Well, Bob Dylan is 70 years old today. That actually seems impossible to me, I absolutely cannot have been following the genius that is Bob Dylan for almost 50 years. Yet I have.
I suppose that to me and many others of my generation the name 'Bob Dylan' is synonomous with the change that seemed to rush through the early to mid sixties in music, art and society - to the generation that was young then. To badly filch and paraphrase Wordsworth:
Exciting was it in those years to be there, But to be young was very heaven!
My twin gods were Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. I can still remember the shiver that went down my spine - literally - when I first heard the tune and listened to the words to With God on Our Side, it expressed so exactly what I was fumbling to say at those early CND meetings I was attending.
The 'Bob and Joan' combination provided me and my friends with many adventures in and memories from those days. One of the things that drew Other Half and I together was our mutual respect for Dylan. I remember a madcap ride with friends [this was in the late sixties] to the Electric Cinema Club in the Portobello Road, Notting Hill to watch the film Don't Look Back which was a documentary about Dylan's 1967 tour of England which showed other artistes including [obviously!] Baez, the Animals, Donovan and more. The Electric at that time was falling apart and there was a very strange smell in the air. I suppose the occupants were dressed oddly, not that we were any different in our ponchos, ragged trousers and long skirts. The music and light show before the main film started was King Crimson's Court of the Crimson King. Then there were the festivals and shows, with longer and longer gaps between our attendance and children started to arrive and thus the buying of the records replaced the buying of tickets.
Unravelling Dylan's words and music helped us to think. Maybe they even helped us through the Sociology parts of our degrees. Certainly they were often played loudly at those times! His music and voice [yes!] have been a comfort, a friend and an encouragement.
We went on Dylan's musical journey with him, not always liking the twists and turns but always appreciating his depth of knowledge and skill. I loved it when he 'went electric' but wasn't so keen on his Planet Waves era. But I stuck with him and am still enjoying his recent stuff - Modern Times was awesome. And yes I loved his Christmas Album of Christmas 2009 - it was for charity too! - and laughed and cried at it!
As our children got older they started listening to the music and being dragged [not unwillingly I hope!] to the festivals and concerts to hear our heroes. The cross-over point occurred not when they began actually asking to come with us but when eldest son announced he had bought tickets for us and him to see Dylan in London. And we realised when we got to the venue that there were lots of parents our age with children our son's age and wondered if they were being similarly 'treated'?! But eldest son is a true Dylan fan and named his eldest son Dylan as proof. And whenever his Dylan talks about the older Dylan he refers to him as 'Bob not me'. Fair enough.
A new 'audience' has been reached with Bob's Radio Hour, first broadcast on US radio and successfully 'imported' here. His deep musical knowledge has been confirmed to a new generation - great work!
So on Bob's 70th birthday today we are having a Bob fest and playing his music all day. Not necessarily all sung by him, so many other artistes have recorded his music all around the world. The dear old Beeb have been playing some wonderful tributes and programmes about him for nearly a week. One tribute programme featured Billy Bragg talking about a show he was at in the then Hammersmith Odeon in the early 90s, I realised that was the show we couldn't get to because we were snow bound and which we were are still sulking about - now even more so because I missed out on Billy Bragg too! Last night the BBC news even 'leaked' that at one time Bob took heroin. Shock, horror. We never would have guessed. However, for all that has been written and discussed about him , for all the interviews that he has taken part in - he is still a puzzle wrapped in an enigma.
A couple of years ago we threw a Bob fest in a hall and charged an entrance fee, raising a tidy sum for charity. Another year we decorated the outside of the house - as we often do that neighbours just thought we had yet another relative, this time called Bob. This year I thought I would just write about him and share my gratitude for all the pleasure he has given over me all the years with you. Thanks Bob.
The Times They are a-changing. When I clicked onto the site to show the lyrics for With God On Our Side the banner ads at the side of the site were for the Weight Watchers organisation rather than the adds on the back of my precious copy of Subterranean Homesick blues as shown in the above picture. On the back of that sheet music the ads are for other sheet music by: The Weavers [Pete Seeger's Band]; Joan Baez; Peter, Paul & Mary; and a 'Young Folk' mix. Ahh the memories! The Electric Cinema Club, after going through some very bad times and getting even more decrepit is now swish and is an experience.