Dylan and the band have seventy songs in their repertoire. Moreover, they have been rehearsing some brand-new tunes, five of which – spare, intense love songs – I heard during a sound check before the concert in New Haven, Connecticut. At a subsequent New York City concert, Dylan sang one of these, "I Love You Too Much," but basically the Portland concert is the model for the program audiences will be hearing on this tour.
I ran into Dylan in the hallway of his Portland motel at noon on September 17th – an hour before the entourage was to take off for New Haven. He was heading to breakfast and wasn't looking forward to it. "I ran into a girl last night," he told me as we walked to the dining room, "whom I knew in the Village in 1964. She figured the food wouldn't be too good up here, so she said she'd bring some with her this morning. But I haven't seen her."
"Maybe her love's in vain," I joked.
"Maybe," Dylan laughed.
But just after we had sat down and were told that breakfast wasn't being served any longer, a lovely woman appeared next to us with the promised feast in a basket. We ate, saved the muffins to give to the band later on, and went out to catch the Scenicruiser bus that was to drive us to the local airport for the flight – on a chartered Bac III jet – to New Haven, where the group was to perform that night at the Veterans' Memorial Coliseum.
Dylan and I sat at the back of the bus. The musicians and tour organizers – the most organized and sweet-tempered people I've met in years – listened to a cassette recording of Ray Charles and the Raelettes. As the bus started, I foolhardily tried to interest Dylan in a theory I had about "Changing of the Guards" – namely, that the song could be seen to have a coded subtext revealed by the characters of various Tarot cards: the Moon, the Sun, the High Priestess, the Tower and, obviously, the King and Queen of Swords – the two cards Dylan specifically mentions. My idea was that the attributes associated with these images make up the "plot" of the song.
"I'm not really too acquainted with that, you know," he warded me off. (What was that Tarot card doing on the back of the jacket of Desire? I wondered.) Undaunted, I mentioned that it had been said that Tarot diviners discover the future by intuition, with "prophetic images drawn from the vaults of the subconscious," Didn't Dylan think that a song like "Changing of the Guards" wakens in us the image of our subconscious? Certainly, I continued, songs such as that and "No Time to Think." suggested the idea of spirits manifesting their destiny as the dramatis personae of our dreams.
Dylan wasn't too happy with the drift of the discussion and fell silent. "I guess," I said, "there's no point in asking a magician how he does his tricks."
"Exactly!" Dylan responded cheerfully.
"Okay," I said, "we have to start someplace. What about the first line of 'Changing of the Guards,' Does 'sixteen years' have anything to do with the number of years you've been on the road?"
"No," Dylan replied, "sixteen is two short of eighteen years. Eighteen years is a magical number of years to put in time. I've found that threes and sevens . . . well, things come tip in sevens . . . What am I saving? I mean, what am I saying?"
I started rambling on about the possible mystical significance of numbers (sixteen equals one plus six, which equals seven, love minus zero, etc.), hut by this time I realized that only the bus was going anywhere. It was time to get the interview rolling.
* * *
When I tell Rolling Stone what we've been talking about, they won't believe it.
They had the nerve to run the reviews they did on Street Legal – why should I give them an interview anyway?
Are you going to kick me off the bus?
No, it's your interview. It's okay. But if you were doing it for another magazine, it'd be okay, too.
Think I should go some where else with it?
Yeah – Business Week.
[The tape of Ray Charles and the Raelettes that has been counterpointing our banter has now given way to Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen.] It's strange, but I noticed in your last two performances that your pharsing and the timbre of your voice at certain points resemble those of Little Antbony, Smokey Robinson and Gene Chandler, Are you aware of this?
No. When your environment changes, you change. You've got to go on, and you find new friends. Turn around one day and you're on a different stage, with a new set of characters.
In your new song, "No Time to Think," you list a series of qualities and concepts like loneliness, humility, nobility, patriotism, etc.
Is pregnancy in there?
It wasn't in there the last time I heard it. But I was thinking that it's these kinds of concepts that both free and imprison a person. What do you think?
I never have any time to think.
I should have known you'd say something like that. Maybe someone else should be up here doing this interview – a different character.
Someone who's not so knowledgeable. You're too knowledgeable.
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