Dylan – A fan gibbers…


Penzance was there from the start …

My 6th form gang was a 60s cliché of black clothes, cigarettes, coffee,                                                    parties, flirting, serious serious talks about life, and above all, music. Someone’s brother sent over an obscure record from America and it did the rounds at school. It was just called “Bob Dylan”, a picture of a round-faced young-for-his-age troubadour with an old man’s voice, average musical skills and often borrowed tunes. But there was a spark there, enough for me to take it home and tape it on my old reel-to-reel. Some weeks later my girlfriend invited me over and sat me down, but it wasn’t me she was excited about. “Listen to this!” she says, “You MUST listen to this!” It was “Freewheeling”, and we either listened or talked about it all day. None of us had ever heard anything like it. I even gave a talk about Dylan at school, and some of my lucky friends got a ride up to London to see him on his first tour.

‘Dylan’ soon became a thing of its own, defying the categories we knew; not pop, rock, folk, soul-baring confessional, social polemic, poetry, madness – it was all of these, but in a restless mixture that never stayed still long enough to be defined. For my generation of fans he walked with us through our lives, there in our bedrooms, at our parties, in our small hours, on the beach, in the car, in our heads; though it was always understood – almost part of the charm – that he didn’t care a damn about any of us. But he never let us down. Irrespective of his influences from Dylan Thomas to Keith Richard he was in his own space, raising the bar of what song-writing could do. Aspiring jazzmen are told that Miles Davis is still the one they have to get past. For any song-writer it’s Dylan.

Some huffy commentators have questioned whether it was right to give a literary prize to one who didn’t express himself in books, but most people accept that the Nobel committee were spot on, if a little late in the day. At least he didn’t have to die to receive his due.

It’s been a long, long journey from “Song to Woody” to “Must be Santa”, and like many others I’ve sometimes had to sit it out in respectful silence, but I’m happy to say he changed my life. Film-maker Irvine Welsh, less than impressed, described his prize as “A nostalgia award from the prostates of senile, gibbering hippies” My prostate swells with pride, and I’m pleased on behalf of my fellow SGH’s to tell Mr Welsh that when he produces a film of a tenth the poetry and emotional heft of “Blood on the Tracks” we might take him seriously.

Dylan didn’t ask to be a genius, he just did what he did. Seeing him still endlessly touring with no discernible voice, rattling around from hotel room to hotel room at the age of 75 doesn’t indicate a very contented soul and you wouldn’t want to be him, but it’s so good to see his astonishing talent honoured at last, and at such a level.

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