San Francisco man brings Bob Dylan album back to library

Recently retired and with some spare time, Howard Simon was sitting in his Sunset District home browsing his collection of about 3,000 vinyl albums when he stopped in the Bob Dylan section and noticed a copy of ” Self Portrait “, which he had checked. released from the University Heights Library in Ohio in 1973 and never returned.

So Simon, 62, packed the album he borrowed in eighth grade and sent it back to the library – 48 years later.

He included a letter of apology and explanation.

“As a recent retiree, I take this opportunity to bring my attention to some of the many vignettes of life which, through career and family, have been overlooked for many years,” he wrote. “In this context, I am returning with this letter a late article (according to my count, about 17,480 days late at the time of writing this article) … it is quite late and I am so sorry!”

Simon also included a check for $ 175 – “a tithe, if you will,” he said, or about 10% of what the one-cent-a-day late charge in effect in July 1973 would have been. .

Sara Philips, director of University Heights, Ohio, branch of Heights Libraries, said the library no longer collects late fees.

“We are grateful that Mr. Simon returned the file,” she said on the library’s website. “I said we can now call him even.”

But she asked Simon for permission to post the story of Dylan’s long-lost album on the library’s Facebook page. He agreed and is now experiencing a brief flirtation with the celebrity.

“Somehow it went viral,” he told The Chronicle. “I didn’t expect my little album comeback to get so much attention. I find it fun and really fun, but somewhat unexpected.

Simon and “Self Portrait” left Cleveland in 1976 and made stops in Chicago, Santa Fe, Los Angeles, Berkeley and Sacramento before moving to San Francisco in 1990. The album survived multiple moves, said Simon. The cover was a bit rough, but both vinyl records were in fairly good condition.

“The thing is, I’m a collector so I take care of things,” he said. “But also, it wasn’t a very good album so I didn’t play it a lot.”

Critics vilified the album, which Simon said was overproduced and included many songs not written by Dylan and an opening song that didn’t even include the famous singer-songwriter. Rolling Stone magazine called “Self Portrait” Dylan’s “strangest album”.

“It was just Dylan being Dylan and disturbing the expectations of his fans,” said Simon.

But in context, and after the cleaned-up “Another Self Portrait” reissue appeared as part of a retrospective series in 2013, many critics are nicer in their assessment, including Simon, who now says it is ” makes a lovely album “.

So charming, in fact, that he decided to keep it in his collection, which includes most of Dylan’s 39 studio albums and a few more.

“I’ve already replaced it,” he says. “The same day I posted it.”

Michael Cabanatuan is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: Twitter: @ctuan

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