24 May 2011

Happy BD days

Best thing I've seen written over the last few weeks of Bob Dylan appreciation, from a big fan.

I first saw Dylan in 1964, in London. I was taken by a friend; we were 19, Dylan was 23. A scruffy little guy in jeans, he shambled out onto the stage at the Royal Albert Hall, where we sat in our red, plush 'Jerusalem' seats. With no back-up at all, nothing but guitar, harmonica and his songs, his music and his unlikely voice, he took the place, by storm, by magic, I can only say.
I particularly remember "It's all right, Ma, I'm only bleeding"! The intensity of his performance was stunning. He wove music and poetry together with a fierceness and a longing, a searching that pointed to the depths and heights of the human spirit, and with a refusal to be limited by conventions of music, or verse, or folk, or pop, or whatever. He was a conduit for the sense that, in the midst of the farce and stupidity of so much of the usual life, there are sublime possibilities. The role of the artist/shaman since Orpheus, I suppose.
The next summer, '65, I "did" the USA on Greyhound buses, to the rollicking humor of AM radio, everywhere playing the number one hit "Like a Rolling Stone" -- to be followed in '66 by "Everybody Must Get Stoned" ( aka Rainy Day Woman) -- the ultimate adolescent anthem, surely! Naughty and so much more fun than the Beach Boys.
I saw Dylan live a few other times. Some of the shows were bad. Bad, bad, bad. I gather he is famous for his unevenness. Good for him. Artists blow it sometimes. Muzak is even. One wonderful, stoned concert in Boston in the early 70s, with the one, the only, The Band, was electric fantastic, absolutely as good as that gets.
Then there's all the record stuff. The incredible collections of lines, starting out on Burgundy and widening you to God knows where? (A couple of bad albums, among 55 I heard! including some things to displease most of us along the way, not just the uptight Mr Jones.)
And then there has been just enjoying his music with friends, something about the bitter-sweet, often fleeting connections life affords? The most recent album I have heard, Modern Times, is pretty damn good.
For me, life would have been smaller and significantly less fun without the ballad of Bobby D.

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