Bob Dylan Gives Press Conference in San Francisco, Part II

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Have you ever sung with the Beatles?
No. Well, I think we have messed around in London, but, no I don't think anything serious.

Have you ever played a dance?
No. It's not that kind of music.

It is.
Well, what can I say. You must know more about the music than I do. How long have you been playing it?

Do you find that when you're writing you free-associate often?
No, it's all very clear and simple to me. These songs aren't complicated to me at all. I know what they all are all about! There's nothing hard to figure out for me. I wouldn't write anything I can't really see.

I don't mean it that way. I meant when you're creating a song are you doing it on a subliminal level?
No. That's the difference in the songs I write now. In the past year or so – in the last year and a half, maybe two, I don't know – the songs before, up till one of these records, I wrote the fourth record in Greece – there was a change there – but the records before that, I used to know what I wanted to say, before I used to write the song. All the stuff which I had written before which wasn't song, was just on a piece of toilet paper. When it comes out like that it's the kind of stuff I never would sing because people would just not be ready for it. But I just went through that other thing of writing songs and I couldn't write like it anymore. It was just too easy and it wasn't really "right." I would start out, I would know what I wanted to say before I wrote the song and I would say it, you know, and it would never come out exactly the way I thought it would, but it came out, you know, it touched it, but now, I just write a song, like I know that it's just going to be all right and I don't really know exactly what it's all about, but I do know the minutes and the layers of what it's all about.

What did you think about your song "It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding"? It happens to be my favorite one.
God bless you, son. I haven't heard it for a long time. I couldn't even sing it for you probably.

How long does it take you to write a . . .
Usually not too long a time, really. I might write all night and get one song out of a lot of different things I write.

How many have you written?
Uh – I guess, well, there's one publisher that's got about a hundred. I've written about fifty others I guess. I got about 150 songs I've written.

Have they all been published?
No, some of the scraps haven't been published. But I find I can't really sing that anyway, because I forget it, so the songs I don't publish, I usually do forget.

Have you ever taken these scraps and made them into a song?
No, I've forgotten the scraps. I have to start over all the time. I can't really keep notes or anything like that.

You can't go back to one of your earlier things and use them in your . . .
No, no. That wouldn't be right either.

On your songs do you get any help from the rest of your entourage?
Robbie [Robertson], the lead guitar player, sometimes we play the guitars together – something might come up – but I know it's going to be right. I'll be just sitting around playing so I can write up some words. I don't get any ideas though of what I want to or what's really going to happen here.

Why do you think you're so popular?
I don't know. I'm not a reporter, I'm not a newsman or anything. I'm not even a philosopher, so I have no idea I would think other people would know, but I don't think I know. You know, when you get too many people talking about the same thing it tends to clutter up things. Everybody asks me that so I realize they must be talking about it, so I'd rather stay out of it and make it easier for them. Then, when they get the answer, I hope they tell me.

Has there been any more booing?
Oh, there's booing – you can't tell where the booing's going to come up. Can't tell at all. It comes up in the weirdest, strangest places and when it comes it's quite a thing in itself. I figure there's a little "boo" in all of us.

Bob, where is Desolation Row?
Where? Oh, that's someplace in Mexico. It's across the border. It's noted for its Coke factory. Coca Cola machines are – sells – sell a lotta Coca Cola down there.

Where is Highway 61?
Highway 61 exists – that's out in the middle of the country. It runs down to the south, goes up north.

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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