Bob Dylan in the Alley: The Alan J. Weberman Story
The coast looks clear for a fine afternoon among the garbage. Macdougal Street is almost empty of passers-by. The lights at Bob Dylan‘s house are off, indicating no one is home. Even the New York Sanitation Department is cooperating in its own inimitable way by being late for the daily collection: Trash cans full. Excited with his good luck, Alan Jules Weberman, Dylanologist, reaches into the metal barrel incautiously and pulls out a lump of something wrapped most seriously in a wad of newspaper. Briefly thoughts flash of rare manuscripts, of trinkets from Bob’s trip to Australia, of discarded and badly worn Spanish boots of Spanish leather.
“Dogshit! Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeecch!!!” he screeches with a cry that could wake half of posh Macdougal Gardens. Quickly, he wipes his hands on the side of the garbage can as he curses out Dylan for not housebreaking his mutt, Sacha. “Fuckin’ bitch . . .”
To protect himself against a repetition of the dogshit disaster, Weberman decides to move the entire garbage picking operation to a location where he can work in a careful and scholarly manner . . . and where soap and running water are more readily available. So over the shoulder goes the green plastic bag and A.J. jigs the eight blocks to his home.
In front of Weberman’s place on the Bowery at Bleecker Street, A.J. spreads out his remarkable haul on the sidewalk. It’s the Bowery, so no one really notices. No one except a fellow longhair who passes and thinks there is something odd about a guy wading through a ton of garbage.
“Hey, did you lose something in all that crap?” the guy inquires solicitously.
“Oh, no, no,” stutters A.J. nervously. “This ain’t my garbage. It’s Bob Dylan’s. I just grabbed it from in front of his house.”
“No shit,” the passerby exclaimed ironically. “You went all the way up to Woodstock just to get at Bob Dylan’s garbage?”
“Oh, no. Dylan’s living in New York . . . over on Macdougal Street. I got his garbage from over there.”
The passerby stops for a moment. An idea dawns. There could only be one person in the whole world who would bother to carry Bob Dylan’s garbage all the way from Macdougal Street to the Bowery. “Hey . . . is your name A.J. Weberman? Are you the guy I’m always hearing on the Bob Fass Show on WBAI?”
“Right on,” answers Alan, giving the fellow a tip of his Bob Dylan-style cap.
Aha! So it is. This fellow in the rimless glasses, Army Surplus boots and jacket and frizzed-out hair — looking, in fact, like a seventh carbon copy, 90 pounds heavier, of Bob Dylan circa 1965 — could only be A.J. Weberman, Dylanologist.
Excrementwise, the garbage picking scene was not getting much better — even with the change of venue. As A.J. pored through the trash, all he could discern was a mound of dog crap and a mountain of odoriferous, soiled disposable diapers.
“Fuck,” complained Alan to his old lady, Ann Duncan, a tall, willowy blonde who had come down to the sidewalk to help with the sorting. “What does the cat do with all these Pamper shitcatchers? Buy ’em by the gross?”
“Well,” answers Ann, “you’ve got to understand, the cat did go out and have four kids in five years. I mean, if he can’t even housebreak a dog, what do you think he can do with four infants?”
Beyond the wads of excrement, after a good half-hour of picking, some potentially valuable bits of Dylan memorabilia begin to emerge. Included in the haul is a fund-raising letter from a rather artsy-craftsy Greenwich Village private school attended by one of Bob’s children, a false start to a letter to Johnny and June Cash, shredded remains of various fan letters, Polaroid negatives of Dylan and his brood, and empty granola and cookie mix boxes. Also found in the trashmine is a medical report from a veterinarian on the condition of Sacha, some torn-up drawings of Bob a la the Self-Portrait cover, notes on the out-takes to Self-Portrait, an original poem, and a note from Mama Zimmerman: “Fort Lauderdale is great. Enjoy the candy!” Underneath all this trivia is a pile of rock and music magazines, including Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy.
Weberman lets out a wounded moan upon seeing the discarded Crawdaddy. “Sheeeeeeet! He threw out this issue . . . the one with my article on him in it. You’d think he’d have the decency to collect my stuff the way I collect him.”
A.J. performs this ritual with diligence and love, daily, for nearly a month. But after the first two weeks the pickings begin to get meager. There are still some prizes to be found in the garbage: a torn up drawing of Jimi Hendrix made on the day of his death, some fan letters. But on the whole the quality of Dylan’s garbage has degenerated to diapers and liverwurst wrappers.
Alan is beginning to wonder if Bob is burning his valuable trash in a fireplace — or even if he is taking it over to a friend’s incinerator for more private disposal. One night Weberman has a nightmare: he dreams Dylan has gone out and bought himself a garbage compactor!
* * *
For a man with such an unusual life mission, Alan Jules Weberman’s background is remarkably uninteresting. He is Brooklyn, Jewish, an only child. He considers himself a revolutionary communist. As for his past, the most interesting things about him are that he was perhaps the first Jewish dope dealer arrested in the history of the state of Michigan; at the age of eleven he was president of a fan club for a three-hundred-pound wrestler, Haystack Calhoun; and that his second cousin is the rock critic Richard Goldstein.
But how does the former president of the Haystack Calhoun Fan Club get into Dylanology? Interviews with Alan provide few concise answers. Evidently, the seeds of Dylanology were sown somewhere around 1964-1965, when A.J., out on parole for his dealing bust, was working as an interviewer for the Lawrence Employment Agency in New York. “I hated my job. But I had to play straight to keep out of jail. So at night, I’d come home and dig on Dylan. I liked his music. His songs were political. They’d talk about the things that mattered at the time. You dig me? He was singing about the problems of black people and the poor. Nobody was singing those songs the way Dylan was and he totally turned me on.
“I used to come home from work and listen to his stuff hour after hour after hour. When his fourth record, Another Side of Bob Dylan, came out, all my political friends were up in arms. A lot of them asked me if I thought it was right for Bob to go off on this apolitical riff. I said I thought it was great, that Dylan was trying to reach a wider audience with his message — but that there still was a message there.
“What’s more, there was this riff on the back of the album about ‘door enlargement’ — a blatant reference to LSD. I had taken some acid and dug the fact that Dylan was linking drugs with politics. Besides that, his song, ‘Ballad in Plain D,’ was all about his breakup with Suzie Rotolo, his girlfriend, who was on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. I could identify with that song too ’cause I had just broken up with my girl.”
Dylanology moved from passive admiration of Bob’s message to active appreciation when Bringing It All Back Home came out. At the time, Weberman was living with a super-leftist dude named Dana, and the two of them were very into Dylan. For days on end they’d do nothing but listen to Bringing It All Back Home. Sometimes they’d trip out on acid . . . and then they would get some simply phenomenal insights into Bob Dylan.
One night, during a particularly insightful acid trip, A.J. asked Dana to listen to a particular excerpt. “Hey, dig this,” he called. “‘With time rusted compass blade, Aladdin and his lamp / Sits with Utopian hermit monks, side saddle on the golden calf!’ Dana, I read somewhere that Dylan is down on the left. In this verse, it sure sounds to me like what he’s really doing is putting down the left. The ‘golden calf,’ see, it’s materialism . . . dialectical materialism.”
“Holy shit,” exclaimed Dana, “you’re right! And dig this riff on ‘Maggie’s Farm.’ I think ‘Maggie’s Farm’ is really capitalism. So is ‘Baby Blue!'”
By the time the evening was over, the pair had discovered an entire hidden language inside Bringing It All Back Home.
He found that words that didn’t make any sense to him in their own context would make sense when they appeared over and over again in Bob’s lyrics. The word “rain,” for instance, made little literal sense when Dylan sang, “A hard rain’s gonna fall.” But from later Dylan tunes A.J. was led to conclude that “rain” was really a symbol for violence. By carefully matching up the frequency and context in which Dylan’s symbols appeared, Alan was able to decipher what he was certain was a deliberate code.
“Dylan was trying to get a political message onto AM radio,” Weberman explains. “The only way he could do this was to make his ideas as cryptic as possible. His language had to be something that straights wouldn’t respond to — but that kids would find. I knew that Dylan had put the meanings there for people like me to find. So, I decided to dedicate myself to explaining The Secret Language of Rock to the world.”
Shortly after making his discovery, A.J. quit his job at the Lawrence Agency, dropped out of City College night school and began working full-time on a book that would explain all of Bob Dylan’s hidden messages. Two 500-page volumes were written, neither of which was a hit with publishers. From the ashes of Michigan’s first Jewish dope dealer arose America’s first living Dylanologist.
* * *
To dismiss Weberman as an over-enthusiastic male groupie is to completely misunderstand him. Alan likes to think of himself as a scientist — and indeed few encyclopedists have catalogued their subjects as well as he, nor distilled their raw materials through as many test tubes and retorts. Every word that Dylan ever published has been advertised, analyzed, categorized and finalized by A.J. Weberman’s life, matter of fact, has become so intertwined with Dylan’s that the apartment/loft he lives in has been dubbed ‘The Dylan Archives.”
Hundreds of hours of rare Dylan tapes line the bookshelves at the Archives. Alan’s reel collection is the product of years of studious gathering. He has traded, bought, begged, cheated, lied and stolen to be able to say that he has the best Bob Dylan collection in the whole wide world. Everything is there: Bob putting on Studs Terkel in Chicago, Bob in London, Bob in Minneapolis, Bob singing with Joanie Baez at Forest Hills. Dylan himself probably doesn’t have as complete a treasury.
Then there are pictures, hundreds of them, black and white and color. A complete clipping file of every article ever to appear mentioning Bob Dylan’s name. There are Dylan songsheets, letters from friends of Dylan gossiping about D.’s life, and 2000 xeroxed bootleg copies of Dylan’s suppressed novel, Tarantula. (Peddling Tarantula is the nearest A.J. comes to making a living. He sells them on Greenwich Village street corners for prices ranging from two dollars per copy on down.) And, of course, the Archives include Dylan’s garbage, all neatly filed according to date and contents.
Early in Dylanology, Bob’s poetry was put on file cards in alphabetical order, a cumbersome index to where each Dylan word appeared. Modern Dylanology has kept up with the latest technological breakthroughs, though. Weberman and Ann Duncan recently keypunched every one of Dylan’s words, and with the help of a friendly computer programmer, the Dylan Archives will soon be in possession of the first Dylan concordance. This compendium will consist of every word ever uttered by Mr. D., the frequency of its occurrence, the title of the song or poem, and the context it appears in. When the computerized word concordance is finished, Weberman is convinced he will hold the key to Dylan’s most inner thoughts.
What will Weberman see on that printout? Smack! Dope! Scag! Dogee! A.J. never will say as much in his own articles, but in private he broadcasts the theory that Dylan’s recent music is nothing more than a love song to heroin. “I get my evidence,” he explains, “from Bob’s lyrics. It’s there clear as day. Nobody can tell me any different. I know it!”
Weberman sees dope symbolized everywhere in Dylan’s music. For instance, the word “morning,” according to A.J., means dope. So does “nighttime.” He has even developed an elaborate theory to explain Dylan’s current lifestyle. The theory, known as the Current Bag Theory, or the CB, runs something like this:
Once upon a time Bob Dylan walked the earth, a revolutionary prince with a guitar on his back. He loved poor people, black people and the disinherited. He was a regular John Wesley Harding.
Then came the CB. The CB enslaved our free-spirited hero and turned him into a quiet, fear-filled little man who lives with his family on Macdougal Street afraid of political contact.
Armed with his implacable faith, Alan has decided to make his life’s mission the saving of Bob Dylan from the evils of dope. His ultimate goal: to return Bob to the Mother Church of revolution.
That’s the other part of Dylanology: re-radicalizing Dylan. To this end, Weberman has formed the Dylan Liberation Front, an organization of indeterminate membership whose motto is “Free Bob Dylan from himself.” Phones at the Archives are usually answered: “Dylan Liberation Front, we mean business!” Further, Weberman teaches a course at the hyper-left Alternate University in New York. The subject: Dylanology. And there are various radio appearances and a column in the East Village Other, where broad hints are cast that Dylan is subject to a Current Bag, and that this bag is habit-forming.
“How do you know for sure that Dylan is into heroin?” I asked once while we were listening to part of Weberman’s collection of basement tapes.
“I get it from his music. He tells me about it in his lyrics.”
“Well, is that enough evidence to go spreading that kind of rumor about a person?”
“Well, I was going through his garbage in search of something more concrete . . . like maybe a syringe or something. But I couldn’t find anything at all there. Dylan’s really clever about that. All I found was a prescription for a muscle relaxant which a doctor friend tells me he needs on account of his accident. But still, I’d bet my life that his Current Bag is what I think it is. I’d bet my life on it.”
Notice in the East Village Other: “If anyone has a sample of Bob Dylan’s urine, please send it to me c/o EVO, 20 East 12th Street, New York, New York.”
* * *
Jann Wenner: “There’s a cat named Alan Weberman who writes in the East Village Other. He calls himself the world’s leading Dylanologist. You know him?”
Bob Dylan: “No . . . oh yes, I did. Is this the guy who tears up all my songs? Well, he oughta take a rest. He’s way off. I saw something he wrote about ‘All Along the Watchtower,’ and boy, let me tell you this boy is off. Not only did he create some kind of fantasy — he had Allen Ginsberg in there — he couldn’t even hear the words to the song right. Can you believe that? I mean this fellow couldn’t even hear the words . . . or something. I bet that he’s a hard working fellow, though. I bet he really does a good job if he could find something to do, but it’s too bad it’s just my songs, ’cause I don’t know if there’s enough material in my songs to sustain someone who is really out to do a big job. You understand what I mean?
“I mean a fellow like that would be better off writing about Tolstoy, or Dostoevsky or Freud . . . doing a really big analysis of somebody who has countless volumes of writings. But here’s me, just a few records out. Somebody devoting so much time to those records, when there’s such a wealth of material that hasn’t even been heard or read . . . that escapes me. Does it escape you?
“I understand putting time into it, but I read this, in this East Village Other: I read it . . . and it was clever. And I got a kick out of reading it on some level, but I don’t want to think anybody was taking it too seriously. You follow me?”
Rolling Stone, November 29, 1969
* * *
Ann,” Alan howled on a sweltering Sunday morning last August. “Ann . . . Ann. Today is Sunday!”
Ann Duncan, standing in the middle of the Archives, was working at a painting of Bob Dylan. Ann is an artist and is working on a series called “Great Moments in Rock.” Her first subject is a portrait of Bob, shooting himself into his Current Bag. “Mmnn,” she answered. “. . . I know . . . yeah . . . yesterday was Saturday!”
“It’s Sunday, baby. Sunday! Sunday is one of Dylan’s metaphors for his Current Bag. I think we just ought to head on over to Macdougal Street and see what ole Bob is up to.”
And to Macdougal Street they headed, he dressed in his Sunday Hudson’s Army-Navy Store Dylan outfit, she dressed in an American flag miniskirt and a red pullover.
BRRIIIIINNNGGG!!! BRIIINNGG!!! BRRRRIIIIIIIIIINNNGGGG!!! Smartly, Weberman rang the bell marked “* * * *” “* * * *,” he explained, “is one of Dylan’s pseudonyms. I can’t understand why he picked ‘* * * *’ though. I mean, it doesn’t make sense. It’s not literary or anything. One of these days, I’m going to have to check into that.”
The door moved slightly ajar, revealing a lock-chain and one naked eye staring angrily outside.
“Hey, lemme in. It’s me, Alan J. Weberman. I wanna talk with Dylan.”
The eye disappeared. The door slammed shut. Weberman was left to pound futilely on a wooden door that just wouldn’t give.
“Alan, why don’t we just go away for a while and come back maybe in a half hour,” suggested Ann, after A.J. had frustrated himself with a good 20 minutes of door pounding and bell ringing. “I mean, if we went outside and came back again, maybe they’d think we were somebody else and let us in.”
“Good thinking, Ann.”
A half hour later the pair returned. As luck would have it, Sara Lowndes Dylan had just opened the front vestibule door on her way out. With an energy that would have left a football player impressed, Weberman lunged at the door, tackling it successfully and touching down inside the Dylan home.
“Sorry,” he apologized, tipping his hat to Sara Dylan, “but I gotta see him. I’ve just gotta talk to him about my book.”
Sara Dylan, who by now must really have been tiring of her role as a Bob Dylan watchguard, went on her way.
Inside, Weberman still had other doors to go beyond. He rang the bell of the first door by the staircase. Through the peephole, another eye. “Hey Bob, lemme in. It’s me, it’s A.J. It’s The Landlord.” Weberman was certain at that time that Bob Dylan wrote the song “Dear Landlord” to him. By now Weberman was pounding and kicking every corner of the door that stood between him and his object.
Suddenly, Ann tapped him on the shoulder. “Look up there,” she beckoned.
And there he was, Bob Dylan, standing at the head of the staircase, glaring with fury at the pounding, kicking, screaming Weberman.
“Well, my name is A.J. Weberman and I’m here to talk to you . . .”
“Well, whadaya want, man?”
“Well . . . uh . . . I don’t even know . . . eh . . . where to begin. Just lemme in and I’ll expla . . .”
In a long, deliberate, furious drawl, Bob Dylan answered back: “All business is haaandled through my manager.”
“Hell, I’ve had no luck at all in dealing with Grossman’s office. I’ve been trying to see you for three years and they just throw me out every time I try. I mean, I’ve written a book . . .”
“Ahhll business is handled through mah maan-e-jah!” Dylan turned away, heading back to the cavern from which he had emerged. “And we’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t come around the house anymore.”
“Ok, man. Anything you say, Bob.”
Suddenly Dylan turned back to Weberman: “What was it you wanted to talk to me about?”
“It’s about your poetry,” Alan answered with great humility.
A voice shot back sarcastically. “About mah poetry! Ohhh, how nice!”
And then he was gone.
* * *
Midnight phone call in New York. On the line’s Alan Jules Weberman, America’s most intense student of the life and music of Bob Dylan, and Naomi Salzman, fortyish, private secretary to D.
“Yeesssss?” says Naomi in an adenoidal and slumbersome voice.
“Ohhh, this is Alan Weberman. I got a message that you called.”
Hurriedly waking herself, Naomi informs Weberman that his request to interview Dylan, alas, must be denied. “He asked me to tell you that he’s absolutely not giving interviews to anybody now and therefore it would be kind of sticky to give you one. But what he suggests is that you send him a list of questions and he’ll try to . . .”
“I want to give him a list of demands,” interjects Weberman, rousing Naomi permanently from her sleep.
“Well . . . do whatever you please . . . um . . . ah . . . I just want to ask you something?”
“You want to give him a list of demands?”
Silence. Naomi hesitantly picks up her cue: “All right. Why don’t you just send him the list. I’ll give you the address.”
“Post Office Box –,” chimes in Weberman, beating her to the punch. “I found his address in his garbage . . . Dylan’s garbage.”
“What are you doing going through his garbage?” inquires an incredulous Naomi. “Don’t you have anything else to do with your time?”
“No, no,” he answers defensively, “it’s a really good thing. There’s going to be an article about it in the East Village Other.”
“So you want him to move. You want him to move, eh?”
“That wouldn’t be such a bad idea . . . the way . . . the way he is now. I mean . . . why come back to the culture you helped to rip off? You know?”
“No, I don’t know!”
“Well, you wouldn’t because you work for him — you’re in Dylan’s employ.”
“Ohhhhh, listen, Mr. Weberman. You don’t know everything! You’re not God. And don’t tell me who I am. Maybe you can tell me who you are — or what you think Mr. Dylan is, but don’t tell me who I am.”
Weberman throws the killer punch. “I think Mr. Dylan is a heroin addict!”
“All right, if that’s what you think. That’s your hang-up!”
“It’s not my hang-up,” Weberman retorts ferociously, “it’s there in his poetry. It’s clear as day. Anyone who’s hip to Dylanology — the Dylanological Method . . . the Secret Language of Rock — can observe it. I’m a scientist, you dig! I’ve looked at these things objectively! I don’t want Dylan to be a junkie, but there are all these references to heroin in his poetry. Like ‘saddle me up a big white goose’ — which means cook me up a fix of white heroin. ‘Tie me on’ — which means tie up my arm.”
“You’re telling me,” she spits back at him, “that my employer is a heroin addict and I’m telling you that you’re full of crap! Listen, you don’t want to talk to me, you want to talk to Bob . . . so just send him the list already . . .”
“I’ll send him my list, but it won’t be on paper. It’ll be action!”
* * *
I was really fucking hassled the day I met Dylan. Pigs. Heavy shit. I was goin’ fuckin’ crazy. I made it to the D class that I teach each week at the Alternate U & gave a short rap & then said — “Tonight’s the field trip to D’s pad.” About 50 of us headed down 5th Ave. towards Macdougal St. When we got to 4th St., I pointed out the pad D lived in from ’62-’64 and tried to explain how it related to D’s single “Positively 4th Street” but this drunk wouldn’t let me get in a word edgewise. We continued to march & picked up a couple of street kids along the way (that’s the dangerous part about doing something like this — like I could trust the people in my class but these kids were full of undirected violence). Soon we were all standing in front of D’s.
East Village Other, Jan. 19
* * *
Hey, hey, hey, Bob Dylan — time to give away your million!”
“Free Bob Dylan! Free Bob Dylan!! Free Bob Dylan from himself!!!”
“Hey, hey — Bobby D, the revolution is in need of thee!”
Down they marched. Down Sixth Avenue from their starting base, the Alternate University on Sixth and Fourteenth Street. Down past Eighth Street, where an amazed group of tourists, NYU students, and Greenwich Village junkies stared in disbelief. Down past Fourth Street with a quick stop at the house where Dylan had lived with Suzie Rotolo. Positively Fourth Street . . . Right on to Macdougal Street.
As the group moved north toward Washington Square, a marcher approaches A.J. with an urgent question: “Alan, what does ‘In the empty lot, the ladies play blind man’s bluff’ mean? . . . It’s from ‘Visions of Johanna.'”
“Ummm . . . It means . . . uh . . . it means, in America, the ladies play meaningless games with the nation’s wealth, you dig? There’s so much wealth in America, but people still go hungry because it’s not being distributed right. You dig?”
Weberman looks self-satisfied with his rapid fire interpretation. The kid looks puzzled. “Alan, is that the house up there?” he asks as they near Macdougal Street.
“Yup!” answers Weberman. “Free Bob Dylan, Free Bob Dylan! Free Bob Dylan from himself!”
At the house a delegation parks itself in the vestibule and begins ringing Dylan’s bell mercilessly. Another half of the group stays outside and commences picketing.
“HEY BOB,” screams A.J. “SOME OF YOUR FANS ARE DOWN HERE. WE WANNA TALK WITH YOU!”
From inside, one of Dylan’s babies runs to the window to view the commotion.
“FREE BOB DYLAN, END ROCK RIP-OFF, FREE BOB DYLAN!”
One fledgling Dylanologist climbs up on Dylan’s window. “Hey look! Farrrroutttt! They’ve got furniture inside!”
“Get the fuck down,” screeches A.J., “or I may have to deal with you. It’s illegal, man, to go climbing on people’s windows.”
“FREE BOB DYLAN! ALL POWER TO THE GOOD DYLANOLOGISTS!”
Weberman decides to give his class a lecture-tour of what they are seeing. “This is the door . . . This is the doorbell. This is the house that Bob bought a year and a half ago, when he moved here from Woodstock. He’s lived here in relative anonymity ever since he’s moved here — ever since today! And this is Bob Dylan’s garbage. Perhaps the most interesting part of him since Highway 61 Revisited.”
For a moment, Weberman halts his rummaging act and looks up: “Hey Bob, come out! We wanna talk with you! I need your permission to reprint a few songs for my book.” Then he continues: “See this — it’s a piece of newspaper. Inside is some of Dylan’s dog shit. Dylan is currently housebreaking his dog. And here we have some diapers. Yeeech! Dylan is currently housebreaking his children. But what have we here? A cereal box!”
“Hey, Alan,” whispers Sharon, an active DLFer student in Weberman’s class, “look over there.”
“Don’t bother me,” Weberman screeches. “I’m going through his garbage.”
“But A.J., he’s over there . . . it’s him . . . standing staring at you from across the street!”
* * *
We went outside & decided to go thru D’s garbage with the class & so they formed a circle around me. David Peel (DLF) pointed out that his garbage bags were green, like his money. My “Garbage Article” had already come out so there was nothing of interest to be found but we did the thing anyway.
Then one of the street kids decided he was gonna enter D’s thru a window. I was explaining what we’d do to him if he tried it. (I wasn’t ready for an illegal demo yet) when Sharon (DFL) groupie tendencies comes over and says “There’s someone standing across the street who looks JUST LIKE DYLAN.” “Holy shit,” I thought, “What the fuck am I going to do? D’s caught me redhanded going thru his garbage. He’s gonna be pissed off . . . he may get violent. I may have to beat the shit out of that slimy bootlicker here and now.” I looked up and saw Bob standing directly across the street from me — he was dressed in denim, wearing rimless glasses & it looked like smoke was coming out of his head. I just stood there. David Peel came over and pushed me forward. It was like ‘High Noon.’ “Do not forsake me oh my Dylanology.”
East Village Other, Jan. 19
* * *
And it was him, fuming and red-faced underneath his scruffy beard. He had emerged from the back entrance to his townhouse and had circled around to get a closer look at the maniacal scene going down in front of his place.
“Bob . . . Bob,” A.J. stuttered in awe. “We’ve come to talk to you.”
“And I wanna talk to you,” snarled Dylan as he grabbed Weberman by the collar and dragged him halfway down Macdougal Street. “What’d ya bring these people around to bother my children for, huh?”
“We came to talk to you, Bob. We’ve got some demands to make.”
“Well, if you wanna talk, let’s go around the corner.”
A.J. and Bob walked two blocks along West Houston Street, and then sat down on the stoop of the building in which Dylan has a private recording studio. They talked for nearly an hour, Weberman insisting that he had come to save Dylan’s soul. “There’s injustice in this world. You’ve gotta help the Panthers. You’ve got to use your influence to free John Sinclair. You’ve got to use your millions to help people.”
Dylan smiled quietly. He had been to this movie before.
And Weberman gesticulated on about the Palestinian guerrillas, Self-Portrait being a rip-off, the New York Panther “21” frame-up, the famine in India, and the case of Pun Plamondon in Michigan.
“You know,” said Bob, “a lot of people have been asking me about your theories. They’re going around saying you’re telling people I’m a junkie.”
“Well . . . man . . . are you?”
Then a most incredible scene happened: slowly and deliberately, Bob Dylan removed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. “Clean,” he said, pointing to his arm. “No track marks.”
Weberman looked at Dylan’s eyes. They were unpinned and not glassy. A junkie’s eyes wouldn’t be as clear as Bob’s were. Quickly the wheels began to turn in Alan’s mind: Well, his eyes may not be pinned, but that’s because he hasn’t shot up in a few hours. As for not having trackmarks, I bet he’s just doing that to outsmart me. I’ll bet that ever since I’ve been publishing hints about my theories, people have been asking him about dope and he’s taking it through his leg.
Weberman eyed Dylan’s legs. Bob was wearing lace-up boots that he was constantly tying and untying out of nervousness. That tying, A.J. thought to himself; it’s really symbolic of his tying himself up for the needle.
“You’re a junkie,” Weberman whimpered, staring at the naked arm. “You can show me what you want. But it’s there . . . it’s there in your music. You sing the praises of heroin. You can’t convince me any different.”
* * *
D sat down on this stoop a few blocks from his pad and we continued the conversation — “What about your CB, Bobby?” He denied it and did something that makes many people believe he was telling the truth. But not A.J. Like he says — “We’ll fly over the ocean just as they supect” (fly over ocean is a metaphor for D’s CB from other contexts). Later on he told me — “Everyone’s been asking me about your writing.” THE RUMOR. “The man in Dylan would do nearly any task when asked for compensation . . .” just give him his current bag. “From my TOES up to my HEELS.” Dig what I mean.
–East Village Other, Jan. 19
* * *
Dylan is a man who jealously protects his privacy. In an effort to be left alone, he has granted almost no interviews to the press in the past few years. He gets furious when articles appear discussing his private life or any mention of his family. It is said that he once threatened to sell his retreat in Woodstock to real estate speculators if that community didn’t do something to protect him from the legions of curious buses, cars and trucks that regularly stopped near his gate for a glance at Mr. D. And now demonstrations!
A.J. came home weary and elated from the demonstration. He had barely taken his coat off when the phone rang. “Hello Al, this is Bob . . .”
“Shit,” thought A.J. to himself as he fumbled with various pieces of electric equipment, “my phone recorder isn’t working. Dylan calls me and I can’t even get this on tape.”
So Alan and Bob talked — unrecorded — despite Weberman’s otherwise careful practice of recording every mumble that passes through his phone wires. What transpired in this call was a promise by Dylan that he would see A.J. the next day.
“Do you have a driver’s license?” Dylan is reported to have asked Weberman.
“No, why do you wanna know?”
“Well . . . I was gonna offer you this job as a chauffeur.”
But Weberman caught onto the game immediately. “What are you trying to do, man? Buy me out? Bribe me with a job?”
“Oh no, Al. I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do that ever. I just thought you’d like to see life from a different seat!”
Dylan called again the next day. This time, A.J. had the phone hooked up to the tape-recorder most perfectly. Dylan’s words, even over the phone, are precious additions to the Dylan Archives. A.J. wasn’t going to miss out on them twice.
“Al, you wanna come visit me?”
“You got a tape recorder?”
“Reel to reel.”
“Oh . . .”
“I got a deck . . . a tape deck.”
Silence while the double entendre sank in.
“Bring whatever you like,” Dylan finally said, half giving up on the idea of letting Weberman hear some recent tapes. “Just come alone.”
“I’ll be over in five minutes,” promised Weberman as he lunged for his coat.
“Take your time, man,” answered Dylan coolly — but A.J. was already half out the door.
A.J., stuffed to the ears with caffeine tablets (“I wanted to be completely alert”), almost floated down to Dylan’s. For him this was the high-point of his four year crusade for Dylan’s soul. Alan could fantasize the headlines in the trade journals: “Dylan Demands That Bobby Seale, Pun Plamondon, John Sinclair and Angela Davis Be Freed”; “Dylan Returns Honorary Degree to Princeton — Terms Ivy League ‘Nest of Locusts!’ “; “Bob Dylan to Sing in Cuba for Sugar Harvest.” And then there would be an interview one day, perhaps in Rolling Stone, where Bob Dylan would explain that his whole miraculous re-conversion came about because of his new manager and political advisor, Alan Jules Weberman.
A.J. raced to the Dylan studios on West Houston Street propelled by his enthusiasm and caffeine. The studio, protected by metal window gates, a battery of burglary alarms, and an armful of heavy brass locks, was a living testament to Dylan’s desire for complete isolation. His studio is a fortress. Weberman knocked on the door.
There are many versions as to what went on inside Dylan’s studio that afternoon — all of them emanate from A.J. According to Weberman, the meeting got off to a slow start because, against Bob’s wishes, he had brought Ann Duncan along. “Don’t worry about her,” Alan told Dylan, “she ain’t staying. She just came to help me carry this goddammed tape recorder.”
Ann shlepped the recorder to a desk, opened it, fumbled with some wires, then quietly left Dylan and Weberman to figure out some way to get the machine working. There was much fumbling with electrical equipment for the next few minutes. Dylan finally managed to play a tape of a song Weberman had already heard. But while the song was playing, Alan proceeded to inspect the studio for hidden microphones. In his mind, it was inconceivable that Bob Dylan should not have one tape recorder of his own — and since it was impossible for Dylan not to own a tape recorder, Weberman was convinced that he had hidden it somewhere and was recording the whole conversation.
Finally, Dylan broke the charade with a question: “What do you think of Tim Leary?” he asked.
“Oh man,” gushed A.J., still scouring the place for hidden bugs, “I think he’s great. He’s beautiful, man. Like he’s one of America’s biggest heroes . . . like he was into revolution all along, but felt he could attract a lot of upper-middle class people by talking about the revolution in mystical terms. Hey Bob . . . what do you think of Leary?”
“I don’t follow politics.”
Weberman then flowed into a long riff in which he tried to explain that he really knew that Dylan followed politics even if Dylan wouldn’t admit it. Worried that this would lead to an endless rap on the necessity for political consciousness, Bob offered to show Weberman his paintings.
“What do you think of my artworks?” Bob Dylan asked as he pointed to some semi-cubist/semi-realist oils on the walls.
“You ought to stick to poetry, Bob.”
“I paint what’s on my mind.”
“Your mind’s empty then, huh?”
Dylan was sent into a fit of convulsive laughter. “Yeah, empty.”
Such good jokes demand rewards.
“Hey Al, would you like a rare picture of me?” Dylan asked as he offered A.J. a full color shot of himself. Weberman perused the picture with disgust. “Sheeeet, Bob. That’s from the Nashville Skyline Songbook and it’s hardly rare. I got thirty of ’em up at the Archives.”
More souvenirs were offered. Records. Photographs. An opportunity to sit in on a recording session. An invitation to Woodstock. But all these riches seemed commonplace to the jaded Weberman, who had come to the studio as a man with a mission.
“Bob,” he said, sucking his breath, “I stand down on the street selling Tarantula every day and the kids . . . man, the kids on the street think you’ve turned into a fucking sellout.”
“Want a rare picture of me?”
“No Bob, I wanna talk! You see . . . like people are saying you’ve turned into a capitalist pig, that your wealth has corrupted you. You once said that the more stake you have in the system, the more conservative you become. You know . . . ‘relationships of ownership, they whisper in the wind’ . . . and all that. And man, you used the struggle of black people to get yourself ahead. You wrote ‘Blowing in the Wind.’ You ripped off their music! You owe them quite a bit! Doesn’t anything I say make any sense to you?”
For the next half hour Weberman pontificated about the responsibilities of the Rock Poet. There was a long lecture about the sufferings of Pakistan, another one about Johnny Cash being a fascist, some rapping about dope busts and Operation Intercept, a riff on the St. Mark’s Free Health Clinic.
“Are you on speed?” broke in Dylan.
“No, man. I don’t fuck with that kind of stuff. I’m high on life . . . on the revolution,” answered Weberman without losing a stroke.
* * *
I decided to lay it on the line — “Dylan, you’ve got to live up to your responsibility as a culture hero — you’re DYLAN, man, every freek has a soft spot in their heart for ya, they love ya, you’re DYLAN, DYLAN, DYL-AN,” “I’m not Dylan, Al, you’re Dylan.”
East Village Other, Jan. 19
* * *
Changing the subject, Weberman decided that perhaps it would be fun if the two of them went through interpretations of Dylan’s poetry. “What do you think of my interpretations of your stuff?” Alan inquired, “I really got you figured out, huh?”
“Well . . . really, my poems are very simple. There’s not much there.”
“You mean I’m projecting all this?”
“I just write poetry. I just write songs. I’m not really that complicated a guy.”
“That,” responded Weberman, “is a lot of shit. I think you are one of America’s greatest poets. But ever since your current bag, nobody thinks of your music.”
“No, no. You got that all wrong. I don’t use heroin and it ain’t in my poetry. My poetry is all very simple.”
Undaunted, Weberman set out to prove through Dylanological interpretive methods that Dylan’s songs really do imply dope. Dylan could only throw up his hands in disgust.
“It’s all bullshit! There’s nothing to my songs but what’s there.” To prove his point, Dylan suggested that the two of them get together to write a song about an episode in Weberman’s life.
“Listen, Bob, before we write this poem we got to talk about what kind of purpose it should have. You see, I went to Mexico . . . to this horrible, dusty town, Progresso. It was a typical Third World scene, man . . . poverty . . . famine . . . disease . . . like being born into a nightmare. Anyway, this guy, who was a bracero, gave me a place to stay. He really had a horrible life — he nearly starved to death as a migrant worker up in Sonora. When he got back his wife had left him. So what the poem’s gotta do is convince Americans that we should support any kind of armed struggle by Mexicans against their and our fascist government.”
Bob Dylan scribbled with a scrap of paper. When he looked up, he presented Alan with a poem that went something like: “Down in Progresso lived a bracero with a sombrero full of espresso . . .”
“What is this, man?” asked a flustered Weberman. “It don’t make sense. It’s not going to convince anyone of anything.”
“Well, Al, that’s ma thing!”
* * *
AJ. Weberman walked around in a state of undrugged, natural and unrestrained euphoria for a full week after his meeting with Dylan. The fact that he and Dylan didn’t seem to have communicated very well was secondary. Failure becomes revolutionary victory. Deafness becomes response. There had, after all, been several important gains made by the meeting. For one thing, that Dylan would see Weberman at all was a sign that Bob was finally recognizing A.J.’s work. Bob doesn’t just see anybody. Dylan promised him a song on his next album dedicated to political prisoners — a step back to message music. And then there had been the vague promise of more meetings, more opportunities to enter Bob Dylan’s soul. Alan was so pleased with the meeting, in fact, that he wrote a long article on it assuming that Dylan wouldn’t mind the exposure. But Dylan was of another mind. He thought their meeting was nothing more than a friendly rap.
“Bob,” A.J. said over the phone, “I want you to look through this manuscript I’ve put together. The Underground Press Service is getting it out in a few papers around the country.”
“What’s it on?”
“It’s the interview you gave me.”
“I didn’t give you no interview!”
For the next half hour sparks flew through the phone. Dylan demanded to see the interview immediately and to make corrections on any inaccuracies contained therein.
* * *
[The following transcript is not the entire Weberman-Dylan conversation. Since it was a tapped phone call, we made certain deletions for the sake of common sense and Dylan’s privacy.]
You called me?
About the tape — what tape was that?
Nah, I didn’t say . . . any tape . . . what I did was I typed out, ah, ah my re . . . reputation together and I’m going to use it as an interview. I’m going to send it to every underground paper in America for free rather than selling it to . . .
You didn’t tell me that was an interview.
Oh, well, didn’t you like, ah, didn’t you . . .
Hey, man, you want an interview with me? Let me know. I’ll give you an interview.
OK, OK, fine. I was gonna let you see it beforehand and ah, because I realize it wasn’t taped and I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna misquote you or put words in your mouth.
Well, what about the tape? Got a tape recorder in your jacket?
No. I didn’t have a tape in my jacket. I don’t have the money for, ah, one of those concealed tape recorders. So I just typed up . . .
OK, look, man, you want to have an interview?
We’ll have an interview, but don’t . . .
You know, that’s sneaky.
But you know I’m a cat who writes about, who specializes in writing about you.
Yeah, man, I understand that but if you want to have an interview we can have an interview above the table. I think that I deserve that right.
Sure, sure, that’s fine with me. I’d prefer it that way, you know. That would even make it better. Although this isn’t bad. What I have here is real . . .
I’d like to see it, anyway.
Well, should I bring it around now, or . . .
No, man, I’m busy for the weekend.
After the weekend?
Yeah, I’ll be back on Monday or Tuesday.
Oh, gee, the trouble is that these people are expecting, ah . . . in other . . . these people are expecting, expecting something from me Monday.
[Sighs] I’m working, man, like I’m building some stuff and I really must get it built.
Just, ah, some tables and some shelves and some stuff and I’ve gotta get it done.
Ah, OK, I’ll tell them that it’ll have to wait . . .
Just like one week, or, or, a day or two. Two days, just let me see it.
OK, let me bring it over today, I’ll just leave it in your mailbox, OK.
Alright, bye bye.
[They hang up. The taped conversation resumes a few days later.]
You read it?
Yeah, you asked me about, ah, corrections and all that, and I noticed that you just had a big pile of them in your hand, and I was wondering like if you were like ah . . .
Wait wait wait a minute, what are you saying, man?
Like you had a big pile of ’em in your hand, you obviously had a whole lot printed up. So I mean . . .
No, no, I had the concordance, I have two, I had two xeroxes made. Cost me a dollar four cents. I had two xeroxes of this made.
OK, there’s a couple things in that article . . . that I object to.
One thing there about Johnny Cash, I don’t think that’s right.
Your saying Johnny Cash is in the past . . .
Yeah, I didn’t say it like that. It doesn’t really make specific whether that pertained to Johnny Cash’s playing for the White House was in the past, or whether digging Johnny Cash was in the past, the whole thing is kind of vague. I wouldn’t want it printed that I don’t dig Johnny Cash, because I do.
OK, OK, I’ll say, you know, so I’ll put down I . . .
OK, alright, the other thing was on “Dear Landlord.” I couldn’t have said that song was written for Grossman.
No, you told me that, it was for Al Grossman, I remember that specifically, I says, oh, see, he’s given me the . . .
Well, man, it wasn’t all the way for Al Grossman, in fact he wasn’t even on my mind, only later, only later when people pointed out that the song might have been written for Al Grossman I thought, well, maybe it could have been.
That’s a good story to use, man, you’re just putting me on, man, you’re giving me the usual line, man.
I’m not putting you on. No, I don’t want you to print that that was for Grossman because it wasn’t.
Who should I say?
It wasn’t written for anybody, it was an abstract song, it certainly wasn’t written for you.
It sure as hell wasn’t, no. I was not even aware of you at that time.
Isn’t a landlord a critic, though, in your symbolism?
No, I wasn’t aware of you at that time.
Right, right, that’s how I, that’s, yeah.
So I don’t care what you figure out to say but it was not written for Grossman, so don’t say it. It’s just not right.
How ’bout if I make it like sarcastic?
Another thing man, is there’s lies in there, man. I don’t have the article with me, but there’s some lies in there.
Well, I had the article, I called you before but you weren’t home. I left the article at the studio, but there’s some lies in there. I couldn’t believe it.
Want me to read the article, man?
“I was really fuckin’ hassled . . .”
No, no. no, around in the third or fourth page.
“He said he was going to invite me up to Woodstock a couple of months ago, I asked him how come he didn’t, how come I had to have a demonstration in front of your house to get you to negotiate? ‘You know how dedicated I am and how well I know your work.’ ‘I know Al, and one day we’ll go for a ride together and I’ll interpret all of my poems for you.’ ‘We ain’t going by the docks, are we?’ ” I didn’t say that, but you know, what difference does it make? ” ‘No, Al, you scared my kids telling them . . .'”
Hey that’s another one.
You did say I scared your kids.
Did I say that, man? Well, it’s not true.
Alright . . . Johnny Cash. What do you think of Johnny Cash? He’s your friend, right?
I can’t even answer that, man, I mean, I’ve been hearing Johnny Cash since I was a kid.
Right, but things have changed.
His music hasn’t changed, I still listen to . . .
I’m not putting Johnny Cash down that much, man, I’m saying at the time that, ah, like . . .
I dig him.
At the time Nashville Skyline was coming out, Cash was a more, a very conservative musician. That’s why Nixon invited him to the White House. He changed. Cash was going through a change, be it motivated by financial or motivated, you know, just being exposed to the music people the way they are today, he went through some kind of a change. Right? So what I’m saying is at the time you did things together. I’m not attacking Cash now, that he . . .
Hey, I love him. I got nothin’ else to say.
OK, OK. “‘Man, almost all the other rock poets put you down in their songs in your own language for your politics.’ ‘They’re just using my phrasing.’ ‘No, man.’ [Reads on.] Now I had Dylan going, he suddenly became very . . . this is a composite of our two conversations. “Now I had,” I’m gonna say that, uh, I have a little preface to put there, there’s that quote and then composite, I didn’t get to that yet, that’s why I didn’t finish the last part plus a little news release about “Don’t expose me” on New Morning. “‘Isn’t that indicative of a contradiction in your personality?’ ‘No, I . . .’ “
What did you just say, what was all that? That wasn’t in the article.
That’s gonna be in the article, this isn’t complete, it’s about 90 percent complete. What’s left is a little thing saying this is not Dylan talking, this is my . . .
I never said “Don’t expose me” in New Morning, what’s that?
Backwards, backwards, you know you play a part of it backwards.
And it says “Don’t expose me”?
Oh fuck, man. Jesus!
It’s the same part that, it’s the same part that ah . . .
Jesus, why don’t you play an Andy Williams record backwards, if you . . .
If you play the whole record backwards, man, it only makes sense in ah, two places, “mars invades us” and only when you slur the words, uh, “when mars invades us” as an allusion to going into town and that says “don’t expose me” backwards. You know, like, you . . .
You know that as well as I do, man, it was you put it there.
Hooh! Hooh! [mind-boggled gasps]. OK, go ahead, man.
“‘No, man, they all understand what you’re saying the same way I do, from studying your poetry.’ ‘Why don’t you ask them about it?’ ‘Man, they’d deny it ’cause it’s a secret language and ’cause of the controversial nature of your CB, which they sing about. Anyway, it’s poetry and it’s up to the listener or critic to figure out.’ ‘I deny it’s happening and so do they.’ ‘Hey, Dylan, man, if you really believe in your CB and want to continue to remain in it, how come you copped out on yourself in your poetry? And the poetry is simple enough that many people understand it. Isn’t that indicative of a contradiction in your personality?’ Now I had Dylan going. He suddenly became very depressed and didn’t say anything. He looked hurt. I almost felt sorry for him.”
Who thought — what’s that all insinuating, what’s all this shit? Man, you just sort of slip in . . .
That was the second day, that other time, the second meeting, man, after I said that you just sat there and I . . .
I was thinkin’ about somethin’, man. Can’t a person just sit there and think about something?
Cause and effect, man, when I say something and then all of a sudden you go into a fit of depression . . .
No, I don’t go into fits of depression.
Well, I figured maybe I said something that hit home.
Don’t have ’em, man, don’t have ’em. You can print it, but it’s a lie.
No, that’s not true, man, after I said that you just sat there and I said “Hey Bob, what’s happening, man?”
Hey, man, haven’t you ever just sat there?
Not when I’m in a conversation, man, it’s — did you ever hear of reaction time, when they do tests with people, psychological tests, they say what do you think of this word, uh, boy, dog, you know, ah, this, that and then they come out with a heavily weighted word, mother’s tits, you know, and the guy says, oh, something like . . .
Oh, go ahead, go ahead.
“‘What do you think of my work, man?’ ‘Your approach is sincere.'”
[Here the first tape comes to an end. The second tape begins with some confused noises.]
You got this whole thing on tape, huh?
I can’t believe you, Weberman, I just can’t believe you.
Well, I’m not gonna, I didn’t, I’m da, I can’t do anything with it, man, right? I can’t do anything with it.
So you got the whole thing on tape, huh?
No I don’t, just a li . . . part of it, the tape machine fucked up.
What part did you get?
I don’t know, I don’t know.
So, what, are you gonna play this for your class? I’m never gonna call you again.
I’m not gonna flash it in my class, man, I’m not, ya know. [Weberman resumes reading.] “‘Man, I think you’re a fucking reactionary. You don’t use your influence to save lives. Man, look at all the death around us. Look at what just happened in Pakistan. That was a result of capitalism. People were so poor they couldn’t cope with a natural disaster.’ ‘I wonder why the Good Lord wanted all those people to die.’ ‘You don’t . . .’ ‘I do.’ ‘How ’bout “With God on Our Side”?’ ‘I wasn’t thinking then.'”
I don’t think I said that. I think you made that up.
Do you believe in God?
Yeah, I sure do!
So . . . evidently at one time you didn’t. Right? That’s what you said in some statements, right, you said you didn’t believe in God.
Evidently if you do now and you didn’t then, you . . .
I musta then, too.
“‘Hey, Bob, why not show the people your heart’s in the right place and do a benefit for John Sinclair?’ ‘I don’t have my thing together.’ ‘Bullshit, all you gotta do is show up and plunk your guitar a little and a hundred thousand freaks will come out of their pads and go anywhere you want ’em to.'”
I’m not ready to go play concerts, that’s not the same thing as saying I don’t have my thing together.
Alright. “I’m not ready to go play concerts.”
I’m not about to.
“I’m not about to go play concerts,” alright.
At this time.
Right, I don’t blame you, man. You don’t . . . you don’t want to be part of the scene, you don’t . . . all kinds of terrible things could happen to you in that hour, man.
No. What for? Why should I go play in front of 20,000 people? I mean what . . . hey, I’ve been there before.
To make people happy, man, you make people happy.
I’ve been there before, I’ve done it before . . .
You set the whole world trend in rock, man, if you started doing things like that . . .
You should have been at the Isle of Wight, man, I’d like to see how much you’d still be talking if you were at the Isle of Wight . . .
The Isle of Wight was a capitalist rip-off, man, I’m not talking about that kind of a scene, I’m talking about . . .
Were you at Woodstock?
No, I wasn’t at Woodstock, man.
Well, you haven’t seen those kinds of things.
I’m not talking about a free concert, man, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about a benefit, you dig, in Madison Square Garden or something like that, man.
Go on, let’s finish the article.
* * *
So how would you have me end the article?
I don’t know, it’s your article: I don’t know.
Alright, man. But that’s what happened during the fucking interview.
I know that’s what happened, but that ain’t what happened, man, that last sentence doesn’t end any article, you know that. That didn’t happen like that. I remember saying something like that but it didn’t have anything to do with how you’re using it, you’re just taking it out of context like Look magazine.
Awww, you don’t stand behind anything you say, man.
Sure I do.
You don’t stand behind your own songs, man, that’s for sure.
Man, I’m gonna do an article on you. I think I want to write a song about you, too.
Well, I could use the publicity.
Yeah, well, that’s one reason why I wouldn’t, but I got a good song if I ever want to do one.
What’s it called?
It’s called “Pig.”
I’m a pig, eh?
Ah, bullshit I’m a pig, man.
You’re the one who’s a pig.
Oh no, not at all, not at all. I don’t think I want to write it, just because of that publicity thing, I don’t dig that at all, but I got the song, man, I’ll sing it for you. Well, I don’t have it finished actually, but ah . . .
I don’t have a million fucking dollars, man.
What does that have to do with it?
‘Cause you have a million fucking dollars, man. Y’see, you ain’t that much better than the cat who has nothing. You dig. A cat who is walking on the Bowery, man, it’s true, man, in some ways you’re better, but you ain’t a million dollars better worth, you know what I mean. In times like this if people . . . like we have a million dollars in the society, man, it means that other people don’t have it, you know. Don’t you dig what I mean, nobody should have a million dollars, man. Nobody should be allowed to accumulate that much wealth, that much surplus wealth, when people, when there are other people around that don’t have shit, you know. And not because of their fucking skin color, man, not because of anything else which I despise ’cause they’re not like straights who like hate anyone who’s different than them in any kind of a way.
I think . . . you’re overlooking a lot, you’re overlooking a lot. Is your tape recorder still on, man, is it still running?
It didn’t break down?
Ah . . . no, no, it’s a good one.
Well, you shouldn’t go around taping people, that’s just what makes you no better than all the government phone tappers. Not only that but you go through garbage like a pig.
I don’t go through garbage like a pig . . . but what I was doing, man, was a good thing. You’re cynical.
No, man, you’re not on the up and up.
No, you pick all those things out. But what did I do with it, man? Did I . . . You see, I may have gone through your garbage, man, but I didn’t sell it to Life Magazine. I didn’t sell your garbage to Life Magazine.
Do you think Life Magazine is gonna buy my garbage? [incredulously]
I’m not like you, man, I send out all my articles for free. Because I believe that things should be free and I’m gonna start the ball rolling with my articles, right? If I send ’em all out free, I get all these letters, thanks a lot Weberman, we love ya, you know, and that’s all I want to hear, man. When I’m fuckin’ starving, you know, then I’m gonna fuckin’, then I’ll, then I’ll have to find some way to get money. I’ll get a fuckin’ job as a dishwasher in the Cafe Wha? or something like that, man. You know. And I’ll still send out my articles for free. You know, that’s what I’ve chosen to do.
Well, God bless you.
You know how much I’ve made on Dylanology? Like $25, three years ago, from EVO around Christmastime. And I’m proud of it, man.
No reason not to be.
And like . . . so I sent out my articles for free and, uhm . . . you know . . . so goin’ through your garbage . . . I wasn’t . . . look, what I was tryin’ to do with that, man, was make you look ridiculous and vulnerable, man. You know. And because, you know . . . there’s so many people who are like unhappy with you and, uh . . . and what you’re doing, man. All the people in rock you know, I listen to the songs over and over again, man, and you’ve made so many people unhappy by doin’ . . .
Made ’em happy, too, made ’em happy, too. I made ’em more happy than I made ’em unhappy. Their happiness greatly overpowered their unhappiness.
Ah . . . that’s true . . . you’ve never really renounced any of the old songs, except implicitly, you know. Ah . . . what can I tell you, man . . .
I think you ought to expand your thing, man. Like, ah . . . if you took some of that energy and spread it out a little bit, you could get, you could get involved in a whole new thing.
Dylanology is working out fine for me.
I don’t know if there’s gonna be enough there, man. Just to be completely honest with ya. So what if there is, but I mean, after you get your . . .
I can interpret Creedence, I can interpret the Beatles, I can interpret the Stones . . .
I’m not trying to tell you what to do, but . . .
See the only thing is it all fuckin’ comes back to you, to Dylanology, I go into . . .
You know what else comes back to me, man.
Creedence’s new record, man. Did you hear Creedence’s new record?
No, I haven’t.
They have all these references to you there, man.
What does he say about that?
He’ll deny it, man.
Why would he deny it? I mean, why?
Because it’s a secret language, man, you know, he’s not gonna say it, because why? Because he said you’re a junkie, man. He’s not gonna say yeah, Dylan’s a junkle and we won’t dig . . . because it’s informing.
Well, why don’t you go out and meet with him face to face about it, then?
‘Cause he’s, because they won’t see me.
Oh, well, see him when he comes to the city. Just go up and pound on the door.
He can deny his ass off, man, he can deny his ass off, from today ’til tomorrow.
Well, what if I deny it all? I’ve denied a lot of it to you, too.
Say, everybody could deny it, as long as I, as long as you don’t come up with another system that’s more complicated and makes more sense, as far as I’m concerned, my stand, my system stands. Do you see what I mean?
I know what’s happening, man, you know, I have so much information.
Well, why don’t you just get a guitar, and write the songs yourself?
Because the thing that I am is a critic, there’s a need for someone like myself, man. You know? There’s a need for someone like myself. Nobody else is doing it.
Oh, but you’re so extreme, man. You’re so extreme. I mean you’re like you’re off on one end.
Well, I consider that a compliment, man.
There’s no, there’s no one balancing . . . your other end. You might fall off.
Shit, there’s all the lame rock critics.
No, no, they’re all in the middle, man.
Greil Marcus says I’m full of shit, man, all those other rock critics are full of shit, they’re full of shit, man, they’re corrupt.
Greil Marcus is or isn’t, did you say?
He’s full of shit.
Yeah, I think so too. Did you see the thing he wrote about Self-Portrait?
I didn’t read it.
Oh, that was really a piece of shit.
. . . I’m goin’ up to New Haven, Connecticut, tonight . . .
Oh yeah, for what?
With David Peel, we’re gonna be on the radio there.
Yeah, for Dylanology.
In New Haven?
Any messages for New Haven?
No, man, not really . . . I don’t know, man, I have no messages really, not really . . .
You got no messages anymore?
Uh, what do you mean?
Messages, you know, like message songs.
Yeah, man, I remember them. They were just messages to me, though. I told Scaduto that, and that flipped him out. He said he was gonna have to go back now and listen to all those songs.
Well, I wish him luck, man. Tell him also to change his lifestyle if he wants to understand ’em.
How much time do you have tonight on Dylanology?
You got all night on, what is it — underground radio?
College … no, no, it’s a stereo station, a big fuckin’, it’s Yale’s station.
I was there, the last time I was there I was fuckin’ gassed, you know, I was bein’ fuckin’ gassed by the pigs. Wait a minute, but I’m a pig.
Is it . . . yeah, you are. Is it all on Dylanology, man?
Oh no, man, I’m not a pig, I do my thing, man.
Yeah, of course you are, of course you’re a pig, man.
‘Cause I vamped on a fuckin’ pig, I’m a pig, man?
More than that, man. You’re a pig mentality, yeah. You think like a pig.
Shit, man, if I was a kid growing up, I’d have to look out for you. I would keep my eyes open for you, if I was a kid growing up. I’d make sure that if, whatever street I went down I’d have to go on the other side of the street when you came down oinking.
I’m fighting against the fucking pigs, man, I’m not a pig myself.
Aaaah, you’re a pig mentality, man. Mentality is what makes a pig.
No, not pig mentality, man. No, I wouldn’t a gone, I wouldn’t a gone through your garbage, man, I told ya I was gonna . . .
They might as well put a badge on you, man, you might as well just wear a badge. Ah, you wear it on your leather coat, just a little badge, right above your heart there.
I do, man, my button, that’s my badge. Like, that’s really not true, man, and I’m not gonna take it seriously comin’ from you.
Well you . . .
Comin’ from somebody who wrote, that writes songs like you write, man.
Hey, man, who writes better songs than I do. Name me somebody.
I can name you a hundred fuckin’ people.
Oh come on. You can’t, you know you can’t.
Ah, let’s see. Creedence Clearwater.
Gordon Lightfoot ain’t bad.
Yeah, he’s fine.
He writes good, he writes good songs. Let me see, there’s some cat, who uses a very, very, a lot of imagery just like ‘Tarantula’ — ah, Barbara Keefe.
Ah . . . Ken Lauber.
Oh, he’s alright. Yeah, he’s very good.
Jack doesn’t write songs.
Hmmmm … Sure.
Procol Harum, Keith Reid what’s his name.
Yeah, well, they’re swell.
How ’bout Grace Slick? Too political?
I don’t know, does she write stuff?
Sure. Too political, though.
Probably, if you say.
You’re . . . you’re fuckin’ irrational. Nothin’ is gonna happen to you if you speak out, man, you know. Nothin’ is gonna happen to you.
OK, dig, I got to go.
Did we get it straightened out about the interview, or the article?
I’ll change all the stuff you want me to change and then I’ll mail it out.
Could I see it after you make the corrections?
Anytime that’s convenient for you.
OK, could you bring it by?
I’m gonna pick up some buttons on Monday.
I’m gettin’ some buttons printed up.
Oh ho . . . what does it say on the buttons?
Free Bob Dylan.
That’s far out, man.
I’m havin’ some made up for you too, man.
What, Free AJ Weberman?
A.J.’s a pig?
A.J. the pig, right.
Well, you know.
Or it’ll just have PIG with a picture of you on it.
[Laughs] Where will you get the picture of me?
We’re gonna take it off an underground newspaper.
Well, you don’t have my permission to use that picture.
It’s OK, man, you’ll live through it.
You don’t have my permission to use that picture.
You don’t have my permission to do any of this shit, man.
Ah . . . I don’t. Holy shit, what am I gonna do? I gotta fuckin’ take my bank account out and put in a safe deposit box in case I get sued?
Naah, you won’t get sued, but ah . . . you’ll live through it, I’m sure you’re gonna live through all of it.
Oh, I hope so, man.
Yeah, you will, it won’t be nothin’, it’ll be good for you, man, it’ll be good for you.
What will be good for me?
Having your picture with pig written on it.
I’m not a pig, man, I don’t see how you can fuckin’ call me a pig.
Come on, don’t give me that.
I fuckin’ fight, man.
You fight to go through my garbage.
I fight pigs. Yeah, but a lot of people think that you’ve become a pig, man.
In a certain position, man, in a certain position, you know, I could do a number on a cat, you know, who’s become a pig, man, who’s become a fuckin’ sell-out, you dig. You just, it just, you know, that’s the way it goes, man, you write all these songs, some jerk is gonna fuckin’ believe ’em, man . . .
Oh c’mon . . .
. . . and he’s gonna get pissed off when he finds out that you didn’t believe ’em, or you don’t believe ’em any more.
I believe ’em.
You know, you know, like . . .
See you later, man.
OK, so long.
* * *
There seemed something very final about his farewell to Weberman. And though one can never tell for sure with Bob Dylan, one got the feeling that his slumming with America’s First and Foremost Dylanologist was a thing of the past. Dylan was often impatient, but most of all bored with Weberman. There wouldn’t be much basis for a future relationship.
But A. J., undaunted, saw the whole conversation as a great victory for himself. He seemed oblivious to Bob’s irritation with him. Faster than Captain America, he is now making plans for infecting the soul of his idol — with or without Dylan’s cooperation. Those “Free Bob Dylan — DLF!” buttons were printed. They’re all over New York these days.
Lately, our hero has been walking around Fun City with expanded plans for interpretations and action against rock stars. Something called the Rock Liberation Front is in the works over at the Dylan Archives. “I’ve been thinking of getting into Creedence Clearwater, John Lennon, James Taylor and Gordon Lightfoot . . . to name a few. I only interpret the biggest artists, man. The important ones.”
Er, ah, watch your garbage cans, gents.
This story is from the March 4th, 1971 issue of Rolling Stone.