DYLAN'S PRESS RECEPTION
by Keith Altham
Hair bristling about like a Fijian suffering from a severe electrical shock, wearing a blue suede jacket and white striped trousers, Bob Dylan meandered into a suite of the May Fair hotel last week followed by a squad of cameramen and sound engineers, the latter to record "the press reception".
A large gentleman, with a grey top hat and movie camera permanently affixed to his shoulder, lurched about the room like Quasimodo, alternately scratching his ear and his nose, with the occasional break to "whirr" the machine in the face of perplexed reporters.
A lady in grey denims waved what appeared to be huge grey frankfurters about, but they proved to be microphones attached to tape recorders. We were apparently being taped for posterity.
For some fifteen minutes, photographers exposed innumerable rolls of film at Dylan looking bored on a window sill. Finally he removed his dark glasses as a bonus to the cameramen, but somehow managed to look exactly the same.
Ken Pitt, surely the year's most optimistic publicist, announced that Mr. Dylan now would answer questions.
"Is this a microphone?" enquired Mr. Dylan about a large cylindrical object on the desk under his nose. Having ascertained that it was indeed a microphone, Dylan signified he was ready to begin by giving a slight grunt and shifting his chair a bit.
"Which musicians have you brought with you?"
After this question had been asked again, then rephrased several times, Bob replied: "You want names?".
The reporter said this might be helpful.
"Gus, Frank, Mitch ....." mumbled Dylan.
For posterity's sake I framed a question which might have been construed as "being aware", as Quasimodo aimed his mechanical hump at me. Why is it that the titles of his recent singles, like 'Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35" apparently bore no connections with the lyric?
"It has every significance" returned Dylan. "Have you ever been down in North Mexico?"
"Well, I can't explain it to you then."
It would appear that the States of Washington, Baltimore and Houston [sic] have worked out the explanation, for they have banned 'Rainy Day Women' as being an alleged approval of LSD and marijuana drugs. A dubious honour that Dylan shares with the Byrds' 'Eight Miles High', also banned in those States last week.
I tried to get him to talk about Paul Simon, whom he phoned recently in the U.S. and about Bob Lind.
"Never heard of them" obliged Mr. Dylan. With that I declared my innings closed and watched with interest as the others got batted about.
"Bob, you hair has got me worried", said one lady reporter, "How do you get it like that?"
"How do I get it like that?"
"Yes, how do you get it like that?"
"I comb it like that"
Some tried shock treatment: "Are you married?"
"I don't want to lie to you. It would be misleading if I told you 'yes', Dylan declared and in the same breath: "I brought my wife over here on the last visit and no one took any notice of her".
A suggestion was made that he was secretely married to Joan Baez.
"Joan Baez was an accident" returned Mr. Dylan.
Dylan's good friend, folk singer Dana Gillespie, was mentioned.
Dylan brightened visibly - he practically tore his face in half in his effort to smile.
"Is Dana here?" he asked. "Bring her out. I got some baskets for her".
Regretfully Dana was not there and the conversation reverted to monotone inanities again.
We discovered in quick succession that
- Dylan cannot see too well on Tuesdays ....
- his toenails don't fit him ....
- he considered Peter Lorre the world's greatest folk singer ....
- all his songs protest about something ....
- he has just written a book in one week about spiders ....
- and he didn't know who the gentleman in the top hat was.
"I thought he was with you" he returned, dead-pan.
The lady with the giant frankfurter-mike torpedoed it forward so as not to miss a syllable of this sparkling repartee.
As the reporters filed out of the suite I took one of Dylan's undercover agents to one side (I knew he was a Dylan man as he had dark glasses on) and enquired why a man with Dylan's obvious intelligence bothered to arrange this farce of a meeting.
"Man" he extolled "Dylan just wanted us to come along and record a Press reception so we could hear how ridiculous and infantile all reporters are".
I stumbled brokenly back to my plasticine, the sandpit, my chalk slate at the MNE! But you've got to admit there's only one Dylan - thank goodness!
Reprinted in Occasionally #2.
1. Who's the man in the top grey hat?
2. Dylan is actually quite serious once above. When?
3. Why was the press conference recorded?