A word in your ear - June 20, 2013

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News that Bob Dylan will perform in Blackpool this November reminded me of an encounter with him on his notorious mid-60s tour.

I was nowt but a lad, a frustrated rebel, and Dylan was my hero.

In Manchester I approached the Free Trade Hall from Central Station and, with time to spare before the concert, I joined fans gathered at the rear stage door.

Someone tried to squeeze in front of me but I stood my ground. He was smaller than me.

“Make way for Bob, please!” came a cry from behind.

I took a sidestep and this pasty-faced youth edged by me. He was so feebly built his hair was wider than his shoulders. His driver/minder wore a red cardigan with a large hole in the elbow.

That close up, Bob Dylan was such a disappointment no one spoke.

On stage in a short first half he looked fragile but went through hits like ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ and ‘The Times They Are A Changin’ with acoustic guitar and harmonica. He couldn’t sing but the packed audience didn’t mind.

In the even shorter second half, Bob emerged bolstered by The Band. Folk traditionalists were up in arms, shouting furiously against an electric accompaniment (though the sound was better). In response, The Band turned up their amplifiers.

Police with dogs had to calm the baying crowds. The Band and Bob rattled on without comment but finished early.

I emerged shaken but with time before my train to savour a quiet pint at nearby Cox’s Bar, favoured by rail workers and the Halle 
Orchestra.

I’d seen better concerts, from Julie Felix; Peter, Paul & Mary, and, especially, Simon & Garfunkel – but none so stunning.

It was a maturing experience, exhilarating but shocking. I’d never witnessed such public passion and my former hero was shown to be nowt but a lad himself.

Now Dylan is in his 70s and a venerated father figure of pop. Ironic but, then, the times really have changed haven’t they?

n For Roy’s fiction and humorous memoir visit royedmonds-blackpool.com.