Matthew R. Perrine: Like a born-again Dylan fanatic, Pt. 1*
"If you're really a Dylan buff, I mean tuned right into the stereo microgrooves of his soul, you'll get a kick out of this." With those words, Toby Thompson launched "Positively Main Street," his almost-mythic account of Bob Dylan's formative yea...
"If you're really a Dylan buff, I mean tuned right into the stereo microgrooves of his soul, you'll get a kick out of this."
With those words, Toby Thompson launched "Positively Main Street," his almost-mythic account of Bob Dylan's formative years in Hibbing.
That line might just be one of the most important ones ever written -- to me, at least.
See, I was recently in the sadly misinformed camp that thinks, If Dylan doesn't care about us, why should we care about him? (The "us" meaning residents of either Duluth, his birthplace, or Hibbing, his hometown.)
But no longer; Thompson's book helped me realize that, if any one of us had been in Dylan's shoes during his time in Hibbing, we really wouldn't hold his "disparaging remarks" about the town against him.
Before Dylan even had a chance to turn his back on his hometown, its residents already had: "... People would laugh and hoot at Bob, and I'd just sit there embarrassed, almost crying," Echo Helstrom, Dylan's 11th-grade girlfriend (and most certainly the inspiration for Dylan's 1963 classic "Girl From the North Country"), told Thompson about the legendary troubadour's infamous performance at Hibbing High's Jacket Jamboree Talent Festival.
This story was corroborated elsewhere in "Positively Main Street" by Dylan's junior high music teacher, Val Peterson.
"So when the curtain rises, there's Bob and the group, with not only their own sound equipment up full, but the entire school amplification system as well," Thompson wrote, paraphrasing Peterson's account. To combat all this raw power, the school principal rushed backstage midway through the first song and cut Dylan's mikes. "Anyway, Bob finishes his set and stalks offstage; amid shocked and indignant laughter, at music these villagers have never heard the likes of ... and Bob's voice. A garbled howl -- they chuckle. Sure wasn't singing, guffaw. Bob didn't speak to anyone at school for days."
Now, does this sound like a place you'd run back to with open arms?
Didn't think so.
And what about Duluth? How do we honor our most famous native son? By putting up road signs bearing his likeness all along Michigan Street ... save for the tips of this "cultural pathway," one of the most decrepit throughways in the entire city.
I hate to rag on the Bob Dylan Way people too much -- because at least they're doing something to recognize Mr. Zimmerman -- but it just seems like the most ill-conceived way to honor someone. Just think about it: If the citizens of the city you just happened to be born in -- not even the hometown that shaped and molded you -- decided to honor you in such a manner, how would you feel? Would you jump up and down with joy? Not quite.
*Check out the accompanying link for part two of this "amazing journey."