In May of 1994 in the newsgroup, Marc Stein posed the question:

Anyway, to change the subject and also because I'm curious, I would like to ask everybody the question: how did you first get into Dylan, and what specific song or songs did it to you? I especially hope to hear from a lot of the familiar names like Mr. Soxena, John Howells, Craig, Mr. Scobie, Mr. Binoculas (strange name!), B.P., Seth, Linda, Ron and all the rest of you who know who you are.

This resulted in an extremely popular thread. The following was my response...

"With your mercury mouth in the missionary times,
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes,
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes, ..."

It was late in the evening sometime in the fall of 1966 when those lines came wafting out of the backroom of a research lab at Oberlin College near Cleveland. I was done working for the night, and had gone across the hall to visit with my friends Lynn Bengston and Stephanie Gutieri, as Lynn finished up her lab chores for the day.

The sounds coming from the radio in the back suddenly grabbed me. "What's that!?" Stephi: "That's the long version of 'Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands' by Bob Dylan!" "Who's he?" Incredulous that I had to ask, Stephi gave me a brief Intro 101 on BD, while the song continued to play in the background.

Of course I had already heard radio play of Blowin', Tambourine Man, and possibly Like a Rolling Stone, but those were filed away in my consciousness under "gravelly voiced protest songs, unnamed singers". These were catalogued under "the civil rights movement" (of major concern on the campus in those days), and not even under "music". "Music" was what they played at our excellent Conservatory of Music; the Classics (and not rock classics, 'real' classics: Beethoven, Brahms, Stravinsky, and so on).

But this song was MUSIC!! Stephi explained that there was a long version and a short version of this song. That radio stations never played the long version, because it was so... well you know, LONG. (This was before the days when FM stations played entire albums late at night, at least in Cleveland. It was 2 min song, commercial, 2 min song, commercial, etc). As the song continued, I got the distinct impression that I was fortunate to have stumbled upon such a history making event right here in our little Oberlin.

As it played, I couldn't get over the fact that a pop station was playing real MUSIC; it was so beautiful, so melodious, so deep, so entrancing, so ... long! I was hooked by the fact that I had no idea what this guy was singing about. The images came flowing out one after another; before I could digest one, there was another. The song could not be dismissed as just another love song, like all the other songs on pop radio in those days. This would take some study!

When it was over, Stephi and Lynn invited me to get together later to listen to some of the albums by this guy. As I soon discovered, Stephi even had his first album. So we did, and what resulted was many a night of listening to Blonde on Blonde over and over and over. Of course by then to get more, you had to go to his earlier albums. He wasn't putting out new ones, and there was some question whether he ever would again. So it wasn't long before we had them all, and my life has never been the same since.

It never occurred to me before this bit of nostalgia got me thinking about it, but was there really a short version? Or were stations just fading out before it was over to get that next commercial in? Of course once I had BoB, I had no desire to hear a shortened version of the song.

Ron Chester

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