This is the second half of a press conference Bob Dylan gave when he was in San Francisco in the winter of 1965. It was one of his rare press conferences, one which was televised and is reprinted here in its entirety. The first part of the Bob Dylan conference can be gotten by sending 25c to “Dylan Interview, Rolling Stone, 746 Brannan Street, San Francisco, Calif. 94103.”
[Q] Of all the people who record your compositions, who do you feel does the most justice to what you’re trying to say?
[A] I think Manfred Mann. They’ve done the songs — they’ve done about three or four. Each one of them has been right in context with what the song was all about.
[Q] What’s your new album about?
[A] Oh, it’s about, uh—just about all kinds of different things—rats, balloons. They’re about the only thing that come to my mind right now.
[Q] Mr. Dylan, how would you define folk music?
[A] As a constitutional re-play of mass production.
[Q] Would you call your songs “folk songs?”
[Q] Are protests songs “folk songs?”
[A] I guess, if they’re a constitutional re-play of mass production.
[Q] Do you prefer songs with a subtle or obvious message?
[A] With a what???
[Q] A subtle or obvious message?
[A] Uh—I don’t really prefer those kinds of songs at all—’message’ — you mean like — what songs with a message.
[Q] Well, like “Eve of Destruction” and things like that.
[A] Do I prefer that to what?
[Q] I don’t know, but your songs are supposed to have a subtle message.
[A] Subtle message???
[Q] Well, they’re supposed to.
[A] Where’d you hear that?
[Q] In a movie magazine?
[A] Oh,—Oh God! Well, we won’t—we don’t discuss those things here.
[Q] Are your songs ever about real people?
[A] Sure they are, they’re all about real people.
[Q] Particular ones?
[A] Particular people? Sure, I’m sure you’ve seen all the people in my songs—at one time or another.
[Q] Who is Mr. Jones?
[A] Mr. Jones, I’m not going to tell you his first name. I’d get sued.
[Q] What does he do for a living?
[A] He’s a pinboy. He also wears suspenders.
[Q] How do you explain your attraction?
[A] Attraction to what?
[Q] Your attraction—your popularity—your mass popularity.
[A] No, no. I really have no idea. That’s the truth, I always tell the truth. That is the truth.
[Q] What are your own personal hopes for the future and what do you hope to change in the world?
[A] Oh, my hopes, for the future: to be honest, you know, I don’t have any hopes for the future and I just hope to have enough boots to be able to change them. That’s all really, it doesn’t boil down to anything more than that. If it did, I would certainly tell you.
[Q] What do you think of a question and answer session of this type (with you as the principal subject)?
[A] Well, I think we all have different — uh — (I may have dropped an ash on myself somewhere — you’ll see in a minute here) — I’m not going to say anything about it though—uh—What was the question?
[Q] What are you thinking about right now?
[A] I’m thinking about this ash.
[Q] Right before that.
[A] Uh—the ash is creeping up on me somewhere—I’ve lost—lost touch with myself so I can’t tell where exactly it is.
[Q] Was that an inadvertent evading of the question?
[A] No, no—
[Q] What do you feel about the meaning of this kind of question and answer session?
[A] I just know in my own mind that we all have a different idea of all the words we’re using—uh—y’know so I don’t really have too much—I really can’t take it too seriously because everything—like if I say the word “house”—like we’re both going to see a different house. If I just say the word—right? So we’re using all these other words like ‘mass production’ and ‘movie magazine’ and we all have a different idea of these words too, so I don’t even know what we’re saying.
[Q] Is it pointless?
[A] No, it’s not pointless. It’s—it’s—you know, if you want to do it, you’re there — then that’s not pointless. You know, it doesn’t hurt me any.
[Q] Is there anything in addition to your songs that you want to say to people?
[A] Good luck.
[Q] You don’t say that in your songs.
[A] Oh, yes I do, every song tails off with “Good Luck, — I hope you make it.”
[Q] Why couldn’t you—uh—
[A] Who are you? [Laughter] Get the camera on this person here.
[Q] What do you bother to write the poetry for if we all get different images? If we don’t know what you’re talking about.
[A] Because I got nothing else to do, man.
[Q] Do you have a rhyme for “Orange”?
[A] What, I didn’t hear that.
[Q] A rhyme for “orange”.
[A] a-ha … just a rhyme for “orange”?
[Q] Is it true you were censored for singing on the Ed Sullivan show, etc. etc.
[A] I’ll tell you the rhyme in a minute.
[Q] Did they censor you from singing what you wanted to on the Ed Sullivan show?
[A] Yes. It was a long time ago.
[Q] What did you want to sing?
[A] I don’t know. It was some song which I wanted to sing and they said I could sing. There’s more to it than just censorship there. They actually said I could sing the song, but when we went through the rehearsal of it, the guy came back afterwards and said that I’d have to change it and he said, “Can’t you sing some folk song like the Clancy Brothers do?” And I didn’t know any of their songs and so I couldn’t get on the program. That’s the way it came down.
[Q] Have you found that the text of the interviews with you are accurate to the original conversations?
[A] No. That’s another reason I don’t really give press interviews or anything, because you know, I mean, even if you do something—there are a lot of people here, so they know what’s going on—but like if you just do it with one guy or two guys, they just take it all out of context, you know, they just take it, split it up in the middle or just take what they want to use and they even ask you a question and you answer it and then it comes out in print that they just substitute another question for your answer. It’s not really truthful, you know, to do that kind of thing, so I just don’t do it. That’s just a press problem there.
[Q] Do you think the entire text of your news conference today should be printed in the newspaper?
[A] Oh no, nothing like that, nothing like that. But this is just for the interview, you know, when they want to do interviews in places like Omaha, or in Cincinnati, man, you know. I don’t do it and then they write bad things.
[Q] Well, isn’t this partly because you are often inaudible? Like, for most of this dialogue you have been inaudible, and now when you are touched personally by the misquotation, your voice rises and we can hear you.
[A] Yeah, well, I just realized that maybe the people in the back there can’t hear me, that’s all.
[Q] I was just going to ask you—in your songs you sing out—
[A] Yes I do.
[Q] And whether…
[A] You see the songs are what I do—write the songs and sing them and perform them. That’s what I do. The performing part of it could end, but like I’m going to be writing these songs and singing them and recording them and I see no end, right now. That’s what I do—uh—anything else interferes with it. I mean anything else trying to get on top of it making something out of it which it isn’t, it just brings me down, and it’s not, uh—it just makes it seem all very cheap.
[Q] Well, it made me feel like you were almost kind of doing a penance of silence here …
[A] No, no.
[Q] The first half.
[A] I’m not one of those kind of people at all.
[Q] You don’t need silence?
[A] No, no silence. It’s always silent where I am.
[Q] Mr. Dylan, when you’re on a concert tour how many people travel in your party?
[A] We travel with about 12 people now.
[Q] Do the number of people seem to go with the amount of money you’re making?
[A] Oh, yes, of course.
[Q] Is that known as Dylan’s Law?
[A] We have the band, we have five in the group. And we need other things; we have to—it’s a lot of electronic equipment now, a lot of different things which have to be taken care of so we need a lot of people. We have three Road Managers and things like that. We don’t make any big public presentations though, like we never come into town in limousines or anything like that. We just — uh — go from place to place, you know, and do the shows. That’s all.
[Q] You fly in your own plane?
[A] Yes, yes.
[Q] Do you have to get in a certain type of mood to write your music?
[A] Yeah, I guess so. A certain type of mood, if you want to call it that.
[Q] Do you find that you are more creative at a certain time of the day?
[A] Yes, yes, I feel that way.
[Q] Like a night writer?
[A] I would say night has nothing to do with it.
[Q] Have you ever sung with the Beatles?
[A] No. Well, I think we have messed around in London, but, no I don’t think anything serious.
[Q] Have you ever played a dance?
[A] No. It’s not that kind of music.
[Q] It is.
[A] Well, what can I say. You must know more about the music than I do. How long have you been playing it?
[Q] Do you find that when you’re writing you free-associate often?
[A] No, it’s all very clear and simple to me. These songs aren’t complicated to me at all. I know what they all are all about! There’s nothing hard to figure out for me. I wouldn’t write anything I can’t really see.
[Q] I don’t mean it that way. I meant when you’re creating a song are you doing it on a subliminal level?
[A] No. That’s the difference in the songs I write now. In the past year or so—in the last year and a half, maybe two, I don’t know—the songs before, up till one of these records, I wrote the fourth record in Greece—there was a change there—but the records before that, I used to know what I wanted to say, before I used to write the song. All the stuff which I had written before which wasn’t song, was just on a piece of toilet paper. When it comes out like that it’s the kind of stuff I never would sing because people would just not be ready for it. But I just went through that other thing of writing songs and I couldn’t write like it anymore. It was just too easy and it wasn’t really “right.” I would start out, I would know what I wanted to say before I wrote the song and I would say it, you know, and it would never come out exactly the way I thought it would, but it came out, you know, it touched it, but now, I just write a song, like I know that it’s just going to be all right and I don’t really know exactly what it’s all about, but I do know the minutes and the layers of what it’s all about.
[Q] What did you think about your song “It’s Allright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding”? It happens to be my favorite one.
[A] God bless you, son. I haven’t heard it for a long time. I couldn’t even sing it for you probably.
[Q] How long does it take you to write a …
[A] Usually not too long a time, really. I might write all night and get one song out of a lot of different things I write.
[Q] How many have you written?
[A] Uh—I guess, well, there’s one publisher that’s got about a hundred. I’ve written about fifty others I guess. I got about 150 songs I’ve written.
[Q] Have they all been published?
[A] No, some of the scraps haven’t been published. But I find I can’t really sing that anyway, because I forget it, so the songs I don’t publish, I usually do forget.
[Q] Have you ever taken these scraps and made them into a song?
[A] No, I’ve forgotten the scraps. I have to start over all the time. I can’t really keep notes or anything like that.
[Q] You can’t go back to one of your earlier things and use them in your …
[A] No, no. That wouldn’t be right either.
[Q] On your songs do you get any help from the rest of your entourage?
[A] Robbie [Robertson], the lead guitar player, sometimes we play the guitars together—something might come up—but I know it’s going to be right. I’ll be just sitting around playing so I can write up some words. I don’t get any ideas though of what I want to or what’s really going to happen here.
[Q] Why do you think you’re so popular?
[A] I don’t know. I’m not a reporter, I’m not a newsman or anything. I’m not even a philosopher, so I have no idea I would think other people would know, but I don’t think I know. You know, when you get too many people talking about the same thing it tends to clutter up things. Everybody asks me that so I realize they must be talking about it, so I’d rather stay out of it and make it easier for them. Then, when they get the answer, I hope they tell me.
[Q] Has there been any more booing?
[A] Oh, there’s booing—you can’t tell where the booing’s going to come up. Can’t tell at all. It comes up in the weirdest, strangest places and when it comes it’s quite a thing in itself. I figure there’s a little “boo” in all of us.
[Q] Bob, where is Desolation Row?
[A] Where? Oh, that’s someplace in Mexico. It’s across the border. It’s noted for its Coke factory. Coca Cola machines are—sells—sell a lotta Coca Cola down there.
[Q] Where is Highway 61?
[A] Highway 61 exists—that’s out in the middle of the country. It runs down to the south, goes up north.
[Q] Mr. Dylan, you seem very reluctant to talk about the fact that you’re a popular entertainer—a most popular entertainer.
[A] Well, what do you want me to say?
[Q] Well, I don’t understand why you …
[A] Well, what do you want me to say? What do you want me to say, d’you want me to say—who—What do you want me to say about it?
[Q] You seem almost embarrassed to admit that you’re popular.
[A] Well, I’m not embarrassed, I mean, you know—Well, what do you want, exactly—for me to say. You want me to jump up and say “Hallelujah!”—and crash the cameras or do something weird? Tell me, tell me. I’ll go along with you, if I can’t go along with you, I’ll find somebody to go along with you.
[Q] I find that you really have no idea as to why you are popular, no thoughts on why you are popular.
[A] I just haven’t really struggled for that. It happened, you know? It happened like anything else happens. Just a happening. You don’t try to figure out happenings. You dig happenings. So I’m not going to even talk about it.
[Q] Do you feel that part of the popularity is because of a kind of identification?
[A] I have no idea. I don’t really come too much in contact.
[Q] Does it make life more difficult?
[A] No, it certainly doesn’t.
[Q] Were you surprised the first time the boo’s came?
[A] Yeah, that was at Newport. Well, I did this very crazy thing. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but they certainly booed, I’ll tell you that. You could hear it all over the place. I don’t know who they were though, and I’m certain whoever it was did it twice as loud as they normally would. They kind of quieted down some at Forest Hills although they did it there, too. They’ve done it just about all over except in Texas — they didn’t boo us in Texas or in Atlanta, or in Boston, or in Ohio. They’ve done it in just about—or in Minneapolis, they didn’t do it there. They’ve done it a lot of other places. I mean, they must be pretty rich, to be able to go someplace and boo. I couldn’t afford it if I was in their shoes.
[Q] Other than booing, have the audiences changed much. Do they scream and get hysterical and rush on stage?
[A] Oh, sometimes you get people rushing the stage, but you just, y’know—turn ’em off very fast. Kick ’em in the head or something like that. They get the picture.
[Q] You said that you don’t know why you are so popular. That is in direct opposition to what most people who reach this level of popularity say.
[A] Well, you see, a lot of people start out and they plan to try to be stars, I would imagine, like, however, they have to be stars. I mean I know a lot of those people, you know? And they start out and they go into show business for many, many reasons, to be seen, you know. I started out, you know, like this had nothing to do with it when I started. I started from New York City, you know, and there just wasn’t any of that around. It just happened.
[Q] Don’t misunderstand me, I agree with your right not to have to care, my point is that it would be somewhat disappointing for the people who think that you feel towards them, the way that they feel towards you.
[A] Oh—well, I don’t want to disappoint anybody. I mean, tell me what I should say—you know, I’ll certainly go along with anything, but I really don’t have much of an idea.
[Q] You have a poster there.
[A] Yeah, it’s a poster somebody gave me. It looks pretty good. The Jefferson Airplane, John Handy, and Sam Thomas and the Mystery Trend and the Great Society and all playing at the Fill-more Auditorium this Friday, December 10th, and I would like to go if I could, but unfortunately, I won’t be here, I don’t think, but if I was here, I certainly would be there.
[Q] What’s more important to you: The way that your music and words sound, or the content, the message?
[A] The whole thing while it’s happening. The whole total sound of the words, what’s really going down is—it either happens or it doesn’t happen, you know. That’s what I feel is—just the thing, which is happening there at that time. That’s what we do, you know? That is the most important thing, there really isn’t anything else. I don’t know if I answered your question.
[Q] You mean it might happen one time, and it might not happen the next?
[A] We’ve had some bad nights, but we always take good cuts for the records. The records are always made out of good cuts and in person most of the time it does come across. Most of the time we do feel like playing. That’s important, to me; the aftermath, and whatever happens before, is not really important to me; just the time on the stage and the time that we’re singing the songs and performing them. Or not really performing them even, just letting them be there.