Bob Dylan at 80: Edinburgh man recalls time he almost ran over music legend during infamous 1966 tour

When Bob Dylan arrived to play at an Edinburgh cinema on May 20 1966, many turned up just to vent their fury that their former hero was ‘going electric’ and turning his back on his folk roots.

Monday, 24th May 2021, 4:00 am
Grant Clark says he almost ran Dylan down on Morrison Street in 1966.

However, had it not been for the lightning-fast responses of one local van driver, the throngs of upset purists may not have had the opportunity to air their boos.

Shortly before the concert, which took place at the ABC Regal on Lothian Road, Edinburgh man Grant Clark was heading down nearby Morrison Street in his Bedford van when, very suddenly, a fashionably-attired, rake-like figure with distinctive curly locks appeared in the roadway.

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Former engineer Mr Clark, 73, says his near-fatal encounter with Dylan, who turns 80 on Monday, occurred roughly where the Jolly Botanist bar is today.

He said: “I nearly ran him down in Morrison Street in my Bedford band van. It happened just outside what used to be the Spider's Web.

"He stepped off the pavement looking the wrong way. I swerved and braked - he turned round and looked terrified.”

A keen musician, Mr Clark recognised the face, but was sadly unable to stop to share a moment with the American folk idol.

He continued: "When I saw it was Bob Dylan, being as how I was in traffic, I just continued.

"He was on his way to do a concert at the old Regal.

"Maybe that's where he got the inspiration for "Knockin’ on Heaven's Door.”

Dylan’s first visit to Morrison Street was an eventful one then – and not least due to the near-miss.

Photographer Barry Feinstein captured Bob Dylan walking along Princes Street in May 1966.

Jim Finnie says the Blowin’ in the Wind singer ventured into his dad’s newsagent on the street – to indulge in his love of comic books.

Mr Finnie’s father, however, was not familiar with the folk star, and instead suggested that Dylan could do with a wash.

He says: “Dad had a newsagent's shop at the foot of Morrison street at Haymarket.

"Without saying much, Dylan bought 12/6d worth of kids' comics - which astounded my Dad - and took his leave.

"You have to understand that my Dad thought that any bloke with hair longer than a short back and sides was a hippy and belonged to the unwashed.

"A customer, still dazed to have been in the presence of greatness, said to my Dad: ‘Do you know who that was?’, to which my dad replied: ‘I don’t care who he was – he needs a bath!”

Already an established international folk act by 1966, the times were a-changin’ for Bob Dylan as he sought a fresh musical direction.

Debuting his new electric sound, Dylan was routinely booed and heckled during the UK leg of his world tour tour.

Initially, audiences in Scotland appeared to be a little more receptive – particularly in Glasgow, where it’s said fans of Dylan’s plugged in efforts outnumbered the detractors.

But in the Capital, Bob’s musical change of heart held noticeably less appeal, and a portion of the ABC audience attempted to drown out the sound of the band by playing harmonica – the instrument once synonymous with their hero.

Renowned photographer Barry Feinstein joined Dylan in Edinburgh, and captured a well-known image of the star walking along Princes Street in his pinstriped trousers and trademark shades.

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