Why is everyone always calling Bob Dylan scruffy? Granted, he’s no James Bond but the stick he has received for his sartorial style over the years seems unfair. Even when Joan Baez described first meeting Dylan on Desert Island Discs, she referred to him as a scruffy little fellow.
However, the incident that takes the biscuit when it comes to his ragged vagabond ways occurred in Long Beach, New Jersey, in 2009. The police were on the prowl for a “scruffy old man acting suspiciously.” Dylan was simply out taking a stroll around town, no doubt regaling himself with impressive thoughts about how “the flowers of the city though breath-like, get deathlike sometimes.” However, a patrol car then successfully identified the wayfaring troubadour as fitting the description of their suspect. Therefore, they pulled over and apprehended a flummoxed leading figure of cultural history.
Dylan was without any ID at the time, but quite inexplicably, he didn’t seem to kick up a fuss or offer to take them to a record store to prove that he was, in fact, the voice of a thousand generations and not some surly tramp up to no good in a nice quiet little beach community.
Apparently, Dylan casually informed officer Kirstie Buble that he was in town to headline a concert with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp. She did not believe the drenched geriatrics tall tale, later stating: “I’ve seen pictures of Bob Dylan from a long time ago and he didn’t look like Bob Dylan to me at all. He was wearing black sweatpants, tucked into black rain boots and two raincoats with the hood pulled over his head.”
At this juncture, he was tossed into the back of the patrol car and driven back to his hotel. Therein the receptionist kindly explained to the police officers that they had, in fact, apprehended perhaps the most important artist in pop culture history and the “scruffy old man acting suspiciously” must still be at large. Or was he?
The police later came to the conclusion that it was likely Dylan who had been acting suspiciously all along, although Dylan pleaded that he had just been “out for a walk.” It subsequently came to light that the folk star may well have been out in the pouring rain looking for the house where Bruce Springsteen wrote ‘Born to Run’.
The reason it is thought that he was prowling around on the hunt for the famed ‘Born to Run’ house is that visiting musicians old stomping grounds is one of his favourite past times. In May of the same year, he visited John Lennon’s childhood home, casually coughing up the £16 entry fee and mingling with tourists who never suspected that the oddball old man wandering about being told not to touch things was the legend that the Fab Four referred to as an “idol” and a “hero”.
Ironically this very same fate once befell his folk hero Woody Guthrie, although he had admittedly wandered out of a mental institution. In short, Bob was just doing Bob things, and he should be left to it.