Q&A: Bob Dylan
Life gets complex as the years go by.
Yeah. You get older; you start having to get more family oriented. You start having hopes for other people rather than for yourself. But I don’t have nothin’ to complain about. I did it, you know? I did what I wanted to do. And I’m still doing it.
A lot of fans would say that the Band, which was backing you up in the mid-Sixties, was the greatest group you ever had. Would you agree?
Well, there were different things I liked about every band I had. I liked the Street Legal band a lot I thought it was a real tight sound. Usually it’s the drummer and the bass player that make the band.
The Band had their own sound, that’s for sure. When they were playin’ behind me, they weren’t the Band; they were called Levon and the Hawks. What came out on record as the Band — it was like night and day. Robbie [Robertson] started playing that real pinched, squeezed guitar sound — he had never played like that before in his life. They could cover songs great. They used to do Motown songs, and that, to me, is when I think of them as being at their best. Even more so than “King Harvest” and “The Weight” and all of that. When I think of them, I think of them singin’ somethin’ like “Baby Don’t You Do It,” covering Marvin Gaye and that kind of thing. Those were the golden days of the Band, even more so than when they played behind me.
What were some of the most memorable shows you guys did together?
Oh, man, I don’t know. Just about every single one. Every night was like goin’ for broke, like the end of the world.
It’s funny, the music business was small back then, primitive. But the music that came out of it was really affecting. Now the business is enormous, yet it seems to have no real effect on anything. What do you think was lost back there along the way?
The truth of it all was covered up, buried, under the onslaught of money and that wolfish attitude — exploitation. Now it seems like the thing to do is exploit everything, you know?
A lot of people are happy to be exploited.
They stand in line.
Have you ever been approached to do a shoe ad or anything?
Oh, yeah! They’d like to use my tunes for different beer companies and perfumes and automobiles. I get approached on all that stuff. But, shit, I didn’t write them for that reason. That’s never been my scene.
Do you still listen to the artists you started out with?
The stuff that I grew up on never grows old. I was just fortunate enough to get it and understand it at that early age, and it still rings true for me. I’d still rather listen to Bill and Charlie Monroe than any current record. That’s what America’s all about to me. I mean, they don’t have to make any more new records — there’s enough old ones, you know? I went in a record store a couple of weeks ago — I wouldn’t know what to buy. There’s so many kinds of records out.
And CDs too.
CDs too. I don’t know. I’ve heard CDs. I don’t particularly think they sound a whole lot better than a record. Personally, I don’t believe in separation of sound, anyway. I like to hear it all blended together.
The Phil Spector approach.
Well, the live approach. The world could use a new Phil Spector record, that’s for sure. I’d like to hear him do Prince.
Do you think Prince is talented?
Prince? Yeah, he’s a boy wonder.
Lately he’s seemed to be a little trapped inside of it all.
Well, there must be a giant inside there just raving to get out. I mean, he certainly don’t lack talent, that’s for sure.
Who are some of the greatest live performers you’ve ever seen?
I like Charles Aznavour a lot. I saw him in sixty-something, at Carnegie Hall, and he just blew my brains out. I went there with somebody who was French, not knowing what I was getting myself into.
Howlin’ Wolf, to me, was the greatest live act, because he did not have to move a finger when he performed — if that’s what you’d call it, “performing.” I don’t like people that jump around. When people think about Elvis moving around — he didn’t jump around. He moved with grace.
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