TRANSCRIPT OF BOB DYLAN'S REMARKS
AT THE BILL OF RIGHTS DINNER
at the Americana Hotel on 12/13/63
I haven't got any guitar, I can talk though. I want to thank you for the Tom Paine award in behalf everybody that went down to Cuba. First of all because they're all young and it's took me a long time to get young and now I consider myself young. And I'm proud of it. I'm proud that I'm young. And I only wish that all you people who are sitting out here today or tonight weren't here and I could see all kinds of faces with hair on their head - and everything like that, everything leading to youngness, celebrating the anniversary when we overthrew the House Un-American Activities just yesterday, - Because you people should be at the beach. You should be out there and you should be swimming and you should be just relaxing in the time you have to relax. (Laughter) It is not an old peoples' world. It is not an old peoples' world. It has nothing to do with old people. Old people when their hair grows out, they should go out. (Laughter) And I look down to see the people that are governing me and making my rules - and they haven't got any hair on their head - I get very uptight about it. (Laughter)
And they talk about Negroes, and they talk about black and white. And they talk about colors of red and blue and yellow. Man, I just don't see any colors at all when I look out. I don't see any colors at all and if people have taught through the years to look at colors - I've read history books, I've never seen one history book that tells how anybody feels. I've found facts about our history, I've found out what people know about what goes on but I never found anything about anybody feels about anything happens. It's all just plain facts. And it don't help me one little bit to look back.
I wish sometimes I could have come in here in the 1930's like my first idol - used to have an idol, Woody Guthrie, who came in the 1930's (Applause). But it has sure changed in the time Woody's been here and the time I've been here. It's not that easy any more. People seem to have more fears.
I get different presents from people that I play for and they bring presents to me backstage - very weird, weird presents - presents that I couldn't buy. They buy - they bring me presents that - I've got George Lincoln Rockwell's tie clip that somebody robbed for me. (Laughter) I have General Walker's car trunk keys - keys to his trunk that somebody robbed for me. Now these are my presents. I have fallout shelter signs that people robbed for me from Philadelphia and these are the little signs. There's no black and white, left and right to me anymore; there's only up and down and down is very close to the ground. And I'm trying to go up without thinking about anything trivial such as politics. They has got nothing to do with it. I'm thinking about the general people and when they get hurt.
I want to accept this award, the Tom Paine Award, from the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee. I want to accept it in my name but I'm not really accepting it in my name and I'm not accepting it in any kind of group's name, any Negro group or any other kind of group. There are Negroes - I was on the march on Washington up on the platform and I looked around at all the Negroes there and I didn't see any Negroes that looked like none of my friends. My friends don't wear suits. My friends don't have to wear suits. My friends don't have to wear any kind of thing to prove that they're respectable Negroes. My friends are my friends, and they're kind, gentle people if they're my friends. And I'm not going to try to push nothing over. So, I accept this reward - not reward, (Laughter) award in behalf of Phillip Luce who led the group to Cuba which all people should go down to Cuba. I don't see why anybody can't go to Cuba. I don't see what's going to hurt by going any place. I don't know what's going to hurt anybody's eyes to see anything. On the other hand, Phillip is a friend of mine who went to Cuba. I'll stand up and to get uncompromisable about it, which I have to be to be honest, I just got to be, as I got to admit that the man who shot President Kennedy, Lee Oswald, I don't know exactly where --what he thought he was doing, but I got to admit honestly that I too - I saw some of myself in him. I don't think it would have gone - I don't think it could go that far. But I got to stand up and say I saw things that he felt, in me - not to go that far and shoot. (Boos and hisses) You can boo but booing's got nothing to do with it. It's a - I just a - I've got to tell you, man, it's Bill of Rights is free speech and I just want to admit that I accept this Tom Paine Award in behalf of James Forman of the Students Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and on behalf of the people who went to Cuba. (Boos and Applause)
LETTER FROM CORLISS LAMONT
TO ATTENDEES OF THE DINNER
The review referred to by Mr. Lamont in this letter was written by Robert Shelton and appeared in The New York Times of October 28, 1963. It was a review of a solo concert given by Bob Dylan at Carnegie Hall.
December 19, 1963
Many of our friends disapproved our choice of Bob Dylan for the Tom Paine award. Without defending his acceptance speech, I would like to tell you why we feel he deserved the award. Bob Dylan has sent us a message which more clearly conveys his feelings. It is enclosed and I urge you to read it carefully.
E.C.L.C. defends the right of all Americans to advocate their beliefs. This is not confined to ideology or political groups. It should certainly be extended to our own youth, who according to many experts are becoming increasingly alienated and lost in our present society.
Whether we approve or not, Bob Dylan has become the idol of the progressive youngsters of today, regardless of their political factions. He is speaking to them in terms of protest that they understand and applaud. (see the enclosed review from The New York Times).
E.C.L.C. feels that it is urgent to recognize the protest of youth today and to help make it understood by the older generation. Walt Whitman and Woody Guthrie, the culture antecedents of Bob Dylan, were not appreciated by their society until they were very old. We think that it would be better to make the effort now to comprehend what Bob Dylan is saying to and for the youth. It is true that he is not as respectable as Lord Russell, the winner of last year's award, but neither was Tom Paine, and our history is too full of disregard for important messages which were unrespectable at the time.
The annual celebration of Bill of Rights Day is not just a fund-raising affair - although we hope that our friends will help us carry on our work - it is also an opportunity for us to present to our supporters the problems of our democracy which in their daily lives they are apt to over-look.
This year over 1400 people were at the largest civil liberties dinner on record. We appreciate the understanding and support we received from many of those present and we hope that others will gain from the reading of the enclosed message by Bob Dylan an understanding which his speech did not convey.
MESSAGE FROM BOB DYLAN
TO THE E.C.L.C.
The persons Mr. Dylan addresses by first name here are Clark Foreman (ECLC Director) and Mairi Foreman (his wife), Phillip Luce, Edith Tiger (ECLC Assistant Director), and Corliss Lamont (ECLC Chairman).
from Bob Dylan
(Sent to the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee
after he received the Tom Paine Award at the
Bill of Rights dinner on December 13, 1963.)
to anybody it may concern...
countless faces I do not know
an all fighters for good things that I can not see
when I speak of bald heads, I mean bald minds
when I speak of the seashore, I mean the restin shore
I dont know why I mentioned either of them
my life runs in a series of moods
in private an in personal ways, sometimes,
I, myself, can change the mood I'm in t the
mood I'd like t be in. when I walked thru the
doors of the americana hotel, I needed to change
my mood... for reasons inside myself.
I am a restless soul
it is hard to hear someone you dont know, say
"this is what he meant t say" about something
you just said
for no one can say what I meant t say
absolutely no one
at times I even cant
that was one of those times
my life is lived out daily in the places I feel
most confortable in. these places are places where
I am unknown an unstared at. I perform rarely, an
when I do, there is a constant commotion burnin
at my body an at my mind because of the attention
aimed at me. instincts fight my emotions an fears
fight my instincts...
I do not claim t be smart by the standards set up
I dont even claim to be normal by the standards
an I do not claim to know any kind of truth
but like an artist who puts his painting (after
he's painted it) in front of thousands of unknown
eyes, I also put my song there that way
(after I've made it)
it is as easy an as simple as that
I can not speak. I can not talk
I can only write an I can only sing
perhaps I should've sung a song
but that wouldn't a been right either
for I was given an award not to sing
but rather on what I have sung
no what I should've said was
"thank you very much ladies an gentlemen"
yes that is what I should've said
but unfortunatly... I didn't
an I didn't because I did not know
I thought something else was expected of me
other than just sayin "thank you"
an I did not know what it was
it is a fierce heavy feeling
thinkin something is expected of you
but you dont know what exactly it is...
it brings forth a wierd form of guilt
I should've remembered
"I am BOB DYLAN an I dont have t speak
I dont have t say nothin if I dont wanna"
I didn't remember
I constantly asked myself while eatin supper
"what should I say? what should I tell 'm?
everybody else is gonna tell 'm something"
but I could not answer myself
I even asked someone who was sittin nex t me
an he couldn't tell me neither. my mind blew
up an needless t say I had t get it back in its
rightful shape (whatever that might be) an so
I escaped from the big room... only t hear my
name being shouted an the words "git in here
git in here" overlappin with the findin of my
hand being pulled across hundreds of tables
with the lights turned on strong... guidin me
back t where I tried t escape from
"what should I say? what should I say?"
over an over again
oh God, I'd a given anything not t be there
"shut the lights off at least"
people were coughin an my head was poundin
an the sounds of mumble jumble sank deep in
my skull from all sides of the room
until I tore everything loose from my mind
an said "just be honest, dylan, just be honest"
an so I found myself in front of the plank
like I found myself once in the path of a car
an I jumped...
jumped with all my bloody might
just tryin t get out a the way
but first screamin one last song
when I spoke of Lee Oswald, I was speakin of the times
I was not speakin of his deed if it was his deed.
the deed speaks for itself
but I am sick
at hearin "we all share the blame" for every
church bombing, gun battle, mine disaster,
poverty explosion, an president killing that
it is so easy t say "we" an bow our heads together
I must say "I" alone an bow my head alone
for it is I alone who is livin my life
I have beloved companions but they do not
eat nor sleep for me
an even they must say "I"
yes if there's violence in the times then
there must be violence in me
I am not a perfect mute.
I hear the thunder an I cant avoid hearin it
once this is straight between us, it's then an
only then that we can say "we" an really mean
it... an go on from there t do something about
When I spoke of Negroes
I was speakin of my Negro friends
selma an birmingham
atlanta pittsburg, an all points east
west, north, south an wherever else they
might happen t be.
in rat filled rooms
an dirt land farms
schools, dimestores, factories
pool halls an street corners
the ones that dont own ties
but know proudly they dont have to
not one little bit
they dont have t be like they naturally aint
t get what they naturally own no more 'n anybody
it only gets things complicated
an leads people into thinkin the wrong things
black skin is black skin
It cant be covered by clothes an made t seem
acceptable, well liked an respectable...
t teach that or t think that just tends the
flames of another monster myth...
it is naked black skin an nothin else
if a Negro has t wear a tie t be a Negro
then I must cut off all ties with who he has
t do it for.
I do not know why I wanted t say this that
perhaps it was just one of the many things
in my mind
born from the confusion of my times
when I spoke about the people that went t Cuba
I was speakin of the free right t travel
I am not afraid t see things
I challenge seein things
I am insulted t the depths of my soul
when someone I dont know commands that I
cant see this an gives me mysterious reasons
why I'll get hurt if I do see it... tellin me
at the same time about goodness an badness in
people that again I dont know...
I've been told about people all my life
about niggers, kikes, wops, bohunks, spicks, chinks,
an I been told how they eat, dress, walk, talk,
steal, rob, an kill but nobody tells me how any
of 'm feels... nobody tells me how any of 'm cries
or laughs or kisses. I'm fed up with most newspapers,
radios, tv an movies an the like t tell me. I want
now t see an know for myself...
an I accepted that award for all others like me
who want t see for themselves... an who dont want
that God-given right taken away
or snuck out from beneath them
yes a travel ban in the south would protect
Americans more, I'm sure, than the one t Cuba
but in all honesty I would want t crash that
do you understand?
do you really understand?
I mean I want t see. I want t see all I can
everyplace there is t see it
my life carries eyes
an they're there for one reason
the reason t see thru them
my country is the Minnesota-North Dakota territory
that's where I was born an learned how t walk an
it's where I was raised an went t school... my
youth was spent wildly among the snowy hills an
sky blue lakes, willow fields an abandoned open
pit mines. contrary t rumors, I am very proud of
where I'm from an also of the many blood streams that
run in my roots. but I would not be doing what
I'm doing today if I hadn't come t New York. I was
given my direction from new york. I was fed in
new york. I was beaten down by new york an I was
picked up by new york. I was made t keep going on
by new york. I'm speakin now of the people I've met
who were strugglin for their lives an other peoples'
lives in the thirties an forties an the fifties
an I look t their times
I reach out t their times
an, in a sense, am jealous of their times
t think I have no use for "old" people is a betrayin thought
those that know me know otherwise
those that dont, probably're baffled
like a friend of mine, jack elliott, who says he
was reborn in Oklahoma, I say I was reborn in
there is no age limit stuck on it
an no one is more conscious of it than I
yes it is a fierce feeling, knowin something you
dont know about's expected of you. but it's worse
if you blindly try t follow with explodin words
(for that's all they can do is explode)
an the explodin words're misunderstood
I've heard I was misunderstood
I do not apologize for myself nor my fears
I do not apologize for any statement which led
some t believe "oh my God! I think he's the one
that really shot the president"
I am a writer an a singer of the words I write
I am no speaker nor any politician
an my songs speak for me because I write them
in the confinement of my own mind an have t cope
with no one except my own self. I dont have t face
anyone with them until long after they're done
no I do not apologize for being me nor any part of me
but I can return what is rightfully yours at any
given time. I have stared at it for a long while
now. it is a beautiful award. there is a kindness
t Mr Paine's face an there is almost a sadness in
his smile. his trials show thru his eyes. I know
really not much about him but somehow I would like
t sing for him. there is a gentleness t his way.
yes thru all my flounderin wildness, I am, when it
comes down to it, very proud that you have given this
t me. I would hang it high, an let my friends see in
it what I see, but I also would give it back if
you wish. There is no sense in keepin it if you've
made a mistake in givin it. for it means more'n any
store bought thing an it'd only be cheatin t keep it
also I did not know that the dinner was a donation
dinner. I did not know you were gonna ask anyone
for money. an I understand you lost money on the
masterful way I expressed myself... then I am in debt t you
not a money debt but rather a moral debt
if you'd a sold me something, then it'd be a money debt
but you sold nothin, so it is a moral debt
an moral debts're worse 'n money debts
for they have t be paid back in whatever is missin
an in this case, it's money
please send me my bill
an I shall pay it
no matter what the sum
I have a hatred of debts an want t be even in
the best way I can
you needn't think about this, for money means
very little t me
I'll return once again t the road
I cant tell you why other people write, but I
write in order to keep from going insane.
my head, I expect'd turn inside out if my hands
were t leave me.
but I hardly ever talk about why I write. an I
scarcely ever think about it. the thought of it is
an I never ever talk about why I speak
but that's because I never do it. this is the
first time I am talkin about it... an I pray
the thought of doing it again is too scary
ha! it's a scary world
but only once in a while huh?
I love you all up there an the ones I dont love,
it's only because I do not know them an have not
seen them... God it's so hard hatin. it's so
tiresome... an after hatin something to death,
it's never worth the bother an trouble
out! out! brief candle
life's but an open window
an I must jump back thru it now
respectfully an unrespectfully
(sgd) bob dylan
Letter from Bob Dylan to Broadsides Magazine in 1964
for sis and gordon an all broads of good sizes
let me begin by not beginnin
let me start not by startin but by continuin
it sometimes gets so hard for me --
I am now famous
I am now famous by the rules of public famousity
it snuck up on me
an pulverized me...
I never knew what was happenin
it is hard for me t walk down the same streets
I did before the same way because now
I truly dont know
who is waitin for my autograph...
I dont know if I like givin my autograph
oh yes sometimes I do...
but other times the back of my mind tells me
it is not honest... for I am just fulfillin
a myth t somebody who'd actually treasure my
handwritin more'n his own handwritin...
this gets very complicated for me
an proves t me that I am livin in a contradiction...
t quote mr freud
I get quite paranoid
an I know this isn't right
it is not a useful healthy attitude for one t have
but I truly believe that everybody has their fears
everybody yes everybody...
I do not think it good anymore to overlook them
I think they ought t be admitted...
an' I think that all fellings should be admitted...
people ask why do I write the way I do
a question like that hits me...
it makes me think that I'm doin nothin
it makes me think that I'm not being hear
yes above all the mumble jumble an rave praises
an all the records I've sold... thru all the packed
houses I play... thru all the communication systems
an rants an bellows an yellin an clappin comes
a statement like "why do you do what you do"
what is this?
some kind of constipated idiot world?
some kind of horseshoe game we're all playin
responding only when a ringer clangs
no no no
not my world
everybody plays in my world
aint nobody first second third or fourth
everybody shoots at the same time
an ringers dont count
an everybody wins
an nobody loses
cause everybody lives an breathes
an takes up space
an cant be overlooked
an I am a people too
I cannot pretend I'm not
an I feel guilty
god how can I help not feel guilty
I walk down on the bowery and give money away
an still I feel guilty for I know I do not
have enuff money t give away...
an people say "think a yourself, dylan, you're
gonna need it someday" and I say yeah yeah
an I think maybe about it for a split second
but then the floods of vomit guilt swoop my
drunken head an I spread forth more gut torn
bloody money from the depths of my forsaken
pockets... an I whisper "ah it's so useless"
man so many people need so many things
an what am I anyway?
some kind a messiah walkin around...?
hell no I'm not
an I ask why dont other people with things give some of it away
an I know the answer without lookin
security security security...
everybody wants security
they want t be secure
they want t be protected
an I say protected?
protected aginst what?
protected against starving I guess
an power too
an protected against the forces that they know will
get them if they lose their money.
an why does it have to be like that?
man why are these walls built?
who is this god that is so feared?
certainly not in my life this isnt
yes I have my fears but mine are the fears of
the mind. the fears of the head
a lonely person with money is still a lonely person
I have never had much money before
an so it is easy for me I guess t spend it
an overlook it
but I'm sure that many other people could overlook
some of theirs too
I'm not speakin now of the century ridin millionares
but rather of "get theirs and get out" people
I dont understand them
I dont understand them at all
there's many things I admit I dont understand
I dont understand the blacklist
I dont understand how people aginst it go along with it
I'm talkin about the full thing
not just a few of us refusin t be on the show
I'm talkin about the poeple that stand up
against it violently an then in some way have something t do with it...
not just the singers mind you
but the managers an agents an buyers an sellers...
they are the dishonest ones
for they are never seen
they play both sides against each other
an expect t be repected by everybody
the heroes of this battle are not me an Joan
an the Kingston Trio nor Peter Paul an Mary
for none of us need t go on that show
none of us really need that kind of dumbness
but there's some that could use it
for they could use the money
I mean people like Tom Paxton, Barbara Dane,
and Johnny Herald... they are the heroes if
such a word has t be used here
they are the ones that lose materialistically
ah yes but in their own minds they dont
an that is much more important
it means much more
we need more kind a people like that
poeple that cant go against their conscience
no matter what they might gain
an I've come to think that that might be the most
important thing in the whole wide world...
not going against your conscience
nor your own natural senses
for I think that that is all the truth there
is... an no more
thru all the gossip, lies, religions, cults
myths, gods, history books, social books,
all books, politics, decrees, rules, laws,
boundary lines, bibles, legends, and bathroom
writings, there is no guidance at all except
from ones own natural senses
from being born
an it can only be exchanged
it cant be preached
nor even understood...
my mind sometimes runs like a roll of toilet paper
and I hate like hell t see it unravel an unwind
at my empty walls
I'm movin out a here soon
yes the landlord has beaten me t tell you.
this place I am typin in is so filthy
my clothes cover the floor an once in a while
I pick up somethin an use it for a blanket...
the damn heat goes off at ten
an dont come on til ten...
that's mornin wise
gushes of warm smelly heat always wake me up
when I sleep here
the plaster falls constantly
an the floor is tiltin an rottin
but somehow there is a beauty to it
columbia records gave me a record player
of the goodness of some keeps on amazin me
an sometimes I play it.
gettin back t the landlord tho
he is really too much
he owns I guess three buildings
I pay him way too high
an I'm gettin screwed and I know it
an he knows it
but I just dont have the time t go down t the rent control board.
I been told they'd get after him but I'm so lazy.
when sue was here he was gonna jack up the price
cause he said I never told him I had a wife.
you really got t see this place t believe it.
I ought have jacked him up a long time ago and used him for heat.
last year he put in a new window (there was a god damn hole in the
other one) man it was like I asked 'm for his blood relation
or something. (which he'd probably give away)
anyway the record player's on now
an I'm listenin t Pete sing Guantanamera for the billionth time.
I dont have many folk music records (I dont have many records really)
but I do have that one of Pete's.
god it's like I go in a trance
he is so human I could cry
he tells me so much
he makes me feel so good
it's as though of all the things that're sold t make one feel better,
aint none of it worth while.
all the cars, an clothes, and trinkets an foods,
an jewels an diamonds an lollypops an gifts of glad tidings,
just dont do nothin for the soul.
I believe I'd rather listen t Pete sing Guantanamera than t
own everything there is t own...
(that's my own private selfishnes shinin thru there)
yes for me he is truly a saint
an I love him
perhaps more than I could show
(as always is the case ha)
I think of love in werid terms.
sometimes I even feel guilty about it
because I know I love sue
but I should love everybody like I love sue
an in all honesty I dont
I just love her that way
an I say what way?
an a voice says "that way"
an I get quite up tite
an I know I have a long way t go
when the day comes when I can love everything
that breathes the way I love sue then
I will truly be a Jesus Christ ha ha
(but I dont wanna be a Jesus Christ ha ha)
an so I am again contradictin myself
away away be gone all you demons
an just let me be me
all kinds of me
saw the last issue of broadside an especially flipped out over
"talkin Merry Christmas"
I have never met Paul Wolfe but I'd like to
he has an uncanny sense of touch
as for Phil, I just cant keep up with him
an he's gettin better an better an better
(spoke with someone who was with him in Hazzard
named Hamish Sinclair.. an englishman
of high virtues an common tongue)
I want t get over an see Phil's baby
I'm told the girl came out yellin about the bomb.
my novel is going noplace absolutely noplace
like it dont even tell a story
it's about a million scenes long
an takes place on a billion scraps of paper...
certainly I cant make nothin out of it.
(oh I forgot. hallelullah t you for puttin Brecht in your
same last issue. he should be as widely known as
Woody an should be as widely read as Mickey Spalline
an as widely listened to as Eisenhower.)
anyway I'm writin a play out of this her so called
novel (navel would be better I guess)
an I'm up to me belly button in it.
quite involved yes
I've discovered what the power of playwriting means
as opposed t song writing.
although both are equal, I'm wrapped in playwriting for the minute,
my songs tell only about me an how I feel
but in the play all the characters tell how they feel.
I relaize that his might be more confusin for some
but in the total reality of things it might be much better for some too.
I think at best you could say that the characters will tell in an hour
what would take me, alone, two weeks t sing about
I shall get up t see you one of these days
just cause I haven't in a while please dont think I'm not with you.
I am with you more'n ever.
yours perhaps is the only paper that I am on the side of
every single song you print
an I am with with with you
my nit is closin again now
an I shall drift off in dreams
an climb velvet carpets up t the stars
with newsweek magazines burnin an disappointin
people smoulderin and disgustin tongues balzin
an jealous mongrel dogs walkin on hot coals
before my smilin unharmful eyes
(oh such nitemares)
an I shall wake in the mornin an try t start lovin again
I got a letter from Pete an he closed by sayin take it easy but take it!
I thought about that for an hour or more.
when I reached my conclusion of what it really meant
I either cried or laughed (I cant remember which).
I will repeat the same an add "give it easy but give it"
an I'll think about that for an hour an at the end either cry or laugh
(I'll write you another letter an tell you which one it is)
all right then
shaloom an vamoose
I'm off agian
off t the hazzards an lost angels an minneapoilcemen
an boss towns an burnin hams an everything else
combined an combustioned for me...
tryin t remain sane at all times
love to agnes
she is one of the true talents of the universe
I've always thought that an would like t see her again some time
love t everybody in your house
softly an sleepy
but ready an waitin
Story Reprinted From Wildflower Child by Ed Reynolds December 7th, 2000
Collins' slumber was also interrupted in 1963 while she was staying at a large house in Woodstock, New York, with Bob Dylan and a few other friends. "In the middle of the night I woke up, because I heard music playing. And I went hunting out through the house," recalled Collins. "I could hear this voice singing, and hear this music playing. And I opened the door to the stairwell, and there was Dylan sitting on the staircase in this old house on the stairway to the basement, and he was just finishing [composing] "Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man."
A Fan Meets His Hero
Wed 21 July: Homer meets Dylan; one of them is impressed the other is impressive.
I'm at an important meeting, I rush back in late from lunch. I get a message that Alex, my brother-in-law, wants me to call him urgently. I gather it is something very urgent indeed. I have to go into the meeting as I'm already late. I reckon that it can only be one of two things: an illness in the family or something Dylan-related. If the former he surely would have said, I have to assume it is the latter and sit in a ferment of worry and nerves (I presume that Dylan is on telly or that some big news has broken) for the eternity of 100 minutes that follow.
The minute the meeting ends, I rush out to 'phone Alex. I'm more than stunned to hear that Dylan has been in Camden and that Alex has stood next to him. (Unable to speak but in the line of the video as Dylan walked backwards into a cafe.) One of Alex's colleagues even spoke to Bob & got an autograph with a lovely little personal message for Alex. Stunned, pleased, a bit jealous - all those feelings at once with the nagging question: Could he still be there?
Alex is still talking, of a song possibly called Blood In My Eye, of Dylan singing with a busker. Of the autograph he has. This is all too much. He goes. I 'phone Larry. General disbelief and astonishment later, Larry says he cannot possibly get there but will 'phone a friend in Camden to see what has happened/if anything is still happening. He tells me to call back in 20 minutes. Five minutes later I call him back. He hasn't got through to his friend. I ask him - very precisely - to tell me that there is no possibility that Dylan is still there and that I've to be sensible and go home. He exactly follows my instructions; I hang up the 'phone, stop the first taxi and ask the driver to take me to Camden.
Within three minutes we hit a traffic jam. I gnaw at my fingers, fingernails, knuckles, wrists and arms, still the taxi crawls along. I have the bright idea of calling Compendium Bookshop who sell Homer, the slut. I tell the driver that I'll be back but must run & make a 'phone call; I have no worries that I'll catch him up. I think that I'd better appear cool and collected - after all Dylan probably left ages ago.
Hello, I supply you with Homer, the slut, a Dylan magazine, do you need any more copies?
Funny you should ring just now, he's sitting straight across the road at the window of a restaurant.....BRRRR!
I impress upon the driver that, traffic jam notwithstanding, I have to be in Camden High Street NOW. I expect he couldn't make out any of my words but he got the idea. Sooner than I'd thought possible, we were in Camden High Street.
I get the taxi to stop straight across from Compendium Bookshop. Sure enough there is a restaurant there, called Flukes Cradle. I walk in, for Chris from Compendium to have seen him Dylan would have had to have been in the room where I now stood.
The room was empty of Dylan, bereft of Bob.
I trudge across to Compendium to ask when he left, what they saw etc. They - kindly looking after my interests - grab me at the door and say:
He's still there, he's in the back now, having a meal.
Can I have a Homer, the slut?
Yes, but don't take the top one, it's dog-eared. Take two and bring one back signed.
On your bike!
I take two and go back across to Flukes Cradle. It is a very hot day but I'm beginning to sweat even more than that accounts for. My plan is simple - I'll go into the restaurant and sit as close to Dylan as possible, and ask for his autograph if there is a convenient opportunity as he leaves. I pass through the bar, thinking that above all I must be inconspicuous. I go into the restaurant and....OH MY GOD HE'S REALLY THERE! OK, I went in knowing he would be there but seeing him really there, like really him, really sitting there....too much! [I've read that in moments of shock supposed to have a kind of automatic defence system; I've obviously been programmed wrongly as when I went into shock my body went onto the attack. Knees buckling, head spinning and heart attempting to smash through the ribs!]
He's wearing a top hat, sitting in profile, that nose, those curls; visions of Blackbushe and all that '78 meant to me seeing him live for the first time, visions of so many years before and after that. I stand stock still. I somehow remember that I am supposed to be inconspicuous.
Dylan's table was down a few stairs to the left. I go to sit at the nearest table to him on my level of the restaurant (a whole other level) and try to be cool. I pick up a menu, though I know I'll never swallow anything I order. The menu slips through my sweaty paws. I decide I'm too conspicuous so I move to the next nearest table which just happens to have a better view of our man. I realize I am, in fact, totally conspicuous as Dylan and his entourage are the only people in the restaurant apart from me. Maybe I'm not supposed to be there? I think and this thought prompts others that remind me I always said I'd never disturb him in this way and that I was acting very stupidly. I leave the restaurant and go back to the front bar.
I'm feeling pretty happy, seeing him so close is a big thrill.
I order a shandy. I sit down. I stand up. I sit down again. I move table. I decide on an alternate strategy. I could go downstairs again and ask someone if they could get Dylan to sign a Homer. This I do, whispering my request and stressing that I only want it if it will not unduly trouble Dylan.
Go and ask him yourself.
I glance up at Dylan, a mere four seats away:
No, I don't want to disturb him and anyway it isn't physically possible.
I'll be sitting in the bar if you manage to get it signed. Thanks a lot.
I sneak back out and wait. A few minutes - or eternity - pass. My Homer is returned, this person doesn't feel it is right for him to present it to Dylan. Fair enough I think. I'm happy enough and have remembered all the stories about him being pestered by fans. I'll just sit and watch him leave.
A few more minutes pass and someone comes over to me and says:
Go now! Now's a good time.
I stand up, hesitate, look doubtful.
You'll never have a better chance in your life, go now.
I go. Back in the restaurant only Dylan's table now occupied. The furthest away table; Dylan, naturally, the most difficult person to get near to. To get to him I'll I have to push past someone I don't recognize, then Dave Stewart.
If I'd thought that my heart was pounding before - and, hey, it was - it was doing something else altogether this time. There were four young looking people at the table; three on the far side, one nearest me then next to him Dave Stewart and next to him, Himself. Looking absolutely gorgeous but you know what they say about "an aura around him"? Well, I'd always thought that was nonsense - or, rather, a projection of our feelings. I was wrong. The aura is almost tangible. My legs are threatening to give way before my rib cage. I try to detach my tongue from the roof of my mouth and my jaw from the floor.
At this moment there is a babble of conversation in the room. Dave Stewart is facing Dylan - who is staring straight ahead in profile (and what a profile) - asking questions quite forcibly. I cannot make the questions out due to the talk amongst the others. Dylan is not responding at all. I push past the first person between me and Bob.
A silence falls around the table with the exception of Dave Stewart's drumming questions. I cannot make out the words because my heart is now beating so hard that my ears are drumming louder. I try my pen for the last time - but I'd tried it once too many times and it ran out - luckily I'd brought eight with me, so I fished out my seventh last. I'm now standing right beside Dave Stewart's chair. Dylan is within arm's reach.
The movement in getting Homer and the working pen out alerts Dave Stewart to the fact that there is someone behind him and that everything has gone quiet. He stops talking and looks around and up at me. His look is marvellous: it says "Oh no not another one of these Dylan nutters". ( In a kindly way however, later I admire his ready acceptance of himself as a mere pop star beside someone who is a real Star.) He moves his chair slightly, I help him move it a little more. I am now standing right beside Bob Dylan.
There is total silence.
Dylan just keeps staring ahead, not reacting to the sudden silence or anything. This lasts for 7 zillion aeons, or about two seconds in real time.
Well this is it, after eighteen years of interest - some have called it obsessional - in the Man, I'm at the point many of us have thought about. What am I going to say? I have no idea. Staying alive is only barely within my grasp at this moment. Thinking stopped some time ago. I tear my tongue from the roof of my mouth.
Excuse me, Mr. Dylan.
HE MOVES - and how - the head swivels round in an instant, he stares into my face (or, at least, the rivers of sweat where my face should be) and says interrogatively
I am dead. It is not a pleasant feeling. I want my mummy and daddy. I want the ground to swallow me up and never let me out again.
I am reborn and mysteriously function
I hold out a copy of Homer issue 9. I force the Sahara Desert above my chin to respond; the sand becomes a torrent of burbling water. Something along the following lines pours out:
Could you please sign this? Of course, it doesn't matter if you don't and I'm very sorry for disturbing you, I realize it is a stupid thing to do, and it has been great being this close to you and I'll leave now.
See, I told you I'd lost control. I don't know how much of this he made out, possibly Please and sign or possibly he just guessed what the pen and magazine were for!
He took the magazine in his left hand and the pen in his right I was pleased to see. However, the pen was upside-down! A tale flashed through my mind of someone asking for his autograph who didn't have a pen and his devastating response....maybe if he tries to sign it now he'll get annoyed. Oh No...
Fate, however, intervened. Or perhaps it was the whole point of the suggestion that I 'go in now' (if so I owe that gentleman so much I could never, ever repay him). Dylan laid the magazine down and jabbed a finger - beautiful finger - at the embroidery on the jacket sleeve pictured on the front cover:
That's it, that's the jacket I'm talking about
They'd been arguing/discussing that very jacket???! Someone says from the far side of the table:
Well, that's it then, it's Hammersmith
I answered, without taking my eyes of Dylan's right hand which was signing the front cover of Homer at that very moment. (In a very small voice:)
Actually it is Belfast. But, hey, if you guys want it to be Hammersmith, then Hammersmith it is.
I take the signed copy from Himself and slither backwards out the room. I am aware of acute physical pain. But the thought resounds that IT HAS HAPPENED.
I sit in the bar again. Stunning. Staring at Homer. More stunning. Slowly the brain tries to re-establish a modicum of control. "Sit where he'll have to pass you on the way out" it urges. I do. I get crafty, I get a table where they'll have to pass in single file as they approach the door. I take away the second seat and wedge myself into a perfect viewing position as they leave the restaurant. I place the signed Homer by my right hand and lay the other one on the table in such a manner that anyone looking as they passed would have to see it.
Another few zillion years (2 minutes) later they start to leave. Stewart and some of the others (three, I think) are talking quite animatedly and, gesticulating over to me, one says something along the lines of:
Oh yes they still do, look at that lad over there
They all laugh, in a friendly fashion, I keep my eyes glued straight ahead waiting for You Know Who. However, attracted by the laughter the next person out - a young American - stops at my table (thereby blocking the passageway, so I have another hero) and, pointing to the unsigned Homer, asks
Do you subscribe to all of these?
Yes, and, actually, I run this one.
Well I type it up on computer and I've a photocopier at home...
As those last three words came out, every sensory input in my being went into overdrive again. Dylan had majestically walked up the stairs and was now heading straight for my table. Do not believe he is 5' 7", this man is at least 95 feet not including the top hat.
He rests one hand on the table and lifts Homer from the young man's hands. The youngster backs off a little, Dylan moves in. I self-liquidize.
Dylan starts reading the inside cover page. He says something about the warmline number and laughs and then flicks a few pages sometimes pausing to read. There's a smile, a grunt, an "uh-huh". Some of my senses are still working, I realize that behind me everyone has left except Dylan and the youngster who first stopped at my table. He is shifting his feet as though to leave, Dylan is still reading but I feel he is about to go:
Please take it Bob. And thanks for a great year..
('Heard it a million times before' voice.)
He is still standing reading.
Did you write this?
I have no idea what page he is on. Remember I am sitting down, wedged in, he is right ahead and above me. I can see the front and back page and HIM. Having written virtually none of Issue Nine, I answer anyway:
No, I edit it...it's not a very good issue anyway Bob...
He raises an eyebrow and flicks a few more pages, keeps on reading. Suddenly he realizes it is time to go, very regretfully he says:
This is eh, uh, really interesting but you know I just don't have time ...
Please take it, Bob, take it with you...
He leans towards me with a look that says: "There's a puddle on this chair and it is trying to speak to me but I don't know what it is burbling".
Thankfully the young man translates:
He's trying to tell you it is yours to take, Bob.
(How come he said that so easily, I wonder)
Bob, still pretty close, in a very surprised voice:
Really? I can take this one?
Utter panic, his face is now too close for its own safety. I gasp/scream/whisper whatever:
Nothing would give me greater pleasure in life.....
He - Bob FUCKING Dylan - puts the hand with Homer (his left) toward my right shoulder and his right hand squeezes my left shoulder as he leans forward and says gratefully:
Hey, that's great....
I am now beyond death, beyond rebirth, beyond Nirvana. I am also almost completely incapable of movement. However, Dylan is still nearby so I manage to get up and follow him to the car waiting outside.
I notice Dylan is still being generous with his time, a denim-clad man is shaking his hand and they are exchanging greetings. I notice too that Dave Stewart is in the back of the car videoing everything. But mostly I notice Dylan and how friendly he's being and how people are drawn to him and, finally, something which even he may never understand, how even the ordinary things he does do not lessen the aura, the mystique - whatever you want to call it. He has been nothing but friendly since I've been in Camden and by all reports from throughout the day. He is doing normal things, but he is set apart. I never believed such a thing possible; but he just doesn't walk and talk like anybody else. He is Bob Dylan. (The clothes at Camden certainly aided this feeling but, honest, he is stately.)
He walks around the back of the car and goes in the far-side back seat. (They let him walk near the cars? - dear Christ, I wouldn't.) He is waving to people on the street, unfortunately this brings too many people across the road, they press against the car, staring in at him. He opens the Homer and buries his face in it as the car speeds away.
I have a feeling that I will never be able to describe the way the fear, pain, hesitation, wonderment changes to an unbelievable rush of adrenalin..
I want to tell everybody in the world what happened. I could start at Compendium and Alex's office and thank them at the same time. I ran across the road to Compendium. In my delirium I had forgotten such things as traffic. It was coming straight for me. Screeching brakes, burning rubber. Chaotic hubbub.My hero from the entourage shouting:
Hey watch the cars!!!
I spin round in the middle of the road and yell back:
What the Hell does it matter now?!