The Last Time I Heard Bob Dylan
and The First Time I Ever Wrote About Him
                                             by C. P. Lee


The last time I heard Bob Dylan was three days ago on May Day Bank Holiday, at lunchtime, in the Charlton Arms pub in Ludlow. As we walked in through the door the delightful sound of It’s All Over Now Baby Blue was playing over the latest Bose/iPod combination sound system. It’s funny how hearing a Dylan song in a different setting from that in your own home or at a John Green Day, or even a Bob Dylan concert, almost feels like you’re hearing the song for the first time again. (That last sentence might make sense tautologically if viewed from the perspective of a Time Lord.) 

Sounding all fresh and new to my tired old ears, the song seemed to have gained a new lease of life. Such a happening is probably caused by something as simple as the acoustics of the building, or the acoustics of the countryside, as was the case at a Womad Festival I was MC’ing in the mid-eighties, enjoying Gates of Eden through the ten-thousand watt PA speakers at ten o clock on a beautiful summer’s morning. Now that was one of the greatest auditory experiences of my life, Eden unfurling over the meadows of Mersea Island, while the sunshine glinted off the sea and the gulls circled slowly overhead… 

Anyway, there I was in this pub in Ludlow and the first thing I heard as I walked through the door was Dylan and I thought to myself – “This seems to happen a lot to me.”  It’s almost as if they have somebody waiting by the window who shouts out “Here he is! Put Dylan on!” it happens that often. Carl Jung said there’s no such thing as coincidence, and in Dylanworld that’s truer than anywhere else. 

The second Dylan related Ludlow incident took place in a bookshop by the Buttercross. There was the new edition of Lyrics and I thought I’d pop inside and enquire how much it was going for. The shop owner, a charming moustachioed gentleman with a slight military air about him, gently eased the shop’s sole copy out of the window and studied the back: 

“Full price I’m afraid. It’s not been remaindered yet. Mind you, I’m not sure I have much time for Mr Dylan these days,” he mused. Curious, I asked him why not. “Apparently he just sits on the stage these days and doesn’t do a thing. Doesn’t say a word, doesn’t play a note. It’s a bit rum. I don’t think it’s fair on the audience.” 

I didn’t feel qualified to contradict him - had it been true I probably would have read about it somewhere on a newsgroup or Expecting Rain, but there didn’t seem any great urgency in disabusing him of the notion – after all, what’s another absurd Dylan story to add to the legend when there are so many out there already. 

Who can forget the one that he’d only appeared on Dharma & Greg so he could get the make-up girl to try out various false moustaches on him? Then perversely not wearing the one he’d chosen, but sporting a real ‘Vincent Price’ a couple of months later ... Ahhh, crazy Bob!


Bookshop up behind the Butter Cross/Church at top of Broad Street, pub at the bottom through the gateway and down by the riverside.


For this final issue of Freewheelin John suggested we write something about the last time we listened to Bob Dylan. As you can see from my response, it’s mainly when I’m entering pubs. If he’d asked, when did you first write about Bob Dylan? I don’t think I’d have been able to give this response quite so clearly if I hadn’t stumbled across a package of old papers in the attic. There, tucked away with old Speech Day programmes and copies of the hand-outs for school plays long lost in the mists of time was the first two pages of an essay from 1966. It was an English homework assignment with the title My Three Favourite Records – and guess whose records I chose? 

I can date the essay to September or October 1966, because I mention I “have every record, long players (sic), singles and EPs issued by Bob Dylan”, all purchased after a summer of working as a porter in a hospital in Liverpool, all gaps had been plugged. Blonde on Blonde would have been my latest acquisition, bought in an electrical appliance store in Everton – “Who’s he then? A golliwog?” was the cheerful enquiry of the cheeky Scouse shop assistant as he looked at the cover. “Bloody ‘Ell! You’re getting robbed there son. There’s only one song on that side!”  Etc, etc. I didn’t care, it had the songs I’d heard a few months before at the Free Trade Hall and that went someway towards making up for the news (or more correctly, lack of news) of the motorcycle crash. 

Re-reading that old school essay now the first thing I feel about it is annoyance that I can’t find the last page because I’d love to know what mark I got. The second emotion is one of acute embarrassment at the gushing naivety and the intense seriousness of it all. Only a sixteen year old could write like that. Finally there’s the shocking realisation that I’ve been writing about Bob Dylan for thirty-nine years! 

The last few years of Dylan writing have been in the pages of Freewheelin where I’ve been allowed to roam freely around some fairly arcane avenues of musical history in search of an elusive thread that will lead me back to where I began. During these musings I’ve been lucky to meet the varied bunch of hard-working human beings who constitute the rest of FW, some alas, only in print, but happily, mostly in the flesh. And what a great bunch you all are, every one a valued commentator and contributor to the archives of Dylanology or whatever it will all be called one day. 

It may be the end of one chapter, it’s certainly not the end of the book ... And for your perusal and amusement – here’s that essay:


Essay 1

Essay 2