Bob Dylan's punk period

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Hi again,
I don’t want to overstay my welcome, but I’d like to add a few bits of rambling trivia as a little follow-up here.
Firstly, I do thank you for your kind enthusiasms. We are all big Dylan fans, no doubt.

It's odd and funny to me now, I have often thought that our 2nd gig with this same band would have been just great after this quirky not-so-little-nationally-televised-warm-up. haha! Unfortunately or not, that NEXT gig just never transpired. As you might already know, there WAS to be a somewhat incognito (non-"Dylan") South American tour with Mr.D & us 3… plus maybe a couple more members added later... who knows?... and yes, THAT would have been great fun for all. I am quite sure of that! That tour with us obviously did not happen due to the sudden big-time Real Live European tour done with way more seasoned pros of the time, quite naturally. Our tour-that-never-happened is in fact the reason we were playing together at all in the first place… as well as the fact that I believe Dylan was curious and exploring just what was going on out in the streets with various younger musicians at the time. This after maybe feeling a bit less in touch with it all in his most recent, prior years. I think it was a pretty cool move on his part. In retrospect, by all accounts WE had a very unique & personal experience with the man in our casual get-togethers up in Malibu. I cherish this very lucky period of time I was able to spend, at such a young age and with such a great artist as Bob Dylan. We had done a series of casual and scattered jams that he had scheduled with us over a period of a couple/few months before this one-time appearance. During those, I learned a lot by just observing what was going on in the room, as we played and in between. HE was more than gracious to me at all times… both as a young guitarist trying to find a style and as a fledging young human being for that matter… and he was the same to the other guys too, from all I saw. I greatly admire him. He was really good in that way with younger cats, in the same tradition as were many older Southern blues musicians I myself had sought out at an even younger age, being the huge country-blues fan I was and still am. I put Dylan in the same highly regarded league as all those other other heroes of mine. It is all in the great tradition of our Folk musics around the world. I have since taken similar care with younger musicians I've met along the way as well for this same reason. It IS important to pass the torch on I believe... as an artist, as a musician and as a human being in society. ....ha!... sorry for my philosophical soapbox… I digress… ha! Anyway… I have read all sorts of comments and information out there and that friends have sent to me over the years about this one-time, fluky appearance on TV... of all places.... ha! ... some of it is quite insightful and correct & some is quite the opposite & rather misinformed. Such is life.

All I can say is that this period of time is that it was a wonderful moment for me personally, filled with great memories. I am proud of it all, with all it's flaws and bumps and live energy. No other artist I know of would be so bold as he was then to risk-the-biscuit with a bunch of rag-tags as we were then. I applaud it. There is a great story I've just recently learned of behind that famous incorrect harp he is handed... Tony Marsico, the bassist, has a small indie semi-bio book out where his research describes that particular and more. You can find it for sale out there with a little digging. It is fascinating. Dylan has had a super-great core band for many years now and I love that he does, and I think that is something he shines best in front of. I saw him fairly recently at the Palladium in Hollywood.... a GREAT show it was.

As a sidelight: In addition to playing music these days with the organizations or films or whatever mentioned above, I am now also part of a certain film production company in L.A. and through it much of this particular experience from 1983-4 has come full-circle for me personally in some very strange & unexpected ways. Life is a great trip, and it never ceases to amaze me just how small this world really is and how our all-too-short lives are SO intertwined... whether we know it or not.

I will have to check back here now and then. I do appreciate your website here and that this little moment w/the rehearsals are on youtube.. wow! So cool.

Thanks again! JJ Holiday, Justin Jesting, Just Ingesting or just whatever you like, ha!

JJH, Wednesday, 17 February 2010 21:27 (ten years ago) link

awesome thanks justin

El GarBage (M@tt He1ges0n), Wednesday, 17 February 2010 22:07 (ten years ago) link

yeah, thanks for sharing!

tylerw, Wednesday, 17 February 2010 22:19 (ten years ago) link

thanks for sharing that, Justin!

This is a better version of the Letterman show (vocals in synch and allround better sound quality):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1bRGhJPQkA

Duke, Wednesday, 17 February 2010 22:41 (ten years ago) link

holy shit, new wave dylan!

you kind of get the feeling that throughout this period he had warring instincts and often didn't choose the best of these.

by another name (amateurist), Wednesday, 17 February 2010 23:48 (ten years ago) link

I'm not a big Dylan fan but that live clip of Jokerman is fantastic.

brotherlovesdub, Thursday, 18 February 2010 00:26 (ten years ago) link

wow, thanks for sharing JJ

I am a big fan of these performances w/ Dylan on the Letterman show

lukevalentine, Thursday, 18 February 2010 03:05 (ten years ago) link

I like Bob's delayed reaction to Letterman's question at the end

lukevalentine, Thursday, 18 February 2010 03:07 (ten years ago) link

four years pass...

The YouTube links upthread are broken, here's a newer one

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nP85Uc6H79U

Brad C., Saturday, 7 June 2014 19:23 (six years ago) link

"Best new music" right there

licorice oratorio (baaderonixx), Sunday, 8 June 2014 09:04 (six years ago) link

he should have stuck with it too, how dreadful was the 10th anniversary thing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YedNVVw8LD0

just sad.

good example of what not to do with dylan in a live situation.

niels, Sunday, 8 June 2014 11:39 (six years ago) link

Oof, I remember that. Everyone else onstage is embarrassingly overcompensating for Dylan's (understandable and justified) "Ugh, this shit again" attitude.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Sunday, 8 June 2014 14:33 (six years ago) link

Great thread, thanks! Hope to see more writing by JJ, will have to check the Web. Highway 61 Revisitedis punk as fuck; would be even more so if he'd chosen the fast version of "It Takes A Lot To Laugh," but the slower version provides effective contrast. Maybe someday as a bonus track. think there are other goodies from those sessions? Meanwhile, the fast 'un is on Series of Dreams. Lots of attitude on Tempest too: "So much," he sneers, "for the wasted years."

dow, Sunday, 8 June 2014 14:50 (six years ago) link

four years pass...

I still don't know Dylan's punk period but I am once again listening to EMPIRE BURLESQUE (1985) every day.

the pinefox, Monday, 13 August 2018 08:48 (two years ago) link

SO, are those youtubes gone, or is it just my work filter?

Mark G, Monday, 13 August 2018 09:24 (two years ago) link

is it this one? https://youtu.be/nP85Uc6H79U

niels, Monday, 13 August 2018 10:53 (two years ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQDTSu8v8QI

You guys ever hear about this? In the 90s Bob Dylan got super into Jerry Lewis and tried to pitch a slapstick comedy series—starting himself—to HBO.

Trϵϵship, Monday, 13 August 2018 12:11 (two years ago) link

Love that Jokerman arrangement. Got back into reading about/listening to Bob Dylan this weekend after not thinking about him for a while. Most people my age that I meet seem to not be enthusiastic about him or think he is a charlatan or something, which is really disappointing to me. At the hipstery bookstore where I used to work everyone was upset when he won the Nobel Prize.

Trϵϵship, Monday, 13 August 2018 12:16 (two years ago) link

a charlatan at what, being the greatest musician of the 20th century

j., Monday, 13 August 2018 12:17 (two years ago) link

I think he is just seen as some kind of lame baby boomer emblem, which is absurd because he was famously not seduced by the mythology that grew around him and has spent the past fifty-plus years doing whatever felt right to him, artistically.

Trϵϵship, Monday, 13 August 2018 12:20 (two years ago) link

Might just be I only know losers but since high school my love of all things Dylan has often seemed a solitary enthusiasm

Trϵϵship, Monday, 13 August 2018 12:22 (two years ago) link

there is this weird thing that persists where some people still see him as the old timey protest singer and not the decades of being an awesome weirdo crank

The Desus & Mero Chain (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Monday, 13 August 2018 12:27 (two years ago) link

Yeah, that. Very odd as the weirdo crank phase arguably began like two years after he became famous.

Trϵϵship, Monday, 13 August 2018 12:39 (two years ago) link

one year passes...

Canucks re-imagine Infidels if it had been recorded by Dylan & The Plugz.

https://outfitdoesinfidels.bandcamp.com/album/daniel-romanos-outfit-do-what-could-have-been-infidels-by-bob-dylan-the-plugz

"...And the Gods Socially Distanced" (C. Grisso/McCain), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 01:39 (six months ago) link

sounds pretty good! (lol at them replicating Dylan's harmonica fuckup on the Letterman "Jokerman")

tylerw, Wednesday, 27 May 2020 02:04 (six months ago) link

This got me to look up the Letterman performance, and here's a YouTube comment posted three weeks ago. It's Dylan-related, so it could just be an imaginative tall tale. (I cleaned up some of Henry's quotation marks and spacing.)

Henry Edwards
3 weeks ago
THE REALSTORY BEHIND “HARMONICA-GATE”. I was the person who handed Bob Dylan the harmonica during this performance on David Letterman. My name is Ed and back in the day I worked for one of the biggest rock and roll production managers in the country Michael Ahern who in turn worked for Bill Graham. At the time Bill Graham was doing production for Bob Dylan. I got a call from Michael saying Dylan was appearing on the David Letterman show the following week ( I think it was a Thursday) and could I take care of his “back line duties.” Backline means setting up the drums, amps, guitars etc. and taking care of whatever technical needs the band might have. Bob was scheduled to perform two songs on the show that night. On the second song he told me to have a harmonica in a certain key sitting on his Marshall amplifier so he could pick it up and play it towards the end of the song. He used it and everything worked out perfectly. At that point I figured my job was pretty much over for the night, you know wait for the show to finish pack up the gear and go home. Then all of a sudden I was told (by Bob’s son) that Letterman asked Bob to do a third song to close the show and I should have a harmonica ready again. He said it should be in the key of D (if I remember correctly). Now Bob’s son was still a teenager at this time and I was a little wary of the messenger so I took it upon myself to backstage to the dressing room to ask Bob personally. When I got there he was really busy speaking with friends and industry types and I said something to the effect of “hey Bob your son said you need a harmonica in the key of D for the last song”. Bob turns to me and says “ah yea that’s right”. So I figure great end of story, but no not end of story because Bob mistakenly (because he was busy with his guests) told me “ah yea sure”. So I set up everything the way I was told and the third song started. Halfway through the song Bob takes off his guitar hands it to me picks up the harmonica starts blowing immediately stops looks left to me and says “what the fuck it’s the wrong key”. I say “what key do you need?”. He says “G”. I think to myself oh shit that harmonica is on the other side of the drums, so I go running (on camera) behind the drummer to fetch the right one. It took about twenty seconds but seemed like a fucking lifetime! After the song was over I turned to Bob and said “what happened what happened”. He said “I got mixed up”. All of a sudden Bob’s manager Mick Brigdon was all over me saying “what the hell just happened?”. I said Bob asked for the wrong harp”. He said “don’t you move, wait right here”. He came back two minutes later and said “never mind”. I started to pack up the gear thinking shit these guys are never going hire me again! A month later I got a call asking me if I would go on the up coming European Tour as his guitar tech.

clemenza, Wednesday, 27 May 2020 11:44 (six months ago) link

that's fantastic

Yanni Xenakis (Hadrian VIII), Wednesday, 27 May 2020 13:40 (six months ago) link

Great story, thanks! Came back to say that I think punk period also incl. John Wesley Harding, challenging sentimental and escapist elements of folk, proto-Americana, etc: "Note to self and others: back to roots incl. back to assholes," although he leaves plenty room for inference that it's the whole, not just boondocks, American-to-AmeriKKKan corrupt, good-ul' boy status quo he's got his eye on (and some confessions of complicity in there too). Jon Landau's review: "Dylan has felt the War"---he meant Vietnam, but in Chronicles, D talks about going to the New York Public Library early on, and reading way back in the newspapers, from Revolutionary times maybe, certainly the Civil War and what led up to it and "away" from it, incl, stuff talked/written around in the papers.
Also in Chronicles, he claims he made Self Portrait to get the worshipful crazies off his back (also off his porch at 3 am, he said in the book or elsewhere), and it's extreme enough (always was, but we now know from Another Self-Portrait[ and related sessions on Travelin' Man, that the original SP could have been a lot better), to count it as a big fat hock-a-loogie fuck you.

dow, Wednesday, 27 May 2020 15:51 (six months ago) link


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