Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel Interview with Bob Dylan 9/28/95
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Todd Ellenberg)
Subject: Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel Interview 9/28/95
Date: 28 Sep 1995 22:04:22 GMT
The following is an interview that was printed in the Fort-Lauderdale
Sun-Sentinel today (9/28/95).
Please forgive the typos -- the scanner doesn't handle newsprint well, and
I didn't have the time to thoroughly clean it up.
A MIDNIGHT CHAT WITH BOB DYLAN
Interview by John Dolen
When Bob Dylan calls, it's nearly midnight. When he speaks it is with a
clear, distinctive voice. Even though he's at the end of his day, having
just returned to a Fort Lauderdale hotel after a band rehearsal, he is
contemplative, enigmatic, even poetic.
The Southern leg of his current tour cranks into high gear tonight with
the first of two concerts at the Sunrise Musical Theatre. The tour, which
has been in progress for more than a year, has earned rave reviews from
critics in New York, San Francisco, Dublin. In a nearly hour-long
interview with Arts & Features Editor John Dolen, the first in-depth
interview he has given to a newspaper this year, Dylan talks about his
songs, the creative process and the free gig at The Edge in Fort
Lauderdale last Saturday.
Q: Like many others, over the years I've spent thousands of hours
listening to your albums. Even now, not a month goes by witbout me
reaching for Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited, Slow Traln Comlng,
Street Legal, Oh Mercy. Do you sit back and look at all these albums and
say, hey, that's pretty good?
A: You know it's ironic, I never listen to those records. I really don't
notice them anymore except to pick songs off of them here and there to
play. Maybe I should listen to them. As a body of work, there could always
be more. But it depends. Robert Johnson only made one record-his body of
work was just one record. Yet there's no praise or esteem high enough for
the body of work he represents. He's influenced hundreds of artists. There
are people who put out 40 or 50 records and don't do what he did.
Q: What was the record?
A: He made a record called King of the Delta Blues Singers. In '61 or
'62. He was brilliant.
Q: Your performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert in Cleveland
earlier this month drew a lot of great notices. Is that important to you?
What's your feeling about that institution?
A: I never visited the actualb uilding, I was just over at the concert,
which was pretty long. So I have no comment on the interior or any of the
Q: But how do you feel about the idea of a rock hall of fame itself?
A: Nothing surprises me anymore. It's a perfect time for anything to happen.
Q: At the Edge show Saturday, you did a lot of covers, including some.old
stuff, like Confidential . Was that a Johnny Ray song?
A: It's by Sonny Knight. You won't hear that again.
Q: Oh, was that the reason for your "trying to turn bullshit
into gold" comment at the show? Were these covers just something for folks
at the Edge? Does that mean you aren't going to be doing more material
like that on your tour, including the Sunrise shows?
A: It will be the usual show we're used to doing on this tour now, songs
most people will have heard already.
Q: In the vein of non-Dylan music, what does Bob Dylan toss on the CD or
cassette player these days?
A: Ever heard of John Trudell? He talks his songs instead of singing them
and has a real good band. There's a lot of tradition to what he is
doing. I also like Kevin Lynch. And Steve Forbert.
Q: Are there new bands you think are worth bringing to attention?
A: I hear people here and there and I think they're all great. In most
cases I never hear of them again. I saw some groups in London summer. I
don't know their names.
Q: At this stage of your career, when you've earned every kind of honor
and accolade that a person can get, what motivates you?
A: I've had it both ways. I have had good and bad accolades. If you pay
any attention to them at all, it makes you pathological. It makes us
pathological, to read about ourselves. You try not to pay attention or you
try to discard it as soon as possible.
Q: For some writers the motivation is that burden, that you have to get
what's inside of you out and down on paper. How is it with you?
A: Like that, exactly. But if I can't make it happen when it comes- you
know, when other things intrude-I usually don't make it happen. I don't go
to a certain place at a certain time every day to build it. In my case, a
lot of these songs, they lay around imperfectly . . .
Q: As a songwriter, what's the creative process? How does a song like All
Along tbe Watchtower come about?
A: There's three kinds of ways. You write Iyrics and try to find a
melody. Or, if you come up with a melody, then you have to stuff the
Iyrics in there some kinda way. And then the third kind of a way is when
they both come at the same time. Where it all comes in a blur: The words
are the melody and the melody is the words. And that's the ideal way for
somebody like myself to get going with'something. All Along the
Watchtower was that way. It leaped out in a very short time. I don't like
songs that make you feel feeble or indifferent. That lets a whole lot of
things out of the picture for me.
Q: How did you feel when you first heard Jimi Hendrix's version of All
Along the Watchtower?
A: It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent-he could find things
inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other
people wouldn't think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by
the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version,
actually, and continue to do it to this day.
Q: Angelina, off the Bootleg Series, is such a great song, but no matter
how hard I try I can't figure out the words; any clues for me?
A: I never try to figure out what they're about. If you have to think
about it, then it's not there.
Q: A song that always haunted me was Senor, from Street LegaL Have you
played that at all in last few years?
A: We play that maybe once every third, fourth or fifth show.
Q: In the '70s after years abroad, I remember the incredible elation I
felt coming back to the States and hearing your Christian songs -a
validation of experiences I had been through in Spain. I remember the
lines, "You talk about Buddha / You talk about Muhammad / But you never
said a word about / The one who came to die for us instead ..." Those were
fearless words. How do you feel about those words and the songs your wrote
during that period now?
A: Just writing a song like that probably emancipated me from other kind
of illusions. I've written so many songs and so many records that I can't
address them all. I can't say that I would disagree with that line. On its
own level it was some kind of turning point for me, writing that.
Q: With the great catalog you have and with the success this year with the
MTV Unplugged disc, why does this concert tour have such a heavy guitar
and drums thing going?
A: It's not the kind of music that will put anybody to sleep.
Q: The other night at the Edge you left the harmonicas on the stand
without touching them - any reason for that?
A: They are such a dynamo unto themselves. I pick them up when I feel like it.
Q: You've made several passes through here in the past 10 years. Your
thoughts on South Florida?
A: I like it a lot, who wouldn't. There's a lot to like.
Q: Now there is Bob Dylan on CD-ROM, Bob Dylan on the Internet and all
that stuff. Are some people taking you too seriously?
A: It's not for me to say. People take everything seriously. You can get
too altruistic on your yourself because of the brain energy of other people.
Q: Across the Atlantic is a fellow named Elvis Costello, who, after you,
takes a lot of shelf space I my stereo. Both of you are prolific, turn out
distinctive albums each time, have great imagery have a lot to say and so
on. Is there any reason that in all the years I've never seen your names
or faces together?
A: It's funny you should mention that. He just played four or five shows
with me in London and Paris. He was doing a lot of new songs, playing them
by himself He was doing his thing. You so had to be there.
Q: Is America better or worse than, say, in the days of The Times They
A: I see pictures of the '50s, the '60s and the 70s and I see there was a
difference. But I don't think the human mind can comprehend the past and
the future. They are both just illusions that can manipulate you into
thinking there's some kind of change. But after you've been around
awhile, they both seem unnatural.
It seems like we're going in a straight line, but then you start seeing
sings that you've seen before. Haven't you experienced that? It seems
we're going around in circles.
Q: When you look ahead now, do you still see a Slow Train Coming?
A: When I look ahead now, it's picked up quite a bit of speed. In fact,
it's going like a freight train now.
Date: Fri, 6 Oct 1995 16:01:38 -0400
Subject: Re: The Lauderdale Interview...
I'm obviously one of the five believers because I did indeed speak to
Dylan for 50 minutes. This is John Dolen writing on Fred Schulte's logon.
For the gentleman who thought it was a hoax, we did clarify the Robert
Johnson thing in a box that didn't go out with the interview, because it
referred to a recording that our readers could call to hear Johnson
singing Love in Vain.
I would point out too, that if it were a hoax, then top players at
Cellar Door productions as well as Dylan's manager and a guy that sounded
curiously like Dylan on the phone were all a part of it. In addition, it
has gone all around the world and I haven't heard back from anyone in
Dylan's camp denouncing our treachery. Yes, Dylan was poised and clear on
the phone and he was suffering no fools if you read into those answers.
Especially on rock hall of fame. Peace.