Return of the native

by Chris Hockenhull


I could have sat for hours and attempted to write something witty with song references in the title etc but I’ve always thought that a bit naff so I’ll just say how nice, and somewhat unexpected it is to be back.

An awful lot has happened over the years since I last wrote here and I believe at the Freewheelin’ end things too have changed dramatically. No doubt in the fullness of time I’ll find out about them and vise versa but whilst circumstances meant that I had to put things Bob very much to one side, I didn’t quite leave the scene totally and have a few dispatches from the front to tell you about in future months.

But it’s nice to know that some things haven’t totally changed and that John still sits in his shed collating all things Freewheelin’ and keeps the ship on a steadyish course, that what comes out one month is still dated the last’s and that the old “Top 10 / Review of the year” is still requested as Christmas approaches.

This puts me in somewhat of a dilemma in that there have been very few Dylan highlights for me personally this last year. So I’ve cheated a bit and gone for some half and half and nominated five of my memories of my involvement in Freewheelin’ 1986 – 1999. So in no particular order:

The past…..

1: The Lincoln Events
These jolly japes occurred there whilst I was the farthest traveller to the place, which was originally organised there, as it was the most conveniently located place for all who were on board at the time! (maybe they were trying to tell me something). Many pleasant memories of that hard slog up the hill to town and the wonderful bookshops littered about that part of town. With good food and banter I have some pleasant memories of the annual get-togethers there. Do you still do anything like this or is the Isle of Bute the most centrally located place for those on board these days?

2: Friendships
Without naming names, there were some people during my days in Freewheelin’ that knowing meant there was a lot more to it all than things Dylan…which is exactly the way it should be.

3: Giving Freewheelin’ a plug on Radio 2
In 1997 whilst Bob was ill and the mystery deepened, I ended up on Folk On 2 doing an interview and without prompting him, Ralph McTell gave the merry ship Freewheelin’ a mention. It was only some while later that I remembered that he’s read some copies of it at my house about two years before. How on earth he’d remembered it I don’t know but I was proud to hear the good name over the airwaves.

4: Cambridge 1994
It was a good time for me to get away from here and I got a little role to play hanging around at the Cambridge Folk Festival. Whilst in the area I was able to attend a Friday evening meeting, made to sing “One Too Many Mornings”, had lots to drink, met new people and made my first and only visit to the area. Despite two of the worst ever journeys (there and back) that I’ve ever experienced in my life, the pleasant memories have remained.

5: Liverpool 26/27 June 1996
After trekking all over the place for things Bob and Freewheelin’ it was nice when the whole mountain did come to Mohammad over that two days. I remember a few F.W’s visiting my house and then there were the highs and lows of the Euro ’96 game, the performances, the after gig time at The Lion etc etc. Wonderful times. The second night – 27th was my 40th birthday and the whole event will live with me forever…all about people being nice (in the days when friendly and nice people really were part of Merseyside Dylan).

And what of more recent times …

1: Dylan still being around
Without venturing into the actual quality of the product etc etc, the fact that he is still out there to continue to intrigue others and me is still great to have. Along with one other thing, he’s (sadly?) the most consistent thing in my life. Talking of which……

2: Everton
Like the best things in life, it is healthy to fall in and out of love with them whilst commanding a consistent loyalty to it. This is no different and since the spring there has been signs of green shoots of recovery. It’s early days yet and I’ve seen this movie before, but……

3: The Life & Times Of Bob Dylan
Since 1999 I have delivered six courses for Liverpool University on the above topic. Initially a 10 session / week course, due to student feedback it has been extended to 20 sessions and continues to flourish. The most rewarding aspect is the whole age range that attends and the depth of their interest in Dylan. It’s amazing that there are total lifelong followers out there who don’t chase the man all over the country when he performs, who don’t buy every book, who rely on just the official stuff to listen to but who have a wonderful grasp on the art and I gain an awful lot of pleasure working with these people. I’ll talk more about this at a later date.

4: At the shows
Over the past three years there has been a notable increase in younger people at the shows. This could be looked on as whilst Dylan’s legendary status grows, young people are seeing him playing as an opportunity to catch the event before it’s too late (like saying The Beatles are long gone, The Stones play seldom so here’s a legend we better catch before it’s too late etc) but from the one’s I’ve spoken to they actually like what they are hearing/seeing and do return to see him instead of ticking his name off their “need to see list” which is vastly different and quite refreshing.

5: Freewheelin’
Still being around too. And that’s a healthy thing that I look forward to seeing and hearing from you all again!

Bob Dylan, Tony Garnier