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
L'Etranger (expectingrain.com) - 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