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 NOT BEING THERE

by Richard Lewis

 

I went to Ireland this summer and had a wonderful, relaxed time without papers, news or deadlines. In the pub one lunchtime enjoying a glass of draught Guinness I spotted a picture of Dylan in a discarded copy of the Irish Times. Ironically it was for the gig in Cork that he subsequently had to cancel. It was the first I knew of the tour so quickly buying a phone card, (I’m one of those Luddites who refuse to own a mobile phone) I rang Jim, who told me about the known dates. He said he had already got tickets for Sheffield, and although he was just about to depart for his own holiday he offered to try to get me and Jenny a couple. 

A few weeks later when we were both back in Yorkshire Jim rang to confirm that he had got me two tickets. What a player! We met up at a Mary Gauthier concert in Sheffield and arranged to meet up in Manchester at an Emmylou Harris concert just two days before the Dylan concert in Sheffield. As we sat enjoying Mary Gauthier in the tiny Library Theatre (max capacity about 250) with about 75 other enlightened souls I speculated on how good it would be to see Dylan in similar circumstances. 

In the meantime I’d been spending quite a bit of time talking about and listening to music of all sorts with my youngest son, Peter, who is 19. Peter plays drums in a local band called Tink who have an interesting sound created by having two girl lead singers and two guitarists who alternate between lead and rhythm sometimes playing twin lead. They mostly do their own material written by Andy, one of the guitar players and Susie, one of the singers. They throw in the odd cover such as a blistering version of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”! Apart from Peter, who still lives at home with us, the rest of the band live in a flat above a take-away in Bradford. The top floor is also empty so they have that set up as a rehearsal space. The wonderful advantage of this is that Pete’s drum practice now takes place 5 miles away and not above my head! 

I’ve been with Peter to see Alabama 3, Neil Young and Crazy Horse and The Handsome Family amongst others. Peter regularly raids my CDs and recently has been playing the Phil Ochs and Buffalo Springfield Box Sets as well as a couple of Dylan collections – Greatest Hits Volume 3 and The Best of Bob Dylan Volume 2. He borrowed the latter to take to the band flat where he spends quite a bit of time. Andy from the band sometimes comes round here and a couple of weeks ago asked me if I had any Dylan CDs he could borrow. The only stuff he had heard was on The Best of Bob Dylan Volume 2, which as you know is roughly chronological so he wondered what Dylan, had been doing between “John Wesley Harding” and “Blood on The Tracks”. I lent him “New Morning” and “Planet Waves”. 

At half term at the end of October I went down to London to see my mum who is now 88 years old. She wasn’t her usual self but I couldn’t persuade her to come and stay with me for a few days. She did not have much food in so we did some shopping and arranged to go down again in a couple of weeks. A week later, on the phone I managed to get her to think about coming back with us when we went down to London to take her to her friend Joe’s 80th birthday party on November 16th. We went down to London for the weekend and my mum was feeling very tired and said she wasn’t up to going to the party so we brought her back to Bradford instead.

On Tuesday I went to see Emmylou and Jenny stayed with my mum. I met up with Jim and Ros and Jim gave me a cache of goodies-CDRs of the Mary Gauthier and Handsome Family gigs we’d been to plus two tickets to see Bob Dylan in Sheffield two nights later. When I got back from Manchester Jenny was still up and said my mum was not looking too good. The next day we called the doctor who confirmed that she had a urinary infection and prescribed a course of antibiotics. While we were both at work she had a fall and was generally weaker. Peter was going to stay with my mum while we went to see Dylan but by the next day Jenny said she wanted to stay with my mum and that I should go with Peter. I felt the same and wanted to stay with my mum so I asked Peter if he and Andy would like our tickets. They jumped at the chance. 

They really enjoyed the concert and brought me back a t-shirt! Peter said that Dylan looked like he was really enjoying himself describing it as “a childlike youthfulness”.

He thought Dylan was really getting into the show and said even when he was at the electric piano his feet never stopped moving. He also kept going up to the other band members as if he was really enjoying their playing. Andy said at one point it seemed like Dylan was a bit unhappy with the sound and another guitar player came on to try to get it better. Not quite sure what this meant but I expect those of you who were there will know what went on. A highlight for Peter and Andy was a blistering version of “All Along The Watchtower” that closed the show. 

From the track lists I’ve seen it would seem that the last few London shows just got better and better. Wish I could have been there but sometimes you just can’t. My mum got worse and when the doctor came out he sent for an ambulance and she was admitted to our local hospital. It turned out that her kidneys had failed and she was quite dangerously ill. As I write this she is still in hospital but is now out of danger and very slowly getting better. 

My mum came with me to see Dylan at the Royal Albert Hall in 1966 when we were in the second row. I took her again to Wembley in 1987 though that time she needed earplugs. I am sorry I missed Sheffield this time but glad that Peter and Andy went and enjoyed it and I expect I’ll hear a CDR before too long. I’ve told my mum we can listen to it together as soon as she gets home.

 
 
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