On 11-09-2001, or 9/11 as the world now knows it, I was struggling with an ad campaign for a car manufacturer. My limited edition of Love and Theft, the one with a couple of bonus tracks from the early ‘60s, had been purchased and was waiting, pristine, for a first listen with a glass of white Burgundy that evening.
And then the phone started ringing with the news from New York.
I didn’t listen to the album that night, and didn’t listen properly for some days. Even a new Bob album paled into insignificance on that day, in that week. We were transfixed by the images of the World Trade Center and, in my case, anxious for news of a friend who worked high up in the South Tower. (He was fine – fortuitously out of the country.)
So the conversations on the evening of the 11th of September were not of Bob. For once, Bob did not speak to us. The debate concerned the implications of the attacks.
“They had it coming” was the judgement of Professor Beard and it received a nod of acknowledgement if not approval from those of us who remembered other 9/11 events: notably the US-backed coups in Haiti and Chile. We discussed the nature of the inevitable US response, contrasting the shocked reaction of Bush with that of Cheyney and Rumsfeld, for whom this was not a tragedy but an opportunity.
In retrospect, we can see that even the most pessimistic and cynical of us failed to predict the total transformation in world affairs which 9/11 initiated: Afghanistan, Iraq, Al-Quaida, ISIS, the attacks on major cities throughout the west. When the centre cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
These are my thoughts as I listen now to Love and Theft, as I hear Bob sing of Summer Days – they’re gone! – and High Water (for Charlie Patton) and the apocalyptic dirge that is Sugar Baby:
“Some of these memories you can learn to live with/And some of them you can’t.”