Inoticed a series of programmes on Sky over the weekend called Urban Myths. The first one of the myths was the story of Bob Dylan coming to England to visit his friend Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. Dave had collaborated with Bob on some projects in Malibu, California, since the mid-1980s and this urban myth was the story of Bob coming over to England to meet Dave on his home patch for the first time. Dave lived in Randolph Avenue in Maida Vale and he had given Bob his address. After Bob landed at Heathrow Airport, he apparently relayed the address to a taxi driver who, somehow, got the address mixed up.
Instead of arriving at Dave’s house, Bob ended up in a road with a similar name. He rang the bell at the house – possibly the correct number in the wrong street. A woman opened the door and beheld the famous personage in front of her. The great poet of popular music mentioned that he’d come to see Dave, who was expecting him. By co-incidence, the woman’s husband was also called Dave, and she replied that he was out now but was expected back quite soon. Perhaps the visitor wouldn’t mind coming in for a cup of tea so he could await Dave’s return?
Bob accepted, walked in and sat down. At some point, the penny dropped and she realised exactly who was sitting before her in her modest house in Maida Vale – especially as her husband was a big Bob Dylan fan.
After a fair amount of awkward small talk, Dave returned and was introduced to the visitor, whom he immediately recognised. Bob realised then, of course, that this wasn’t Dave Stewart. More awkward conversation ensued, and a couple of album covers were signed before Bob showed them the dog-eared scrap of paper with Dave Stewart’s real address on it, and he was redirected.
After watching the programme, I did a little searching online. Something about it fascinated me. Imagine returning home to find your hero is sitting in your front room.
Apparently, the tale has circulated widely and been printed in books and magazines, and probably plausibly embroidered along the way. One variation has Bob looking not for Dave’s house but for his recording studio, a converted Victorian place of worship called ‘The Church’, which was in Crouch End – at 145 Crouch Hill. Often, it’s said that Dave was a plumber who was out on a job, and that his wife telephoned him to tell him Bob Dylan was sitting in his kitchen. The whole story is often dismissed as a fictional tale of the kind that happened to the cousin of a friend’s friend.
Then I found a friend of Dave Stewart’s who told the story except he received it directly from Dave Stewart. Bob Dylan had told Dave, and Dave had told it to this friend who happened to be a journalist. So, I believe the story. The journalist teamed up with a photographer and together they explored north London to see if they could find the other Dave and his wife. They knocked on several likely doors. When they found the actual couple in the story, the photographer would take some lovely portraits of them on their doorstep and in their living room, playing Dylan albums and nibbling Ginger Nuts and Jammie Dodgers, and would publish the story in The Sunday Times.
Sadly, although they met some lovely local people, nobody they spoke to had even heard the story, and none of them knew a plumber or any other local man called Dave. Doorstepping is a tedious and soul-destroying business, and they gave up after a while, concluding that it was very possible that Dave and his wife had since left the area.
While I was searching for this tale, I also found another similar story. This one, while entertaining, I am not so sure is true. Someone heard the story from a rugby player friend of theirs who was drinking in a pub in Crouch End where Dave Stewart often drank. On one occasion Dave Stewart came in with a scruffy looking friend, whom the rugby players immediately identified – with much excitement – as Bob Dylan.
The barman served Dave Stewart with drinks and didn’t make a fuss, as was his style. One of the rugby players confided to the barman, “Do you know who that is?”
“It’s Dave Stewart” replied the barman.
“But do you know who his mate is?” asked the rugby player.
The barman confessed he didn’t.
“It’s only Bob Dylan” said the awestruck rugby player.
The barman looked up at the men and nodded.
“That’s nothing” he confided, “We had Arthur Mullard in here last week!”
There are many stories on the internet from Bob Dylan’s time in London – again it is difficult to know which ones to believe, but this is my favourite. Bob saw a guitar in a music shop window and went into the shop called Rock Around The Clock to enquire about it. The owner – who includes Bob Geldof as a celebrity customer – heard Bob play one of his own songs on the guitar, while he was trying it out, and told him, “This is a great time for music, but Bob Dylan’s past it. He used to be good, but he’s rubbish now.”
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