WHAT Was It You Wanted?

by Jim Gillan



Time, as a Bob once observed, is an ocean. Quite what he meant by this when he wrote it can at best be only an intelligent guess. Which rules me out of the contest to come up with an explanation. I did briefly wonder if he was trying to draw a parallel between every tick and every drop, but decided that I was interested more in how the song feels than what it might signify. Of course, now that a(nother) Bob is in the bath, I have an opportunity to ask him about it, though whether he can remember, or choose to remember, is another matter. So how would I know it was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? I guess Iíd have to decide that for myself. Or ask an expert. O bugger! The bloody post has arrived.  Best see whatís in the pile. 

Hi Jim.  Iím really impressed by your ability to present Bob, his life, his music and his impact in such an accessible and often hugely funny way. Itís made me reconsider his art and what it means for me. This has saved me a small fortune in books by learned men who use the pen to narrow things down to their sad understanding. What bigger fools we are to defer to them.

                                  Love, Mum.

Blimey! Itís not often any child can ever claim to please a parent, so even though I think she has me confused with someone else, itís a letter Iíll treasure. Whatís next?


Dear Mr Stokes, 

I write to cancel my subscription to Freewheeliní as I can no longer put up with the idiot ramblings of the WWIYW columnist. He does very occasionally make a telling point, but his tendency to treat everything Bob does as a joke Ė or at least as much less important than things like pollution, exploitation, tyranny and GM crops, undermines his arguments. Iím not saying that preventing genocide in the Sudan is less important than tracking the sources of material on the Fantasy acetate, but as the entirely admirable (even when he tried to disconnect those cables) Pete Seeger observed, ďto every thing there is a seasonÖĒ.  Personally I think that WWIYW stands for Why Waste Ink, You Wally!!!.


I couldnít agree more. Next. 

LAUGH! I nearly drown in my tears. Itís nice to weep for something other than humanityís failings and the idea of Bob in the bath is FANTASTIC. I bubbled with laughter at the load of old flannel you came up with. Thereís enough material for it to make in to a soap opera, so PLEASE donít pull the plug on it. Thereís so much more to tap in to and the only ones who wonít be amused are that utterly humourless shower who devours every line for influence, meaning and argument. Mind you, it deflects some of Ďem from bible study. And thanks for your recent hospitality. Iíd like to call again.

Hímm This may be a spoof, not that I mind, as itís well intentioned. Now whatís this?

Hello mate! Have you seen Bobís interview in the Sunday Telegraph? What a wind-up! The only thing funnier than the idea of Bob going to West Point is Bob laying that load of old hokum on us. Hereís the enigma himself, explaining why he wrote the book:

"In part, I guess I wanted to set the record straight. "I knew there had been other books about me and I'd even read a couple of them - although frankly you can't spend time reading books about yourself, no matter who you are. Some of the books were more accurate than others but no one knew the full story, apart from me. So I sat down and started tapping away on my old manual typewriter. Initially the book was going to be about the background to some of my albums but then it took on a life of its own.Ē 

Whatís really funny is that when you go off on one of your tangents, itís at best received a mostly tolerant smile, though most folks probably do the same as me and ignore most of it. Yet when Dylan suddenly comes out all frank and open about Dylan Thomas, grannyís lost leg, family life in the backwoods, his time as the two-gun kid, being a club turn and whatever, it will sell in droves. Tell that John Stokes to pay you whatever you ask, as the only way of coping with Bobís flights of fancy, is to plunge in to something even more surreal. PLEASE donít let Bob out of the bath Ė you can shower at my place. Ok, Clarence is tootiní his horn, so I gotta go Ė Patti says HI! And that sheíll call from Laredo.
                                                                                                                                               Catch you soon, Brooce.


Now thereís a true pal. A real blue-collar guy whose genuine modesty is exceeded only by his generosity.  Why, heís happily helped out any number of good causes Ė and some lost ones, which is where Bob and I probably come in. One more. 

YOUíRE GOING TO BURN YOU SPAWN OF BEELZEBUB YOU.  SATAN HAS COME AMONGST US IN THE GUISE OF A MOTLEY FOOL, SOME SCRIBBLER WITH A SUCCUBUS FOR A SOUL. THAT SHOULD OF COURSE BE ĎSOLEí, YOU HEEL YOU. ITíS NOT ENOUGH THAT YOU RIDICULE THE SUPREME CREATOR, BUT YOU ALSO DO THE LORD GOD A DISSERVICE.  ONLY THAT ANTICHRIST FROM FREEHOLD THAT YOU SUMMON TO YOUR PUTRID PAGES DESERVES ALL HE GETS. PS Can I have your autograph, as it makes the chances of a successful exorcism that much greater. Jesus teaches us to be merciful, so take comfort sinner. For verily, merrily, I will pray for your salvation, then come and cast ye screaming in to the pit. 

WOW! These are the kinds of letters I like. He certainly says what he means, whoever the hell he is. Oh well, best to be prudent and not book for anything too far ahead. 

STOP! This sketch is far too silly. Time for a reality check, impossible though that may seem. Whatever I try to do to with the absurdity of it all, be it some of Dylanís own actions, or those amongst us who feel compelled, either for monetary gain, ego, applause, or therapeutic need, to explain, interpret, construct, deconstruct, reorder, repackage, remember conveniently, or whatever, Bob outdoes it effortlessly. I really donít have a clue why he wants to unleash Chronicles, tour so relentlessly (and to me, largely unrewardingly), participate in terrible underwear commercials (the clothes, as well as the video) and allow his name to be stuck on the side of some toxic brew, though maximising revenue is a suspiciously common factor. But Bob, you really canít take it with you.  Death, like the ocean, ends at the sure. I think Iíll nip up and stick his head under the water for a bit. And mine.