It reads like a scene from a bad movie. The jaded rock-star retires to his room after the show, in some nondescript hotel. The mini-bar beckons, a line of coke perhaps, another groupie?
Instead, in this netherworld that comes with life on the road, the man once seen as a messiah of the counter-culture has a vision of Jesus Christ, seeing him as King of Kings and from there embarks on a conversion to Christianity.
According to Bob Dylan, that's how the saviour came into his life.
And so began one of the most controversial periods of his career, now somewhat euphemistically called the "Gospel years".
Almost 40 years on, fans now have the opportunity to review this divisive chapter, as Dylan releases a boxset of unheard takes and unseen footage from his notorious gospel tour.
The first public expression of Dylan's newfound acquaintance with God came with the album, Slow Train Coming, released in August 1979. Gathering a crack group of studio musicians and guitarist Mark Knopfler, he delivered a batch of songs including Gotta Serve Somebody, When He Returns and Man Gave Names to All the Animals, that left no doubt where his head was at.
Thousands of fans were outraged, and according to respected music writer and musician Michael Simmons, their reasons at the time were clear.
"Dylan represented free thinking, anti-establishment values, you know, 'don't follow leaders'. And here he was following the ultimate leader."
But despite an album's worth of gospel, the full extent of Dylan's fundamentalist Christianity only became clear with his next concert tour. No old songs, just songs about Jesus, interspersed with sermons from the stage.
As Simmons explains, writing in Mojo magazine this month: "He was basically saying it was Jesus' way or the highway. The old rap — you either follow Jesus or you go to hell."
Fans protested, people walked out. One concert-goer held up a sign: "Jesus loves your old songs".
Critics were scathing too, with their feelings best summed up by a journalist from the San Francisco Chronicle who wrote,
"Dylan has written some of the most banal and uninspired songs of his career for his Jesus phase."
"Years from now, when social historians look back, Dylan's conversion will serve as a concise metaphor for the vast emptiness of the era."
A fresh look
Well, now we can look back with a little more perspective as Dylan releases a box set documenting his Gospel tour over the next two years. Titled Trouble No More, the box set contains eight CDs and a DVD.
Unlike previous archive releases, the set doesn't just offer alternate takes and unreleased studio songs. This collection highlights live recordings from the tour where Dylan was backed by a quality band that included a horn section and three back-up singers. For Michael Simmons, it's a revelation.
"I think that [fans] were so taken aback by the religion that they didn't get the music. It's often the case with Dylan that the stuff he doesn't release is more interesting than the music he does release."
"The live stuff is better than the three albums he made in the studio (at that time)".
But do we need eight CDs and a DVD to re-assess this period?
The answer rests with each fan and their credit card but the full set certainly reveals a performer in evolution. Multiple takes on the same songs show how they change too. It's also clear that Dylan's refusal to play his old songs softens as the tour continues.
There are some great songs and performances here. And then there's some real clangers.
For many Dylan fans the problem remains: no matter how many times you listen to him sing these songs, a lot are simply sermonising. Those songs don't ask questions so much as provide answers. Indeed, they demand a kind of conformity most fans couldn't and still won't tolerate.
It must be said that Dylan fans were stupid not to see this coming, way before it happened. Making music in Woodstock in 1967 just months after his motorcycle crash and his withdrawal from public life, he recorded a song called Sign on the Cross:
"Yes, but I know in my head, that we're all so misled,
And it's that ol' sign on the cross, that worries me."
Soon after, he releases John Wesley Harding — an album filled with biblical references. I Dreamed I saw St Augustine, The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest and of course All Along the Watchtower were songs with clear religious overtones. It's interesting to know that they were written at a time when a bible held pride of place in his country home.
Talking to Rolling Stones magazine in 1984 Dylan said when asked about his view of God and the afterlife: "I've always thought there was a superior power, that this is not the real world and there's a world to come."
Asked if he believed in a literal interpretation of the Bible he says, "yes".
Does Dylan still believe that? Well, that's anyone's guess.
The last judgment
What Dylan clearly does believe is that when it comes to finding a muse, even God is fair game. It's also clear that when Dylan is tired of something he'll put it down and move on.
Trouble No More might be seen as one for the true believers. Dylan believers that is, not the other deity.
It can also be said that, even in his most contentious artistic period, he turns out classics both in studio and live.
In analysing the songs Dylan wrote over two years, Michael Simmons concludes the great songs from the Gospel years are still great today.
"For example, Every Grain of Sand is the ultimate, proclaiming that the spirit is in everything - that it's not hidden, that a higher presence is everywhere. For me, that's more powerful than the overt Jesus material."
In other words, when a great artist tackles the big issues, it's likely it will result in great art.
And in this case, we can only say, 'thanks be to God' and 'Amen'.