It’s a quiet moment in a busy man’s life.
The question put to Michael Chugg: what’s your favourite Bob Dylan song?
“I’m fond of the Lay Lady Lay era,” he says without hesitation. “I grew up on Blowin’ in the Wind, Rainy Day Women. The album that struck me was the album with Lay Lady Lay [Nashville Skyline, issued in 1969].”
Odds are Chugg will be backstage on Wednesday when Dylan pops into Newcastle for a show at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. Chugg is the tour promoter, continuing an association he’s had with Dylan since 1986, when Dylan played Australia with Tom Petty and Heartbreakers supporting him (The Confessions Tour).
Chugg was a co-founder of Frontier Touring Company with Michael Gudinski and Phil Jacobsen.
That first time in 1986, there wasn’t much chat.
“He was very insular, very much to himself,” Chugg says. “At midnight after the Brisbane show at Lang Park, a security came out and said, ‘come with me, Bob wants to talk to you’.”
What did Dylan say?
“Hey Chuggie, this is the best tour I’ve ever done.”
And that was it.
“I was shocked,” Chugg says.
The legendary Australian promoter last brought the legend to Australia in 2014. Chugg, 71, doesn’t think any less of Dylan, 77, as a touring act.
“He just did his biggest European tour in 28 years. He’s carrying a good show. The band gets better and better,” Chugg says.
Chugg, like Dylan, shows little sign of slowing down. When we talk, in late June, he’s raving about a new act, Jacob Collier, a multi-talented young jazz man from the UK.
“It's really amazing what’s going on out there,” he says. “Bob Dylan was one of the ones who started it.”
Dylan played Newcastle in 2003.