Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Dylan in the Isle of Wight

Full report on the Beatle visit to the big August Happening

The boys have been admirers of Bob Dylan for a long time now. Nobody's quite sure whent hey first became conscious of his compelling songs with their searching lyrics, but it was soon after they themselves became international stars.


They were first introduced by Al Aronowitz in 1964 in New York during their first U.S. trip, and the mercurial Beatles hit it off very quickly with the slow-talking American folk-singer. They had both changed their image somewhat to get noticed and they all soon became close friends.

George and Mal Evans met Bob in 1968 and stayed with him in his home in Woodstock on Thanksgiving Day and the rest of the week. Mal sums up Dylan by recalling the line from Julia which goes: "Half of what I say is meaningless, Julia." As Mal explains: "Dylan doesn't bother to say the half that's meaningless."

There have been regular meetings ever since so it was only natural that George should get in touch with Bob as soon as he heard that he was coming over for his Isle of Wight concert.


Like the Beatles, Dylan has always worked very hard to keep his private life hidden from the harsh spotlight of publicity and newspaper photographers and reporters. He is really just a normal family man, loves his four kids and prefers to spend his time at home--a big rambling house in Woodstock.

George arranged to meet Dylan at London Airport and was told by the airline that the 'plane would be 40 minutes late. So he and Mal got to the airport around a quarter to nine, only to find that the 'plane had arrived 15 minutes earlier. TWA had whisked Bob and his wife Sarah through the special services block and away in a car long before George had even got to the airport.


Dylan went straight to his farmhouse in the Isle of Wight. On Tuesday, August 26, George rang Mal at his home and said: "I'm driving down to see Bob on the Isle of Wight -- do you want to come?" Mal immediately chucked a few things into a case and dashed off to meeting George, and they drove down to Portsmouth together.

Mal had a bit of an accident while they were in Portsmouth. George and he went into a milk bar to get a cup of tea and whilst they were waiting to be served, Mal decided to go back to the car and check that everything was alright. When he opened the boot, he hit his head against the corner and cut himself quite badly.


He was in a lot of pain and wanted to wash the blood off the cut so he walked back into the cafe and aimed straight for the first door which seemed to say "washroom" or "toilet". He went in, washed the cut and then, when he was drying his face, began to realise that he was in the "wrong" small room. He beat a hasty retreat and as he came out a woman who was sitting at a nearby table gave him a very odd look. He turned round to check and, sure enough, the sign on the door said "Ladies".

Met by Bob

When they arrived in the Isle of Wight they were met by Bob and the man who originally introduced them, Al Aronowitz. They stayed with Bob Dylan on Tuesday night and came back to Esher on Wednesday evening.

Patti and George returned to the Isle of Wight on Thursday and Mal and his wife, Lil, and their two children drove down on Friday and stayed at a local hotel.

John and Ringo also wanted to see the show, but they had worked out a new and trouble-free method of transport.

It's very simple. All they did was to ring up and order two helicopters to appear in the sky over their houses at a certain time. Then they just sat back until the appointed hour came round, taking things easy, waiting for the helicopter pilots to put their machines down in their back gardens.


Then John and Ringo and Maureen and Yoko, of course, climbed aboard their private sky-birds and were lofted up over the south of England to the Isle of Wight.

Mal and George knew they were coming, of course, and duly collected some sheets which they laid out on the ground so that the pilot would know where to land. They also waved at the helicopters when they came clattering into view.

The only trouble was that pretty well every other visitor to the Isle of Wight had the same idea. They all had tents, sheets and blankets lying all over the place and they also liked waving at the odd helicopter which appeared over them, so the poor pilot got a bit confused for a time as to precisely which group of waving people on the ground was the right one.


But both pilots quickly got their bearings, landed, and Ringo and Maureen, John and Yoko hurried off to Bob's house to meet him.

Bob Dylan had taken over Forehands Farm in Bembridge and, contrary to expectations, the Beatles and the Dylans got down to a good game of tennis. This was followed by a unique jam session in the farm barn where Bob had been rehearsing for the previous four days with his Band.

Bob told the party that he had not intended to do more than his normal 60 minute show and claimed that the rumours that were put about that he was due to appear for three hours were just that--rumours!

Great Show

When he finally made it on to the stage his performance was a knockout! The Beatles thought that his singing was absolutely beautiful and that Dylan and the Band really got it together.

It was marred by one or two unfortunate incidents. The Press, as usual, got in the way and lots of photographers at the front stood up and started taking shots when he first appeared on stage. Quite naturally, the people behind got very annoyed by having their view of the stage obscured and so they started chucking beer cans at the Press to make them sit down.


After the concert was over, Bob and the Beatles went back to the farm and they all had a party.

John and Ringo came home by 'plane on Monday. The rest of the party hired a hovercraft.

Bob Dylan seems to delight in teasing reporters and photographers who worry him constantly. He has only recently, of course, made it known that he is married. The Beatles must have envied his ability to keep the secret for so long.

He also goes to great lengths to avoid photos of him being taken with his wife, but he was not completely successful during this visit and many of the national papers did carry pictures of Bob Dylan in dark glasses with his wife Sarah.

Beatle fans may be interested in knowing what Sarah is like. Apparently she is very similar to Bob. Very quiet, doesn't say a lot. Mal Evans describes her as "a really sweet person".

Will the Beatles follow Dylan's example and give an open-air concert of their own in some suitable location? The answer, for the moment, seems to be definitely no.

The boys all agree that Dylan and the Stones have given really marvellous performances and that their concerts have gone off tremendously well, but they still believe that it is not the sort of thing that they should do at this time.

Big Crowd

If, however, they change their mind, then I am absolutely certain that they would have the biggest crowd ever and also that there would be two old friends there in the audience to see them -- Bob and Sarah Dylan.

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