Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan


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"I think we better talk this over..."

Quotes from Rolling Stone magazine interviews, from the 70's to today.

On Performing Live:

"There's always those butterflies at a certain point, but then there's the realization that the songs I'm singing mean as much to the people as to me; so it's just up to me to perform the best I can. ... For me, it's just reinforcing those images in my head that were there, that don't die, that will be there tomorrow. And in doing so for myself, hopefully also for those people who also had those images."
[From Issue 154 - February 14, 1974]

"Ask Muhammad All why he fights one more fight. Go ask Marlon Brando why he makes one more movie. Ask Mick Jagger why he goes on the road. See what kind of answers you come up with. Is it so surprising I'm on the road? What else would I be doing in this life — meditating on the mountain? Whatever someone finds fulfilling, whatever his or her purpose is — that's all it is."
[From Issue 278 - November 16, 1978]

"Since 1974, I've never stopped working. I've been out on tours where there hasn't been any publicity. So for me, I'm not getting caught up in all this excitement of a big tour. I've played big tours and I've played small tours. I mean, what's such a big deal about this one? ... To me, an audience is an audience, no matter where they are."
[From Issue 478/479 - July 17, 1986]

"They say, 'Dylan never talks.' What the hell is there to say? That's not the reason an artist is in front of people. An artist has come for a different purpose. Maybe a self-help group — maybe a Dr. Phil — would say, 'How you doin'?' I don't want to get harsh and say I don't care. You do care, you care in a big way, otherwise you wouldn't be there. But it's a different kind of connection. It's not a light thing. ... It's alive every night, or it feels alive every night."
[From Issue 1008 - September 7, 2006]

"My band plays a different type of music than anybody else plays. We play distinctive rhythms that no other band can play. There are so many of my songs that have been rearranged at this point that I've lost track of them myself. We do keep the structures intact to some degree. But the dynamics of the song itself might change from one given night to another because the mathematical process we use allows that. As far as I know, no one else out there plays like this. Today, yesterday and probably tomorrow. I don't think you'll hear what I do ever again."
[From Issue 1078 - May 14, 2009]

On Having a "Career":

"To me, I don't have a 'career.' ... A career is something you can look back on, and I'm not ready to look back. Time doesn't really exist for me in those kinds of terms. I don't really remember in any monumental way 'what I have done.' This isn't my career; this is my life, and it's still vital to me. ... I just want to do whatever it is I do. These lyrical things that come off in a unique or a desolate sort of way, I don't know, I don't feel I have to put that out anymore to please anybody. Besides, anything you want to do for posterity's sake, you can just sing into a tape recorder and give it to your mother, you know? ... Sometimes I think about people like T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters — these people who played into their sixties. If I'm here at 80, I'll be doing the same thing. This is all I want to do — it's all I can do. I mean, you don't have to be a 19- or 20-year-old to play this stuff. That's the vanity of that youth-culture ideal. To me that's never been the thing. I've never really aimed myself at any so-called youth culture. I directed it at people who I imagined, maybe falsely so, had the same experiences that I've had, who have been through what I'd been through. But I guess a lot of people just haven't ... I've always been just about being an individual, with an individual point of view. If I've been about anything, it's probably that, and to let some people know that it's possible to do the impossible."
[From Issue 478/479 - July 17, 1986]

"You never heard about Oral Roberts and Billy Graham being on some Never Ending Preacher Tour. Does anybody ever call Henry Ford a Never Ending Car Builder? Is Rupert Murdoch a Never Ending Media Tycoon? What about Donald Trump? Does anybody say he has a Never Ending Quest to build buildings? Picasso painted well into his 90s. And Paul Newman raced cars in his 70s. Anybody ever say that Duke Ellington was on a Never Ending Bandstand Tour? But critics apply a different standard to me for some reason. But we're living in an age of breaking everything down into simplistic terms, aren't we? These days, people are lucky to have a job. Any job. So critics might be uncomfortable with me [working so much]. Maybe they can't figure it out. But nobody in my particular audience feels that way about what I do. Anybody with a trade can work as long as they want. A welder, a carpenter, an electrician. They don't necessarily need to retire. People who have jobs on an assembly line, or are doing some kind of drudgery work, they might be thinking of retiring every day. Every man should learn a trade. It's different than a job. My music wasn't made to take me from one place to another so I can retire early."
[From Issue 1078 - May 14, 2009]

On Bootlegs:

"I still don't like bootleg records. There was a period of time when people were just bootlegging anything on me, because there was nobody ever in charge of the recording sessions. All my stuff was being bootlegged high and low, far and wide. They were never intended to be released, but everybody was buying them. So my record company said, 'Well, everybody else is buying these records, we might as well put them out.' ... I started playing ("Blind Willie McTell") live because I heard the Band doing it. Most likely it was a demo, probably showing the musicians how it should go. It was never developed fully, I never got around to completing it. There wouldn't have been any other reason for leaving it off the record. It's like taking a painting by Manet or Picasso — goin' to his house and lookin' at a half-finished painting and grabbing it and selling it to people who are 'Picasso fans.' The only fans I know I have are the people who I'm looking at when I play, night after night."
[From Issue 1008 - September 7, 2006]

On the Sixties:

"Everybody makes a big deal about the Sixties. The Sixties, it's like the Civil War days. But, I mean, you're talking to a person who owns the Sixties. Did I ever want to acquire the Sixties? No. But I own the Sixties — who's going to argue with me? I'll give 'em to you if you want 'em. You can have 'em. ... My old songs, they've got something — I agree, they've got something! I think my songs have been covered — maybe not as much as 'White Christmas' or 'Stardust,' but there's a list of over 5,000 recordings. That's a lot of people covering your songs, they must have something. If I was me, I'd cover my songs too. A lot of these songs I wrote in 1961 and '62 and '64, and 1973, and 1985, I can still play a lot of those songs — well, how many other artists made songs during that time? How many do you hear today? I love Marvin Gaye, I love all that stuff. But how often are you gonna hear 'What's Going On'? I mean, who sings it? Who sings 'Tracks of My Tears'? Where is that being sung tonight?"
[From Issue 1008 - September 7, 2006]

On Religion & Politics:

"I've never said I'm born again. That's just a media term. I don't think I've been an agnostic. I've always thought there's a superior power, that this is not the real world and that there's a world to come. That no soul has died, every soul is alive, either in holiness or in flames. And there's probably a lot of middle ground. ... I don't think that this is it, you know — this life ain't nothin'. There's no way you're gonna convince me this is all there is to it. I never, ever believed that. I believe in the Book of Revelation. The leaders of this world are eventually going to play God, if they're not already playing God, and eventually a man will come that everybody will think is God. He'll do things, and they'll say, 'Well, only God can do those things. It must be him.' "
[From Issue 424 - June 21, 1984]

"For me, there is no right and there is no left. There's truth and there's untruth, y'know? There's honesty and there's hypocrisy. Look in the Bible: you don't see nothing about right or left. Other people might have other ideas about things, but I don't, because I'm not that smart. I hate to keep beating people over the head with the Bible, but that's the only instrument I know, the only thing that stays true. ... Don't forget, Jesus said that it's harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than it is for a camel to enter the eye of a needle. I mean, is that conservative? I don't know, I've heard a lot of preachers say how God wants everybody to be wealthy and healthy. Well, it doesn't say that in the Bible. You can twist anybody's words, but that's only for fools and people who follow fools. If you're entangled in the snares of this world, which everybody is ..."
[From Issue 478/479 - July 17, 1986]

"Some say you can't legislate morality. Well, maybe not. But morality has gotten kind of a bad rap. In Roman thought, morality is broken down into basically four things. Wisdom, Justice, Moderation and Courage. All of these are the elements that would make up the depth of a person's morality. And then that would dictate the types of behavior patterns you'd use to respond in any given situation. I don't look at morality as a religious thing."
[From Issue 1078 - May 14, 2009]

On Gadgets & Globalism:

"Everything is computerized now, it's all computers. I see that as the beginning of the end. You can see everything going global. There's no nationality anymore, no I'm this or I'm that: 'We're all the 'same, all workin' for one peaceful world, blah, blah, blah.' Somebody's gonna have to come along and figure out what's happening with the United States. Is this just an island that's going to be blown out of the ocean, or does it really figure into things? I really don't know. At this point right now, it seems that it figures into things. But later on, it will have to be a country that's self-sufficient, that can make it by itself without that many imports. Right now, it seems like in the States, and most other countries, too, there's a big push on to make a big global country — one big country — where you can get all the materials from one place and assemble them someplace else and sell 'em in another place, and the whole world is just all one, controlled by the same people, you know? And if it's not there already, that's the point it's tryin' to get to."
[From Issue 424 - June 21, 1984]

"It's peculiar and unnerving in a way to see so many young people walking around with cellphones and iPods in their ears and so wrapped up in media and video games. It robs them of their self-identity. It's a shame to see them so tuned out to real life. Of course they are free to do that, as if that's got anything to do with freedom. The cost of liberty is high, and young people should understand that before they start spending their life with all those gadgets."
[From Issue 1078 - May 14, 2009]



Crane: Mr Bob Dylan, Ladies and Gentlemen! (applause) (shouts) Hello Bobby!

Dylan: I'm alright!

Crane: Are you plugged in? All right.

Dylan: [sings It's All Over Now Baby Blue

Crane: Thank you Bob and I'll be right back.

----< break >----

Crane: How'd it feel?

Dylan: Fine.

Crane: Did it feel good?

Dylan: Felt good.

Crane: Yeah, you were groovy. What'cha doin' with that?

Dylan: Oh, I'm just trying to get it down so it doesn't fall in the way of my voice you know.

Crane: We had ... looking at that harmonica, have you ever met Jesse Fuller?

Dylan: Sure.

Crane: Jessie was on the show a couple of weeks ago. We didn't get a chance to talk much but next time he comes back, I want to because he looks like an amazing gentleman. Talking about amazing gentlemen, how old are you?

Dylan: 23!

Crane: 23 years old!

Dylan: Yeah, I'll be 24 in May!

Crane: Yeah. A lot's happened to you in just 23 years hasn't it?

Dylan: Yeah, yeah, fantastic!

Crane: Are you happy about it?

Dylan: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Crane: You oughta be. Because you're successful at doing, I think, what you want to do more than anything else.

Dylan: Yeah, yeah, I don't have much to think about.

Crane: You don't have much to think about? I think you must be thinking about an awful lot of things to write the kind of things you do.

Dylan: Yeah, yeah.

Crane: Tell 'em!

Dylan: Yeah.

Crane: Tell 'em, just for those out there in the audience that might not know all of the songs that you've written. Just name a few of the big ones!

Dylan: Oh.

Crane: This is the composer of ...


Crane: No! That ain't one of the big ones! (audience laughter)

Dylan: No?

Crane: No.

Dylan: Let's see, One Too Many Mornings.

Crane: How about Blowin' In The Wind?

Dylan: Yeah? (applause)

Crane: Do you folks. maybe you remember the night that Judy Collins..., and I kept saying "You gotta sing this song, you gotta sing this song" and Judy Collins came out and and sang the full original version of Hard Rain's Gonna Fall? Well, Bob wrote that!

Dylan: Yeah, I wrote that (applause).

Crane: Who are you waving at?

Dylan: Odetta!

Crane: Odetta! (To audience) Do you know who Odetta is? (lots of applause). Put a light on that lady!! How are you darling? ... Talk about great artists! That's one of them! (To Odetta) You are going to be on show in a while aren't you?

Odetta: Next month.

Crane: Next month. Yeah, Odetta is all booked ...

Crane: When did you first start pickin' and singin', Bob?

Dylan: Oh... When I was about ten, eleven.

Crane: Did you start out with a guitar or did you start out playing something else?

Dylan: Piano. Piano and guitar.

Crane: Where are you from? Where were you born?

Dylan: Minnesota.

Crane: Did you go to school there?

Dylan: Yeah.

Crane: How far did you get through school?

Dylan: Oh, I got all the way.

Crane: High school?

Dylan: Yeah.

Crane: To college and all?

Dylan: No, not really, no.

Crane: Then, you kinda got on the road, huh?

Dylan: Well, I got on the road, I got on, you know (audience laughter). I did it! (giggles) Whatever.

Crane: When did you start writing original tunes?

Dylan: Well, I started writing a long time ago. You know, you write different things down, when you really don't know what else to do. That's when I started writing. I started writing songs ... that's a different story, you know ... I started writing songs after I heard Hank Williams.

Crane: Hank Williams? Did he really inspired you?

Dylan: Yeah.

Crane: Cold Cold Heart? Jambalaya? Things like that?

Dylan: Yeah. Cole Porter.

Crane: Cole Porter??

Dylan: Yeah.

Crane: Now you're putting me on!

Dylan: No. (audience laughter).

Crane: Yeah, you are!

Dylan: No, I'm not!

Crane: Did you see Judy Collins sing Hard Rain?

Dylan: I did. I saw that!

Crane: You watch the show.

Dylan: All the time. Yeah I do.

Crane: Where do you see it mostly?

Dylan: I saw it last time I was in New York City. I was there to make another record. I saw the show. I saw her singing.

Crane: Where were you when you watched the show? You remember the last time?

Dylan: Somebody's house.

Crane: They told me you were in a pool hall last time you saw it.

Dylan: Oh, I did see the show from a pool hall. Your show goes into the pool halls! (audience laughter)

Crane: Yeah?

Dylan: Because, it goes right in and it stays on ... and ... not even the late movie can get it out.

Crane: We're very big in the pool halls.

Dylan: Very big in the pool halls (audience laughter) and ... around ... south side bars (audience laughter).

Crane: South side bars? Yeah? (audience laughter)

Dylan: Right there. Down that East End.

Crane: You think that means anything?

Dylan: No, no (audience laughter).

Crane: You think we're gonna make it with this show?

Dylan: I think so!

Crane: Yeah?

Dylan: Yeah! I think so! (giggles) (audience laughter)

Crane: What's the matter?

Dylan: Oh, nothin'! (audience laughter)

Crane: Are you nervous?

Dylan: I'm not nervous, no! I'm .... eh ... the carpet!

Crane: The carpet??

Dylan: Yellow ... you know ...

Crane: Yeah?

Dylan: I've never seen .., eh ... I never reflected before when I've seen the show that it was so yellow. (audience laughter)

Crane: The floor. I assume he's ... you're referring to the floor?

Dylan: Yeah.

Crane: Did you get the painting crew in here? (audience laughter)

Dylan: No.

Crane: I mean, is it good or bad?

Dylan: It's fine, It's fine! Just, you know, it's .... I did see the show and it's so ... tight! That's all. It seems like it's very big.

Crane: Everybody says that. Apparently it looks bigger on the television than it does here in the studio. But it's a pretty big studio. We have one of the largest studios audiences of any television... What do you think about it, do you watch much television?

Dylan: Oh, I do once in a while you know.

Crane: What kind of shows do you like mostly?

Dylan: Oh, I like the movies.

Crane: Yeah.

Dylan: Like the movies ... I see good movies on television. Best place to see good movies these days, on television!

Crane: Yeah ... We'll be right back, Bob Dylan and I in just about a minute from right now.

-----< break >-----

Crane: Bob, when you hear other people do your stuff, do you enjoy listening to Peter Paul And Mary do all your things.

Dylan: Sure, yeah.

Crane: Yeah?

Dylan: Yeah!

Crane: I think that's a real compliment to have so many people recording your things. Besides, you get all that money too.

Dylan: Yeah.

Crane: What are you doing with all that money by the way?

Dylan: Oh, buying boots, bananas, fruit, pears.

Crane: Boots, bananas, fruit, pears ...

Dylan: Bought some very fancy ashtrays the other day.

Crane: Did you really? Well, where do you keep all that? I understand you don't have a place to keep all that ... You travel all the time.

Dylan: I do, yeah.

Crane: What, you strap it all on the motorcycle.

Dylan: No, I don't really ride my motorcycle that much. I have one though.

Crane: You do.

Dylan: Yeah. I'm thinking of getting a car.

Crane: A car!

Dylan: But I don't know what kind to get.

Crane: Yeah.

Dylan: Yeah, I'm thinking about a Maserati; You ever heard of one of those?

Crane: Yeah.

Dylan: Well, I never saw one, but I like the name.

Crane: Mas-er-rati!

Dylan: Yeah. Maserati. Bob Dylan and his Maserati.

Crane: Because it's Italian? Bob Dylan and his swinging Maserati. No, I don't want you in a Maserati.

Dylan: No?

Crane: No, I don't. I ... you know I shouldn't say this because I ...

Dylan: He wants me in one! (referring to someone shouting 'yeah' in the audience).

Crane: Well, that's because he didn't get the same kind of chilling thought I just got which I probably shouldn't bring up.

Dylan: What?

Crane: But I will anyway.

Dylan: Yeah?

Crane: I think you represent to America and to American youth something very very vital and the last guy that had this kind of impact on the youth of this country was James Dean ...

Dylan: Aahh.

Crane: And I don't want you riding around in any hot sports cars.

Dylan: OK! I won't. I won't, Les! (audience laughter).

Crane: OK?

Dylan: Well, you know.

Crane: It's Volkswagen time for you! (audience laughter)

Dylan: That's what I've been told.

Crane: A detoned Volkswagen.

Dylan: What about one of those little three wheeled jobs? You know those little ...

Crane: Yeah, a Messerschmidt they call those. Did I say that right? Yes I did. We're still on so apparently I did (audience laughter). Listen, how does it feel, Bob, when you're 22 years old and you go out on the stage at the Lincoln Center ...

Dylan: Old?

Crane: Well, you were 22 then.

Dylan: Oh, yeah.

Crane: And there are thousands of people jamming that place, paying top dollar, and according you one of the greatest ovations that ... What does it feel like when you're getting this kind of ovation at this kind of an age when you have the kind of respect and adulation you have? That's a tough question.

Dylan: Yeah.

Crane: But answer it.

Dylan: Well ... well, I'll tell ya Les (giggles, audience laughs) ... I can't answer that.

Crane: Yes, you can.

Dylan: Oh. Well it feels just delicious, wonderful. It feels ... marvelous, splendid, swinging, groovy, fantastic

Crane: Groovy, marvelous, splendid, fantastic

Dylan: Bobby Neuwirth (laughs)

Crane: Yeah, I'll buy. I'll buy all those things. What do you do mostly, you travel a lot don'cha?

Dylan: I do yes.

Crane: Give a lot of concerts?

Dylan: Aahh. I do, yes. Yeah.

Crane: Where mostly.

Dylan: Oh, it really ranges, you know. Everyplace from college theaters to Vaudeville halls.

Crane: Yeah. What kind of crowds, mostly young people or are the older people starting to get your message?

Dylan: Oh, good crowds, good crowds. I don't really know, uh, I don't really know what ... young people, or old people, but they're all right people. You know. They're all right.

Crane: Yeah.

Dylan: Yeah.

Crane: Most of your songs.... I don't want to hang you up with corny questions, but it's true that most of your songs say something ....

Dylan: Uh-hum.

Crane: There is a message ...

Dylan: Yeah.

Crane: ... in almost everything you say. What is your main message?

Dylan: Eat?

Crane: No, I don't think that's it. And that's a cute answer but that's not the message.

Dylan: Yeah. Aah. My main message is, ah, you know (giggles), you want it in one word (giggles, audience laughs), one word!

Crane: No.

Dylan: Well, I'll tell ya Les.

Crane: Yeah, Bob.

Dylan: One word message. It's just, ah, 'Be', you know.

Crane: Be?

Dylan: Be. Be period. Is.

Crane: How about love?

Dylan: Love? That's an OK word, yeah, That's all right I guess, but it's been used a LOT, it's been used a lot.

Crane: But that's part of your message, isn't it?

Dylan: Love? Well, yeah, but everybody says that.

Crane: That doesn't make it anything wrong with it.

Dylan: No, yeah, anybody can say it.

Crane: What about 'swing'?

Dylan: Swing? That's a good message.

Crane: Is that part of your message?

Dylan: Swing. Swing. Love. Be. Is. Was. Were. Double.

Crane: Double?

Dylan: Double up, once in a while.

Crane: Yeah (audience laughter). You're gonna sit there and I, I put on these duds for you tonight.

Dylan: You did?

Crane: In a tribute to you and you're gonna sit there and put me on, right?

Dylan: No, I'm not putting you *on*, everybody always thinks that (audience laughter).

Crane: Everybody always thinks you're putting them ...

Dylan: Yeah, yeah, it's weird, weird. That's a nice tie though.

Crane: You like that tie?

Dylan: Yeah. Like the tie.

Crane: You never wear a tie.

Dylan: No. Once in a while I do. I watch television in a tie (applause). Hey, that's OK. I work, hey! You gonna gimme that tie?

Crane: Swing! Love!

Dylan: Thank you very much! fantastic. What about those boots Les? (audience roars with laughter). Your's don't have a hook on ...

Crane: What size are yours?

Dylan: 8 1/2.

Crane: You couldn't get in ... it's the same boots! You know that?

Dylan: They are?

Crane: It's the same boots.

Dylan: Yours are a little shinier than mine though.

Crane: Hey Bob, that's a nice harmonica.

Dylan: It is.

Crane: [ plays some tune on it ] We'll be back right after this brief message ....

-----< break >----

Crane: We're back! Tommy Sands, Caterina Valente, Bob Dylan, Cy Pulman ...

----< talk with Tommy Sands, break >----

Dylan: No, no. I'm not married.

Crane: You say that as though you don't approve of it.

Dylan: Oh, I approve.

Crane: You just haven't found the lady yet? Is that it?

Dylan: Oh, that's not true either. I just am not married you know (audience laughter).

Crane: (to part of the audience) What are you breaking up about over there? You're really cracking up.

----< talk with Caterina Valente >----

Crane: (to Dylan) What did you do when I looked over there?

Dylan: Nothing, Les. (audience laughter). I didn't do anything.

Crane: You are really cracking up this audience!

Dylan: Nah, nah, I'm not.

Crane: Yes you are

Tommy Sands: You know why he’s cracking up this audience

Crane : Why

Sands: I was sitting back there watching him. Of course, I say you know why he’s cracking up this audience, I can’t speak for this audience. But I think I recognize talent. And I think as big and as successful as Bob Dylan is as a singer and writer of folk songs I think that he has a tremendous future as an actor. [Audience Applause]

Sands: In fact you know, I don’t; know I was never familiar with Bob Dylan.I’ve seen record albums and I’d heard songs and everything But I was never familiar with the man, and I’ve never seen him And after watching him, I’m sure that other producers right now, .its wild. , because tonight somebody might see him and offer him the thing he wants, not that he would take anything. He does remind me of Jimmy Dean and he’s very funny

Crane: How do you like that Bobby?

Dylan: Well, (briskly) Thank You Very Much (audience laughter).

Crane: Have you ever given any thought to acting. Think you might enjoy acting?

Dylan: Well, I'm gonna try to make a movie this summer. Which Allen Ginsberg is writing. I'm rewriting ...

Crane: Allen Ginsberg, the poet?

Dylan: Yeah, yeah.

Crane: He was on this program you know.

Dylan: Yeah.

Crane: Extolling the virtues of marijuana one night.

Dylan: Really? Allen?? (audience laughter). Sounds like a lie to me (audience laughter).

Crane: That's really ... You think I'm lying?

Dylan: No, I didn't mean that.

Crane: Allen Ginsberg was sitting in that chair where Caterina Valente is sitting right now and he said that he thought that we ought to legalize pot.

Dylan: He said that?

Crane: Right on the television.

Dylan: Pheeeww!

Crane: Can you imagine that?

Dylan: Nah. Allen is a little funny sometimes (audience roars with laughter).

Crane: Allen's funny sometimes, huh? Yes ... what is this movie going to be about?

Dylan: Oh it's a, sort of a horror cowboy movie (audience laughter). Takes place on the New York Thruway.

Crane: A horror cowboy movie that takes place .. I don't think that's exactly what Tommy Sands had in mind.

Dylan: No, well, its, that's the kind of movie it's gonna be though. You know.

Crane: It's gonna be one of those underground pictures, right?

Dylan: No. It's gonna be all straight. On the up and up.

Crane: Yeah? Are you gonna star in it?

Dylan: Yeah, yeah, I'm a hero.

Crane: You're the hero? You play the horrible cowboy?

Dylan: I play my mother (audience laughter).

Crane: You play your mother? In the movie?

Dylan: In the movie. You gotta see the movie (audience laughter).

Crane: He's quite the put on artist, isn't he?

Dylan: Nah, God.

Crane: You're terrible.

Dylan: Nah. Don't want to be categorized.

Tommy Sands: Hey, can I ask you a question? may I ask you a question, Bob?

Dylan: Sure.

Tommy Sands: .... so many of the present artists seem to do the same thing as the country artists, yet they seem to have a wider appeal. Why is that?

Dylan: I Don't know. No. No.

Crane: I'll tell you why. It's because the country artists haven't had the kind of exposure, lately, that the folk artists have had. They travel in different circles ...

----< talk continues with Caterina Valente & others >----

Dylan: [sings It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)]


May 1965 Dylan Interview

Bob Dylan's privacy and complexity have been the targets of an all out assault by reporters, photographers, fans and enemies. His reaction to this attempt to reduce him to a known and predictable quantity comprises his public image as you probably know it -- whether from hearsay or reportage (both being equally suspect). This interview is something of a rarity in that it is one of the very few -- if any -- in which Dylan volunteered to talk and with his interviewer in a manner both honest and meaningful. However, the author does not claim to have captured Dylan in it, but only a segment of his shadow on that particular day...

Q: I don't know whether to do a serious interview or carry on that Absurdist way we talked last night.

Dylan: It'll be the same thing anyway, man

Q: Yeah. Okay, if you are a poet and write words arranged in some sort of rhythm, why do you switch at some point and write lyrics in a song so that you're singing the words as part of a Gestalt presence?

Dylan: Well, I can't define that word poetry. I wouldn't even attempt it. At one time I thought that Robert Frost was poetry. Other times, I thought Allen Ginsberg was poetry. Sometimes, I thought Francois Villon was poetry. But poetry isn't really confined to the printed page. Hey, then again, I don't believe in saying, "Look at that girl walking! Isn't that poetry?" I'm not going to get insane about it. The lyrics to the songs? It just so happens that they might be a little stranger than in most songs. I find it easy to write songs. I have been writing songs for a long time and the words to the songs aren't written out just for the paper. They're written so you can read it, you dig? If you take away whatever there is to the song -- the beat, the melody -- I could still recite it. I see nothing wrong with the songs you can't do that with either -- songs that, if you took away the beat and melody, wouldn't stand up. Because they're not suppose to do that, you know. Songs are songs -- I don;'t believe in expecting too much out of any one thing.

Q: Whatever happened to Blind Boy Grunt? (A name Dylan used to record a couple of his first folk sides -- for Broadside Records.)

Dylan: I was doing that four years ago. Now there are a lot of people writing songs on protest subjects. But it's taken some kind of weird step. Hey, I'd rather listen to Jimmy Reed or Howling Wolf, man, or to The Beatles or Francoise Hardy, than I would to any protest song singers -- although I haven't heard all the protest song singers there are. But the ones I've heard -- there's this very emptiness which is like a song written saying, "Let's hold hands and everything will be grand." I see no more to it than that. Just because somebody mentions the word bomb, I'm not going to scream, man, and start clapping.

Q: Is it that they just don't work anymore?

Dylan: It's not that they don't work, it's that there are a lot of people afraid of the Bomb, right? But there are a lot of other people afraid to be seen carrying a Modern Screen magazine down the street, you know. There are a lot of people afraid to admit they like Marlon Brando movies. Hey, it's not that they don't work anymore, but have you ever thought of a place where they do work? What exactly does work?

Q: They give a groovy feeling to the people who sing them. I guess that's about it. But what does work is the attitude not the song. And there's just another attitude called for.

Dylan: Yeah, but you have to be very hip to the fact about the attitude -- you have to be hip to communication. Sure, you can make all sorts of protest songs and put them on Folkways record. But who hears them? The people that do hear them are going to be agreeing with you anyway. You aren't going to get somebody to hear it who doesn't dig. If you can find a cat who can actually say, "Okay! I'm a changed man because I heard this one thing -- or I just saw this one thing..." Hey, it doesn't necessarily happen that way all the time. It happens with a collage of experience in which somebody can actually know by instinct what's right and wrong for him to do -- where he doesn't actually have to feel guilty about anything. A lot of people act out of guilt. They act because they think somebody's looking at them. No matter what it is. There's people who do anything because of guilt...

Q: And you don't want to be guilty?

Dylan: It's that I'm not guilty. I'm not any more guilty than you are. Like, I don't consider any elder generation guilty... I can't make that, but I can't really put it down. Hey, I can't put anything down, because I don't have to be around any of it. I don't have to put people down who I don't like because I don't have to be around any of those people. Of course, there is the giant great contradiction of What Do You Do? Hey, I don't know what you do, but all I can do is cast aside all the things not to do. I don't know where it's at, all I know is where it's not at. And as long as I know that, I don't really have to know, myself, where it's at. Everybody knows where it's at once in a while, but nobody can walk around all the time in a complete Utopia. Dig poetry. You were asking about poetry? Man, poetry is just bull, you know. I don't know about other countries but in this one, it's total massacre. It's not poetry at all. People don't read poetry in this country. If they do, it offends them; they don't dig it. You go to school, man, and what kind of poetry do you read? You read Robert Frost's "The Two Roads", you read T. S. Elliot -- you read all the bull and that's just bad, man, it's not good. It's not anything. It's not anything hard, it's all soft-boiled egg... And then, on top of that, they throw Shakespeare at some kid who can't read Shakespeare. Hey, everybody hates Shakespeare in high school, right? Who digs reading Hamlet, man. All they give you is Ivanhoe, Silas Marner, A Tale of Two Cities -- and they keep you away from things which you should do. You shouldn't even be there in school. You should find out from people. Dig, that's where it all starts. In the beginning -- like from 13 to 19 -- that's where all the corruption is. These people all just overlook it right? There's more V.D. in people 13 to 19 than there is in any other group, but they aren't going to ever say so. They're never going to go into the schools and give shots. But that's where it's at. It's all a hype, man.

Q: Relating to this: If you put it in lyrics instead of poetry, you have a higher chance of hitting the people who have to be hit?

Dylan: I do, but I don't expect anything from it, you dig? All I can do is be me -- whoever that is -- for those people that I do play to, and not come on with them, tell them I'm something that I'm not. I'm not going to tell them that I'm The Great Cause Fighter or The Great Lover or Great Boy Genius or whatever. Because I'm not, man. Why mislead them? That's all just Madison Avenue, that's just selling. Sure, Madison Avenue is selling me, but it's not really selling me, because I was hip to it before I got there.

In Dylan's sixth album he sings a major poem called, "Desolation Row". One stanza has to do with Ezra Pound and T. S. Elliot sitting in the captain's tower of the ship arguing for power while calypso dancers leap on the deck and fishermen hold flowers. The image is relevant to any interview with Dylan, for it illustrates his basic attitude towards showplace words. It has to do with experiencing life, partaking of it's unending facets and hang-ups and wonders instead of merely discussing it. A typical Dylan interview is more an Absurdist Happening than a fact-finding dialogue. He presents himself in shatterproof totality -- usually in a somewhat bugged and bored mode about it -- and lets components fall out as the interviewer pokes at him. He's not taciturn, he's simply aware of his absurd situation and the desperate clamor of folks who want to know how many times he rubs his eyes upon awakening and why.

Unwillingly, Dylan has been shoved onto the podium for all of hipdom. Being a person aware of his fallibility and fragmentary perplexity -- as well as of his freedom and the significance of individuality -- it is hard for him to speak with certainty and weight. He constantly qualifies and insists on his ephemeral subjectivity, constantly underscores his right to privacy and unimportance. In doing so, he communicates a certain insecurity about his desired position in the funny texture of his prefabricated and other-image life.

On stage, Dylan carries himself and his voice with aloofness, a careful detachment from both his material and his audience. Is he interested in actively communicating his songs, in getting through to his audience? "I don't have to prove anything to anyone. those people who dig me know where I'm at-- I don't have to come on to them. I'm not a ballroom singer." What about those in the audience who aren't grooving with him? "I'm not interested in them."

The above quotes are from a press conference. The personnel for this tennis set were various representatives of major news periodicals and teenage fan magazines. Dylan clearly wanted no part of the glib questioning -- he never does. He had been cajoled into presenting himself for dissection. After a long exchange of basically meaningless trivia, I asked Dylan if it were true that nothing of any consequence ever happened at these things, that it was all redundant and silly. He agreed, "Interviewers will write my scene and words from their own bags anyway, no matter what I say. I accept writers and photographers. I don't think it's necessary at all, but it happens anyway. I am really uninvolved."
The press interview tolled leadenly on.

Q: Do you feel you're using more "urban imagery" than in the past? That your lyrics are becoming more sophisticated?

Dylan: Well, I watch too much T.V., I guess.

Q: What about Donovan?

Dylan: I like everybody. I don't want to be petty.

Q: A word for your fans?

Dylan: The lamppost leans on folded arms...

Q: What do you think of the new Bob Dylan?

Dylan: What's your name?

Q: Dave Mopert.

Dylan: Okay, what would you think if someone asked you, "What do you think of the new Dave Mopert?" "What new Dave Mopert?"?

Q: Is Joan Baez still relevant?

Dylan: She's one of the most relevant people I know.

Q: Do you feel you're living a real life?

Dylan: What's that mean? If I'm not living it, who is? And if I'm not, who's life am I living? Who's living mine? What's that?

Q: Do you feel you belong to your public now?

Dylan: No. I don't have any responsibility to the people who are hung up on me. I'm only responsible for what I create -- I didn't create them.

Q: Has your success infringed in on your personal life?

Dylan: What personal life? Hey, I have none.

This sort of ping pong continued about an hour before the interviewers left. Many hostilities and befuddlements had been formed and blurted, and I was sure he'd be just as misquoted and as little understood in the report of this press set as in all the others.

After seeing this typical interview, I realized how lucky I had been to speak with him so easily and so openly. I also realized how essentially meaningless this transcription must be. Dylan lays out many attitudes and concepts which, in their precise articulation and directness, will strike the public as shocking and unique. However, his meaning is to be found in his material. To know precisely what he thinks of Donovan or what year he began writing songs is extraneous. To make him come out for "no war toys" or anti-police brutality is a redundancy. Just listen to his songs.

However, we must shine flashlights down our heroes mouth and count the cavities in his teeth. With that rider, what follows is probably the most meaningfully candid interview Dylan has ever indulged in. I only hope it will give you the deep understanding of and respect for Dylan which I gained.

Q: Which brings up another thing. All the folk magazines and many folk people are very down on you. Do they put you down because you've changed or --

Dylan: It's that I'm successful, man. It's jealousy. Hey, anybody with any kind of knowledge at all would know what I'm doing, would know by instinct what's happening here. somebody who doesn't know that is still hung up with success and failure and good and bad. Maybe he doesn't have a chick all the time, stuff like that. But I can't use comments, man. I don't take anything like that seriously. If somebody praises me and says, "How groovy you are!" it doesn't mean anything to me because I can usually sense where that person is at. And it's no compliment if someone who's a total freak comes up and says, "How groovy you are!" And it's the same if they don't dig me. Other kinds of people don't have to say anything because, when you come down to it, it's all what's happening at the moment that counts. Who cares about tomorrow and yesterday? People don't live there, they live now.

Q: I've a theory which I've been picking up and shaking out every so often. When I spoke with the Byrds, they were saying the same thing that I'm saying. A lot of people are sayin it. It's why we have a new so-called rock 'n' roll sound emerging, it's a synthesis of all things, a --

Dylan: It's further than that, man. People know nowadays more than they did before. They've had so much to look at by now and know the bull of everything. People now don't even care about going to jail. So what? You're still with yourself as much as if you're out on the streets. There are still those who don't care about anything, but I've got to think that anybody who doesn't hurt anybody, you can't put that person down, you dig, if that person's happy doing that.

Q: But what if they freeze themselves into apathy? What if they don't care about anything anymore?

Dylan: What problem is that? Your problem or theirs? No it's not that, it's that nobody can learn by somebody else showing them or teaching them. People have to learn by themselves, by going through something which relates. Sure you say, how do you make somebody know something? People know it by themselves; they can go through some kind of scene with other people and themselves which somehow will come out somewhere, and it'll grind into them and be them. And all that just comes out of them somehow when they're faced with the next thing.

Q: It's like taking in until the time comes to put out, right? But people who don';t care don't put anything out. It's a whole frozen thing where nothing's happening anywhere. It's just the maintenance of the status quo, of existing circumstances, whatever they are.

Dylan: People who don't care? Are you talking about gas station attendants or a Zen doctor, man? Hey, there's a lot of people who don't care. A lot don't care for different reasons. A lot care about some things and not about others, and some don't care about anything. It's not up to me to make them care about anything. It's not up to me to make them care about something -- it's up to me not to let them bring me down and not to bring them down. It's like the whole world has a little thing: it's been taught that when you get up in the morning, you have to go out and bring somebody down. You walk down the street and unless you've brought somebody down, don't come home today, right? It's a circus world.

Q: So who is it that you write and sing for?

Dylan: I'm not writing and singing for anybody, to tell you the truth. Hey, really, I don't care what people say. I don't care what the make me seem to be or what they tell other people I am. If I did care about that, I'd tell you. I really have no concern with it. I don't even come into contact with these people. Hey, I dig people, though. But if someone's going to come up to me and ask me some questions which have been on his mind for such a long time, all I can think is, "Wow, man! What else can be in that person's head besides me? Am I that important, man, to be in a person's head for such a long time that he's got to know this answer?" I mea; can that really straighten him out -- if I tell him something? Hey, come on....

Q: A Los Angeles disc jockey, Les Claypool, went through a whole thing on you one night, just couldn't get off of it. For maybe 45 minutes, he'd play a side of yours and then an ethnic side in which it was demonstrated that both melodies were the same. After each pair he'd say, "Well, you see what's happening... This kid is taking other people's melodies; he's not all that original. Not only that," he'd say, "but his songs are totally depressing and have no hope."

Dylan: Who's Les Claypool?

Q: A folk jockey out here who has a long folk show on Saturday nights and a shorter one each night, during which he plays highly ethnic sides.

Dylan: He played those songs? He didn't play anything hopeful?

Q: No, he was loading it to make his point. Anyway, it brings up an expected question: Why do you use melodies that are already written?

Dylan: I used to do that, when I was more or less in folk. I knew the melodies; they were already there. I did it because I liked the melodies. I did it when I really wasn't that popular and the songs weren't reaching that many people, and everybody dug it. Man, I never introduced a song, "Here's the song I've stolen the melody from, someplace." For me it wasn't that important -- still isn't that important. I don't care about the melodies, man; the melodies are all traditional anyway. And if anyone wants to pick that out and say, "That's Bob Dylan" --that's their thing, not mine. I mean, if they want to think that. Anybody with any sense at all, man -- he says that I haven't any hope! Hey, I got faith ! I know that there are people who are going to know that's total bull. I know the cat is just uptight. He hasn't really gotten into a good day and he has to pick on something. Groovy. He has to pick on me? Hey, if he can't pick on me, he picks on someone else. It doesn't matter. He doesn't step on me, because I don't care. He's not coming up to me on the street and stepping on my head, man. Hey, I've only done that with very few of my songs anyway. And then when I don't do it, everybody says they're rock 'n' roll melodies.You can't satisfy the people -- you just can't. You got to know, man: they just don't care about it.

Q: Why is rock 'n' roll coming in and folk music going out?

Dylan: Folk music destroyed itself. Nobody destroyed it. Folk music is still here -- it's always going to be here, if you want to dig it. It's not that it's going in or out. It's all the soft, mellow crap, man that's just being replaced by something people know is there now. Hey, you must have heard rock 'n' roll long before the Beatles; you must've discarded rock 'n; roll around 1960. I did that in 1957. I couldn't make it as a rock 'n' roll singer then. I used to play piano. I made some records, too.

Q: Okay. You've got a lot of bread now. And your way of life isn't like it was four or five years ago. It's much more grand. Doesn't that kind of thing tend to throw you off?

Dylan: Well, the transition never came from working at it. I left where I'm from because there was nothing there. I came from Minnesota; there was nothing there. I'm not going to fake it and say I went out to see the world or I went out to conquer the world. Hey, when I left there, man, I knew one thing: I had to get out of there and not come back. Just from my senses, I knew there was something more than Walt Disney movies. I was never turned on or off by money. I never considered the fact of money as anything really important. I could always play the guitar, you dig, and make friends -- or fake friends. A lot of other people do a lot of things just to get around. You can find cats who get very scared, right? Who get married and settle down. But, after somebody's got something and sees it all around him, so he doesn't have to sleep out in the cold at night, that's all. The only thing is he doesn't die. But is he happy? There's nowhere to go. Okay, so I get the money, right? First of all, I had to move out of New York. Because everybody was coming down to see me -- people who I didn't really dig. People coming in from weird-ass places. And I would think, for some reason, that I had to give them some place to stay and all that. I found myself not really being by myself but just staying out of things I wanted to go to because people I knew would go there.

Q: Do you find friends, real friends, recognizable anymore?

Dylan: Oh sure, man, I can tell somebody I dig right away. I don't have to go through anything with anybody. I'm just lucky that way.

Q: Back to protest songs. The IWW"s work is over now and the unions are pretty well established. What about the civil rights movement?

Dylan: Well, it's okay now. It's proper. It's not "Commie" anymore. Harper's Bazaar can feature it; you can find it on the cover of Life. But when you get beneath it, like anything, you find there's bull tied up in it. The Negro civil rights movement is proper now, but there's more to it than what's in Harper's Bazaar. There's more to it than picketing in Selma, right? There's people living in utter poverty in New York. And, then again, you have this big Right To Vote. Which is groovy. You want all these Negroes to vote? Okay. I can't go over the boat and shout, "Hallelujah!" Only because they want to vote. Who are they going to vote for? Just politicians -- same as the white people put in the politicians. Anybody that wants to get into politics is a little greaky anyway. Hey, they're just going to vote, that's all they're going to do. I hate to say it like that, make it sound hard, but it's going to boil down to that.

Q: What about the drive for education?

Dylan: Education? They're going to school to learn about all the things that white private schools teach. What are they going to learn? What's this education? Hey, the cat's much better off never going to school. The only thing against him is that he can't be a doctor or a judge. Or he can't get a good job with the salesman's company. But that's the only thing wrong. If you want to say it's good that he gets an education and goes out and gets a job like that, groovy. I'm not going to do it.

Q: In other words, the formal intake of factual knowledge --

Dylan: Hey, I have no respect for factual knowledge, man. I don't care what anybody knows, I don't care if somebody's a living encyclopedia. Does that make him nice to talk to? Who cares if Washington was ever the first president of the United States? Do you think that anybody has actually ever been helped with this kind of knowledge?

Q: Maybe, through a test. Well, what's the answer?

Dylan: There aren't any answers, man . Or any questions. You must read my book (Tarantula)... there's a little part in there about that. It evolves into a thing where it mentions words like answer. I couldn't possibly rattle off the words I use for these, because you'd have to read the whole book to see why I use these specific words for question and answer. We'll have another interview after you read the book.

Q: Why write a book instead of lyrics?

Dylan: I've written some songs which are kind of far-out, a long continuation of verses, stuff like that -- but I haven't really gotten into writing a completely free song. Hey, you dig -- something like cut-ups. I mean like William Burroughs.

Q: Yeah, There's a cat in Paris who published a book with no pagination. The book comes in a box and you throw it in the air and however it lands, you read it like that.

Dylan: Yeah, that's where it's at. Because that's what it means anyway. Okay, I wrote the book because there's a lot of stuff in there which I can't possibly sing... all the collages. I can't sing it because it gets too long or it goes too far out. I can only do it around a few people who would know. Because the majority of the audience -- I don't care where they're from, how hip they are -- I think would get totally lost. Something that had no rhyme, all cut up, no nothing, except something happening which is words.

Q: You wrote the book to say something?

Dylan: Yeah, but certainly not any kind of profound statement. The book doesn't begin or end.

Q: But you had something to say. And you wanted to say it to somebody.

Dylan: Yeah, I said it to myself. Only, I'm lucky cause I could put it into a book. Now somebody else is going to be allowed to see what I said to myself.

Q: Are (your) albums sequential in the way that you composed and sang them?

Dylan: Yeah, I've got about two or three albums that I've never recorded, full of lost songs. They're old songs; I'll never record them. Some very groovy songs. Some old songs which I've written and sang maybe once in concert and nobody else ever heard them. There are a lot of songs which could fill in between the records. I was growing from the first record to the second, then a head change on the third. And the fourth.

Q: So if I started with album One, Side One, Band One, I could truthfully watch Bob Dylan grow?

Dylan: No, you could watch Bob Dylan laugh to himself. Or you could see Bob Dylan going through changes. That's really the most.

The interview was over. After the concert we stopped back in his room before going to a party at his agent's. There, he gave me a few bottles of wine. It wasn't Bob Dylan handing out souvenirs or some sort of usable autograph, it was merely that he had something that he didn't necessarily need which I could use. It was a friendly gesture, an easy act done by someone who doesn't get much chance to be friendly with anyone except old friends.

Next time you hear a Dylan put-down story, remember that he's just as human as human beings are -- and it's his very humanity that makes him the power he is.

Reprinted from IN-BEAT MAGAZINE, May 1965

"Bob Dylan freed your mind,
like Elvis freed your body."

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