Bob Dylan Gives Press Conference in San Francisco, Part II

Page 4 of 4

Mr. Dylan, you seem very reluctant to talk about the fact that you're a popular entertainer – a most popular entertainer.
Well, what do you want me to say?

Well, I don't understand why you . . .
Well, what do you want me to say? What do you want me to say, d'you want me to say – who – What do you want me to say about it?

You seem almost embarrassed to admit that you're popular.
Well, I'm not embarrassed, I mean, you know – Well, what do you want, exactly – for me to say. You want me to jump up and say "Hallelujah!" – and crash the cameras or do something weird? Tell me, tell me. I'll go along with you, if I can't go along with you, I'll find somebody to go along with you.

I find that you really have no idea as to why you are popular, no thoughts on why you are popular.
I just haven't really struggled for that. It happened, you know? It happened like anything else happens. Just a happening. You don't try to figure out happenings. You dig happenings. So I'm not going to even talk about it.

Do you feel that part of the popularity is because of a kind of identification?
I have no idea. I don't really come too much in contact.

Does it make life more difficult?
No, it certainly doesn't.

Were you surprised the first time the boos came?
Yeah, that was at Newport. Well, I did this very crazy thing. I didn't know what was going to happen, but they certainly booed, I'll tell you that. You could hear it all over the place. I don't know who they were though, and I'm certain whoever it was did it twice as loud as they normally would. They kind of quieted down some at Forest Hills although they did it there, too. They've done it just about all over except in Texas – they didn't boo us in Texas or in Atlanta, or in Boston, or in Ohio. They've done it in just about – or in Minneapolis, they didn't do it there. They've done it a lot of other places. I mean, they must be pretty rich, to be able to go someplace and boo. I couldn't afford it if I was in their shoes.

Other than booing, have the audiences changed much? Do they scream and get hysterical and rush on stage?
Oh, sometimes you get people rushing the stage, but you just, y'know – turn 'em off very fast. Kick 'em in the head or something like that. They get the picture.

You said that you don't know why you are so popular. That is in direct opposition to what most people who reach this level of popularity say.
Well, you see, a lot of people start out and they plan to try to be stars, I would imagine, like, however, they have to be stars. I mean I know a lot of those people, you know? And they start out and they go into show business for many, many reasons, to be seen, you know. I started out, you know, like this had nothing to do with it when I started. I started from New York City, you know, and there just wasn't any of that around. It just happened.

Don't misunderstand me, I agree with your right not to have to care, my point is that it would be somewhat disappointing for the people who think that you feel towards them, the way that they feel towards you.
Oh – well, I don't want to disappoint anybody. I mean, tell me what I should say – you know, I'll certainly go along with anything, but I really don't have much of an idea.

You have a poster there.
Yeah, it's a poster somebody gave me. It looks pretty good. The Jefferson Airplane, John Handy, and Sam Thomas and the Mystery Trend and the Great Society and all playing at the Fillmore Auditorium this Friday, December 10th, and I would like to go if I could, but unfortunately, I won't be here, I don't think, but if I was here, I certainly would be there.

What's more important to you: The way that your music and words sound, or the content, the message?
The whole thing while it's happening. The whole total sound of the words, what's really going down is – it either happens or it doesn't happen, you know. That's what I feel is – just the thing, which is happening there at that time. That's what we do, you know? That is the most important thing, there really isn't anything else. I don't know if I answered your question.

You mean it might happen one time, and it might not happen the next?
We've had some bad nights, but we always take good cuts for the records. The records are always made out of good cuts and in person most of the time it does come across. Most of the time we do feel like playing. That's important, to me; the aftermath, and whatever happens before, is not really important to me; just the time on the stage and the time that we're singing the songs and performing them. Or not really performing them even, just letting them be there.

This story is from the January 20th, 1968 issue of Rolling Stone.

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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