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Bob Dylan’s on Fire, Rolling Down the Road

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Bob Dylan’s on Hearth, Rolling Down the Street
November 10, 1974

Perhaps it’s occurring because nothing was occurring. Perhaps it means extra because the strains of our interdependence are so strained, so fragile — yet overgrown, layered, and incestuous. Perhaps because we’re so weak now; especially in this impacted metropolis, either hoofing it in the chorus line or hopscotching in the spotlight. However for no matter cause that you simply may want Dylan, and for whatever need he has of you, he’s back.

It’s like the first page of a e-book of miracles, Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, when the magic gypsy returned to Macondo, the town in the jungle bearing the primary magnet ever seen there. The pots and knives flew from their shelves, the nails creaked from the beams, and the gypsy, an trustworthy man, proclaimed, “Issues have a lifetime of their own. It’s merely a matter of waking up their souls.” And so it is that Dylan, and Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Bobby Neuwirth, and pals are out on the street, in a bus named Phydeaux (a black-humored greyhound), waking up souls in what, along with Woodstock (and Altamont if you’ve gotten a taste for that aspect of things), is probably probably the most significant musical power nexus of our time. The person has truly gone out and accomplished it, and within the course of discovered himself at the peak of his powers.

***

In early July Dylan was dragging round New York like an out-of-work folksinger, dwelling in a borrowed loft on Houston Road. His marriage had (reportedly) busted up and he had come again to the Village from Malibu for solace, for a transfusion, or just to be residence to visit. In any event it was clearly “Portrait of the Artist as a Younger Canine” time. He would show up virtually every night time on the Other End, often alone, sometimes with director Jacques Levy and boulevardier Bob Neuwirth.

At a show in the course of the July Four folkie-smorgasbord, Neuwirth coaxed a reluctant Dylan onstage to sing harmony. Neuwirth, the excessive potentate of Max’s backroom, excessive dwelling storyteller, song-writer, catalyst, and nonstop dancing associate to rock and roll royalty, ready to do every week lengthy Other End engagement. Rob (Rockin’ Rob Rothstein) Stoner on bass, guitarists Steve Soles and T-Bone Burnette and fiddler David Mansfield all have been pressed into service, with Soles flying in from California, and T-Bone from Texas. Ramblin’ Jack stopped in; English rockers Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson fell by. The show itself was splotchy and shapeless. However it appeared to spark one thing in Dylan, and one night time the Different End’s bar instantly was Johnny Money’s front room, as Dylan & Firm held forth till virtually 6 a.m. with a bunch of latest songs, together with the wild-eyed “Joey,” about Gallo the mobster in prison studying Wilhelm Reich. At one level Dylan leaned over to Ramblin’ Jack and prompt that they all do a tour collectively. I don’t assume that anybody who heard it took the suggestion critically. That week Dylan went into the studio to work on his new album. He then left New York for California and Minnesota.

In October, he returned to New York having undoubtedly determined to tour. It was to be primarily a folk-oriented assemblage, an virtually literal extension of the jamming on the Other End. Everyone will get to play and sing, making an attempt to convey some music again right down to livable scale and into an accessible intimacy. He wanted skilled help and he introduced in longtime help and childhood good friend Louie Kemp from Duluth, ex-Bill Graham associate and Santana supervisor Barry Imhoff, ubiquitous tour-lady Chris O’Dell, and Boston promoter Don Regulation. Joan Baez was referred to as and requested to return along. They set up store at the Gramercy Park Lodge and booked a midtown rehearsal studio. But when the tour preparations have been in protected palms, the band was not.

Dylan doesn’t have the musical chops to steer or create the sort of band he’d wish to have. That activity fell to Rob Stoner. He’d been knocking round New York for years, falling in with Neuwirth and ultimately Dylan in July. Stoner’s a tremendous rock and roll mutant, a kind of a cross between Jerry Lee Lewis and Fabian. Fabian? However he literally put the touring band collectively, with the assistance and stage path of Jacques Levy. The musicians, to a person, all credit Stoner with “taking a various and formless group, who’d by no means actually performed collectively in a context that demanded any precision, and whipping ’em into shape. He brought in his previous associates Howie Wyeth, who does unlikely double obligation on drums and piano, and percussionist Luther Rix. Violinist Scarlet Rivera, who’d been enjoying with Dylan since June, also signed on. Surprisingly, things fell into place, institutionalizing the loopy informality of the late night time jam periods.

On Wednesday, October 29, Dylan, Neuwirth, and some others arrived for David Blue’s closing set at the Other End. Ronee Blakley confirmed up as did Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, and Denise Mercedes of the glitter group Stutz. After the club closed, Dylan and Ronee Blakley shared the piano and crooned, Roger McGuinn played guitars, and Ginsberg sang. “Allen, you’re the king,” stated Dylan repeatedly. “You’re the king however you don’t know your kingdom.” That night time Ginsberg was invited to hitch the tour, followed two days later by invites to Denise and the all the time useful Orlovsky, who was type of given a job as a baggage handler.

At three a.m. Eric Andersen phoned from Woodstock. He spoke to T-Bone Burnette, requested if he should come down (one-and-a-half hour drive). “Nicely,” T-Bone replied, “it’s really occurring.” “Has it peaked but?” Eric requested. “It gained’t peak for an additional month,” came the reply.

The subsequent night time (Thursday) they performed Mike Porco’s birthday social gathering at People Metropolis. They rehearsed Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. On Monday at 1 p.m. they left the Gramercy Park with the band on board the $125,000 Phydeaux and Dylan in a pink Cadillac El Dorado convertible. The tour was to be unadvertised, enjoying principally small halls, $7.50 prime, with only 5 days notice given by handbills in every city. The secrecy was such that even the musicians didn’t know the place they have been headed.

Meanwhile, in Plymouth, Massachusetts, house of the Rock and Pilgrim fame, the most important thing in 355 years was about to happen. Advance males Jerry Seltzer and Jabez Van Cleef walked into the town ironmongery shop. That they had booked the Plymouth Memorial Auditorium earlier for a Joan Baez live performance. The city fathers asked that Joan not make any overtly political statements on stage. The corridor was rented, 1800 seats, for $250 dollars per night time (two nights), $100 over the regular rental worth after assuring the home supervisor that, sure, they might fill the second balcony. Within the hardware, store they gave a Rolling Thunder Revue handbill to two younger guys shopping for spackle. The first guy screamed, “Get out, I don’t consider it.” He was reassured. “You’d better be right or I’ll rip this town apart.” “It’s your city,” Van Cleef replied. The second guy turned and stated, calmly, “Look man, there are some issues in life that’re real. This isn’t one in every of them.” He was fallacious, and he was right.

***

The Sea Crest Lodge in North Falmouth, Massachusetts, (“on fascinating Cape Cod”) is true on the seashore. It has 200 rooms and is magnificently secluded. The tour arrived there Monday afternoon. On Tuesday I referred to as for a reserva­tion and was requested if I needed an ocean-front room. “One thing close to the Dylan social gathering,” I re­plied. The clerk lied telling me that the only giant group in the lodge was a Mah-Jongg convention. That night, Dylan, introduced by the Borscht Belt MC as “a dynamite entertainer,” sang within the eating room, Ginsberg recited “Kaddish” and danced a pas de deux with Ronee Blakley. Thursday evening I flew into Boston. The subsequent morn­ing I headed for the Sea Crest.

I met Peter Orlovsky within the foyer. He stated I shouldn’t be there, safety was very tight. No press, no woman associates, no business like present business. He instructed I speak to Louie Kemp. Kemp was amazed that I’d discovered them. I’d have to go away. I stated I’d register. We struck a discount. They’d give me a room and send individuals up to speak. They’d ship up lunch and two security guards, one to run errands for me, the other to make certain I didn’t depart the room and to ac­firm me if I did. Like Camp David, or Los Alamos. Truthful enough. So, beneath digital house arrest, I loved my first visitor, Steve Soles, who informed me that “Everybody cares about everybody else right here, we’re all feelin’ good, no rigidity. It’s actually run by execs and it’s a grown-up tour. No one’s on a nasty trip or fucked up with medicine. And it’s all spontaneous. We don’t know where we’re goin’, neither does Dylan. We simply walk out, tune up, and fall into the track.” Soles is half-N.Y., half L.A., however all of it came together in N.Y. “L.A. doesn’t breed this type of en­ergy.”

The tour represents an enor­mous financial funding for Dylan. There are not any tremendous banks of amplifiers or special lighting, nevertheless it nonetheless includes no less than 50 individuals. It’s been a dream of the collective rock consciousness to do a tour like this. Small halls, no promoting — “the actual magical mystery tour,” as Neuwirth says. And whether or not Dylan makes a revenue — there might be a film, in fact — he’s still doing something admirable. However it’s just like the previous J.P. Morgan riposte: “If you need to ask the worth, you possibly can’t afford it.” If you’re a large enough star to warrant a secret tour you a) don’t want the cash, b) reap compensatory free publicity, c) stoke up your personal emotional capital, and d) what the hell else would you be d0ing — sitting around the pool with Ali McGraw and infrequently switching your drink from hand handy?

Meanwhile, outdoors on the seashore, Jack Elliott, wanting like a lawyer in Miami, is chasing Joan Baez, extremely lovely in just a towel. The cormorants are diving for fish and the Mah-Jongg women are walking around with their palms behind their backs.

Howard Alk and Mel Howard are there making a movie with Sam Shepard feeding them photographs; Jack Elliott speaking to the wax pilgrims within the Mayflower museum; Rob Stoner as Gene Vincent and T-Bone Burnette as Buddy Holly in rock and roll heaven with Joan Baez as a red-afroed hooker and Paul Colby as a nightclub proprietor. Or, a scene in an area diner with Ginsberg as “the emperor” and Dylan as “the alchemist.” Allen: “Are you the alchemist? I’m the emperor, right here’s my card”; he palms Dylan an orange maple-leaf. Dylan: “Your kingdom is bankrupt after all the wars, after sending off to Indochina for a shipload of tears you still haven’t paid your karmic debt.” Allen: “What’s the alchemical secret that’ll help?” Instantaneously (all improvised), Dylan smiles: “Invention.” And he proceeds to combine up a bowl of remedy, going behind the counter for Ritz crackers, honey, pepper, milk, Tabasco sauce. “Your utilizing odd materials,” cries Ginsberg. “That’s the purpose,” says Dylan.

However like all rock and roll tours this operation is functionally schizophrenic. It’s understandably bizarre, this institutionalized intimacy, this paramilitary folkyness. Dylan’s aides are there to guard him, and like another zealots, they overdo issues. My incarcera­tion was in all probability only a mistake, however a mistake very a lot in line with the tone of the tour. Kemp put a sign “Quarantine — Lepers Quarters” on my door.

So I threaten to sue, to call the police, the FBI (kidnapping is a federal crime), and so on. And abruptly they’re very nice to me. McGuinn, Neuwirth, T-Bone, and Rockin’ Rob arrive. Room service comes in with a tuna salad and some wine. I insist McGuinn taste the wine first. I turn down some ha­shish because smoking makes me paranoid.

Mick Ronson, sporting just a towel, wanders in. He’s a type of English guys who, if rock ‘n roll hadn’t intruded, would’ve been a hairdresser. He’s a gen­uinely sweet man, and totally blown out by the entire concept. “I can’t consider it, that is the best factor that’s ever happened to me,” like a Youngster of God or a Hari­-Krishnoid, “the rest of my life, earlier than this, was all bullshit.”

McGuinn, one of many world’s nice gadget freaks, brings out a Polaroid and waits for a gull to fly previous the sun. Neuwirth, wanting calmer and softer than ever, starts speaking concerning the 10 years of speak­ing that preceded the tour. “It’s gonna be a new front room each night time. This is the primary existential tour, it’s a movie, a closed set, it’s rock and roll heaven and it’s his­torical, no, hysterical. No, spell it h-y-s-t-o-r… “and never finishes the phrase. “It’s been Ramblin’ Jack’s dream for a long time, he’s the one who taught us all and the dream’s coming true.” After which, “Aw, shit, let’s simply watch the sunset over the Atlantic.”

***

Nowadays the residents of Ply­mouth eat grinders and drive round rotaries. It’s like some other medium-sized New England city crammed with good clean-looking youngsters, plenty of ’em still sporting their Military area jackets as a result of the working class fought the final struggle. Even $7.50 is a steep ticket in Ply­mouth.

The Memorial Auditorium seats about 1800, together with 400 folding chairs on the ground, ordinarily a basketball courtroom. With the chairs arrange it’s identical to your high school auditorium, in the event you went to a small previous highschool. It was Halloween, however aside from a human toothpaste tube the Plymouthians have been all dressed up as Bostonians. And the native police frisk you for wine at the door, however two New Yorkers, singer Garland Jeffreys and guitarist Alan Friedman, out­smarted them with bottles of Soave Bolla and Southern Com­fort, respectively.

At 8:20 the show began. The band came out in Lone Ranger masks, with Steve Soles, who appears like John Astin, made up in whiteface. Neuwirth was wear­ing a khaki flak vest and served as MC. Throughout the present a guy behind me stored referring to him as “‘Nam,” saying, “He’s all right, see that vest, he’s been to ’Nam.”

Everybody on the show is in another band or performs solo, so the first half-hour was taken up by their solo spots. Rockin’ Rob Stoner did “The Moment’s Too Good to Be Wasted, However I’m Too Wasted to Be Any Good,” assisted by Quacky Duck’s David Mansfield on fiddle. David, solely 19, appears like a Tintoretto angel and regularly amazes everybody together with his virtuosity. Neuwirth waltzed across the stage in those sliding glide steps you used on polished levels whenever you have been a child, he sounded nice as a singer, too. T-Bone, who feels like Roy Orbison singing underwater, got here subsequent adopted bizarrely by Ronson’s Bowie-ish “Is There Life on Mars?” Then Ronee Blakley as Betty Boop with a mustache, the one real stiff on the bill. In toto, although, they’d taken all the dumb random jam session power and drew it into focus. Then Neuwirth sang Kristofferson’s track to Jack El­liott, whereas Jack wandered out wanting loony as ever in a Hawaiian shirt, knickers, and ever-present Brooklyn-Cowboy hat. El­liott’s one of the threads that ties the whole thing together. Ginsberg first met him in 1950 once they dated the identical woman. She fell for Jack, sez Ginsberg, and Allen turned homosexual. Anyway, Jack’s the actual thing, an authentic beatnik weirdo and he acquired tremen­dous applause, like they recog­nized a real freak. He sang, howlin’ and joyful, getting down on his haunches or pointing his guitar like Lou Costello with a bayonet. At that point the show really took off.

Now, I need to say this now, before I get into telling about Dylan. Regardless of all this horseshit, like starting in Plymouth (“How Bicentennial of him,” says my good friend David Schwartz), and all of the too apparent loops of symbolic meanings and great chain of po­etry, i.e., Blake to Whitman to Ginsberg to Dylan, it’s just a show. I’ve seen a variety of exhibits. And this one is the greatest present I’ve ever seen. Higher than the Russian Circus when the troika disap­peared. Better than Fiddler on the Roof.

Dylan comes out in a masks, like a Clockwork Orange droog, in his black leather-based coat, lengthy scarf, and that previous porkpie sombrero of his festooned with flowers. He and Neuwirth start “Once I Paint My Masterpiece” collectively and that’s the only metaphorical teat to suck on. This tour is Dylan’s master­piece. With a tiny little Gibson sunburst guitar, it was previous “Alias” once more, weird like a Goya, within the land of Coca-Cola.

You see him and also you hear him and you say No Method. You possibly can’t consider it. He’s tight like a mata­dor and he turns slowly into a dark, bloody model of “It Ain’t Me, Babe.” He sounds more natural than ever before, in order that his vocal affectations work higher. Ronson drops a letter good solo and Dylan slowly takes up a harmonica and lifts it to his mouth. However he can’t play it as a result of he’s nonetheless acquired the mask on. He turns around, takes it off, faces the viewers, the place goes loopy like a Saint Vitus’s dance or Saint Elmo’s hearth. Dylan responds with digital Clapton on the harp, hips thrust ahead, electric on the balls of his ft. Abruptly it’s over, and Neuwirth says just one phrase — “Dylan.”

He plays “Arduous Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” next, reciting the overlong verses, the words rolling quicker and quicker and Ronson takes another solo, together with his guitar low on one knee, right foot forward. And I feel, “Sure, if he lives to be 100 this is one of the best factor Ronson’ll ever do.” Dylan takes it all in, strutting, sauntering around the stage, abso­lutely 100 Per Cent All There.

He does the new “Durango” and “Isis,” each coauthored by Jacques Levy. During a guitar solo someone tosses a rose on stage. Dylan activates left heel, throws scarf over shoulder, and in a single movement, like a shortstop, picks up the rose and tosses it back. And all through the rest of the music he rocks on his heels, palms hanging in fists, tossing his head back and forth. You gotta see Dylan dance.

That’s solely half of the present. When the curtain comes up again there are 4 legs displaying and two of ’em are Joan Baez’s, on the left. Together they sing ”The Occasions They Are A-Changing,” “Baby, You Been on My Mind,” and a brand new Dylan track that feels like “For Sentimental Reasons,” with Joan and Dylan trucking out and in of the mike like Sam and Dave.

Then Baez solo: her Dylan track, “Diamonds and Rust,” an exces­sive a cappella “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” a Lily Tomlin imitation, and three more numbers. Next McGuinn, who’d been enjoying banjo, does “Chestnut Mare,” another Jacques Levy tune, and Joan returns for “The Night time They Drove Previous Dixie Down,” Garland Jeffreys, sitting next to me, appears to blow up with happiness.

Dylan comes again alone, harmonica holder on his neck, for a syncopated, quicker version of “I Don’t Consider You.” Even his guitar enjoying is getting better. Adopted by his new single, a topical music, “Hurricane,” about Reuben Carter in prison. The lyric is long and chilling, accentuated by Scarlet Rivera’s enjoying. Followed by two extra new Mexi-Gothic love songs. Then, yet one more love track. Superb: “Sarah, loving you is the one factor I’ll by no means regret, Say-­rah, Sweet love of my life.” And how might it’s, how might his personal life, the part that counts, come to so much pain as he segues into “Just Like a Lady”? Remaining­ly Ginsberg comes out all in white, (inexplicably he doesn’t do much on stage; he ought to open the present) and Joan, in a Bozo-the-Clown masks for, inevitably, “This Land Is Your Land” with Ramblin’ Jack singing the verses no one else knows, cause Jack knew Woody Guthrie and Guthrie knew William Blake.

***

“It’s Dylan’s mudra,” stated Gins­berg, holding up three fingers to make a sign like a Bombay Boy Scout (which he is). “It’s his ges­ture, his act of significance. It’s the actualization of his greatest fanta­sies. His lesser, aggressive fanta­sies have been exhausted.” From one Jewish Gemini to a different, Planet Information to Planet Waves, 10-4.

Dylan’s survived, grown up. He’s not burnt out; his greatest work may even be ahead of him. He’s an enormous, like Chaplin or Picasso. Like Brando or Muhammed Ali. He’s all the time received a plan. This one works on each degree — physique, head, intel­lect, heart. No one else even comes close — Jagger, Springsteen, Paul Simon.

The radio, subsequent day, seemed to play solely Dylan and Baez. It was some type of reassurance that the miracles had truly taken place. Or have been about to happen, as a result of Dylan was on hearth and the Rolling Thunder Revue was filling the sky.

“Aw, shit,” stated Neuwirth, “let’s go watch the sunset.”

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