My Top 70 for Bob Dylan’s Birthday

Bob Dylan turned 70 years old today and in honor of his birthday, I’m sharing 70 Dylan-related memories:

1) I joined the Columbia Record Club when I was a kid and bought lots of early Dylan records for not much money (because he was a Columbia artist), eventually defaulted on my membership and then had a collection agency after me until they figured out I was a minor and they couldn’t touch me.

2) I kept a harmonica in my car to practice while stuck in L.A. rush hour traffic but never advanced beyond basic discordance.

3) When I was a kid, I took over the care of my younger brother’s gerbils and renamed them Frankie Lee and Judas Priest.

4) After having trash and beer thrown at me for singing and dancing during a Dylan concert in Orange County, CA (otherwise known as Behind the Orange Curtain), I vowed never to attend another concert in the OC, a promise I kept.

5) I once dreamed of ex-wife Sara Dylan and woke up really indignant about Bob treating her so poorly.

6) I used to work for a man who shared a rabbi with Bob Dylan, and contemplated staking out the temple for a sneak peek.

7) I had a class at CSU-Northridge with a young man who was friends with one of Dylan’s sons (Jakob?) and who used to hang out with the son and listen to Blonde on Blonde, an album my classmate described as “Okay.”

8) When I was a high school freshman, I gave a speech on Bob Dylan; the teacher was thrilled but the other kids could not have cared less.

9) The first time I ever saw Dylan in concert my seat was behind the stage but Dylan turned and played to us so it was a great experience.

10) My parents allowed me to miss a day of school to get those tickets.

11) Maybe because I’m not a fan of organized religion, I’ve never been offended by Dylan’s swings between Judaism and Christianity and back again.

12) I’ve logged a lot of miles on my treadmill running to Highway 61 Revisited (although “Ballad of a Thin Man” kinda takes the pep out of my step).

13) I listened to Street Legal the other night for old time’s sake but had to quit after a few songs because it made me miss best friend S (who loved the album) too much; I especially wished he was still alive so I could point out the album is highly overwrought.

14) At the last minute, I bought a single ticket to see Dylan at the L.A. Forum and got a pretty decent seat but after he played a couple songs, he said he wouldn’t continue until the seats in front were filled so I rushed the stage and spent the rest of the night a few feet from the stage.

15) I also went alone to see Dylan at the Filmore in Denver and made friends with some people who, for years afterward, invited me to their birthday parties.

16) I named my cat Isis.

17) I bought my copy of Desire at the JC Penney in Portage, Wisconsin, and took it back because the record skipped.

18) Literary agent Edward Necarsulmer IV is a huge Dylan fan and I used to think that meant we were destined to be agent and client, but I’ve since deduced that is not true.

19) Wildebeest loves nothing more than to disparage Bob and his rhyming ways.

20) When I was in high school, Doonesbury included a series of strips featuring Dylan and I taped those strips inside my locker door but was so eager to vacate the premises on the last day of school, I left them behind.

21) Zippy used to quietly pooh-pooh Dylan’s talent but now recognizes his channeling-from-beyond genius.

22) Let’s face it: Joan Baez has aged much more gracefully than Dylan.

23) I was sad on my birthday, November 25, 1976, because I knew Dylan was playing at The Band’s final concert at the Winterland, San Francisco, while I was in Pardeeville, Wisconsin, watching a blizzard out the window.

24) I later went to a matinee showing of Scorsese’s documentary of that concert (The Last Waltz) and smoked cigarettes in the nearly empty theater. I know!

25) Sometimes waiting for Dylan tickets was more fun than the actual concert (see #4), even when I burned my ankle on a motorcycle muffler getting a ride across the immense parking lot to the port-a-potty.

26) There are few more dull or predictable discussions than those focused on the quality of Dylan’s voice.

27) I think the Rolling Stone panel missed the boat by not putting more Planet Waves songs in its top 70 list.

28) I used to be in a critique group with Dylan’s lighting guy who went into instant panic, covering his ears and yelling, “I don’t want to know!” when I mentioned a friend with a bootleg tape.

29) I once spent about three hours trying to get through on a call-in show to ask Dylan who’s saying “Yes!” in these “Isis” lyrics:
“You gonna stay?”
“If you want me to.”
“Yes!”
(See, it’s not clear if it’s “If you want me to, yes!” or “Yes!” as in “I want you to stay.”)

30) It’s safe to say that over the years I’ve driven some people away with my Dylan fascination.

31) A former boyfriend didn’t believe I knew all the words to “Isis” but after I performed it for him, complete with gestures, he had a (short-lived) light of respect in his eyes.

32) Zebu had the chance to see Dylan at Red Rocks a few years back but didn’t have much fun because (1) there was a thick cloud of pot smoke in the crowd and (2) he couldn’t recognize any of the songs.

33) The first novel I wrote has an incredibly original storyline about a teenage girl who loves Dylan but is teased by friends and classmates for that love.

34) My critique-lighting-guy friend invited me to sit at the light board during a Dylan concert but I declined because it was soon after September 11 and I couldn’t face being in a crowded venue right then.

35) In 1982, my sister and I went to PEACE SUNDAY in the Rose Bowl to hear Dylan and Baez (among many) but the concert was sold out so we stood next to chain-link fence while guy inside licked his hand-stamp and pressed it on my hand so I could then lick and pass along stamp to my sister.

36) I’m one of two people I know who saw the looong and oh-so-confusing Renaldo and Clara (and the other person is the guy who went with me).

37) Zippy and I watched the Dylan flick, Hearts of Fire, which is one of the worst movies made. Ever.

38) However, trust me when I say Dylan’s pantry scene from the movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid in which “Alias” reads aloud the labels on canned vegetables is hysterical.

39) Early on in our relationship, Zippy said the soundtrack to Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid was his favorite Dylan album because it was mostly instrumentals (see #21).

40) I strongly disagree with Keith Richards’ statement about Dylan’s “Girl from the North Country” being better suited to a solo than the duet with Johnny Cash.

41) When I try to imitate Dylan I always end up sounding like Joan Baez imitating Dylan on her version of “Simple Twist of Fate” which means it’s really me doing Baez doing Dylan.

42) A long time ago I told a friend if Dylan ever did a commercial, I’d take all my Dylan albums into the street and destroy them but here I am post-Victoria’s Secret and Bob-knows-what-else, and my albums are intact.

43) I went to the record store the day Empire Burlesque was released to buy it and another customer commented on how refreshing it was to see someone so loyal to an artist, but in retrospect, I have to question that loyalty because the album has some definite clunkers.

44) I once called information to get Bob’s home phone number.

45) I never feel like I’m in the mood to listen to “The Time’s They Are A-Changin,’” but then I hear it and am blown away all over again.

46) Sometime in the last decade, Dylan was on the Grammy’s singing a song that everyone later ridiculed as being unintelligible but within a couple mumbles I identified it as “Masters of War.”

47) When I was a teen, Dylan was scheduled to be on Soundstage and I talked to my parents ahead of time about watching it when it came on late that night, but in a fit of absolute bullshit parenting, they didn’t let me.

48) My father-in-law named his dog “Dillon” after the Gunsmoke character but in my mind’s eye whenever I said his name, it was “Dylan.”

49) I was always of the opinion that music class ruined “Blowin’ in the Wind” for a lot of young people much the same way The Scarlet Letter was ruined by high school English classes until a friend told me “Blowin’ in the Wind” holds a special place in his heart due to learning all the words in Sunday School.

50) Way back when in Wisconsin, I listened to Dylan’s early song, “Highway 51” but, being the spatially-challenged person I am, didn’t make the connection with the Hwy 51 running past my hometown.

51) If not for Bob Dylan, I’m not sure I’d know Woody Guthrie’s work (or Arlo’s!), or Phil Ochs or Dave van Ronk.

52) I’m not usually a fan of “greatest hits” compilations but if not for Dylan’sGreatest Hits Vol 2, I wouldn’t know one of my all-time favorite Dylan songs “When I Paint My Masterpiece.”

53) It was hard times when I lived in a tiny North Hollywood apartment but I remember smiling in the dark as I listened to Bob’s laugh when he messed up the opening to “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream.”

54) Wildebeest just stuck his head in the room to see what I’m working on and when I told him he said, “70? That’s a lot of memories. You really love Bob Dylan, I think Bob Dylan’s a goober.”

55) A friend and I went to the Dylan/Grateful Dead concert at Anaheim Stadium and I swear Jerry’s guitar solo on “All Along the Watchtower” was so incredible it flustered Bob into singing the same chorus twice (but I seem to be the only one who noticed).

56) I have another friend who won’t ever let me forget that on the day of a general admission Dylan concert at the Filmore in Denver, I “forced her out of the car on Colfax” because of road work and detours so she could get in line while I looked for a place to park, and then we ended up arriving at the line at the same time.

57) We were about halfway back on the floor during that show with the misfortune of standing behind a basketball team, but then “Cold Irons Bound” started and I danced and didn’t care about limited visibility.

58) When Wildebeest was a baby he’d calm when listening to Blood on the Tracks except for “Idiot Wind;” he really disliked that song.

59) Wildebeest and Zebu just told me something I can neither confirm nor deny: when they were little and would screw around at the dinner table, I’d get pissed off and send them downstairs while I cleaned up the kitchen, “Tombstone Blues” blasting (“I’m in the kitchen with the tombstone blues”).

60) All I can say in my defense is “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.”

61) Actress Jenna Elfman reportedly lost her virginity while listening to “Lay Lady Lay” but I can’t listen to Dylan while having sex because, for me, there’s no tuning him out; I can’t write while he’s playing, either.

62) Hard Rain is a phenomenal live album, and don’t even try talking to me about the distortion and poor sound quality.

63) If it weren’t for the Rolling Thunder Revue, I wouldn’t know about T-Bone Burnett and Mick Ronson and Ronee Blakley and Scarlet Rivera.

64) Come to think of it, I started reading Crawdaddy magazine in hopes of finding a mention of Dylan, and was introduced to all sorts of musicians along the way.

65) From the very start my attraction to Dylan had as much to do with his use of language as the music and while I never mastered the guitar or harmonica or singing, or anything even remotely musical, I consider him a huge influence.

66) I still haven’t landed in Publisher’s Marketplace but it’s cool Bob’s gotten deals for turning songs into picture books; however, it’ll be hard to take if he sells a middle-grade before me.

67) I can’t remember ever putting on a Bob Dylan record and deciding it wasn’t what I wanted to hear; no matter the mood, it’s always a good time for a little Dylan.

68) And with his catalog, a little Dylan can easily turn into a marathon listening session.

69) So many people were outraged when he went electric and, in their minds, turned his back on “the movement,” but Dylan’s Dylan no matter whether he’s singing about a miner or a clueless reporter or the exquisite pain of a breaking heart.

70) When I listen to Joan Baez sing about Dylan in “Diamonds and Rust,” I want to weep for her lost love but then “Winds of the Old Days” plays and I’m in awe of her graciousness:
“singer or savior, it was his to choose
which of us knows what was his to lose”

Bob Dylan and Me

                 

Next week, Bob Dylan turns 70 years old.

When Bob turned 50, I bought a bottle of champagne and watched Don’t Look Back 
(after calling the Anchorage video store days ahead to put a hold on a copy only to find 

out from the baffled clerk there was no huge demand), and toasted Dylan’s health and continued genius.

 
This time around, Rolling Stone is throwing the party.
 
 
The current issue includes a list of his 70 greatest songs (as decided by a panel)
along with some commentary from various singer/songwriters.

It’s an interesting list, in part because the enormity of Dylan’s song catalog boggles the mind.
How to choose?

My mother texted me the other night (yes, she’s 81 and she texts!)
to tell me she was reading Rolling Stone and to ask which was my favorite song.

I said I couldn’t choose just one but that "Hurricane" was the song that caught my attention
when I was 13 years-old, and that I bought the 45 and then wrote out all the lyrics.
The song’s so long it was both Side A and Side B, and somewhere around here I have
those sheets of notebook paper with the hand-printed lyrics.
It was a long process and I remember sitting next to my record player, 
lifting the needle to replay parts so I’d catch every word.

"Pistol shots ring out in a barroom night . . ."

Years later when I lived in North Hollywood in a funky old house converted to a triplex,
my artist-downstairs-neighbor was working on a collage and invited me to make one, too.

I went up to my tiny apartment and gathered the Dylan scrapbook I’d created when younger.

Over the years, this collage has hung on various walls in the places I’ve lived,
and more than one person has looked at it and asked, "Who’s the big black dude?"

 
That’s Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, the boxer who was wrongfully accused of murder,
and the subject of "Hurricane."
I cut that photo of him from the sleeve for the 45.
 
Dylan brought a lot of attention to the case and many years later Rubin Carter 
was released from prison where he sat "like Buddha in a ten-foot cell."
 
"Hurricane" is just one of many, many awe-inspiring songs 
that happened to mark the the beginning of my fascination with Dylan.
The man from Hibbing, Minnesota, caught my ear with a song calling out for justice, 
and kept me listening all these years.
 
Even when I couldn’t understand what the hell he was saying.
                            

Agnes and Bob . . . Again

            


AGNES by Tony Cochran

When I was younger and colossally more naive,
I called Information in hopes of getting Bob’s number in Malibu.

Clearly, my efforts would’ve been better spent on 
forging a friendship with Agnes.

                     

Be Still My Heart

            

AGNES by Tony Cochran

I’m just so excited to have Agnes and Dylan together,
I’ll forgive the complaining, hopelessly nasal comment.
After all, she did acknowledge his genius.

And there really is no arguing with the nasal.
              

Sandburg – Dylan Intersection

You might be happy to know I finally finished Carl Sandburg’s PRAIRIE-TOWN BOY.
So why am I still writing about Mr. Sandburg?

Because this morning I was reading the Rolling Stone interview with Bob Dylan.
Dylan recounts how in February 1964 he spontaneously drove with friends from New York
to Hendersonville, North Carolina, where he knocked on the door of his hero, Carl Sandburg.

From the interview (conducted by Douglas Brinkley):
Mrs. Sandburg greeted the stoned-out New Yorkers with Appalachian warmth.  "I am a poet," is how
Dylan introduced himself to her.  "My name is Robert Dylan, and I would like to see Mr. Sandburg."
The 86-year-old Sandburg had collected more than 280 ballads in The American Songbag, and Dylan
wanted to discuss them.  "I had three records out at the time," Dylan says, laughing at his youthful temerity.
"The Times They Are a-Changin’ record was the one I gave him a copy of.  Of course he had never heard of me."
After just 20 minutes, Sandburg excused himself.

I’m betting Sandburg went into the next room and tried to wrap his head around what had just happened.
                      

           

I’M NOT THERE

Last night Zippy and I saw I’M NOT THERE, the Todd Haynes film about Bob Dylan.  Six different actors play Bob Dylan at different points in his life and career.  It’s a gorgeous film (the opening sequence alone is incredible, black and white to “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again”) with some great acting including a black boy (Marcus Carl Franklin) who plays the early Dylan via a character named Woody and Cate Blanchett (character is Jude Quinn) who plays Dylan when he went electric and outraged the folk community.  I was also mesmerized by Claire (ex-wife Sara character) played by Charlotte Gainsbourg.  The music is perfect throughout (there are about 34 songs, some in their entirety and pieces of others) and at times I wanted to get up and dance.  I don’t see many movies in theaters because I cannot stand sitting next to people who think it’s okay to talk during a film.  Well, even though this one runs about 2 1/2 hours, the theater was silent.  It was an amazing experience.  I know there are other Dylan fans out there in LJ land so I encourage you to see this film in the theater because a small screen won’t do it justice.

If you’re interested, here’s the official trailer:

Dylan Does Dylan

I couldn’t figure out how to post two videos in one post so apologize for multiple posts. This is the companion piece to the Russ Feingold video….

For those who might never have seen (gasp!) this segment from D. A. Pennebaker’s film, “Don’t Look Back” (a documentary on Bob Dylan’s tour of England in 1965) in which Bob holds cue cards while “Subterranean Homesick Blues” plays:

Russ Feingold Does Dylan

If only Russ Feingold would run for president. And I ain’t just saying that ’cause I’m a former Cheesehead, either! Here’s Russ doing “My President Will Be . . .”

I highly recommend checking out the Progressive Patriots Fund.

What Book Are You?

Okay, I usually avoid these quizzes but this one appealed to me and not just because I ended up with this:


You’re Watership Down!

by Richard Adams

Though many think of you as a bit young, even childish, you’re
actually incredibly deep and complex. You show people the need to rethink their
assumptions, and confront them on everything from how they think to where they
build their houses. You might be one of the greatest people of all time. You’d
be recognized as such if you weren’t always talking about talking rabbits.

When I was fifteen, my parents let me skip school one day to wait in line for Bob Dylan tickets.  He was touring for the first time in years and it was a huge deal.  I’d requested permission to camp out but the best they could do (which was still pretty cool) was let me get in line at 5:30 in the morning.  My best friend, S., and I got to the Dane County Coliseum and were amazed by the many tents and the many, many bedraggled people who’d been waiting in line for several days.  Bottles, cans, paper bags, and sleeping bodies were scattered about.  Among all that general debris was a copy of WATERSHIP DOWN.  It didn’t seem to belong to anyone so I picked it up. 

After hours of anxiously waiting and hoping, S. and I got tickets just minutes before they sold out (we felt bad for but were also grateful to the “disoriented” folks who hadn’t made it back into line).  Our excitement was temporarily dampened because our tickets were stamped “Limited Vision” and were for seats behind the stage but then we decided to just be ECSTATIC.  And when the time came, Mr. Zimmerman didn’t let us down.  He turned and played much of the night to his fans seated behind him, giving us nearly front-row seats.  The show was phenomenal.

Well, somewhere in that timeline I read and fell in love with my newly adopted copy of WATERSHIP DOWN.  And I guess after that maybe I did a lot of talking about talking rabbits because S. and other friends started calling me Bigwig (which they continued doing throughout high school).

My ticket stub is in my scrapbook.

That copy of WATERSHIP DOWN is on my bookshelf.

And S.?  He’s in my heart.

  

And the kitchen sink…

I’d really like to start posting everyday because when I let too much time go past, I get overwhelmed by all the subject possibilities.

For instance, I’m back from our car trip extravaganza and I could post a Yellowstone photo of the fireweed with the backdrop of tree remains from the ’88 wildfires:

I could share how wonderful it was meeting

 and her gorgeous children, Catgirl and Tornado Boy, and the dissertation-slaving Mr. C.  Laurie and I only had a bit of time together but our online interactions made me feel as if we’d already met.  She’s just as smart and funny in person as in cyberspace.

Hmm, what else?  Oh yes, I’m totally enamored of my hoop.  I took it on the trip and hooped all over the place.  Along a path in Yellowstone where I converted several older women to a hooping existence, alongside a swimming pool, in various hotel rooms, on the lawn of a hot springs resort in Montana.  Wherever I could grab a few minutes.  Hooping wakes me up AND calms me down (kind of a non-narcotic, non-stimulant speedball effect).

On our first day of the trip we stopped at some tiny store/gas station in Arlington, WY, where the actor James Woods was buying orange soda and chips (which he started eating before leaving the parking lot).  According to Zebu, the men’s restroom in that place was literally overflowing.  Ugh.

Random thought:  I feel so vindicated in the knowledge that the “moderate” John McCain and his “straight-talk” campaign have imploded!

I’m reading COLD MOUNTAIN right now and am in awe of the writing.  I know I’m way behind the times here, but better late than never.  I read another adult novel on the trip, a Pulitzer winner from the 80s, and was not so impressed.  Charles Frazier, though, is the real deal.  

I’m happy to report that I’m back on track with my WIP.  Zippy thought of some plot point while on the trip and said, “I know you don’t want to talk about your book but  I was thinking…”  Well, let’s just say I was less than graceful in shutting down that conversation.

This morning I got a call from my neighbor letting me know a local radio station was giving away tickets to Bob Dylan at Red Rocks.  Well, I hooped away while hitting redial and while I got through a bunch of times (the first time I nearly choked on the jolt of adrenaline), each time the phone just rang and rang, and then went to the busy signal.  Sigh.  Guess it’ll be a Zebu-only experience tomorrow night.

Okay, I’ll stop here with a vow to post more often so there’s not so much stuff to wade through.  
 

Zebu’s birthday

Yesterday was Zebu’s 11th birthday.

He spent the day at Water World with his friend and Zippy Ramone.
(The way I saw it, if I could handle 26 hours of labor Zippy could handle six hours of heat, wet shorts, crowds, lines, and sunburn).

Zebu’s friend gave him a birthday gift.
A ticket to join friend and friend’s father here
for a Bob Dylan concert.

I’m the Dylan fanatic in the household
and I didn’t get to see him in concert until I was 15.
Zebu probably couldn’t name three Dylan songs.

But he’s very excited
and I’m happy for him.
A Red Rocks concert is something he’ll never forget.

When the Dylan tickets went on sale, Zippy and I debated buying two.
However, I’m feeling a bit disconnected from old Bob these days
in large part due to this.

We passed.

But we suddenly had a craving to see a show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
It’s an incredible setting.
Magical.
We really wanted and needed one concert experience there this season.

We checked the roster
and bought tickets for Michael Franti and Spearhead
(and Mavis Staples!!)

I’m probably done seeing Bob Dylan in concert. 
I have a slew of memories from all those concerts.
I’ll never see him at Red Rocks
but that’s okay.
It was time for something/someone new.

Zebu can’t wait for his concert
and neither can I.