I just received a copy of the Leek Post and Times (‘read by Leek people since 1870’) for April 13th, which bears, on page 30, this article:
Norman Lamont’s ballad for folk legend Dylan
These days, legendary folk singer Bob Dylan has a leathery,
weathered face that seems to be rather lived-in. So at first glance
you would think there was little in common between Dylan and former
Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont.
But you’d be wrong because a song written by a Scottish namesake
of the ex-Conservative MP has made it onto a Bob Dylan tribute album
– with a little help from our own fair town of Leek.
Singer-songwriter Norman Lamont, who was born in Ayr but now lives
in Edinburgh, takes up the story.
“I lived in Leek on Fernwood Drive from 1987 to 1990. I worked
at Britannia Building Society, and played once or twice at Leek Folk
“ One Saturday afternoon I was buying jeans in a shop in the
town when I heard a Dylan song on the radio, Tweeter and the
Monkey Man from the first Traveling Wilburys album. It was the
first decent Dylan track I’d heard for a long time, so went round the
corner and bought the album.
“That night, I was mucking about on my guitar, trying to
remember that song, which I’d listened to a couple of times by then.
I couldn’t remember it exactly, but this new song just poured out.
“It was a surrealistic story in the Dylan style, and featured
Dylan as a character.
“I wrote it down and polished it up the next day. Then I played
the song at the Leek folk club. A Dylan fan told me it was good but
that I was attacking it too much. He said I needed to relax with it
as Dylan would, which was absolutely right. This was just the key I
needed to make it my signature tune.”
Norman moved to Edinburgh in 1990 and later formed several bands.
But the father-of-two found that whichever lineup he was in, the
Ballad of Bob Dylan was always the most demanded song from audiences.
An American entrepreneur heard his composition and was so
impressed that he invited Norman to put it on a compilation album
entitled Thinking of Bob Dylan, which was sold on the internet.
Norman explained: “I put it on my debut album, The Wolf Who
Snared the Moon, which came out last year. The follow-up album,
Romantic Fiction, will be out, I hope, in May or June.
“I’ve got great affection for Leek and the surrounding country.
I thought it was a lovely place.
“One of my children was born there and we really liked it. I
take a drive back down there whenever I miss being called ‘duck’.”
(Leek Post and Times April 13th 2005)
Leek is certainly a beautiful place – have a look here and here. And the story is true, although I think the first public performance of the song was at Keele University Folk Club rather than Leek; the advice mentioned above was certainly at Leek. It was a quiet week for news – the front page showed a spillage blocking a road for two hours, and a headmistress saying pavement repairs were forcing pupils to walk on the road. Inside we learn that the new estate agent has moved into his office! Three pages of letters featured squabbling between long-time ‘Leekensians’ and upstart incomers, just as it did when I lived there. Reading the whole paper gave me a cosy feeling as if I had never left, and that’s not just sentimentality – it’s a small but fairly affluent town with a strong sense of history and community. Good for Leek. Sure it’s a funny name, but if I had got a different job we came close to living in Slackbottom, Yorks!