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Bob Dylan: An Intimate Biography, Part One

Page 13 of 13

And there were other tensions. Pete Karman recalls one night in late September when he was sitting around in the apartment with Bob, Suze, Albert and John Maher, when someone rapped on the door. Dylan got up and opened it and Geno Foreman swept in and shouted: "Hey, Bobby, I hear you're makin' it with Joan Baez." Suze's face went through several color changes in the next room, and Dylan was urgently whispering: "Shut up, will ya? Shut the hell up."

Karman: "The relationship between Dylan and Baez seemed to be very close by then. The King and Queen — that's how Bobby was talking about it. He had that image of himself, that he was the King and Baez was the Queen. And still he was worried about Suze because he knew she was very uptight about that."

Suze's feelings didn't keep Bob from flying to Hollywood in October, to appear as Joan's guest at the Hollywood Bowl. His reception was not quite triumphant, however. A very vocal minority of the audience booed and otherwise expressed their displeasure when he took over the second half of her program.

A week later Dylan filled Carnegie Hall with a couple of thousand young rooters, most of them adoring teenagers who had bought out the house. These were fans, not folk music aficionados. It was as enthusiastic a crowd as any Dylan had ever experienced and they cheered every one of the 20 songs he performed, the protest songs, the bitter anti-hero love songs, a couple of early Guthrie-esque ballads.

The Carnegie Hall audience's style was further proof that something had happened to lift Bob Dylan out of the folk trap. "It was very strange," Terri Van Ronk remembers. "Like the precursor to Beatlemania. Bobby's first big skyrocketing was right there in that Carnegie Hall gig. When it was over and we were all backstage, they began to plot the getaway from all these little girls who were screaming outside. Suze and I were delegated to go out and act as decoys. We went out the stage door and started walking up the street in the opposite direction from where the car was parked, and a whole bunch of kids began to follow us. Suze got a little panicky and she began to tell them to go back, that Bobby was still inside, and after a while they finally believed her and they all ran back. And Bobby came out, flanked by Geno on one side and Maimudes on the other, and we all pushed our way to the car. Bobby was terrified over mobs, and that was a mob."

Suze's reaction was that Carnegie Hall was "a horror show, all these people chasing you up the block, that really sent it home that anybody around Dylan was as much in danger as he was."

Dylan was on his way uptown to Grossman's office on the afternoon of Friday, November 22nd, 1963, when John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas. "I watched it at my manager's office," Dylan later told me. "The next night, Saturday, I had a concert upstate, in Ithaca or Buffalo. There was a really down feeling in the air. I had to go on stage, I couldn't cancel. I went to the hall and to my amazement the hall was filled. Everybody turned out for the concert. The song I was opening with was "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and I thought, 'Wow, how can I open with that song? I'll get rocks thrown at me." That song was just too much for the day after the assassination. But I had to sing it, my whole concert takes off from there.

"I know I had no understanding of anything. Something had just gone haywire in the country and they were applauding that song. And I couldn't understand why they were clapping or why I wrote that song, even. I couldn't understand anything. For me, it was just insane."

When he returned to the Village he, Suze and Carla sat and watched the national tragedy through the rest of the weekend and into the Monday morning funeral. Like so many across the nation, they were engrossed in the events unfolding before them: the murder of Oswald, the funeral, the continual replays of the death of Kennedy, the confirmation of a new president, the widow refusing to change her blood-soaked dress because she wanted the world to see her husband's blood, to see what it had done. Through it all Dylan sat and watched and said little, just feeling the emotion of it. He drank a little wine, and played Berlioz's Requiem over and over.

Eric Andersen: "You can't separate Dylan from history in the sense of what was going down, the way he reacted to a chain of events. The first being Kennedy's death; I think that got him out of politics. He might even have had fears of assassination himself, being the center of attention and saying the kind of things he was saying. Kennedy's death brought home that there were a lot of maniacs out there in this country."

By the middle of January he seemed to be more nervous than he'd ever been, restless, complaining that something was wrong, that he didn't know what to do with his life. "I gotta get away," he told a friend. "Need time to think, to dope things out." The Grossman office had set up a couple of concerts across the country — Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Ordinarily Dylan would have flown to keep the dates, but this time he had other ideas.

"Hey," he said to Pete Karman, the Daily Mirror writer, "wanna ride cross-country with us? Gonna do some concerts. Ramble 'round the country. Show ya some of the places I been, like Central City, Atlanta, Greenwood. Hit New Orleans for the Mardi Gras, even."

"You have concerts in all those places?" Karman asked.

"No, just a couple. But wanna get out and ramble around. Meet people. Stop in bars and poolhalls and talk to real people. That's where it's at, people. Talk to farmers. Talk to miners. That's where it's at. That's real."

Friends say he wanted to do the Woody Guthrie thing, even though he was beyond the Guthrie stage. "You gonna ride a boxcar?" someone asked him. He only smiled; what he was going to ride was a brand new Ford station wagon, bought by a company called Ashes & Sand, a holding company that Grossman and the lawyers had set up because Bob was becoming a rich man, worth at least a hundred thousand dollars and with prospects of at least three and four times that much from song royalties alone in the next year or so. Dylan insisted money didn't mean anything to him. "If I need money, I just go to my manager and get it," he said, "and if I spend that and need more, I just go back and get more." He had always done as he pleased, but money gave him the freedom to do it in a new style. Ford station wagon style, which wasn't quite Rolls Royce style, but getting there. Plus a very thick sheaf of traveler's checks.

But most friends felt he was sincere when he confided, "I want to go out and feel what the people are feeling, find out what's goin' on."

Suze was happy to see him go. She wasn't satisfied at the way their relationship was going, and she was bored much of the time because they just sat around when they were together.

In the concluding installment: a stoned and scary trip across America, "deliberately courting danger"; the final break with Suze; an end to protest — a "new" Dylan; Baez remembers — with all the fury of a woman scorned ("Then Bobby was completely and totally drunk. We got him out in the car and he was, oh, maudlin. I don't remember what he was saying, but I said, 'Ginsberg wants to go to bed with you,' and he said, 'Oh, oh, far out,' and then he passed out. Probably threw up on that horrible little jacket again."); "Like a Rolling Stone" and other acts of revenge; love & marriage & gruelling touring & drugs & the motorcycle accident; family man on the mend in the country; back to the Village, "looking for a piece of his past."

This is a story from the March 2, 1972 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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