The Ballad of Bob Dylan

As I’ve often told it, I was trying on jeans in a shop in Leek, Staffordshire, where I lived at the time, and heard Dylan’s Tweeter and the Monkey Man from the newly-released Traveling Wilburys album on the radio. I bought the album (instead of the jeans) and later that night, trying to remember the song, found myself writing this, almost in one go. Over the years I’ve only made the slightest of edits. It was a gift. Shame about the jeans, though.

Well, he flew in from Miami with a bagful of bones
I was singing in the airport bar, just to pay off some loans
Two sleepless eyes in an unmade face
He saw me at the bar, he said "This must be the place!"
Said he was looking for a room for the night
He said his name was Bob Dylan, I said "Ha ha, right!"

He spent the night at my place on a couple of chairs
In the morning he was up and off and down the stairs
I found him in the marketplace, busking for cash
Playing my guitar in a rough and ready kind of fashion
A voice like a hangover looking for a cure
I said you sound like Bob Dylan, he said "Why sure."

Twenty miles away, high security hospital
They were looking for a guy who’d jumped the wall
They were looking in the streets they were looking in the zoo
No way of knowing what this kind of man might do
They only thing they’d got on him while he was away
Was he was into Bob Dylan in a big big way.

My friend with his busking made a couple of pounds
And with a couple of mine that got a couple of rounds
We sat there reminiscing back down the line
To the sixties, how we hadn’t recognized them at the time
When this guy burst in, grabbed my friend by the sleeve And says ‘I’m Bob Dylan’ – I thought Man, time to leave

They got stuck into each other, I never saw the stranger’s face
Barman’s yelling at me Get these guys outta the place
Spitting out language, they were spitting out blood
It was like watching Cain and Abel, before the flood.
Got out to the street and the stranger was gone
My friend Bob Dylan just picked up his bag of bones

(This is what he told me …)

‘That guy there used to be a country western star
Who put down his roots and never wandered far
With his Jewish mama and five kids on the farm
It had been too damn long since he’d done any harm.
His wife cut his throat, he had to get born again
I got his job, he’s been after me since then.’

What about the bones? He said ‘I carry them with me
They remind me of a guy I knew in 63
He could have been a big shot, I told him back then
But he turned into a junkie – well I ain’t no judge of men.’
That was his tale, as the evening wore on
When I woke up in the night Bob Dylan had gone.

He’d taken my guitar and my cowboy boots
My country singing tie and my country singing suit
Left me his bones, and some kinda book
It might have been a Bible, I never got time to look
‘Cause they kicked down the door, they walked in real slow
They said ‘We’re looking for Bob Dylan’ I said ‘Whaddya know?’

These days I don’t work much, guess I’m past my prime
I’m growing me a beard, that passes the time
I’m living in the country but I’ll get across the wall
When I get a better grip of my short-term recall
Some days I feel bitter, some days I feel worse
I just write another song and play it to the nurse.

© Norman Lamont 1990

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