Bob Dylan Talks: A Raw and Extensive First Rolling Stone Interview

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What would you do that would make the tour that you're thinking about doing different from the ones you did do?
Well, I'd like to slow down the pace a little. The one I did do . . . the next show's gonna be a lot different from the last show. The last show, during the first half, of which there was about an hour, I only did maybe six songs. My songs were long, long songs. But that's why I had to start dealing with a lot of different methods of keeping myself awake, alert . . . because I had to remember all the words to those songs. Now I've got a whole bag of new songs. I've written 'em for the road, you know. So I'll be doing all these songs on the road. They're gonna sound a lot better than they do on record. My songs always sound a lot better in person than they do on the record.

Well, I don't know why. They just do.

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On Nashville Skyline who does the arrangements? The studio musicians, or . . .
Boy, I wish you could've come along the last time we made an album. You'd probably enjoyed it . . . 'cause you see right there, you know how it's done. We just take a song; I play it and everyone else just sort of fills in behind it. No sooner you got that done, and at the same time you're doing that, there's someone in the control booth who's turning all those dials to where the proper sound is coming in . . . and then it's done. Just like that.

Just out of rehearsing it? It'll be a take?
Well, maybe we'll take about two times.

Were there any songs on Nashville Skyline that took longer to take?
I don't know . . . I don't think so. There's a movie out now, called Midnight Cowboy. You know the song on the album, "Lay, Lady, Lay"? Well, I wrote that song for that movie. These producers, they wanted some music for their movie. This was last summer. And this fellow there asked me, you know, if I could do some music for their movie. So I came up with that song. By the time I came up with it, though it was too late. [Laughs.] It's the same old story all the time. It's just too late . . . so I kept the song and recorded it.

There's something going on with Easy Rider you wrote the lyrics for a song that Roger McGuinn wrote the music for, or something? Something . . . writing a song for Easy Rider, the Peter Fonda film? Were you involved in that at all?
They used some of my music in it. They used a song of the Band's, too. They also used Steppenwolf music. I don't know anything more about it than that.

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Do you know which song of yours they used?
"It's Alright, Ma" – but they had Roger McGuinn singing it.

Have you been approached to write music for any other movies?

Considering any of them?

Why? Scripts?
Ummmm . . . I don't know. I just can't seem to keep my mind on it. I can't keep my mind on the movie. I had a script awhile ago, that was called Zachariah and the Seven Cowboys. [Laughs.] That was some script. Every line in it was taken out of the Bible. And just thrown together. Then there was another one, called The Impossible Toy. Have you seen that? [Laughs] Yeah. Let's see, what else? Ummm . . . no, I'm not planning on doing any music for movies.

When are you going to do another record?
You mean when am I going to put out an album?

Have you done another record?
No . . . not exactly. I was going to try and have another one out by the fall.

Is it done in Nashville again?
Well, we . . . I think so . . . I mean it's . . . seems to be as good a place as any.

What first got you involved with or attracted you to the musicians at the Columbia studios.
Nashville? Well we always used them since Blonde on Blonde. Well, we didn't use Pete on Blonde on Blonde.

What was Joe South like to work with?
Joe South? Well he was quiet. He didn't say too much. I always did like him, though.

Do you like his record?
I love his records.

That album, Introspect?
Um-hmm, I always enjoyed his guitar playing. Ever since I heard him.

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Does he have any solos on Blonde on Blonde?
Um-hmm. Yes he does. He has a . . . he's playing a high guitar lick on . . . well, if you named me the songs, I could tell you which one it was, but it's catchin' my mind at the moment. He was playing . . . he played a big, I believe it was a Gretsch, guitar – one of those Chet Atkins models. That's the guitar he played it on.

"Absolutely Sweet Marie"?
Yeah, it could've been that one. Or "Just Like a Woman". . . one of those. Boy, he just . . . he played so pretty.

On Nashville Skyline, do you have any song on that that you particularly dig? Above the others.
Uh . . . "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You." I like "Tell Me That It Isn't True," although it came out completely different than I'd written it. It came out real slow and mellow. I had it written as sort of a jerky, kind of polka-type thing. I wrote it in F. That's what gives it kind of a new sound. They're all in F . . . not all of them, but quite a few. There's not many on that album that aren't in F. So you see – I had those chords . . . which gives it a certain sound. I try to be a little different on every album.

I'm sure you read the reviews of Nashville Skyline. Everybody remarks on the change of your singing style . . .
Well Jann, I'll tell you something. There's not too much of a change in my singing style, but I'll tell you something which is true . . . I stopped smoking. When I stopped smoking, my voice changed . . . so drastically, I couldn't believe it myself. That's true. I tell you, you stop smoking those cigarettes [laughter] . . . and you'll be able to sing like Caruso.

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Song Stories

“Madame George”

Van Morrison | 1968

One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

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