BOB AND 9/11
Bob Dylan releases a brand new album on September 11.
That was an entertainment headline in all major news media eleven years ago, and it happens to be one again.
His Bobness releases “Tempest”, his thirty-fifth album, today, September 11 2012, a Tuesday. The last time a Tuesday release of a new Bob Dylan album fell on this date in September, it wasn’t as auspicious as it is now, and the world was a different place.
A Tuesday in America is ‘release day’. Everything new in the entertainment industry is released into stores on a Tuesday. Tuesday, September 11 2001, was scheduled to be the release of “Love and Theft”, Bob’s long-awaited and highly-anticipated follow up to his Grammy-winning ‘comeback’ of 1997, the Daniel Lanois-produced “Time Out Of Mind”. The industry hype was in full gear, and the expectation was palpable.
I was at the front end of many years of touring in America, and to say I was excited about the release of a new Bob album is an understatement. Bob Dylan means more to me than almost any other artist other than The Beatles. His “Time Out Of Mind” had already accompanied me around America once, and “Love and Theft”, (the only Bob album to have a title in inverted comma’s, as in “ ‘Love and Theft’ “), was going to be the first time I had gone into a record store and bought a Bob Dylan album on the day of its release.
In between tours, my band had flown back to South Africa briefly in August 2001 for a short ‘holiday’. We booked our return tickets to the US for September 9, flying through Charles de Gaulle and landing in JFK in the evening of September 10. 897 time zones later, we finally put our bags down in our midtown hotel rooms and collapsed early in the evening with jet lag.
Tomorrow, for me: Bob Dylan day. A short walk over to the HMV on 5th Avenue and I would have the new Dylan album in my hands. Then I would take other members of the band up the World Trade Center to show them the view I had seen from up there in early August.
The rest, literally, is history.
The world-shaking events of September 11 2001 closed all the stores in Manhattan within a matter of minutes. Mid-morning, in a fog, I walked over to that HMV on 5th, dollars in hand, wondering if I could still get Dylan.
Through the glass doors, I could see the front-end displays full of copies of “Love and Theft”, but the world had been put on pause.
I managed to get my copy a few days later in another part of America. I don’t quite remember where. We were all so dazed by the events of that day, and by the fact that we had been at the center of this cataclysm.
Needless to say, “Love and Theft” turned out to be brilliant, and confirmed that we were in another new era of Dylan-ness, this time a reinvention of himself as a haggard whiskey-soaked river-boat gambler with a voice to match, telling prophetic stories of floods and damage.
And so, the release day of “Tempest”, his fourth album since “Love and Theft”, happens to be a Tuesday. In September. The eleventh anniversary of a momentous day in world history, and an unforgettable day in my own life.
Absolute coincidence, of course, but significant nevertheless.
I can’t wait to hear it.