Dylan cartoon

The Last
Bob Dylan
I Heard?

by Chris Cooper


The final time.

The last waltz.

The last issue.

Like I said last month this is a time of closure of many things for me. Since last month I have had just over three weeks of non-work. I hesitate to call it all retirement yet, that still seems an alien term to me. But it is looking more acceptable, and it is starting to fit me more comfortably now. It is also starting to have its effect on what I do and why I do it too.

Those nearer to me know (because I was always moaning about it) how stressful things got in the past year. I donít find it easy to explain exactly why. I have always been guilty of trying to do too much. Taking on more than I can handle. When life became a struggle between what you had to do, and what you wanted to get done. Work was insane near the end; I was making decisions every day that effected peopleís lives, often forever. I have no trouble doing that to be honest, but I was not getting the time to reassure myself it was right. I was often at work by 6:30 I never went to bed before 2am and the time between seemed one continuous downhill plunge. No matter how much I did there was always more to do. If I got something wrong, and I certainly did, I never had the chance to go back and sort it. My personal life took a backward seat to everything else. It may be different for you. But I have found that when you are under that pressure itís those closest to you that lose out, because you have to cut time where you can, and they complain the least. They try to help, or at the least not get in the way, and as a consequence they miss out.

If it wasnít work it was the hobby. Being a collector is a disease. It can eat you up. If you know me in that way they you will probably be aware of what I am talking. Just keeping up with the technology, is a full time job right now. Believe it or not I do try to provide what my friends and fellow collectors want, often at the detriment to my own time. When work means you cannot get to these things before 9 or 10 pm you find yourself up all night making discs and writing letters. I do actually try to please everyone, probably I shouldnít. So it hurts when people chase me for things, because I donít want to feel Iíve let them down. John Green Day, Freewheelin, Cambridge Society, Collecting, Work, FamilyÖÖ.its a goddamn impossible way of life!

I could never have quit FW, no matter what the cost, because Iíve been there always. In the start there was the 3 of us, JRS, Terry and me. For a long time itís really been JRS. I couldnít have done it, never had the time, or the ability. So when John started talking about bringing it too a close, well to be honest it sounded like a good idea to me. It also came at the point when I knew my retirement was imminent. You like to think you control your life, I didnít. It almost controlled me. Whilst I was planning on retirement it was something in the future. The closure of my unit really brought that forward to me. Because it seemed so futile and senseless at the time. I was the modern matron (Nurse Manager) of a department that in that year when the ďBest PractiseĒ award in East Anglia Mental Health. The previous year had come sixth in the UK Hospitals assessment process (called ďCHIĒ) we were doing a great job and doing it well. It was purely to do with money. But it is also the only time I really had to put myself on the line for what I believed in. I didnít have to retire, a new post was offered, better money, some promotion. But I had to say ďthank youĒ and pretend that the past 20 years of sweat, inspiration and toil never mattered. And finally I couldnít do it. For the first time possibly I said ďNOĒ and quit. Canít say it wasnít scary.

But it was done. And the incredible outpouring of affection and support from my staff, many of whom were about to become unemployed themselves was both heart-warming and upsetting. Itís good to know you mean something to people, its just sad that you cannot always help them all as much as you wanted, but sooner or later you just have to reach the front of that queue for your time.

No sooner done though than I am looking for a part time job. Rush rush gets to be a habit so much that you donít know how to stop it. But it did stop. It stopped because there are various things have to be done for me to work elsewhere, and they take a few weeks to implement. So a break was being forced on me. And in retrospect that break may prove to be the best thing that could have happened. My motorcycle crash. I stopped and started to look at what was going on. Rehabilitation set in.

Suddenly the day is more about what I want to do, rather than what I must do. Of course there are still many pressures, but nowhere near had the number there been. I have started to catch up on the collecting thing. I have also started using with some collectors my new word, no. I have cut down on what I do for people, as I was literally posting hundreds of things to people, often for no more than a thank you. I still do some, but I am getting more selective. When Miles Davis was asked by Rolling Stone mag why he was playing less trumpet on his records (referring at the time to Bitches Brew) he said ďsometimes less is moreĒ I FINALLY KNOW WHAT HE MEANS.

So now, I am sleeping 5-6 hours a night. (For me thatís a lot) I feel more relaxed. A few days ago the weather was nice so Dizzy an I took a trip to the coast, read a bit, got some fresh air. Walked the beach. Lived. Less than six months ago that would have been impossible, well, I would have told you it was impossible. Donít get too jealous, work beckons and in a few more weeks Iíll be back at the coalface, you canít stop being a nurse, its not something you turn off. I wasnít born as one, but I will always be one now. But a new job means 15-20 hours a week, not 75. It means looking after patients not politicians. It means back to grass roots not grey hair. I hope I can keep that perspective. After all, I need money to live, but I am not living for the money..

So what the fuck has all THAT gotta do with the final FW? To you, maybe not much. To me a lot. Itís took me one and half pages to say to my old mate John, ďTHANKSĒ for keeping it going. I am not sure how many of us will stay in close contact after this. People always say they will then often donít stay in touch. JRS and I will. Because with John Green Day, and Cambridge we still have many reasons to do so. And because we are friends. We donít live as close together as we used to, but itís only a 30 minute drive to each other so itís far from insurmountable. And as always, Bob will remain as the glue that sticks us together.. I think its different reasons for him than me. But thatís ok, because it simply highlights the many facets of Dylanís career and the many ways we can approach it.

Through the year we have made many valiant, and quite a few successful, efforts to produce a unified edition of FW, a ďtheme issueĒ as John likes to call Ďem. Often they produce larger issues as giving people a definite target tends to show greater response than leaving it wide open. So I am not surprised that the last issue is called ďThe Last Bob Dylan Recording I heardĒ Thatís one topic we all have a recent grip on right?

Well it certainly is for me. I am still one of those anorak people, a ďcompletist collector.Ē A very inaccurate term, probably should be ďindiscriminate ď rather than completist Itís just a more polite way of saying I get everything ?? Well even thatís not true anymore. Yes I get all audio recordings, and buy all official Dylan ďproductsĒ but I long ago ceased to get every book, every newspaper article, every fanzine even. I donít collect cover versions, I donít collect programs about Bob (well not all anyways) or get audio recordings of conventions, etc.. SO hope I havenít shocked the Dylan community with such a revelation.. ..Yes I know, I havenít mentioned video, one area of Dylan collecting that I am well known for, well read the final MM as thatís covered to death there, elsewhere in this issue. But you see what this means is that when we say ďthe last Dylan recording I heardĒ causes me problems. Right now Bobs still on tour, and the shows are coming in as a steady but relentless trickle, Right now I am playing Denver March 29th . I have at least three other shows waiting to be heard after this. So the last recording depends on just when I mark the time really.

You see,. There is no last recording for me. Music is my constant companion, and right now, whilst at home I am listening to a minimum of ten hours a day. All kinds of stuff, not just Bob. But he features every day. Now some of this is to play the new shows that arrive. You see I still produce Dylanbase. I no longer market it but it does go out to a fair few collectors at the end of each year. An it still lists every show, every song timed, all the comments. All that trivia that us anoraks really just canít put down. So I have to hear all the new stuff. Out of duty? (maybe) Because I like to hear them all (certainly) hope you have heard the recent shows. Bobís really back on the money again. He sounds great, animated, involved. His versions of Mr Tambourine Man for example this tour are simple breathtaking. His control of the song masterful to hear. His love of it obvious. At this moment Desolation Row from Denver is playing, Elana Fremerman taking a violin solo. She has added great colour to the band I hope her unexpected absence at the past few shows is not permanent. But change is what Bobs about now, nothing stands still. Its one thing that I love about the guy, that a song like Desolation Row, that I have been hearing for 40 years can still have something new I there for Bob to show me. Itís not enough that the man is easily the greatest songwriter that contemporary music has, he is also the most daring performer in contemporary music. The only rule Bob seems to follow in song construction is that there are no rules.

So am I saying that Denver March 29th is my last recording I heard? I could I guess, factually its true Almost. But there is one other. Itís the audio book of Chronicles read by Sean Penn. Iíve had this a while as I obtained a copy of it. But then about 2 weeks ago I stumbled over an original in my local HMV so of course I bought it immediately. CBS TAKE NOTE: real collectors never settle for copies, I know no collector who doesnít get originals as soon as possible.

So when I am driving, or maybe working with the PC, or just relaxing, I play a little slice of the masterwork. Sometimes It makes me laugh, sometimes it makes me think, it always entertains. I donít think Penns reading is particularly helpful. He can sound very flat at times, but I doubt that anyone can really bring much to this book, other than Bob himself. But Penn cannot hide the way Dylanís word jump at you, and hearing it rather than reading it only reinforces the idea that Dylan is talking to you, sharing his thoughts. That is how the book comes over when I read it. You should get the audio book if you havenít. Itís not easy to find but worth the effort. It sums Bob up for me in a way, the more I invest, the more I am rewarded. Thatís true of so few things, and its one reason why I listen. And why I will always listen.

Itís been a long, but rewarding trip. A lot like FW for me, not sure where we ended up, but its been a helluva ride for me, thank you to everyone that made the journey with me, whether you helped me along or just kept me company.

Thanks for being here.