I existed in a hermetically sealed world when I worked as Melody Maker’s American Editor, based in New York, between 1973 and 1977. I was going to gigs three or four nights a week, writing all hours of the day, mixing only with fellow music writers, musicians and industry types. I didn’t really know anyone outside the music industry apart from the neighbour I’d see collecting her mail in the lobby of our building or the man at the newsagents where I picked up yesterday’s British newspaper. In 1975 I didn’t think much about the fuel crisis, the Irish Troubles or even the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. World affairs didn’t concern me. I dwelt on where The Who were headed after the loss of momentum in 1974, or what David Bowie would look like the next time I saw him, or who was going to replace Mick Taylor in the Stones.
It came as something of a shock, therefore, when one day in New York the phone rang and the girl from IPC whose task it was to relay telex messages informed me that MM editor Ray Coleman wanted me to cover the ‘Bob Die Lon’ tour – the Rolling Thunder Revue as it turned out.
“Who?” I asked.
“Bob Die Lon.”
“Never heard of him.”
So immersed in rock was I that it never occurred to me in my wildest dreams that an American not much younger than me could be so unfamiliar with Bob Dylan as to be unable to pronounce his name correctly, as if it rhymed with ‘nylon’. To me this was like being unable to count to ten, or recite the alphabet. Never having previously heard Dylan’s name pronounced in this fashion, I was genuinely mystified as to the identity of the artist whose tour Ray wanted me to cover.
“Can you spell it?” I asked.
“You mean Dylan,” I responded incredulously, pronouncing it correctly.
“Oh, that’s how you say it,” she replied. “Who is he?”
“Well,” I began, amazed that this young woman had never even heard of Bob Dylan, “he’s a songwriter and singer and he’s written some of the greatest, most famous songs in rock and he’s a legend because of his lyrics and…”
“Is he any good?” she interrupted.
The hermetic seal was momentarily broken. So there were people out there who didn’t give a fig about rock. Interesting…