Forever Young

Bob Dylan

Friends raved about the Red Bluff show—"old rock ‘n’ roll,” Dylan commandeering a piano. I had “visions of Bob” at a spinet in his white shirt and black blazer with shades, playing like Jerry Lee Lewis in a barn full of sawdust and little tweed Tremolux amps while bats flew over the hills in a magenta haze, but this was Sacramento and the real world.

As we entered the old theater (like a giant Chico Women’s Club, with red drapes, Corinthian columns, chandeliers and gold filigree), I felt like a junior-high doofus at the noon dance in the multipurpose room, edging forward to fawn at the feet of a high school combo that could cop any lick.

Stranger still, Dylan was “covering” his own songs (along with Don Henley’s “End of the Innocence” and the Stones’ “Brown Sugar") as though he didn’t write them. The lyrics were appliqué over swampy blues grooves, riffs and “vamps” that loosely followed the changes of the originals. This method is guitar solo friendly and cuts down on mistakes.

The frail and stoic elder rock statesman resembled Frank Lloyd Wright, Norman Rockwell and Sam Fuller; he was flanked by cocky young soap-opera-faced flamboyants in shark-skin. The new drummer’s urgent ‘80s bombast gave the band a “Dire-Fleetwood” sound with a hint of Dick Dale. This pleased the KVIE pledge-break-faced blue-hairs and dosed hippie dervishes alike, but it clashed with the disembodied Love and Theft-style vocals, as did the copious reverb. Dylan’s Korg synth/piano stylings proved a distraction to his phrasing, so I mentally beseeched him to man the guitar and do solos. He looked right at me (I was wearing a fedora), grinned like the Buddha, and did just that for the remainder of the mesmerizing set!

He must have read the new Neil Young bio, wherein Neil praises Dylan’s guitar playing and electric transgressions, because he was pulling a “Crazy Horse": Guitarist Charlie Sexton had two Epiphone archtops with Bigsby tailpieces that created Young’s trademark Gretsch sound, and Dylan aped his style at times (Dylan even covered Young’s “Old Man"), but it was Dylan’s solos that drew the most applause of the evening, amazing us all!

I had a demo tape for Bob, but I wasn’t going to leave it with a concession man, and I felt unworthy, as the "Old Man" was perhaps a demi-god. I was still in junior high.