FEATURE BOB DYLAN
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He was a combination of the perfect rock ’n’ roll hero and Beat generation guru. We didn’t
expect him to ﬁvelong.
It’s nearly 30 years since Bob Dylan played in Edinburgh, but it was an event that at least one life-
long fan will always remember. Jim Hickey explains why for him Dylan will always be The Man, while (right) Damien Love goes in search of a bootleg of that legendary Scottish gig.
be news that Bob Dylan was returning to play in Edinburgh and Glasgow in April was the cue for the usual rash of derogatory articles struggling to describe his voice, alluding to zimmers. man. and dismissing his audience as geriatric hippies in anoraks. For the real fan. it’s all very tiresome. These writers probably haven’t listened to Dylan’s music for years.
To tackle the complexity of Dylan. it is necessary to discuss his live performances. The tapes and CDs of his shows that circulate among collectors makes it easier than ever to do so. Listen to even a fraction of the performances of the last 30 years and the fans’ mania for collecting bootlegs of live shows becomes easier to understand.
It is revealing that Dylan‘s official albums usually contain the first take (or a very early take)
of each song and are rarely overdubbed. This virtually ‘live’
sound on most of his albums. and the extent to which each song can be reinterpreted in live performances. shows the power of his creative imagination. The sheer quantity and quality of his output was apparent even on the first bootleg albums when Dylan was spontaneous. taking risks and forging a new American music that found a new form to talk about the modern world, while maintaining a relationship to the past.
I begun listening to Dylan in 1963 when a school friend introduced me to the first album. By the time of his first UK tour in 1965. incredibly. four more albums had been released. I always regret that I didn’t see Bob Dylan on this tour. which was later documented in Don Pennebaker’s Dan '1 Look Back. but I did see the two half-hour programmes transmitted by BBC Television after the tour finished.
I also went to the Albert Hall poetry reading by Allen Ginsberg. Lawrence Ferlinghetti and several other Beat poets on i l June I965. convinced that Dylan would show up. He didn’t. but it felt like he was there in spirit and. as if in a dream. I missed the last train home and spent the night wandering around Hyde Park. It’s difficult to believe now, but we were transfixed by the language of those American poets. bringing us closer to Dylan and the New York scene in the mid 603.
From the tour of 1965 through to his motorcycle accident in 1966. Dylan reached creative peaks of writing and performing that made the initial media label of folk or protest singer seem increasingly irrelevant. The audacious first-ever six-minute single, ‘Like A Rolling Stone’; now that was an event! On holiday in Scarborough that year, we would play the song on juke boxes over and over again. It is the soundtrack to the memories of a whole summer.
AS HAS OFTEN been noted, Dylan’s voice seemed young and old at the same time and he told us more about the age we were in than most ofthe
12 The List 24 Mar-6 Apr I995