Recollections of Dylan

Most days I run past the house where I first heard Bob Dylan.

My school-mate Robbie said, ‘Listen to this,’ carefully sliding out a vinyl LP from a sleeve, on the front of which a determined, lean face looked down, considering the world. Everything spoke to me, every word of every song, every nuance of this man’s appearance. Restless Farewell somehow echoed the daily experience of a surly, implacable fourteen-year-old, aching for real life to begin.

Later, at university, I fell catastrophically in love with a girl who listened to Blonde On Blonde all day long, it seemed, and I shared it with her, seeing our joint lives daily unfolding in the lyrics to Visions Of Johanna.

And ten years later, in another life, I managed to hear Blood On The Tracks at exactly the time when my life was closest to what he was suffering, the agonising dismantling of a marriage and family. Idiot Wind was what I lived and endured in my daily ploddings.

I’ve seen him a couple of times. At Earls Court in 1978, I was offered the chance to join the back-stage security team, but it would have meant offloading my tickets, and if anything had gone wrong I’d have been stuck on the street outside cursing the heavens.

So I’m a fan and have absolutely no doubt that the Nobel committee have done a good job. I know something about literature (or perhaps I should say Literature) and am certain that Dylan’s name can be spoken, without hesitation or embarrassment, in the same sentence as Eliot, Blake, Keats and Wordsworth, along with scores of (possibly) less well-known figures.

And here perhaps we see a reason why this award appears, in some sections of the nation’s ‘opinion-formers,’ controversial. Basically it comes down to cultural snobbery. How can anything produced today, they blabber, possibly reach the heights of….what? The classics, the stuff we all absorbed and accepted as unassailably ‘great’ at university, the hallowed texts sanctified between the hard covers of the Oxford Standard Authors.

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