Happy 70th Birthday Bob Dylan

The Core Belief

Early January 1987 2:45AM.  A nasty case of the stomach flu hasn’t allowed me sleep.  I need some sleep.  A college recruiter from Wabash College will be meeting me at 7:30 and Mr. Guilmet is giving us a test two hours later that I must pass if I want to maintain my 4.0 in his class.  No luck.  I’m running to the bathroom to vomit and scaring the dog with alarming frequency.  In short, I’m an anxiety-ridden senior in high school mess.

Miles Davis Kind of Blue hadn’t helped.  The Velvet Underground LP hadn’t helped, although I stopped throwing up halfway through “Beginning To See The Light”.  Craving something new or at least something that sounded like my shot nervous system, I put on a record I bought a year earlier but had yet to listen to – Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde.  My English teacher John Shilts had tried to turn me on to Dylan for over a year and a half.  I resisted.  But, I thought this Dylan guy’s voice would be a good match for the pain in my head.

I was right.  The off key trombone on the first track “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35” was enough to wake my dead grandmother 8 miles away.  By the time I got through the third track “Visions of Johanna” I lifted the needle and put on Sketches of Spain.  Who cares about his ex and that broad Louise, I thought.  I had my own problems.  I wanted to get into either Wabash or NYU and take a Hunter S. Thompson symposium.

The college recruiter was impressed by dedication and perseverance.  I got into Wabash.  Although I failed the exam, damn IGI’s (Identify and Give the Importance), Mr. Guilmet gave me a retest and averaged the grades there by keeping my grade as a 3.79.  I got it back up to a 4.0 later in the term.

I blamed Dylan.

9 months later, Howard Sauertieg played “Visions of Johanna” for me after we tried and failed to cop on Ave. A.  (I wore a sweater and freshly pressed slacks.  The dealers all thought I was a Cop.)  The dealers were selling pot and ‘Rain,’ a brand name for some sort of heroin.  It was then I realized when Louise was holding her hand full of rain in front of the narrator of the song it wasn’t some sort of symbol.  It was in fact smack. On when the movie in Technicolor; this wasn’t some whining lost love song, this was one mean spirited swipe at a junkie longing for his ex while his current woman is denying him his fix.  And the story is set to a stately arrangement of a haunting melody.

11 months later, “Visions of Johanna” was the song I played over and over and over again, annoying the hell out of the Old Man, my friends and everyone else in my immediate vicinity.  It remains my favorite song to this day and Dylan remains my favorite songwriter.  Proof positive, along with Albert Einstein, the Marx Brothers, Hank Greenberg and Yaphet Kotto that nice Jewish boys and girls don’t have to be doctors and lawyers.

Happy 70th Bob and thanks for all the great music.






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