This was just around the time that ‘Street Legal’ came out and a few of us decided to get tickets. Christine had been a Dylan fan since the early sixties, in fact it was Christine who first got me listening to him. Like a lot of other people I had heard him and thought he couldn’t sing. But when I started listening to his early albums I realised what a phenomenal songwriter and singer he was. The first album that made an impression was ‘Another Side of Bob Dylan’. There are some fantastic songs on there – ‘My Back Pages’, ‘Chimes of Freedom’, ‘To Ramona’. It was a move away from the protest songs with which he had, much to his displeasure, become associated. But the album I was ultimately most impressed by was ‘Bringing it All Back Home’. This was where he made a big move from acoustic to electric music. Although he had used electric guitars and drums before this, on ‘Bringing it All Back Home’ one whole side of the album was electric, starting with what is, in effect, a beat poem put to music, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ which, in D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary ‘Don’t Look Back’ is the music to what I think is the greatest music video ever made, long before music videos were the mindless accompaniments to music they have become. See what you think…..
Anyway, back to what this post was meant to be about, Dylan at Blackbushe. As I said earlier a few of us decided to get tickets. I can’t remember exactly who went, my memory generally isn’t of the best. It surely can’t have been the alcohol and valium that I was consuming. Christine and I were there, of course and, as far as I can remember, an old school friend of mine called Roy and his wife? girlfriend? companion? There may have been others. We travelled down in, I think, Roy’s camper van. When we got there the place was huge, a massive field surrounded by a fence and then further surrounded by car-parks. I recall later in the day deciding to go back to the van for something and it taking forever to find it.
On the bill, apart from Dylan, were Eric Clapton, Joan Armatrading (a big favourite at the Farmer’s Arms in Lancaster, a fantastic pub run by Eddie and Peggy where all the ‘heads’ and misfits used to gather), Graham Parker and the Rumour and a band called Lake who I’ve never heard of even though I must have heard some of their music on the day. I was going to say I must have seen them but we really didn’t see much of any of the acts, we were hundreds of yards away from the stage and even Dylan, when he eventually came on, was a tiny, tiny man. But it didn’t matter, we were all feeling wonderful (at least I was), and we could hear everything because there were these great speaker stacks spread out across the field.This meant, of course, that we could also hear the delayed sound from other speakers, giving everything a slightly surreal echo. But that only seemed to add to the atmosphere.
One thing I remember which was great fun was that, during Dylan’s performance, helicopters flew overhead and dropped what seemed like thousands of these twirly cardboard helicopters – like cardboard sycamore seeds – and attached to each one was a little round ‘Street Legal’ badge. I did have one but, like many other things, it’s long gone. I found this picture on a site where they are selling memorabilia – they wanted £35 for it. You could make your own for about 10p.
Anyway, it was a long day and, for some reason, on the way back, we stopped in Handsworth in Birmingham. I’m not sure why, but I have the feeling that some relative of one of the people in the van lived there. I don’t remember anything about it except that we went there – there you go, one exciting revelation after another.
It was a great concert and, as far as I know, the biggest audience of Dylan’s career – 200,000. And I was one of them!