domingo, 18 de março de 2007
Bob Dylan, poet laureate, prophet in a motorcycle jacket. Mystery tramp. Napoleon in rags. A Jew. A Christian. A million contradictions. A complete unknown, like a rolling stone. He's been analyzed, classified, categorized, crucified, defined, dissected, detected, inspected, and rejected, but never figured out.
He blew into mythology in 1961 with a guitar, harmonica, and corduroy cap, a cross between Woody Guthrie and Little Richard. He was like the first punk folksinger. He introduced the protest song to rock. He made words more important than melody, more important than the beat. His smokey, nasal voice and sexy phrasings are unique. He can write surreal songs with a logic all their own--like a James Rosenquist painting or a Rimbaud prose poem--and simple, straight-from-the-heart ballads with equal ease. He can take the dark out of the night time and paint the daytime black.
He probably could have been the bigget sex symbol since Elvis, had he chosen to. Then Mick Jagger came along. The Stones, the Beatles, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, all paid him their due. The radical Weathermen took their name from him. He caused a riot at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival when he went on stage and played electric rock. The folk faction thought he sold out. Later, during the height of "flower power," when everyone was getting into Eastern religion, Dylan went to Jerusalem, to the Wailing Wall, wearing a yarmulke. A decade later he was a born-again Christian, or so it seemed, putting out gospel records. People discovered that he really wasn't where it's at.
It's not like Dylan suddenly got less political or more spiritual. Biblical references have always been in his songs. People have been calling him a visionary for years. Who knows? Suppose a spiritual revolution is going on and rock 'n' roll's just a prelude to something else. Who would make a better prophet than Dylan?
Sometimes, what looks large from a distance, close up ain't never that big. Dylan's like one of his lines. He lives pretty simply, in a nice house on secluded property on the California coast, with a bunch of chickens, horses, and dogs. The fact that he's more visible now and doing ordinary things, like the Grammies, videos, even this interview, doesn't make him any less mysterious. It adds to it.
You Want to Talk to Me,
Go Ahead and Talk
A lot of people from the press want to talk to me, but they never do, and for some reason there's this great mystery, if that's what it is. They put it on me. It sells newspapers, I guess. News is a business. It really has nothing to do with me personally, so I really don't keep up with it. When I think of mystery, I don't think about myself. I think of the universe, like why does the moon rise when the sun falls? Caterpillars turn into butterflies?
I really haven't remained a recluse. I just haven't talked to the press over the years because I've had to deal with personal things and usually they take priority over talking about myself. I stay out of sight if I can. Dealing with my own life takes priority over other people dealing with my life. I mean, for instance, if I got to get the landlord to fix the plumbing, or get some guy to put up money for a movie, or if I just feel I'm being treated unfairly, then I need to deal with this by myself and not blab
it all over to the newspapers. Other people knowing about things confuses the situation, and I'm not prepared for that. I don't like to talk about myself. The things I have to say about such things as ghetto bosses, salvation and sin, lust, murderers going free, and children without hope--messianic kingdom-type stuff, that sort of thing--people don't like to print. Usually I don't have any answers to the questions they would print, anyway.
Who would you want to interview?
A lot of people who aren't alive: Hank Williams, Apollinaire, Joseph from the Bible, Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, Mohammed, Paul the Apostle, maybe John Wilkes Booth, maybe Gogol. I'd like to interview people who died leaving a great unsolved mess behind, who left people for ages to do nothing but speculate. As far as anybody living goes, who's there to interview? Castro? Gorbachev? Reagan? The Hillside Strangler? What are they going to tell you? The destiny of the world's wealthiest man, that don't interest me. I know what his reward is. Anybody who's done work that I admire, I'd rather just leave it at that. I'm not that pushy about finding out how people come up with what they come up with, so what does that leave you with? Just the daily life of somebody. You know, like, "How come you don't eat fish?" That really wouldn't give me answers to what I'm wondering about.
I started out with Batman and Robin-type sunglasses. I always thought the best kind of sunglasses are the motorcycle helmets with the black plastic masks on them. That way, nobody can recognize the back of your head either. With sunglasses, you buy them off the rack, if they fit, and put them on. Shoes are tougher. You go into a store, try this pair on, that pair on. I feel I have to buy something if I put it on. What I'm looking for is a pair of glasses that can see through walls, whether they're sunglasses or not.
Isn't it hard to wear dark glasses after all these years?
Late at night it is, when I'm driving. I don't wear them all the time. I've gone through periods when I wear them, but I don't know why. I'm nearsighted, so I wear them for that reason.
Highway 61 Revisited
People ask me about the '60s all the time. That's the first thing they want to know. I say, if you want to know about the '60s, read Armies of the Night by Norman Mailer, or read Marshall McLuhan or Abraham Maslow. A lot of people have written about the '60s in an exciting way and have told the truth. The singers were just a part of it. I can't tell them that much. Certain things I can remember very clearly. Others are a kinda blur, but where I was and what was happening I can focus in on if I'm forced to. Of course, there are people who can remember in vivid detail. Ginsberg has that talent and Kerouac had that talent to a great degree. Kerouac never forgot anything, so he could write anything because he could just remember.
My Back Pages
Miles Davis is my definition of cool. I loved to see him in the small clubs playing his solo, turn his back on the crowd, put down his horn and walk off the stage, let the band keep playing, and then come back and play a few notes at the end. I did that at a couple of shows. The audience thought I was sick or something.
Lily St. Cyr (the stripper), Dorothy Dandridge, Mary Magdalen, that's my definition of hot.
My first pop hero was Johnny Ray. I saw him late '78. I think he was playing club lounges. He hasn't had a hit for a while. Maybe he needs a new record company. I hope the guy's still alive. People forget how good he was.
The only person I can think of who didn't return a phone call of mine was Walter Yetnikoff (president of CBS) the summer before last. I placed it personally, direct dial, long distance, at 3 o'clock in the morning.
The last record I bought was Lucille Bogan. She was a blues singer who I had heard of, but not her records. I don't buy too many contemporary records. I didn't go down to the record store and buy the record personally. I know someone who works in a record store in town and I called and asked him to set it aside. No, I didn't actually pick it up, somebody else did.
The first expensive thing I bought with my first big paycheck was a '65 baby-blue Mustang convertible. But a guy who worked for me rolled it down a hill in Woodstock and it smashed into a truck. I got 25 bucks for it. The name on my driver's license is Bob Dylan. It was legally changed when I went to work for Folk City a few thousand years ago. They had to get my name straight for the union.
I never watch sports on TV, although I did see John McEnroe beat Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon when I was over in England last year. There was a TV set backstage and I had gotten there early and I paid attention to the whole thing. Usually I don't stay with something that long.
I used to play hockey when I was growing up. Everyone sort of learns how to skate and play hockey at an early age (in Minnesota). I usually played forward, sometimes center. My cousin was a goalie at the University of Colorado. I didn't play too much baseball, because my eyes were kind of bad and the ball would hit me when I wasn't looking. I never played much basketball, unless I played with my kids. Football I never played at all, not even touch football. I really don't like to hurt myself.
I have a good understanding with all the women who have been in my life, whether I see them occasionally or not. We're still always best of friends.
Tangled Up in Blue
I once read a book of Nathaniel Hawthorne's letters to some girl, and they were extremely private and personal, and I didn't feel there was any of myself in those letters, but I could identify with what he was saying. A lot of myself crosses over into my songs. I'll write something and say to myself, I can change this, I can make this not so personal, and at other times I'll say, I think I'll leave this on a personal level, and if somebody wants to peek at it and make up their own minds about what kind of character I am, that's up to them. Other times I might say, well, it's too personal, I think I'll turn the corner on it, because why do I want somebody thinking about what I'm thinking about, especially if it's not to their benefit.
Tales of Yankee Power
The best songs are the songs you write that you don't know anything about. They're an escape. I don't do too much of that because maybe it's more important to deal with what's happening rather than to put yourself in a place where all you can do is imagine something. If you can imagine something and you haven't experienced it, it's usually true that someone else has actually gone through it and will identify with it. I actually think about Poe's stories, "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Pit and the Pendulum." Certainly, if you look at his life, he really didn't experience any of that stuff. But some fantastic stories came out of his imagination. Like, "Here I am stuck in this job I can't get out of. I'm working as a civil servant, what am I going to do next? I hate this existence." So what does he do? He sits in his attic and writes a story and all the people take it to mean he's a very weird character. Now, I dont' think that's an illegitimate way to go about things, but then you got someone like Herman Melville who writes out of experience--Moby Dick or Confidence Man. I think there's a certain amount of fantasy in what he wrote. Can you see him riding on the back of a whale? I don't know. I've never been to college and taken a literary course. I can only try to answer these questions, because I'm supposed to be somebody who knows something about writing, but the actual fact is, I don't really know that much about it. I don't know what there is to know about it, anyway.
I began writing because I was singing. I think that's an important thing. I started writing because things were changing all the time and a certain song needed to be written. I started writing them because I wanted to sing them. If they had been written, I wouldn't have started to write them. Anyway, one thing led to another and I just kept on writing my own songs, but I stumbled into it, really, It was nothing I had prepared myself for, but I did sing a lot of songs before I wrote any of my own. I think that's important too.
Did you ever send your poems to any poetry magazines?
No, I didn't start writing poetry until I was out of high school. I was 18 or so when I discovered Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Phillip Whalen, Frank O'Hara, and those guys. Then I went back and started reading the French guys, Rimbaud and Francois Villon; I started putting tunes to their poems. There used to be a folk music scene and jazz clubs just about every place. The two scenes were very much connected, where the poets would read to a small combo, so I was close up to that for a while. My songs were influenced not so much by poetry on the page but by poetry being recited by the poets who recited poems with jazz bands.
The Real You at Last
Sometimes the "you" in my songs is me talking to me. Other times I can be talking to somebody else. If I'm talking to me in a song, I'm not going to drop everything and say, alright, now I'm talking to you. It's up to you to figure out who's who. A lot of times it's "you" talking to "you." The "I," like in "I and I," also changes. It could be I, or it could be the "I" who created me. And also, it could be another person who's saying "I." When I say "I" right now, I don’t know who I'm talking about.
All I Really Want to Do
As long as I continue to make records and play, which I'm not through doing yet, I have to go along with what the scene is at the time. I'm not a Pete Seeger. I've actually done that every once in a while, where I have led two thousand, three thousand people through songs, but I haven't done it like Pete Seeger. He's a master at that, leading a mass of people in four-part harmony to a song not even in their language. I think he could appeal to people as much as Sting could, because he could make them feel like they matter and make sense to themselves and feel like they're contributing to something.
Seeing Tears for Fears is like being a spectator at a football game. Pete is almost like a tribal medicine man, in the true sense of the word. Rock 'n roll performers aren't. They're just kind of working out other people's fantasies.
Bob Dylan's 115th Dream
I signed a record contract with John Hammond, Sr., of Columbia Records in 1961. It was a big moment. I had been rejected by a lot of folk companies--Folkways, Tradition, Prestige, Vanguard. It was meant to be, actually. If those other companies had signed me, I would have recorded folk songs, and I don't think they would have stayed with me. Most of those companies went out of business, anyway.
Dream #116: The Freewheelin' album. The girl on the cover with me is Suze Rotolo, my roommatre at the time.
The first time I played electric before a large group of people was atthe Newport Folk Festival, but I had a hit record out (Bringing It All Back Home), so I don't know how people expected me to do anything different. I was aware that people were fighting in the audience, but I couldn't understand it. I was a little embarrassed by the fuss, because it was for the wrong reasons. I mean, you can do some really disgusting things in life and people will let you get away with it. Then you do something that you don't think is anything more than natural and people react in that type of riotous way, but I don't pay too much attention to it.
In 1966 I had a motorcycle accident and ended up with several broken vertebrae and a concussion. That put me down for a while. I couldn't go on doing what I had been. I was pretty wound up before that accident happened. It set me down so I could see things in a better perspective. I wasn't seeing anything in any kind of perspective. I probably would have died if I had kept on going the way I had been.
In 1979 I went out on tour and played no song that I had ever played before live. It was a whole different show, and I thought that was a pretty amazing thing to do. I don't know any other artist who has done that, has not played whatever they'r known for. The Slow Train record was out and I had the songs to the next record and then I had some songs that never were recorded. I had about 20 songs that never had been sung live before, and nobody seemed to pick up on that. They were seeing me as if they were dropping into some club I was playing in and were to witness something that really wasn't for publicity purposes. Yet it got all kinds of negative publicity. The only thing that bothered me about it was that the negative publicity was so hateful that it turned a lot of people off from making up their own minds, and financially that can hurt if you got a show on the road.
The first time we went out on that tour, we had something like eight weeks booked. Two of the weeks were in San Francisco. In the review in the paper, the man did not understand any of the concepts behind any part of the show, and he wrote an anti-Bob Dylan thing. He probably never liked me anyway, but just said that he did. A lot of them guys say stuff like, "Well, he changed our lives before, how come he can't do it now?" Just an excuse really. Their expectations are so high, nobody can fulfill them. The can't fulfill their own expectations, so they expect other people to do it for them. I don't mind being put down, but intense personal hatred is another thing. It was like an opening-night critic burying a show on Broadway.
This particular review got picked up and printed in all the newspapers of the cities we were going to play to even before tickets went on sale, and people would read this review and decide the didn't want to see the show. So it hurt us at the box office, and it took a while to work back from there. I thought the show was pretty relevant for what was going on at the time.
Positively 4th Street
Outside of a song like "Positively 4th Street," which is extremely one-dimensional, which I like, I don't usually purge myself by writing anything about any type of quote, so-called, relationships. I don't have the kinds of relationships that are built on any kind of false pretense, not to say that I haven't. I've had just as many as anybody else, but I haven't had them in a long time. Usually everything with me and anybody is up front. My-life-is-an-open-book sort of thing. And I choose to be involved with the people I'm involved with. They don't choose me.
Heart of Gold
The only time it bothered me that someone sounded like me was when I was living in Phoenix, Arizona, in about '72 and the big song at the time was "Heart of Gold." I used to hate it when it came on the radio. I always liked Neil Young, but it bothered me every time I listened to "Heart of Gold." I think it was up at number one for a long time, and I'd say, "Shit, that's me. If it sounds like me, it should as well be me." There I was, stuck on the desert someplace, having to cool out for a while. New York was a heavy place. Woodstock was worse, people living in trees outside my house, fans trying to batter down my door, cars following me up dark mountain roads. I needed to lay back for a while, forget about things, myself included, and I'd get so far away and turn on the radio and there I am, but it's not me. It seemed to me somebody else had taken my thing and had run away with it, you know, and I never got over it. Maybe tomorrow.
Has Anybody Seen My Love?
"Tight Connection to My Heart" is a very visual song. I want to make a movie out of it. I don't think it's going to get done. I think it's going to go past on the way, but of all the songs I've ever written, that might be one of the most visual. Of all the songs I've written, that's the one that's got characters that can be identified with. Whatever the fuck that means. I don't know, I may be trying to make it more important than it is, but I can see the people in it. Have you ever heard that song "I'm a Rambler, I'm a Gambler," ..."I once had a sweetheart, age was 16, she was the Flower of Belton and the Rose of Saline"? Same girl, maybe older. I don't know, maybe it should stay a song.
In most of my songs, I know who it is that I'm singing about and to. Lately, since '78, that's been true and hasn't changed. The stuff before '78, those people have kinda disappeared, '76, '75, '74. If you see me live, you won't hear me sing too many of those songs. There's a certain area of songs, a certain period that I don't feel that close to. Like the songs on the Desire album, that's kind of a fog to me. But since '78 the characters have all been extremely real and are still there. The ones I choose to talk about and relate to are the ones I find some kind of greatness in.
Million Dollar Bash
I know going on the Grammies is not my type of thing, but with Stevie (Wonder) it seemed like an interesting idea. I wasn't doing anything that night. I didn't feel I was making any great statement. For me, it was just going down to the place and changing my clothes.
Videos are out of character for me, too. The latest ones I've done with Dave Stewart are all right. The other ones, I don't know, I was just ordered around. I didn't pay much attention to those videos. You have to make them if you make records. You just have to. But you have to play live. You can't hide behind videos. I think once this video thing peaks out, people will get back to see who performs live and who don't.
I don't think censorship applies to me. It applies more to Top 40 artists. People who have hit rcords might have to be concerned with that, but I don't have those kinds of records that I'd have to be concerned about what I say. I'm just going to write any old song I feel like writing. The way I feel about it, I don't buy any of those records, anyway. I don't even like most of that music. I couldn't care at all if the records you hear on the radio are X-rated or R-rated. I don't think it's right, however, I'm opposed to it. I think every single song that you hear can be seen in another point of view from what it is. People have been reading stuff into my songs for years. I'd probably be the first one with a letter on their record.
F and B, Fire and Brimstone. But I don't know about the B, that could stand for Boring. Certainly a lot of stuff today would fall into that category.
Rainy Day Women
I've always been drawn to a certain kind of woman. It's the voice more than anything else. I listen to the voice first. It's that sound I heard when I was growing up. It was calling out to me. When everything was blank and void, I would listen for hours to the Staple Singers. It's that sort of gospel singing sound. Or that voice on the Crystal's record, "The He Kissed Me," Clydie King, Memphis Minnie, that type of thing. There's something in that voice, that whenever I hear it, I drop everything, whatever it is.
What happens when the body doesn't match the voice?
A body is a body. A woman could be deaf, dumb, crippled, and blind and still have soul and compassion. That's all that matters to me. You can hear it in the voice.
I forgot More Than You'll Ever Know
I never had that much to do with Edie Sedgwick. I've seen where I have had, and read that I have had, but I don't remember Edie that well. I remember she was around, but I know other people who, as far as I know, might have been involved with Edie. Uh, she was a great girl. An exciting girl, very enthusiastic. She was around the Andy Warhol scene, and I drifted in and out of that scene, but then I moved out of the Chelsea Hotel. We, me and my wife, lived in the Chelsea Hotel on the third floor in 1965 or '66, when our first baby was born. We moved out of that hotel maybe a year before Chelsea Girls, and when Chelsea Girls came out, it was all over for the Chelsea Hotel. You might as well have burned it down. The notoriety it had gotten from that movie pretty much destroyed it. I think Edie was in Chelsea Girls. I had lost total touch with her by that time, anyway. It may just have been a time when there was just a lot of stuff happening. Ondine, Steve Paul's Scene, Cheetah. That's when I would have known Edie if I would have known her, and I did know her, but I don't recall any type of relationship. If I did have one, I think I'd remember.
I Threw It All Away
I once traded an Andy Warhol "Elvis Presley" painting for a sofa, which was a stupid thing to do. I always wanted to tell Andy what a stupid thing I done, and if he had another painting he would give me, I'd never do it again.
Another Side of Bob Dylan
I never read Freud. I've never been attracted to anything he has said, and I think he's started a lot of nonsense with psychiatry and that business. I don't think psychiatry can help or has helped anybody. I think it's a big fraud (pun not intended) on the public. Billions of dollars have changed hands that could be used for far better purposes. A lot of people have trouble with their parents up until they're 50, 60, 70 years old. They can't get off their parents. I never had that kind of problem with my parents. Like John Lennon, "Mother": "Mother, I had you but you never had me." I can't imagine that. I know a lot of people have. There are a lot of orphans in the world, for sure. But that's not been my experience. I have a strong identification with orphans, but I've been raised by people who feel that fathers, whether they're married or not, should be responsible for their children, that all sons should be taught a trade, and that parents should be punished for their children's crimes.
Actually, I was raised more by my grandmother. She was a fantastic lady. I love her so much, and I miss her a lot. But, getting back to the other thing, it all needs to be shaken up, and it will be. I never had any barriers to get across that were that clear to me, that I had to bust down to anything I truly loved. If I had any advantage over anybody at all, it's the advantage that I was all alone and could think and do what I wanted to. Looking back on it, it probably has a lot to do with growing up in northern Minnesota. I don't know what I would have been if I was growing up in the Bronx or Ethiopia or South America or even California. I think everybody's environment affects him in that way. Where I grew up...it's been a long time since. I forgot about it once I went east. I couldn't remember very much about it even then. I remember even less about it now. I don't have any long great story to tell about when I was a kid that would let anybody know how it is that I am what I am.
Patti Smith says you were Rimbaud in a previous incarnation
I don't know if she's right or wrong, but Patti Smith, then, of course, knows a lot of deep details that I might not be aware of. She might be clued in to something that's a little beyond me. I know at least a dozen women who tell me they were the Queen of Sheba. And I know a few Napoleons andf two Joan of Arcs and one Einstein.
All Along the Watchtower
There weren't too many Jews in Hibbing, Minnesota. Most of them I was related to. The town didn't have a rabbi, and it was time for me to be bar mitzvahed. Suddenly a rabbi showed up under strange circumstances for only a year. He and his wife got off the bus in the middle of winter. He showed up just in time for me to learn this stuff. He was an old man from Brooklyn who had a white beard and wore a black hat and black clothes. They put him upstairs of the cafe, which was the local hangout. It was a rock 'n' roll cafe where I used to hang out, too. I used to go up there every day to learn this stuff, either after school or after dinner. After studying with him an hour or so, I'd come down and boogie. The rabbi taught me what I had to learn, and after he conducted this bar mitzvah, he just disappeared. The people didn't want him. He didn't look like anybody's idea of a rabbi. He was an embarrassment. All the Jews up there shaved their heads and, I think, worked on Saturday. And I never saw him again. It's like he came and went like a ghost. Later I found out he was Orthodox. Jews separate themselves like that. Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, as if God calls them that. Christians, too. Baptists, Assembly of God, Methodists, Calvinists. God has no respect for a person's title. He don't care what you call yourself.
A Puff of Smoke
I've never been able to understand the seriousness of it all, the seriousness of pride. People talk, act, live as if they're never going to die. And what do they leave behind? Nothing. Nothing but a mask.
Knockin' on Heaven's Door
Whenever anybody does something in a big way, it's always rejected at home and accepted someplace else. For instance, that could apply to Buddha. Who was Buddha? An Indian. Who are Buddhists? Chinese, Japanese, Asian people. They make up the big numbers in Buddhism. It's the same way with Jesus being a Jew. Who did he appeal to? He appeals to people who want to get into heaven in a big way. But some day the true story will reveal itself, and by that time, people will be ready for it, because it's just going in that direction. You can come out and say it all now, but what does it matter? It's going to happen anyway. Vanities of vanities, that's all it is.
They're Not Showing Any Lights Tonight
I went to Bible school at an extension of this church out in the Valley in Reseda, California. It was affiliated with the church, but I'm not a believer in that born-again type thing. Jesus told Nicodemus, "A man must be born again." And Nicodemus said, "How can I go through my mother's womb?" and Jesus said, "You must be born of the spirit." And that's where that comes from, that born-again thing. People have put a heavy trip on it. People can call you what they want. The media make up a lot of these words for the definition of people. I mean, who's a person anymore? Everything's done for the media. If the media don't know about it, it's not happening. They'll take the littlest thing and make it spectacular. They're in the business of doing that. Everything's a business. Love, truth, beauty. Conversation is a business. Spirituality is not a business, so it's going to go against the grain of people who are trying to exploit other people. God doesn't look at people and say,
"That's a banker, that's a dentist,that's an oil-well driller."
What's the messianic complex?
All that exists is spirit, before, now and forever more. The messianic thing has to do with this world, the flesh world, and you got to pass through this to get to that. The messianic thing has to do with the world of mankind, like it is. This world is scheduled to go for 7,000 years. Six thousand years of this, where man has his way, and 1,000 years when God has His way. Just like a week. Six days work, one day rest. The last thousand years is called the Messianic Age. Messiah will rule. He is, was, and will be about God, doing God's business. Drought, famine, war, murder, theft, earthquake, and all other evil things will be no more. No more disease. That's all of this world. What's gonna happen is this: you know when things change, people usually know, like in a revolution, people know before it happens who's coming in and who's going out. All the Somozas and Batistas will be on their way out, grabbing their stuff and whatever, but you can forget about them. They won't be going anywhere. It's the people who live under tyranny and opression, the plain, simple people, that count, like the multitude of sheep. They'll see that God is coming. Somebody representing Him will be on the scene. Not some crackpot lawyer or politician with the mark of the beast, but somebody who makes them feel holy. People don't know how to feel holy. They don't know what it's about or what's right. They don't know what God wants of them. They'll want to know what to do and how to act. Just like you want to know how to please any ruler. They don't teach that stuff like they do math, medicine, and carpentry, but now there will be a tremendous calling for it. There will be a run on godliness, just like now there's a run on refrigerators, headphones, and fishing gear. It's going to be a matter of survival. People are going to be running to find out about God, and who are they going to run to? They're gonna run to the Jews, 'cause the Jews wrote the book, and you know what? The Jews ain't gonna know. They're too busy in the fur busines and in the pawnshops and in sending their kids to some atheist school. They're too busy doing all that stuff to know. People who believe in the coming of the Messiah live their lives right now as if he was here. That's my idea of it, anyway. I know people are going to say to themselves, "What the fuck is this guy talking about?" But it's all there in black and white, the written and unwritten word. I don't have to defend this. The scriptures back me up. I didn't ask to know this stuff. It just came to me at different times from experiences throughout my life. Other than that, I'm just a rock 'n' roller, folk poet, gospel-blues-protestest guitar player. Did I say that right?
Blowin' in the Wind
Politics have changed. The subject matter has changed. In the '60s there was a lot of people coming out of schools who were taught politics by professors who were political thinkers, and those people spilled over into the streets. What politics I ever learned, I learned in the streets, because it was part of the environment. I don't know where somebody would hear that now. Now everybody wants their own thing. There's no unity. There's the Puerto Rican Day parade, Polish Day, German Week, the Mexican parades. You have all these different types of people all waving their own flags, and there's no unity between all these people. In the '60s, there wasn't any separation. That's the difference between then and now that I can see. Everybody now is out for their own people and their own selves, and they should be 'cause they look around and see everything's unbalanced.
The Times They Are a-Changing
The times still are a-changing, every day. I'm trying to slow down every day, because the times may be a-changing, but they're going by awfully fast. "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child. When I became a man, I put away childish things."
As a versatile musicologist and trenchant social commentator, Nat Hentoff brings uniquely pertinent credentials to his dual tasks in this month's issue - as the author of "We're Happening All Over, Baby!" (on page 82) an insightful anatomizing of America's youthful new generation of anti-establishment social activists, and as interviewer of this month's controversial subject, about whom he writes:
"Less than five years ago, Bob Dylan was scuffling in New York - sleeping in friends' apartments on the Lower East Side and getting very occasional singing work at Gerde's Folk City, an unprepossessing bar for citybillies in the Village. With his leather cap, blue jeans and battered desert boots - his unvarying costume in those days - Dylan looked like an updated, undernourished Huck Finn. And like Huck, he had come out of the Midwest; he would have said 'escaped.' The son of Abraham Zimmerman, an appliance dealer, he was raised in Hibbing, Minnesota, a bleak mining town near the Canadian border. Though he ran away from home regularly between the ages of 10 and 18, young Zimmerman did manage to finish high school, and went on to spend about six months at the University of Minnesota in 1960. By then, he called himself Bob Dylan - in tribute to Dylan Thomas, according to legend; but actually after a gambling uncle whose last name was similar to Dylan.
"In the fall of that year, he came East to visit his idol, Woody Guthrie, in the New Jersey hospital where the Okie folk-singing bard was wasting away with a progressive disease of the nervous syste1m. Dylan stayed and tried to scrape together a singing career. According to those who knew him then, he was shy and stubborn but basically friendly and, beneath the hipster stance, uncommonly gentle. But they argued about his voice. Some found its flat Midwestern tones gratingly mesmeric; others agreed with a Missouri folk singer who had likened the Dylan sound to that of 'a dog with his leg caught in barbed wire.' All agreed, however, that his songs were strangely personal and often disturbing, a pungent mixture of loneliness and defiance laced with traces of Guthrie, echoes of the Negro blues singers and more than a suggestion of country-and-western; but essentially Dylan was developing his own penetratingly distinctive style. Yet the voice was so harsh and the songs so bitterly scornful of conformity, race prejudice and the mythology of the Cold War that most of his friends couldn't conceive of Dylan making it big even though folk music was already on the, rise.
"They were wrong. In September of 1961, a music critic for The New York Times caught his act at Gerde's and hailed the scruffy l9-year-old Minnesotan as a significant new voice on the folk horizon. Around the same time, he was signed by Columbia Records, and his first album was released early the next year. Though it was far from a smash hit, concerts and club engagements gradually multiplied; and then Dylan scored his storied triumph at the Newport Folk Festival in 1962. His next LP began to move, and in the spring of 1963 came his first big single: 'Blowin' in the Wind.' That same spring he turned down a lucrative guest shot on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' because CBS wouldn't permit him to sing a mordant parody he'd written about the John Birch Society. For the nation's young, the Dylan image began to form: kind of a singing James Dean with over tones of Holden Caulfeld; he was making it, but he wasn't selling out. His concerts began to attract overflow crowds, and his songs - in performances by him and other folk singers - were rushing onto the hit charts. One of them, 'The Times They Are A-Changin',' became an anthem for the rebellious young, who savored its message that adults don't know where it's at and can't tell their children what to do.
"By 1965 he had become a major phenomenon on the music scene. More and more folk performers, from Joan Baez to the Byrds, considered it mandatory to have an ample supply of Dylan songs in their repertoires; in one frantically appreciative month - last August - 18 different recordings of Dylan ballads were pressed by singers other than the composer himself. More and more aspiring folk singers - and folk-song writers - have begun to sound like Dylan. The current surge of 'protest' songs by such long-haired, post-beat rock-'n'-rollers as Barry McGuire and Sonny and Cher is credited to Dylan. And the newest commercial boom, 'folk-rock,' a fusion of fold-like lyrics with an r-'n'-r beat and background, is an outgrowth in large part, of Dylan's recent decision - decried as a 'sellout' by folknik purists - to perform with a roch-'n'-roll combo rather than continue to accompany himself alone on the guitar. Backed by the big beat of the new group, Dylan tours England with as much tumultuous success as he does America, and the air play for his single records in both countries is rivaled only by that of the Beatles, Herman's Hermits and the Rolling Stones on the Top 40 deejay shows. In the next 18 months, his income - from personal appearances, records and composer's royalties - is expected to exceed $1,000,000.
"Withal, Dylan seems outwardly much the same as he did during the lean years in Greenwich Village. His dress is still casual to the point of exoticism; his hair is still long and frizzy, and he is still no more likely to be seen wearing a necktie than a cutaway. But there have been changes. No longer protesting polemically against the bomb, race prejudice and conformity, his songs have become increasingly personal - a surrealistic amalgam of kafkaesque menace corrosive satire and opaque sensuality. His lyrics are more crowded than t!ver with tumbling words and restless images, and they read more like free-verse poems than conventional lines. Adults still have difficulty digging his offbeat language - and its message of alienation - but the young continue to tune in and turn on.
"But there are other changes. Dylan has become elusive. He is no longer seen in his old haunts in the Village and on the Lower East Side. With few exceptions, he avoids interviewers, and in public, he is usually seen from afar at the epicenter of a protective coterie of tousle-topped young men dressed like him, and lissome, straight-haired young ladies who also seem to be dressed like him. His home base, if it can be called that, is a house his manager owns near Woodstock, a fashionable artists' colony in New York State, and he also enjoys the run of his manager's apartment on dignified Gramercy Park in New York City. There are tales told of Dylan the motorcyclist, the novelist, the maker of high-camp home movies; but except among his small circle of intimates, the 24-year-old folk hero is inscrutably aloof.
"It was only after a long period of evasion and hesitation that Dylan finally agreed to grant this 'Playboy Interview' - the longest he's ever given. We met him on the 10th floor of the new CBS and Columbia Records building in mid-Manhattan. The room was antiseptic: white walls with black trim, contemporary furniture with severe lines, avantgarde art chosen by committee, everything in order, neat desks, neat personnel. In this sterile setting, slouched in a chair across from us, Dylan struck a refreshingly discordant note - with his untamed brownish-blond mane brushing the collar of his tieless blue plaid shirt, in his black jacket, gray vaudevillian-striped pipestem pants and well-worn blue-suede shoes. Sitting nearby - also long-haired, tieless and blackjacketed, but wearing faded jeans - was a stringy young man whom the singer identified only as Taco Pronto. As Dylan spoke - in a soft drawl, smiling only rarely and fleetingly, sipping tea and chainsmoking cigarettes - his unspeaking friend chuckled and nodded appreciatively from the side lines. Tense and guarded at first Dylan gradually began to loosen up, then to open up, as he tried to tell us - albeit a bit surrealistically - just where he's been and where he's going. Under the circumstances, we chose to play straight man in our questions, believing that to have done othervise would have stemmed the freewheeling flow of Dylan's responses."
PLAYBOY: 'Popular songs," you told a reporter last year, "are the only art form that describes the temper of the times. The only place where it's happening is on the radio and records. That's where the people hang out. It's not in books; it's not on the stage; it's not in the galleries. All this art thev've been talking about, it just remains on the shelI. It doesn't make anyone happier." In view of the fact that more people than ever before are reading books and going to plays and art galleries, do you think that statement is borne out by the facts?
DYLAN: Statistics measure quantity, not quality. The people in the statistics are people who are very bored. Art, if there is such a thing, is in the bathrooms; everybody knows that. To go to an art gallery thing where you get free milk and doughnuts and where there is a rock-'n'-roll band playing: That's just a status affair. I'm not putting it down, mind you; but I spend a lot of time in the bathroom. I think museums are vulgar. They're all against sex. Anyhow, I didn't say that people "hang out" on the radio, I said they get "hung up" on the radio.
PLAYBOY: Why do you think rock 'n' roll has become such an international phenomenon?
DYLAN: I can't really think that there is any rock 'n' roll. Actually, when you think about it, anything that has no real existence is bound to become an international phenomenon. Anyway, what does it mean, rock 'n' roll? Does it mean Beatles, does it mean John Lee Hooker, Bobby Vinton, Jerry Lewis' kid? What about Lawrence Welk? He must play a few rock-'n'-roll songs. Are all these people the same? Is Ricky Nelson like Otis Redding? Is Mick Jagger really Ma Rainey? I can tell by the way people hold their cigarettes if they like Ricky Nelson. I think it's fine to like Ricky Nelson: I couldn't care less if somebody likes Ricky Nelson. But I think we're getting off the track here. There isn't any Ricky Nelson. There isn't any Beatles; oh, I take that back: there are a lot of beetles. But there isn't any Bobby Vinton. Anyway, the word is not "international phenomenon"; the word is "parental nightmare."
PLAYBOY: In recent years, according to some critics, jazz has lost much of its appeal to the younger generation. Do you agree?
DYLAN: I don't think jazz has ever appealed to the younger generation. Anyway, I don't really know who this younger generation is. I don't think they could get into a jazz club anyway. But jazz is hard to follow; I mean you actually have to like jazz to follow it: and my motto is, never follow anything. I don't know what the motto of the younger generation is, but I would think they'd have to follow their parents. I mean, what would some parent say to his kid if the kid came home with a glass eye, a Charlie Mingus record and a pocketful of feathers? He'd say, "Who are you following?" And the poor kid would have to stand there with water in his shoes, a bow tie on his ear and soot pouring out of his belly button and say, "Jazz, Father, I've been following jazz." And his father would probably say, "Get a broom and clean up all that soot before you go to sleep." Then the kid's mother would tell her friends, "Oh yes, our little Donald, he's part of the younger generation, you know."
PLAYBOY: You used to say that you wanted to perform as little as possible, that you wanted to keep most of your time to yourself. Yet you're doing more concerts and cutting more records every year. Why? Is it the money?
DYLAN: Everything is changed now from before. Last spring. I guess I was going to quit singing. I was very drained, and the way things were going, it was a very draggy situation - I mean, when you do "Everybody Loves You for Your Black Eye," and meanwhile the back of your head is caving in. Anyway, I was playing a lot of songs I didn't want to play. I was singing words I didn't really want to sing. I don't mean words like "God" and "mother" and "President" and "suicide" and "meat cleaver." I mean simple little words like "if" and "hope" and "you." But "Like a Rolling Stone" changed it all: I didn't care anymore after that about writing books or poems or whatever. I mean it was some thing that I myself could dig. It's very tiring having other people tell you how much they dig you if you yourself don't dig you. It's also very deadly entertainment wise. Contrary to what some scary people think, I don't play with a band now for any kind of propaganda-type or commercial-type reasons. It's just that my songs are pictures and the band makes the sound of the pictures.
PLAYBOY: Do you feel that acquiring a combo and switching from folk to folkrock has improved you as a performer?
DYLAN: I'm not interested in myself as a performer. Performers are people who perform for other people. Unlike actors, I know what I'm saying. It's very simple in my mind. It doesn't matter what kind of audience reaction this whole thing gets. What happens on the stage is straight. It doesn't expect any rewards or fines from any kind of outside agitators. It's ultra-simple, and would exist whether anybody was looking or not.
As far as folk and folk-rock are concerned, it doesn't matter what kind of nasty names people invent for the music. It could be called arsenic music, or perhaps Phaedra music. I don't think that such a word as folk-rock has anything to do with it. And folk music is a word I can't use. Folk music is a bunch of fat people. I have to think of all this as traditional music. Traditional music is based on hexagrams. It comes about from legends, Bibles, plagues, and it revolves around vegetables and death. There's nobody that's going to kill traditional music. All these songs about roses growing out of people's brains and lovers who are really geese and swans that turn into angels - they're not going to die. It's all those paranoid people who think that someone's going to come and take away their toilet paper - they're going to die. Songs like "Which Side Are You On?" and "I Love You, Porgy" - they're not folk-music songs; they're political songs. They're already dead. Obviously, death is not very universally accepted. I mean, you'd think that the traditional-music people could gather from their songs that mystery - just plain simple mystery - is a fact, a traditional fact. I listen to the old ballads; but I wouldn't go to a party and listen to the old ballads. I could give you descriptive detail of what they do to me, but some people would probably think my imagination had gone mad. It strikes me funny that people actually have the gall to think that I have some kind of fantastic imagination. It gets very lonesome. But anyway, traditional music is too unreal to die. It doesn't need to be protected. Nobody's going to hurt it. In that music is the only true, valid death you can feel today off a record player. But like anything else in great demand, people try to own it. It has to do with a purity thing. I think its meaninglessness is holy. Everybody knows that I'm not a folk singer.
PLAYBOY: Some of your old fans would agree with you - and not in a complimentary vein - since your debut with the rock-'n'-roll combo at last year's Newport Folk Festival, where many of them booed you loudly for "selling out" to commercial pop tastes. The early Bob Dylan, they felt, was the "pure" Bob Dylan. How do you feel about it?
DYLAN: I was kind of stunned. But I can't put anybody down for coming and booing: after all, they paid to get in. They could have been maybe a little guieter and not so persistent, though. There were a lot of old people there, too; lots of whole families had driven down from Vermont, lots of nurses and their parents, and well, like they just came to hear some relaxing hoedowns, you know, maybe an Indian polka or two. And just when everything's going all right, here I come on, and the whole place turns into a beer factory. There were a lot of people there who were very pleased that I got booed. I saw them afterward. I do resent somewhat, though, that everybody that booed said they did it because they were old fans.
PLAYBOY: What about their charge that you vulgarized your natural gifts?
DYLAN: What can I say? I'd like to see one of these so-called fans. I'd like to have him blindfolded and brought to me. It's like going out to the desert and screaming and then having little kids throw their sandbox at you. I'm only 24. These people that said this - were they Americans?
PLAYBOY: Americans or not, there were a lot of people who didn't like your new sound. In view of tbis widespread negative reaction, do you think you may have made a mistake in changing your style?
DYLAN: A mistake is to commit a misunderstanding. There could be no such thing, anyway, as this action. Either people understand or they pretend to understand - or else they really don't understand. What you're speaking of here is doing wrong things for selfish reasons. I don't know the word for that, unless it's suicide. In any case, it has nothing to do with my music.
PLAYBOY: Mistake or not, what made you decide to go the rock-'n'-roll route?
DYLAN: Carelessness. I lost my one true love. I started drinking. The first thing I know, I'm in a card game. Then I'm in a crap game. I wake up in a pool hall. Then this big Mexican lady drags me off the table, takes me to Philadelphia. She leaves me alone in her house, and it burns down. I wind up in Phoenix. I get a job as a Chinaman. I start working in a dime store, and move in with a 13-year-old girl. Then this big Mexican lady from Philadelphia comes in and burns the house down. I go down to Dallas. I get a job as a "before" in a Charles Atlas "before and after" ad. I move in with a delivery boy who can cook fantastic chili and hot dogs. Then this 13-year-old girl from Phoenix comes and burns the house down. The delivery boy - he ain't so mild: He gives her the knife, and the next thing I know I'm in Omaha. It's so cold there, by this time I'm robbing my own bicycles and frying my own fish. I stumble onto some luck and get a job as a carburetor out at the hot-rod races every Thursday night. I move in with a high school teacher who also does a little plumbing on the side, who ain't much to look at, but who's built a special kind of refrigerator that can turn newspaper into lettuce. Everything's going good until that delivery boy shows up and tries to knife me. Needless to say, he burned the house down, and I hit the road. The first guy that picked me up asked me if I wanted to be a star. What could I say?
PLAYBOY: And that's how you became a rock-'n'-roll singer?
DYLAN: No, that's how I got tuberculosis.
PLAYBOY: Let's turn the question around: Why have you stopped composing and singing protest songs?
DYLAN: I've stopped composing and singing anything that has either a reason to be written or a motive to be sung. Don't get me wrong, now. "Protest" is not my word. I've never thought of myself as such. The word "protest," I think, was made up for people undergoing surgery. It's an amusement-park word. A normal person in his righteous mind would have to have the hiccups to pronounce it honestly. The word "message" strikes me as having a hernia-like sound It's just like the word "delicious." Also the word "marvelous." You know, the English can say "marvelous" pretty good. They can't say "raunchy" so good, though. Well, we each have our thing. Anyway, message songs, as everybody knows, are a drag. It's only college newspaper editors and single girls under 14 that could possibly have time for them.
PLAYBOY: You've said you think message songs are vulgar. Why?
DYLAN: Well, first of all, anybody that's got a message is going to learn from experience that they can't put it into a song. I mean it's just not going to come out the same message. After one or two of these unsuccessful attempts, one realizes that his resultant message, which is not even the same message he thought up and began with, he's now got to stick by it; because, after all, a song leaves your mouth just as soon as it leaves your hands. Are you following me?
PLAYBOY: Oh, perfectly.
DYLAN: Well, anyway, second of all, you've got to respect other people's right to also have a message themselves. Myself, what I'm going to do is rent Town Hall and put about 30 Western Union boys on the bill. I mean, then there'll really be some messages. People will be able to come and hear more messages than they've ever heard before in their life.
PLAYBOY: But your early ballads have been called "songs of passionate protest." Wouldn't that make them "message" music?
DYLAN: This is unimportant. Don't you understand? I've been writing since I was eight years old. I've been playing the guitar since I was ten. I was raised playing and writing whatever it was I had to play and write.
PLAYBOY: Would it be unfair to say, then, as some have, that you were motivated commercially rather than creatively in writing the kind of songs that made you popular?
DYLAN: All right, now, look. It's not all that deep. It's not a complicated thing. My motives, or whatever they are, were never commercial in the money sense of the word. It was more in the don't die-by-the-hacksaw sense of the word. I never did it for money. It happened, and I let it happen to me. There was no reason not to let it happen to me. I couldn't have written before what I write now, anyway. The songs used to be about what I felt and saw. Nothing of my own rhythmic vomit ever entered into it. Vomit is not romantic. I used to think songs are supposed to be romantic. And I didn't want to sing anything that was unspecific. Unspecific things have no sense of time. All of us people have no sense of time; it's a dimensional hangup. Anybody can be specific and obvious. That's always been the easy way. The leaders of the world take the easy way. It's not that it's so difficult to be unspecific and less obvious; it's just that there's nothing, absolutely nothing, to be specific and obvious about. My older songs, to say the least, were about nothing. The newer ones are about the same nothing - only as seen inside a bigger thing, perhaps called the nowhere. But this is all very constipated. I do know what my songs are about.
PLAYBOY: And what's that?
DYLAN: Oh, some are about four minutes; some are about five, and some, believe it or not, are about eleven or twelve.
PLAYBOY: Can't you be a bit more informative?
PLAYBOY: All right. Let's change the subject. As you know, it's the age group from about 16 to 25 that listens to your songs. Why, in your opinion?
DYLAN: I don't see what's so strange about an age group like that listening to my songs. I'm hip enough to know that it ain't going to be the 85-to-90-yearolds. If the 85-to-90-year-olds were listening to me, they'd know that I can't tell them anything. The 16-to-25-year-olds, they probably know that I can't tell them anything either - and they know that I know it. It's a funny business. Obviously, I'm not an IBM computer any more than I'm an ashtray. I mean it's obvious to anyone who's ever slept in the back seat of a car that I'm just not a schoolteacher.
PLAYBOY: Even though you're not a schoolteacher, wouldn't you like to help the young people who dig you from turning into what some of their parents have become?
DYLAN: Well, I must say that I really don't know their parents. I really don't know if anybody's parents are so bad. Now, I hate to come on like a weakling or a coward, and I realize it might seem kind of irreligious, but I'm really not the right person to tramp around the country saving souls. I wouldn't run over anybody that was laying in the street, and I certainly wouldn't become a hangman. I wouldn't think twice about giving a starving man a cigarette. But I'm not a shepherd. And I'm not about to save anybody from fate, which I know nothing about. "Parents" is not the key word here. The key word is "destiny." I can't save them from that.
PLAYBOY: Still, thousands of young people look up to you as a kind of folk hero. Do you feel some sense of responsibility toward them?
DYLAN: I don't feel I have any responsibility, no. Whoever it is that listens to my songs owes me nothing. How could I possibly have any responsibility to any kind of thousands? What could possibly make me think that I owe anybody anything who just happens to be there? I've never written any song that begins with the words "I've gathered you here tonight . . ." I'm not about to tell anybody to be a good boy or a good girl and they'll go to heaven. I really don't know what the people who are on the receiving end of these songs think of me, anyway. It's horrible. I'll bet Tony Bennett doesn't have to go through this kind of thing. I wonder what Billy the Kid would have answered to such a question.
PLAYBOY: In their admiration for you, many young people have begun to imitate the way you dress - which one adult commentator has called "selfconsciously oddball and defiantly sloppy." What's your reaction to that kind of put-down?
DYLAN: Bullshit. Oh, such bullshit. I know the fellow that said that. He used to come around here and get beat up all the time. He better watch it; some people are after him. They're going to strip him naked and stick him in Times Square. They're going to tie him up, and also put a thermometer in his mouth. Those kind of morbid ideas and remarks are so petty - I mean there's a war going on. People got rickets; everybody wants to start a riot; 40-year-old women are eating spinach by the carload; the doctors haven't got a cure for cancer - and here's some hillbilly talking about how he doesn't like somebody's clothes. Worse than hat, it gets printed and innocent people have to read it. This is a terrible thing. And he's a terrible man. Obviously, he's just living off the fat of himself, and he's expecting his kids to take care of him. His kids probably listen to my records. Just because my clothes are too long, does that mean I'm unqualified for what I do?
PLAYBOY: No, but there are those who think it does - and many of them seem to feel the same way about your long hair. But compared with the shoulder-length coiffures worn by some of the male singing groups these days, your tonsorial tastes are on the conservative side. How do you feel about these far-out hair styles?
DYLAN: The thing that most people don't realize is that it's warmer to have long hair. Everybody wants to be warm. People with short hair freeze easily. Then they try to hide their coldness, and they get jealous of everybody that's warm. Then they become either barbers or Congressmen. A lot of prison wardens have short hair. Have you ever noticed that Abraham Lincoln's hair was much longer than John Wilkes Booth's?
PLAYBOY: Do you think Lincoln wore his hair long to keep his head warm?
DYLAN: Actually, I think it was for medical reasons, which are none of my business. But I guess if you figure it out, you realize that all of one's hair surrounds and lays on the brain inside your head. Mathematically speaking, the more of it you can get out of your head, the better. People who want free minds sometimes overlook the fact that you have to have an uncluttered brain. Obviously, if you get your hair on the outside of your head, your brain will be a little more freer. But all this talk about long hair is just a trick. It's been thought up by men and women who look like cigars - the anti-happiness committee. They're all freeloaders and cops. You can tell who they are: They're always carrying calendars, guns or scissors. They're all trying to get into your quicksand. They think you've got something. I don't know why Abe Lincoln had long hair.
PLAYBOY: Until your abandonment of "message" songs, you were considered not only a major voice in the student protest movement but a militant champion of the civil rights struggle. According to friends, you seemed to feel a special bond of kinship with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which you actively supported both as a performer and as a worker. Why have you withdrawn from participation in all these causes? Have you lost interest in protest as well as in protest songs?
DYLAN: As far as SNCC is concerned, I knew some of the people in it, but I only knew them as people, not as of any part of something that was bigger or better than themselves. I didn't even know what civil rights was before I met some of them. I mean, I knew there were Negroes, and I knew there were a lot of people who don't like Negroes. But I got to admit that if I didn't know some of the SNCC people, I would have gone on thinking that Martin Luther King was really nothing more than some underprivileged war hero. I haven't lost any interest in protest since then. I just didn't have any interest in protest to begin with - any more than I did in war heroes. You can't lose what you've never had. Anyway, when you don't like your situation, you either leave it or else you overthrow it. You can't just stand around and whine about it. People just get aware of your noise; they really don't get aware of you. Even if they give you what you want, it's only because you're making too much noise. First thing you know, you want something else, and then you want something else, and then you want something else, until finally it isn't a joke anymore, and whoever you're protesting against finally gets all fed up and stomps on everybody. Sure, you can go around trying to bring up people who are lesser than you, but then don't forget, you're messing around with gravity. I don't fight gravity. I do believe in equality, but I also believe in distance.
PLAYBOY: Do you mean people keeping their racial distance?
DYLAN: I believe in people keeping everything they've got.
PLAYBOY: Some people might feel that you're trying to cop out of fighting for the things you believe in.
DYLAN: Those would be people who think I have some sort of responsibility toward them. They probably want me to help them make friends. I don't know. They probably either want to set me in their house and have me come out every hour and tell them what time it is, or else they just want to stick me in between the mattress. How could they possibly understand what I believe in?
PLAYBOY: Well, what do you believe in?
DYLAN: I already told you.
PLAYBOY: All right. Many of your folksinging colleagues remain actively involved in the fight for civil rights, free speech and withdrawal from Vietnam. Do you think they're wrong?
DYLAN: I don't think they're wrong, if that's what they see themselves doing. But don't think that what you've got out there is a bunch of little Buddhas all parading up and down. People that use God as a weapon should be amputated upon. You see it around here all the time: "Be good or God won't like you, and you'll go to hell." Things like that. People that march with slogans and things tend to take themselves a little too holy. It would be a drag if they, too, started using God as a weapon.
PLAYBOY: Do you think it's pointless to dedicate yourself to the cause of peace and racial equality?
DYLAN: Not pointless to dedicate yourself to peace and racial equality, but rather, it's pointless to dedicate yourself to the cause; that's really pointless. That's very unknowing. To say "cause of peace" is just like saying "hunk of butter." I mean, how can you listen to anybody who wants you to believe he's dedicated to the hunk and not to the butter? People who can't conceive of how others hurt, they're trying to change the world. They're all afraid to admit that they don't really know each other. They'll all probably be here long after we've gone, and we'll give birth to new ones. But they themselves - I don't think they'll give birth to anything.
PLAYBOY: You sound a bit fatalistic.
DYLAN: I'm not fatalistic. Bank tellers are fatalistic; clerks are fatalistic. I'm a farmer. Who ever heard of a fatalistic farmer? I'm not fatalistic. I smoke a lot of cigarettes, but that doesn't make me fatalistic.
PLAYBOY: You were quoted recently as saying that "songs can't save the world. I've gone through all that." We take it you don't share Pete Seeger's belief that songs can change people, that they can help build international understanding.
DYLAN: On the international understanding part, that's OK. But you have a translation problem there. Anybody with this kind of a level of thinking has to also think about this translation thing. But I don't believe songs can change people anyway. I'm not Pinocchio. I consider that an insult. I'm not part of that. I don't blame anybody for thinking that way. But I just don't donate any money to them. I don't consider them anything like unhip; they're more in the rubber-band category.
PLAYBOY: How do you feel about those who have risked imprisonment by burning their draft cards to signify their opposition to U. S. involvement in Vietnam, and by refusing - as your friend Joan Baez has done - to pay their income taxes as a protest against the Covernment's expenditures on war and weaponry? Do you think they're wasting their time?
DYLAN: Burning draft cards isn't going to end any war. It's not even going to save any lives. If someone can &el more honest with himself by burning his draft card, then that's great; but if he's just going to feel more important because he does it, then that's a drag. I really don't know too much about Joan Baez and her income-tax problems. The only thing I can tell you about Joan Baez is that she's not Belle Starr.
PLAYBOY: Writing about "beard-wearing draft-card burners and pacifist income-tax evaders," one columnist called such protesters "no less outside society than the junkie, the homosexual or the mass murderer." What's your reaction?
DYLAN: I don't believe in those terms. They're too hysterical. They don't describe anything. Most people think that homosexual, gay, queer, queen, faggot are all the same words. Everybody thinks that a junkie is a dope freak. As far as I'm concerned, I don't consider myself outside of anything. I just consider myself not around.
PLAYBOY: Joan Baez recently opened a school in northern California for training civil rights workers in the philosophy and techniques of nonviolence. Are you in sympathy with that concept?
DYLAN: If you mean do I agree with it or not, I really don't see anything to be in agreement with. If you mean has it got my approval, I guess it does, but my approval really isn't going to do it any good. I don't know about other people's sympathy, but my sympathy runs to the lame and crippled and beautiful things. I have a feeling of loss of power - something like a reincarnation feeling; I don't feel that for mechanical things like cars or schools. I'm sure it's a nice school, but if you're asking me would I go to it, I would have to say no.
PLAYBOY: As a college dropout in your freshman year, you seem to take a dim view of schooling in general, whatever the subject.
DYLAN: I really don't think about it.
PLAYBOY: Well, have you ever had any regrets about not completing college?
DYLAN: That would be ridiculous. Colleges are like old-age homes; except for the fact that more people die in colleges than in old-age homes, there's really no difference. People have one great blessing - obscurity - and not really too many people are thankful for it. Everybody is always taught to be thankful for their food and clothes and things like that, but not to be thankful for their obscurity. Schools don't teach that; they teach people to be rebels and lawyers. I'm not going to put down the teaching system; that would be too silly. It's just that it really doesn't have too much to teach. Colleges are part of the American institution; everybody respects them. They're very rich and influential, but they have nothing to do with survival. Everybody knows that.
PLAYBOY: Would you advise young people to skip college, then?
DYLAN: I wouldn't advise anybody to do anything. I certainly wouldn't advise somebody not to go to college; I just wouldn't pay his way through college.
PLAYBOY: Don't you think the things one learns in college can help enrich one's life?
DYLAN: I don't think anything like that is going to enrich my life, no - not my life, anyway. Things are going to happen whether I know why they happen or not. It just gets more complicated when you stick yourself into it. You don't find out why things move. You let them move; you watch them move; you stop them from moving: you start them moving. But you don't sit around and try to figure out why there's movement - unless, of course, you're just an innocent moron, or some wise old Japanese man. Out of all the people who just lay around and ask "Why?", how many do you figure really want to know?
PLAYBOY: Can you suggest a better use for the four years that would otherwise be spent in college?
DYLAN: Well, you could hang around in Italy; you could go to Mexico; you could become a dishwasher; you could even go to Arkansas. I don't know; there are thousands of things to do and places to go. Everybody thinks that you have to bang your head against the wall, but it's silly when you really think about it. I mean, here you have fantastic scientists working on ways to prolong human living, and then you have other people who take it for granted that you have to beat your head against the wall in order to be happy. You can't take everything you don't like as a personal insult. I guess you should go where your wants are bare, where you're invisible and not needed.
PLAYBOY: Would you classify sex among your wants, wherever you go?
DYLAN: Sex is a temporary thing; sex isn't love. You can get sex anywhere. If you're looking for someone to love you, now that's different. I guess you have to stay in college for that.
PLAYBOY: Since you didn't stay in college, does that mean you haven't found someone to love you?
DYLAN: Let's go on to the next question.
PLAYBOY: Do you have any difficulty relating to people - or vice versa?
DYLAN: Well, sometimes I have the feeling that other people want my soul. If I say to them, "I don't have a soul," they say, "I know that. You don't have to tell me that. Not me. How dumb do you think I am? I'm your friend." What can I say except that I'm sorry and I feel bad? I guess maybe feeling bad and paranoia are the same thing.
PLAYBOY: Paranoia is said to be one of the mental states sometimes induced by such hallucinogenic drugs as peyote and LSD. Considering the risks involved, do you think that experimentation with such drugs should be part of the growing up experience for a young person?
DYLAN: I wouldn't advise anybody to use drugs - certainly not the hard drugs; drugs are medicine. But opium and hash and pot - now, those things aren't drugs; they just bend your mind a little. I think everybody's mind should be bent once in a while. Not by LSD, though. LSD is medicine - a different kind of medicine. It makes you aware of the universe, so to speak; you realize how foolish objects are. But LSD is not for groovy people; it's for mad, hateful people who want revenge. It's for people who usually have heart attacks. They ought to use it at the Geneva Convention.
PLAYBOY: Are you concerned, as you approach 30, that you may begin to "go square," lose some of your openness to experience, become leery of change and new experiment?
DYLAN: No. But if it happens, then it happens. What can I say? There doesn't seem to be any tomorrow. Every time I wake up, no matter in what position, it's always been today. To look ahead and start worrying about trivial little things I can't really say has any more importance than looking back and remembering trivial little things. I'm not going to become any poetry instructor at any girls' school; I know that for sure. But that's about all I know for sure. I'll just keep doing these different things, I guess.
PLAYBOY: Such as?
DYLAN: Waking up in different positions.
PLAYBOY: What else?
DYLAN: I'm just like anybody else; I'll try anything once.
PLAYBOY: Including theft and murder?
DYLAN: I can't really say I wouldn't commit theft or murder and expect anybody to really believe me. I wouldn't believe anybody if they told me that.
PLAYBOY: By their mid-20s, most people have begun to settle into their niche, to find a place in society. But you've managed to remain inner-directed and uncommitted. What was it that spurred you to run away from home six times between the ages of ten and eighteen and finally to leave for good?
DYLAN: It was nothing; it was just an accident of geography. Like if I was born and raised in New York or Kansas City, I'm sure everything would have turned out different. But Hibbing, Minnesota, was just not the right place for me to stay and live. There really was nothing there. The only thing you could do there was be a miner, and even that kind of thing was getting less and less. The people that lived there - they're nice people; I've been all over the world since I left there, and they still stand out as being the least hung-up. The mines were just dying, that's all; but that's not their fault. Everybody about my age left there. It was no great romantic thing. It didn't take any great amount of thinking or individual genius, and there certainly wasn't any pride in it. I didn't run away from it; I just turned my back on it. It couldn't give me anything. It was very void-like. So leaving wasn't hard at all; it would have been much harder to stay. I didn't want to die there. As I think about it now, though, it wouldn't be such a bad place to go back to and die in. There's no place I feel closer to now, or get the feeling that I'm part of, except maybe New York; but I'm not a New Yorker. I'm North Dakota-Minnesota-Midwestern. I'm that color. I speak that way. I'm from someplace called Iron Range. My brains and feeling have come from there. I wouldn't amputate on a drowning man; nobody from out there would.
PLAYBOY: Today, you're on your way to becoming a millionaire. Do you feel in any danger of being trapped by all this affluence - by the things it can buy?
DYLAN: No, my world is very small. Money can't really improve it any; money can just keep it from being smothered.
PLAYBOY: Most big stars find it difficult to avoid getting involved, and sometimes entangled, in managing the business end of their careers. As a man with three thriving careers - as a concert performer, recording star and songwriter - do you ever feel boxed in by such noncreative responsibilities?
DYLAN: No, I've got other people to do that for me. They watch my money; they guard it. They keep their eyes on it at all times; they're supposed to be very smart when it comes to money. They know just what to do with my money. I pay them a lot of it. I don't really speak to them much, and they don't really speak to me at all, so I guess everything is all right.
PLAYBOY: If fortune hasn't trapped you, how about fame? Do you find that your celebrity makes it difficult to keep your private life intact?
DYLAN: My private life has been dangerous from the beginning. All this does is add a little atmosphere.
PLAYBOY: You used to enjoy wandering across the country - taking off on openend trips, roughing it from town to town, with no particular destination in mind. But you seem to be doing much less of that these days. Why? Is it because you're too well known?
DYLAN: It's mainly because I have to be in Cincinnati Friday night, and the next night I got to be in Atlanta, and then the next night after that, I have to be in Buffalo. Then I have to write some more songs for a record album.
PLAYBOY: Do you get the chance to ride your motorcycle much anymore?
DYLAN: I'm still very patriotic to the highway, but I don't ride my motorcycle too much anymore, no.
PLAYBOY: How do you get your kicks these days, then?
DYLAN: I hire people to look into my eyes, and then I have them kick me.
PLAYBOY: And that's the way you get your kicks?
DYLAN: No. Then I forgive them; that's where my kicks come in.
PLAYBOY: You told an interviewer last year, "I've done everything I ever wanted to." If that's true, what do you have to look forward to?
DYLAN: Salvation. Just plain salvation.
PLAYBOY: Anything else?
DYLAN: Praying. I'd also like to start a cookbook magazine. And I've always wanted to be a boxing referee. I want to referee a heavyweight championship fight. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine any fighter in his right mind recognizing me?
PLAYBOY: If your popularity were to wane, would you welcome being anonymous again?
DYLAN: You mean welcome it, like I'd welcome some poor pilgrim coming in from the rain? No, I wouldn't welcome it; I'd accept it, though. Someday, obviously, I'm going to have to accept it.
PLAYBOY: Do you ever think about marrying, settling down, having a home, maybe living abroad? Are there any luxuries you'd like to have, say, a yacht or a Rolls-Royce?
DYLAN: No, I don't think about those things. If I felt like buying anything, I'd buy it. What you're asking me about is the future, my future. I'm the last person in the world to ask about my future.
PLAYBOY: Are you saying you're going to be passive and just let things happen to you?
DYLAN: Well, that's being very philosophical about it, but I guess it's true.
PLAYBOY: You once planned to write a novel. Do you still?
DYLAN: I don't think so. All my writing goes into the songs now. Other forms don't interest me anymore.
PLAYBOY: Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions?
DYLAN: Well, I guess I've always wanted to be Anthony Quinn in "La Strada". Not always - only for about six years now; it's not one of those childhood-dream things. Oh, and come to think of it, I guess I've always wanted to be Brigitte Bardot, too; but I don't really want to think about that too much.
PLAYBOY: Did you ever have the standard boyhood dream of growing up to be President?
DYLAN: No. When I was a boy, Harry Truman was President; who'd want to be Harry Truman?
PLAYBOY: Well, let's suppose that you were the President. What would you accomplish during your first thousand days?
DYLAN: Well, just for laughs, so long as you insist, the first thing I'd do is probably move the White House. Instead of being in Texas, it'd be on the East Side in New York. McGeorge Bundy would definitely have to change his name, and General McNamara would be forced to wear a coonskin cap and shades. I would immediately rewrite "The Star-Spangled Banner," and little school children, instead of memorizing "America the Beautiful," would have to memorize "Desolation Row" [one of Dylan's latest songs]. And I would immediately call for a showdown with Mao Tse-tung; I would fight him personally - and I'd get somebody to film it.
PLAYBOY: One final question: Even though you've more or less retired from political and social protest, can you conceive of any circumstance that might persuade you to reinvolve yourself?
DYLAN: No, not unless all the people in the world disappeared.
It was in March 1966 that PLAYBOY published the first full-length interview with Bob Dylan. In the intervening years, he has talked to journalists only rarely, and, shortly before completing his first feature film, he agreed to talk with us. We asked writer Ron Rosenbaum, who grew up listening to Dylan songs, to check in with the elusive artist. His report:
"Call it a simple twist of fate, to use a Dylan line, but perhaps psychic twist of fate is more accurate. Because there was something of a turning point in our ten day series of conversations when we exchanged confidences about psychics. "Until that point, things had not been proceeding easily. Dylan has seldom been forthcoming with any answers, particularly in interview situations and has long been notorious for questioning the questions rather than answering them, replying with put-ons and tall tales and surrounding his real feelings with mystery and circumlocution. We would go round in circles, sometimes fascinating metaphysical circles, and I'd got a sense of his intellect but little of his heart. He hadn't given anyone a major interview for many years, but after my initial excitement at being chosen to do this one, l began to wonder whether Dylan really wanted to do it. "It's probably unnecessary to explain why getting answers from Bob Dylan has come to mean so much to many people. One has only to recall how Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota, burst upon the early Sixties folk-music scene with an abrasive voice and an explosive intensity, how he created songs such as 'Blowin' in the Wind' and 'The Times They Are A-Changin'' that became anthems of the civil rights and antiwar movements. How he and his music raced through the Sixties at breakneck speed, leaving his folk followers behind and the politicos mystified with his electrifying, elliptical explorations of uncharted states of mind How, in songs such as 'Mr. Tambourine Man,' 'Desolation Row,' 'Like a Rolling Stone' and 'Just like a Woman,' he created emotional road maps for an entire generation. How, in the midst of increasingly frenzied rock-'n'-roll touring, Dylan continued to surround the details of his personal life with mystery and wise-guy obfuscation, mystery that deepened ominously after his near-fatal motorcycle accident in 1966. And how, after a long period of bucolic retreat devoted to fatherhood, family and country music, he suddenly returned to the stage with big nationwide tours in 1974 and, most recently, in 1976 with the all-star rock-'n'-roll ensemble known as The Rolling Thunder Revue. How his latest songs, particularly on the 'Blood on the Tracks' and 'Desire' albums, take us into new and often painful investigations of love and lust, and pain and loss, that suggest the emotional predicaments of the Seventies in a way few others can approach. "The anthologies that chronicle all of that are littered with the bodies of interviewers he's put on, put down or put off. I was wondering if I were on my way to becoming another statistic when we hit upon the psychic connection. "Late one afternoon, Dylan began telling me about Tamara Rand, an L.A. psychic reader he'd been seeing, because when the world falls on your head, he said, 'you need someone who can tell you how to crawl out, which way to take.' I presumed he was referring obliquely to the collapse of his 12-year marriage to Sara Dylan. (Since the child-custody battle was in progress as we talked, Dylan's lawyer refused to permit him to address that subject directly.) Dylan seemed concerned that I understand that Tamara was no con artist, that she had genuine psychic abilities. I assured him I could believe it because my sister, in addition to being a talented writer, has some remarkable psychic abilities and is in great demand in New York for her prescient readings. Dylan asked her name (it's Ruth) and when I told him, he looked impressed. 'I've heard of her,' he said. I think that made the difference, because after that exchange, Dylan became far more forthcoming with me. Some of the early difficulties of the interview might also be explained by the fact that Dylan .was physically and mentally drained from an intense three-month sprint to finish editing and dubbing 'Renaldo & Clara,' the movie he'd been writing, directing and co-editing for a full two years. He looked pale, smoked a lot of cigerettes and seemed fidgety. The final step in the moviemaking process-the sound mix-was moving slowly, largely because of his own nervous perfectionism. "Most of our talks took place in a little shack of a dressing room outside dubbing stage five at the Burbank Studios. Frequently, we'd be interrupted as Dylan would have to run onto the dubbing stage and watch the hundredth run-through of one of the film's two dozen reels to see if his detailed instructions had been carried out. I particularly remember one occasion when I accompanied him onto the dubbing stage. Onscreen, Renaldo, played by Bob Dylan, and Clara, played by Sara Dylan (the movie was shot before the divorce-though not long before), are interrupted in the midst of connubial foolery by a knock at the door. In walks Joan Baez, dressed in white from head to toe, carrying a red rose. She says sine's come for Renaldo. When Dylan, as Renaldo, sees who it is, his jaw drops. At the dubbing console, one of the sound men stopped the film at the jaw-drop frame and asked, 'You want me to get rid of that footstep noise in the background, Bob?' 'What footstep noise?' Dylan asked. 'When Joan comes in and we go to Renaldo, there's some hind of footstep noise in the background, maybe from outside the door.' 'Those aren't footsteps,' said Dylan. 'That's the beating of Renaldo's heart.' 'What makes you so sure?' the sound man asked teasingly. 'I know him pretty well,' Dylan said, 'I know him by heart.' 'You want it kept there, then?' 'I want it louder,' Dylan said. He turned to me. 'You ever read that thing by Poe, "The Tell-Tale Heart"?' I was surprised at how willing Dylan was to explain the details of his film; he'd never done that with his songs. But he's put two years and more than a piece of his heart into this five-hour epic and it seems clear that he wants to be taken seriously as a film maker with serious artistic ambitions. "In the 'Proverbs of Hell,' William Blake (one of Dylan's favorite poets) wrote: 'The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.' Eleven years ago, Dylan's motorcycle skidded of that road and almost killed him. But unlike most Dionysian Sixties figures, Dylan survived. He may not have reached the palace of wisdom (and, indeed, the strange palace of marble and stone he has been building at Malibu seems, according to some reports, to be sliding into the sea). But despite his various sorrows, he does seem to be bursting with exhilaration and confidence that he can still create explosive art without having to die in the explosion."
PLAYBOY: Exactly 12 years ago, we published a long interview with you in this magazine, and there's a lot to catch up on. But we'd like at least to try to start at the beginning. Besides being a singer, a poet and now a film maker, you've also been called a visionary. Do you recall any visionary experiences while you were growing up?
DYLAN: I had some amazing projections when I was a kid, but not since then. And those visions have been strong enough to keep me going through today.
PLAYBOY: What were those visions like?
DYLAN: They were a feeling of wonder. I projected myself toward what I might personally, humanly do in terms of creating any kinds of reality. I was born in, grew up in a place so foreign that you had to be there to picture it.
PLAYBOY: Are you talking about Hibbing, Minnesota?
DYLAN: It was all in upper Minnesota.
PLAYBOY: What was the quality of those visionary experiences?
DYLAN: Well, in the winter, everything was still, nothing moved. Eight months of that. You can put it together. You can have some amazing hallucinogenic experiences doing nothing but looking out your window. There is also the summer, when it gets hot and sticky and the air is very metallic. There is a lot of Indian spirit. The earth there is unusual, filled with ore. So there is something happening that is hard to define. There is a magnetic attraction there. Maybe thousands and thousands of years ago, some planet bumped into the land there. There is a great spiritual quality throughout the Midwest. Very subtle, very strong, and that is where I grew up. New York was a dream.
PLAYBOY: Why did you leave Minnesota?
DYLAN: Well, there comes a time for all things to pass.
PLAYBOY: More specifically, why the dream of New York?
DYLAN: It was a dream of the cosmopolitan riches of the mind.
PLAYBOY: Did you find them there?
DYLAN: It was a great place for me to learn and to meet others who were on similar journeys.
PLAYBOY: People like Allen Ginsberg, for instance?
DYLAN: Not necessarily him. He was pretty established by the time I got there. But it was Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac who inspired me at first-and where I came from, there wasn't the sophisticated transportation you have now. To get to New York, you d have to go by thumb. Anyway, those were the old days when John Denver used to play sideman. Many people came out of that period of time. Actors, dancers, politicians, a lot of people were involved with that period of time.
PLAYBOY: What period are you talking about?
DYLAN: Real early Sixties.
PLAYBOY: What made that time so special?
DYLAN: I think it was the last go-round for people to gravitate to New York. People had gone to New York since the 1800s, I think. For me, it was pretty fantastic. I mean, it was like, there was a cafe-what was it called?-I forgot the name, but it was Aaron Burr's old livery stable. You know, just being in that area, that part of the world was enlightening.
PLAYBOY: Why do you say it was the last go-round?
DYLAN: I don't think it happened after that. I think it finished, New York died after that, late to middle Sixties.
PLAYBOY: What killed it?
DYLAN: Mass communication killed it. It turned into one big carnival side show. That is what I sensed and I got out of there when it was just starting to happen. The atmosphere changed from one of creativity and isolation to one where the attention would be turned more to the show. People were reading about themselves and believing it. I don't know when it happened. Sometime around Peter, Paul and Mary, when they got pretty big. It happened around the same time. For a long time, I was famous only in certain circles in New York, Philadelphia and Boston, and that was fine enough for me. I am an eyewitness to that time. I am one of the survivors of that period. You know as well as I do that a lot of people didn't make it. They didn't live to tell about it, anyway.
PLAYBOY: Why do you think they didn't survive?
DYLAN: People were still dealing with illusion and delusion at that time. The times really change and they don't change. There were different characters back then and there were things that were undeveloped that are fully developed now. But back then, there was space, space-well, there wasn't any pressure. There was all the time in the world to get it done. There wasn't any pressure, because no body knew about it. You know, I mean. music people were like a bunch of cotton pickers. They see you on the side of the road picking cotton, but nobody stops to give a shit. I mean, it wasn't that important. So Washington Square was a place where people you knew or met congregated every Sunday and it was like a world of music. You know the way New York is; I mean, there could be 20 different things happening in the same kitchen or in the same park; there could be 200 bands in one park in New York; there could be 15 jug bands, five bluegrass bands and an old crummy string band, 20 Irish confederate groups, a Southern mountain band, folk singers of all kinds and colors, singing John Henry work songs. There was bodies piled sky-high doing whatever they felt like doing. Bongo drums, conga drums, saxophone players. xylophone players, drummers of all nations and nationalities. Poets who would rant and rave from the statues. You know, those things don't happen anymore. But then that was what was happening. It was all street. Cafes would be open all night. It was a European thing that never really took off. It has never really been a part of this country That is what New York was like when I got there.
PLAYBOY: And you think that mass communications, such as Time magazine's putting Joan Baez on the cover-
DYLAN: Mass communication killed it all. Oversimplification. I don't know whose idea it was to do that, but soon after, the people moved away.
PLAYBOY: Just to stay on the track, what first turned you on to folk singing? You actually started out in Minnesota playing the electric guitar with a rock group, didn't you?
DYLAN: Yeah. The first thing that turned me on to folk singing was Odetta. I heard a record of hers in a record store, back when you could listen to records right there in the store. That was in '58 or something like that. Right then and there, I went out and traded my electric guitar and amplifier for an acoustical guitar, a flat-top Gibson.
PLAYBOY: What was so special to you about that Odetta record?
DYLAN: Just something vital and personal. I learned all the songs on that record. It was her first and the songs were-Mule Skinner, Jack of Diamonds, Water Boy, Buked and Scorned.
PLAYBOY: When did you learn to play the guitar?
DYLAN: I saved the money I had made working on my daddy's truck and bought a Silvertone guitar from Sears Roebuck. I was 12. I just bought a book of chords and began to play.
PLAYBOY: What was the first song you wrote?
DYLAN: The first song I wrote was a song to Brigitte Bardot.
PLAYBOY: Do you remember how it went?
DYLAN: I don't recall too much of it. It had only one chord. Well, it is all in the heart. Anyway, from Odetta, I went to Harry Belafonte, the Kingston Trio, little by little uncovering more as I went along. Finally, I was doing nothing but Carter Family and Jesse Fuller songs. Then later I got to Woody Guthrie, which opened up a whole new world at the time. I was still only 19 or 20. I was pretty fanatical about what I wanted to do, so after learning about 200 of Woody's songs, I went to see him and I waited for the right moment to visit him in a hospital in Morristown, New Jersey. I took a bus from New York, sat with him and sang his songs. I kept visiting him a lot and got on friendly terms with him. From that point on, it gets a little foggy.
PLAYBOY: Folk singing was considered pretty weird in those days, wasn't it?
DYLAN: It definitely was. Sing Out was the only magazine you could read about those people. They were special people and you kept your distance from them.
PLAYBOY: What do you mean?
DYLAN: Well, they were the type of people you just observed and learned from, but you would never approach them. I never would, anyway. I remember being too shy. But it took me a long time to realize the New York crowd wasn't that different from the singers I'd seen in my own home town. They were right there, on the backroad circuit, people like the Stanley Brothers, playing for a few nights. If I had known then what I do now, I probably would have taken off when I was 12 and followed Bill Monroe. 'Cause I could have gotten to the same place.
PLAYBOY: Would you have gotten there sooner?
DYLAN: Probably would have saved me a lot of time and hassles.
PLAYBOY: This comes under the category of setting the record straight: By the time you arrived in New York, you'd changed your name from Robert Zimmerman to Bob Dylan. Was it because of Dylan Thomas?
DYLAN: No. I haven't read that much of Dylan Thomas. It's a common thing to change your name. It isn't that incredible. Many people do it. People change their town, change their country. New appearance, new mannerisms. Some people have many names. I wouldn't pick a name unless I thought I was that person. Sometimes you are held back by your name. Sometimes there are advantages to having a certain name. Names are labels so we can refer to one another. But deep inside us we don't have a name. We have no name. I just chose that name and it stuck.
PLAYBOY: Do you know what Zimmerman means in German?
DYLAN: My forebears were Russian. I don't know how they got a German name coming from Russia. Maybe they got their name coming off the boat or something. To make a big deal over somebody's name, you're liable to make a big deal about any little thing. But getting back to Dylan Thomas, it wasn't that I was inspired by reading some of his poetry and going "Aha!" and changing my name to Dylan. If I thought he was that great, I would have sung his poems, and could just as easily have changed my name to Thomas.
PLAYBOY: Bob Thomas? It would have been a mistake.
DYLAN: Well, that name changed me. I didn't sit around and think about it too much. That is who I felt I was.
PLAYBOY: Do you deny being the enfant terrible in those days-do you deny the craziness of it all that has been portrayed?
DYLAN: No, it's true. That's the way it was. But . . . can't stay in one place forever.
PLAYBOY: Did the motorcycle accident you had in 1966 have anything to do with cooling you off, getting you to relax?
DYLAN: Well, now you're jumping way ahead to another period of time.... What was I doing? I don't know. It came time. Was it when I had the motorcycle accident? Well, I was straining pretty hard and couldn't have gone on living that way much longer. The fact that I made it through what I did is pretty miraculous. But, you know, sometimes you get too close to something and you got to get away from it to be able to see it. And something like that happened to me at the time.
PLAYBOY: In a book you published during that period, Tarantula, you wrote an epitaph for yourself that begins: "Here lies Bob Dylan / murdered / from behind / by trembling flesh...."
DYLAN: Those were in my wild, unnatural moments. I'm glad those feelings passed.
PLAYBOY: What were those days like?
DYLAN: [Pause] I don't remember. [Long pause]
PLAYBOY: There was a report in the press recently that you turned the Beatles on to grass for, the first time. According to the story, you gave Ringo Starr a toke at J.F.K. Airport and it was the first time for any of them. True?
DYLAN: I'm surprised if Ringo said that. It don't sound like Ringo. I don't recall meeting him at J.F.K. Airport.
PLAYBOY: OK. Who turned you on?
DYLAN: Grass was everywhere in the clubs. It was always there in the jazz clubs and in the folk-music clubs. There was just grass and it was available to musicians in those days. And in coffeehouses way back in Minneapolis. That's where I first came into contact with it, I'm sure. I forget when or where, really.
PLAYBOY: Why did the musicians like grass so much?
DYLAN: Being a musician means-depending on how far you go-getting to the depths of where you are at. And most any musician would try anything to get to those depths, because playing music is an immediate thing-as opposed to putting paint on a canvas, which is a calculated thing. Your spirit flies when you are playing music. So, with music, you tend to look deeper and deeper inside yourself to find the music. That's why, I guess, grass was around those clubs. I know the whole scene has changed now; I mean, pot is almost a legal thing. But in the old days, it was just for a few people.
PLAYBOY: Did psychedelics have a similar effect on you?
DYLAN: No. Psychedelics never influenced me. I don't know, I think Timothy Leary had a lot to do with driving the last nails into the coffin of that New York scene we were talking about. When psychedelics happened, everything became irrelevant. Because that had nothing to do with making music or writing poems or trying to really find yourself in that day and age.
PLAYBOY: But people thought they were doing just that-finding themselves.
DYLAN: People were deluded into thinking they were something that they weren't: birds, airplanes, fire hydrants, whatever. People were walking around thinking they were stars.
PLAYBOY: As far as your music was concerned, was there a moment when you made a conscious decision to work with an electric band?
DYLAN: Well, it had to get there. It had to go that way for me. Because that's where I started and eventually it just got back to that. I couldn't go on being the lone folkie out there, you know, strumming Blowin' in the Wind for three hours every night. I hear my songs as part of the music, the musical background.
PLAYBOY: When you hear your songs in your mind, it's not just you strumming alone, you mean?
DYLAN: Well, no, it is to begin with. But then I always hear other instruments, how they should sound. The closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind was on individual bands in the Blonde on Blonde album. It's that thin, that wild mercury sound. It's metallic and bright gold, with whatever that conjures up. That's my particular sound. I haven't been able to succeed in getting it all the time. Mostly, I've been driving at a combination of guitar, harmonica and organ, but now I find myself going into territory that has more percussion in it and [pause] rhythms of the soul.
PLAYBOY: Was that wild mercury sound in I Want You?
DYLAN: Yeah, it was in I Want You. It was in a lot of that stuff. It was in the album before that, too.
PLAYBOY: Highway 61 Revisited?
DYLAN: Yeah. Also in Bringing It All Back Home. That's the sound I've always heard. Later on, the songs got more defined, but it didn't necessarily bring more power to them. The sound was whatever happened to be available at the time. I have to get back to the sound, to the sound that will bring it all through me.
PLAYBOY: Can't you just reassemble the same musicians?
DYLAN: Not really. People change, you know, they scatter in all directions. People's lives get complicated. They tend to have more distractions, so they can't focus on that fine, singular purpose.
PLAYBOY: You're searching for people?
DYLAN: No, not searching, the people are there. But I just haven't paid as much attention to it as I should have. I haven't felt comfortable in a studio since I worked with Tom Wilson. The next move for me is to have a permanent band. You know, usually I just record whatever's available at the time. That's my thing, you know, and it's-it's legitimate. I mean, I do it because I have to do it that way. I don't want to keep doing it, because I would like to get my life more in order. But until now, my recording sessions have tended to be last-minute affairs. I don't really use all the technical studio stuff. My songs are done live in the studio; they always have been and they always will be done that way. That's why they're alive. No matter what else you say about them, they are alive. You know, what Paul Simon does or Rod Stewart does or Crosby, Stills and Nash do-a record is not that monumental for me to make. It's just a record of songs.
PLAYBOY: Getting back to your transition from folk to rock, the period when came out with Highway 61 must have been exciting.
DYLAN: Those were exciting times. We were doing it before anybody knew we would-or could. We didn't know what it was going to turn out to be. Nobody thought of it as folk-rock at the time. There were some people involved in it like The Byrds, and I remember Sonny and Cher and the Turtles and the early Rascals. It began coming out on the radio. I mean, I had a couple of hits in a row. That was the most I ever had in a row- two. The top ten was filled with that kind of sound-the Beatles, too-and it was exciting, those days were exciting. It was the sound of the streets. It still is. I symbolically hear that sound wherever I am.
PLAYBOY: You hear the sound of the street?
DYLAN: That ethereal twilight light, you know. It's the sound of the street with the sunrays, the sun shining down at a particular time, on a particular type of building. A particular type of people walking on a particular type of street. It's an outdoor sound that drifts even into open windows that you can hear. The sound of bells and distant railroad trains and arguments in apartments and the clinking of silverware and knives and forks and beating with leather straps. It's all-it's all there. Just lack of a jackhammer, you know.
PLAYBOY: You mean if a jackhammer were-
DYLAN: Yeah, no jackhammer sounds, no airplane sounds. All pretty natural sounds. It's water, you know water trickling down a brook. It's light flowing through the
PLAYBOY: Late-afternoon light?
DYLAN: No, usually it's the crack of dawn. Music filters out to me in the crack of dawn.
PLAYBOY: The "jingle jangle morning"?
PLAYBOY: After being up all night?
DYLAN: Sometimes. You get a little spacy when you've been up all night, so you don't really have the power to form it. But that's the sound I'm trying to get across. I'm not just up there re-creating old blues tunes or trying to invent some surrealistic rhapsody.
PLAYBOY: It's the sound that you want.
DYLAN: Yeah, it's the sound and the words. Words don't interfere with it. They- they-punctuate it. You know, they give it purpose. [Pause] And all the ideas for my songs, all the influences, all come out of that. All the influences, all the feelings, all the ideas come from that. I'm not doing it to see how good I can sound, or how perfect the melody can be, or how intricate the details can be woven or how perfectly written something can be. I don't care about those things.
PLAYBOY: The sound is that compelling to you?
PLAYBOY: When did you first hear it, or feel it?
DYLAN: I guess it started way back when I was growing up.
PLAYBOY: Not in New York?
DYLAN: Well, I took it to New York. I wasn't born in New York. I was given some direction there, but I took it, too. I don't think I could ever have done it in New York. I would have been too beaten down.
PLAYBOY: It was formed by the sounds back in the ore country of Minnesota?
DYLAN: Or the lack of sound. In the city, there is nowhere you can go where you don't hear sound. You are never alone. I don't think I could have done it there. Just the struggle of growing up would he immense and would really distort things if you wanted to be an artist. Well . . . maybe not. A lot of really creative people come out of New York. But I don't know anyone like myself. I meet a lot of people from New York that I get along with fine, and share the same ideas, but I got something different in my soul. Like a spirit. It's like being from the Smoky Mountains or the backwoods of Mississippi. It is going to make you a certain type of person if you stay 20 years in a place.
PLAYBOY: With your love of the country, what made you leave Woodstock in 1969 and go back to the Village?
DYLAN: It became stale and disillusioning. It got too crowded, with the wrong people throwing orders. And the old people were afraid to come out on the street. The rainbow faded.
PLAYBOY: But the Village, New York City, wasn't the answer, either.
DYLAN: The stimulation had vanished Everybody was in a pretty down mood. It was over.
PLAYBOY: Do you think that old scene you've talked about might be creeping back into New York?
DYLAN: Well, I was there last summer. I didn't sense any of it. There are a lot of rock-'n'-roll clubs and jazz clubs and Puerto Rican poetry clubs, but as far as learning something new, learning to teach.... New York is full of teachers, that is obvious, but it is pretty depressing now. To make it on the street, you just about have to beg.
PLAYBOY: So now you're in California Is there any kind of scene that you can be part of?
DYLAN: I'm only working out here most, or all, of the time, so I don't know what this town is really like. I like San Francisco. I find it full of tragedy and comedy. But if I want to go to a city in this country, I will still go to New York. There are cities all over the world to go to. I don't know, maybe I am just an old dog, so maybe I feel like I've been around so long I am looking for something new to do and it ain't there. I was looking for some space to create what I want to do. I am only interested in that these days. I don't care so much about hanging out.
PLAYBOY: Do you feel older than when you sang, "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now"?
DYLAN: No, I don't feel old. I don't feel old at all. But I feel like there are certain things that don't attract me anymore that I used to succumb to very easily.
PLAYBOY: Such as?
DYLAN: Just the everyday vices.
PLAYBOY: Do you think that you have managed to resist having to grow up or have you found a way of doing it that is different from conventional growing up?
DYLAN: I don't really think in terms of growing up or not growing up. I think in terms of being able to fulfill yourself. Don't forget, you see, I've been doing what I've been doing since I was very small, so I have never known anything else. I have never had to quit my job to do this. This is all that I have ever done in my life. So I don't think in terms of economics or status or what people think of me one way or the other.
PLAYBOY: Would you say you still have a rebellious, or punk, quality toward the rest of the world?
DYLAN: Punk quality?
PLAYBOY: Well, you're still wearing dark sunglasses, right?
PLAYBOY: Is that so people won't see your eyes?
DYLAN: Actually, it's just habit-forming after a while, I still do wear dark sunglasses. There is no profound reason for it, I guess. Some kind of insecurity, I don't know: I like dark sunglasses. Have I had these on through every interview session?
PLAYBOY: Yes. We haven't seen your eyes yet.
DYLAN: Well, Monday for sure. [The day that PLAYBOY photos were to be taken for the opening page]
PLAYBOY: Aside from the dark glasses, is it something in the punk quality of Elvis or James Dean that makes you dress a certain way or act a certain way?
DYLAN: No. It's from the early Sixties. Elvis was there. He was there when there wasn't anybody there. He was Elvis and everybody knows about what Elvis did. He did it to me just like he did it to everybody else. Elvis was in that certain age group and I followed him right from Blue Moon in Kentucky. And there were others; I admired Buddy Holly a lot. But Elvis was never really a punk. And neither was James Dean a punk.
PLAYBOY: What quality did Dean represent?
DYLAN: He let his heart do the talking. That was his one badge. He was effective for people of that age, but as you grow older, you have different experiences and you tend to identify with artists who had different meanings for you.
PLAYBOY: Let's talk some more about your influences. What musicians do you listen to today.
DYLAN: I still listen to the same old black and-blue blues. Tommy McClennan, Lightnin' Hopkins, the Carter Family, the early Carlyles. I listen to Big Maceo, Robert Johnson. Once in a while, I listen to Woody Guthrie again. Among the more recent people, Fred McDowell, Gary Stewart. I like Memphis Minnie a whole lot. Blind Willie McTell. I like bluegrass music. I listen to foreign music, too. I like Middle Eastern music a whole lot.
PLAYBOY: Such as?
DYLAN: Om Kalthoum.
PLAYBOY: Who is that?
DYLAN: She was a great Egyptian singer. I first heard of her when I was in Jerusalem.
PLAYBOY: She was an Egyptian singer who was popular in Jerusalem?
DYLAN: I think she's popular all over the Middle East. In Israel, too. She does mostly love and prayer-type songs, with violin and-drum accompaniment. Her father chanted those prayers and I guess she was so good when she tried singing behind his back that he allowed her to sing professionally, and she's dead now but not forgotten. She's great. She really is. Really great.
PLAYBOY: Any popular stuff?
DYLAN: Well, Nana Maskouri.
PLAYBOY: How about the Beatles?
DYLAN: I've always liked the way George Harrison plays guitar-restrained and good. As for Lennon, well, I was encouraged by his book [In His Own Write]. Or the publishers were encouraged, because they asked me to write a book and that's how Tarantula came about. John has taken poetics pretty far in popular music. A lot of his work is overlooked, but if you examine it, you'll find key expressions that have never been said before to push across his point of view. Things that are symbolic of some inner reality and probably will never be said again.
PLAYBOY: Do you listen to your own stuff?
DYLAN: Not so much.
PLAYBOY: What about your literary influences? You've mentioned Kerouac and Ginsberg. Whom do you read now?
DYLAN: Rilke. Chekhov. Chekhov is my favorite writer. I like Henry Miller. I think he's the greatest American writer.
PLAYBOY: Did you meet Miller?
DYLAN: Yeah, I met him. Years ago. Played ping-pony with him.
PLAYBOY: Did you read Catcher in the Rye as a kid?
DYLAN: I must have, you know. Yeah, I think so.
PLAYBOY: Did you identify with Holden Caulfield?
DYLAN: Uh,. what was his story?
PLAYBOY: He was a lonely kid in prep school who ran away and decided that everyone else was phony and that he was sensitive.
DYLAN: I must have identified with him.
PLAYBOY: We've been talking about the arts, and as we've been speaking, you've been in the midst of editing your first film, Renaldo & Clara. What do you feel you can do in films that you can't do in songs?
DYLAN: I can take songs up to a higher power. The movie to me is more a painting than music. It is a painting. It's a painting coming alive off a wall. That's why we're making it. Painters can contain their artistic turmoil; in another age, moviemakers would most likely he painters
PLAYBOY: Although Renaldo & Clara is the first movie you've produced, directed and acted in, there was a documentary made in 1966 that marked your first appearance in a film-Don't Look Back. What did you think of it.
DYLAN: Don't Look Back was . . . somebody else's movie It was a deal worked out with a film company, but I didn't really play any part in it. When I saw it in a moviehouse, I was shocked at what had been done. I didn't find out until later that the camera had been on me all the time. That movie was done by a mar. who took it all out of context It was documented from his personal point of view. The movie was dishonest, it was a propaganda movie. I don't think it was accurate at all in terms of showing my formative years. It showed only one side. He made it seem like I wasn't doing anything but living in hotel rooms, playing the typewriter and holding press conferences for journalists. All that is true, you know. Throwing some bottles, there's something about it in the movie. Joan Baez is in it. But it's one-sided. Let's not lean on it too hard. It just wasn't representative of what was happening in the Sixties.
PLAYBOY: Don't you feel it captured the frenzy of your tour, even though it focused on you in terms of stardom?
DYLAN: I wasn't really a star in those days, any more than I'm a star these days. I was very obviously confused then as to what my purpose was. It was pretty early, you know. The Times They Are A-Changin' was on the English charts then, so it had to be pretty early.
PLAYBOY: And you didn't really know what you were doing then?
DYLAN: Well, look what I did after that. Look what I did after that. I didn't really start to develop until after that. I mean, I did, but I didn't. Don't Look Back was a little too premature. I should have been left alone at that stage.
PLAYBOY: You were involved in another movie around that period-1966-that was never released, called Eat the Document. How did that happen?
DYLAN: That started as a television special. I wasn't the maker of that film, either. I was the-I was the victim. They had already shot film, but at that time, of course, I did-I had a-if I hadn't gotten into that motorcycle accident, they would have broadcast it, and that would have been that. But I was sort of-I was taken out of it, you know, and-I think it was the fall of that year. I had a little more time to, you know, concentrate on what was happening to me and what had happened. Anyway, what had happened was that they had made another Don't Look Back, only this time it was for television. I had nothing better to do than to see the film. All of it, including unused footage. And it was obvious from looking at the film that it was garbage. It was miles and miles of garbage. That was my introduction to film My film concept was all formed in those early days when I was looking at that footage.
PLAYBOY: From looking at those miles of garbage, you got your concept of film?
DYLAN: Yeah, it was mostly rejected footage, which I found beauty in. Which probably tells you more-that I see beauty where other people don't.
PLAYBOY: That reminds us of a poem you wrote for the jacket of an early Joan Baez album, in which you claimed that you always thought something had to be ugly before you found it beautiful. And at some point in the poem, you described listening to Joan sing and suddenly deciding that beauty didn't have to start out by being ugly
DYLAN: I was very hung up on Joan at the time [Pause] I think I was just trying to tell myself I wasn't hung up on her.
PLAYBOY: OK. Would you talk some more about the film concept you got from the rejected footage?
DYLAN: Well, up until that time, they had been concerned with the linear story line. It was on one plane and in one dimension only. And the more I looked at the film, the more I realized that you could get more onto film than just one train of thought My mind works that way, anyway. We tend to work on different levels. So I was seeing a lot of those levels in the footage. But technically, I didn't know how to do what my mind was telling me could be done.
PLAYBOY: What did you feel could be done?
DYLAN: Well, well, now, film is a series of actions and reactions, you know. And it's trickery. You're playing with illusion. What seems to be a simple affair is actually quite contrived. And the stronger your point of view is, the stronger your film will be.
PLAYBOY: Would you elaborate?
DYLAN: You're trying to get a message through. So there are many ways to deliver that message. Let's say you have a message: "White is white." Bergman would say, "White is white" in the space of an hour-or what seems to be an hour. Bunuel might say, "White is black, and black is white, but white is really white." And it's all really the same message.
PLAYBOY: And how would Dylan say it?
DYLAN: Dylan would probably not even say it. [Laughs] He would-he'd assume you'd know that. [Laughs]
PLAYBOY: You wriggled out of that one.
DYLAN: I'd say people will always believe in something if they feel it to be true. Just knowing it's true is not enough. If you feel in your gut that it's true, well, then, you can be pretty much assured that it's true.
PLAYBOY: So that a film made by someone who feels in his guts that white is white will give the feeling to the audience that white is white without having to say it.
DYLAN: Yes. Exactly.
PLAYBOY: Let's talk about the message of Renaldo & Clara. It appears to us to be a personal yet fictional film in which you, Joan Baez and your former wife, Sara, play leading roles. You play Renaldo, Baez plays a "woman in white" and Sara plays Clara. There is also a character in the film called Bob Dylan played by someone else. It is composed of footage from your Rolling Thunder Revue tour and fictional scenes performed by all of you as actors. Would you tell us basically what the movie's about?
DYLAN: It's about the essence of man being alienated from himself and how, in order to free himself, to be reborn, he has to go outside himself. You can almost say that he dies in order to look at time and by strength of will can return to the same body.
PLAYBOY: He can return by strength of will to the same body . . . and to Clara?
DYLAN: Clara represents to Renaldo everything in the material world he's ever wanted. Renaldo's needs are few. He doesn't know it, though, at that particular time.
PLAYBOY: What are his needs?
DYLAN: A good guitar and a dark street.
PLAYBOY: The guitar because he loves music, but why the dark street?
DYLAN: Mostly because he needs to hide.
PLAYBOY: From whom?
DYLAN: From the demon within. [Pause] But what we all know is that you can't hide on a dark street from the demon within. And there's our movie.
PLAYBOY: Renaldo finds that out in the film?
DYLAN: He tries to escape from the demon within, but he discovers that the demon is, in fact, a mirrored reflection of Renaldo himself.
PLAYBOY: OK. Given the personalities involved, how do you define the relation ship between you, your personal life, and the film?
DYLAN: No different from Hitchcock making a movie. I am the overseer.
PLAYBOY: Overseeing various versions of yourself?
DYLAN: Well, certain truths I know. Not necessarily myself but a certain accumulation of experience that has become real to me and a knowledge that I acquired on the road.
PLAYBOY: And what are those truths?
DYLAN: One is that if you try to be anyone but yourself, you will fail; if you are not true to your own heart, you will fail. Then again, there's no success like failure
PLAYBOY: And failure's no success at all.
DYLAN: Oh, well, we're not looking to succeed. Just by our being and acting alive, we succeed. You fail only when you let death creep in and take over a part of your life that should be alive.
PLAYBOY: How does death creep in?
DYLAN: Death don't come knocking at the door. It's there in the morning when you wake up.
PLAYBOY: How is it there?
DYLAN: Did you ever clip your fingernails, cut your hair? Then you experience death.
PLAYBOY: Look, in the film, Joan Baez turns to you at one point and says, "You never give any straight answers." Do you?
DYLAN: She is confronting Renaldo.
PLAYBOY: Evasiveness isn't only in the mind; it can also come out - in an interview.
DYLAN: There are no simple answers to these questions....
PLAYBOY: Aren't you teasing the audience when you have scenes played by Baez and Sara, real people in your life, and then expect the viewers to set aside their preconceptions as to their relationship to you?
DYLAN: No, no. They shouldn't even think they know anyone in this film. It's all in the context of Renaldo and Clara and there's no reason to get hung up on who's who in the movie.
PLAYBOY: What about scenes such as the one in which Baez asks you, "What if we had gotten married back then?"
DYLAN: Seems pretty real, don't it?
DYLAN: Seems pretty real. Just like in a Bergman movie, those things seem real. There's a lot of spontaneity that goes on. Usually, the people in his films know each other, so they can interrelate. There's life and breath in every frame because everyone knew each other.
PLAYBOY: All right, another question: In the movie, Ronnie Hawkins, a 300-pound Canadian rock singer, goes by the name of Bob Dylan. So is there a real Bob Dylan?
DYLAN: In the movie?
DYLAN: In the movie, no. He doesn't even appear in the movie. His voice is there, his songs are used, but Bob's not in the movie. It would be silly. Did you ever see a Picasso painting with Picasso in the picture? You only see his work. Now, I'm not interested in putting a picture of myself on the screen, because that's not going to do anybody any good, including me.
PLAYBOY: Then why use the name Bob Dylan at all in the movie?
DYLAN: In order to legitimize this film. We confronted it head on: The persona of Bob Dylan is in the movie so we could get rid of it. There should no longer be any mystery as to who or what he is-he's there, speaking in all kinds of tongues, and there's even someone else claiming to be him, so he's covered. This movie is obvious, you know. Nobody's hiding anything. It's all right there. The rabbits are falling out of the hat before the movie begins.
PLAYBOY: Do you really feel it's an accessible movie?
DYLAN: Oh, perfectly. Very open movie.
PLAYBOY: Even though Mr. Bob Dylan and Mrs. Bob Dylan are played by different people....
DYLAN: Oh, yeah.
PLAYBOY: And you don't know for sure which one he is?
DYLAN: Sure. We could make a movie and you could be Bob Dylan. It wouldn't matter.
PLAYBOY: But if there are two Bob Dylans in the film and Renaldo is always changing....
DYLAN: Well, it could be worse. It could be three or four. Basically, it's a simple movie.
PLAYBOY: How did you decide to make it?
DYLAN: As I said, I had the idea for doing my own film back in '66. And I buried it until '76. My lawyer used to tell me there was a future in movies. So I said, "What kind of future?" He said, "Well, if you can come up with a script, an outline and get money from a big distributor." But I knew I couldn't work that way. I can't betray my vision on a little piece of paper in hopes of getting some money from somebody. In the final analysis, it turned out that I had to make the movie all by myself, with people who would work with me, who trusted me. I went on the road in '76 to make the money for this movie. My last two tours were to raise the money for it.
PLAYBOY: How much of your money are you risking?
DYLAN: I'd rather not say. It is quite a bit, but I didn't go into the bank. The budget was like $600,000, but it went over that.
PLAYBOY: Did you get pleasure out of the project?
DYLAN: I feel it's a story that means a great deal to me, and I got to do what I always wanted to do-make a movie. When something like that happens, it's like stopping time, and you can make people live into that moment. Not many things can do that in your daily life. You can be distracted by many things. But the main point is to make it meaningful to someone. Take Shane, for example. That moved me. On the Waterfront moved me. So when I go to see a film, I expect to be moved. I don't want to go see a movie just to kill time, or to have it just show me something I'm not aware of. I want to be moved, because that's what art is supposed to do, according to all the great theologians. Art is supposed to take you out of your chair. It's supposed to move you from one space to another. Renaldo & Clara is not meant to put a strain on you. It's a movie to be enjoyed as a movie. I know nothing about film, I'm not a film maker. On the other hand, I do consider myself a film maker because I made this film: So I don't know.... If it doesn't move you, then it's a grand, vie was made in the spirit of "All right, if all you people out there want to talk about Dylan breaking up with his wife, about his having an affair with Joan Baez, I'll just put those people into my film and rub people's noses in the gossip, because only I know the truth?"
DYLAN: It's not entirely true, because that's not what the movie is about. I'm not sure how much of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez concern anybody. To me, it isn't important. It's old news to me, so I don't think it's of much interest to anybody. If it is, fine. But I don't think it's a relevant issue. The movie doesn't deal with anything current. This is two years ago. I'm smart enough to know I shouldn't deal with any current subject on an emotional level, because usually it won't last. You need experience to write, or to sing or to act. You don't just wake up and say you're going to do it. This movie is taking experience and turning it into something else. It's not a gossipy movie.
PLAYBOY: We began this discussion of your movie by comparing film makers to painters. Were you as interested in painting : as in, say, rock music when you were growing up?
DYLAN: Yeah, I've always painted. I've always held on to that one way or another.
PLAYBOY: Do you feel you use colors in the same way you use notes or chords?
DYLAN: Oh, yeah. There's much information you could get on the meaning of colors. Every color has a certain mood and feeling. For instance, red is a very vital e color. There're a lot of reds in this movie, e a lot-of blues. A lot of cobalt blue.
PLAYBOY: Why cobalt blue?
DYLAN: It's the color of dissension.
PLAYBOY: Did you study painting?
DYLAN: A lot of the ideas I have were influenced by an old man who had definite ideas on life and the universe and nature-all that matters.
PLAYBOY: Who was he?
DYLAN: Just an old man. His name wouldn't mean anything to you. He came to this country from Russia in the Twenties, started out as a boxer and ended up painting portraits of women.
PLAYBOY: You don't want to mention his name, just to give him a plug?
DYLAN: His first name was Norman. Every time I mention somebody's name, it's like they get a tremendous amount of distraction and irrelevancy in their lives. For instance, there's this lady in L.A. I respect a lot who reads palms. Her name's Tamara Rand. She's for real, she's not a gypsy fortuneteller. But she's accurate! She'll take a look at your hand and tell you things you feel but don't really understand about where you're heading, what the future looks like. She's a surprisingly hopeful person.
PLAYBOY: Are you sure you want to know if there's bad news in your future?
DYLAN: Well, sometimes when the world falls on your head, you know there are ways to get out, but you want to know which way. Usually, there's someone who can tell you how to crawl out, which way to take.
PLAYBOY: Getting back to colors and chords, are there particular musical keys that have personalities or moods the way colors do for you?
DYLAN: Yeah. B major and B-flat major.
PLAYBOY: How would you describe them?
DYLAN: (Pause) Each one is hard to define. Assume the characteristic that is true of both of them and you'll find you're not sure whether you're speaking to them or to their echo.
PLAYBOY: What does a major key generally conjure up for you?
DYLAN: I think any major key deals with romance.
PLAYBOY: And the minor keys?
DYLAN: The supernatural.
PLAYBOY: What about other specific keys?
DYLAN: I find C major to be the key of strength, but also the key of regret. E major is the key of confidence. A-flat major is the key of renunciation.
PLAYBOY: Since we're back on the subject of music, what new songs have you planned?
DYLAN: I have new songs now that are unlike anything I've ever written.
PLAYBOY: What are they like?
DYLAN: Well, you'll see. I mean, unlike anything I've ever done. You couldn't even say that Blood on the Tracks or Desire have led up to this stuff. I mean, it's that far gone, it's that far out there. I'd rather not talk more about them until they're out.
PLAYBOY: When the character Bob Dylan in your movie speaks the words "Rock ''n' roll is the answer," what does he mean?
DYLAN: He's speaking of the sound and the rhythm. The drums and the rhythm are the answer. Get into the rhythm of it and you will lose yourself; you will forget about the brutality of it all. Then you will lose your identity. That's what he's saying..
PLAYBOY: Does that happen to you, to the real Bob Dylan?
DYLAN: Well, that's easy. When you're playing music and it's going well, you do lose your identity, you become totally subservient to the music you're doing in your very being.
PLAYBOY: Do you feel possessed?
DYLAN: It's dangerous, because its effect is that you believe that you can transcend and cope with anything. That it is the real life, that you've struck at the heart of life itself and you are on top of your dream. And there's no down. But later on, backstage, you have a different point of view.
PLAYBOY: When you're onstage, do you feel the illusion that death can't get you?
DYLAN: Death can't get you at all. Death's not here to get anybody. It's the appearance of the Devil, and the Devil is a coward, so knowledge will overcome that.
PLAYBOY: What do you mean?
DYLAN: The Devil is everything false, the Devil will go as deep as you let the Devil go. You can leave yourself open to that. If you understand what that whole scene is about, you can easily step aside. But if you want the confrontation to begin with, well, there's plenty of it. But then again, if you believe you have a purpose and a mission, and not much time to carry it out, you don't bother about those things.
PLAYBOY: Do you think you have a purpose and a mission?
PLAYBOY: What is it?
DYLAN: Henry Miller said it: The role of an artist is to inoculate the world with disillusionment.
PLAYBOY: To create rock music, you used to have to be against the system, a desperado. Is settling down an enemy of rock?
DYLAN: No. You can be a priest and be in rock 'n' roll. Being a rock-'n'-roll singer is no different from being a house painter. You climb up as high as you want to. You're asking me, is rock, is the lifestyle of rock 'n' roll at odds with the lifestyle of society in general?
PLAYBOY: Yes. Do you need to be in some way outside society, or in some way an outlaw, some way a
DYLAN: No. Rock 'n' roll forms its own society. It's a world of its own. The same way the sports world is.
PLAYBOY: But didn't you feel that it was valuable to bum around and all that sort of thing?
DYLAN: Yes. But not necessarily, because you can bum around and wind up being a lawyer, you know. There isn't anything definite. Or any blueprint to it.
PLAYBOY: So future rock stars could just as easily go to law school?
DYLAN: For some people, it might be fine. But, getting back to that again, you have to have belief. You must have a purpose. You must believe that you-can disappear through walls. Without that belief, you're not going to become a very good rock singer, or pop singer, or folk-rock singer, or you're not going to become a very good lawyer. Or a doctor. You must know why you're doing what you're doing.
PLAYBOY: Why are you doing what you're doing?
DYLAN: [Pause] Because I don't know anything else to do. I'm good at it.
PLAYBOY: How would you describe "it"?
DYLAN: I'm an artist. I try to create art.
PLAYBOY: How do you feel about your songs when you perform them years later? Do you feel your art has endured?
DYLAN: How many singers feel the same way ten years later that they felt when they wrote tile song? Wait till it gets to be 20 years, you know? Now, there's a certain amount of act that you can put on, you know, you can get through on it, but there's got to be something to it that is real-not just for the moment. And a lot of my songs don't work. I wrote a lot of them just by gut-because my gut told me to write them-and they usually don't work so good as the years go on. A lot of them do work. With those, there's some truth about every one of them. And I don't think I'd be singing if I weren't writing, you know. I would have no reason or purpose to be out there singing. I mean, I don't consider myself . . . the life of the party. [Laughs]
PLAYBOY: You've given new life to some songs in recent performances, such as I Pity the Poor Immigrant in the Rolling Thunder tour.
DYLAN: Oh, yes. I've given new life to a lot of them. Because I believe in them, basically. You know, I believe in them. So I do give them new life. And that can always be done. I rewrote Lay, Lady, Lay, too. No one ever mentioned that.
PLAYBOY: You changed it to a much raunchier, less pretty kind of song.
DYLAN: Exactly. A lot of words to that song have changed. I recorded it originally surrounded by a bunch of other songs on the Nashville Skyline album. That was the tone of the session. Once everything was set, that was the way it came out. And it was fine for that time, but I always had a feeling there was more to the song than that.
PLAYBOY: Is it true that Lay, Lady, Lay,' was originally commissioned for Midnight Cowboy?
DYLAN: That's right. They wound up using Freddy Neil's tune.
PLAYBOY: How did it feel doing Blowin' in the Wind after all those years during your last couple of tours?
DYLAN: I think I'll always be able to do that. There are certain songs that I will always be able to do. They will always have just as much meaning, if not more, as time goes on.
PLAYBOY: What about Like a Rolling Stone?
DYLAN: That was a great tune, yeah. It's the dynamics in the rhythm that make up Like a Rolling Stone and all of the lyrics. I tend to base all my songs on the old songs, like the old folk songs, the old blues tunes; they are always good. They always make sense.
PLAYBOY: Would you talk a little about how specific songs come to you?
DYLAN: They come to me when I am most isolated in space and time. I reject a lot of inspiring lines.
PLAYBOY: They're too good?
DYLAN: I reject a lot. I kind of know myself well enough to know that the line might be good and it is the first line that gives you inspiration and then it's just like riding a bull. That is the rest of it. Either you just stick with it or you don't. And if you believe that what you are doing is important, then you will stick with it no matter what.
PLAYBOY: There are lines that are like riding wild bulls?
DYLAN: There are lines like that. A lot of lines that would be better off just staying on a printed page and finishing up as poems. I forget a lot of the lines. During the day, a lot of lines will come to me that I will just say are pretty strange and I don't have anything better to do. I try not to pay too much attention to those wild. obscure lines.
PLAYBOY: You say you get a single line and then you ride it. Does the melody follow after you write out the whole song?
DYLAN: I usually know the melody before she song.
PLAYBOY: And it is there, waiting for that first line?
PLAYBOY: Do you hear it easily?
DYLAN: The melody? Sometimes, and sometimes I have to find it.
PLAYBOY: Do you work regularly? Do you get up every morning and practice?
DYLAN: A certain part of every day I have to play.
PLAYBOY: Has your playing become more complex?
DYLAN: No. Musically not. I can hear more and my melodies now are more rhythmic than they ever have been, but, really, I am still with those same three chords. But, I mean, I'm not Segovia or Montoya. I don't practice 12 hours a day.
PLAYBOY: Do you practice using your voice, too?
DYLAN: Usually, yeah, when I'm rehearsing, especially, or when I'm writing a song, I'll be singing it.
PLAYBOY: Someone said that when you gave up cigarettes, your voice changed. Now we see you're smoking again. Is your voice getting huskier again?
DYLAN: No, you know, you can do anything with your voice if you put your mind to it. I mean, you can become a ventriloquist or you can become an imitator of other people's voices. I'm usually just stuck with my own voice. I can do a few other people's voices.
PLAYBOY: Whose voices can you imitate?
DYLAN: Richard Widmark. Sydney Greenstreet. Peter Lorre. I like those voices. They really had distinctive voices in the early talkie films. Nowadays, you go to a movie and you can't tell one voice from the other. Jane Fonda sounds like Tatum O'Neal.
PLAYBOY: Has your attitude toward women changed much in your songs?
DYLAN: Yeah; in the early period, I was writing more about objection, obsession or rejection. Superimposing my own reality on that which seemed to have no reality of its own.
PLAYBOY: How did those opinions change?
DYLAN: From neglect.
PLAYBOY: From neglect?
DYLAN: As you grow, things don't reach you as much as when you're still forming opinions.
PLAYBOY: You mean you get hurt less easily?
DYLAN: You get hurt over other matters than when you were 17. The energy of hurt isn't enough to create art.
PLAYBOY: So if the women in your songs have become more real, if there are fewer goddesses -
DYLAN: The goddess isn't real. A pretty woman as a goddess is just up there on a pedestal. The flower is what we are really concerned about here. The opening and the closing, the growth, the bafflement. You don't lust after flowers.
PLAYBOY: Your regard for women, then, has changed?
DYLAN: People are people to me. I don't single out women as anything to get hung up about.
PLAYBOY: But in the past?
DYLAN: In the past, I was guilty of that shameless crime.
PLAYBOY: You're claiming to be completely rehabilitated?
DYLAN: In that area, I don't have any serious problems.
PLAYBOY: There's a line in your film in which someone says to Sara, "I need you because I need your magic to protect me.
DYLAN: Well, the real magic of women is that throughout the ages, they've had to do all the work and yet they can have a sense of humor.
PLAYBOY: That's throughout the ages. What about women now?
DYLAN: Well, here's the new woman, right? Nowadays, you have the concept of a new woman, but the new woman is nothing without a man.
PLAYBOY: What would the new woman say to that?
DYLAN: I don't know what the new woman would say The new woman is the impulsive woman....
PLAYBOY: There's another line in your movie about "the ultimate woman." What is the ultimate woman?
DYLAN: A woman without prejudice.
PLAYBOY: Are there many?
DYLAN: There are as many as you can see. As many as can touch you.
PLAYBOY: So you've run into a lot of ultimate women?
DYLAN: Me, personally? I don't run into that many people. I'm working most of the time. I really don't have time for all that kind of intrigue.
PLAYBOY: Camus said that chastity is an essential condition for creativity. Do you agree?
DYLAN: He was speaking there of the disinvolvement with pretense.
PLAYBOY: Wasn't he speaking of sexual chastity?
DYLAN: You mean he was saying you have to stay celibate to create?
PLAYBOY: That's one interpretation.
DYLAN: Well, he might have been on to something there. It could have worked for him.
PLAYBOY: When you think about rock and the rhythm of the heartbeat is it tied into love in some way?
DYLAN: The heartbeat. Have you ever lain with somebody when your hearts were beating in the same rhythm? That's true love. A man and a woman who lie down with their hearts beating together are truly lucky. Then you've truly been in love, m' boy. Yeah, that's true love. You might see that person once a month, once a year, maybe once a lifetime, but you have the guarantee your lives are going to be in rhythm. That's all you need.
PLAYBOY: Considering that some of your recent songs have been about love and romance, what do you feel about the tendency some people used to have of dividing your work into periods? Did you ever feel it was fair to divide your work, for example, into a political period and a nonpolitical period?
DYLAN: Those people disregarded the ultimate fact that I am a songwriter. I can't help what other people do with my songs, what they make of them.
PLAYBOY: But you were more involved politically at one time. You were supposed to have written Chimes of Freedom in the back seat of a car while you were visiting some SNCC people in the South.
DYLAN: That is all we did in those days. Writing in the back seats of cars and writing songs on street corners or on porch swings. Seeking out the explosive areas of life.
PLAYBOY: One of which was politics?
DYLAN: Politics was always one because there were people who were trying to change things. They were involved in the political game because that is how they had to change things. But I have always considered politics just part of the illusion. I don't get involved much in politics. I don't know what the system runs on. For instance, there are people who have definite ideas or who studied all the systems of government. A lot of those people with college-educational backgrounds tended to come in and use up everybody for whatever purposes they had in mind. And, of course, they used music, because music was accessible and we would have done that stuff and written those songs and sung them whether there was any politics or not. I never did renounce a role in politics, because I never played one in politics. It would be comical for me to think that I played a role. Gurdjieff thinks it's best to work out your mobility daily.
PLAYBOY: So you did have a lot of "on the road" experiences?
DYLAN: I still do.
PLAYBOY: Driving around?
DYLAN: I am. interested in all aspects of life. Revelations and realizations. Lucid thought that can be translated into songs, analogies, new information. I am better at it now. Not really written yet anything to make me stop writing. Like, I haven't come to the place that Rimbaud came to when he decided to stop writing and run guns in Africa.
PLAYBOY: Jimmy Carter has said that listening to your songs, he learned to see in a new way the relationship between landlord and tenant, farmer and sharecropper and things like that. He also said that you were his friend. What do you think of all that?
DYLAN: I am his friend.
PLAYBOY: A personal friend?
DYLAN: I know him personally.
PLAYBOY: Do you like him?
DYLAN: Yeah, I think his heart's in the right place.
PLAYBOY: How would you describe that place?
DYLAN: The place of destiny. You know, I hope the magazine won't take all this stuff and edit-like, Carter's heart's in the right place of destiny, because it's going to really sound
PLAYBOY: No, it would lose the sense of conversation. The magazine's pretty good about that.
DYLAN: Carter has his heart in the right place. He has a sense of who he is. That's what I felt, anyway, when I met him.
PLAYBOY: Have you met him many times?
DYLAN: Only once.
PLAYBOY: Stayed at his house?
DYLAN: No. But anybody who's a governor or a Senate leader or in a position of authority who finds time to invite a folkrock singer and his band out to his place has got to have . . . a sense of humor . . . and a feeling of the pulse of the people. Why does he have to do it? Most people in those kinds of positions can't relate at all to people in the music field unless it's for some selfish purpose.
PLAYBOY: Did you talk about music or politics?
DYLAN: Music. Very little politics. The conversation was kept in pretty general areas.
PLAYBOY: Does he have any favorite Dylan songs?
DYLAN: I didn't ask him if he had any favorite Dylan songs. He didn't say that he did. I think he liked Ballad of a Thin Man, really.
PLAYBOY: Did you think that Carter might have been using you by inviting you there?
DYLAN: No, I believe that he was a decent, untainted man and he just wanted to check me out. Actually, as Presidents go, I liked Truman.
DYLAN: I just liked the way he acted and things he said and who he said them to. He had a common sense about him, which is rare for a President. Maybe in the old days it wasn't so rare, but nowadays it's rare. He had a common quality. You felt like you could talk to him.
PLAYBOY: You obviously feel you can talk to President Carter.
DYLAN: You do feel like you can talk to him, but the guy is so busy and overworked you feel more like, well, maybe you'd just leave him alone, you know. And he's dealing with such complicated matters and issues that people are a little divided and we weren't divided in Truman's time.
PLAYBOY: Is there anything you're angry about? Is there anything that would make you go up to Carter and say, "Look, you fucker, do this!"?
DYLAN: Right. [Pause] He's probably caught up in the system like everybody else.
PLAYBOY: Including you?
DYLAN: I'm a part of the system. I have to deal with the system. The minute you pay taxes, you're part of the system.
PLAYBOY: Are there any heroes or saints these days?
DYLAN: A saint is a person who gives of himself totally and freely, without strings. He is neither deaf nor blind. And yet he's both. He's the master of his own reality, the voice of simplicity. The trick is to stay away from mirror images. The only true mirrors are puddles of water.
PLAYBOY: How are mirrors different from puddles?
DYLAN: The image you see in a puddle of water is consumed by depth: An image you see when you look into a piece of glass has no depth or life-flutter movement. Of course, you might want to check your tie. And, of course, you might want to see if the make-up is on straight. That's all the way. Vanity sells a lot of things.
PLAYBOY: How so?
DYLAN: Well, products on the market. Everything from new tires to bars of soap. Need is-need is totally overlooked. Nobody seems to care about people's needs. They're all for one purpose. A shallow grave.
PLAYBOY: Do you want your grave unmarked?
DYLAN: Isn't that a line in my film?
DYLAN: Well, there are many things they can do with your bones, you know. [Pause] They make neckpieces out of them, bury them. Burn them up.
PLAYBOY: What's your latest preference?
DYLAN: Ah-put them in a nutshell.
PLAYBOY: You were talking about vanity and real needs. What needs? What are we missing?
DYLAN: There isn't anything missing. There is just a lot of scarcity.
PLAYBOY: Scarcity of what?
DYLAN: Inspirational abundance.
PLAYBOY: So it's not an energy crisis but an imagination crisis?
DYLAN: I think it's a spiritual crisis.
PLAYBOY: How so?
DYLAN: Well, you know, people step on each other's feet too much. They get on each other's case. They rattle easily. But I don't particularly stress that. I'm not on a soapbox about it, you know. That is the way life is.
PLAYBOY: We asked about heroes and saints and began talking about saints How about heroes?
DYLAN: A hero is anyone who walks to hi' own drummer.
PLAYBOY: Shouldn't people look to other to be heroes?
DYLAN: No; when people look to other for heroism, they're looking for heroism in an imaginary character.
PLAYBOY: Maybe that in part explains why many seized upon you as that imaginary character.
DYLAN: I'm not an imaginary character, though.
PLAYBOY: You must realize that people get into a whole thing about you.
DYLAN: I know they used to.
PLAYBOY: Don't you think they still do?
DYLAN: Well, I m not aware of it anymore.
PLAYBOY: What about the 1974 tour? Or the Rolling Thunder tour of 1976?
DYLAN: Well, yeah, you know, when I play, people show up. I'm aware they haven't forgotten about me.
PLAYBOY: Still, people always think you have answers, don't they?
DYLAN: No, listen: If I wasn't Bob Dylan, I'd probably think that Bob Dylan has a lot of answers myself.
PLAYBOY: Would you be right?
DYLAN: I don't think so. Maybe he'd have a lot of answers for him, but for me? Maybe not. Maybe yes, maybe no. Bob Dylan isn't a cat, he doesn't have nine lives, so he can only do what he can do. You know: not break under the strain. If you need someone who raises someone else to a level that is unrealistic, then it's that other person's problem. He is just confronting his superficial self somewhere down the line. They'll realize it, I'm sure.
PLAYBOY: But didn't you have to go through a period when people were claiming you had let them down?
DYLAN: Yeah, but I don't pay much attention to that. What can you say? Oh, I let you down, big deal, OK. That's all. Find somebody else, OK? That's all.
PLAYBOY: You talked about a spiritual crisis. Do you think Christ is an answer?
DYLAN: What is it that attracts people to Christ? The fact that it was such a tragedy, is what. Who does Christ become when he lives inside a certain person? Many people say that Christ lives inside them: Well, what does that mean? I've talked to many people whom Christ lives inside; I haven't met one who would want to trade places with Christ. Not one of his people put himself on the line when it came down to the final hour. What would Christ be in this day and age if he came back? What would he be? What would he be to fulfill his function and purpose? He would have to be a leader, I suppose.
PLAYBOY: Did you grow up thinking about the fact that you were Jewish?
DYLAN: No, I didn't. I've never felt Jewish. I don't really consider myself Jewish or non-Jewish. I don't have much of a Jewish background. I'm not a patriot to any creed. I believe in all of them and none of them. A devout Christian or Moslem can be just as effective as a devout Jew.
PLAYBOY: You say you don't feel Jewish. But what about your sense of God?
DYLAN: I feel a heartfelt God. I don't particularly think that God wants me thinking about Him all the time. I think that would be a tremendous burden on Him, you know. He's got enough people asking Him for favors. He's got enough people asking Him to pull strings. I'll pull my own strings, you know. I remember seeing a Time magazine on an airplane a few years back and it had a big cover headline, "IS COD DEAD?" I mean, that was-would you think that was a responsible thing to do? What does God think of that? I mean, if you were God, how would you like to see that written about yourself? You know, I think the country's gone downhill since that day.
PLAYBOY: Since that particular question was asked?
DYLAN: Yeah; I think at that point, some very irresponsible people got hold of too much power to put such an irrelevant thing like that on a magazine when they could be talking about real issues. Since that day, you've had to kind of make your own way.
PLAYBOY: How are we doing, making our own way?
DYLAN: The truth is that we're born and we die. We're concerned here in this life with the journey from point A to point Z, or from what we think is point A to point Z. But it's pretty self-deluding if you think that's all there is.
PLAYBOY: What do you think is beyond Z?
DYLAN: You mean, what do I think is in the great unknown? [Pause] Sounds, echoes of laughter.
PLAYBOY: Do you feel there's some sense of karmic balance in the universe, that you suffer for acts of bad faith?
DYLAN: Of course. I. think everybody knows that's true. After you've lived long enough, you realize that's the case. You can get away with anything for a while. But it's like Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart or Dostoievsky's Crime and Punishment: Somewhere along the line, sooner or later, you're going to have to pay.
PLAYBOY: Do you feel you've paid for what you got away with earlier?
DYLAN: Right now, I'm about even.
PLAYBOY: Isn't that what you said after your motorcycle accident-"Something had to be evened up"?
PLAYBOY: And you meant. . . ?
DYLAN: I meant my back wheel had to be aligned. [Laughter]
PLAYBOY: Let's take one last dip back into the material world. What about an artist's relationship to money?
DYLAN: The myth of the starving artist is a myth. The big bankers and prominent young ladies who buy art started it. They just want to keep the artist under their thumb. Who says an artist can't have any money? Look at Picasso. The starving artist is usually starving for those around him to starve. You don't have to starve to be a good artist. You just have to have love, insight and a strong point of view. And you have to fight off depravity. Uncompromising, that's what makes a good artist. It doesn't matter if he has money or not. Look at Matisse; he was a banker. Anyway, there are other things that constitute wealth and poverty besides money.
PLAYBOY: What we were touching on was the subject of the expensive house you live in, for example.
DYLAN: What about it? Nothing earthshaking or final about where I live. There is no vision behind the house. It is just a bunch of trees and sheds.
PLAYBOY: We read in the papers about an enormous copper dome you had built.
DYLAN: I don't know what you read in the papers. It's just a place to live for now. The copper dome is just so I can recognize it when I come home.
PLAYBOY: OK, back to less worldly concerns. You don't believe in astrology, do you?
DYLAN: I don't think so.
PLAYBOY: You were quoted recently as having said something about having a Gemini nature.
DYLAN: Well, maybe there are certain characteristics of people who are born under certain signs. But I don't know, I'm not sure how relevant it is.
PLAYBOY: Could it be there's an undiscovered twin or a double to Bob Dylan?
DYLAN: Someplace on the planet, there's a double of me walking around. Could very possibly be.
PLAYBOY: Any messages for your double?
DYLAN: Love will conquer everything-I suppose.