Bob Dylan's Return to the Upper West Side
Bob Dylan has been in a long-term relationship with Greenwich Village, but he's been spotted in the throes of a torrid affair with the Upper West Side.
Even non-fans know the story of how he hunted down Woody Guthrie and then settled into the basket-house scene of Greenwich Village in early 1961. From his first apartment at 161 West 4th Street to his Stanford White townhouse uptown near City College on “Striver’s Row” Dylan is, at heart, a New Yorker.
I, like 20,000 others, will never forget the November 19, 2001, concert at Madison Square Garden when he played “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” to a packed house of aching souls, still in shock after 9/11. As he got to the last couplet — “I’m going back to New York City/I do believe I’ve had enough” — the hometown crowd erupted in a cry of solidarity and civic pride. I recall that he spoke between songs that evening — a rare occurrence in the second half of his career. He didn’t say much, but in acknowledgement of the tragedy he said simply that no one had to tell him how he felt about New York. Again a cheer brought down the house.
I could go on about all the Dylan landmarks and connections of this town — how he picked up violinist Scarlet Rivera on an East Village corner and convinced her to record with him on the seminal album “Desire.” Or that half-mile taxi ride with Lenny Bruce. How the fabulous folkloric “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour of 1975-76 was cooked up at a back table at the Other End with Bobby Neuwirth. As landmarks go, the one with the tightest connection to my heart is the legendary Supper Club, where on November 16, 1993, Dylan played an acoustic show that fans have traded bootlegs of with abandon for the last quarter century.
But thanks to his two-week stay at the Beacon Theatre from November 23 to December 6, Bob Dylan was shaking the sugar down in our very own Sugar Town for ten sweetest of shows on positively 74th Street.
Read on here at the West Side Rag where I wrote an appreciation and here for a review of the first concert of the run.
It's all over now, baby blue, but buck up, because in 50 short weeks, he'll be back.
Til then, I am pressing on.