Jay Meehan: Acquired tastes
October 26, 2017
My son Smokey and I were on a Bob Dylan vacation last week down in Salt Lake. If memory serves, going back to the Delta Center show with Paul Simon during the late Spring of '99, we, as a team, hadn't let any of his Utah shows slip by. Like his old man, Smoke got strung out early. Even quicker, actually.
At the time an Army buddy of mine returned to Fort Benning from "leave" with the first two Dylan LPs, I had pretty much sold my musical soul to jazz and my first couple of go-rounds with these particular slabs of vinyl didn't exactly change my course. I believe I used "Egad!" in a sentence for the first time in quite a spell.
In the beginning, I found Dylan to be even more of an "acquired taste" than Thelonious Monk or "Grits," a southern culinary delight that arrived with everything from bacon and eggs to Scotch and soda. By the way, thanks Kingston Trio for that particular ill-conceived and short-lived notion.
In fact, as I look back on the time in question, Dylan might well have also assumed all the "acquired taste" trappings of raw oysters, Salvador Dali, quantum mechanics, bleu cheese, and the "peatyness” of Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
“The poor dude grew up with those nasally-challenged vocals charging, not unlike the Light Brigade, up the stairs to infiltrate his bedroom comfort zone at all hours of the day and night.”
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But, of course, with time, I would succumb first to the lyrics then to the acoustic guitar flavors of the day. I must admit, however, that the fact that these were times of the civil rights movement and voting rights struggles and with the Georgia-Alabama line pretty much in the middle of it all, a more perfect context to what Dylan had on his mind would be hard to fathom.
Each succeeding effort on his part would further cement our newly-found relationship and by the time "Bringing It all Back Home" entered the fray with those subtly gorgeous Bruce Langhorne riffs and the greatest B-side in recorded music history, I had jumped on the bandwagon.
By the time of my Army discharge, through audio osmosis alone, I also found myself packing substantial interest in the likes of Doc Watson, Mississippi John Hurt, and Ramblin' Jack Elliott. My musical soul appeared to be on the block again.
Once back home in L.A., I also fell under the cultural purview of my brother Dick, then on the cusp of morphing into "OD McGee," a quantum leap if there ever was one. Once he had plugged me into the neighboring Compton folk scene, the train left the station. It's now some 50+ years later and my life has yet to return to normal.
Smokey becoming a "Dylan head" however, came as somewhat of a shock. The poor dude grew up with those nasally-challenged vocals charging, not unlike the Light Brigade, up the stairs to infiltrate his bedroom comfort zone at all hours of the day and night. No doubt, if child welfare agencies had gotten nose of it, they would have descended upon our humble digs in SWAT fashion.
It could be mentioned that his first non-Utah exposure to His Bobness occurred more than a decade previous as part of the Dylan tour with Tom Petty which we caught next door to the '86 World's Fair in Vancouver, British Columbia. Suffice to say, Smoke was bored.
Of course, he felt the same about Victoria and Banff, et cetera – and most everything else his parents were into. That is to say, he was a perfectly normal kid. And, if the truth be told, a total gas to be around. Later on, he would include me in his posse at AC/DC and Metallica concerts which proved to be some of my best live music experiences ever.
But back to our recent vacation shows at the exquisitely adorned and acoustically
perfect Eccles Theater down in the Valley, the Valley so Low. By having the rapturously ecstatic Mavis Staples kicking things off with her in-your-face joy and love vibe, the evening was left without many options as to which way it would go. Put your hands together. Say hallelujah!
Although Bob scrambled his set list the second night, he and that unbelievably tight instrumental ensemble that surfs his wake remain to die for. They are roots rock n' roll incarnate, including during the Sinatra-esque portions of the show. Can't say enough about Tony, Stu, George, Donnie, and, of course, Charlie. Love them boys!
Smokey, who has never been an acquired taste to anyone, continues to stick to the collective ribcage of whomever he encounters. A DNA test would no doubt prove that being "cool" skipped a generation on his paternal side.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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