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Positively 4th Street

A Tour of Bob Dylan’s Greenwich Village

I recently read a book called, “A Freewheelin’ Time—A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties.” It was written by Suze Rotolo who was Bob Dylan’s girlfriend in the early sixties and lived with him on West 4th Street in Greenwich Village. I thought it would be fun to visit some of the places mentioned in the memoir, take photos and include a sprinkling of Rotolo’s memories from the times that were-a-changing. The sections in the captions pulled from the book are italicized.

We'll walk right down Sixth Avenue to Greenwich Village.

And here we are at West 4th Street. Positively!

Bob Dylan’s first apartment in Greenwich Village—161 W. 4th Street

And then Columbia Records signed him [Dylan] delivering him the first heady whiffs of fame. At last some decent money was in the offing, and he began looking for an apartment of his own. 161 W. 4th Street was a small four story building just west of 6th Avenue.

I read online he paid 60 bucks a month to live in the top floor apartment of this building. I'd hate to guess how much it is a month now. The cover of the album, "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" was shot a couple blocks from here and I want to take a shot of that street, but first there's something I have to do.

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan Cover on Jones Street

What I need to do is buy a copy of that record. I'm hoping they have one in here at Bleecker Street Records.

There's Bob in the window, so that's a good sign!

And here's the Bob Dylan section...

And yes, they have the album! Now it's back to where they shot this legendary cover!

And here we are on Jones Street where the album cover was shot, just a block away from Bob Dylan's and Suze Rotolo's apartment. I tried holding the cover up with the street, but it just didn't work. Then I thought, "Hey, you've got Photoshop, bring them back to the future!" So that's what I did below.

I huddled up to Bob as we walked up and down Jones Street per instructions from [photographer] Don and encouraging smiles from Billy. Bob stuck his hands in the pockets of his jeans and leaned into me. We walked the length of Jones Street facing West Fourth with Bleecker Street at our backs. I was never given a release to sign or paid anything. It never dawned on me to ask.

In my travels in the Village I walked past the House of Oldies and there was the Nashville Skyline Bob Dylan tipping his hat in the window.

Bleecker Street

Bleecker Street was the Times Square of Greenwich Village because of all the tourists who gravitated to the numerous clubs and bars, especially on the weekends.

The Bitter End—147 Bleecker Street

The Bitter End was on street level, around the corner from the Gaslight, on the more touristy Bleecker Street, and had a bigger stage with a real backstage for the performers to hang out. If there was a pecking order to these up-and-coming folk and stand-up comedy places in the early 1960s, the Bitter End was just below the more established Village Gate, also on Bleecker.

Here's some ads from the past in the window at The Bitter End.

July 23rd is the official Bitter End Day in New York, I need to put that on my calendar.

There's no escaping Bob in Greenwich Village. Here he is on a bookstore table sandwiched between books by David Sedaris and Joseph Campbell.

Cafe Wha?—115 MacDougal Street

MacDougal Street meant passing all those other clubs and coffeehouses: The Gaslight, The Figaro, Rienzi’s, Fat Black Pussy Cat, Cafe Wha?, and numerous others.

Cafe Wha? is reportedly the first place Dylan played when he arrived in New York City on January 24, 1961. The legend has it that it was a snowy night and Dylan came into the club on a hootenanny night and the club wasn’t too full. Dylan asked the owner, Manny Roth if he could play and Manny gave him the nod. Dylan sang some Woody Guthrie songs and was on his way. Recently reformed Van Halen played a set here before releasing their latest album and embarking on a new tour. It makes sense since Manny Roth is singer David Lee Roth’s uncle. I don’t think Van Halen did a Woody Guthrie number in their set, though.

While walking to the last stop in this tour, I spied an old Newsweek with a Bob Dylan cover in the window of Rebel Rebel record store.

White Horse Taven—567 Hudson Street

At the White Horse I was introduced to the paralyzing effect of Irish whiskey when I drank Irish coffee, Ireland’s cappucino. Paddy, Tom and Liam Clancy, the Irish folksingers who performed as the Clancy Brothers with Tommy Makem, occupied a table in the back room most nights. Already very well known, they sang and told stories and had a good time along with everyone else who ended their evenings at the White Horse.

The White Horse Tavern is a classic Greenwich Village bar.

And there's a familiar face behind the bar.

It's bartender Bob, who I met two years ago on my 365 day bar crawl! Bob remembered me and was pleased I had successfully finished that mission.

White horses look down and gallop on the wooden beam above the bar.

White horse heads adorn the chandeliers illuminating the tavern.

A 3-D piece of art recreates the tavern in the corner of the bar.

And I need to show another Dylan at the end of this tour: A painting of Dylan Thomas at the White Horse Tavern back in the day who reportedly drank himself to death at the White Horse Tavern.

Further Reading: New York Times, The Guardian and NPR.

My love she’s like some raven,
At my window with a broken wing.

Surprise link, click on it...I dare you!

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Reader Comments (29)

Awesome post ! ... I've been inside these places - except for the Cafe Wha? and Bob's old apartment. You ever been inside Cafe Wha? ... I need to go there someday when it's empty and take a look - and maybe get a beer !

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGENE

The scale is a little off in your photoshop re-creationn of the album cover....hmmm...attack of the 50 foot Dylan? Heh heh.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJaws the Cabbie

Loved this! Spectacular how you mixed Suze's memories with modern photos and that photoshop picture is genius! Great blog!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlex in the Village

Nice look back. I've seen a few Dylan concerts, but the best was at Madison Sq Garden when he played with the Band, for about a week long concert in the 70s. What an incredible show that was! Whew! I still say that many, many years ago, whew!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMykola Mick Dementiuk

@GENE: I've never been inside Cafe Wha? and it's closed in the daytime. I think on weekends it's probably a bit of a tourist trap, so maybe I'll check it out on a weeknight.

@Jaws: I've never been good with scales, that's why my pot dealing career never took off!

@Alex: Thanks! Glad you liked it, it was fun visiting all those spots.

@Mykola Mick Dementiuk: I would've loved to have seen that Dylan show with the Band! Must've been a great concert!

March 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

I really enjoyed this Dylan tour and only in NY are the buildings built to last. I will say that I'm not a real big fan though he is a legend. Heard his voice lately? sounds like shit. Bitter End, John Sebastian, Dion, Melanie, Laura Nyro, everyone played there, great place. Funny the things I notice in your pictures,,,the book, "Inside of a dog" looks interesting enough for me to go and buy it. The painting of Dylan Thomas makes him look like a paranoid Joe Pesci,,,,,lol,,,,,circa Goodfellas.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAl

This is something I've always wanted to do but never seemed to have the time to get to, Thanks, Marty. It brings back a lot of memories of being young and intoxicated by the the "Village vibe".

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave - Everywhere

Factoring in for inflation, total wages in 1961 and 2012 were approximately equal. Dylan was paying $455 a month for rent in Manhattan in 2012 dollars. Today the average studio apartment in Manhattan, without doorman, is ~$2,500. If you got to the furthest reaches of the outer boroughs, you can find a 400 square foot apartment for ~$1,200. This is not factoring in broker's commission and other expensive nonsense.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercsp

@Al: The interesting thing about Dylan to me is how he still tours constantly, a real road dog. I didn't even notice the "Inside of a Dog" book till you pointed it out! I'll have to check that out too! And you're right about Dylan Thomas looking a bit like Joe Pesci! Funny!

@Dave-Everywhere: I remember being intoxicated by the "Village Vibe," the only problem was I was in Peoria, Illinois! Didn't get to experience it first-hand till I moved here in the early '90's! Glad you enjoyed the tour!

@csp: Those figures make me feel lucky for my rent-stabilized apartment!

March 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

You hit another one out of the park, Marty. Great post!

BTW, if any 15 year old girls from the 80s are reading these comments via time machine:
Do not sneak away from the hotel with your best friend during a school trip with the hope that you'll make it through the doors at Cafe Wha. It's not happenn', Kiddo, and you'll have a hell of a time finding a cab to get back to the hotel before you're caught.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterroadsidewonders


Conventional NYC rent stabilization is being phased out, The 1-3% annual increases are now 6-9%. The rent is also allowed to go up $250/month when tenants change. When an apartment hits $2,000/month, the stabilization is removed entirely. As an example, my shit rent-stabilized apartment in Brooklyn went from $900/month to $1,350/month in 8 years. When I left, it was listed at $1,675 a month.

I don't want to be such a negative Nancy, so, um, buy Mega?

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercsp

Great Post Marty! I have to hit that part of town before i croak!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterProfessr Dungpie

@roadsidewonders: Thanks! Sounds like you were an adventurous 15-year-old! Sorry you didn't get in! Next time you're in the city, let me know and I'll buy you a beer there!

@csp: Heading out for a Mega-Millions ticket now!

@Professor Dungpie: Come on out and I'll hit it with you, Professor! Lots of bars for us to go to in that area!

March 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

Cool post! While it didn't answer the age-old question or whether or not Dylan's sort of a dick, it was interesting to see some of the sights from back in the day. It's always nice when you stop by the White Horse Tavern and I love pictures from bookstores (although the title "Inside of a Dog" gave me paws. Get it?! Gave me PAWS! I still gots it!) I did hear that VH played a little show at the Cafe Wha? and I'm pretty sure I saw a clip from it. Wonder if good ol' David Lee made another pit-stop at Washington Square Park?

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBiff

I remember in the early 70's there was a guy named A.J. Weberman who used to go through Dylan's garbage, then hold court around the fountain in Washington Square Park, reciting Dylan's eating/shopping habits. He called himself a Dylanologist. Thanks for the memories, Marty - hahaha.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterUncle Waltie

Really enjoyed that Marty.When I was over in New York last year I took a picture of Bob's old apartment.I got the information from one of your previous blogs.Didn't get quite the close up you got though! Never been in The White Horse Tavern but I'm going to pay it a visit next time.Thanks for the pictures, makes me feel like I'm sitting in there having a Bud instead of looking at a wet and windy Scotland!

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Simpson

@Biff: "Gave me PAWS!" Ha ha ha! You still gots it indeedy! I bet David Lee Roth has never gone back to Washington Square Park! I don't smoke pot anymore, but I bought pot from a dealer in the park for a friend after DLR got busted, it's a long story that I'll have to write one of these days.

@Uncle Waltie: I remember reading about AJ Weberman! I read he drove Dylan nuts!

@Alan Simpson: Thanks for tuning in all the way from Scotland! Next time you come to New York, let me know and I'll buy you a beer at the White Horse!

March 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

Lay Lady Lay I'm so confused.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercsp

Marty, I never was a Dylan fan but this post was very interesting.

Question: Would you happen to know if the guy who went through Dylan's garbage was the same nutjob who used to go through Nixon's garbage after he left office and was living in Manhattan in the late 70's?

Don't know if Dylan was a dick or not, but he seemed like an ok guy on that episode of Pawn Stars when he autographed the album for Chumlee. Jim Carroll had an excellent entry about meeting Dylan in his second book of diaries. In truth, I thought it spoke more as a general cautionary tale about meeting your idol- especially if he is a living legend.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaveW

@csp: Ha ha ha! I never did see that movie!

@DaveW: I don't think it was, but I'll do some online research on that. I never heard about the Nixon garbage guy. I don't watch Pawn Stars, Dylan was on that? I'll try and Google around and find it!

March 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

That was a great look back marty! looking forward to reading Suze's book (it will go perfectly wiht my medicinal brownies)

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGreen Monkey

So nice you included a Dylan for me:)
the real Dylan(thomas)
zimmerman although loved by some or many..
is not my Dylan
or my sons namesake:)

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGidget

@Green Monkey: Check the book out, I think you'll like it and cheers to your medicinal brownies!

@Gidget: This Dylan's for you!

March 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

Great post today Daddio!
I had NO idea Bob and Suze were that tall!
'The Amazing Colossal Dylan' and 'The Attack of the 50 ft. Roltolo!'
What a great Drive-In Double Feaure!

March 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter"Boris"

@"Boris:" Ha ha ha! As time goes on, not only has their legend grown, so has their stature!

March 20, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

I only have a few idols, Bob is one of them. He looks such a baby on the cover of Freewheelin'. What was he like 20 yrs old at that time?

March 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlegitimate beef

@legitimage beef: I just looked it up online, he was just 21-years-old!

March 20, 2012 | Registered CommenterTripping With Marty

The reason your recreation of the Dylan cover doesn't work is that you have Bob and Suze walking toward Bleecker Street. On the cover they are walking toward West 4th--in the direction of of the one-way traffic.

October 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSlott

i actually live in bob's apartment on 161 w. 4th. the building has been sold, they are forcing me to move out... so i'm sure the apartment as i know it will no longer be. while the apartment needs some work, it'll be sad to see this one destroyed!

February 25, 2016 | Unregistered Commentersarah

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