Here on the NME news desk, we deal with revelations by musicians on a daily basis. This past week, one of the more intriguing ones I came across was Bob Dylan’s disclosure that if he wasn’t a musician, he would be a teacher. One of the biggest music icons of the last century teaching you about algebra and F. Scott Fitzgerald – imagine that! So I did.
Here’s what a week at school with Bob Dylan might look like.
You’ve been dreading today. It’s the first day back at school since Rob’s party on Friday night and you’re replaying the moment over and over in your head. If only you’d noticed the spill earlier. If only you’d been wearing shoes with better grip. If only Courtney Smith wasn’t watching – God, she’s a babe. Your thoughts are interrupted when the headmaster enters the room with a strange man. Thin, scraggly hair, pointed boots. Not a normal look round here, where a black T-shirt is a sign of eccentricity. Your new teacher is quick to introduce himself. ”There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke, but you and I, we’ve been through that, and this is not our fate. So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late,” he says, before launching into an analysis of the economic system. You soon forget all about Rob’s party.
You wake up early to make yourself look swish. In class, you poke fun at the quiet guy, trading cruelty for laughs from others. It’s time to get back into everyone’s good books. But Mr Dylan isn’t happy. He reprimands you for trying to fit in. “You’ve gotta change your way of thinking, make yourself a different set of rules. Gotta put your good food forward and stop being influenced by fools,” he tells you. You feel embarrassed and awkward under his glare.
Everyone’s talking about the news. Race-relations protests have swept America, and last night on a popular television panel show, a right-leaning historian was cheered for his staunched defence of the country’s police force. The story is this: a police officer shot dead an unarmed black boy – your age in fact – in the street for doing nothing. And a jury decided not to indict him. Mr Dylan sighs, shoves his hands into his pockets and says, “In Patterson that’s just the way things go, if you’re black you might as well not show up on the street, unless you wanna draw the heat.” A few people nod solemnly.
“There’s no point in voting,” the kid next to you grumbles. “I don’t care about politics.”
“Yeah,” someone else chips in. “All politicians are the same so why pay attention?”
Mr Dylan jumps to his feet and you jolt. You can’t tell if he’s angry or upset, either way he’s gone red. “No,” he shouts, slamming his palms onto the table in front of him. “You have the power. Senators and Congressman will heed your call. They won’t stand in the doorway, they won’t block up the hall, for he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled.”
Your best friend Sally passes you notes about your end-of-year prom, asks what outfit she should wear. You tell her that she’ll look great in anything. She blushes, but chokes up when you mention you’re going to ask Courtney Smith to go with you. On your way out, Mr Dylan takes you aside. “Mr Jones,” he says, “you can have your cake and eat it too. Why wait any longer for the one you love, when she’s standing in front of you?” He chuckles at his own comment and walks off.
It’s the night of the newest buzz band’s gig at Bar Shuttle, the coolest venue in town. Though some trick of fate, you’ve managed to wrangle your name onto the guestlist. You’ve got your collar popped, your fringe lopped to one side like Elvis. You talk to everyone who’s anyone, but the night ends with Sally calling you names for ignoring her. Back at home, you take a look over your schoolbooks. Mr Dylan has written a note in the margin of your essay on Gatsby. “You’ll not now or no other day, find it on doorsteps made out of paper mache, and inside it the people made of molasses, that every other day find a new pair of sunglasses.”
You’re feeling one too many mornings and a thousand miles behind, so you go into school for a bit of extra credit. You tell Mr Dylan that you’re feeling incapable. “How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?” he asks you. “How many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?” He plays you a Frank Sinatra record before packing up his bags and leaving. Outside, a quiet wind blows.