His name is Robert Allen Zimmerman and for almost a half-century he has, through his words and music, been a hero of mine.
So many of my musical heroes have sadly left us for the great stage in the sky over the years: Buddy Holly, age 22, died in 1959, Eddie Cochran, age 21, died in 1960, Gene Vincent, age 36, died in 1971, Elvis Presley, age 42, died in 1977, Bill Haley, age 55, died in 1981, Roy Orbison, age 52, died in 1988 and Del Shannon, age 50, died in 1990. All these giants of popular music influenced my life from my teenage years to this very day.
Growing up and listening to Radio Luxembourg, hearing Bill Haley and his Comets for the very first time in 1955 on my pal Granton Burrow’s transistor radio in the Primet Secondary schoolyard, we both went berserk!
Later came the sounds of Buddy Holly and the Crickets from J.P. Hey’s music shop at 30 Albert Road; then in the mid-Sixties with my dear wife-to-be Ruth, walking hand-in-hand up Alkincoats Park as Alan Freeman’s “Pick of the Pops” echoed all around with the magical voice of Roy Orbison.
However, today with so many musical legends gone, I’m happy to report a true hero of mine since 1962 reached the milestone age of three score years and ten! Take a bow on your 70th Mr Zimmerman - known to the world as the one and only Bob Dylan! Yes, that’s Bob on the left smiling out in this week’s picture and on the right, circa early 1963, is a 19-year-old “Yours Truly”, proudly showing off my new Bob Dylan LP (His first bought for 32 shillings and two pence - £1.61) from the Almaine Record Shop at 34 Market Street - and I’ve still got it!
Bob Dylan is, without doubt, the most eventful and singular artist to ever record music.
His extraordinary and breath-taking lyrics have been equalled by no one and songs such as “Blowing in the Wind”, “The Times They are A-changing”, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (the first pop video), “Mr Tambourine Man”, “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Desolation Row”, “Visions of Johanna”, “Positively 4th Street” and so many more are the work of a genius.
So why is our column this week paying tribute to a living legend as normally we feature local people and places from yesteryear? Well, it’s back to 1963 and later in the year, I’ve now bought Bob’s second album which was titled “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”; its songs became known everywhere as original and unique. By November, I’m working as the first barman at the new Shepherds Arms Hotel in Colne (opened at 7 p.m. on Friday, November 8th).
I’m running the middle bar and head waiter is the dapper and likeable Jack Valentine. The day after President Kennedy’s tragic death, I’m busy bottling up behind the bar when in walks my good friend and colleague Jackie Val (as everyone called him) with tremendous news!
“Geoff, I’ve just heard Bob Dylan’s coming down the “Imp”!
This was magical, the Beatles had appeared twice at the Imperial Ballroom in Nelson in 1963 - but Bob Dylan! For days, local fans of Bob held their breath - then came the news that Bob’s manager, Albert Grossman, had vetoed a British tour! My great pal Jackie Val sang Bob Dylan songs to me behind the bar right up to new year 1964.