Me and Dylan
In former times I was known in the ‘Dylan world’ as ‘Dave Thomas’ from Wembley.
I was just about the biggest trader in Dylan videos around in the mid-90’s and I had 200-300 people worldwide on the books.
It wasn’t a huge profit making business at all as apart from the materials, the time involved in making these videos was enormous. I custom-made individual video covers with photo’s, index and timings on them too. Sometimes I worked 16-18 hours a day making them as I would put together video’s according to their customized requirements – if they wanted his concert from Woodstock as well as his collection of promo songs and the odd Dylan documentary all on one video for example then you had to physically edit them all together.
Anyway, I loved doing it and even supplied a former Dylan band member with videos (the originals of which he still needs to return to me!) and of course I got to see just about everything that there was to see past and present about Dylan.
This all stopped when I emigrated from The UK with my family at the end of 1996. I I just opened the cupboard and looked at my Dylan video collection and I still have 110 video cassettes (that’s about 2 solid weeks worth of non-stop viewing) and when I retire, whenever that will be, I will make it my mission to transfer all of these videos onto DVD’s!
I have been privileged to have met many distinguished people through my former and present jobs from The Queen, Presidents, Prime Ministers to Lords and Earls and I don’t go out of my way to meet ‘famous people’ as people are people all worth the same and so called ‘fame’ very means little to me but I guess the one person who I would like to meet would be Bob Dylan aka Robert Allen Zimmerman, not that I would have a clue what to say to him, I mean what would you say?
Growing up through the 60’s I’d say that I was much more aware of The Beatles and other UK bands and artists than I was of Bob Dylan. I remember reading an article in ‘IT’ magazine and being fascinated by the story it told of the reporter travelling up to some place in the back woods with chickens in the yard & meeting Dylan and hearing his soon to be released album to be called ‘Holy Land’, well I was completely taken in (it wasn’t until I met and spoke to the author Clinton Heylin at the 1996 Manchester Dylan Convention that he confirmed to me that the story was a hoax, in fact he seemed rather shocked that I would think it was anything but a spoof)!
I guess the article had sparked an interest in Dylan and shortly after that article I bought my first Dylan record, a double album with a blue cover called ‘Greatest Hits’. This double LP knocked me out! I had never heard anything like it and I found it hard to believe that all of these songs in different styles and with different voices were all the work of one artist, Bob Dylan! I remember the song that really blew me away was ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile with Thee’ (with the Memphis Blues Again).
The first Dylan concert I attended was with my new wife at Earls Court, I think in 1982 and all I remember was firstly how short Dylan was, I’d imagined him to appear so big as was his image and influence in the music world and I also remember smelling a sweet smoke smell in the air when Dylan was on stage, I guessed what it was and I remember being surprised how the uniformed policemen who were in the auditorium ignored it, I mean it was in the early 80’s!
It’s kind of funny to me that Dylan is a Jew who converted to Christianity and then returned (supposedly) to the religion of his forefathers whereas I converted from Christianity to Judaism (in order to marry & out of respect for my father in law who is a survivor of Aushwitz Concentration Camp) & even if I might want to return to ‘lie in the arms of Mary’ again I can’t as apparently you can never leave the fold.
The next time I saw Dylan was in 92 at Hammersmith and my only recollection of the gig was Dylan crouching legs spread over the electric piano on stage and that he also played ‘Wiggle Wiggle’ which was then a hit in my household with the kids!
1993 saw a more memorable gig at Hammersmith during his ‘As Good As I Been To You’ period. I kicked myself as I lived then in Chalk Farm in North West London which is a mile up the road from Camden Town where Dylan had spent all day walking around filming the ‘Blood in My Eyes’ video (captured by Andrew Muir in his book Razor’s Edge book & repeated by Andrew to me on a train up to attend a Manchester Dylan Convention) and I missed him!
I travelled by bus from London to see Dylan’s Cologne 94 gig and that was a great experience. Staying at the Mercurie Hotel I remember and then walking around the city with my Sony Camcorder in hand filming the wonderful cathedral and other sites of Cologne and then walking across the bridge over the Rhine to notice a crowd gathered outside The Hyatt Hotel, walking in, sitting myself down on a lobby chair to find Dylan’s band members John Jackson and Tony Garnier booking out with Winston Watson in the background. While I was seated there some big guy with his blonde/grey hair in a pony tail kept walking past me eyeing me up and I realized this must be Dylan’s tour manager known as ‘Irish something or other’. John Jackson & Tony Garnier came over & willingly spoke to us all there (some kid rambled on to J.J. in some technical language about guitars which I didn’t understand) & they exited & of course Dylan did his usual hotel disappearing trick & the coach & the white transit van with ‘Bakersfield’ license plates was seen making their way to the park. I remember it being a good concert and I must watch the video of it again!
I took my son for the first time to see a Dylan concert at Brixton in 1995 and it was an excellent concert as most in 95 were (my favourite is the opening 95 tour concert at Prague) and I remember Elvis Costello opened with an acoustic set & I never knew just what a powerful voice he had!
The 2 concerts I attended in Liverpool in 1996 rank amongst my favourites as Dylan was very relaxed and gave a good show, even starting to sing the first verse of ‘Yesterday’ in tribute to the home of The Beatles but then stopping with a wry grin on his face. After the show I bumped in Al Kooper who was just leaving and he spoke a bit although was obviously wanted to head back to his hotel (I also never realized how short he was too)!
I came in contact with the author Ben Cruckshank from Andover who had written books through his own publishing house, Agenda Books on a number of rock icons and he informed me that he wanted to write a book about Dylan but he knew very little about him (a problem if you want to write a book about him:) and so I offered to supply him with video’s and information about Dylan. As a consequence of my assistance, Ben released 2 small paperback books about Dylan – ‘The Man in a Long Black Coat’ and ‘Blotting Paper Man’ and Ben kindly dedicated each of his books to me and Dina my wife in the inside book title page.
After I’d emigrated from The UK at the end of 96 I more or less lost track of Dylan’s concerts although I still managed to obtain the more interesting ones on video and in 2002 I returned to The UK and followed the Dylan tour at Brighton (I love these smaller venues and feel they’re more suited to Dylan than the big stadiums where he and everyone else seems lost) then to Bournemouth where after walking along the sea front and returning to my B&B on the cliff I learnt that I’d just missed Dylan as he’d popped out of his hotel to also walk along the sea front! Then up to Birmingham and to Manchester where I stayed where I always stay in Manchester at the SashaHotel in Piccadilly as this is where previous Manchester Dylan Conventions have been held which I attended in 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2001.
At the 1994 Dylan Convention I’d met the author Clinton Heylin who had signed my copy of his book ‘Behind The Shades’ with ‘a bunch of basement noise to fill in the silence. Stay forever young’ and my copy his book ‘The Recording Sessions’ in 1996 ‘Keep the faith + stay forever jung’. At the 1998 Manchester Dylan Convention I had met Mickey Jones the drummer on Dylan’s 1966 tour (who recently released his ‘Home Movies’ about the 1966 tour) who was extremely friendly and approachable and I also attended my last Manchester Dylan Convention in 2001.
At one of these Dylan Conventions I had struck up a rapport with Dylan’s ex guitarist Cezar Diaz who had been a guest speaker and it was very sad as he was dying from what I believe was liver failure and he needed a transplant but he kept repeating the same points, that he was Dylan’s guitarist but that how everyone referred to him as ‘Dylan’s guitar technician’ (he was at one time Dylan’s guitar technician but he also played lead guitar at a number of concerts with Dylan from 1990 – 1994), and he also repeated how Dylan had lots of money and why couldn’t he give him the $100,000 he needed for his transplant? Well, how do you answer that? Anyway, it was with sadness that I learnt some years later that Cezar had passed away.
An extract from my Bio on my music site at http://www.paullyrics.com:-
“Paul grew up in the hope filled ‘Love is all there is’ drug induced stupor of the 60’s that promised so much but in the end delivered nothing but pain and broken glass –“The only good to come out of those crazy times was the music”. Paul soaked up the sounds and words of the songs he heard all around him like a sponge. He first discovered the music of Buddy Holly, Frank Sinatra, Otis Redding & Count Basie progressing on to The Beatles and other 60’s UK bands and artists later to find Bob Dylan –“Dylan was like the father I never had, he taught me so much and still is”.
Later, through Dylan’s works Paul would discover the new worlds of the great poets and authors as well as the Bible and old folk and gospel songs which were the cornerstones upon which Rock and Roll was born and flourished”