Welcome news that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature reminds me of an encounter that also stunned me – half a century ago.
I was 16 and the then folk singer 24. It was in Manchester at the Free Trade Hall, now Radisson Edwardian Hotel. I’d come by train from home in Urmston with mate Ken Middleton. We walked from nearby Central Station, now Manchester Central Convention Complex.
Then it happened but, first, let’s recap. Dylan was our guru of world peace and free love, our bohemian idol.
“What’s that dreadful racket?” demanded my father when I played Blowin’ In The Wind from Dylan’s Freewheelin’ album. In dad’s day Bing Crosby was considered outrageous, followed by Frank Sinatra – my big brother’s hero.
In 1965 Bob, too, was changing – introducing the Band to his concerts and releasing mind-blowin’ Highway 61 Revisited. Yet the following year came lyrical double-album Blonde on Blonde.
As a fresh-faced school leaver I attempted to look as rough and tough as possible, for under-age drinking and street ‘cred’.
“What’s going on?” older pal Ken muttered, spotting a crowd outside the stage door. We had plenty of time so joined it, lighting up fags to be studiedly ‘cool’. I felt someone pushing through behind me. I resisted, then turned to see a scruffy man in a torn red sweater.
“Let us by, please,” he was pleading then, reaching the closed door, hammered and yelled, “It’s Bob’s driver – he’s outside!”
Sure enough, beside me now was a short, pale-faced Robert Zimmerman, hair wider than his skinny shoulders and looking nervous. We exchanged startled stares for an instant, then he was gone – through a crowd stunned into silence by his apparition, but later up in arms at that electrifying new style.
It’s the nearest I’ll get to a Nobel Prize.
* For Roy’s books visit www.royedmonds-blackpool.