It is well known that Bob Dylan has a reputation for misanthrope. It can be explained, true, by the enormous devotion that aroused in the sixties, as a generational guru. Those were bad times for social leaders: remember the assassinations of the Kennedys, Malcolm X, or Martin Luther King. Bob decided to disappear in the mountains, back in Woodstock.
Back in public life, to stop deification, Dylan perfected a particular style of verbal communication: ironic, cutting, tangential. its management He takes steps to avoid conversations with strangers while on tour, but Bob rations words even when summoning musicians for rehearsals or recordings.
A little book entitled Encounters with Bob Dylan collects about fifty collisions between the artist and his followers. The result tends to be hilarious, be it relatively famous people or ordinary citizens. Missing, yes, the most legendary of encounters. Its protagonist is known as Dave The plumber. In the background, Dylan’s friendship with Dave Stewart, half of the Eurythmics and very active musician on his own. Stewart and Bob met in Los Angeles in the mid-eighties and hit it off. The Englishman invited him to visit his recording studio the next time he was in London.
In London the story begins. Dylan asks a taxi driver to take him to the address Stewart gave him. When he reaches the door, he is answered by a kind woman: “Is Dave there?” “No, but come back soon. Come wait for him ”. By mistake, you’ve called the home of a plumber named… Dave. Which appears a while later. And he asks: “Any notice?” She responds: “No, but Bob Dylan is waiting in the living room, having tea.”
Perfect combination: Dylan’s laconicism and English imperturbability. So appetizing that it inspired a short film, Bob Dylan: Knockin’ on Dave’s door, which was broadcast on the Sky Arts channel.
Its authors were cured in health: it was part of a series entitled Urban myths. The defenders of the veracity of the story have an explanation. The Church, Dave Stewart’s studio, is an unmistakable building, a desecrated church, at 145 Crouch Hill. Surely, believers allege, the taxi driver took him to Crouch End Hill or Crouch Hall, nearby streets. Hmmm. To get the license, future taxi drivers were required to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the London street map; they would hardly make that mistake. Furthermore, neither in Crouch End Hill nor in Crouch Hall does the number 145 exist.
Besides, nobody confirms the anecdote: Dave has never materialized The plumber or his wife. And they don’t speak Dylan or Stewart. There were certainly collaborations between the two: Stewart has recorded half-done songs that sound eminently Dylanian. The Englishman also insisted that Dylan lose his fear of making promotional videos and took him to the streets of London.
If you know the clip from Blood In My Eyes, you know it contains extraordinary things. And I don’t mean Dylan’s outfit, with gloves and a top hat. What is striking is that Bob signs autographs, takes pictures with pedestrians, talks in cafes. As if he’s trying to show he’s not exactly sullen. Theater, pure theater.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.