Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

i think that was Dylan
by Mike Marcellino

You could say I grew up with Bob Dylan, and the likes of Joan Baez, Carolyn Hester, Hamilton Camp, Buddy Holly and the Beach Boys.  Though I've owned more than a dozen of his albums, the ones that most influenced me in music, my own writing and political and social views were his first three - Bob Dylan (1962), The Freewheelin Bob Dylan (1964) and The Times They Are A-Changin' (1964) and John Wesley Harding (1967).

While I have not yet recorded "i think that was Dylan" you're invited to listen to my collection of 9 new lyrical poetry song recordings.  Some folks have compared my music to Dylan, though I don't sing, i talk, but then Dylan hardly does either.
Just click on this link to our Facebook music page where you may listen free, share our songs and "like" us. (or you may listen on the music player at the top of this blog)

It's hard to recall when I first listened to the folk songs of Robert Allen Zimmerman, raised in Hibbing, Minnesota, near the Mesabi Iron Range west of Lake Superior.  He was the grandson of Ukrainian and Lithuanian Jews, who escaped antisemitism in the early 1900s.

I've found very few albums in which I liked every song - Freewheelin' was such an album.  I liked Corina, Corina most and would listen to it over and over.  The times from 1963 to 1967 in Dylan's half century music career were turbulent. I listened to Dylan around the time of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, though time stood still as we sat glued to the television in a fraternity house on the campus of Wake Forest College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  I listen in my hooch at a base camp at the tip of the Viet Cong Iron Triangle stronghold northwest of Saigon in the Vietnam War.

Over the Dylan years, I've seen him in concert twice, the first probably the most memorable.  It was November 12, 1965 at Music Hall in Cleveland, Ohio.  Six weeks later, the day after New Year's I would leave on a train filled with Army recruits on the way to basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Our seats were red velvet, right in the middle, not far from the front, perfect seats.  I was with a very pretty blond,  Cindy.  I was in love with her and her sister, Gretchen.  Wonderful girls, Swedish.  Dylan played alone, with his guitar and harmonica, the first half of the concert.  It couldn't have been better.  He came on electric in the second half.  You could hear a pin drop.  Everyone was in shock.  He had earlier been booed off the stage after three songs when he went electric at the Newport Folk Festival. I though it was cool.  Still do, even though I was raised on the acoustic poet.

The second time I saw Dylan was at the concert for the opening celebration for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum on June 7, 1993.  He had lost most of his voice and Dylan and the night were both electric - romping around Cleveland Municipal Stadium with my ex-wife (who looked like a female version of Dylan) and our three children with nearly 80,000 screaming rock fans.  As I was on duty as an aide to the mayor, I had a seat in the sixth row for the ribbon cutting of the stunning building designed by I. M. Pei.  The spot lit structure's reflection on the waters of Lake Erie at night is still a sight.  Yoko Ono was there alone at the party after the ribbon cutting, John Lennon had been shot and killed December 8, 1980.

 "Search and Destroy" photo by Mike Marcellino, TET Offensive, Vietnam War, 1968.  After I was turned away from my request to meet with Dylan, I left a print of this photo at a studio in Cleveland where Dylan was recording or hanging out. Naturally, I did not get a thank you.

While Dylan was in Cleveland, I did try to meet with the icon, bringing some of my favorite photographs taken in the Vietnam War where I served as a combat correspondent and photojournalist.  I got as far as inside the door of the recording studio he was at in an eastern suburb, but no further.  I left Dylan this signed black and white photography of Army artillery forward observers with the 33rd Vietnamese Rangers on a search and destroy mission in the rice paddies.

Last year I got to thinkin' about the cover of the album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan wrote a song about some crazy days I had spent roamin' the streets of New York City and wrote a song about those times.  Today on Gothamist.com I learned the story behind the cover art.  Bob Dylan wanted to recreate a photo of James Dean (see the link to Gothamist story) for the cover of "Freewheelin'" released May 23 1963.

Here's my version of the story in a poetry song I've performed.  The song was covered by Chicago folk singer Justin Boerema as we shared the stage at Spike Hill in Brooklyn. Justin was back lit in silhouette, wearing a Fedora, playing guitar and harmonica, real Dylanesque.  I hope to record the poetry song soon, perhaps on my trip to New York City in April.  I will be performing the song though and together we return  to The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. 

i think that was Dylan
by Mike Marcellino

i think that was Dylan,
walkin down Jones Street
girl in his arm
right in the middle of the slushy road,
right pretty too,
comin right at me,
so i ducked
down into the
found sally
and wrote this piece.

"i didn't see you there,"
 - went something like that

i think that was Dylan
walkin down Jones Street
trouble was the cold,
blinded me,
so i parked my car,
a cutlass i believe,
at the first illegal spot i could find
went up to the bar
"Irish whiskey,"
i said that,
it must ta been in '65
i think that was Dylan
walkin down Jones Street,
go ask Sally.

i think that was Dylan copyright by Mike Marcellino 2009   


  1. thanks for the memories.

    I almost saw dylan in 63 in Chicago, but a blizzard came in and neither he nor I made it to the quiet knight coffee house.

  2. you hit me where i live...saw Dylan in March '66 (norfolk, va.) - front row center, 3 feet away...nearly fainted...people booed, threw stuff, walked out when he introduced his Blonde on Blonde...stoopid people! just more music for me!!! my mother nearly fainted when i told her i needed $4 for the ticket...used to go to The Coffee House to listen to Emmy Lou Harris up from Louisiana & Jerry Jeff Walker...she blew out the sound system singing Mr Bo Jangles so she went mikeless after that... "those were the days my friend" xo

  3. re: blonde on blonde - i loved it - and still do...an artist pushes envelopes of creativity...so-called "purists" make me crazy: like the one who told me the Kingston Trio weren't real musicians! well, when you are 7 years old and your Daddy brings an album home and it speaks - who cares about a label...besides i met them & hung out with them later...very cool.
    btw Mike - love seeing/hearing you on fb...xo

  4. Dylan memories would probably make a good book, great to hear from you John & Susie; love your memories!

    - Mike

    PS: i have performed my Dylan song but not yet recorded it, but you can listen to my music on the player at the top of my blog or visit our music site at www.reverbnation.com/mikemarcellino

  5. I was at the Music Hall concert in Cleveland on November 12, 1965. I was 14 tears old & it was my first ever concert. It's to this day still the best concert that I ever attended. Just fantastic!

  6. Thanks for the date! I remember the red velvet seats, we were right in the middle, in the risers, perfect seats and I was with a girl I was crazy about, but it never went further than that; 6 weeks later I was on a train to Fort Knox, KY and Army basic training, and later Vietnam; we may have seen each other

  7. Very late to this party...I love Dylan, and your musings (of him). Thank you for your Service to this country, too, Mike. Love the song which is an homage of sorts to Bob Dylan. :)

  8. thank you Lisa for your appreciation of my service and song; it was covered live in New York City by a singer songwriter friend Justin Boerema at Spike Hill in Williamsburg Brooklyn, NY at the end of my show; Justin even looked like Dylan with a fedora, guitar and harmonica, sounded great! we met on a train; from Chicago to New York City, he had his guitar so we started jamming "i think that was Dylan"; i have performed the song in Cleveland so i must see if it was recorded and put it on our ReverbNation music site