Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Around North London with Bob Dylan

I was not at work today and ended up taking a sunny stroll to Crouch End, a leafy enclave of North London I'd not visited for years. My first stop was the excellent Flashback Records where I bought a CD called Nobody Sings Dylan Like Dylan. It's a new Righteous Records release that compiles original versions of the folk and blues songs Bob Dylan recorded on his early 90s acoustic albums Good As I Been To You and World Gone Wrong. The purchase turned out to be prophetic.

MP3: Bob Dylan - Stack A Lee

Find it on World Gone Wrong

After picking up some other goodies at Oxfam I stopped at Banners restaurant, a local institution that prides itself on a family atmosphere and "global home cooking". By coincidence I was directed to a small table under this plaque:

I've been to Banners a few times and knew that Bob had apparently eaten here in 1993 but until today had never seen the table he'd enjoyed his burger at. 

An August '93 story in The Independent claimed that as well as enjoying Crouch End's casual dining scene Dylan had also been house-hunting in the area. The paper reported that Bob "viewed a semi-detached house priced at around £310,000 two weeks ago. Sandra Parker, who owns it with her husband, Stephen, answered the door to a tall man and a woman. 'Behind them was a little guy,' she said. 'I was a bit annoyed because they were an hour early and I told them to wait so I could get the dog out. When I realised who the little one was, I was speechless.'"

All Dylan related Crouch End tales are in some way linked to local resident Dave Stewart. A month before Bob ate his meal at Banners Stewart directed the wonderful video to Blood in My Eyes in Camden Town. In his Bob Dylan Encyclopedia Michael Gray (no fan of Mr Stewart) reckons "it's one of the few Dylan videos that's any good". What do you think? 


The Mississippi Sheiks original, titled I've Got Blood in My Eyes For You, is one of the tracks on the Nobody Sings Dylan Like Dylan compilation and I thoroughly recommend the Dylan Encyclopedia entry on the group.

MP3: The Mississippi Sheiks - I've Got Blood in My Eyes For You 

Find it on Nobody Sings Dylan Like Dylan

Dylan wrote good liner notes to World Gone Wrong. About the Sheiks he opines "all their songs are raw to the bone & are faultlessly made for these modern times (the New Dark Ages) nothing effete about the Mississippi Sheiks."

I can't write about Bob Dylan, Dave Stewart and Crouch End without relating one of the greatest of all Dylan anecdotes. In 1985 while Dave and Bob were recording together the former Eurythmic invited Dylan to his house. The Sunday Telegraph reported the rest of the story:

Dylan, at a loose end one afternoon, decided to take him up on it and asked a taxi driver to take him to Crouch End Hill. With the bewildering array of streets in the area all named for various permutations of Crouch, End and Hill, the cabbie accidentally dropped him off at the right number but in an adjoining road.
Dylan knocked at the front door and asked the woman who answered if Dave was in. As it happened, her husband was also called Dave, so she said: "No, he's out on a call at the moment", and Bob said he'd wait. Twenty minutes later, Dave - the plumber, not the rock star - returned and asked the missus whether there were any messages. "No", she said, "but Bob Dylan's in the living room having a cup of tea".
Bob and Dave's ramshackle North London sessions are immortalised in this Whistle Test sequence that also features fellow Crouch Ender Andy Kershaw bravely asking Bob's thoughts on his dire Live Aid performance and whether he's been "going wrong in the past"

The result of Dylan and Dave's musical efforts can be found on the 1986 album Knocked Out Loaded, a record that's been called a "depressing affair" and "the absolute bottom of the Dylan barrel". 

MP3: Bob Dylan - Under Your Spell

Find it on Knocked Out Loaded

Related Links
L'Etranger ( - story behind painting on World Gone Wrong cover
Bob Dylan Encyclopedia - Michael Gray's blog
Expecting Rain - superb Dylan resource
Banners Restaurant - I recommend the hash browns


Peter said...

i might be wrong, bu wasn't banners owned by mrs andy kershaw? not sure if it still is.

a friend of mine went to school with dave stewart and whenever he visited us in london would like to wander around the streets of crouch end in the hope of meeting him. his ambition was to punch mr stewart very hard in the face. this seemed a little harsh to me, but then again i haven't heard 'knocked out loaded'. i wondered what you thought of it.

Tony said...

Great site. I think I'll go listen to Knocked Out Loaded now. Thanks.

stranger nobody sees said...

Maybe two decades ago, a long time anyway, while still living at home I made a point of watching a tv prog on the Chelsea hotel. My father quipped, 'You might find a footprint'.

On one of the 3 Brixton nights in '95, I was hanging around the main street running past Brixton Academy enjoying the Feb sun as I had time to kill; I think it was the final night, an afterthought that everyone else mysteriously had tickets for except me. Anyway, some guy chatted to me and told me how he had seen Dylan performing in a Crouch End pub with a mask on, having been introduced, under a false name or something, by another act. Dylan's appearance was totally unannounced and unscheduled. And brief. 'He does things like that ... oh, it was DEFINITELY him'. I mentioned this subsequently on rec music dylan, ribbing somewhat the Dylan geeks over the fact that Dylan might actually do things that slip them by. I got a very sarcastic reply from someone - one of those types who spend their whole lives on there.

stranger nobody sees said...

When I was playing Knocked Out Loaded the year it came out, my dad said, 'I think he should retire'.

Nick said...

Great story and video posts Dylan for me is the ultimate in music even the 80's have plenty of Dylan moments!

ElwoodK_Rank佳玲 said...

很用心的blog,推推哦 ..................................................

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