Positively 231st Street: Bob Dylan, the Bronx, and Me

In the summer of 1966, the Jack & Agnes Carrolls misguidedly moved from 89th and Third in Manhattan to Brookview Road in Windsor, CT – a town that lacked virtually everything, including sidewalks.

I did not go with them.

Hell, I had just clawed my way into senior year at Fordham Prep, where the Jesuit headmaster had dubbed me “one of the five most cynical boys at this school” – a personal and parochial triumph.

No way I was abandoning that to start over in some outback of Nutmeg State High.

So I finagled a room at a family friend’s house on Carpenter Ave. in the Bronx, right across the street from Misericordia Hospital.

And every evening when I arrived back there, I hied me to the sunroom where the phonograph lived to play all four sides of Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde (not only rock ‘n’ roll’s first double album, but a “literary leap” according to this Vanity Fair piece by Mike Hogan, who calls it “a plea, a curse, and a benediction all wrapped in one”).

Let’s start with “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” one of the great rock ‘n’ roll songs of all time.

 

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Then there’s “Fourth Time Around,” which I always considered Dylan’s response to John Lennon’s Norwegian Wood.

 

 

And, of course, “Visions of Johanna,” which is “a song that may be the pinnacle of [Dylan’s] art” according to the Boston Globe’s Ty Burr. The redoubtable Dan Kennedy of Media Nation says that “[Dylan] could have won [the Nobel] 50 years ago just for ‘Visions of Johanna.’”

Best version we could find:

 

 

Back in the Bronx, it was probably Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands that tore it for me at my temporary living quarters.

But there was also this: I was staying in a two-family house occupied by six adults (Evie, Buster, Olympia, Ria, Artie, Juliette) who resolutely refused to appoint a Designated Tsker to lecture me during my spectacularly boneheaded senior year.

So every time I did something incredibly stupid (which was often), the Tsk Six would pass me from one to another to another to another to . . .

It was, quite frankly, untenable.

Luckily, I found alternative lodgings at my great friend Rob’s place in Parkchester (thanks to his sainted mom, Jo) for most of the remaining school year.

But that’s another story, as Dylan might say:

Then time will tell who has fell
And who’s been left behind
When you go your way and I go mine.

Whichever way I went that year, Blonde on Blonde was the soundtrack.

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4 Responses to Positively 231st Street: Bob Dylan, the Bronx, and Me

  1. Howard Cusack says:

    Love this piece John and always held “Blonde on Blonde as a masterpiece!! But I don’t remember you being cynical or a bonehead:-). Hope you’re doing great and hi to Tina.

    >

    • Campaign Outsider says:

      Howard!
      So nice to hear from you – hope all’s well and you’re enjoying life.
      That was some ride our senior year, eh?
      Tina and I are chugging along, thanks. Let me know if your far-wandering brings you to these environs.
      Best,
      JC

  2. Rob Schneider says:

    Great job on this evocative piece about life half a century ago. Mom and I were happy to help you out back then and it was beneficial for us all. Heck, you introduced me to Dylan music that wasn’t on AM radio – and I don’t mean radio in the morning. I didn’t have the appreciation you had for Dylan but I trusted your good taste and listen hard. Now the Nobel committee has heard what you heard. Maybe I’ll crank up the old phonograph.
    Oh yeah, I do remember you (and me) being often cynical and occasionally boneheaded. Good for us.

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