Interview

On The Road With Dylan!

On The Road With Dylan!

HOW THE ALARM CAME TO TOUR WITH BOB…

“We played the whole of that summer, about 30 dates. We were being managed by Elliott Roberts – who’s managed Neil Young and Bob Dylan – and Jeff Kramer, Elliott’s assistant. At the end of the tour Jeff became Bob’s manager. We were invited on the tour cos Elliott and Jeff had been telling Bob about The Alarm, that we came from Wales and played acoustic guitars and had this element of folk rock which was buried in there somewhere, and he liked what he was told about us and what he heard, and he invited us on the tour. There was no real fee – our fee was negotiable. There was definitely haggling over the fees, especially as we were managed by the same guy. We took what we got. But we would’ve played for nothing because to play with Dylan was such a great honour for us.”

THE FIRST NIGHT…

“The first night of the tour was in California, in the Concord Pavilion not too far from San Francisco, on Tuesday, June 7 1988. Neil Young came onstage. I can’t remember what he played, maybe ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ or ‘All Along The Watchtower’. I’d never seen Bob Dylan before, but the reason I played the acoustic guitar and the harmonica in The Alarm was because of Dylan. To be on tour with him was beyond fantasy for me. I was so awed to be at the gig, and I had a backstage pass, but just to make sure I experienced it in the way I wanted to do as a Bob Dylan fanatic, I bought tickets too and I sat in the front row and watched the gig. It was brilliant to be there. I remember being quite awed going onstage for the first time because we’d never really played to an audience that was that sort of analytical. They weren’t going to be standing up and pogoing up and down like they’d done when we played with U2 and Simple Minds and Big Country. Our reaction had always been very physical. This was the first tour we’d played where the audience were sitting down throughout the show. It changed us as a band. We started bringing out more of the folk element, which took us on to the Change album. I like do think he was coming on and we’d shaken the audience up a bit, appealed to their baser instincts.”

MAKING FRIENDS WITH DYLAN…

“We put an acoustic section in the set, and he started coming out to the side of the stage to watch us. I think he was digging it. He was enjoying the contrasts. I think he liked having these young bands. He started to become a bit intrigued by us. He probably thought we were like young pups with lots of enthusiasm. I got to know him. He liked to converse about the culture of Wales and to talk about poets he was aware of from Wales, the obvious one being Dylan Thomas. Because our tour was being run by the same people running Bob’s, we were all booked into the same hotel. It was quite a funky tour. It wasn’t what you’d imagine. He didn’t like staying in fancy hotels. He’s got an aversion to air conditioning. He prefers to stay in hotels where he can open the windows. There’s those classic 60s pictures of him diving into swimming pools – well, he was definitely in the swimming phase. We were often staying in those 1970s American motels that had the swimming pool outside and the little reception and the sort of rooms his vehicle could be driven up to so we could walk up to his room and no one would see him. We’d be swimming in the pool and the next minute he’d come out and dive in and do a few lengths and that’s where some of our conversations took place, just in the pool. He’s quite a secretive person and doesn’t really open up, but he’s a very pleasant man when you do have the time of day with him and when his guard is down a little bit. He became more relaxed with us. He was great, a really nice guy. He didn’t do soundchecks at that time. If he came in while we were playing, he’d come up on the side of the desk and have a look.”

DYLAN’S SECRECY…

“There was this guy Victor Malmudes who was just Bob’s mate. We never were quite sure what he did. One day Bob didn’t come down for his usual swim. Victor said, ‘He’s got a bit of a cold.’ The next day we were by the pool and Bob comes down for a swim and Nigel Twist [Alarm drummer] said, ‘How are you feeling today, Bob?’ He goes, ‘What do you mean?’ Twist said, ‘Victor said you had a cold.’ Bob said, ‘Did he?’ and that was it. He carried on swimming. That evening Victor was sent home off the tour for giving away personal information. He was banished for three days, and then he came back.”

ON THE ROAD…

“All sorts of people were coming to the shows. Jack Nicholson came to the Greek Theatre in LA. President Carter turned up at the gig in Atlanta. He was sat in the front of the gig. Behind him were all the executive people of Atlanta, and they all brought their dinner to the show. We [Alarm and Dylan camps] all got on fantastically well on the tour. It was a summer tour, most of the shows were outdoors and we were having barbeques and playing soccer in the field behind the stage, and I think Bob Dylan just enjoyed the carnival atmosphere we brought to proceedings. We did treat it as a holiday. It rubbed off on the crew and the people around him.”

SINGING ONSTAGE WITH DYLAN…

“One night Elliott comes into the dressing room before our show in Santa Barbara and said, ‘Bob wants you to come up onstage and play guitar on “Knocking On Heaven’s Door”.’ GE Smith, who was playing guitar for him on that tour, said to me, ‘Bob won’t introduce you, but you’ll hear the chords and that’s your cue to come onstage.’ I was stood at the side of the stage terrified. I heard the opening chords, walked out and then a couple of seconds later the drums have kicked in and there I am onstage. In the second verse Dylan calls me forward and asks me to take the second verse, pushing me forward – ‘Get on the microphone, start singing.’ Then he came on the microphone beside me and there I am cheek to cheek with Bob Dylan. It was pretty amazing duetting the song with him. It was a great climax to the show. The next night in San Diego, which was the last night for us, he said how much he’d really enjoyed having us and he said, ‘I really enjoyed singing with you last night. Why don’t you do “Heaven’s Door” with me tonight?’ GE said it was the same deal. I was stood in the wings waiting to come on and I thought, ‘This is something else – it’s in a minor key.’ And then he sang the first line and he’d totally rewritten the song, and it was in D minor. The first night I’d played it, it was the classic G, D, A minor, G, D, C. Now we’re playing D Minor, F and C, some really weird version that was almost unrecognisable. I think he likes to challenge everybody that he meets, to see whether you can stay with him or collapse under the pressure.”


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