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Laurence Inman’s Blog



Bob Dylan

The Great White Wonder is doing his stuff in Birmingham tonight. Laurence Inman won’t be there.

It’s Bob Dylan week.

In a sense, every week has been Bob Dylan week since I first heard Another Side at my mate Robbie’s house on Cole Bank Road in 1964.

But this week is another deluxe edition.

On Monday I bought Together Through Life, the latest album. I’ll be able to tell you what my response is in about 2011; it generally takes a year or two for the full implications of a Dylan offering to make themselves apparent.

The man himself is in Birmingham tonight; I took a chance on a freebie rather than buy a ticket and now a chain of circumstances has emerged which might deprive me of it. It’s all a bit complicated. I don’t mind really.

It rather reminds me of the first time I saw him, at Earls Court in 1978.

I had queued up for 36 hours in Leicester to get my allowance of four tickets. I intended to sell three in London, for a small profit. I managed to do this, but for less profit than I expected. I was passing on some of this tiny sum in the pub round the corner (I drank in those days) when a small bloke greeted by name.

He had been a student PE teacher at the school in the Midlands where I was Head of English and had then joined a school in Ealing. More importantly, he was playing scrum-half for London Welsh thirds and (get this) they had been approached to supply the security team at the venue.

‘I was feet away from the man himself backstage,’ he told me. ‘Sell your ticket and I’ll get you in, dead easy. You’ll see the show from the side!’

I thought long and hard about this.

I might actually have Bob Dylan walk straight past me! I might even say something in his general direction!

But the memory of those aching hours on the pavement and the fear that it might not work and I’d be left, fighting back the tears, on another pavement, made me bottle it. I joined the crowd of ordinary punters and saw the show from half a mile away.

A few days later I dreamt that I had been backstage and Bob had handed me his empty coffee cup and said a few kind words. I may even have extended this dream into the realm of reality a bit, by mentioning to one or two people that it had actually taken place. I can’t remember now. Anyway, good lies are like that: slight steppings over from the truth into something very like it.

I got a good poem out of it though – Bob Dylan Handed It To Me – which was broadcast on Radio 4. Probably.

For some years now Bob has been thrashing out all the possible angles on a particular emotion. I’m going to call it Dylancholy.

Only men get Dylancholy. Women are too hard.

Dylancholia is the feeling that life had something, or someone, which (or who) is no longer there. Over the years this thing or person (let’s stick with person) has grown into a centrality for the Dylancholic. The time since The Great Time with The Adored One has been a withering, a decline, a waste of self-torment and grief.

It’s delusion of course. It’s so immature. An inability or refusal to live in the present. Any half-decent regime would take steps to crush these mewling feelings into the dust of reality.

But what great art they produce!

Wordsworth’s Immortality Ode. The obvious example.

Dylan used to be John Keats. Now he’s Thomas Hardy. He can only get better.



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