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Bob Dylan: The Rolling Stone Interview, Part II

Page 5 of 7

In Tarantula you write about a woman named Justine who tells you that "only God can be everywhere at the same Time and Space."
That's right, but that was unconscious. And that drilled me down – doing it unconsciously was doing it like a primitive, and it took everything out of me. Everything was gone, I was drained. I found out later that it was much wiser to do it consciously, and it could let things be much stronger, too. Actually, you might even live longer, but I'm not sure about that.

From that point I went on to Desire, which I wrote with Jacques Levy. And I don't remember who wrote what. And then I disappeared for a while. Went on the Rolling Thunder tour, made Renaldo and Clara – in which I also used that quality of no-time. And I believe that that concept of creation is more real and true than that which does have time.

When you feel in your gut what you are and then dynamically pursue it – don't back down and don't give up – then you're going to mystify a lot of folks. Some people say, "I don't like him anymore." But other people do, and my crowd gets bigger and bigger. But who cares, really [laughing]? If you fall down and you're hurting, you care about that immediate situation – if you have the energy to care. Who really cares? It's like that line – how does it go? – "Propaganda, who really cares?...."

I wanted to ask you about love.
Go ahead, but I'm not too qualified on that subject. Love comes from the Lord – it keeps all of us going. If you want it, you got it.

In "Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word," you wrote:

After waking enough times to think I see
The Holy Kiss that's supposed to last eternity
Blow up in smoke, its destiny
Falls on strangers, travels free
Yes, I know now, traps are only set by me
And I do not really need to be
Assured that love is just a four-letter word.

You've described and communicated the idea of two aspects of love – the love that longs for commitment and the love that longs to be free. Which is the most real to you?
All of it. It's all love that needs to be love.

You often sing about having a twin, a sister/wife, a dream/lover for one's life.
Everyone feels these feelings. People don't like to admit that that's the way things are because it's too confusing.

A famous short poem by William Blake goes: "He who binds to himself a joy/Doth the winged life destroy;/But he who kisses the joy as it flies/Lives in Eternity's sun rise."
Allen Ginsberg quoted that to me all the time. Blake's been a big influence on Kristofferson, too.

What about soul mates?
What about them?

Do they exist?
Sure they do, but sometimes you never meet them. A soul mate . . . what do they mean by soul mate? There's male and a female in everyone, don't they say that? So I guess the soul mate would be the physical mate of the soul. But that would mean we're supposed to be with just one other person. Is a soul mate a romantic notion or is there real truth in that, señor?

That's what I was asking you.
How would I know?

Well, a lot of your songs are concerned with that . . . Someone once said that one's real feelings come out when one's separated from somebody one loves.
Who said that?

Nietzsche.
Well, I guess he's right. Your real feelings come out when you're free to be alone. Most people draw a line that they don't want you to cross – that's what happens in most petty relationships.

In a song such as "Like a Rolling Stone," and now "Where Are You Tonight?" and "No Time to Think," you seem to tear away and remove the layers of social identity – burn away the "rinds" of received reality – and bring us back to the zero state.
That's right. "Stripped of all virtue as you crawl through the dirt/You can give but you cannot receive." Well, I said it.

[At this point the pilot announces that we'll be landing in five minutes.] Just a few quick questions before we land. Coming back to "Changing of the Guards"...
It means something different every time I sing it.

The lines, "She's smelling sweet like the meadows where she was born, On midsummer's eve, near the tower," are so quiet and pure.
Oh, yeah?

Those lines seem to go back a thousand year into the past.
They do. "Changing of the Guards" is a thousand years old. Woody Guthrie said he just picked songs our of the air. That meant that they were already there and that he was tuned into them. "Changing of the Guards" might be a song that might have been there for thousands of years, sailing around in the mist, and one day I just tuned into it. Just like "Tupelo Honey" was floating around and Van Morrison came by.

It's been said that the Stones' song, "Some Girls," hints at being about you a bit.
I've never lived at Zuma Beach.

Jagger imitates your phrasing, though.
He always does . . . He imitates Otis Redding, too, and Riley Puckett and Slim Harpo.

In "One More Cup of Coffee" you sing about a sister who see the future, and in "Changing of the Guards" you sing about "treacherous young witches."
I meet witchy women. Somehow I attract them. I wish they'd leave me alone.

Well, there are some good witches, too, though that voodoo girl in "New Pony" was giving you some trouble.
That's right. By the way, the Miss X in that song is Miss X, not ex-.

In "We Better Talk This Over," is the line, "I'm exiled, you can't convert me," in some way about being Jewish?
Listen, I don't know how Jewish I am, because I've got blue eyes. My grandparents were from Russia, and going back that far, which one of those women didn't get raped by the Cossacks? So there's plenty of Russian in me, I'm sure. Otherwise, I wouldn't be the way I am.

Do you agree with Octavio Paz' idea "that "all of us are alone, because all of us are two"?
I can't disagree, but I've got to think there's more than two. Didn't Leonard Cohen sing something like, "I'm the one who goes from nothing to two"? I don't remember.

We're back to numbers.
Leonard Cohen was really interested in numbers: "I'm the one who goes from nothing to one."

You're a Gemini, and the Gemini twins been seen by one writer, Marius Schneider, as symbols of the "harmonious ambiguity of paradise and inferno, love and hate, peace and war, birth and death, praise and insult, clarity and obscurity, scorching rocks and swamps surrounding the fountains and waters of salvation." That sounds like a good description of some of your new songs.
Right, but you can't choose the month of the year you're born in.

"Sacrifice is the code of the road" is what you sing in "Where Are You Tonight?" To die before dying, shedding your skin, making new songs out of old ones.
That's my mission in life...."He not busy being born is busy dying." Did you bring your parachute?

The interview was that bad, huh?
[Talking to a friend] Bring a parachute for Jonathan.

I'd prefer the pathway that leads up to the stars.

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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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