Bringing It All Back Home
Bob Dylan at Slane - The music, the magic, the mayhem and so much more...
Niall Stokes, 27 Jul 1984
Bono and Ali had just been sitting talking with him. In one of those caravans - how could Dylan remain concealed in a caravan? You'd expect him to shine through the thin walls like they were transparent! Bono had given Dylan a copy of Flan O'Brien's The Third Policeman and Dylan had given Bono and hour he would never forget. In this business, meeting heroes can become passe, blase - Tom Waits bought me a drink, Paul Weller shared a sandwich with me - but Bono's eyes were shining.
"If someone had told you six years ago, in school, that you'd get a chance to meet and exchange views with Bob Dylan, you wouldn't have been able to believe them", I said. He just grinned. We were chatting on the lawn in a small group when I noticed someone had sidled up beside him, someone old, slightly flabby, his black coat hanging open, his bare chest and face covered in hideous, thick orange make-up, his baggy eyes marked by thick black mascara. "Why don't we just get a photo taken here", he said in a low, drawling, stoned-sounding voice as he put an arm around Bono and a diminutive girl from MTV. Bob Dylan!
The earth didn't move, time didn't stand still. It never does. He looked paunchy, wrinkled like an old orange peach, not altogether with it. I didn't know whether my heart should be leaping or sinking. I guess you forget that even the more human are only human really. "He looks so old", I said to Alison and two young Jewish-American guys I assumed were from MTV.
"Sometimes I think heroes should always be kept at a distance, you know? Real people aren't heroic enough!" The two MTV guys just looked at me blankly. As Dylan moved off and and a gathering entourage followed, Alison started laughing. "You were dropping enough clangers there" she said'. "Those were Dylan's sons you were talking to!"
Dylan was somewhere in the distance, strapping on a guitar, beginning to look mean, beginning to look alert, beginning to look heroic.
Taking a long tracking shot from the top of the crowded hill to the back of the stage; how the scene shifts! There's fifty thousand people in accelerating stages of exultation as you get closer to the man himself. At the front, they're crammed together in a shouting, sticky, sweating t-shirt mass. Across the thin fence five feet in front of the stage roadies in blue Dylan Tour shirts drag the faint and fainted. The activity is frantic but under control, muscles bulge, chests expand as they lightly pass each unconscious form to the St. John's Ambulance Brigade. The prettier and more scantily dressed girls are allowed to remain in front with the burly crew but everyone else is ferried hurriedly under the stage on stretchers, revived with water by the hard working and over dressed Brigade and escorted out into the crowd by backstage security.