The second most amazing concert I never saw was Bob Dylan at the Stockholm Concert Hall. The date was April 29, 1966. I was seventeen at the time.
Here was my dilemma. The price of the ticket was more or less the same as the price for his new double album, Blonde on Blonde. I wanted both, of course, but could afford only the one. And here my half-baked logic spelled this out: the concert is over after an hour or two, but I can keep the album (yes, it was a double album to boot) forever. I decided to buy the album instead.
Then, as if fate was working overtime to rattle me, two days before the concert, it came knocking on my door in the shape of a female friend who just happened to have two tickets to the Dylan concert, would I like to go with her.
Well, sure, of course. Wow.
Oh, but wait, she needed me to pay for my ticket, now. She was short of cash and needed the money.
Ah, well, you see, I’m flat broke now—after buying Blonde on Blonde, so, no, afraid not, sorry.
Oh, well, she shrugged and said, well I know that you love the guy so I thought.
I know, I know, but no can do, I’m afraid.
I don’t think she really believed her ears, and neither can I believe my current ears listening to myself turning down an opportunity to see my hero these fifty-three years (fifty-three years!!) later. I could have found the money somehow, I’m sure I could borrow from someone as I always seemed to manage—but, then again, perhaps I was all borrowed out by now.
Bottom line, I played Blonde on Blonde a lot and never made it to the concert, which my friend told me about the next time we met.
And here is where I wonder if fate had not been kind to me after all: turns out that Dylan had been very bad-mannered and insolent at the concert, cussing the crowd at times and in general lost more fans than he gained. It was as if he just didn’t give a damn, said my friend.
Sometimes when someone’s child has died a not so pretty death, the police cautions the parents that perhaps they should have someone else identify the body so that they could keep a nicer last memory of their child. One not mutilated.
That’s a parallel. After my friend left, I wondered to myself if seeing Dylan live would not have destroyed my wonderfully elevated image of him completely, and in fact made me hate him. Perhaps I was very, very lucky to not have been subjected to Dylan’s 1966 rants and raves. Perhaps that would allow me to keep my image of my hero intact. Well, intact-ish anyway.
And truth be told, a week or two later, still listening to Blonde on Blonde, I still revered the man. My prior image indeed intact, and still elevated.
An awful lot of water has flowed under the Dylan bridge since then. There was his motorcycle accident and then his falling backwards into country with John Wesley Harding and his inexplicable (to me) Nashville Skyline which had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the Dylan I revered. His accident must have affected his brain, severely, was my explanation at the time.
Well, he still tours, fifty-three years later. He still matters, they say. I really don’t know that he does, I’ve lost both touch and track of his comings and doings. Still, I wish now that I had in fact seen him that spring in 1966, for then I could place that memory next to my Pink Floyd one (had I seen them) on the mantel piece of missed opportunities.