As everyone even remotely acquainted with American history knows, Plymouth is a special place. It’s called “America’s Hometown” because it’s where the Pilgrims landed in 1620 on board the Mayflower. Less well known is the town’s connection to the great singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. Indeed, if not for Belmont native Bob Egan, we might not know at all.
Egan, who lives in New York, operates a website called PopSpotsNYC.com, which matches the photos on infamous album covers with the locations where they were shot. He’s tracked down the brick building on Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti,” the sidewalk on Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush,” the train platform on Simon & Garfunkel’s “Wednesday Morning, 3 AM,” and the stone house on The Byrds’s “The Notorious Byrd Brothers.”
But it’s his sleuthing of the cover of Bob Dylan’s “Desire” (inset) that interested us. Egan has been able to establish that the iconic photo of Dylan, braving the cold in a gray suede hat, scarf, and Navajo-style coat with a fur collar, was shot 40 years ago this month in Plymouth. Specifically, in Plymouth Memorial State Park, a small green between the replica of the Mayflower and the columned concrete pavilion covering Plymouth Rock.
“I know, probably within 20 feet, exactly where it was taken,” Egan said of the picture credited to photographer Ken Regan.
How does he know? Egan says he merely “poked around,” consulting online archives of Dylan photos, consulting books about Dylan, and using Google and Bing maps. Most helpful was a series of pictures of Dylan and his crew stepping off a small boat in Plymouth in 1975 as part of an experimental movie called “Renaldo and Clara.” The photos were taken while Dylan and his band were in town to perform at Plymouth Memorial Hall on the first night of the Rolling Thunder Revue tour. (Egan even knows where the band was staying: Plymouth at the Sea Crest Motel in Falmouth.)
“Desire,” Dylan’s 17th studio LP, came out in 1976, after “Blood on the Tracks” and before “Street Legal.” Perhaps the album’s best-known track is “Hurricane,” about the boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.
“I just piece together evidence, but when it’s been 40 years, it isn’t easy,” said Egan.