The New Yorker’s John Clarke writes today about the Twelve Tribes, a group that actively recruits “heavily inebriated and highly vulnerable —basically, stoned kids” at Dylan concerts.
The most entertaining, and perhaps the most depressing, parts are the testimonials from members. “Bob” joined up because, as Dylan sings, “everybody has to serve somebody.”
Another follower named “Thomas” discovered Dylan as a confused, pot-smoking teen-ager “going downhill fast.” He quotes from Dylan’s “My Life in a Stolen Moment” and “Masters of War,” and urges others to join: “You can come for a day or to stay. This is the answer that Dylan saw dimly. This is what he has wanted. Please come.”
Then there’s “Rose,” a lost teen who wandered around the country until she met and married a man who loved Dylan as much as she did. It was 1976, a year after “Blood on the Tracks” was released.
“We clung to every word,” she writes. “The deep passion of our romance was radiated through every word Dylan uttered. It says in scripture that a cord of three strands is not easily broken. [Dylan] was our third strand.” At her first Dylan show, in Gainesville, Florida, she took LSD. “He had us in the palm of his hands,” she writes. “We were his.”
Since that time, she has written to Dylan about the Twelve Tribes. At a show in Massachusetts, Rose managed to slip a note addressed to Dylan to someone in his entourage. That was in the late nineteen-eighties. She has yet to hear back. “We haven’t given up,” she writes.
The group follows Dylan’s tour around the country in — you’ll never believe this — an old bus, from which it distributes its newsletter, “Dylan: What are you Thinking?”
The group’s website lists about three dozen locations in the United States. None of them are in Minnesota or anywhere near Highway 61.