"And if you don't like me, well, leave me alone"
Dylan should be just left alone. He pretty much says that, too. I've been enjoying watching him survive long enough to have a croaking voice, a young voice, a mellow voice at Newport (64), a cracking rocker's voice (Newport a year later: Maggie's Farm), his Judas period in Manchester with the audience, then the phony bike wreck, the mellow Lay Lady Lay, come back with The Band in NYC — jean jacket, good stare, handsome — then we wind down through the religious period, Wailing Wall, fucked up songs, good songs, Lenny etc. By the time he lands in Springfield, MA and we buy Jim Koller a ticket to meet us there for it (1992), Dylan can barely fill the seats.
We come into the dirty city and see Koller moving sideways up one of the sidewalks biding his time, maybe hitting a bar, at the concert our seats have rainwater on them and we go talk to the bosses who move us all almost to the front. Dylan in hood.
I meet another old friend there. I built his house five years earlier in the woods, he's wearing gloves in September, that jittery at being in the city and shaking hands, he shows me a little zippered pocket on the top of the gloves where he keeps change for panhandlers. He's well prepared. Country folk still come into the city like the settlers in Shane with an old wagon and a knock to the back wheel. Don't blame them.
Dylan makes one more comeback pretty much after the second Woodstock (nothing ever in Woodstock but all of Woodstock attends) and we meet up with one of his shows, again, this time up in the woods of Stratton Vermont and lo and behold Janine is in the audience, come over from Woodstock, and she'll follow the tour to the Woodstock event the next night. Stratton's obviously a warmup for Dylan and the band. I never heard "Rainy Day Woman" any better. He was on fire.
Years and years later we'll catch him again in Northampton at Smith College, 2000 in attendance, Allen Ginsberg has just died, Dylan has a huge portrait on a screen behind him on the stage of AG. Dylan in Stetson looking like a Jewish kid Bill Monroe. He can pull off anything he wants. We have balcony seats. We're catching a train that night from there to New Mexico.
In '75 we also saw Dylan and Rolling Thunder down in Hartford. Got there, November night, sleet storm, almost two hours from Vermont, and halfway there the windshield wipers bust on our VW bug that never had heat. To get home we had to wait for the storm to pass. No sleep. Youngsters. The best age for Dylan. Even for him. He's approaching that old blues singer voice now. He may, eventually, get side by side with Skip James. . .
. . .way back in the 60s Susan saw Dylan at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, his polka dot shirt period. Same time, same state, Koller's Coyote's Journal was growling.
Now to modern times — here is Wyndham Baird who gets at the very hard work at crossing generations, with quality, as is being done here. I don't put Wyndham at all in the momentary Dylan-doing-Woody Guthrie mode; it's more Ramblin' Jack Elliott-doing-Woody, and it's a toss up who did Woody songs best between those two. In Dylan's case NO ONE yet or ever will do Dylan better because it's all about the mystical which he has down as well as Blake.
"Dark Eyes" all for Jim
image: by Alec Mcleod
Title from the Celtic song "The Moonshiner"