Bob Dylan was the topic of conversation at the bar when I arrived at a Yorkshire Dales village pub yesterday lunchtime. The young barman had seen Dylan live at a gig in Spain recently. I’d seen him at Hop Farm Festival, Kent in 2010 on a scorching July day, heading a line – up which included Seasick Steve, Laura Marling, Mumford and Sons and, unforgettably, Pete Docherty. We agreed Dylan was “past it” as a performer. We’d both had the same experience: muddy- sounding vocals, Dylan’s face shaded by a black brimmed hat, no close – ups of Dylan on the digital big screens. In fact, said the barman, I couldn’t be sure it even was Bob Dylan I was seeing.
The barstool raconteur, who’d started this particular riff by unwisely asserting that the barman was too young to know Bob Dylan, had an even bigger and better Dylan gig experience to tell. He claimed that not only was he in the audience at the now infamous concert at Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1966 when Dylan’s switch to electric sparked fury among fans; but also he was sitting on the very same row as the historic heckler, allegedly a Canadian called Keith Butler, who uttered the catcall “Judas”, and evoked from Dylan a direct riposte and a stunningly loud and enthralling climax to the set. Who knows if the barstool bragger really did witness that iconic moment in rock history; but the story of Bob Dylan isn’t over yet, and promises to be a never – ending one as long as his millions of fans enjoy talking about almost as much as they do listening to him.