B.K.: Is it true that you taught yourself guitar and harmonica?
Dylan: Well, nobody really teaches themselves guitar and harmonica, you know, when you don't know anything first of all you get yourself a book or something. What I remember is learning a couple of chords from some books and then going out to watch people, you know, to see how they're doing it. You don't go so much to hear 'em ... you just go to see how they do what they do, get as close as you can, see what their fingers are doing. In those early stages it's more like a learning thing, and that can sometimes take ... years, many years. But to me I kind of picked it up fairly quickly, I didn't really play with that much technique. And people really didn't take to me because of that, because I didn't go out of my way to learn as much technique as other people ... I mean I know people who spent their whole lives learning John Lee Hooker chords, just hammering on, you know, on the E string, and that was all. But they could play it in such a beautiful way it looked like a ballet dancer. Everybody had a different style, they had styles and techniques, especially in folk-music, you know there was your southern mountain banjo, then flat picking, then your finger picking techniques, and just all of these different runs you know, different styles of ballads. Folk-music was a world that was very split-up ... and there was a purist side to it. Folk people didn't want to hear it if you couldn't play the song exactly the way that ... Aunt Molly Jackson played it. And I just kind of blazed my way through all that stuff (laughter). I would hear somebody do something and it would get to a certain point that you'd say, what do you want from that, you'd want to see what style they were playing ... I don't know I just stayed up day and night just barnstorming my way though all that stuff. And then I heard Woody Guthrie, and then it all came together for me ...
B.K.: Do you remember the first Woody Guthrie record you heard?
Dylan: Yeah, I think the first Woody Guthrie song I heard was "Pastures Of Plenty". And "Pretty Boy Floyd" and another song ... he used to write a lot of his songs from existing melodies, you know "Grand Coulee Dam". They just impressed me.
B.K.: Got to you?
Dylan: Oh, yeah. Because they were original, they just had a mark of originality on them, well the lyrics did. I just heard all those songs and I learned them all off the records. All the songs of Woody Guthrie that I could find, anybody that had a Woody Guthrie record or that knew a Woody Guthrie song. And in St. Paul at the time, where I was, there were some people around who would not only had his records but who knew his songs. So I just learned them all, some of the best records that I heard him make were these records that he made on the Stinson label, with Cisco Houston and Sonny Terry. I don't know if Leadbelly was on there too, I learned a bunch of Leadbelly's stuff too and learned how to play like that. But one of the biggest thrills I ever actually had was when I reached New York, whenever it was, and I got to play with Cisco Houston, I think I got to play with him at a party someplace. But I used to watch him, he used to play at Folk City. He was an amazing looking guy, he looked like Clark Gable, like a movie star.
Mogull: He reminded me a little of Tennessee Ernie actually.
Mogull: Also very unheralded.
Dylan: Oh, completely. He was one of the great unsung heroes. One of the great American figures of all time, and no one ... you know you can ask people about him and nobody knows anything about him.
B.K.: When do you think you started to develop something that was uniquely yours? You were talking about playing Woody Guthrie ...
Dylan: Well, when I came to New York that's all I played - Woody Guthrie songs. Then about six months after that I'd stopped playing all Woody Guthrie songs. I used to play in a a place called Cafe Wha?, and it always used to open at noon, and closed at six in the morning. It was just a non stop flow of people, usually they were tourists who were looking for beatniks in the Village. There'd be maybe five groups that played there. I used to play with a guy called Fred Neil, who wrote the song " Everybody's Talking" that was in the film "Midnight Cowboy". Fred was from Florida I think, from Coconut Grove, Florida, and he used to make that scene, from Coconut Grove to Nashville to New York. And he had a strong powerful voice, almost a bass voice. And a powerful sense of rhythm ... And he used to play mostly these types of songs that Josh White might sing. I would play harmonica for him, and then once in a while get to sing a song. You know, when he was taking a break or something. It was his show, he would be on for about half an hour, then a conga group would get on, called Los Congeros, with twenty conga drummers and bongoes and steel drums. And they would sing and play maybe half an hour. And then this girl, I think she was called Judy Rainey, used to play sweet Southern Mountain Appalachian ballads, with electric guitar and small amplifier. And then another guy named Hal Waters used to sing, he used to be a sort of crooner. Then there'd be a comedian, then an impersonator, and that'd be the whole show, and this whole unit would go around non stop. And you get fed there, which was actually the best thing about the place.
Mogull: How long a set would you do?
Dylan: I'd do ... oh, about half an hour. If they didn't like you back then you couldn't play, you'd get hooted off. If they liked you, you played more, if they didn't like you, you didn't play at all. You'd play one or two songs and people would just boo or hiss ...
B.K.: This wasn't your own stuff you were singing there?
Dylan: No, I didn't start playing my old stuff until ... much later
B.K.: Well, when did you start to perform your own stuff?
Dylan: Well, I just drifted into it you know, I just started writing. Well I'd always kinda written my own songs but I never played them. Nobody played their own songs then. The only person that did that was Woody Guthrie. And then one day I just wrote a song, and the first song I ever wrote that I performed in public was the song I wrote to Woody Guthrie. And I just felt like playing it one night - and so I played it.
B.K.: Was writing something that'd you'd always wanted to do?
Dylan: No, not really. It wasn't a thing I wanted to do ever. I wanted just a song to sing, and there came a certain point where I couldn't sing anything. So I had to write what I wanted to sing 'cos nobody else was writing what I wanted to sing. I couldn't find it anywhere. If I could, I probably would have never started writing.
B.K.: Was the writing something that came easy to you? Because it is a craft that you do very well and you talk about it so causally.
Dylan: Well, yeah, it does come easy. But then ... after so many records sometimes you just don't know anymore whether ... am I doing this because I want to do it or because you think it's expected of you. Do you know what I mean? So you'd start saying, well, it's time to write a song - I'll write a song . And you'll try to do something but sometimes it just won't come out right. At those kind of times it's best just to go sing somebody's songs.
B.K.: Was it a lot of work writing? Was it a labour?
Dylan: No. it was just something I'd kinda do. You'd just sit up all night and write a song, or ... in those days I used to write a lot of songs in cafes. Or at somebody's house with the typewriter. "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" ... I wrote that in the basement of the Village Gate. All of it, at Chip Monck's, he used to have a place down there in the boiler room, an apartment that he slept in ... next to the Greenwich Hotel. And I wrote "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" down there. I'd write songs people's houses, people's apartments, wherever I was.
B.K.: Were you much of a polisher, I mean did you write it and then pour over it?
Dylan: Pretty much I'd just leave them the way they were ...
Dylan: Well, I don't know why I walked off that show [Ed Sullivan 1963]. I could have done something else but we'd rehearsed the song so many times and everybody had heard it. They'd run through the show you know and they'd put you on and you'd run through your number, and it always got a good response and I was looking forward to singing it. Even Ed Sullivan seemed to really like it. I don't know who objected to it, but just before I was going to sing it they came in, and this was show time you know. They came in, there was this big huddle, I could see people talking about something. I was just getting ready to play you know ... and then someone stepped up and said I couldn't sing that song. They wanted me to sing a Clancy Brother's song, and it just didn't make sense to me to sing a Clancy Brother's song on nationwide TV at that time. So ... I just left.
Mogull: Do you remember that time you were down in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the CBS convention. And ... it was being held at the San Juan Hilton I guess ... this huge record convention, and it was just as Bob was beginning to hit. And the President of CBS at the time was a fabulous man named Goddard Lieberson. And ... they wouldn't let Bob in the hotel, because he was not wearing a tie or a jacket ...
Dylan: Yeah, or a shirt.
Mogull: And Lieberson, to his credit, told the hotel manager either he comes in the hotel or I'm pulling the whole convention out of here. Have I told the story right?
Dylan: Yeah, he was a big supporter of mine. Goddard Lieberson, as was John Hammond. Without those people like that I don't think anything would have happened for me. If I was to come along now, in this day, with the kind of people that are running record companies now, they would ... you know ... bar the doors I think. But you had people back then who were more entranched in individuality.
Mogull: And also not as insecure in their jobs.
Dylan: No, they ran things, you know they made decisions and it stuck. Now, I mean, it seems like everybody chats with somebody else, it's like well, I'll tell you tomorrow, call me back later, yeah we almost got deal, stuff like that.
B.K.: Did you get along with Lieberson okay ...?
Dylan: Oh, yeah, he was great ... he even used to come to some sessions of mine. He stop in and say hello you know ...
B.K.: Was there ever any pressure on you? I mean some people considered your music almost subversive. Although I always considered it very American.
Dylan: I guess they did ... I don't know. But, like I said, they seemed to run things. You know other people may have been talking under their breath or something, behind their back, and things like that. But at this time their big acts were Mitch Miller, Andy Williams, Johnny Matthis. I didn't really begin to sell many records until the second record ... and the "Subterranean Homesick Blues" that made the charts.
B.K.: That was an amazing single when you think of what the singles were like at the time.
Dylan: They made some good records then, that you know were good pop records. Not on Columbia though. Phil Spector was doing a lot of stuff at the time, and Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller ...
B.K.: Were you listening to a lot of pop stuff at the time?
Dylan: Yeah, I listened to a lot of pop stuff, but it never influenced what I was doing. At least to any great degree. It had earlier, like the really earlier stuff, when rock 'n' roll came in after Elvis, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, those people. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, that stuff influenced me ... You know, nostalgia to me isn't really rock 'n' roll. Because when I was a youngster the music I heard was Frankie Laine, Rosemary Clooney, Denis ... what's his name? Denis Day? And you know, Dorothy Collins ... the Mills Brothers, all that stuff. When I hear stuff like that it always strikes a different chord than all the rock 'n' roll stuff. The rock 'n' roll stuff I had a conscious mind at that time, but ten years before that it was like "Mule Train" and ... Johnny Ray knocked me out. Johnny Ray was the first person to actually really knock me out.
B.K.: What was it? What do you think it was about Johnny Ray?
Dylan: Well, he was just so emotional, wasn't he? I ran into him in an elevator in Australia ... he was like one of my idols you know. I mean I was speechless, there I was in an elevator with Johnny Ray! I mean what do you say?
B.K.: When you started to move from the pure folk style into a more electric style, was that a tough one?
Dylan: We're getting into a touchy subject. (laughter).
B.K.: Well, I mean today you go on stage and both of those things co-exist. Nobody thinks twice.
Dylan: Yeah, they always did co-exist ...
B.K.: I'm not talking so much about that, but at least what it seemed like from the outside was that people were trying to tell you how to make your music.
Dylan: Oh ... there's always people trying to tell you how to do everything in your life. If you really don't know what to do and you don't care what to do - then just ask somebody's opinion. You'll get a million different opinions. If you don't want to do something, ask someone's opinion and they'll just verify it for you. The easiest way to do something is to just not ask anybody's opinion. I mean if you really believe in what you're doing ... I've just asked people's opinion and it's been a great mistake, in different areas. In my personal life, I've asked people what do you think about doing this and they've said ... Oh Wow! ...! You know, and you end up not using it or else using it wrong.
Mogull: As a matter of fact I think the artist has to make the innate decision about their ...
Dylan: Yeah, you know what's right. When those things come you know what's right. A lot of times you might be farming around and not knowing what's right and you might do something dumb, but that's only because you don't know what to do on the first place. But if you know what's right and it strikes you at a certain time then you can usually believe that instinct. And if you act on it, then you'll be successful at it. Whatever it is.
B.K.: Recording is a whole other thing from being on stage. And you, from what I've read, try and record as spontaneously as possible ... ?
Dylan: I have yeah, I have, but I don't do that so often anymore. I used to do that ... because recording a song bores me, you know, it's like working in a coal-mine. Well I mean it's not really as serious as that, you're not completely that far underground! Maybe not in a literal sense, but ... you could be indoors for months. And then what you think is real just is just not anymore, you're just listening to sounds and your whole world is just working with tapes and things. I'm not ... I've never liked that side of things. Plus I've never gotten into it on that level, when I first recorded I just went in and recorded the songs I had, That's the way people recorded then. But people don't record that way now, and I shouldn't record that way either because they can't even get it down that way anymore. To do what I used to do, or to do what anybody used to do you have to stay in the studio a longer time to get that right. Because you know technology has messed everything up so much.
B.K.: It's messed it up?
Dylan: Yeah, it's messed it up. Technology is giving a false picture. Like if you listen to any of the records that are done now they're all done in a technology sort of way. Which is a conniving kind of way, you can dream up what you want to do and just go in and dream it up! But you go see some of that stuff live and you're gonna be very disappointed, because ... er ... I mean if you want to see some of it live. You may not want to you know. Well, I think it's messed it up, but that's progress you know. You can't go back the way it used to be. For a lot of people it's messed things up, but then for a lot of other people it's a great advantage. In other words you can get something right now, it doesn't have to be right but you can get it right. You know, it can be totally wrong but you can get it right! And it can be done just with sound and ... We were just recording something the other night and we were gonna put some handclaps on it. And the guy sitting behind the board, he was saying 'Well do you guys wanna go out there and actually clap ...? I got a machine right here that can do that.' And the name of this thing was Roland or something. (laughter). So we went out and clapped instead. It wasn't any big deal, we could have had some machine do it ... But that's just a small example of how everything is just machine oriented you know.
B.K.: You talk almost like ... I don't really know how to put it ... like the world's gone here and you're old fashioned.
Dylan: Well, I feel I'm old fashioned, but I don't believe I'm old fashioned in the way that I'm not modern fashioned. You know on a certain level there is no old fashioned and there's no new fashioned ... really nothing has changed. I don't think I'm old fashioned in the kind of way that I feel I'm a passe person that's sitting somewhere ... you know out in Montana ... just watching it snow. But even if I was, I'm sure that would be okay.
Mogull: Yeah, Bob, but you can't go to a concert like Wembley and get that kind of ...
Dylan: Yeah, okay ... but life is like that, you don't get that many years to live, right? So how long can you manage to keep up with things ...? And when you're keeping up with things what are you keeping up with? Who buys most of the records nowadays? 12 year old kids? Who buys Michael Jackson's records? 12 year olds. 14 year olds. 16, 20 ... I don't know who buys 50 million records of somebody. You know you can't compete with a market that's geared for a market for 12 year olds. You know you have rock 'n' roll critics that are 40 years old writing about records that are geared for people that are 10 years old! And making an intellectual philosophy out of it.
B.K.: But you don't listen to that stuff?
Dylan: No I don't listen to that stuff, and I don't listen to those critics. I've come up with a lot of people who should know whole a lot better, who have made a career about writing about rock 'n' roll. Writing about rock 'n' roll ...! I mean ... you know, how indecent can you be? Well, I'm not saying that it's all bad, people have to express themselves. So rock 'n' roll gives them a thrill, or did give them a thrill. Well most of the people that I can think of as rock 'n' roll authorities, are people who have documented down what I remember growing up with as it started ... right? So everybody knows where the roots of rock 'n' roll are. Everybody knows who does what, but to make such an intellectual game out of it is beside the point, you know it's not really going to add anything to the history of popular music. It's just going to feed a lot of cynical people and self-righteous people who think they've got a claim on a rock 'n' roll goldmine ... or whatever. So I find that very distasteful.
B.K.: Do you have ... I'm going to ask you which ones ... but are there any things that you look back on and say 'Jesus, that was a good one'...'
Dylan: Oh, yeah. Some of the songs you're talking about, you know I can't write those songs today. No way. But I look at those songs, 'cos I sing 'em all the time, I wonder where they came from and how they came ... how it's constructed. Even the simpler songs, I look at them that way. I couldn't do them now, and I don't even try, I'd be a fool to try. I think there are lot of good song-writers though, what I've done I've done all alone, but there's a lot of other good song-writers ... of my era.
Mogull: Like who, Bob?
Dylan: Randy Newman writes good songs, Paul Simon's written some good songs, I think "America" is a good song, I think "The Boxer" is a good song. I think "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is a good song. I mean he's written a lot of bad songs too, but everybody's done that. Let's see ... some of the Nashville writers ... Shel Silverstein writes great songs. Really. Like he's one of my favorite song-writers. You know, whatever you're expressing it out of the amount of knowledge and light and inspiration you're giving on it. If you're just given an inch you know ... well you've just got to make of that as much as you can.
B.K.: Have you ever tried your hand at any of the other arts?
Dylan: Yeah, painting.
B.K.: Really, do you do much of it?
Dylan: Yeah, well not so much in recent years, but it's something that I would like to do if I could ... you've got to be in the right place to do it, you have to commit a lot of time ... because one thing leads to another and you tend to discover new things as you go along. So it takes time to develop it, but I know how to do it fundamentally so once I get into the rhythm of it, and if I can hang with it long enough ...
B.K.: Do you take time for yourself?
Dylan: Oh, yeah, I take time for myself. I don't have any public time. People think I do but that's my time.
B.K.: That's a great place to be.
Dylan: Well, that's the place you were at when you were born. That's the place you should be. I mean what's there to make you not be in that place? Do you have to be part of the machine ... so what if you're not part of the machine?
Dylan: I don't know if I've ever been happy if we're talking straight. I don't know ... I mean ... happy? I don't consider myself happy and I don't consider myself unhappy, I've just never thought of life in terms of happiness and unhappiness. It just never occurred to me.
B.K.: Do you think of it in terms of growth?
Dylan: No! I never think in terms of growth, I tell you what I do think though, that you never stop anywhere, there's no place to stop in. You know them places at the side of the road that you can stop, they're just an illusion.
B.K.: The road goes on ...
Dylan: Yeah, you've got to get back on the road. And you may want to stop but you can't stay there.
B.K.: When you talk about getting back on the road, isn't that in a sense growth ... or at least it's movement. From point A to point B.
Dylan: Yeah, that's growth. But what's growth? I mean everything grows, that's just the way life is, life just grows. You know, it grows and it dies, it lives and it dies. Whenever you get to a plateau, that's not it, you got to go on to the next one. You can't stay nowhere, there's no place to stay, there's no place that will keep you.
B.K.: Because of boredom or because that's the way it is?
Dylan: No, because that's just the nature of things ...
B.K.: So you see yourself just moving onward?
Dylan: I see everybody like that, I see the whole world that way. That which doesn't do that is stuff that's ... that's just dead.
B.K.: Ha ... what's that line? Those that are not busy being born are ...
Dylan: ... busy dying? What a line!
B.K.: Didn't somebody write that?
Dylan: Classic line that ... You know people say, well isn't it great to be able to do what you do? Well it is to a degree but they forget that an artist ... a touring artist, anybody that is out touring ... playing live from town to town night after night. They think that's easy. It's not easy. People think you're having a ball, they say howya doin'? I say 'I'm in Schenectady! (laughter). And they say, oh well you're having a great time and I'm stuck here in Orlando. But it's not ... you know you just have to get up and then you just have to do what you're supposed to do. I know that when I get off the road, oh man! For the first two or three weeks ... I mean you can get up any time you want! You don't have to go to sleep at this hour and get up at that hour, and get yourself lined up to do this, and be there at that certain place, and go through this and go through that, and get back and get the proper amount of sleep. You know, eat right ... in case you're afraid you'll get sick, or afraid you're gonna hurt yourself somewhere along the line. All those things ... they just disappear on the last show, then you can do anything you want. It's a high feeling.
B.K.: You go sailing? long pause
B.K.: I mean do you want to talk about anything you like to do other than ...
Dylan: I like to do a lot of things but I don't want to talk about the things I like to do ...
Dylan: I'll talk about things I don't like to do!
B.K.: You said that you consider yourself a pretty regular kind of a guy, would you say you're just like anybody else?
Dylan: Well, sure, you know I breathe the same air as everybody else does. I have to do the same things most people do.
B.K.: Well ... in a lot of the earlier songs there's a sense of separation ...
Dylan: Oh, well ... there's always a sense of separation, I mean even in the later songs. There wouldn't be any point to it if there wasn't a sense of separation. I mean if I didn't have anything different to say to people then what would be the point of it? I mean ... I could do a Ronnettes album!
Mogull: I think the most interesting you've said so far, Bob ...
Dylan: Have I said anything interesting?
Mogull: One thing that was exceedingly interesting to me was when you started writing because nobody was writing the songs you wanted to sing.
Dylan: Yeah, that's when I started writing ... and that's why I'm still writing ... I wish someone would come along and give me some songs that I could do. I mean it would be such a burden taken off my shoulder, I mean it's heavy man! (laughter).
B.K.: There's still a lot of expectation. Have you been able to get beyond that, to stop worrying about what people expect from you?
Dylan: Who expects what? I mean anybody that expects anything from me is just a borderline case. Nobody with any kind of reality is going to expect anything from me. I've already given then enough you know, what do they want from me. You can't keep on depending on one person to give you everything.
What I usually do is say, okay, I'm gonna write a song, whether it's a lyric or a rhythm ... but for me, I have to go out and play, and er ... I'm not an admirer of stuff like videos. I mean I don't mind making videos, but it's nothing for me to try and attempt to do ... because it's fake you know ... it's all about how good it looks ... anybody can make a video. Anybody. As long as you have a camera, what kind of camera do you want? 16mm, video camera, anybody can do it. And anybody can make a good one, and ... er ... people will like it. Everything is done in a technological kind of way ... you can dress it up in so many different kind of ways. So people don't know what to think. Nobody's gonna sit there and say oh this is bullshit, or this is awful ... this don't make any sense at all ... it's been a long time since I've even seen one of those things, but the last time I saw one, I mean I was appalled. And then when you go see some of these groups, and I've seen some of them, they aren't anything, you know they're just nothing. That's because they go for the faking thing so much, and you know ... in the other arena, you have to do it live or you just don't do it. I've always played live since I started out, and that's where it's always counted for me. It don't count on a video or a movie, I don't care about being a movie star or a video star or any of that stuff you know.
Dylan: I'm usually in a numb state of mind before my shows, and I have to kick in at some place along the line., usually it takes me one or two songs, or sometimes now it takes much longer. Sometimes it takes me up to the encore! (laughter).
B.K.: The band I would image has an effect on that.
Dylan: Oh, absolutely. I've played with some bands that have gotten in my way so much that it's just been a struggle to get through the show Oh yeah ... at certain times it gets ridiculous you know.
B.K.: I'd image the flip side too, have there been bands that turn you on?
Dylan: Yeah, this last band ... I thought they were pretty good.
B.K.: Rolling Thunder was an interesting tour, it wasn't just the performing but the whole idea of the thing. There was a spontaneity of a kind to it.
Dylan: Yeah ... there was definitely a lot of spontaneity to that.
B.K.: Was it scary or exciting?
Dylan: A little of both. We were doing double shows on the Rolling Thunder shows. We'd be in a hall say for ... 14 hours. You know Rolling Thunder shows were 6 hours long! [sic]
B.K.: That had to be people loving making music.
Dylan: Well ... (laughing) ... there were so many people ... you know the people in the audience came and went ... people would bring their lunch or dinner or something.
Mogull: Like a Grateful Dead concert?
Dylan: Yeah, yeah.
B.K.: Was that your idea, did it come from you?
Dylan: No, it just happened. We started out with a small show and it just evolved into the ...
B.K.: That's an amazing thing to me, that you're able to maintain that ... a lot of people when they get to a certain place in the business ...
Dylan: I thought the Rolling Thunder shows were great, I think someday somebody should make a movie out of them!
B.K.: And call it ...
Dylan: Rolling Thunder!
B.K.: (laughter). You've been smiling a lot and laughing a lot here, but you don't do that much on stage. But you say you really enjoy yourself ... you look so serious.
Dylan: Well, those songs take you through different trips you see. I mean what's there to smile about in singing "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall", or "Tangled Up In Blue", or "With God On Our Side" ... or "Mr Tambourine Man", or "Like A Rolling Stone", or "License To Kill", or "Shot Of Love", or "Poisoned Love" ... any of that. How can you sing that with a smile on your face? I mean it's be kind of hypocritical.
You'll do things on certain nights, which you know are just great, you'll know they're great, and you'll get no response. And then you'll go someplace else and it'll be ... you just don't have it that night, you just don't have it, for a variety of reasons. You don't have it and you're just trying to get through it ... but it's really always got to be consistent, you've got to get it to a place where it's consistent. Then it stays on that level ... it can get great, which is really you know triple consistent ... You know I've done things where I might have had a temperature of 104, or you know, I might have been kicked in the side that day and couldn't hardly stand up. I have done shows where I could hardly stand up, you know where it's been painful to stand there. And that's kind of humiliating in a way, because you know there's no way that you can be as good as you wanna be. Before it even starts you know you're not gonna be as good, not even as you wanna be, as you can be. There's only been one time when I've wanted to replay one show, that was in Montreal. We played a show in Montreal in 1978, I had a temperature of 104, couldn't even stand up ... but the promotor said, well you gotta play the show ... And we played the show and I didn't have nothing, nothing! And the response ... you'd think the Pope was there! (laughter). And I've played other shows where I've had everything happening, I mean I just rewrote the book, nothing - no response.
When I do whatever it is I'm doing there is rhythm involved and there is phrasing involved. And that's where it all balances out, in the rhythm of it and the phrasing of it. It's not in the lyrics, people think it's in the lyrics, maybe on the records it's in the lyrics, but in a live show it's not all in the lyrics, it's in the phrasing and the dynamics and the rhythm. It's got nothing whatsoever to do with the lyrics, I mean it does - the lyrics have to be there, sure they do. But ... you know there was this Egyptian singer Om Khalsoum, have you ever heard of her? She was one of my favorite singers of all time - and I don't understand a word she sings! She'd sing one song - it might last for 40 minutes, same song, and she'll sing the same phrase over and over and over again. But in a different way everytime. I don't think there's any US or Western singer that's in that kind of category ... except possibly me! (laughter). But on another level, do you know what I mean?
Dylan: To me it's not a business, and to the people who have survived along with me - it's not a business. It just isn't. It's never been a business and never will be a business. It is just a way of surviving you know, it's just what you do you know. It's just like somebody who's trained to be a carpenter, that's what they do, it's what they do best. And that's how they make a living I guess.
B.K.: Were you ever going to be anything else ... were you ever going to be an insurance salesman?
Dylan: I was never gonna be anything else, never. I was playing when I was 12 years old, and that was all I wanted to do - play my guitar. I was always going to these parties where all these biggest guys were ... you know ... and it was a way of getting attention and whatever ... It starts out that way but I never really knew where it was going to lead. Now that it's lead me here - I still don't know where it is.
B.K.: You sound like ... well obviously you're older than you were in the sixties, but also you seem to have a degree of self-knowledge and certainty of where you're going as a person ...
Dylan: I don't know where I'm going as a person ...
Mogull: I hear contentment ...
Dylan: Well, in certain areas - yeah, I hope so. I don't know what's gonna happen when I'm not around to sing anymore. I hope somebody else comes along who could pick up on what I'm doing and learn exactly what it is ... that makes it quite different. I keep looking for that somebody ... not necessarily to cover me, but to take it a step further. I've already taken it as far as I can take it, maybe I won't see that person - I don't know. But somebody, sometime will come along and take it that step further. But I haven't seen anyone ... now I don't want to say that in a bragging sort of way, it just hasn't gone any further.
B.K.: But there is something ... that's why you go back to the stage.
Dylan: Yeah, well I'm just thankful I can play on stage and people will come and see me. Because I couldn't make it otherwise, I mean if I went out to play and nobody showed up, that would be the end of me. I wouldn't be making records I'll tell you that. I only make records because people see me live. So as long as they're coming along to see me live I'll just make some more records.
Conducted by Bert Kleinman at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York.
Also present was old time friend Artie Mogull who in 1962 signed Dylan up
with Witmark & Sons. Released on DYLAN ON DYLAN, Westwood One (Radio Station
Discs), Nov 17 1984.
Sources: Tape. Transcription in "Talkin' Bob Dylan 1984 & 1985 (Some Educated Rap)" by Stewart P. Bicker.