In 1966, Swedish Radio journalist Klas Burling interviewed Bob Dylan in a Stockholm hotel room. Dylan – in the midst of the tour that would produce the recent Live 1966 – The “Royal Albert Hall” Concert – played Burling acetates of his upcoming album, Blonde on Blonde. The singer had been through a rough night, and as Burling remembers, “He was totally out of it. When he took his shades off, his eyes were like raisins. It was the worst interview of my life.”
Very nice to see you in Stockholm. Could you explain a bit more about yourself and your kind of songs? What do you think of the protest-song type?
Um . . . er . . . God. No, I’m not going to sit here and do that. I’ve been up all night, I’ve taken some pills, and I’ve eaten bad food, and I’ve read the wrong things, and I’ve been out for 100-mph car rides, and let’s not sit here and talk about myself as a protest singer.
“The Times They Are A-Changin'” – that was supposed to be a protest song, no?
Oh, God, how long ago was that?
A year ago.
Well, c’mon, a year ago? I’m not trying to be a bad fellow or anything, but I’d be a liar or a fool to go along with all this business. I just can’t help it if you’re a year behind, you know.
Are you a poet? A singer? Or do you write poems and then put music to them?
No. I don’t know. It’s so silly. You wouldn’t ask these questions of a carpenter, would you?
It wouldn’t be interesting the same way.
It’s interesting to me; it should be just as interesting to you. What do you think Mozart would say if you asked him these questions? “Tell me, Mr. Mozart, er…”
Well, I wouldn’t interview him.
Well, how come you do it to me?
Because I’m interested in your records, and Swedish audiences are, also.
Well, I’m interested in the Swedish audiences, too, but I’m sure they don’t want to know all these dumb things. Swedish people are smarter than that.
You know many Swedes?
I know plenty. I happen to be a Swede myself.
Shall we listen to a song?
You can try. This one happens to be a protest song. This specific one, “Rainy Day Women,” happens to deal with a minority of cripples and Orientals and the world in which they live. It’s sort of a Mexican kind of thing – very protesty. One of the protestiest things of all things I’ve ever protested against in the protest years.
This story is from the January 21st, 1999 issue of Rolling Stone.