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Sunday, October 30, 2005

no direction home

No Direction Home

I have rented the 2-disc Scorsese DVD on Dylan, which is riveting and has me pausing and fumbling for my own guitar before immediately resuming viewing.

The footage is remarkable and I gaze fascinated at the big names they've tracked down, from Dave von Ronk and Maria Muldaur to a rheumy eyed Ginsberg and some wonderful early Joan Baez.

My first album was Freewheelin' followed by his fresh-faced, crisply engineered album of the Guthrie song, 'Man of Constant Sorrow' and 'House of the Rising Sun'.

I hadn't even acquired a capo d'astro at that time, but did so. Years hence, it was pointed out to me that the 1st to 3rd frets were the original rose-wood dark, and all those above were scratched and nailed.

dylan coverI vaguely knew that Dylan had taken von Ronk's genius chording on "Sun" but had not realised that DvR had had his own plans for the song and asked Dylan *not* to use it on the album. He did, ever after which it was impossible for Dave to play his own version without accusations of having stolen it from Bob.

Wonderful rotting-toothed cackle as Ronk recounted how Dylan later found it equally difficult to play it without being told he'd plagiarized from the Burdon/Animals rendering.

And what a great sound The Band gave him.

dylanAnd what arse-holes those pathetic north-of-England "fans" come across with their nasal whinings of complaint over Dylan's 'selling out'.

Honestly, the English accent is positively the *least* attractive and convincing in which to grizzle.

I'm saved the need to further comment by knowing there's a real danger of Richard "Curry-'n'-Rice" Wells reading my burblings.

dylan at pianoRichard is a walking encyclopedia on Zimmerman, but in a mature, sharing unboring way.

The morning after I'd seen that movie - oh, what *is* its name? - I tentatively mentioned it to Richard and his first comment was exactly what had struck me:

That utterly bizarre scene (again up north) when Dylan is virtually summoned from his room down to meet the Lady Mayor and her trembling son.

Five foot nothing, jutting jaw, her cut-glass accent would have done a member of royalty proud, but what strikes one is Dylan's extreme gentleness and courtesy to this pushy crone's intrusion on his private moments: just standing there and deferring, when her would have been perfectly justified in extracting the mickey in the most churlish way.

Possibly a propos of this, my brother told me a tale of the Beatles' visit to the Philippines that I wish had been recorded for posterity.

Also relaxing, the Mopheads were suddenly summoned to a dinner with First Lady Imelda Marcos.

Back went the message to stuff it, at which the vicious harpie straightway took herself and all Manila's media to the children's ward of the local hospital where she was filmed surrounded by pathetic specimens, asking teary-eyed to camera how could anyone be so heartless and who did they think they were, etc.

Come their planned departure next day, it was clear that the lads were going to face some opposition reaching the airport in one piece.

My brother was Food & Bev manager of the hotel and had got to know them well enough during his efforts to make their stay comfortable. The appeal went out for help.

I've never enquired too closely into Busker frère's colleagues but you get to reach and keep that sort of job in a corruption-riddled town without mussing a few coiffures and acquiring a rolodex of muscle.

No sane cab company would take the band, so Pete called in a favor from some relaxing hard case soldiers of mercenary, explaining what was needed, assuring them of carte blanche  in *how* they got there, and no doubt offering copious hospitality in return.

These were guys whose lives had depended on driving murky heads of state safely and whose vehicular skills made those professional drivers in adverts look like my Aunt Vic on her daily jaunt in the Morris Minor to the local library.

As Pete later told it, the over-weight thugs commissioned by Imelda to run interference were left baffled by the level of skill and sheer malevolence they came up against in what they'd been thinking would be some easy fun: instead of running the Liverpudlian off the road, it was *they* who found themselves rammed and butted by alarmingly weighted military-style vehicles, not to mention the support convoy that seemed to block their every efforts to even get close.

"I'm not sure," said Pete, "because they never found the tyre - if you know what I mean - but I think they had a shooter in one of jeeps, firing through the boot (shades of the Washington DC sniper) that sent one of them off the bridge. After which, they kept their distance, all the while waving and threatening out the window for the chopper news crew whose footage would of course be seen by Madame who would judge the vigor of their efforts and "reward" them accordingly.

Speaking of safe distances, when Pete worked in the kitchen, he got to know Imelda's tasters.

"What do you think the First Lady is eating tonight?"

"I reckon a burger, coke and all those french fries."

As the real dish went out: "Don't you want to taste it?"

"You crazy? It could be poisoned."


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