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(Credit: David Shankbone / Alberto Cabello)

Music

Nick Cave clarifies his fabled first meeting with Bob Dylan

The musical world is brimming with tales that recount instances in which some of our favourite musicians and artists of all time come into each other’s orbits. Whether that be the fruitful friendship of George Harrison and Monty Python, the drunken escapades of John Lennon and Harry Nilsson, or basically David Crosby’s entire career, music is full of icons rubbing shoulders with other legends.

These instances are so manifold that they could have taken place anywhere at any time. It can be at a party, a restaurant, hotel room, via the medium of song – you name it. It is sure that some of our favourite icons have met in some rather peculiar circumstances. Take The Who’s first meeting of Keith Moon, for instance, or Robert Plant’s first encounter with the soon to be legendary drummer John Bonham.

These unions aren’t just assigned to the era of classic rock, either. May we remind you of the bizarre collaboration between Kanye West and Paul McCartney song ‘FourFiveSeconds’? They don’t have to be this horrific, though. At Glastonbury 1998, two of the best songwriters in music would finally cross paths. This was, of course, ‘The Bard’, Bob Dylan, and his somewhat morbid Australian disciple, Nick Cave. In a 2019 interview, Cave romantically recalled the story of meeting Bob Dylan amongst the backdrop of a Glastonbury that was suffering biblical floods and how Dylan seemingly appeared out of nowhere, paddling on a boat and shook Cave’s hand.

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However, it turns out the meeting was a lot less Lemony Snicket than first thought, but nonetheless strange. Recently, in his brilliant Red Hand Files blog, Cave was asked by a user to explain more about his fabled meeting with Dylan. He did what the user requestion, but totally redressed the story and explicitly admitted to taking a rather significant chunk of artistic licence when he first told his tale.

Cave said: “It’s just that I met Bob Dylan and so… there was actually no boat involved, I just threw that in. But I was at Glastonbury. Do you know my Bob Dylan story? Well. I was at Glastonbury which is this festival thing, and there’s a sort of a formation of trailers where the bands stay, and they’re in a square, and it always rains at Glastonbury, it just always rain, and it rained a lot and there was a lot of mud.”

He continued: “This is a very important part of it. A lot of mud and water and grossness in between the trailers. And I walked out of my trailer, I was having a cigarette and a trailer door opened across the other side of the mud, and this guy walks out with a hoodie on. You know one of those? A hoodie. So what you call it? I don’t know I never worn one”.

Cave then explained how he really met Dylan: “And he just starts walking through the mud toward me, and I start panicking because I think it’s like someone… a roadie or something like that, wants to come and have a conversation or something like that, anyway he gets there, and this little cold frail hand comes out of his sleeve, shakes me and I look at him, and it’s Bob Dylan.”

Cave corrected his story: “He goes ‘I like what you do’ and I’m like ‘I like what you do too’, and then there was this terrible silence, and he just turned and walked back, and it’s one of those moments, maybe we’ve all had them when you just… there was so much to ask and I didn’t, but it’s one of those moments that can’t be really taken away.”

It turns out that Dylan wasn’t this Charon meets Noah amalgamation as Cave first had us believe. Instead, a frail old man slinking around the sludge of the VIP area, more akin to one of the elusive monks in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose than the master of modern songwriting that he truly is.

In a strange way, this image of Dylan truly accounts for the mysterious character he has established over his lengthy career.