Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
— Dale Carnegie
Grace says that I should stand up for myself. I’ve been playing bass for Dylan for thirty-two years, and he doesn’t even know my name. Once in a while, Bob says, ‘Man, what was that shit you played on Quinn?’ and I tell him the amp crashed, and that’s pretty much the sum of our conversations. When Grace says, ‘You’ve got kids at college … If he doesn’t know your name, how will he pay you?’ I say that you don’t bother a genius with trivia like back pay. Eventually, Bob’ll see that I get my due.
Grace hasn’t been with me all that time. Our paths didn’t cross when she was on the catwalk, or singing ‘Walking in the Rain’ and ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before’, and I guess she never imagined then that fate would fix her up with a plodder like me. If you check out the old photos, Grace looks so dangerous, really formidable, and you wouldn’t believe she’s quite petite, or that she would sing when she dried the dishes. Whenever she gets moody and tells me how fucking lucky I am to be living with Grace Jones, I remind her that Bob Dylan doesn’t know her name either.
It might be easier for us to live in a city full of people whose names Bob didn’t know, but geography’s tricky like that. Our local school crossing attendant is Jeff Lynne, who played with Bob in the Wilburys. His old band, ELO, sold container loads. I never heard them, but Grace says they were shit. Not that she’d say that to his face, because Jeff’s a Wilbury, and a producer, and knowing a producer with clout makes a lot of difference when you’re begging for a recording budget.
No question, Bob knows Jeff’s name, and when the two of them tell their old stories about Roy, George and Tom, Bob uses Jeff’s name maybe one sentence in a dozen. ‘Well, yeah, that’s what you say, Jeff. I don’t remember that.’ Dylan even sends him cards from gigs, but that’s the thing, when he sends him a postcard of a fat woman by the pool at the Bucharest Hilton, it’s always ‘Mr Geoff Lynne’.
Jeff says that Bob’s just got the English Geoff mixed up with the more phonetically obvious American Jeff, and that’s okay. An understandable mistake. With Jeff born in Birmingham, you’d expect him to be the English Geoff with a G, not the Cold War fighter pilot Jeff with a J. Mr and Mrs Lynne got it arse about trying to be fancy, and it’s hardly Bob’s fault that logic lets him down. But Grace says that not being able to spell someone’s name is exactly the same as not knowing it. Best not to argue that point because it’s something she gets strident about.
Maybe it’s a Jamaican thing, but Grace has a two-directory view of the world. Most big cities have so many phone numbers that they split their directories in two, and she says that any decent authority would divide the volumes into People Worth Calling and People Not Worth Calling. According to Grace, she and I would figure in the large volume of People Whose Names Bob Dylan Doesn’t Know, and depending where you stand on the Jeff/Geoff controversy, our whole city probably squeezes into that category.
I guess other people never see themselves that way, as going through their lives as a name Bob Dylan doesn’t know, and they’d prefer to see their names listed in the big volume, People Whose Names Bob Dylan Ought to Know.
For Grace, it might be different, but for me, it’s glass half-full, glass half-empty. We know who we are and who we know, but we’ll probably never know if the people we know want to know us, or if they give a shit about the spelling of our names. So fuckin’ what if Dylan doesn’t know my name. Should a friend choose to take that as an insult, or treat it as a sign that he and I communicate in a very particular way? I’m not like Grace. I’m not frightened to find my name listed among the names of the people in the fat directory. Those people wouldn’t know my name either, but I’m happy to be one of them. I’m with them in spirit.