real time.
Really great to hear how Dylan has been part of your listening over the years.
Great stuff Aldo – more contributions here please
My Dylan journey has a similar trajectory to yours. I was aware of his classic songs but it was only when I was working in a hotel in Ullapool in 1980 that I heard Highway 61 Revisited as my room mate had it on cassette and was completely blown away.
The Barras gig is the only time that I have seen him live
Really enjoyed that piece from the mighty Aldo. Hope to read more. My good friend Andy keeps me educated in all things Dylan so I know what a big day it was yesterday.
Solid piece by Aldo. There’s a little Dylan for everyone. Even as a high school punk I spent a lot of time with Highway 61, Blonde on Blonde, Back Home, Desire and especially Blood on the Tracks. Can’t say I’ve kept up over the years but there’s a hell of a lot of quality to go back to. I bought a mixing board from Dylan’s son-in-law, but that’s another story…
JTFL teasing us there, more questions than answers…
JTFL – get back here this minute and explain yerself!
LOL. Just sent this email to Swiss Adam of Bagging Area fame:
Hey Adam, JTFL here.
I didn’t want to horn in on Aldo’s quality writing with a super lengthy comment. It’s a pretty good story, actually, so I’m sending it to you directly.
I was daydreaming at work one day, looking through the local music gear for sale website. Sometimes folks unload valuable stuff for various reasons and, on this particular day, someone was offering a Mackie D8B 72-track mixing board. It was free to “whoever called first and could carry it away”. I noticed that it was in my neighborhood so I called and said I’d be right over. As I pull up I see Peter Himmelman walking toward the same house. He’s married to Dylan’s daughter Maria. (Maria was at NYU at the same time as me. I’d see her around in a particular bar sometimes, but couldn’t say we were friends.)
Himmelman’s something of a fixture in Santa Monica because he used to give free kids’ concerts at McCabe’s, a local venue, and I’d taken my kids to see him. He asks, “Are you here for the mixing board? I’ll show you where it is.” We walk around his swank-ass house into his studio which is a converted, double-wide garage. There is easily about $200,000 worth of vintage guitars hanging from the walls. I meet his studio assistant who tells me I’m lucky I called first — he had so many responses he had to take the post down. I should say at this point I had no use whatsoever for a 72-track mixer and wouldn’t have known how to operate one if I did. I asked why they were getting rid of it and was told it had a ghost — worked fine sometimes and crapped out others. They’d already replaced it and it was taking up space. The assistant happily put the massive board in my car like I was doing him a favor.
When I got home I looked online to see what it would cost to have it looked at. At the time these Mackie boards cost about $2000. After calling a couple of tech places I was told the bench fee would be $75 an hour just to examine it. I was planning to give it to a friend who had a small studio, but I didn’t want to do that if it didn’t work and had to be fixed. I also didn’t want to pay to fix it since I didn’t need it in the first place. So I ended up listing it on the same music gear site where I’d found it. I immediately start getting calls, including one guy that seems really eager. I tell him, “Hey, slow down, there’s some kind of fault with it and it needs to be looked at.” He asks what the problem is and I tell him I have no idea–I don’t even have the correct power cable to turn it on. He replies, “Hmm…if there’s something wrong and you haven’t even powered it up yet I can’t give you more than $500 for it.” I say that seems fair. He’s at my place in 10 minutes. Takes one look at this expensive gear in otherwise immaculate shape and his jaw drops. I figure the guy probably services gear like this and knows how to fix it. He throws 5 $100 bills on the table, grabs the board (it’s enormous) and is literally sprinting for his car, thinking he’s just ripped me off . I half-heartedly ask if he needs help loading it but he’s already patched out on the street and is fleeing the scene.
I look for the second time that day on the music gear site and see…a butterscotch Telecaster. Which I’ve always wanted. In the next town over. For $500. Score! Years later I found out one of my friends is Himmelman’s neighbor. He told him the mixing board/Telecaster story and was highly amused.
All the best – Jonny
And again — terrific post by Aldo!
Thanks to everyone for the kind words, and to Jonny for sharing his Bob related tale!