Bob Dylan Gives Press Conference in San Francisco

Part I of the interview Dylan gave in 1965 at KQED

Bob Dylan
Fiona Adams/Redferns
December 14, 1967

When Bob Dylan's five concerts in the San Francisco Bay Area were scheduled in December 1965, the idea was proposed that he hold a press conference in the studios of KQED, the educational television station.

Dylan accepted and flew out a day early to make it.

He arrived early for the press conference accompanied by Robbie Robertson and several other members of his band, drank tea in the KQED office and insisted that he was ready to talk about "anything you want to talk about." His only request was that he be able to leave at 3 p.m. so that he could rehearse in the Berkeley Community Theater where he was to sing that night.

Previously Unseen Bob Dylan Lyrics From 1965

At the press conference there were all sorts of people. The TV news crews of all the local stations were there; so were reporters for three metropolitan dailies (their stories were subsequently compared to the broadcast of the interview by a University of California journalism department class) plus representatives of several high school papers, and personal friends of Dylan including poet Allen Ginsberg, producer Bill Graham and comedian Larry Hankin.

Thus the questions ranged from standard straight press and TV reporters' questions to teen age fan club questions to in-group personal queries and put ons, to questions by those who really had listened to Dylan's songs.

He sat on a raised platform facing the cameras and the reporters and answered questions over a microphone all the while smoking cigarettes and swinging his leg back and forth. At one point he held up a poster for a benefit that week for the San Francisco Mime Troupe (the first rock dance at he Fillmore Auditorium and one of the first public dances featuring the Jefferson Airplane). At the conclusion of the press conference, he chatted with friends for a while, jumped into a car and went back to Berkeley for the rehearsal. He cut the rehearsal off early to go to the hotel and watch the TV program which was shown that night and repeated the following week.

This is the only full length press conference by Dylan ever televised in its entirety. The transcript was made from an audio tape of the conference, and the only editing has been to take out statements concerning ticket availability and times of the local concerts – R.J.G.

I'd like to know the meaning of the cover photo on your album, Highway 61 Revisited?
What would you like to know about it?

It seems to have some philosophy in it. I'd like to know what it represents to you – you're a part of it . . .
I haven't really looked at it that much.

I've thought about it a great deal.
It was just taken one day when I was sittin' on the steps y'know – I don't really remember too much about it.

I thought the motorcycle was an image in your songwriting. You seem to like that.
Oh, we all like motorcycles to some degree.

Do you think of yourself primarily as a singer or a poet?
Oh, I think of myself more as a song and dance man, y'know.

Oh, I don't think we have enough time to really go into that.

You were quoted as saying when you're really wasted you may enter into another field. How "wasted" is really wasted and do you foresee it?
No, I don't foresee it, but it's more or less like a ruthless type of feeling. Very ruthless and intoxicated to some degree.

The criticism that you have received for leaving the folk field and switching to folk-rock hasn't seemed to bother you a great deal. Do you think you'll stick to folk-rock or go into more writing?
I don't play folk-rock.

What would you call your music?
I like to think of it more in terms of vision music – it's mathematical music.

Would you say that the words are more important than the music?
The words are just as important as the music. There would be no music without the words.

Which do you do first, ordinarily?
The words.

Do you think there ever will be a time when you will paint or sculpt?
Oh, yes.

Do you think there will ever be a time when you'll be hung as a thief?
You weren't supposed to say that.

Bob, you said you always do your words first and think of it as music. When you do the words can you hear it?

The music you want when you do your words?
Yes, oh yes.

Do you hear any music before you have words – do you have any songs that you don't have words to yet?
Ummm, sometimes, on very general instruments, not on the guitar though – maybe something like the harpsichord or the harmonica or autoharp – I might hear some kind of melody or tune which I would know the words to put to. Not with the guitar though. The guitar is too hard an instrument. I don't really hear many melodies based on the guitar.

What poets do you dig?
Rimbaud, I guess; W. C. Fields; The family, you know, the trapeze family in the circus; Smokey Robinson; Allen Ginsberg; Charlie Rich – he's a good poet.

In a lot of your songs you are hard on people – in "Like A Rolling Stone" you're hard on the girls and in "Positively 4th Street" you're hard on a friend. Do you do this because you want to change their lives, or do you want to point out to them the error of their ways?
I want to needle them.

Do you still sing your older songs?
No. No. I just saw a songbook last night, I don't really see too many of those things, but there's a lotta songs in those books I haven't even recorded, y'know. I've just written down, and y'know and put little tunes to and they published them. I haven't sung them, though. A lotta the songs I just don't even know anymore, even the ones I did sing. There doesn't seem to be enough time, y'know.

Did you change your program when you went to England?
No, no, I finished it there. That was the end of my older program. I didn't change it, it was developed and by the time we got there it was all, it was more or less, I knew what was going to happen all the time, y'know. I knew how many encores there was, y'know, which songs they were going to clap loudest and all this kind of things.

Bob Dylan Through The Years

In a concert tour like this do you do the same program night after night?
Oh, sometimes it's different. I think we'll do the same one here in this area, though.

In a recent Broadside interview, Phil Ochs said you should do films. Do you have any plans to do this?
I do have plans to make a film but not because anybody said I should do it.

How soon will this be?
Next year probably.

Can you tell us what it will be about?
It'll be just another song.

Who are the people making films that you dig, particularly?
Truffaut. I really can't think of any more people. Italian movie directors, y'know, but not too many people in England and the United States which I really think that I would dig.

You did a Chaplain bit as an exit in a concert once.
I did!!!??? That musta been an accident. Have to stay away from that kind of thing.

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