I was watching a film clip from a Bob Dylan, in UK, concert from this week via YouTube; the sound quality wasn’t at 100% but because I’d heard the song a million times already that didn’t matter much. I suppose that’s why they called Bob Dylan a poet. He juxtaposes imagery in a way as to fascinate you. But with me, the imagery is that of someone I once knew named Johanna Van Dersmann. Pronounced just like he does in the song, Visions of Johanna, from the 60s.
I wasn’t very close to Johanna, actually, but knew that she lived on Maud Street, either next door or behind, a timber processing factory – a small one as Maud Street was right off Unley Road, just across from Young Street, and Mary Street, too. Johanna was into guitar type music, folk you might say, and was only as old, or as young I was. I knew her boyfriend slightly better, Arnold of Grace Street, but his music was electric and really strange as it wasn’t like rock and roll. In the 60s when we were all at Unley High school, which was many years before that future Australian Prime Minister was to attend, Julia Gillard, relationships were mostly innocent and carefree. You’d mainly see people at school, or when walking home. I saw some on weekends too, because I played Little League baseball for the district, but there weren’t many social type events. Occasionally there’d be a party at someone’s house on a Friday or Saturday night, but nothing much happened at those except that people brought records along that got played. Stuff like Vanilla Fudge with their train a coming.
Johanna had long brownish hair while Arnold, the boyfriend, had shortish, almost grey, hair. He wore suits and pointed boots and was forever talking about his music. By 1972 in first year University, he managed to go to the Crazy Horse Strip club, in town, to get some idea of how to put on a show, and then got together 2 saxophone players, a drummer and a bass player, so he could do the vocals, of songs he had written and arranged. They did one show open to the public which I didn’t attend! And as far as I recall they never got together again. They called themselves, Speedboat, though.
Arnold lived with his Austrian parents in a tiny workers cottage even when he went to the university; he studied Philosophy, of all things, and the last time I saw him he was reading Wittgenstein. Maybe early 1973.
There was that Hollywood movie with Johanna’s address of Maud Street as the title; about a very old woman and her grandson, Harold and Maude. [Young, rich, and obsessed with death, Harold finds himself changed forever when he meets lively septuagenarian Maude at a funeral.]
There were quite a few similar coincidences relating to Johanna and Arnold, though, later on. Things to do with street names and personal names and Ethnic background and stuff like that. As if something were stirring ready to awake.
And they were not alone in that experience either!