D is for Bob Dylan

I am again focusing on the famous, the forgotten and the misbegotten for
my contributions to round 18 of the popular ABC Wednesday meme.

Bob Dylan2I can’t imagine that there is any of you who hasn’t heard of Bob Dylan, but what may surprise some is that his first appearance in the UK wasn’t in concert, but as member of the cast of a tv drama.

Madhouse on Castle Street was commissioned by the BBC as one of its Sunday Night Play series. It was a rather odd drama set in a boarding house and was described later by The Times as a ‘strange free-wheeling piece about a man who has said goodbye to the world and simply shut himself up in his room’.

The director, Philip Saville, had seen Dylan performing in New York in 1962 and in December that year he invited him to star in the play even though he had no acting experience.

Madhouse on Castle Street castThe idea was a disaster as Dylan was incapable of learning his lines, was forever late for rehearsals or else sloping off to smoke cannabis. But Saville was determined to to keep him in the play which was restructured to separate out the acting bits, leaving Dylan to simply wander in and out singing in the manner of a Greek chorus.

Dylan gave one of the very first public performances of Blowin’ in the Wind for the opening and closing credits of the play, chosen by Saville after he had heard Dylan singing it to two Spanish au pairs while staying at his house.

Madhouse aired on 13 January 1963 and The Times went on to say of the play that ‘some haunting songs by Mr. Bob Dylan, brought it powerfully to life’ although The Listener said that he ‘sat around playing and singing attractively, if a little incomprehensibly’.

Sadly, the recording of the play was destroyed as was common at the time and no private copy of it has been found. However, above is The Ballad of the Gliding Swan from the play.

Incidentally, David Warner, who you can see on the left in the cast photo above may look familiar. He went on to a long acting career appearing in films such as Star Trek, The Omen, Time Bandits and many other stage and tv roles.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

6 comments… Add yours
  • ♫ M e l ☺ d y ♫ 3rd February 2016

    This is a wonderful choice for this weeks letter, i already wondered wich person you would choose this week 😉

    And indeed i do know of him (ofcourse?!)

    Have a nice abc-day / – week
    ♫ M e l o d y ♫ (abc-w-team)

  • Roger Green 3rd February 2016

    What an obscure piece on an iconic character.


  • Leslie 3rd February 2016

    Delightfully fascinating…that’s sure Dylan’s voice on the tape! I had no idea of his starting out this way. Great post!

    abcw team

  • Janis 3rd February 2016

    Interesting bit of Dylan history, thanks for sharing!

  • Yorkshire Pudding 4th February 2016

    One day Dylan will die and that will make the deaths of David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and the rest seem like mere chaff blowin’ in the wind.

  • Trevor Rowley 4th February 2016

    Lot of fuss about nothing. Tunesmiths and wordsmiths are “tenapenny.” I chuckle whenever I see the 1960s Bob Dylan TV documentary (“Don’t Look Back?”). Dylan, the so called pacifist/thinker/philosopher/walker on water, is there with his devotees surrounding him as they hang on his every word in some backstageroom on his Eurpean tour. Donovan plonks away on his guitar as if he’s sitting at Christ’s feet. There’s a commotion outside and there’s the sound of breaking glass. Dylan wants to know “what this son of a b***h is up to.” Right load of old tosh.


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